17 May 2003

Big Sponge on Campus

Arts | Saturday 13:04:33 EST | comments (0)

[cool article on the "newest" dorm at MIT, across the field and next to CTP.]

Big Sponge on Campus

Simmons Hall, M.I.T., Cambridge, Mass.
Built 2002, 350 students and staff members

From afar, the building looks like a three-letter word that I can't quite read, rendered in sci-fi letters against the sky. It's only as I get closer, walking over the springy grass of M.I.T.'s athletic fields, that I notice the small square windows that pock just about every surface of the new dorm. M.I.T. hired a maverick architect, Steven Holl, to create a groundbreaking design. He says his inspiration for the building was a sea sponge.

I think it looks more like Lego. The sections of building are pieced together in blocks and punctuated with primary colors, giving it the air of a snapped-together gizmo -- which is appropriate for the premier high-tech university in the country. ''How do you represent your community to the world?'' William Mitchell, the school's dean of architecture and planning, asks me rhetorically. ''The message of the building is innovation, pushing the boundaries.'' That message did not come cheap. The school spent more than $68 million for its new dorm.

''We inherited a master plan that was a large brick wall,'' Holl says. He wanted, instead, to create a building that was an antiwall, full of gaps so that you could see through to the community beyond the campus. ''I went out and bought sea sponges for everyone who was working on the building,'' he says, in order to help them think porous.

The building has already won a number of awards, contributing to its status. Admirers have been making pilgrimages to study the unique construction; it was pieced together out of prefab sections combining window, wall and structural elements. Students roll their eyes as they tell me about the tour buses that have been pulling up in front ever since the building opened last fall. ''We kick architects out all the time,'' says Jay Humphries, a senior. ''They sneak past the front desk and walk into people's rooms. It's like, 'Dude, who are you?'''

On the inside, Simmons Hall could pass for any upscale dorm, until you notice the bulges that stick out of the otherwise flat walls. The building is shot through with sinuous grottos that reach several stories high, winding among dorm rooms, puffing out walls as necessary. Nikki Johnson, a Simmons resident, leads me into one of the crevasses that function as student lounges. She stands by, bored in the way only a college junior can be bored, as I gaze up at walls that curl like smoke toward a vast skylight. ''Wow, wow, wow,'' is all I can say. Holl's inspiration suddenly makes sense. We could be standing inside a hole in a giant sea sponge. The room is way too gorgeous for undergrads. A supermodel named Inge should live here, posing against the undulating walls with a wineglass half-forgotten in her hand. ''There's a great feeling of space in here, but it's really pretty small,'' Johnson says. She points out that there's no room for a couch in front of the TV. ''You get 20 kids in here, it's crowded.''

In her room, one wall is taken up entirely by windows -- nine of them, each the size of a checkerboard. According to Holl, with so many windows to open and close, ''you have more feeling that you're in control of your space.'' Unfortunately, the modular furniture in the rooms inspires the opposite mood. Because it is heavy and because the pieces have to be bolted into place, special maintenance crews have to be called in to haul it around. Students are not allowed to move their desks or beds or shelves. ''You have your chance at the beginning of the year'' to arrange the furniture, Johnson says, and then that's it.

She leads me down to the dining hall, where one wall is given over to a vast plate-glass window so that the room seems to unfurl into the green fields beyond. Unmindful of their elegant surroundings, kids wear sweat pants and eat in a hurry: they're off to study artificial intelligence and build robots.

Ian Brelinsky, a freshman, says he followed the progress of Simmons Hall for years while he was in high school -- that's how much he loved M.I.T. He says it's great that the school is using Simmons to promote a cool image.

But most of the students seem to relish enumerating Simmons's faults. It is, of course, the nature of undergraduates to complain -- as melodramatically as possible. ''I cry every day,'' Lauri Kauppila says, pouring out a tale of a freezing-cold bedroom and hanging his head to indicate the extremes of his suffering.

Jay Humphries praises another recently built M.I.T. dorm, 70 Pacific Street, for providing all the amenities the students wanted for a fraction of the price of Simmons. ''How much did each one of those cost?'' Humphries asks his table companions, pointing up to the perforated wooden panels on the ceiling. ''It all looks cool, but the students would rather be able to make the place their own. Why can't I put my own chair in a lounge?'' Staring up at those computer-modeled, fussed-over panels, I feel sorry for these students trapped inside one of the most beautiful dorms in the world.

nd suddenly I'm filled with a rush of love for a building that I never thought much about until now: my college dorm, a classic cinder-block bunker that had the architectural feel of a no-tell motel. The building was so indestructible, so ugly, that we were free to have our way with it. We taped tampons all over the ceiling, spelling out the words ''End Rape Culture.'' The dorm stunk of bong water, cafeteria hamburgers, incense and sweat. If someone bottled that smell and sold it in a cut-glass atomizer for $1,000, I'd buy it. Adulthood waited ahead, and in that distant future, we might have white rugs and coffee tables that required coasters. Until then, we would live without design.

Now, in the Simmons dining hall, I ask some kids, ''So, is it true you're not allowed to rearrange the furniture in your room?''

''Oh, we manage to get around those restrictions,'' a guy says, and I imagine illicit teams of undergrads, half-drunk, heave-ho-ing furniture around as moonlight streams in through nine windows.

Someday -- when the designer chairs are all busted and tampons protrude from the wooden panels in the ceilings -- this is going to be one hell of a dorm.

Pagan Kennedy, a frequent contributor to the magazine, last wrote about the musician Conor Oberst.

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Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Heights

PQ+ | Saturday 13:01:23 EST | comments (0)

Keepers of Bush Image Lift Stagecraft to New Heights

WASHINGTON, May 15 — George W. Bush's "Top Gun" landing on the deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln will be remembered as one of the most audacious moments of presidential theater in American history. But it was only the latest example of how the Bush administration, going far beyond the foundations in stagecraft set by the Reagan White House, is using the powers of television and technology to promote a presidency like never before.

Officials of past Democratic and Republican administrations marvel at how the White House does not seem to miss an opportunity to showcase Mr. Bush in dramatic and perfectly lighted settings. It is all by design: the White House has stocked its communications operation with people from network television who have expertise in lighting, camera angles and the importance of backdrops.

On Tuesday, at a speech promoting his economic plan in Indianapolis, White House aides went so far as to ask people in the crowd behind Mr. Bush to take off their ties, WISH-TV in Indianapolis reported, so they would look more like the ordinary folk the president said would benefit from his tax cut.

"They understand the visual as well as anybody ever has," said Michael K. Deaver, Ronald Reagan's chief image maker. "They watched what we did, they watched the mistakes of Bush I, they watched how Clinton kind of stumbled into it, and they've taken it to an art form."

The White House efforts have been ambitious — and costly. For the prime-time television address that Mr. Bush delivered to the nation on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House rented three barges of giant Musco lights, the kind used to illuminate sports stadiums and rock concerts, sent them across New York Harbor, tethered them in the water around the base of the Statue of Liberty and then blasted them upward to illuminate all 305 feet of America's symbol of freedom. It was the ultimate patriotic backdrop for Mr. Bush, who spoke from Ellis Island.

For a speech that Mr. Bush delivered last summer at Mount Rushmore, the White House positioned the best platform for television crews off to one side, not head on as other White Houses have done, so that the cameras caught Mr. Bush in profile, his face perfectly aligned with the four presidents carved in stone.

And on Monday, for remarks the president made promoting his tax cut plan near Albuquerque, the White House unfurled a backdrop that proclaimed its message of the day, "Helping Small Business," over and over. The type was too small to be read by most in the audience, but just the right size for television viewers at home.

"I don't know who does it," Mr. Deaver said, "but somebody's got a good eye over there."

That somebody, White House officials and television executives say, is in fact three or four people. First among equals is Scott Sforza, a former ABC producer who was hired by the Bush campaign in Austin, Tex., and who now works for Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. Mr. Sforza created the White House "message of the day" backdrops and helped design the $250,000 set at the United States Central Command forward headquarters in Doha, Qatar, during the Iraq war.

Mr. Sforza works closely with Bob DeServi, a former NBC cameraman whom the Bush White House hired after seeing his work in the 2000 campaign. Mr. DeServi, whose title is associate director of communications for production, is considered a master at lighting. "You want it, I'll heat it up and make a picture," he said early this week. Mr. DeServi helped produce one of Mr. Bush's largest events, a speech to a crowd in Revolution Square in Bucharest last November.

To stage the event, Mr. DeServi went so far as to rent Musco lights in Britain, which were then shipped across the English Channel and driven across Europe to Romania, where they lighted Mr. Bush and the giant stage across from the country's former Communist headquarters.

A third crucial player is Greg Jenkins, a former Fox News television producer in Washington who is now the director of presidential advance. Mr. Jenkins manages the small army of staff members and volunteers who move days ahead of Mr. Bush and his entourage to set up the staging of all White House events.

"We pay particular attention to not only what the president says but what the American people see," Mr. Bartlett said. "Americans are leading busy lives, and sometimes they don't have the opportunity to read a story or listen to an entire broadcast. But if they can have an instant understanding of what the president is talking about by seeing 60 seconds of television, you accomplish your goals as communicators. So we take it seriously."

The president's image makers, Mr. Bartlett said, work within a budget for White House travel and events allotted by Congress, which for fiscal 2003 was $3.7 million. He said he did not know the specific cost of staging Mr. Bush's Sept. 11 anniversary speech, or what the White House was charged for the lights. A spokeswoman at the headquarters of Musco Lighting in Oskaloosa, Iowa, said the company did not disclose the prices it charged clients.

White House communications operatives in previous administrations said many costs of presidential trips were paid for by whoever was deemed the official host of a trip — typically a federal agency, a city or a company. Trips deemed political are paid for by the parties.

"The total cost of a trip is ultimately shared across a wide spectrum of agencies and hosts," said Joshua King, who was director of production of presidential events in the Clinton administration. "To get to who really pays for presidential events would keep a team of accountants very busy."

The most elaborate — and criticized — White House event so far was Mr. Bush's speech aboard the Abraham Lincoln announcing the end of major combat in Iraq. White House officials say that a variety of people, including the president, came up with the idea, and that Mr. Sforza embedded himself on the carrier to make preparations days before Mr. Bush's landing in a flight suit and his early evening speech.

Media strategists noted afterward that Mr. Sforza and his aides had choreographed every aspect of the event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush's right shoulder and the "Mission Accomplished" banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot. The speech was specifically timed for what image makers call "magic hour light," which cast a golden glow on Mr. Bush.

"If you looked at the TV picture, you saw there was flattering light on his left cheek and slight shadowing on his right," Mr. King said. "It looked great."

The trip was attacked by Democrats as an expensive political stunt, but White House officials said that Democrats needed a better issue for taking on the president. A New York Times/CBS News nationwide poll conducted May 9-12 found that the White House may have been right: 59 percent of those polled said it was appropriate, and not an effort to make political gain, for Mr. Bush to dress in a flight suit and announce the end of combat operations on the aircraft carrier.

But even this White House makes mistakes. One of the more notable ones occurred in January, when Mr. Bush delivered a speech about his economic plan at a St. Louis trucking company. Volunteers for the White House covered "Made in China" stamps with white stickers on boxes arrayed on either side of the president. Behind Mr. Bush was a printed backdrop of faux boxes that read "Made in U.S.A.," the message the administration wanted to convey to the television audience.

The White House takes great pride in the backdrops, which are created by Mr. Sforza, and has gone so far as to help design them for universities where Mr. Bush travels to make commencement addresses. Last year, the White House helped design a large banner for Ohio State as part of the background for Mr. Bush; last week, the White House collaborated with the University of South Carolina to make Sforzian backdrops for a presidential commencement speech in the school's new Carolina Center.

"They really are good," said Russ McKinney, the school's director of public affairs, as he listened to the president.

Television camera crews, meanwhile, say they have rarely had such consistently attractive pictures to send back to editing rooms.

"They seem to approach an event site like it's a TV set," said Chris Carlson, an ABC cameraman who covers the White House. "They dress it up really nicely. It looks like a million bucks."

Even for standard-issue White House events, Mr. Bush's image makers watch every angle. Last week, when the president had a joint news conference with Prime Minister José Mariá Aznar of Spain, it was staged in the Grand Foyer of the White House, under grand marble columns, with the Blue Room and a huge cream-colored bouquet of flowers illuminated in the background. (Mr. Sforza and Mr. DeServi could be seen there conferring before the cameras began rolling.) The scene was lush and rich, filled with the beauty of the White House in real time.

"They understand they have to build a set, whether it's an aircraft carrier or the Rose Garden or the South Lawn," Mr. Deaver said. "They understand that putting depth into the picture makes the candidate or president look better."

Or as Mr. Deaver said he learned long ago with Mr. Reagan: "They understand that what's around the head is just as important as the head."

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Queens Ponders Post-Modern Life

Arts | Saturday 13:00:22 EST | comments (0)

Queens Ponders Post-Modern Life

It breezed into the neighborhood like a Hollywood film crew. Its big-name stars drew crowds of the curious, creating lucrative opportunities for the resourceful.

But after Monday, the stars — the dueling modernists Matisse and Picasso — will be packed away, and by September 2004 the Museum of Modern Art will return to its newly expanded home in Manhattan.

Everyone in Long Island City, of course, knows that the Modern's charmed visit to Queens will end. But they still wonder whether the museum will leave anything enduring behind. Will it help reshape a raw Queens neighborhood, known for its factories and warehouses and the gridlock around the Queensboro Bridge, into the next SoHo or TriBeCa?

Cultural institutions have long been seen as a shrewd way to invigorate neighborhoods. Lincoln Center transformed the decaying West Side of Manhattan. Newark is betting on its performing arts center to bring foot traffic back to a devastated downtown.

Long Island City, whose seven other scattered museums have allowed it to style itself as a museum district just a 15-minute subway ride from Times Square, hoped for a similar jolt of electricity from the Modern. But museum officials made clear from the beginning that the world-class collection was just passing through. Its royal blue building in Queens, in a revamped Swingline stapler factory on Queens Boulevard and 33rd Street, was intended for storage and study. Its use as an exhibition hall began last summer and is supposed to last for only two and a half years, until the museum's headquarters on West 53rd Street are refurbished.

For the moment, the Modern has indisputably enriched the surrounding industrial streets, particularly since the "Matisse Picasso" exhibition opened on Feb. 13 and doubled attendance to more than 4,000 people a day. The hot-dog vendors and fruit peddlers arrayed alongside the lines of visitors as well as the restaurants a few blocks east in Sunnyside are making far more money. Manna from heaven, they might call it.

Hemsin, a once quiet Turkish restaurant on Queens Boulevard, now has lines of diners waiting for its shish kebab and baba ganoush. Hilmi Yurdusever, 34, one of the restaurant's partners, had to hire three waiters and is hoping to use his bonanza to open another restaurant in Manhattan.

"The quality of people has come up," he said last week of his clientele. "Before I had ordinary people. Now I'm meeting vice presidents, presidents and executive officers."

Down the block, Dazies, an Italian restaurant and a 30-year Sunnyside institution, has tripled business and created the MoMA Cocktail, a bluish drink made with Bacardi orange rum, Grand Marnier, blue Curaçao and a drop of orange juice.

Most of the museums in western Queens, like the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center — a Modern affiliate since 1999 — the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum and the Sculpture Center and the Museum for African Art, report sharp surges in attendance as a result of culture vultures unsated by the riches of "Matisse Picasso." The African art museum joined with Noguchi in draping a banner across the street from the Modern and the African museum offers free admission and cups of coffee to the exhibit's ticketholders. Carlyn Mueller, public relations director for the African art museum, said 200 extra visitors a day have been counted.

"It was important that we get the right traffic," she said, "have new visitors spread the word about the Museum for African Art and its relationship to Matisse's and Picasso's work." (One example: Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" features tribal masks as faces on some of its five angular nudes.)

There are also more than a few cases of clever entrepreneurship in the neighborhood. Michele Bonelli, a veteran painter, was urged by a real estate agent to hang 17 colorful motion studies in the oblong lobby of a cosmetics factory next door to the Modern. The gesture has produced at least two sales.

But there are skeptics. Mike Matthews, president of the company that produces the Electro-Harmonix sound modifiers used by many rock bands, said of the neighborhood, "Once this special exhibit is over, it will become dead again, though I hope not." Mr. Matthews, a genial cigar chomper, lives in an apartment, complete with whirlpool, that he set up in his factory. As something of a nighthawk, he knows how desolate the streets become once the workers leave.

In fact, most businesses in Long Island City are manufacturers or commercial enterprises like Citigroup and MetLife that have not directly benefited from the museum. Don Valentine, the manager of Branded Leather, which makes black motorcycle jackets for a rarefied coterie of customers that include Hell's Angels and F.B.I. agents, said visitors to the museum stop by his ground-floor retail shop, but few buy. "The museum crowd," Mr. Valentine said, "is not very into motorcycles."

Despite such demurrals, Mitchell L. Moss, director of the Taub Urban Research Center at New York University, said he thought that the museum's brief tenure had made many more people aware of Long Island City. Now the neighborhood must find ways of keeping the momentum alive, perhaps with another blockbuster. "Once you've proven you can get people to come there, now you've got to get people to stay there," he said.

Helen M. Marshall, the Queens borough president, has been urging the Modern to retain part of the 160,000-square-foot building as permanent exhibition space. But Glenn D. Lowry, the Modern's director, said that possibility "is very highly unlikely." In a telephone interview, Mr. Lowry said a satellite operation would cost millions of dollars and compete with the Manhattan site. Then why, he was asked, did the museum tantalize Queens with an event like "Matisse Picasso"?

"I wish I could tell you it was a strategy, but it was dumb luck," he said, citing an accident of timing.

Ms. Marshall and the others see a Modern satellite as a linchpin of a museum district, one that is currently joined by a weekend bus loop and reaches the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

A museum district would continue to attract people like Stacie Webb of Harrison, N.Y., and her sister Nora Jacob of Orange, Calif. On a visit last week, they were dazzled by "Matisse Picasso" in the morning, savored Hemsin for lunch, then delighted in the spare Noguchi sculptures nearby.

Gayle Baron, president of the Long Island City Business Development Corporation, said the neighborhood would never be the same after this exhibit. "Nothing ever goes the way it was after a whirlwind," she said.

The museum's presence, she said, has spurred trends already enhancing the neighborhood. More than 1,000 artists have settled in Long Island City, drawn by cheap light-flooded lofts, million-dollar views of Midtown and a gold mine of art materials among the metal fabricators and lumberyards. Two apartment towers known as Queens West have gone up along the East River, housing that is essential for street life. The city has rezoned 37 blocks surrounding the 48-story Citigroup tower to allow more office and residential uses.

The Modern has also been changed by its encounter with Queens. Bret Eynon, an administrator at La Guardia Community College, practically next door to the museum, said officials at the Modern, through programs with the college, were cultivating the kinds of visitors that the museum seeks. Immigrants, for example, make up 74 percent of the college's 13,000 students.

Borough officials like Veronique LeMelle, director of culture and tourism, say it must be remembered that the Modern was never Long Island City's only attraction.

"If we were a one-horse show, then yes, it would go back to what it was," said Ms. LeMelle, adding that the Modern "is an integral part of the revitalization, but it's not the only part."

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Dating a Blogger, Reading All About It

PQ+ | Saturday 12:59:40 EST | comments (0)

Dating a Blogger, Reading All About It

Rick Bruner's awakening to the power of the written word came by way of a throwaway line, typed one afternoon in the cerulean glow of his I.B.M. ThinkPad.

Mr. Bruner, a 37-year-old Manhattan marketing consultant, keeps a Web log, an online diary known as a blog. After coming in for some sporting abuse from a friend who told him blogging was a waste of time, Mr. Bruner wrote in his blog that the friend "was fat and runs like a girl," adding that he was sure the friend would not be offended "because he doesn't read blogs." With a push of a button, the comment was published on Mr. Bruner's site, www.bruner.net/blog, and accessible to anyone with a computer.

A few days later, though, that friend's curiosity about blogs was awakened after all. He quickly found Mr. Bruner's site and was "deeply aggrieved," Mr. Bruner said. Their friendship barely survived the episode.

"It was a big wake-up call," Mr. Bruner said. "Sometimes it's good to have an editor."

Mr. Bruner's experience is typical of many who have waded into the thrilling and sometimes perilous world of blogging, a once marginal activity of Internet enthusiasts that has become squarely mainstream, with an estimated three million active blogs online, according to Nick Denton, the head of Gawker Media, a blog publisher.

While blogging journalists like Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus and Eric Alterman get a lot of attention, a vast majority of bloggers are average citizens like Mr. Bruner, who draw from their personal experiences — and often the personal experiences of relatives, friends and colleagues — to create a kind of memoir in motion that details breakups and work and family issues with sometimes startling candor.

While personal blogs have been around for years, their proliferation has caused a wrinkle in the social fabric among people in their teens, 20's and early 30's. Inundated with bloggers, they are finding that every clique now has its own Matt Drudge, someone capable of instantly turning details of their lives into saucy Internet fare.

"It's like all your friends are reporters now," said Douglas Rushkoff, a blogger and author of "Media Virus" and other books about the impact of technology on society.

In the rush to publish, many bloggers are running headlong into some of the problems conventionally published memoirists know too well: hurt feelings, newly wary friends and relatives, and the occasional inflamed employer.

"All writing is a form of negotiation between the reader and writer over what constitutes responsibility," said David Weinberger, author of "Small Pieces Loosely Joined," a book about the Internet. "Because blogs are a new form, the negotiation can easily go awry."

Mr. Weinberger said the confessional nature of many blogs had "redrawn the line between what's private and public."

Heather Armstrong, a 27-year-old Web designer from Utah whose blog is at www.dooce.com, might be the ultimate example of blogging gone awry. Her parents are devout Mormons, she said, but because they are also technophobes, she felt perfectly comfortable publishing an entry on her site in which she harshly criticized her Mormon upbringing.

Unfortunately for Ms. Armstrong, her brother in Seattle stumbled across her Web site that very day and alerted her parents to the entry. After that, Ms. Armstrong said, "all hell broke loose." "Next to my parents getting divorced 20 years ago," Ms. Armstrong said, "it was the worst thing that ever happened to my family. It was shocking for everyone."

Ms. Armstrong's run-in with the perils of self-publishing did not end there. She also wrote about her job and her co-workers in her blog, often hyperbolically.

When her bosses were alerted that Ms. Armstrong was writing about her office life, they fired her, she said. She is now much more careful about what she publishes in her blog, and she had a word of caution for bloggers who write furtively about others. "If you're publishing under your own name, they'll find out," she said. "I was extremely naïve."

Being found out is no deterrent for 18-year-old Trisha Allen, a blogger from Kentucky. She has been blogging for roughly a month, and spends most of her time reporting candidly on her friends and on her relationship with her boyfriend.

A recent entry reveals that the couple are not quite ready for children — though "we have had two scares" — and that Ms. Allen's preferred form of birth control is the pill, even though, she wrote, "I am starting to hate it, because it has screwed up my menstrual cycle wickedly."

"There's not a lot I won't put on there," Ms. Allen said by telephone. Ms. Allen said her mother was aware she keeps an online journal, but does not know how to find it, and added that she relied on a doctrine of security by obscurity, hoping that in the vast universe of personal Web sites known as the blogosphere, she will be able to preserve her anonymity behind all those other blogs.

Ms. Allen said her motivation for posting personal details was simple: "I love to be the center of attention."

Indeed, for many bloggers being noticed seems to be the point. John M. Grohol, a psychologist in the Boston area who has written about bloggers, said they often offered intimate details of their lives as a ploy to build readership.

"It's like, `How do I get people to read this?' " he said. "Then you want them to keep reading it. It becomes a snowball rolling downhill that becomes very rewarding for the blogger because they're getting feedback from their friends and from random folks."

Deirdre Clemente, a blogger from Brooklyn who is now a a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, frequently uses her relationships as fodder for her blog, www.deirdreclemente.com.

That became an issue for a recent boyfriend of hers, a 34-year-old Manhattan hedge-fund manager who feared that having his name in the blog could compromise his business relationships.

During his eight-month stint as a nameless regular on Ms. Clemente's site, he said, "it was an odd feeling that there was a camera on me." Friends and relatives who knew about the site followed his relationship online, he said.

"On occasion my mother would send me an e-mail saying, `How was the play?' or, `Sounds like you had a nice weekend away,' " he said.

But as a literary trope, the boyfriend worked well. Ms. Clemente said she frequently received e-mail messages from strangers who followed the ups and downs of their relationship on her blog.

When the relationship ended, she said, "I had totally random people e-mailing me saying they were sad we broke up." She described the experience as "totally weird," but added, "As a writer, having anyone read your stuff is a compliment."

With so many self-publishing reporters out there, some say they feel a need to watch themselves, for fear that casual comments made to friends might make tomorrow morning's entry.

The proliferation of personal bloggers has led to a new social anxiety: the fear of getting blogged.

"It's personal etiquette meets journalistic rules," Mr. Denton, the blog publisher, said. "If you have a friend who's a blogger you have to say, `This is not for blogging.' It's the blogging equivalent of `This is off the record.' "

Jonathan Van Gieson, a 29-year-old theatrical producer from Brooklyn who sometimes writes about friends on his site, www.jonathanvangieson.com, said he gave his friends pseudonyms "to toe the line between simple harmless betrayal of trust and nasty actionable libel." Before starting his blog, Mr. Van Gieson said he drew a comic strip based on his friends for his college newspaper, and in describing their predicament he summed up the current lot of many in the age of blogging.

"My close friends are used to having their lives plundered," he said.

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16 May 2003

Mimi breaks her silence over JFK

PQ+ | Friday 06:02:43 EST | comments (0)

Mimi breaks her silence
Says sex with JFK began in June '62

There She Is: Marion (Mimi) Fahnestock, who had a sexual relationship with President John F. Kennedy while a White House intern, leaves her apartment on the upper East Side yesterday.

JFK's Mimi stepped out of history's shadows yesterday as new details emerged about the life of the striking woman who kept her White House affair a secret for more than four decades.

Braving a thicket of reporters, Marion (Mimi) Fahnestock, now 60, confirmed to the world how, as a prep school senior, she caught the eye of the world's most powerful man.

"From June 1962 to November 1963, I was involved in a sexual relationship with President Kennedy," Fahnestock said in a short statement. "For the last 41 years, it is a subject I have not discussed."

Fahnestock's statement indicates the affair with Kennedy continued even after a September 1963 newspaper announcement of her engagement to Anthony Fahnestock, a recent college graduate who was serving in the Army.

The couple married Jan. 5, 1964, six weeks after Kennedy's assassination Nov. 22, 1963. She wouldn't say when or why the affair ended that ill-fated month - and did her best to bury it for good.

Fahnestock, a grandmother of four, broke her silence after the Daily News tracked her down this week.

One of her oldest friends shrugged off the affair.

"Good for her," said Joan (Bitsy) Tatnall, 59. "She was a young girl, he's a glamorous guy. ... I think it was an adventure."

Facing the glare of a New York media frenzy, Fahnestock strode out of her upper East Side apartment building yesterday morning and handed out copies of her remarks before hopping into a taxi.

Visit in 1961

The then-Mimi Beardsley was a stunning prep school senior when she met the handsome President during a White House visit in 1961.

That fall, she went off to Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., as planned.

But things quickly changed when the White House called to offer her a prestigious summer internship in the press office.

Jaws dropped as Fahnestock frolicked with JFK at pool parties. She even flew on Air Force jets to accompany him on overseas trips to resorts and summit meetings.

"Obviously, she had a special relationship with the President," said Barbara Gamarekian, now 77, the White House press aide who mentioned Mimi in a 1964 interview released this week.

Mimi seemed infatuated with the charismatic JFK and her new life but found time to giggle and swap secrets with other attractive young women rumored to be sleeping with him, Gamarekian said.

The furthest thing from her mind was going back to the boredom of college English literature and writing classes. "She loved the summer job, so she didn't want to go back to school," Gamarekian recalled.

Hiding places

It didn't take long for Fahnestock to get another call to meet her lover in the White House.

Weeks after Kennedy stared down the Soviet Union in the Cuban missile crisis, she was flown to Nassau, the Bahamas, in December 1962, where Kennedy was meeting with British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan.

When Kennedy left a few days later, aides spotted the intern hiding on the floor of a limousine in his entourage.

The affair stretched through the next summer, and she was rewarded with a staff job. College would have to wait.

By then, she was dating Anthony Fahnestock, a recent graduate of preppie Williams College who had enlisted in the Army. The couple announced their engagement after Labor Day.

Still, she maintained her special link to JFK.

A couple of days after the President delivered his speech at the Berlin Wall, Mimi called him directly to complain about being left behind in Washington. A furious Kennedy nearly fired her boss.

It is unknown whether Anthony Fahnestock, an investment banker, knew about his wife and JFK. The couple divorced, and he died of cancer in 1993. His second wife refused to say whether he knew about the affair.

"This story doesn't involve my husband," said Andrea Henderson Fahnestock, a curator at the Museum of the City of New York.

Originally published on May 16, 2003

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Tension, Anger at NYT Staff Meeting Over Handling of Reporter Blair

NYC | Friday 05:56:46 EST | comments (0)

Tension, Anger at NYT Staff Meeting Over Handling of Reporter Blair
By Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 15, 2003; 8:29 AM

Sure, we know there's terrorism in Saudi Arabia, SARS around the world, a presidential campaign at home, yadda yadda yadda. But everyone in our world – okay, everyone in our Zip code – is still buzzing about the Jayson Blair meltdown at the New York Times, to the point that we can't make it to the men's room without hearing four theories and three new rumors.

So let's lead this morning with our report on what happened at the Gray Lady yesterday, and then we'll get back to the rest of the universe:

Separately, a Times spokeswoman confirmed earlier this week that Blair has a relationship with a clerk at the paper who is a friend of Raines's wife. The New York Daily News reported that the woman, Zuza Glowacka, has worked in the Times photo department – an important fact because the Times says Blair faked some details in his stories by gaining access to the paper's computerized photo archives.

Howell Raines told a tense and somber gathering of New York Times employees yesterday that he would not resign as the newspaper's executive editor, but acknowledged that many reporters view him as "inaccessible" and "arrogant," and vowed to improve the newsroom climate.

Asked by business reporter Alex Berenson if there were any circumstances under which he would consider quitting over the handling of Jayson Blair's serial fabrications, Raines said: "My plan is to have this job and perform it with every fiber in my body as long as this man next to me," Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., allowed it. At that point, Sulzberger declared: "If he were to offer his resignation, I would not accept it."

As recounted by numerous participants, some of whom took notes, the session, attended by more than 500 people at a movie theater near the West 43rd Street newsroom, was marked both by contrition on the part of the newspaper's top editors and angry exchanges in which they appeared testy and defensive.

Joe Sexton, a metropolitan desk editor, used a profanity in demanding to know how the paper could have sent Blair, a 27-year-old reporter with a checkered record, to cover the Washington sniper case. "You guys have lost the confidence of much of the newsroom," Sexton said.

Raines told Sexton sharply not to "demagogue me" or use curse words, saying the discussion should be more civil. But he also said: "I'm sorry I don't have your trust. I hope I can win it back."

The two-hour meeting capped four days of growing tension since the Times, responding to earlier news reports, acknowledged in a four-page spread that Blair had faked or plagiarized at least 36 stories.

The fallout represents the biggest crisis of Raines's 20-month tenure, and comes just a year after he was basking in the glow of the paper having won an unprecedented seven Pulitzer Prizes. Yesterday, his strong-willed style appeared to be on trial as much as the admitted failure to detect Blair's lies.

What little applause there was went to Metropolitan Editor Jonathan Landman, who wrote an e-mail in April 2002: "We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now." That memo went only to the associate managing editor for administration and the assistant to Managing Editor Gerald Boyd, Raines said, adding that he never saw it until after Blair's resignation.

Sulzberger, the company's CEO, made no attempt to minimize the damage, saying: "If we had done this right, we wouldn't be here today. We didn't do this right. We regret that deeply. We feel it deeply. It sucks."

Boyd apologized for his mistakes but said it was "absolute drivel" to suggest that he had acted as a mentor to Blair, who, like the managing editor, is African American. "Did I pat him on the back? Did I say 'hang in there'? Yes, but I did that with everybody."

Blair had been cultivating Boyd, nominating him for a National Association of Black Journalists award and writing up the prize in an employee newsletter.

Boyd said he had had only two serious talks with Blair – one after the Sept. 11 attacks, when Blair's behavior became more erratic, and again after Blair was accused of plagiarizing an article from the San Antonio Express-News, urging him to come clean.

"This is not about a failure of minority journalists," Boyd said, or about being "too compassionate. . . . Let's not make this about race or youth or anything that divides the most talented newsroom in the country and indeed the world."

Raines sounded contrite, according to participants, when he said he knew he was viewed as pushing the newsroom too hard: "You think there's a star system. You think there's a culture of fear where editors are afraid to bring Howell bad news. Obviously that's not what I want."

Sulzberger told the staff that "if your trust in us is broken, all I can tell you is we are committed to repairing it. If it is only bent, bless you."

From the moment Berenson asked about resignation – saying it was a difficult question but one he'd ask of the boss at any other company under the circumstances – it was clear that long-simmering staff resentment was bubbling over.

Raines said that Landman had been "right all along" in warning about Blair, and Boyd acknowledged he didn't tell National Editor Jim Roberts of Blair's previous problems when the reporter was moved to the national staff to cover the sniper case and interview the families of soldiers in Iraq.

The paper's response to Landman's warning, Raines said, was for Boyd's assistant to write a "strong memo" to the personnel file, saying Blair was in danger of losing his job. It is not clear if anyone else saw the memo.

The most difficult exchanges came when the metro desk's Sexton asked why no action was taken after the strong challenges to Blair's reporting in the sniper case – including from the paper's own Washington bureau. The U.S. attorney in Maryland disputed a Blair article that said suspect John Muhammad's interrogation was cut short just as he was about to confess, and a Fairfax County prosecutor called a news conference to denounce a second piece as "dead wrong."

Raines and his team "did nothing" to verify "the authenticity or quality of his reporting," Sexton said. Why, he asked, did no senior editor demand to know the identities of Blair's unnamed sources?

Raines said it was his failure not to ask about the sources. He said he had "a political reporter's DNA," not "a police reporter's DNA." But he also said that after examining Blair's story and a Washington Post account, he believed the story about the truncated interrogation was at least partially true.

Boyd said the Fairfax prosecutor, Robert Horan, had told the Times that he didn't have a problem with Blair or the newspaper but with whatever sources were providing inaccurate information. It is not clear whether Blair made up those unnamed law enforcement sources.

A young reporter, Shaila Dewan, said it was "very demoralizing" that no other younger reporters, and no women, were given a chance to help out on the sniper coverage, when someone with Blair's baggage was chosen.

Some Times staffers say what they call Raines's "autocratic" management style – a "culture of favoritism," as one described it – helps explain why Blair was deemed untouchable. Since Raines took over in September 2001, several top editors – including the national editor, assistant national editor and two investigative editors – have either left the paper or moved to other assignments. Staffers have complained that Raines runs a top-heavy "Politburo" in which their influence was greatly reduced and managers were categorized as being either on or off the team.

During the same period, nine national reporters – including Kevin Sack, who just won a Pulitzer for the Los Angeles Times – have either quit or moved to other slots. Some have complained about pressure from Raines to travel more and file more pieces rather than pursue larger features.

One staffer asked yesterday about the departure of Sack and other seasoned reporters, who are widely seen as having been driven out by Raines. The executive editor said he had to do a better job of retaining talent.

Raines was also asked whether other Times reporters were getting a pass for sloppy or inaccurate reporting. He said it "would be wrong to start cannibalizing those achievers on our staff."

Toward the end of the meeting, piped by phone into Times bureaus around the world, Raines called it "illuminating, painful and honest."

The Times reported yesterday that the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan has asked for information about Blair, but the nature of the request, and what laws might have been violated, were not disclosed.

Separately, a Times spokeswoman confirmed earlier this week that Blair has a relationship with a clerk at the paper who is a friend of Raines's wife. The New York Daily News reported that the woman, Zuza Glowacka, has worked in the Times photo department – an important fact because the Times says Blair faked some details in his stories by gaining access to the paper's computerized photo archives.

Blair told the News in a statement read over the phone this week that "I remain truly sorry for my lapses in journalistic integrity. . . . I continue to struggle with recurring issues that have caused me great pain."

The New Republic, meanwhile, enters the Jayson Blair fray:

"The policy Howell Raines and other Times executives were administering when they overlooked these things wasn't affirmative action; it was the fetishization of diversity, which is a complete perversion of affirmative action. And any fetish--any monomaniacal fixation on a single goal, whether the goal is diversity or proper grammar or having a certain type of Danish at editorial meetings--can be exploited by a pathological rogue looking to game the system. (Though it should be pointed out that the lion's share of the blame still lies with the pathological rogue, regardless of who or what made his rogue behavior possible. It should also be pointed out that we, of all publications, are not immune to pathological rogues.) . . .

"Howell Raines was apparently practicing a form of authoritarianism that isolated him from his staff and reinforced his personal fixations. And it came back to haunt him."

American Prowler's Wlady Pleszczynski scoffs at the Times investigation:

"If executive editor Howell Raines were at Enron, his name would be Kenneth Lay.

"Sunday's report of its investigation into the Blair scandal simply takes one's breath away. Let's start with what's said. The paper concedes that reporter Blair committed countless acts of plagiarism, misrepresentation, and other deviousness over the course of his meteoric Times career. It admits Blair was appointed and promoted by the paper's top guns, despite warnings from less powerful editors at the paper (which immediately puts the lie to its official claim that what the paper had here was a failure to communicate). It denies any of this had anything to do with its open championing of affirmative action, the elephant in the room it mistakes for a gnat. . . .

"As for not wanting to demonize Jayson, that's exactly what the Times has done, but without taking any responsibility for its own actions. If John Ashcroft had compiled Sunday's report, the paper would have squawked that his privacy had been violated at every turn. But with a huge score to settle and even greater embarrassment to escape, the Times gives it hard and good to its once proud project. Among other things we learn that he drank too much scotch, ran up tabs at bars, borrowed company cars and accumulated parking tickets on them (was he moonlighting at the U.N.?), smoked heavily, ate junk food, and was as sloppy in his appearance as he was in his work. On top of that, he had maxed out on his credit card. What a loser!"

We would have thought that William F. Buckley Jr. would defend Bill Bennett in the gambling flap, which seemed to be dying down. Instead, the National Review founder declares Bennett washed up:

"The sad business of William Bennett requires discouraging commentary. There is, first, the existential point, which is that Bill Bennett is through. We speak, of course, of his public life. He is objectively discredited. He will not be proffered any public post by any president into the foreseeable future. He will not publish another book on another virtue, if there is any he has neglected to write about. It is possible that the books written by him on the subject, sitting in bookstores, will work their way to the remainder houses. These are the consequences of the damage he has done to himself. It could always be that his inherent talents will prevail over undiscriminating fate. There are those who hope it will be so.

"A second question immediately arises: Has justice been done? Only in a raw parsing of the term, because what he did can correctly be deemed a private act immune from retributory sanction. It was wanton behavior, indisputably, but it was his own money being dissipated. The manner in which this was done raises eyebrows. If he had spent millions in decorating costs, his story would merely have been the tale of one more spendthrift. There is something about gambling when done other than on a scale associated with gin rummy and bridge, that is inherently censorious. Sensible criticism focuses on the unbounded character of his dissipation. When connected to stories of arrivals at casinos at three o'clock in the morning, to pump the $500 slot machines until dawn, what is depicted is addiction at pathological levels. The public thinks to reproach such conduct, not to okay it under the libertarian rubric."

Buckley complains about "the evident delight taken by what has happened to William J. Bennett. It justifies itself by spurting out that we have here the simple joy of holding hypocrisy to the flame of public ridicule. There's the procedural problem for Bennett critics who hold that private behavior is private behavior and should no more justify the impeachment of Bill Bennett than of Bill Clinton. But we cannot shake off the special animus here. What some critics are saying is that Mr. Bennett is the nation's premier secular catechist of virtue, and that the bigger they come the harder they fall."

Tough stuff, that.

It's too little, way too late for the Saudis:

"Saudi Arabia ignored repeated U.S. requests to tighten security around residential compounds housing American citizens before this week's terror attacks, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia said yesterday," reports USA Today.

"We continue to work with the Saudis on this, but they did not, as of the time of this tragic event, provide the additional security we requested,' Robert Jordan said in an interview on CBS' 'The Early Show.' Jordan said the U.S. government asked the Saudis for the security improvements 'on several occasions.'"

It was inevitable, after the New York Daily News ran the headline "JFK Had a Monica," that the former White House intern would surface:

"John F. Kennedy's intern admitted to the Daily News yesterday: 'I am the Mimi.' Marion (Mimi) Fahnestock, now 60, called it a huge weight off her shoulders to finally reveal her affair with the dashing young president four decades ago.

" 'The gift for me is that this allowed me to tell my two married daughters a secret that I've been holding for 41 years,' she said. 'It's a huge relief.'

" 'It's all true,' said Fahnestock, sitting in a pew in Manhattan's Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, where she works as an administrator. Referring to stories in The News this week detailing the affair, she said: 'I was 19 years old. It was 1962, '63, and it's the truth.' "

Can her "Today" show appearance be far behind?

The Nation's Katrina van den Heuvel is tired of the Hillary-bashing:

"Can't the Republican Presidential Task Force come up with more imaginative ways of raising money than attacking Hillary Clinton? Last week it sent out a mass mailing seeking funds to stop any prospective Clinton presidential candidacy.

"'If Republicans don't take immediate steps to counter her,' writes Senator George Allen, chair of the Republican Senatorial Committee, 'Senator Hillary Clinton will continue to rise unimpeded to the very pinnacle of power in Washington and we will see the dawning of a new, more liberal Clinton era.'

"Spare me. The specter of Hillary Clinton as Senator--and now President--may be one of the great rightwing moneymaking gambits of our time. (Also one of the most fraudulent given Hillary's longtime centrist record.) HillaryNo.com helped Rudy Giuliani, her then assumed rival for the New York Senate, haul in an unprecedented 19 million dollars in campaign contributions. Since then, scores of rightwing writers have cashed in by pillorying Hillary. Conservative publishing houses have grown fat from Hillary-bashing. Talk radio's revenues would be cut in half without the Clintons, and Hannity, Scarborough, Savage and O'Reilly could go out of business without Hillary to kick around. . . .

"At least retailers are no longer reporting brisk sales in nine-inch Hillary voodoo dolls or doormats bearing her likeness."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer does a little fact-checking on its hometown candidate:

"Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic presidential candidate who has harshly criticized an economic plan reducing the taxes investors pay on dividends, co-sponsored a similar bill in 1998 when the economy was vibrant and the federal budget was in surplus.

"Kucinich, a Cleveland Democrat, said yesterday that he wouldn't vote for his own bill if it were up for consideration now."

The Raleigh News and Observer tracks the latest attack on its home-state guy:

"A conservative pro-business group is taking whacks at Sen. John Edwards, both at home in North Carolina and on the presidential campaign trail.

"Americans for Job Security sponsored a full-page ad in The News & Observer on Tuesday suggesting the politically ambitious Edwards had sold out to trial lawyers and forgotten the people he's supposed be serving back home. . . .

"Slated to run for several months, the billboards will portray Edwards as an obstacle to tort reform. One that's being planned shows pictures of donkeys and Edwards, with the following text:

"'A Montana man named Jack Ass sued the MTV show 'Jackass' for $10 million saying they plagiarized his name. . . . Next time you see him, tell John Edwards lawsuits like this are asinine.' . . .

"It's not surprising to us that a Republican-backed group that's employed [President] Bush's lawyer and has ties to [Bush political strategist] Karl Rove . . . is trying to attack John Edwards in his home state,' campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said."

Both these stories are prime examples of how home-state reporters often provide the most telling coverage of presidential candidates – a phenomenon we wrote about in The Washington Post the other day.

Finally, Paul Krugman of the NYT and Fox's Neal Cavuto are really going at it. First, Krugman:

"Neil Cavuto of Fox News is an anchor, not a commentator. Yet after Baghdad's fall he told 'those who opposed the liberation of Iraq' – a large minority – that 'you were sickening then, you are sickening now.' Fair and balanced."

Mr. Cavuto:

"Exactly who's the hypocrite, Mr. Krugman? Me, for expressing my views in a designated segment at the end of the show? Or you, for not so cleverly masking your own biases against the war in a cheaply written column?

"You're as phony as you are unprofessional. And you have the nerve to criticize me, or Fox News, and by extension, News Corporation?

"Look, I'd much rather put my cards on the table and let people know where I stand in a clear editorial, than insidiously imply it in what's supposed to be a straight news story. And by the way, you sanctimonious twit, no one – no one – tells me what to say. I say it. And I write it. And no one lectures me on it. Save you, you pretentious charlatan."

We hate it when they hold back.

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Spread of SARS Acts as a Rude Awakening for China

China | Friday 04:33:03 EST | comments (0)

Spread of SARS Acts as a Rude Awakening for China

BEIJING, May 12 — Only a few months ago, in what already feels like a different era, China's leaders were riding high. No one, neither critics nor partisans of the Communist Party, imagined that a viral disease was about to cause the equivalent of a national train wreck.

The party was transferring supreme power to a younger generation in the most orderly way ever. In its blooming relations with the United States and other great powers and in its successful effort to be selected as the host for the 2008 Olympics, China was gaining the global respect it always craved.

After more than two decades of relative stability and speedy growth, the country had joined the World Trade Organization. If problems of inequality and unemployment still nagged, the first quarter of 2003 was enjoying a renewed burst of rapid growth.

Now, in just a few torturous weeks, the country's politics and international relations have changed hues. The SARS epidemic and its obvious mishandling have badly humbled China's leaders at home and abroad, and jolted the society in many ways, a range of intellectuals and party officials said in interviews.

"SARS has been our country's 9/11," Xu Zhiyuan, a columnist for the Economic Observer, a newsweekly, said in an interview. "It has forced us to pay attention to the real meaning of globalization."

"China's future seemed so dazzling," he said, and that "lulled people into thinking our country was immune from the shocks of history." A recent column he wrote about the subject was titled "Farewell to a Vacation From History."

Just where the unleashed demons will lead is uncertain. But one casualty, welcomed by some scholars, may be the smug complacency many Chinese had developed about the country's political system and future.

"I think this disaster will make China's leaders more modest," said Xiao Gongqin, a historian at Shanghai Normal University.

"Everything seemed to be going so smoothly, and that allowed us to neglect our systemic shortcomings," he said in an interview. "This crisis is forcing everyone to reflect on those shortcomings, and it will sharpen people's critical sense."

Not only is SARS a serious threat to lives, but the epidemic has also exposed with embarrassing clarity — to the Chinese people and to the world — the costs of China's tight political control over information and bureaucracy.

It has thrown an equally embarrassing spotlight on the backward and disorganized state of medical care, especially in the countryside, where a majority of China's people live.

Anger overseas about the months of dissembling about the extent of SARS, which almost certainly abetted the global spread of the disease, has put Chinese leaders and diplomats on the defensive. In China, as the virus becomes more entrenched, serious economic damages are looming and Chinese travelers are in danger of becoming international pariahs.

Since the government's remarkable admission of grave mistakes on April 20, accompanied by the firing of two relatively senior officials among the many who must have known about the SARS cover-up, the top leaders have gamely worked to make up for lost time.

Hu Jintao, the president and party chief, and Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, have moved visibly around the country and filled the airwaves with exhortations to defeat the epidemic, and they appear to be winning back some public faith in the process.

If nothing more, many scholars and political experts think, a new standard of public disclosure has been set.

"For the government to be so open about an ongoing crisis is unprecedented," said Li Dongmin, director of the Social Survey Institute of China. "I hope it's a step forward to a more open society."

Even in routine party meetings, people are speaking out and raising critical questions in a way they never did before, about SARS and other issues, too, said an official of a party research institute.

The epidemic and its inconsistent official handling have been "a huge shock for the entire party," the official said. "You can sense this at internal meetings, where the atmosphere has changed and people are expressing criticisms more freely."

"The SARS epidemic is forcing us to rethink the whole theoretical framework for government that was developed under Jiang Zemin," he said, including the blindered emphasis on social stability and economic growth.

"We're seeing that growth and stability need to be balanced by social development and equity," the official said.

With his vigorous, if belated, counterattack against the disease, Mr. Hu appears to be consolidating his grip on the party and government much more quickly than many experts expected. When he succeeded Jiang Zemin in November, Mr. Jiang packed the ruling council with his protégés and stayed on as chairman of the military, and seemed a genuine rival for supreme authority.

Now, to salvage China's reputation, as well as to protect its health, Mr. Hu and Mr. Wen have brought in highly competent technocrats, previously associated with the former prime minister, Zhu Rongji, and with economic affairs, to run the Health Ministry and Beijing's anti-SARS campaign.

Wu Yi, a deputy prime minister and former trade negotiator, has been put in overall charge of fighting SARS.

Mr. Jiang remains a political force and still seems to control the military, but his near total silence on the SARS threat and that of his protégés on the Politburo have been widely noticed.

If the epidemic runs wild in coming months, political analysts say, Mr. Hu could yet lose ground. But if the medical and economic problems become too severe, the entire party leadership may be discredited and in peril, some experts say.

So far the worst predictions about the spread of SARS have not come true, at least if current disease reporting is close to accurate. China reported 75 new confirmed SARS cases today, including 48 in Beijing — lower daily numbers than were being reported a week ago. To some, they were a sign of hope that the epidemic might have crested, at least in Beijing, which is now the epicenter.

But international experts warn that information on where and how the virus has spread through Beijing remains too sketchy. They are also especially worried about the danger to interior cities and provinces, where medical monitoring and care are seriously deficient.

Almost no one expects the SARS challenge alone to force basic changes in one-party rule or to end political controls on the media.

Even the new official candor, while involving an outpouring of facts, has been carefully scripted from above, and the voluminous news reports have been shaped to flatter the leaders and present a society unified in heroic struggle.

Riots in several cities and towns, by fearful populations trying to keep SARS patients out of their neighborhoods, have not been reported in the official media. Whistle-blowers who exposed the now condemned cover-up of cases and deaths have been silenced rather than officially lauded.

The most hopeful view of some party thinkers is that long-discussed proposals to allow a modest increase in press freedom, improve public oversight of officials and promote more democracy inside the ruling party will gain new strength. Others, noting how quickly the propaganda apparatus has moved to extol the leaders' performance and pre-empt any radical critiques, say that is wishful thinking.

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Years of the Dragons

NYC | Friday 04:31:42 EST | comments (0)

Years of the Dragons

THE night of Aug. 29, 1978, a lean, neatly dressed 23-year-old stumbled into the Fifth Precinct station house in the heart of Chinatown, bleeding from bullet wounds to his head and back. The victim was immediately recognized as the founder of the Ghost Shadows, one of Chinatown's most notorious gangs. But he refused to cooperate with the police, except to confirm that the shooting had taken place around the corner, at a mah-jongg parlor hidden beneath a restaurant on Mott Street.

One afternoon a few weeks ago, the same man, now 48 and graying, strode confidently into the Chinatown Day Care Center, a community-run nursery on Division Street. A 4-year-old in a purple down jacket darted from her seat to give her father a hug.

"Chinatown is not like before," the man remarked to a visitor as he returned the child's hug. "Chinatown is peaceful now. And there are no more gangs."

Of all the changes that have taken place in Chinatown in the last decade - the new wave of Fujianese immigrants, the shrinking of neighboring Little Italy, the gentrification of once squalid tenements - none has been as dramatic, or as historic, as its disappearing gang culture. Yin, who agreed to discuss his past on the condition that only his first name be used, played a pivotal role in this culture before serving 10 years in prison. But it is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Last year, for the first time in recent memory, not a single homicide was reported in the Fifth Precinct. The bullet-ridden alleyways of Mott and Pell Streets, the site of so many bloody turf wars, are as safe as the new Times Square. Local merchants who once coughed up thousands of dollars a year for protection money now use that money for mortgages. The cliques of menacing gang members who once recruited outside schoolyards have vanished without a trace.

"The heyday of youth gangs hanging out at different buildings and gambling houses, protecting businesses, going to restaurants for 'tiger meals' and not paying - that has pretty much disappeared from Chinatown," said Peter Kwong, director of the Asian-American studies program at Hunter College and the author of "The New Chinatown" (Hill & Wang, 1996).

The Jade Squad, a now-defunct special police unit formed in the 70's to tackle the gangs, attributed the change to arrests and racketeering convictions. The reasons are more complex, touching upon such diverse factors as changing international drug routes, cultural shifts, assimilation, even the crush of buses bound for Atlantic City.

But whatever the explanation, few will forget the screams of kidnapping victims and the crackle of bullets flying through crowded Chinese restaurants that marked the era of gang domination in the neighborhood. For better or worse, gangs were embedded in Chinatown's fabric.

"It's a part of our history that we need to remember,'' another former gang member said. "Gangs were a major part of Chinatown's soul.''

The Ghosts of Mott Street

Yin, the gang member who stumbled into the Fifth Precinct station that violent night, was 15 when he started hanging out with the wrong crowd. With his lanky frame and boyish good looks, he looked like a model child, but his charismatic smile and intense manner made him a natural leader for disaffected Chinatown youths.

By that year, 1970, Chinatown was home to five gangs: Chung Yee, Liang Shan, the Flying Dragons, the White Eagles and the Black Eagles. At first, they coexisted in relative peace, their memberships small, the spoils meager. But as boundaries were drawn, giving each gang a slice of Chinatown from which to profit, turf wars flared.

Rather than join an existing gang, Yin started his own. According to a federal indictment brought against him in 1985, Yin was the founding chairman of the Ghost Shadows, a gang that terrorized Chinatown for more than two decades. His role was so critical and his influence so great, in certain circles he is still considered a legend.

With no reputation or territory of his own, Yin set his sights on Mott Street, Chinatown's spiritual heart and a strip to which the White Eagles had already laid claim. To gain notoriety and prestige, the Ghost Shadows committed dozens of high-profile crimes, ranging from the murder of rival gang members to the armed robbery of a local newspaper. The emergence of the Ghost Shadows signified a bloody new chapter in Chinatown history.

"There was a tremendous amount of street violence," said Nancy Ryan, who founded the Asian gang unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office and whose prosecution of Yin and others earned her the nickname Dragon Lady. "Nobody had seen such a thing before in Chinatown."

In one grisly incident, Yin and other Shadows were patrolling Mott Street when they spotted a White Eagle walking alone. They forced him into a car, "drove him to a pier at the East River, bound his hands behind his back with wire, and tied his feet together with twine," the indictment said. "They then threw him into the river to drown."

"If you couldn't beat them, you had to join them,'' Yin said the other day during an informal tour of old gang landmarks that offered a rare, firsthand glimpse into a world normally seen through the eyes of the police. "If I didn't fight, I wouldn't have survived.''

The takeover of Mott Street, however, was not complete until the Shadows got the official nod from the tong, or fraternal association, of the On Leong Chinese Merchants Association. Founded in 1893, On Leong is ensconced in a building with a pagoda roof at the corner of Mott and Canal Streets. From its red-lacquered balcony on which the Taiwanese flag flies proudly, one can survey the entirety of Mott Street as if from a castle on a hill.

Like most Chinatown tongs, On Leong was on the surface a legitimate enterprise, serving as a business collective, a crutch for immigrants, even a loan company. But as Chinatown knew all too well, the largest tongs were also the brains behind the gangs. In 1974, relations between On Leong and its street muscle, the White Eagles, soured. On Leong sanctioned a takeover by the 200-member Shadows, and after a quick blood bath, Mott Street was firmly identified as Ghost Shadows territory.

ABC's and FOB's

The takeover of Mott Street by the Shadows culminated a life of crime that began before the gang's leader was in high school. Yin came to New York in 1966 at the age of 11, the son of parents who were among the tidal wave of Chinese immigrants who flooded Lower Manhattan just after restrictive quotas against Asians ended in 1965. Chinatown was both new frontier and emerging ghetto. Like many of his peers, Yin lived in a cramped tenement apartment on Eldridge Street as his parents struggled to make a living.

"My parents were garment workers and didn't have time to focus on their children," said Yin, who speaks in a whispery voice and still struggles with English. "A normal job here is like 70 hours, even now. I had to make my own judgments, my own money."

As Chinatown's population exploded, so did crime. But contrary to myth, the neighborhood's gangs were not imported wholesale from Asia. The violent Chinatown underworld, vividly sketched in the 1985 Mickey Rourke film "Year of the Dragon," and in countless television cop shows, did not spread from Hong Kong like some virulent strain. A strictly American byproduct, it embodied the modern history of Chinatown.

The first gangs were formed in the early 1960's by American-born Chinese - ABC's, as they were called - to fend off attacks from non-Asian outsiders known as lo fans, and members rarely committed crimes involving their own people.

That changed around 1970 as new immigrants "fresh off the boat," or FOB's, began forming their own street gangs for more nefarious purposes. Like Yin, the younger generation came from impoverished homes, spoke little English and saw few opportunities in their adopted country except to band together socially and criminally. In this they mirrored the youth of earlier immigrant groups for whom a life of crime was often a crucial first step up the economic ladder.

"It was never my intention to come to the U.S. and get into trouble," Yin said. "My parents and I just wanted better prosperity. I just fell into the situation."

Chinese gangsters were never hard to spot. There was an unspoken uniform of tight black jeans that tapered around bare ankles, white Keds, spiky hair with dyed highlights and a beeper. Some wore black nylon bomber jackets with a colorful dragon stitched on the back.

Clouds of cigarette smoke hovered over certain basements where the tongs had set up illegal gambling parlors for poker, mah-jongg, fan-tan and pai gow. More than 15 major parlors hid in plain sight, some raking in $2 million a month.

For most of the 80's and 90's, shopkeepers regarded protection money as a cost of doing business in Chinatown. Gang members knew to dance around the topic, the better to avoid self-incrimination; some arrived bearing a mandarin orange tree, with a reciprocal donation implied.

"All the store owners knew that before their store opened, they would have to pay," said Ko-Lin Chin, a professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University and the author of "Chinatown Gangs: Extortion, Enterprise and Ethnicity" (Oxford University Press, 1996). "They would always sit down and negotiate a price over tea. It was very polite."

Bonuses came on the Chinese New Year, in late winter, when a half-dozen lion dances, sponsored by various tongs, snaked through Chinatown to offer blessings amid the deafening pop of firecrackers. While tourists snapped pictures, the dancers collected wads of cash stuffed in red envelopes.

Wherever large sums of money exchanged hands, the gangs sought a slice of the action. Counterfeit handbags did not originate with the gangs, but they soon began getting a cut. Massage parlors and prostitution rings offered another revenue stream. By the mid-80's, "China White" was added to the list. The gangs served as the final leg of a heroin distribution network that started in Thailand, Burma and Laos, the so-called Golden Triangle. In the early 90's, as much as half the heroin bought in the United States passed through Chinatown.

The RICO Years

Before federal authorities began clamping down on the gangs, Yin had been arrested 20 times but convicted only twice, once as a youth for homicide, which landed him in juvenile detention for 18 months, and once for disorderly conduct after refusing to pay for a movie ticket. But as the gangs expanded their operations and became more brazen, with children and non-Asians mowed down by shootouts in broad daylight, a local menace turned, literally, into a federal case. In 1985, capping a 10-year investigation, federal authorities announced their first prosecution of Chinese gangs.

Under the federal Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, 25 members of the Shadows were charged with 85 separate crimes, including 13 murders. As the ringleader, Yin was singled out for two dozen crimes, including two homicides and seven attempted murders. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Over the next decade, a string of RICO indictments stripped every Chinatown gang and tong of their top brass. Prosecutors stepped up their efforts in 1993 when a freighter called the Golden Venture ran aground off Queens with nearly 300 Chinese immigrants aboard, underscoring in sickening fashion the link between the gangs and human smuggling.

Even as the RICO convictions ushered a regime change in Chinatown, law enforcement officials worried that the seeds for a new generation of gang warlords were being planted. Waves of new immigrants from Fujian Province were settling in Chinatown and its two new offshoots, Sunset Park in Brooklyn and Flushing, Queens, both of which seemed ripe for the picking. What happened instead, said Mr. Chin of Rutgers, was that "Chinatown itself had changed."

Unlike Cantonese immigrants from Hong Kong and other urban centers who once dominated the social hierarchy, the Fujianese and other recent immigrants were generally rural people. "They were farmers," Mr. Chin said. "They're going to school rather than getting involved with gangs."

The criminal enterprises that begot the gangs, like gambling and heroin, had lost their economic life. Atlantic City casinos offered cheap bus rides, Asian pop stars and more glitz than any smoke-filled basement. Meanwhile, Colombian heroin traffickers had undercut Asian suppliers with lower prices and purer grades.

At the same time, new blood to replenish gang ranks had become scarce. Like Italians, Jews and Irish before them, the children and grandchildren of Cantonese immigrants had set their sights beyond the street corner. "All the gangsters I used to know are stockbrokers now," said Joe G. M. Chan, a filmmaker in his early 30's who still lives in Chinatown, his native home.

Former gang members take pains to avoid the old neighborhood. "I rarely go to Chinatown these days," said Lawrence Wu, 27, a former Tung On gang member who, in a remarkable turnaround, earned his high school equivalency degree, graduated from Queens College and became editor in chief of The Columbia Law Review.

"The one thing that sticks in my head is how tiny this world felt," said Mr. Wu, who now practices corporate law at a major firm near Grand Central Terminal. "You lived in this subculture of a subculture of a subculture. The idea of going to an arcade in Midtown was a really big deal."

A Reborn Lion

Chinatown still has a criminal underworld. Although reports of kidnapping are now rare, smuggling of illegal immigrants remains a problem. Extortion has not been eliminated; Fujianese tour bus operators, for example, recently had their tires slashed for refusing to pay up.

But these are not the old days.

"It's more like three guys who come together to commit a burglary or extortion," said Carla Freedman, the current head of the Manhattan District Attorney's Asian gang unit. "Gambling still exists, but it's more like poker night than a gambling parlor."

Yin would be happy if the Shadows were also forgotten. After 10 years behind bars, he returned to Chinatown in 1994 a different man in a different world. Today, Yin is nearly bald, his face appears gaunt, and there is little trace of his charismatic swagger. He comes across as tentative and wiser, like a man who has had too much time to think.

"I lost a lot of time," he said with regret. "I started my family when I was 45."

After trying his hand as an electrician, a travel agent and a restaurant manager, he has embarked on a new life as a real estate developer; his first building, a two-story cinder-block structure in Chinatown, is nearly complete. Paradoxically, the arm-twisting and interference-running that is emblematic of New York construction reminds him of the old days. "It's very similar,'' he said, "except one is positive, and one is negative."

In an effort to help his daughter to retain a strong Chinese identity, Yin lives on the outskirts of Chinatown with his wife of five years, a recent immigrant who manages a Chinese restaurant.

Yin grew silent as he walked past old gang apartments, former gambling parlors, the restaurant where he was shot and the pagoda roof of On Leong, as imposing as ever at Mott and Canal Streets.

Several weeks earlier, on the first day of the Chinese New Year, On Leong had resurrected its lion dance after a long absence. In a moment heavy with symbolism, the dancers turned onto Pell Street, the territory of On Leong's longtime archrival, Hip Sing. The young dancers were led upstairs into Hip Sing's inner sanctum, where secret meetings were once held to plot against On Leong and the Shadows. As far as anyone could recall, Hip Sing had never before been host to an On Leong lion dance.

For a few minutes, the lion gyrated before a ceremonial altar, beautifully arranged with incense, oranges and cabbage. As old men in suits shook hands, the lion swallowed a head of green cabbage, a symbol of wealth, and tossed it back in a show of respect. The hatchet was officially buried.

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Saudis Are Shaken as Jihad Erupts at Their Front Door

PQ+ | Friday 04:31:02 EST | comments (0)

Saudis Are Shaken as Jihad Erupts at Their Front Door

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, May 15 — The mourners came pouring in to the wealthy Khozama neighborhood by the hundreds over the last three nights, the younger men kissing the deputy governor of Riyadh on the forehead as a Bedouin mark of respect, his peers bussing him on the cheeks. "May God extend his condolences," they murmur.

The deputy governor's son, Muhammad, was killed in the bombing of an upscale residential compound, struck down on Monday with such force, his father Abdullah al-Blehed said, that the first time he touched his son's mangled corpse lying on the sidewalk, he did not recognize his own firstborn.

"Those people who say they want to make jihad against the United States or Israel, what they did is pointless," said Mr. Blehed, a part owner of Al Hamra, the compound where his son died. "Jihad is not like this."

Many Saudis are reeling from the deadly explosions in the eastern suburbs of this sprawling capital, in part because at least seven of the victims were natives, and the 15 attackers probably were too. In recent years, terror attacks around the world, although carried out in the name of Islam, the faith born here, seemed distant. Jihad was something that happened elsewhere.

"This time it was different: it was an attack against your own people," said Khaled M. Batarfi, the managing editor of Al Madina, a daily newspaper. "It's huge; it's organized. It's like what happened on Sept. 11 in America but on a smaller scale — these things happen to others."

The gory scenes of charred bodies spread across their newspapers and on television are disturbing in a way other recent terrorist attacks were not.

"If this was not the Saudis' Sept. 11, it was certainly the Saudis' Pearl Harbor," said the United States ambassador, Robert W. Jordan.

Of course there had been attacks here before. At least a half-dozen bombs planted under cars in recent years killed three expatriates and maimed several others. Americans were the main victims of both the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers and a 1995 attack on a Saudi National Guard center.

Saudis, however, felt secure in their own country. Now they are not so sure.

"We're moving," said Fahd al-Blehed, 27, Muhammad's brother and his neighbor in the compound. "Those people can do anything."

It was only in recent years that Saudis started living in compounds, long a preserve of Westerners. Muhammad, 29, was a typical local resident. After spending five years in the United States, graduating from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo with a master's degree in public administration, he came home. He followed his father into both the Riyadh government and the family real estate and transportation business.

Life in the compounds is not unlike any California community college. Some of the tennis courts are air-conditioned. Swimming pools abound. Al Hamra boasted some 15 among its 428 villas, town houses and apartments. The five most expensive mansionettes, which rented for $10,000 per month, each had its own.

The Saudis who lived there — and 70 percent of the residents were Saudi — tended to be married to foreign women or have spent some years abroad. The compound was out of bounds to the religious police, sniffing for moral turpitude. Women could move around unveiled. Men could wear their soccer shorts.

When he was out walking with his wife, Fahd said, "Nobody would ask me, "Who is she? What is she doing with you?' "

Some expect the attack on Saudis who had adopted a Western lifestyle was done on purpose. "In their belief, there is no difference, because those people are befriending the infidels," Mr. Batarfi, the editor, said.

On the night of the attack, Muhammad was eating dinner with four friends, his family said. One was the son of another shareholder in the compound, another a lawyer. When they heard gunfire at the nearby gate, Muhammad ran for home, where his 2-month-old twin daughters had been left with a nanny. He never made it. His body was found some 10 yards from where a Chevrolet pickup truck packed with explosives was detonated.

The explosion also killed all his dinner companions, Muhammad's relatives said. It leveled some 25 houses. A total of 100 will need to be rebuilt. It tore the roof off the gym of the British School in the compound and wrenched doors off their hinges in another compound a few hundred yards away.

As their father describes the attack, Fahd and his younger brother Faisal, 25, tear up. With the sadness comes anger about security lapses. Fahd said the owners asked for more security for the front gate but the government provided only one armed man in a jeep — the government holding a monopoly on carrying guns.

"That won't do much against a bunch of guys trained in Afghanistan," Fahd said, making a sudden fist. "The government has to be harder on them, especially the religious people who are even brainwashing young children in mosques."

The need for a crackdown has been a common theme here this week. The country's newspapers, especially Al Watan, have been waging a campaign pointing out that it is not that great a leap from criticizing women as infidels for opening sports clubs to declaring open season on anyone fitting that description.

The newspaper used to get only hate mail for such sentiments, said its editor, Jamal Khashoggi, but it has now started receiving supportive missives, demanding a crackdown on the radicals.

Before this week, many Saudis, and especially those in government, tended to paint fanaticism as something foreign. This week, the usual statements about events "strange to our society" were absent.

The creeping recognition that it is something homegrown has made Saudis more jittery, not least because the Web sites beloved of the radical fringe are predicting more to come.

When a helpful Saudi took an undeniably Western reporter on a drive through Riyadh, the man's elderly father called to make sure the visitor had not provoked an assault.

"The thinking is: `If I go to school tomorrow, will anything happen to me? If I drive by this compound will it explode? If I go someplace with a Western friend will I be attacked?' " Mr. Batarfi said.

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On Nighttime Tank Charge Into Gaza Powder Keg

PQ+ | Friday 04:30:06 EST | comments (0)

On Nighttime Tank Charge Into Gaza Powder Keg

BEIT HANUN, Gaza Strip, May 15 — Under a brilliant full moon, the Israeli Army commander took a final drag on his cigarette, then wriggled into a cramped armored personnel carrier and ordered his men on a nighttime charge into one of the Gaza Strip's most combustible neighborhoods.

The commander, a lieutenant colonel named Ron who insisted that his last name be withheld, predicted that shooting would erupt, and it did. In several sharp exchanges of fire, five Palestinians were killed, including two militants and three youths aged 12, 14 and 18, according to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. More than a dozen Palestinians were wounded as part of an operation Israel said was aimed at preventing Palestinian rocket fire.

The colonel, a slim, energetic man with a day's worth of stubble, permitted a reporter to join him in his armored vehicle for an inside look at the fighting that persists despite a new Middle East peace plan.

As commander of a special forces battalion who also received training at Fort Benning, Ga., the colonel leads some of the army's more delicate missions in Gaza. Preparing for this one, he discussed the often-conflicting demands of tracking down militants and avoiding civilian casualties.

"It's important just to hit the terrorists, not the civilians," he said before the raid. "Most of the time we succeed. But the terrorists sometimes use the women and children as human shields, and it makes our job very difficult."

The raid, among the most sustained of the conflict into Gaza, came as the Bush administration was pushing a new peace plan here, and as the first Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, said he was trying to marshal Palestinian security in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians accuse Israel of trying to undermine the plan with assassinations of militant leaders and almost daily raids into Palestinian towns.

But Israeli officials say that with Mr. Abbas still failing to act to stop the violence, they have no choice but to carry out raids like this one. The diplomatic signals may be mixed, but for Ron, the mission had a straightforward message.

"We want the people to understand that if they let the terrorists operate from their neighborhoods, we will be there," he said.

Israel said it had selected Beit Hanun, in the northeast corner of Gaza, as a target because the militant Hamas movement used the lush orange groves there for cover when launching homemade rockets at the Israeli town of Sederot, just outside Gaza's boundary fence.

The Israeli commander directed more than two dozen tanks, armored personnel carriers, bulldozers and Humvees as they traversed rutted, winding roads and entered Beit Hanun in single file, with their lights out, navigating by moonlight and night-vision goggles.

The commander, who was relaxed and chatty before the operation began, became intensely focused once it started. With a 360-degree view through bulletproof-glass panels, he was constantly checking the positions of other vehicles. The radio between him and his offices rarely went silent, and he often flipped on a small flashlight to check a map book with aerial photos of Beit Hanun on a detailed grid.

After an hour of driving on deserted roads, the forces staked out positions at 3 a.m. in the dirt streets, many just wide enough to accommodate tanks. Spreading out over several blocks, they encircled two houses they said belonged to Hamas members accused of involvement in the rocket fire, and prepared to blow them up.

Speaking in Arabic, a soldier on a megaphone told residents to get out of the two houses, as well as those nearby. But Beit Hanun, like many Palestinian communities, is awash in weapons, and the call was greeted almost immediately with bursts of gunfire from elsewhere in the neighborhood, prompting shooting exchanges that lasted 15 minutes. Palestinians also hurled grenades and set off two roadside bombs, the Israelis said.

Despite the gunfights, Palestinian families emerged on the streets as ordered, with parents toting small children in their arms. The Israelis shined spotlights on them to make sure that they were unarmed, startling some children.

As the shooting died down, small bands of soldiers slipped into the two homes and the neighboring ones to confirm that they had been evacuated and to plant explosives.

A pair of blasts only minutes apart brought the two-story structures crashing down amid bright orange flashes, a shower of sparks and a gust of wind through the gun portals of the armored vehicle, bringing dust as fine as talcum powder.

A short distance away, the scenario was repeated, with another bout of shooting preceding the demolitions of two more houses the soldiers said belonged to Hamas men.

The Israeli practice of tearing down the homes of militants has been criticized by Palestinians, who call it collective punishment. The Israelis see it as deterrence.

Israeli troops made no arrests, but remained in the area, and periodic clashes continued throughout the day. Young men set up burning tire barricades in the streets and threw stones at the Israeli armor; unseen gunmen occasionally opened fire.

"Until this moment, we feel like we are in jail," Sufian Hamad, a Beit Hanun resident, said tonight. "We are surrounded by tanks."

He told his seven children to resist the temptation to peek out the window, saying the 12-year-old boy who died was shot while looking at the troops.

Palestinians said that the army had blocked ambulances for several hours, and that the boy, Muhammad Zaneen, who was hit in the head, had had to be carried from the combat zone. Israel denied the charge.

The Israeli colonel was remorseful about the youths who were killed. "It's a terrible feeling," he said. "It's the last thing I want to happen. I can only hope that we have made it difficult for the Palestinians to fire rockets from this area."

These up-close confrontations, which are commonplace, are inherently jittery. When troops turn a dark corner, as they did today, they may be greeted by a family of 10 in pajamas, or a barrage of gunfire from militants laying an ambush.

At dawn, the army's hulking D-9 bulldozers systematically flattened the large orange groves that the military says Hamas has been using as a launching pad.

Five bulldozers took down hundreds of mature orange trees like huge lawn mowers trimming an overgrown yard. The bulldozers were so powerful, oranges were flung from their branches as the trees were pressed to the ground.

"With these trees gone, we now have a clear line of sight from our positions, and the terrorists can't hide," the colonel said.

But Marwan al-Shawa, whose family owns the land, was furious at the destruction. "The Israelis are just doing this for revenge," he said.

Over the last year, Israeli forces have maintained an almost permanent presence in and around Palestinian cities in the West Bank. But quick in-and-out raids have been the norm in Gaza, where the army is wary of getting bogged down in the congested towns.

Nevertheless, Maj. Gen. Doron Almog said the troops would remain in Beit Hanun, because of the recent increase in rocket and mortar fire. Israel says it will not tolerate the attacks, which have caused injuries but no deaths so far.

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SARS Scare at J.F.K. Brings Fast Response From Doctors

NYC | Friday 04:29:35 EST | comments (0)

SARS Scare at J.F.K. Brings Fast Response From Doctors

On Wednesday afternoon, the van from Kennedy International Airport's medical center dropped off a passenger at a terminal, and a young man from Pakistan, spotting the medical emblem on the shuttle, walked up and tapped on its window.

The traveler, wearing a gray suit, a stylish haircut and a very weary expression, told the driver that he felt ill, with a fever and a cough.

He said that he wanted to see a doctor or nurse — maybe he just needed some Tylenol, he said — but that he had a flight to catch at 4:30, two hours later.

That chance encounter quickly escalated into a frightening series of steps as doctors sought to rule out SARS, the new pneumonia that has killed hundreds and disrupted entire nations. The man was immediately isolated, his only contacts for the next several hours were with people swathed in masks, gloves and gowns, and he was hospitalized overnight, despite his initial objections.

Almost from the outset, the doctors thought that SARS was unlikely but that this was the unusual case they could not rule out — in part because of the man's inconsistent accounts of his travels and symptoms. By yesterday morning, they were more confident that it was not SARS, his fever was gone by midday, and he was released from Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica, Queens — irked and delayed, but better.

"Most likely it is some garden-variety virus," said Dr. Steven C. Garner, who treated the man and who is the chief medical officer of St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, which includes the airport center. "But you do the least harm by following the protocol."

The episode illustrated the heightened vigilance of doctors, nurses and others in the face of the disease, and offered a rare glimpse of the step-by-step precautions taken in the few cases in the region that look as though they might be SARS.

First, the shuttle driver donned gloves, a gown and a mask, and told his new passenger that he, too, had to slip on a mask and gloves before climbing aboard. At the medical center, the new patient was taken through the ambulance entrance, to avoid infecting the half-dozen patients in the waiting room. He was taken to an examination room and ordered to stay there, mask still in place, and a sign was posted on the door saying, "Caution, airborne and contact precautions." The man declined to be interviewed by a reporter who happened to be at the airport medical center, and doctors withheld his name and some details of his history to protect his privacy.

When SARS first burst on the scene, the medical center handled about 50 inquiries a day from passengers and airport workers who thought they might have it, or might have been exposed. That fear got in the way of the center's ordinary work, providing vaccinations to travelers and airline workers, treating injuries and providing primary care to people who live nearby. Things have calmed down, officials say. There are now about five calls or visits a day about SARS.

Wednesday's visit was different, and unsettling even to medical professionals who know they are the front line of defense against an outbreak, and have prepared for it. This was the sort of thing the center sees perhaps once a month, Dr. Garner said — a case that, at first glance, could be SARS.

"One of my doctors, I asked him to go in and get some preliminary vitals, and he was reluctant," Dr. Garner said.

The young man had a 102.4-degree temperature and a cough. He gave varying accounts of his recent ailments, including conflicting versions of how long he had run a fever. A chest X-ray showed no obvious signs of current pneumonia — though the SARS-related pneumonia can be hard to spot at first — but revealed scarring from an earlier pneumonia.

And the man's travel story kept changing. At first, doctors said, he said he was about to fly to Pakistan, but later he said he had just arrived from Pakistan. At one point, he said he had recently been in western Asia, but he later retracted that. He said he needed to be in another American city for an important event yesterday, but then he said the event was two days away. He swore he had not been to China, the center of the epidemic, but given the man's evasiveness, medical center officials said they could not be sure.

The doctors called officials at the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who agreed that the man's case was probably not SARS but that he should be held overnight. The patient agreed, so officially, this was not a case of the department ordering someone held in isolation against his will — something that has happened just once so far in a suspected SARS case.

An ambulance took the man to Mary Immaculate, where he was put in an isolation room with an air-circulation system intended to prevent the spread of germs to other parts of the hospital. Blood samples and throat swabs were taken, both for tests at the hospital and for shipping to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta — at this point, the only place in the country that can conduct the tests that can definitively establish a case of SARS.

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American Air Again Warns of Bankruptcy

Finance | Friday 04:29:05 EST | comments (0)

American Air Again Warns of Bankruptcy

American Airlines said yesterday in a securities filing that it might have to file for bankruptcy protection from creditors despite having extracted nearly $4 billion in annual cost cuts.

The glum warning came on the same day that American, the world's largest airline, said that it had obtained more than $175 million in annual concessions from more than 100 suppliers, vendors and aircraft lessors. The airline said it would give those companies three million shares of common stock in AMR, its parent.

Those savings mean American is near to achieving the $4 billion in annual concessions it said it needed to return to profitability. The largest chunk comes from $1.8 billion in annual labor savings, most from unionized workers. American won the union agreements last month after a contentious voting process during which Donald J. Carty, the former chief executive, resigned over issues of compensation.

As part of its labor cost cuts, American told its flight attendants' union on Wednesday that it would lay off more than 3,100 flight attendants on July 1, leaving 19,600 on the payroll.

Tara Baten, a spokeswoman for American, said Gerard J. Arpey, the new chief executive, and other managers were working to obtain still more savings from vendors and suppliers. American is $25 million short of its $4 billion goal.

But the company clearly has doubts that even the $4 billion in annual savings will help it avert bankruptcy. In the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, American said that "the company may nonetheless need to initiate a filing under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code because its financial condition will remain weak and its prospects uncertain."

"Among other things," the securities filing said, "the following factors have had and/or may have a negative impact on the company's business and financial results: the continued weakness of the U.S. economy; the residual effects of the war in Iraq; the fear of another terrorist attack; the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak; the inability of the company to satisfy the liquidity requirements or other covenants in certain of its credit arrangements"; and "the inability of the company to access the capital markets for additional financing."

Though domestic passenger traffic has shown slight year-to-year growth in recent weeks, international traffic remains weak, according to statistics from the Air Transport Association.

Jim Corridore, an analyst at Standard & Poor's, said American's self-assessment was accurate, given the bleak travel climate.

"My position for some time is, even after they got the employee concessions, they're still not out of the woods," Mr. Corridore said.

"Their past losses have been such over the past few years that I fear they won't be able to survive until the industry turns up again," he added. "I don't know if they can survive until 2005."

In April, AMR reported a first-quarter loss of $1.04 billion. It lost a total of nearly $5.2 billion in 2001 and 2002.

John Ward, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said in a message on the union's Web site that the round of layoffs in July meant American would have cut more than 6,000 flight attendants from its payroll since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"The morale is, as expected, pretty awful," Mr. Ward wrote.

If morale among workers continues to deteriorate, then that could present serious problems for American, industry experts said. Disaffected workers could affect service, causing travelers to switch to other airlines.

In the summer of 2000, for example, the pilots at United Airlines, a unit of UAL, refused to work overtime — what the company called a work slowdown — because the pilots felt threatened by United's bid to merge with US Airways.

Citing a recent improvement in bookings, United said yesterday that it would restore 162 daily flights next month.

The airline is also recalling 1,527 laid-off flight attendants for June, the flight attendants' union said on its Web site. United confirmed the recall of flight attendants.

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Has Technology Lost Its 'Special' Status?

Finance | Friday 04:27:19 EST | comments (0)

Has Technology Lost Its 'Special' Status?

Searching for the elusive recovery in technology spending has resembled walking toward a horizon that just keeps receding. Improvement lies just over the next hill, most technology executives keep saying, but the present looks pretty murky.

But with signs emerging that some sort of technology recovery may be under way, Craig R. Barrett, chief executive of Intel, the world's largest computer chip maker, was still echoing the prevailing wisdom yesterday. "We continue to be optimistic about the future, but cautious about tomorrow," he said.

Certainly Wall Street believes a rebound is at hand. The shares of the 100 largest technology companies have climbed 22 percent so far this year, according to Merrill Lynch & Company.

Beyond the timing of any short-term recovery, however, is the longer-term question about the future of information technology: Is it still a growth industry?

The question is stirring a lively debate among industry analysts, investors and economists. The answer will be important not only for technology companies, but for the economy as a whole. The industry represents about 10 percent of the economy and roughly 60 percent of investment in the kinds of equipment that companies buy to run their businesses.

Since the 1960's, spending on information technology — computer hardware, software and services — has on average increased at two to three times the rate of economic growth, said John Gantz, director of research for IDC, a technology research firm. So the issue is whether that multiplier will prove to be alive and well in the future.

Mr. Gantz is an optimist, predicting that after two years of decline, and a transition year in 2003 when technology spending worldwide will rise by 2.3 percent, the traditional growth pattern will resume. For 2004 through 2007, IDC projects that technology spending will rise 6 to 7 percent annually.

The current period, Mr. Gantz said, can be seen as a replay in some ways of past periods when waves of accelerated investment in technology were followed by steep drops — at the end of the 1960's in the early heyday of mainframe computers, and in the mid-1980's after the first personal computer boom. "There's always a sort of cleansing crash before we move onto the next wave of demand," Mr. Gantz said.

Yet the case for optimism rests largely on the assumption that businesses will continue to view information technology as the preferred weapon in the battle for productivity and a competitive edge over rivals.

That assumption about technology's special role is questioned in a provocative article this month in The Harvard Business Review, titled "IT Doesn't Matter." The article asserts that information technology, or I.T. for short, is inevitably headed in the same direction as the railroads, the telegraph, electricity and the internal combustion engine — becoming, in economic terms, just ordinary factors of production, or "commodity inputs."

"From a strategic standpoint, they became invisible; they no longer mattered," Nicholas G. Carr, editor at large of The Harvard Business Review, wrote in the article. "That is exactly what is happening to information technology today."

That realization, according to some analysts, will mean a slower rate of investment in technology over the long term — more in line with the pace of economic growth instead of double or triple it. "That's the debate — is technology just another crummy factor of production dressed up in new clothes or is it really an agent of continuing change in the way we do business and communicate?" said Stephen S. Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley.

Mr. Roach, a skeptic on technology, added, "My view is that it is a modern-day version of a factor of production."

Within the economic profession, there is a long-running debate about just how important the role is that information technology plays in contributing to growth, productivity gains and corporate profits.

Among senior executives at major technology companies, there are no doubts. And any suggestion to the contrary is brushed aside. Speaking to reporters yesterday, before Intel held an analysts' meeting in New York, Mr. Barrett mentioned the business review article and its author, Mr. Carr. "He absolutely misses the point," Mr. Barrett said.

Most industrial technologies, Mr. Barrett explained, were used to make or move materials. By contrast, he added, information technology puts value into products and services — from advertisements and legal briefs to Hollywood special effects and biological simulations — which are intellectual goods in one form or another.

"I.T. is the vehicle by which you turn ideas and content into intellectual property products," Mr. Barrett said. "As a nation and as a company, you either upgrade your I.T. infrastructure or you won't be competitive."

Another leader of the computer business, Samuel J. Palmisano, chief executive of I.B.M., made the case for his industry's growing at twice the rate of the economy when he spoke to analysts on Wednesday. "The industry is fundamentally a growth industry because it underpins productivity," he said.

Still, it is possible to agree that technology can deliver broad productivity gains without necessarily delivering higher profits or competitive gains for individual companies, a point made by Mr. Carr. It is also possible to agree that the technology industry continues to be innovative and important, without also accepting that it will be a growth industry as it has been in the past.

That is the view of Roger McNamee, a veteran technology investor and a founder of Silver Lake Partners, an investment fund in Silicon Valley. "I think the days of growing at two to three times the gross domestic product are over," he said.

But Mr. McNamee says there is still plenty of opportunity for discriminating technology investors — picking winners in consolidating sectors or spotting high-growth companies in emerging niches. "It's a stock picker's environment now," he said.

James W. Paulsen, senior investment strategist at Wells Capital Management, says the technology sector seems to be reviving more than most people recognize. He has dissected the government's gross domestic product statistics and says that overall investment in technology in the first quarter of this year was about 10 percent higher than in the same quarter a year earlier.

"I see a fair amount of improvement, at least in the data," Mr. Paulsen said. "The figures are far better than most people, including technology executives, are talking about."

Yet if optimistic about the immediate outlook, Mr. Paulsen is, in a reversal of the industry's view of itself, less certain about the long term. "I don't think anyone has won or lost yet," he said.

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CSFB to take Swiss PE portfolio

Finance | Friday 04:26:20 EST | comments (0)

CSFB to take Swiss PE portfolio
by Andrew Bulkeley in Berlin
Updated 05:10 PM EST, May-15-2003

In the latest bid to stabilize itself, Switzerland's loss-ridden Private Equity Holding AG agreed Thursday, May 15, to sell most of its portfolio to a Credit Suisse First Boston private equity fund.

PEH will sell SFr616 million ($469 million) of assets, including stakes in private equity and venture capital funds and some direct corporate investments, to CSFB and its DLJ Strategic Partners, a secondary private equity fund. The deal ranks as the third-largest secondary sale of private equity portfolio ever.

Zug-based PEH, a publicly traded investment company, will use the proceeds to pay off a SFr325 million bailout loan extended by Swiss Life in 2001.

The sale is the latest move to rescue PEH. In early 2001, after huge investment losses, it moved to break off ties to its original asset manager, Swiss private bank Vontobel Holding AG. Vontobel initially resisted, but ultimately the two settled in August 2001, and Swiss Life took over as manager and assumed the loans that Vontobel had made to PEH.

The sale leaves PEH with a portfolio worth SFr268 million. Its original SFr1.8 billion fund was pounded by venture capital losses, shrinking SFr1 billion early this year.

"Through the elimination of debt and the massive reduction in capital commitments, PEH once again is standing on firm legs and has won back economic freedom," PEH said Thursday.

PEH had to pay SFr25 million of the loan in January to keep from violating its agreement with Zurich-based Swiss Life, which required PEH's holdings to be at least 3 times the loan value. The Swiss insurer extended the loan in March and holds just under 5% of PEH.

Neither Swiss Life nor PEH would disclose the specific assets involved in the sale, but PEH has invested in venture funds managed by US Bancorp Piper Jaffray Ventures and Insight Capital Partners, as well as buyout funds run by Candover Partners Ltd. It had also invested directly in German gas station operator Autobahn Tank & Rast AG.

CSFB will also get a four-year, SFr 150 million loan from Swiss Life to purchase the assets. The company has also promised PEH a portion of future profits from the purchased assets.

Investors were cheered by the Thursday announcement. Swiss Life shares gained as much as 8.8% to hit SFr107.75 in Zurich on Thursday, while PEH rose as much as 14.3% to SFr 24.80. Investors had feared for both PEH and Swiss Life since PEH's money problems worsened this year and it appeared that Swiss Life might have to write off the loan.

Following the sale, PEH said its fair value per share would be SFr60, with 60% of its assets invested in VC funds. A further 25% is invested in direct investments, with balanced and buyout funds accounting for the balance.

PEH was advised by Bank Sarasin & Co. Ltd., while Swiss Life used the in-house expertise of Peter Derendinger, head of its private equity operations. CSFB handled financial affairs on its own but refused to release the names of legal advisers.

The sale comes as many financial institutions, particularly in Europe, are reducing their exposure to private equity. In February, Deutsche Bank AG announced it was selling a €1.5 billion ($1.72 billion) portfolio of approximately 80 mature buyout investments to a consortium led by the Netherlands' NIB Capital Private Equity NV and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. Those assets are now managed by the newly formed MidOcean Partners, which was set up by former Deutsche private equity managers Ted Virtue and Gordon Clempson.

Before that deal, the largest secondary sale of private equity assets was in 2000, after Royal Bank of Scotland plc acquired National Westminster Bank plc and sold NatWest's private equity portfolio to a consortium of secondary market investors for about £670 million ($1.1 billion).

CSFB has been actively targeting the secondary market for private equity and venture capital assets. It has raised a $800 million-plus secondary fund and is raising another with a target of more than $1 billion.

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A New Museum as Unconventional as Its Collection

Arts | Friday 04:24:20 EST | comments (0)

A New Museum as Unconventional as Its Collection

BEACON, N.Y. -- THE opening of Dia:Beacon on Sunday changes the landscape for art in America. "Have you seen it?" people in art circles have been asking each other for months. Now you can.

The museum, the largest one yet for contemporary art, enshrines part of a generation of big-thinking artists in a former Nabisco factory, a building with nearly a quarter of a million square feet of plain exhibition space. The place sprawls beside the Hudson River, a little more than an hour north of New York City.

The artists are European and American, Minimalists, Conceptualists and Post-Minimalists primarily, who came to maturity in the 1960's and 70's. Serialism, geometry and the grid are the leitmotifs of the work. The effect is subdued. The undercurrent, if you look with open eyes, is theatrical, and occasionally even joyous.

Many of these artists were poorly seen or shown only in out-of-the-way places over the years. There are 22 of them, a small, eccentric assortment, reflecting Dia's idiosyncratic roots, shifting priorities and sporadic collecting. Dia:Beacon is not a complete survey of any movement or era. Artists you might presume are here are not. The omission of Carl Andre is glaring. Few artists are presented in any depth. Most are represented by a few works, or just one. All are given room to breathe.

Some look great. Robert Ryman gets a retrospective of white-on-white paintings in three rooms. Fred Sandback's colored string sculptures should come as a revelation to people who don't know his work well enough. The same applies to Michael Heizer's sculptures and Blinky Palermo's paintings. Dia:Beacon makes stars of a few artists who deserve to be.

Others don't look as good. But the museum is clearly worth celebrating. It is a brilliant marriage of art and architecture. All the money has obviously gone into making the building look simple and unobtrusive so that you focus on the art, which is what museums are supposed to do. You admire the light and the atmosphere. The place can make you feel exalted.

The money, and much of the inspiration for it comes from Leonard Riggio, Dia's chairman. The artist Robert Irwin and the architectural firm Open Office collaborated with Michael Govan, Dia's director, and Lynne Cooke, its curator, on the renovation of the building. Mr. Riggio, Mr. Govan and Ms. Cooke deserve credit for the audacity, in a bad economy, to realize a gigantic museum about the accomplishments of a generation of artists who are not particularly popular but whose influence has been significant and generally underrepresented elsewhere.

How to measure influence? By the 1960's, European art was shaped for the first time, to a significant degree, by what artists were doing in the United States. The traffic of influence flowed from here to there as it hadn't before. These were not initially Dia's artists who made an impact. They were other artists who came to maturity during that same crucial decade between 1958 and 1968, when American art meant Pop, then Minimalism and Post-Minimalism. Before then, Europeans intermittently acknowledged what was happening here. Older artists like de Kooning showed at the Venice Biennale in 1954 but Europeans didn't pay particular notice. During the mid-1950's the influence of Pollock on French artists like Soulages, Fautrier and the group called Art Informel, highly debatable at best, was only marginally noteworthy anyway.

But by the late 1950's, the situation began to change. Pollock was already dead and Jasper Johns was in the Venice Biennale. One generation had been followed by another in America, although Europeans now often lumped the two together — Pollock, de Kooning and Rothko with Johns, Twombly and Rauschenberg — because all of them crowded the scene there, more or less simultaneously.

Their reception was not entirely good. But they were noticed. And quickly they were followed by Warhol and Lichtenstein, then in the late 60's by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Sol LeWitt, whose connections with, and influences on, European artists like Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, Hanne Darboven, Bernd and Hilla Becher and Blinky Palermo constitute Dia's trans-Atlantic narrative.

Europeans who disliked the American invasion, and many did, sometimes equated Minimalism with American industrial and corporate power. It was the Vietnam era. That perception has lingered, misleadingly. The art can be forbidding. But it can also be delicate. Notwithstanding its use of fluorescent tubes and stainless steel, Minimal art exalted finish and precise, one-of-a-kind refinements, an approach that had little to do with the assembly line. Judd endorsed small enterprise and the poetry of plainspoken materials, not mass production. The patronage model was also European. Heiner Friedrich, Dia's founder, arrogantly or not, wanted Dia to emulate the Medicis.

Artists younger than Judd, like Mr. Heizer and Robert Smithson, then embraced heavy machinery. They moved dirt with bulldozers and blew up rocks with explosives. As Kirk Varnedoe puts it, this partly expressed the "romance of the new left for the old left," a 60's blue-jeans dream of reconciling "longhairs with hardhats." It was an urbane aesthetic of denial and detritus, making stripped-down art from scraps of rubber, rocks and broken glass. It entailed nostalgia for a bygone industry: the equation of working class labor with moral strength.

But even the use of steel and tar and bulldozers went formally toward addressing basic, traditional principles of art: weight, mass, scale. The longer you look at any good art the more you see a common formal language transcending materials and shifting tastes. For artists like Judd, looking was almost a moral matter — the exchange of aesthetic values between viewer and the object viewed, which demanded that the object, like the viewer, be treated with respect: given space, considered individually. Every work of art had its integrity and also relationship to some group. Serial art was based on that simple principle. Look closely, make distinctions. Artists like Judd sought remote places to make and show their art, in part to restore to this experience of looking its full and rightful dignity.

Of course, artistic discrimination is the perk and privilege of an elitist culture, and looking at art, fortunately, is an equal-opportunity elitist occupation. Anyone can make discriminations who chooses to walk through a museum's front door with open eyes. The goal of Dia:Beacon, which distinguishes it from other museums, is to take its cues from artists like Judd and give their art the room they wanted so that the works are regarded one by one — for better and worse.

The sculpture by Walter De Maria right at the entrance, a suite of stainless steel circles and squares on the floor of two adjacent rooms, each the length of a football field, is a disappointment. The work fades into vastness, undone by the space. Mr. De Maria is a better artist than this sculpture conveys.

John Chamberlain's crushed metal sculptures are gorgeous — playful, crumpled objects of improbable lightness and variety — but they tend to cancel each other out in the room. In an adjoining space, a mixed assortment of Agnes Martin's evanescent paintings suffer by their proximity to Mr. Chamberlain's brand of art.

Joseph Beuys occupies a corner of the museum with histrionic remnants of one of his famous performances and other eccentric autobiographic paraphernalia. As always, they poorly convey the shamanistic aura that strangely captivated many people.

Three of Robert Smithson's dirt, gravel and mirror sculptures look small and insignificant in a gallery together. Set slightly apart from them, his "Map of Glass," a pile of shards, suggests Caspar David Friedrich's "Sea of Ice," only dimly. Smithson was a writer and self-promoter who, it is increasingly obvious, with the exception of "Spiral Jetty" produced no sculpture of real distinction.

What Louise Bourgeois is doing at all in Beacon, aside from redressing an imbalance of the sexes, is mysterious. She occupies the attic, melodramatically. Some of her small sculptures from the 60's are vivid and original but the later work, including the familiar giant spider, is camp.

By contrast, Warhol's "Shadow" paintings, 72 of 102 multicolored variations on the same obscure image, fill a gigantic room: it looks fantastic. So does Ms. Darboven's "Cultural History, 1880-1983," a dizzy panorama of accumulated magazine covers, postcards, pinups, diagrams, drawings, photographs, exhibition catalog pages — all identically framed in rows, covering the walls, with several folk sculptures and kitsch oddments on pedestals and hanging from the ceiling.

The results suggest a kind of Minimalist Wunderkammer, a wonder-cabinet of obsessive compulsion. The strict grid provides a formal structure for eclectic information, broken up, as if in syncopation, by the sculptures. The works can be read as documents and memorabilia or absorbed, formally, as shapes. The whole thing tries to contain messy history, a century's worth, if only to convey the absurdity of that endeavor. Ms. Darboven's deadpan eloquence derives from the tension between serene structure and chaotic content, a psychological subtext of much Minimal art.

You can also find it in Mr. Richter's suite of tilting sheets of reflective gray glass, which looked unmemorable in a smaller version in Berlin last year, but here is magisterial. The panes reflect the room in shifting patterns as you walk past. Like Ms. Darboven's art, the work is spectacularly theatrical.

Richard Serra's sculptures, both early and recent work, crowd the factory's train depot: several enormous "Torqued Ellipses," side by side. "Union of the Torus and the Sphere," also huge, is artfully wedged into another gallery, the snug fit stressing the work's mass and inducing vertigo, a pleasurable version of it anyway, when you try to squeeze through the room.

The most popular work here is bound to be Mr. Heizer's "North, East, South, West": geometric holes cut 20 feet deep into a concrete floor. The holes are made of steel in the shapes of a cone, a wedge, a double-square and an inverted cone. The work is cordoned off by a glass partition for safety; visitors will be allowed in only when supervised.

The combination of understated form and instigated fear, akin to the fear you might feel standing on the edge of a cliff, is the essence of this art, although Mr. Heizer would probably not say he means to scare you. Awe would be more like it.

Which, if you're in the mood, is also what you can feel in a gallery of Flavins, including an untitled red and white fluorescent sculpture, a work from 1970, propped beside a wall of windows, which is how Flavin originally devised it for Judd's bedroom. The sculpture is a grid of tall rectangles, stepped, diagonally, across a corner of a gallery.

It is like most art here — big, improbably simple, bound up with the building. The colored fluorescents mix with sunlight, your interaction with the shifting light and the empty space being the object of the work, the epitome of Minimalist parsimony and insinuation.

"As plain and open and direct an art as you will ever find," Flavin said, which describes Dia:Beacon.

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A Great Estate Opens Its Gates

NYC | Friday 04:23:32 EST | comments (0)

A Great Estate Opens Its Gates
Duke Farms Estate

On a misty day last week, I toured 700 acres of a vast pastoral landscape here that could have been in England. Deer raised their heads in an emerald-green meadow. Allées of London plane trees led to arched bridges over quiet lakes fed by meandering streams and gushing waterfalls. Fountains and classical statues greeted me at every turn, even in the picturesque ruins of a stone hay barn.

This pleasure ground, the core of Duke Farms, Doris Duke's 2,700-acre private estate, will open to the public on June 4 for the first time in 75 years. The only part of Duke Farms previously open to the public was Ms. Duke's dizzying international smorgasbord of 11 manicured gardens. Under an acre of glass and called Gardens of Nations, it has since 1964 accepted about 35,000 visitors each year from September through May.

I was excited, imagining how people could now wander this early 20th-century landscape, created by a number of architects and engineers, including James L. Greenleaf, Ellen Biddle Shipman and Buckenham & Miller. How the public might picnic under the 100-year-old oaks, sketch the nine man-made lakes, spoon on the arching bridges, puzzle over the vine-covered foundation of the mansion that Ms. Duke's father, James Buchanan "Buck" Duke abandoned at the onset of World War I.

But, in fact, members of the public will not be wandering about unaccompanied. Visitors will board small trolleylike buses for guided tours, which will occur twice a day. "People will be able to get out of the trolley at certain places for a few minutes," said Priscilla Brendler, the program director for Duke Farms, one of three properties run by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, "but they can't go off by themselves."

"But why not?" I asked, sniffing a purple lilac and admiring a statue of a headless woman in classical drapery. This really is, as a reporter in 1909 called it, the Central Park of New Jersey. Like Frederick Law Olmsted, who moved boulders and earth to create a piece of the Adirondacks in Central Park, Buck Duke replicated the rolling Piedmont in sandy New Jersey. "Buck had all these boulders brought in," Ms. Brendler said, explaining that he dug lakes in the flat farm fields and used the scooped-out earth to build hills. The project cost him millions of dollars.

"Buck wanted it open, where people could walk and picnic," Ms. Brendler said. He hired a constable to maintain decorum. But people drove their cars over the lawns and vandalized the statues.

The final straw was a large touring party of 180 cars. According to a 1915 newspaper account, they left their empty lunch boxes and bottles behind, and picked flowers despite signs prohibiting it. Later, Ms. Duke occasionally opened the grounds for activities like sunrise services.

Ms. Brendler chauffeured me along one of the manicured drives that wind for 30 miles through the estate. We passed the foundation of Mr. Duke's great unbuilt house. "It was supposed to be a French chateau," Ms. Brendler said, "but Buck donated the steel to the war effort."

She pointed out the Mermaid Pool, near the foundation, where Ms. Duke liked to swim. She was Buck Duke's only child, born to his second wife, Nanaline. He died in 1925, when his daughter was 12.

"Doris adored her father," Ms. Brendler said. She stopped the van and let me out so I could stare over a balustrade, obviously built with a grand house in mind. It overlooks a terraced greensward that slopes toward a distant woods.

"We call that the Great Lawn," Ms. Brendler said, estimating it to be a quarter-mile long. The rippled effect reminded me of Middleton Place, an old plantation outside Charleston.

Ms. Duke attended various boarding schools and she spoke nine languages. In 1932 she married a sportsman, James H. R. Cromwell, and the two went on a world tour. The sights she saw influenced the gardens she built at Duke Farms, at her house in Honolulu (where she swam in a 65-foot-long saltwater pool) and at her house in Newport (where she swam off the rocks in the ocean).

"Miss Duke was very personally involved, very hands-on," said Patrick Lerch, the foundation's director of properties. "She would say, `No, that's not right,' and hand the men a sketch or photo."

Ms. Duke was married to Mr. Cromwell for eight years. Her second marriage, to the infamous playboy Porfirio Rubirosa, "a diplomat from the Dominican Republic," as Mr. Lerch phrased it, lasted only a year.

I stared longingly in the direction of the old farmhouse, where the family lived.

"Doris built the Hollywood wing in 1935 for her and Jimmy," Ms. Brendler said, referring to Mr. Cromwell. "It was Art Deco, with a theater and a bar, a bowling alley and an indoor pool and enclosed clay tennis court."

Could I see it?

"Oh no, that's not allowed," Ms. Brendler said. The house is now used for the storage of files and papers; an archivist works in the basement. The current generation of gawkers will be allowed onto the premises by appointment, just 30 at a time. Mr. Lerch called this an "initial program," hinting at greater access to come.

"We want to make it available, so the general public can enjoy its resources," he said, "but we need to preserve and protect the habitat."

Duke Farms does not now have enough rest rooms or parking for large numbers of people. "We have no signage or trails, no park rangers," he said.

I wondered why some of the $1.2 billion in the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which supports, among other things, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and National Public Radio, couldn't be tapped for the kind of amenities that would really make this a public park. But that is a long way off, Mr. Lerch said, if ever.

"The bottom line is, this is not Central Park, which has public roads and sidewalks going through it," he said. So as it stands now, visitors will get only a tantalizing glimpse, from a trolley, of how the fabulously wealthy roughed it in the country.

Buck Duke, born in 1856, was the son of a tobacco farmer and cigarette manufacturer. He boosted the family fortune by pioneering the use of the cigarette rolling machine, and founded the American Tobacco Company in 1890. Eight years later, the company was producing 3.7 billion cigarettes annually. "That was half the cigarettes produced in the country," Ms. Brendler said.

The Supreme Court found the company to be a monopoly and dissolved it in 1911, and Mr. Duke turned his attention to hydroelectric power. By 1925 Duke Power was supplying electricity to more than 300 cotton mills, as well as towns throughout the Piedmont region of the Carolinas. After he made a donation to Trinity College in Durham, N.C., it was renamed Duke University.

Mr. Duke began buying land along the Raritan River in New Jersey for what would become Duke Farms in 1893.

"Buck lived here as a country farmer," Ms. Brendler said. "Other wealthy families were going out to Newport and Long Island, but he wanted to play with his farm and his hydroelectric plant on the Raritan River."

His plant powered the estate and outlying areas. His fascination with waterworks explains the property's many streams, waterfalls and lakes.

Ms. Duke died in 1993 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Her obituary in The New York Times appeared under the headline "Doris Duke, 80, Heiress Whose Great Wealth Couldn't Buy Happiness, Is Dead."

Mr. Lerch said that her will specifies that Duke Farms be devoted to environmental protection and education. Rutgers University is studying the elm trees, as well as native plants and invasive species. And wildlife is finding a haven here.

"We have a pair of nesting golden eagles, 15 coyotes and a great horned owl," Ms. Brendler said. Visitors may also get a glimpse of Princess, a 15-year-old camel. "Doris bought a Boeing 737 from a gentleman in the Middle East," Ms. Brendler said. Two Bactrian camels — "the double-humped model," Mr. Lerch joked — were part of the deal.

Leaving Duke Farms, I could only hope that the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation would hurry to get the restrooms and the rangers ready. The public is hungry for open space, and even hungrier for places that have been stamped, as Duke Farms has, by wealth, drama, taste and time.

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34 Years Later, One Coach's Sweetest Victory

Living | Friday 04:14:54 EST | comments (0)

34 Years Later, One Coach's Sweetest Victory

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo., May 15 — For 34 years, April 5 was never just another day for Kitty Fassel and her husband, Jim, the head coach of the Giants. On that day, wherever they were in the rolling stone existence of a coach's life, the Fassels would always find time to come together privately and quietly say, "Happy Birthday" to the son they did not raise.

"We would usually add: `Wherever you are, I hope you are O.K.,' " Mrs. Fassel said today.

As she spoke, seated on a couch in this suburb of Denver, Mrs. Fassel held hands with and clutched the arm of her son, John, whom she put up for adoption three days after his birth on April 5, 1969. After several years of searching — by both the Fassels and the son, John Mathieson — the Fassels, who had kept John's birth a secret to all but their most immediate family, were reunited with their son on Wednesday.

A recent change in Colorado adoption law had suddenly made it easier for biological parents like the Fassels, who were 19 and unmarried and felt unprepared for parenthood when John was born, to reconnect with a child whose whereabouts they knew nothing of.

They spoke for the first time last Sunday, Mother's Day. Three days later, the Fassels brought their four grown children to Colorado — brothers and a sister Mr. Mathieson did not know he had — and Mr. Mathieson brought his wife and four young daughters — a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren Kitty and Jim Fassel did not know they had.

"For John, Kitty and myself, we have lived with an unanswerable question for all these years," Mr. Fassel said. "If someone had granted us one wish in the world, it would always have been to be together and to know things were O.K. Instead you carry this question around with you and you never know how it will come out. So to have a day like today, it is a miracle."

Seated among his newfound brothers and sister, with whom he shares a resemblance right down to the chin dimple inherited from their father, Mr. Mathieson said, "Finally, I can look around and say: `I fit in somewhere.' "

His adoptive father, Tom, is dead, and his mother, Dorothy Rogers, said, "I'm 74 and the only one left in my family, so I think it's a blessing that John is more or less getting something like an extended family."

But what is it like to wake up one day, at the age of 34, to discover that you fit in as the son of a renowned National Football League coach?

"I was already in shock just knowing my natural parents had found me," said Mr. Mathieson, who called himself an avid pro football fan. "But when Jim said he was the head coach of the New York Giants, that put me in cardiac arrest."

All Mr. Mathieson knew in his initial phone conversation with the Fassels on Sunday was that their names were Jim and Kitty. He was overjoyed to hear that they had been looking for him. He was thrilled to hear that they had married two years after his birth and had recently celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary. He was excited to hear that he had four siblings, and that they had known of him since last year and were eager to meet him.

But when he heard over the telephone that his father was Jim Fassel, he wrote it in big letters on a notepad and showed it to his wife, Kristi.

"Oh, my God," she said.

The next day, Mr. Mathieson went to work at the car dealership where he is the general sales manager.

"I had told them I was going to talk to my natural parents over the weekend," Mr. Mathieson said. "So I get in and 20 people are waiting to hear the story. And I told them all the things that really matter, about how they're still together and were looking for me and that they seemed like wonderful people and that all of them were coming out here to meet me. Truthfully, I had been looking all my life for my natural parents, so that is what mattered.

"But then, I said: `And by the way, he's the head coach of the New York Giants, Jim Fassel.' And people were going: `No way.' Or, `Are you kidding me?' And some people, knowing I am a Denver Broncos fan, wanted to know if I was going to be a Giants fan now."

Jim and Kitty Fassel were first-year college students when they met in 1967, she at Cal State-Fullerton, he at Fullerton Community College.

"We spent time together, we fell in love and we made a mistake," Mr. Fassel said this week. "We found out she was pregnant as we getting ready to begin our sophomore years. We talked about getting married, but our parents thought that wasn't the best way to start a marriage. They didn't want us to feel forced into it.

"We never considered an abortion. Kitty went off to Colorado to a business school to have the baby. Nobody knew but our parents. We never told anyone."

Mrs. Fassel attended school outside Denver until early March. "I left the school in the middle of the night by taxi," she said. "They took me to the Catholic home for girls."

She had a natural childbirth. "The only image I have had for all these years is of this blond-haired, blue-eyed baby with the sweetest face and a dimple in his chin," she said. Mrs. Fassel was back in California, living at home with her parents in Fullerton, within two weeks.

"Naturally, you wonder if you did the right thing," Mrs. Fassel said. "But we were of an age where there is so much you don't know. I don't know if I would have been a capable mother at 19."

The Fassels were married in 1971 and had a child three years later, coincidentally named John.

John Mathieson was adopted by a military family stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado. "He was a good, compassionate child and he loved the outdoors and he loved to play football," said Dorothy Rogers, now of Alamogordo, N.M. "His father and I weren't sports people. But John was 6-foot-2 and I'm 4-foot-11, so I don't think we ever expected everything to be the same. I think it's nice that he's finding out some reasons for some things."

The Mathieson family moved from time to time as John was growing up, and he completed high school, where he was a linebacker on the football team, in Pittsburgh. He enlisted in the Army and served for seven years. Afterward he and Kristi married, and in 1994 they settled in Colorado, where she was raised. A few months earlier Mr. Fassel, the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, had left Colorado to become an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders.

Seven years ago, Mr. Mathieson began looking for his biological parents, contacting the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, making phone calls and asking around. "But I got nowhere," he said.

The Fassels had not been much more successful in their years of trying to find John. Then, last July, said Nancy McElheny, the birth-parent counselor at the Denver Catholic Charities, Colorado regulations were changed to allow agencies to attempt reunifications if both parties gave their written consent. The Fassels renewed their efforts, and also for the first time, told their children, John, 29, Brian, 27, Jana, 24, and Michael, 21, about the brother they had never known existed.

"Over the years, I wondered how in the heck am I going to bring this up?" Mrs. Fassel said. "But the kids were wonderful. They just wanted us to find him. I was and am so proud of them."
As Jana Fassel said today: "The way we looked at it, one of us was out there somewhere. We wanted to find him."
With the help of Catholic Charities representatives in New Jersey, Mrs. Fassel got word last week that her son had been found. Ms. McElheny surprised Mr. Mathieson with a call, and after a period of investigation to verify that Mr. Mathieson was indeed the child borne by Mrs. Fassel, told him that his biological parents were looking for him.

"I just lost it and cried for two hours straight," Mr. Mathieson said. "My greatest fear in life was that I would want to find my natural parents, but they wouldn't want me to find them. To find out they were looking for me brought out more emotion than I could ever describe."

Their first telephone conversation began with Jim and Kitty introducing themselves. John wished Mrs. Fassel a happy Mother's Day. Their first face-to-face meeting took place at a Denver area hotel where the Fassels had rented a suite of rooms. Mr. Mathieson arrived with a dozen roses. "But it took John five minutes to get through the door with everyone running up to hug him and his wife and his daughters," Mrs. Fassel said. "I felt like I had been asleep for 34 years and was waking up to the greatest dream come true."

They gathered again today at Mr. Mathieson's home, with his four blue-eyed, blonde-haired daughters mobbing the Fassels, who were slowly getting used to altogether new labels: grandpa, grandma, aunt, uncle.

"I've waited my whole life for this," Mr. Mathieson said.

In a quiet moment off the family room, Mathieson was marveling at the scene in the adjacent room. "I've waited my whole life for this," he said. "My wife used to tell me that there's always hope, that there is a family that I belong to." Which, on this day, reminded Mr. Mathieson of a story. He was watching a television replay of Mr. Fassel's now-famous speech in November 2000, when he boldly predicted a playoff berth for the Giants, who were reeling from consecutive losses.

"I turned to Kristi, pointed at the television and said: `That's what I would have done,' " Mr. Mathieson said. "I said: `That guy is doing the right thing.' When they went to the Super Bowl that year I must have seen that television clip 20 times. I always thought: `That's the way to handle it. I'd have done the same thing.' "

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Tickets? Lifestyle Guru? All Set

Living | Friday 04:14:04 EST | comments (0)

Tickets? Lifestyle Guru? All Set

WHEN Denise Rich was planning a recent trip to Aspen, she meticulously packed her essentials — toiletries, ski gear, thermals, oh, and yoga instructor. That's right, yoga instructor. Ms. Rich, the songwriter and ex-wife of Marc Rich (the fugitive financier pardoned by Bill Clinton just before he left the presidency), takes her own personal guru when she hits the road.

It may seem like indulgence to the nth degree, but in some echelons of society, where a $1,000 handbag is considered a bargain and conversations about Iraq are conducted over dinner at Jean Georges, it is a necessity. In today's stressful times, there is a belief that a trusted expert, someone whose job is to keep you centered (or well fed or coifed or thin), offers solace and a sense of equanimity.

"Because the world is in such an upset and such turmoil, it's so important to come inside yourself with something like meditation, rather than focus on what is going on around you," Ms. Rich said just before the war in Iraq began. She said that she considered what she paid her guru, Jules Paxton, "a gift to myself." (She must make up for what the contact yogi/healer/body worker would normally pull in during his normal five-clients-a-day schedule, not to mention air fare, hotels and meals.)

"It's anxiety-provoking to watch the news or even read the paper," Ms. Rich said. "When I go to yoga and find a meditative state, I embrace calm and have more strength to deal with what's going on."

"It's not easy to find good teachers," she continued, "which is why I bring Jules with me when I go to Aspen, Los Angeles or another part of the country. My work with him is elevating, spiritually and physically. It improves my body, mind and song writing."

While she has always traveled with a staff of experts, she said, she has noticed that a growing number of people in her social circle are doing the same. "I think it's because people are more aware of the importance of taking care of themselves nowadays, especially with the world being in the state that it's in," Ms. Rich said.

So it's no surprise that Mr. Paxton is earning frequent-flier miles right and left, with trips abroad with Sting, time in London with Annie Lennox and plans with a handful of other clients around the world.

"It's difficult to stick to a healthy routine when you're traveling, so many of my clients bring me with them when they go out of town," he said. "It keeps them centered, which is a vital part of having a harmonious existence, especially when you have a busy lifestyle and you still have work to do, which may be hard to focus on when the world is at war and terrorist threats are high."

One hotel mogul said, "It's important to travel with someone you can depend on and trust, someone who helps better your life, now more than ever." He said he did not want to be identified because "even though taking a chef, trainer, Pilates and sometimes yoga instructor with me to St. Barts, the Hamptons and Europe is a way I nurture myself and take care of my health, it may sound frivolous to people who don't understand."

The price tag of such opulence can run up to $20,000 a week, according to Oz Garcia, a nutritionist who has been around the world with clients who take as many as 10 gurus or advisors along for the ride. "Typically, the client picks up all the bills: hotel, destination, food, service and the products we bring, which are top of the line," Mr. Garcia said. "It's worth it, though, because I embody a certain type of lifestyle. I help my clients to look good and stay fit."

Kenny Dichter, an owner of Marquis Jet Partners, a jet leasing company, said he recently began to travel with his trainer and massage therapist. "I have the tendency to get off my regular regimens when I am away," he said. "Before I started bringing people with me over the last year or so, I used to get lazy and not work out. Then, I'd come home from my trip not feeling very good about myself. The few thousand dollars is worth it because it keeps me healthy, hence, sane."

Think about it.

How many times have your diet and workout program gone to pot when you interrupted the daily ritual of going to the gym at a certain time and eating that special something from your local health food store? Travel is almost always taxing; even first-class seats on planes can lead to stiffness, tight muscles and other physical discomforts. You may be checking into the best hotel around, but there is no guarantee that you will find a great masseuse to revive your limbs just the way you like.

GARY MANSOUR, the owner of the Los Angeles-based Mansour Travel Company, which caters to celebrities, said that he had seen the trend grow exponentially, and not just among celebrities. "A 70-year-old couple, not in the film industry, always take their trainer on long cruises," he said. "Sometimes the gurus are in charge of all of the plans. They have say in the hotel rooms and make sure the gym facilities are equipped with the right things. They ask me more questions about amenities than my actual clients."

Todd Rome, the president of Bluestar Jets, a private jet company, said that he had seen this type of thing for ages, but he was seeing it now "on a whole new level."

"It's no longer just limited to nutritionists and trainers and such," he said. "People are flying with their hair and makeup artists and manicurists. We've had yoga teachers give people in-flight classes and we've had chefs traveling with our big honcho clients on our jets, feeding their employers Alaskan king crab and caviar."

Jennifer Hutt, a 33-year-old lawyer, said she had taken her nutritionist abroad with her because "it's hard to travel to another country and stick to an eating plan that works for you."

"So having someone with me takes the work out of thinking about my diet," she said. "If someone is around to say, `You need to have an apple, steamed chicken and broccoli,' you're going to have it. And if she says, `It's O.K. to have the rigatoni,' it makes you feel safe enough to have it."

Why are food choices so difficult?

"People go to great lengths to eat well and have certain kinds of foods prepared for them," said Anne O'Hare, a chef who used to take weekly trips to Sun Valley, Idaho, with her former boss, the magazine publisher Jann Wenner. "It's one less thing to worry about because, no matter how tough times are, globally, if you don't nurture yourself, who is going to? Since last summer, the demand for services such as mine has grown 10-fold."

The 40-something fashion consultant and stylist Lori Goldstein, who is best known for her work on Madonna's videos, has taken her anusara yoga teacher to Europe for fashion week. "I am over not taking care of myself and draining myself while traveling," she said, referring to the first time, right after 9/11, that she traveled with her yogi, Elena Brower, and realized what a difference it made.

"It changed everything about my trip to do yoga daily, even if it was just standing on my head for a few minutes and chanting mantras when I'd come back from the day," she said. "You know how people say that they bring their candles and pillows? I brought one of my favorite people in the world, who happens to be my yoga teacher."

According to Jesse Itzler, Mr. Dichter's partner at Marquis Jet, their clients, "Wall Street guys and ex-dot-commers who have time on their hands," bring the spa — and even a psychologist — with them when they get away. "They're getting rubbed down and stretched from the minute they take off," he said. "One of my clients actually told me that he brings his masseuse when he goes to the Ritz-Carlton in Montego Bay because he can't get a massage appointment there, the place is so booked."

If you can afford to go over the top, there is nothing like having someone who understands your body and mind at your beck and call. "It's easier when you have a rapport with someone, especially if you fly private and can bring extra people on the plane," said Christina Gersten, a Los Angeles socialite who recently took her hair stylist, Laurent D, when she flew to Cannes, France.

Julie Brown, a former MTV video jockey and one of the stars of ABC's recent reality series "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," described traveling with a guru as "comfort." She said she went everywhere with Montgomery Frasier, whom she described as "a manager/personal assistant/stylist/confidant," and said that she liked to travel with him because "he lets you be you and he knows my true journey."

Mr. Frasier, who calls himself a lifestyle guru, said: "In the present climate of the world, my job is twice as important because travel is twice as stressful. No one is immune to security issues, and clients get upset when their bags, which may include medication, are searched. I'm there to ease tension." For this, Mr. Frasier charges up to $1,000 a day.

Mr. Frasier said he believed his clients, "C.E.O.'s, politicians and power people," like to pack him along with their toiletries because "I make people feel good about themselves; I am their security blanket."

"If you take your briefcase on vacation," he asked, "why not take your guru?"

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15 May 2003

Matrix Reloaded

Film | Thursday 14:39:40 EST | comments (0)

just got back from errands and seeing Matrix Reloaded. went to line up at 7am for a free screening this morning that was at 9am. they even had free coffee and danishes. too bad my friend elizabeth and i had already hit McDs before.

overall, the movie was good. the first thirty minutes or so were unfortunately pretty weak, but the movie built well to the end. also, other than the first third of the movie, the second biggest drawback was that at the end, you are denied a real finish, and instead given a cliffhanger! so unfair!

but at least the last two thirds of the film were pretty strong in concept and execution, definitely living up to the high standard set by the first film. will have to write more later...

oh, and when leaving the theater, we bumped into a classmate of mine from MIT that i hadn't seen in years. she had driven up from Philly with another MIT friend just to see the movie!! nerds! [ahh.. oh yeah, i did wake up at 6am too, after going to bed at 3:30am!]

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The Bush Polonaise

PQ+ | Thursday 02:48:11 EST | comments (0)

The Bush Polonaise

When President Bush travels to St. Petersburg early next month, he will again urge President Vladimir Putin to stop supplying Iran with the means to develop nuclear weapons. Putin will insist, as usual, that his dangerous trade is all for peaceful purposes.

Bush will seem to tolerate that. Further, he will pretend to forget the Russian's last-ditch support in the U.N. of Saddam's tyranny. That's what passes for diplomacy.

Underneath that public rapprochement, however, will be a clear understanding in the White House that the U.S. and Russia are by no means allies. Though our two nations have some common interests, our differences are deepening: Russia is still a one-party oligarchy with dissent stifled by state-run television and has shown an affinity for murderous dictators from the Balkans to the Persian Gulf.

The atmosphere will be quite different when Bush travels on to Poland.

In Cracow or Warsaw, he will warmly shake the hand of President Aleksander Kwasniewski, the leader who — when it came to supporting a war to eradicate a dangerous tyranny — recently demonstrated the courage to defy the Russians on his east and the Germans and French to his west.

During GW2, a symbolic contingent of 200 Polish troops helped secure Iraq's southern oil fields. To show the coalition's appreciation, a couple of thousand more Poles are being given the responsibility and honor of stabilizing a sector of freed Iraq, with their occupation costs covered by nations belatedly wanting to contribute support.

In a gesture that only Eastern Europeans with long memories can fully grasp, the Polish defense minister sweetly invited his German counterpart to contribute troops to this Polish-led European force. Officials under the anti-American Chancellor Gerhard Schröder seethed at the notion of German soldiers' saluting Polish officers, and angrily rejected the generous Polish offer.

This illustrates the way the Atlantic alliance, as it used to be called, is realigning itself. On the Old Europe side, strikebound France and jobless Germany (backed up by the full power of Belgium and Luxembourg) are attempting to rally a group to counter what they claim to see darkly as American hegemony. So far, their only recruit is Putin's Russia, glad to be asked to join anything European.

Fortunately, this Franco-German attempt to dominate neighbors generated the emergence of New Europe. Britain, Spain, Italy and other Western Europeans are unimpressed with the chimera of the U.S. as big-bully cowboy. They found common political cause with the nations of Eastern Europe, who well remember who freed them from Communist domination — and who do not like Jacques Chirac's derogation of them as "not well brought up."

America did not cause this old-new split, though our interest in extending freedom and stopping the spread of terror made us the object of it. Nor is it in our interest to exacerbate the split, because a Europe that gets along with itself is good for world trade and saves us from having to end its wars.

Our post-GW2 policy should be to reward our friends and remind others that actions have consequences. Those last three words are not a euphemism for "punish our enemies"; France and Germany are democratic states, not our enemies, and no punishment is in store — only a withholding of rewards that fairly should go to those who joined freedom's cause.

Accordingly, the redeployment and reduction of our 120,000 troops in Europe — in the works for a year on sensible strategic grounds — will now take place apace. The First Armored Division, now in Iraq, won't return to German bases. Other U.S. troops and dependents will say "auf Wiedersehen" and learn to speak Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian and Hungarian.

Polish jokes are out; French jokes are in. Polish-American communities in Democratic strongholds of Michigan, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Illinois will beam with pride at the new strategic importance, and financial guarantees for new contracts, Bush directs to their land of origin. (Bechtel's decision to subcontract the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste burial site to a French outfit instead of the British-American low bidder will come under close Congressional scrutiny.)

It makes sense to strengthen nations we trust. As we reward freedom's friends, future leaders in Berlin, Paris and Moscow will get the message that shortsighted political actions have long-term consequences.

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Taiwan's Top Hospital Is Shut in SARS Outbreak

China | Thursday 02:47:22 EST | comments (0)

Taiwan's Top Hospital Is Shut in SARS Outbreak

TAIPEI, Taiwan, May 14 — Taiwan's leading hospital, overwhelmed by an internal outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, was effectively shut down tonight, dealing a serious blow to the crown jewel in Taiwan's medical system.

More than 250 staff members at National Taiwan University Hospital were placed in quarantine, including at least 40 doctors and 68 nurses. All patients, probably numbering in the thousands, were also quarantined.

Taiwan was already officially reporting 238 probable SARS cases and 31 deaths.

This new outbreak, along with one discovered on Sunday at Chang Gang Hospital in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan's largest city, will certainly add to that figure. In Kaohsiung, more than 100 staff members were quarantined after two patients and 10 medical staff showed SARS symptoms.

Taiwan has rapidly surpassed Canada and Singapore to have the world's third-worst outbreak after mainland China and Hong Kong. Until this weekend, the disease was concentrated in Taipei and the surrounding area, but it is now breaking out all over the country.

The country seems more and more in the grip of the disease. Military trucks spraying bleach solutions roam the streets, and the evening news is an endless stream of pictures of hospital wards, nurses in yellow or blue disposable gowns controlling hospital entrances or soldiers donning protective gear and marching into homes with disinfectant canisters.

At Taiwan University Hospital, doctors said it appeared that at least 15 people, including patients, doctors and cleaning staff, had become infected while in the hospital's emergency wards between April 30 and May 5.

Among those with fever or breathing problems were two nurses, an X-ray technician, a cleaner, a clerk, a patient and a patient's visitor. Last week, exhausted administrators said they were caring for about 150 suspected SARS patients. On Monday, the emergency room was closed down for disinfection.

The hospital blamed Taiwan's Center for Disease Control and the Health Department.

"We have been asking for reinforcements for days and have not gotten them," said Dr. Chem Ming-feng, the hospital's deputy superintendent. As the wards became more and more overloaded, they also got no help in turning away new patients or transferring them to other hospitals, which refused to accept them.

At 9:30 p.m. local time, the front doors of the hospital were open, with no sign of security guards, but the huge lobby was deserted.

The hospital is Taiwan's equivalent of Massachusetts General in Boston — the star teaching hospital of a prestigious medical school, and many of its doctors have trained and taught at the best American schools.

Because Taiwan's national health system pays for care in any hospital, many patients turn up here, demanding the best, and fear of SARS made admissions skyrocket.

Dr. Chang Shan-chwen, the hospital's chief of infectious diseases, said the emergency room had been so overloaded that it was seeing more than 100 people with high fevers a day. As many as 10 might have been SARS patients, but could not be put in isolation because the hospital had filled all the beds in its negative-pressure rooms.

More worrisome, Dr. Chang said, "We have had difficulties casting our net, and some fish got away." In some cases, the hospital is unsure who infected whom, so infectious patients may not be isolated.

Dr. Lee Ming-liang, the former health minister who has been put in charge of fighting the epidemic, addressed the nation this evening, saying the disturbing rise in cases of transmission within hospitals had three causes: Hospitals were not alert enough, patients were not admitting to all the people they had been in close contact with, and patients with minor illnesses were clogging major hospitals.

He proposed three solutions. People with mild illnesses should go to their doctors or small clinics. Neighborhoods should stop opposing the conversion of local hospitals into SARS hospitals, and family members of hospital patients should avoid visits or cut them short.

In Taiwan, families of hospitalized persons try to arrange their schedules so that someone is always with the patient. In this epidemic, it fills the hospital with hundreds of extra people untrained in infection control.

New suspected cases of the disease have also been found in the eastern city of Hualien and in an aboriginal tribe in remote Taimali, Agence France-Presse reported.

In Hualien a staff member of Tz'u Chi Buddhist General Hospital died a day after being admitted with a high fever, and four members of his family were quarantined.

In Taimali, a woman from one of the ethnic Malay tribes that dominated the island before mainland Chinese began arriving three centuries ago was ruled a SARS victim five days after her death. A team of soldiers helped local authorities disinfect her home and place 45 members of her family in quarantine.

Meanwhile, the Sogo department store, Taiwan's equivalent of Bloomingdale's and Saks rolled into one, reopened on Tuesday after three days of sterilization after rumors that a cashier had spread SARS to two customers, perhaps via their credit cards.

One cashier is ill, and two customers may be, but there is no apparent connection between them, said Chin Chung, chairwoman of the Pacific Sogo department store chain. The cashier probably got sick on a bus trip to southern Taiwan, and the customers had no direct contact with her. Credit cards are carried to the cashiers by saleswomen, all of whom are healthy, she said.

Asked about that later, Dr. Lee agreed that "it's fair to say that there has been no transmission inside the store."

The reopening featured a one-day 50-percent-off sale. At the 11 a.m. opening, crowds poured in past the new thermal imaging camera and the young women spraying hand disinfectant and asking everyone without a mask to accept a free one.

In the crowded food court, Susan Hsieh and Carol Tang, 36-year-old shopping buddies, were downing half-price lunches. Ms. Tang had a back massager — 40 percent off — and a silvery necklace, marked down to $14 from $56, with a portion donated to the SARS Prevention Fund.

"They cleaned it for three days," Mrs. Hsieh said of the store. "I wasn't worried. I brought my mask. And we haven't seen each other in a long time."

Workers spent all Saturday, Sunday and Monday disinfecting the store, using "the same methods as in the Presidency Building," Ms. Chung said in an interview in a busy store restaurant.

All of the goods were removed, the shelves and floors were washed with bleach solution, and a steam vaporizer with a germ-killing spray made two passes. Rat and cockroach poison was laid down, and every surface a customer might touch was wiped down, from escalator rails to bathroom taps.

Dr. Roth called those efforts "more than was needed."

"They erred on the side of caution," she said.

Most customers appeared unafraid, though the makeup saleswomen had to learn a new skill: working blush around their clients' masks.

"This has been good training for me," said Ms. Chung, a Cornell-trained economist and former spokeswoman for the prime minister who has been in her job for one month. "To deal with something this big — I'll be much more able to deal with small things in the future."

Throughout the store, each saleswoman wore a blue sticker saying, "I'm Very O.K.!" and giving her morning temperature reading.

"It's no big deal," said Kao Chen-yu, a cashier. "The whole thing was blown up by the media. We got a lecture on SARS, and if a credit card could spread it, it'd be the end of the world."

She has not been stigmatized as a cashier, she said. "Only a few paranoid customers say, `Stay away from me.' "

At the Hello Kitty boutique, Diana Lin said all of the pink Kitty-faced masks had sold out at $4 each.

In the aromatherapy department, Huang Yu-ling said she had rapidly sold 10 perfume atomizers advertised as "anti-SARS."

"Any kind of condensed scent has the power to kill the virus," she said, pulling down her mask to wrinkle her nose in the plume of fruity mist. Asked for the secret ingredient, she produced a small vial. It read: "Grapefruit Peel. Made in California."

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Man's Virus Infects Town, Killing His Family

China | Thursday 02:46:36 EST | comments (0)

Man's Virus Infects Town, Killing His Family

LINHE, China — In the single-story isolation ward of the Ba Meng Hospital, the medical staff and fellow patients heard Dr. Li Song's plaintive cry as SARS ravaged him and his family a few weeks ago.

"If this is going to kill us," Dr. Li said, "let it take us all together."

SARS did end the lives of Dr. Li's father, mother and wife. But it ignored his plea and merely ruined his own.

Dr. Li, a 40-year-old physician, returned from Beijing in late March carrying the SARS virus to this remote town in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, his family's home. He passed it to almost all of his close relatives. Then, after he finally beat the disease, he was arrested.

The police detained Dr. Li on charges of vandalism and violating an infectious disease law. Whatever the validity of the indictment, he stands at the center of a tragedy that involves as much psychological as physical trauma.

"He worried about how he could go about life if he recovered from SARS," said Li Hong, a close friend and fellow medical worker. "Then on top of everything, they called him a criminal."

SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, originated in China in November, and it has been creating medical, political and economic repercussions ever since. Even as the number of new cases reported each day appears to be peaking, SARS is still stigmatizing its victims.

As with AIDS in its early years, the hysteria associated with SARS is as potent and destructive as the virus itself. American colleges have banned healthy people from Asia from attending graduation ceremonies for their children.

In China, cities and villages have been turning away travelers from Beijing for fear of catching a virus carried by roughly 1 in 6,000 people in the capital.

Nothing, though, can compare to the stigma attached to being one of what the World Health Organization calls superspreaders, people whose genes, hygiene or colossal misfortune cause them to pass SARS to at least 10, sometimes as many as 70 other people, often starting local epidemics. SARS, in a cruel twist, has proven less deadly for some superspreaders than for people close to them.

The strain of SARS that Dr. Li brought to Linhe was powerful enough to infect six immediate family members, at least nine medical workers and a county propaganda official who rode on a train with Dr. Li. All told, the Linhe area now has more than 100 cases of SARS, many of them traced to the city's first SARS victim, Dr. Li.

Friends and relatives say the disease alternately enraged and depressed Dr. Li during his five weeks in the hospital. He briefly fled his unheated room in this chilly northern town in early April, apparently to try to help family members then falling sick.

When his father later died in the same ward where he was being treated, becoming Linhe's first SARS fatality, Dr. Li cursed the medical staff for providing bad care. He smashed a window and overturned a desk, medical workers said. He then became inconsolable.

"I would call him and try to comfort him," said Zhang Xiaoxia, a longtime friend who stayed in touch by mobile phone. "We knew there was no way his heart could take it.

"Most of the time he could barely talk. Or he would mumble something like, `I'm talking to you, so I guess that means I'm still alive.' "

Dr. Li, currently locked in the Linhe municipal jail, could not be reached for comment, but relatives and friends described him as a devoted doctor. He worked in the emergency room of a local hospital run by the national railway system. He was the one colleagues consulted when they had medical problems of their own.

Friends nicknamed him "big forehead" for his bookish tendencies. Self-taught in English and acupuncture, he was offered a slot at an elite medical graduate program in the mid-1990's, an opportunity that could have secured him a job at a big-city hospital.

He passed up the chance because it would have meant leaving this mutton and cashmere trading town, situated on an elbow of the Yellow River. Friends said he and his wife thought their infant daughter should grow up in the company of their tight-knit family.

He did attend a training program at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine this spring. It ended in late March, just as SARS was racing through hospitals in the capital, though health authorities were denying at the time that the disease had become a serious problem.

A few days before his planned return, Dr. Li got a headache, then a fever. Whether he knew he had caught SARS, or even knew at that point what SARS was, is in dispute.

Tian Wenhua, the deputy director of the general office of the Linhe municipal government, said in a telephone interview that Dr. Li knew he had SARS and returned to Linhe anyway, needlessly endangering the city.

"He was confirmed with SARS while he was still in Beijing," Mr. Tian said. Asked how he knew that, Mr. Tian first said that Dr. Li had admitted as much. Then he backtracked and said, "It's what everyone is saying."

Li Rong, Dr. Li's younger brother, called the charge unfounded. "I was at his side constantly after he got back from Beijing," said Mr. Li, who subsequently caught SARS from his brother and is recovering in a Linhe hospital. "He did not have any idea what he had."

Shortly after Dr. Li returned from Beijing, he sought treatment at Linhe's best hospital, Ba Meng, where he was initially placed in the regular respiratory disease ward. That suggested that local doctors had not yet isolated him as a SARS patient.

Even a week after he checked into the hospital, it was unclear what his doctors knew, and what they told Dr. Li, about his ailment. What is undisputed is that on April 8 Dr. Li walked out of Ba Meng Hospital, with his wife by his side.

He told colleagues that he was frustrated with the medical care and the hospital conditions and was alarmed to hear that his father and mother had taken ill.

"He called and said he was feeling better and had to get out," said Li Hong, the friend at the railway hospital, who is not related to Dr. Li. "He felt he had to help his family somehow."

Hospital staff members urged Dr. Li not to leave, but they did not try to prevent him from walking away, said a person who had been present.

A few hours later, Shan Yuli, the deputy director of the railway hospital, acting on orders from regional authorities, went to fetch Dr. Li. Mr. Shan said that he had explained to Dr. Li that he had a virulent infectious disease — he said he had not referred to it as SARS — and that Dr. Li had to return to Ba Meng Hospital and submit to quarantine. Dr. Li followed orders, Mr. Shan said.

Not long after he returned, Dr. Li was joined in the hospital by his father and mother, then his wife, then his two brothers and their wives. A family caretaker caught SARS. So did medical workers at Ba Meng. A chain reaction was under way.

After his father died on April 12, Dr. Li exploded with rage, his friends said, smashing hospital property and, by one account, punching a doctor in the face. He was furious that no one dared to dress his father's body in traditional funeral garb for fear of catching SARS. Several days passed before the body was carted away for cremation.

His anger quickly faded to depression when, before dawn a few days later, doctors rushed into the room Dr. Li shared with his mother and wife and performed an emergency tracheotomy to restore his mother's breathing. She died a short time later. He lost his wife the next day.

Friends who spoke with him said they had done their best to keep his spirits up. His brothers appeared to be recovering, they assured him, and his daughter was eager for him to come home.

"If the thought of suicide went through his mind," Ms. Zhang said, "the responsibility he felt for his daughter kept him alive."

The situation in Linhe continued to deteriorate. Residents stopped leaving their homes except to restock food supplies. Hotels closed their doors. By early May, police officers dressed in medical suits and 12-ply masks blocked exits of the train station and barred outsiders from entering the city.

By the time Dr. Li's health improved in early May, city authorities decided to hold him accountable for malfeasance that they claim worsened the SARS epidemic. They cited the April 8 incident, and subsequent destruction of hospital property, as violations of China's infectious disease law.

Even if Dr. Li knew he had SARS before April 8, it is not clear whether leaving the hospital broke the law. SARS was officially added to the list of diseases requiring mandatory quarantines only on April 14, six days later.

Mr. Tian of the municipal government office acknowledged that the statute in question had not been updated at the time of Dr. Li's alleged infraction. He also said investigators had yet to determine whether anyone who had caught SARS from Dr. Li had done so during the brief period when he had left the hospital. But he said Dr. Li should have known better anyway.

"He is a doctor with knowledge of public health," Mr. Tian said. "He caused this serious situation in Linhe. This is about human lives lost."

A strongly worded article on Dr. Li that ran in People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, suggested a search for a scapegoat. "He knew he had SARS," the article said, but "forced his way out of a quarantine area." It went on, "He spread the virus, caused the death of his parents and wife, and created a serious disturbance in anti-SARS work."

Friends and relatives declined to comment on the case. They said they were searching for a lawyer to represent Dr. Li and would have to trust the judicial system.

Li Rong, his brother, said he understood the impulse to hold an individual responsible for the deadly epidemic. But he says people should realize that it makes no sense to blame victims.

"This is a contagious disease that no one knows how to treat," Mr. Li said. "It cannot be said to be one person's fault."

Linhe, he said, really imported SARS from Beijing. So, Mr. Li asked, "is someone going to indict Beijing?"

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Huge Strike by Public Workers Paralyzes France

PQ+ | Thursday 02:45:51 EST | comments (0)

Huge Strike by Public Workers Paralyzes France

PARIS, May 13 — May in France is the month of lilies of the valley, the first red cherries, the Cannes film festival — and workers' strikes.

Today, workers throughout the public sector heeded their unions' call to walk off the job to protest the center-right government's plan to overhaul the country's expensive and generous pension system.

The strikes halted planes, trains, subways and buses across the country, canceled a vast majority of classes in schools and universities, cut services at hospitals and prevented most newspaper distribution and mail delivery.

Aviation officials estimated that 80 percent of flights were grounded, while the state railway company canceled two-thirds of its mainline services. Workers at the state-owned Électricité de France joined the walkout, leading to a 10 percent reduction in electricity output.

Labeled Black Tuesday by the news media here, the daylong shutdown, together with demonstrations in about 100 cities and towns across France, was described in an editorial in Le Monde as the biggest labor rebellion since three-week strikes over pension reform in 1995. Those walkouts so damaged the government of Prime Minister Alain Juppé that it lost a general election two years later.

About 850,000 people marched against the pension reform plan across the country today, the Ministry of the Interior said. Union officials put the figure at more than one million.

Despite the ritualized nature of this spring's strikes, there is no issue that more deeply divides workers and governments throughout Europe than the right to a generous government-guaranteed pension and even early retirement.

Confronted with the demographic reality of retirees who are living longer and the prospect of waves of baby-boom retirees, the governments of France, Germany and Austria are finding it necessary to forge strategies to scale back treasured social benefits like pensions. In Austria today, as many as 100,000 schoolteachers joined a nationwide strike to protest planned cuts in pension benefits.

At the Place de la République, the meeting place for the masses of demonstrators in Paris, children rode on an inflatable carnival ride while street vendors sold kebabs and French fries to hungry marchers and onlookers. The Communist Party of Maoist France sold copies of Mao Tse Tung's Little Red Book.

Among the chants were, "Retirement, yes, but before death!" and "Raffarin — geriatric minister!" a reference to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

Firefighters pushed a life-size dummy of a dead fireman in a wheelchair, his face scarred and burned. A group of hospital workers waved a banner showing tombstones and the inscription "Cemetery of the heroic hospital workers who died in service."

Union officials hope to build on the momentum of the strike today and continue the labor disruption until the government backs down.

"All the ingredients are there for a general strike," Didier Le Reste, national secretary for railroad workers at the Confédération Générale du Travail, France's second largest union, told Europe 1 radio. "If the government sticks to its current plans, we can expect more strikes that will spill over from one-day actions."

But the government, which has begun a $17 million public information campaign about its plan, has no intention of abandoning it.

The government spokesman, Jean-François Copé, acknowledged after Mr. Raffarin met his ministers today, that "This is an important day, of course, but also a new chance for us to explain, explain, explain."

"We must keep explaining the issues at stake because we want to safeguard our pension system," he added. "If there is no reform, the system collapses."

In anticipation of the strike, Mr. Raffarin said on television last week that Parliament, not the street, would rule on the plan's fate. "The street should express itself, but it's not the street that governs," he said.

One banner in the demonstration today read "So isn't it the street that governs?"

The unions, which derive their power from the 5.4 million workers employed directly or indirectly by the state, have been emboldened by an opinion poll on Monday indicating strong public sympathy for their cause.

According to a survey in the popular daily newspaper Le Parisien, 64 percent of those polled either endorsed the protests or sympathized with the unions' goals. Sixty-five percent said they were worried about the future of their pensions.

Under the plan, which calls for modest reform, France intends to bring public sector workers — more than one-fourth of the French work force — in line with the private sector by 2008. That would force public sector workers to contribute to the state pension system for 40 years, up from 37 1/2 years now.

Government support for early retirement would be phased out. Tax incentives would be introduced to attract workers to company-based savings programs like those in the United States, and workers would be entitled to a pension "bonus" if they worked beyond 40 years.

The government has already abandoned a proposal to increase contributions by civil servants. They will continue to pay 7.85 percent of their salary, two percentage points below the private sector.

The strike today was not only crippling, but also unsettling because of its ad hoc nature. Foreigners showed up for appointments for working papers at the Prefecture of Police only to discover that the offices were closed.

Students had no idea whether their teachers and professors — who themselves have been protesting over financing — would show up for class, and most did not. In the Aix-Marseille area, for example, more than 80 percent of teachers at elementary schools and more than 70 percent of high school teachers stayed off the job.

An official announcement that one in 10 Métro and regional trains would be running lured many commuters to their Métro stations. Huge crowds gathered at major Métro stations, only to find that the metal entry gates had been locked.

Only one in three buses in Paris was running and taxis were scarce, forcing many commuters who did not stay home to walk. Bicycles that had seen better days were taken out of storage for the day, and bicyclists competed with in-line skaters for street and sidewalk space. Parisians who were obviously not used to walking to work were seen poring over Paris-by-neighborhood maps.

Highway travel throughout France, meanwhile, was free, because there were no workers to collect tolls.

Parts of Paris seemed shut down. The Tuileries Gardens and part of the Luxembourg Gardens were closed to the public.

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Paving the Past, Keeping an Ear to the Ground

PQ+ | Thursday 02:45:14 EST | comments (0)

Paving the Past, Keeping an Ear to the Ground

BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 13 — A small bulldozer in recent days has been spreading fine sand over the rocky beach belonging to the Mövenpick Hotel, one of the gleaming new buildings that have sprung up here since the Lebanese civil war ended about 13 years ago. The beach will soon be ready to receive its wealthy guests from the Persian Gulf region and elsewhere; the rocks will remain lodged underneath.

In all sorts of ways, the Lebanese are laboring to pave over the recent past, from 1975 to 1990, when sectarian violence killed 150,000 people, reducing the "Paris of the Middle East" to a landscape of war, kidnapping and terror.

Lebanon has done a remarkable job of patching itself together. Peace seems well established, especially with the departure of the Israeli military from southern Lebanon in 2000. The restoration is unmistakable, even if the destruction is still evident.

Yet the question remains implanted in many Lebanese minds: Could civil war ever return to this tormented land of Shiite Muslims, Maronite Christians, Sunnis, Druse and others?

It is an especially interesting question these days for two reasons. There is new pressure on Syria, which has guaranteed the peace here, to withdraw its military presence. There is also a new country next door — American-governed Iraq, another war-afflicted Arab nation wondering how to govern a country with a large Shiite population and host of other religious and ethnic groups.

Here, under what is known as the confessional system, political power is divided between religions: the president is a Maronite Christian; the speaker of Parliament a Shiite Muslim; and so on. The groups fought each other in various pairings throughout the war, with the Palestinians, Israelis and Syrians taking part at times.

But the system is widely regarded as anything but secure. In Lebanon, "we are worrying it could happen again," said Farid Salman, an author and former magazine editor. He added: "Not a single problem was resolved. We are still quarreling about the identity of our own country."

Certainly, the past is still palpable here. Battle-scarred buildings abound, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians still live in squalid townships, military arsenals are said to remain intact and much of life is still organized according to religious affiliation.

The groundwork for the peace was laid with a 1989 peace accord guaranteed by Syrian troops, who remain and are widely resented. But with the United States turning its attention after Iraq to Syria, the question of their presence is being raised.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's call during a visit here for "all, all" foreign troops to leave Lebanon resonated.

But without the Syrians, would there be security? The bomb blast outside a Dutch missionary's apartment in Tripoli last week, explosions at Western restaurants and the assassinations of judges have left many people worried.

But there is also a widespread feeling among older people that the country is too war weary for a return to arms.

"We have an inner feeling against war," said Khanjar Hamieh, director of the Islamic Legal Institute, a university for clerics in Beirut. "All Lebanese have suffered from the war — economically, politically, everything. If someone would now call for a war, nobody would answer, neither Christian or Muslim."

Younger people do not seem so sure.

"Our religious guys are taking us to civil war," said Abbas Abdallah, 18, who described himself as a Communist and poet.

He was standing on the corniche, crowded with Sunday strollers, watching a group of his friends putting on a display of in-line skating worthy of Central Park, with somersaults and aerial twists.

At the cafe Casper & Gambini's, a chic downtown locale, Leah Boukhater, 20, was not optimistic.

"If you give them arms now, I think it would start again," she said. She and Tonnie Choueiri, also 20 and a fellow student at Notre Dame University in the nearby town of Jounie, said the mainly Christian student body was heavily politicized.

The camping club is sympathetic to the Phalange, the right-wing Maronite faction; the social club backs the faction loyal to Michel Aoun, a former army commander; the debate club favors the Lebanese Christian militia.

"There's never a day when we don't talk about this," Miss Choueiri said.

Miss Boukhater said, "Confessionalism in Lebanon: this is the problem."

The "problem" seems to bode ill for Iraq.

The students got up quickly to reach home in time to see a reality-based television show about the choosing of Miss Lebanon.

A young man who had heard the conversation came back and spoke quietly. He asked that his name not be used.

"Me, as a Christian Lebanese, I'm ready to go kill Syrians," he wanted a reporter to know. "They killed my family, man."

In this region, there is no shortage of people who want revenge. As a result, deliverance from a violent past seems elusive.

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Cheney Tells of Meeting Rumsfeld 35 Years Ago

PQ+ | Thursday 02:44:19 EST | comments (0)

Cheney Tells of Meeting Rumsfeld 35 Years Ago

WASHINGTON, May 13 — It is part of Washington lore that Donald Rumsfeld gave young Dick Cheney his start in government, hiring him as an assistant in the Nixon administration.

But Mr. Cheney revealed today that 35 years ago, when Mr. Rumsfeld was still a congressman, he flunked his first interview with the man who would eventually become his mentor, boss and hawkish ally.

"It was clear that we hadn't hit it off," the vice president said of his ill-fated 15-minute meeting in Mr. Rumsfeld's Capitol Hill office in 1968. "He thought I was some kind of airhead academic, and I thought he was rather an arrogant young member of Congress."

"Probably we were both right," Mr. Cheney said deadpan, dropping a punch line that brought down the house at an awards lunch here today.

The "airhead academic" and the "arrogant young congressman," now the secretary of defense, met today on neutral turf, with Mr. Cheney presenting his old friend with a public service award from the Hudson Institute, a research and policy organization with conservative leanings.

But the gathering at a downtown Washington hotel also offered a rare public glimpse into the three-decade friendship of two of the superpowers of the Bush administration. Mr. Rumsfeld, who is 70, and Mr. Cheney, who is 62, talk frequently and socialize regularly, but most of their face-to-face dealings are at cabinet meetings behind closed doors.

Today, however, they put on a public version of what one Hudson Institute official called the "Cheney-Rumsfeld routine," a mix of mutual admiration and good-natured needling.

The two men can finish each other's sentences, if necessary, aides say. Over the years, they have found themselves in superior-subordinate roles three times. They have shared some of the same titles: congressman, White House chief of staff (Mr. Cheney took Mr. Rumsfeld's place under President Gerald R. Ford) and, of course, secretary of defense.

But it is rare to get either one of them talking about their history together, at least in public.
Mr. Cheney said today that he came to Washington in the late 1960's as a Congressional fellow and doctoral candidate working on his dissertation with an eye on returning to a teaching job at the University of Wisconsin.
But one day, a young Republican lawmaker from Illinois named Rumsfeld spoke to the fellows, and Mr. Cheney said he was impressed. He made an appointment to interview for a job with Mr. Rumsfeld, but the meeting was a disaster.
"As I recall, what he was looking for was somebody with some practical experience who could help out in a Congressional office," Mr. Cheney said. "He had a requirement for a speechwriter. Now if you know Don Rumsfeld, throughout his career, he's always had a requirement for a speechwriter because he has great difficulty keeping speechwriters."

Undaunted by the setback, Mr. Cheney, then 28, went to work for another Republican, Representative William Steiger of Wisconsin. A few months later, President Nixon nominated Mr. Rumsfeld to head the Office of Economic Opportunity, and Mr. Cheney said he hatched a plan.
"I sat down one night, unsolicited, and wrote a 12-page memo suggesting to him how he should handle himself in his confirmation hearings, giving him some sterling advice on what he ought to do with the department once he got confirmed," said Mr. Cheney, clearly relishing his retelling.

Mr. Cheney said he never received a reply but was nonetheless invited to serve on Mr. Rumsfeld's transition team after the Senate approved his nomination.

Mr. Cheney said: "Don came in, spoke to the group, left, and shortly after he'd left, his secretary came in and said, `Is there somebody here named Mr. Cheney?' I held up my hand, and she said, `Come with me.' Took me back into his office there at O.E.O. behind the conference room, and he was in there all by himself — second day on the job. And he said, `You, you're Congressional relations. Now get out of here.' "

"That's how I was hired," Mr. Cheney said to peals of laughter. "That was, of course, just before he developed his suave, smooth, warm, fuzzy personality that we've all grown to love over the years."

Taking his turn on the podium, Mr. Rumsfeld expressed mock indignation at Mr. Cheney's account ("It wasn't like that!"), before waxing eloquent: "A superb executive, a wise counselor, the vice president is a combination of both thinker and doer. I am sure glad I discovered him!"

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Air Force Academy Seeks to Prosecute Cadet in Rape

PQ+ | Thursday 02:43:44 EST | comments (0)

Air Force Academy Seeks to Prosecute Cadet in Rape

COLORADO SPRINGS, May 14 — For the first time since rape victims publicly came forward to accuse the United States Air Force Academy here of sabotaging their efforts to seek justice, the academy took formal steps today to prosecute criminally a cadet accused of rape.

In a small courtroom at the sprawling academy here, the cadet, Douglas L. Meester, faced the military's equivalent of a grand jury, before an investigating officer who will decide whether to recommend that the academy court-martial him on charges of rape, forcible sodomy, indecent assault and conduct unbecoming an officer. If convicted, the cadet faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

"I'm standing here today accused of a terrible crime," Cadet Meester said in a prepared statement. "That's not who I am."

The incidents that led to the charges against Cadet Meester occurred on a Friday night last October, and today's hearing offered a rare public glimpse into the conflicts and ambiguities described by dozens of cadets who have come forward to report they were raped or sexually assaulted at the Air Force Academy.

According to all the witnesses in the current case, the cadets had drunk too much that night. The woman involved, who testified today, maintained that she had not wanted sex and had passed out, making it impossible for her to give proper consent.

Since the scandal here first broke in late January, some 57 current and past cadets have complained to Senator Wayne Allard, Republican of Colorado, whose office has become a sort of national clearinghouse for accusations of abuse at the Air Force Academy. Many complained that the academy had punished them, and not their accused assailants, after they reported assaults.

The hearing comes about a month after the Air Force replaced the academy's leadership with a new team, charged with overhauling a culture that was, by the Air Force's admission, hostile toward female cadets. Last week, a junior, Jason Lewis, was charged with the indecent assault of a cadet who said she had been forced to touch his groin. A similar hearing was held to determine whether he should face court- martial. At least four investigations of the Air Force Academy are under way; one will also look at the other military service academies.

After months of accusations and counterclaims, today's hearing offered one accuser, whom The New York Times in a previous article identified as Marie, a chance to make her case publicly. Cadet Meester maintained that he had never meant to rape her but that alcohol had impaired their judgment.

Marie, who is on leave from the academy and said she did not plan to return, said that on the night of the reported assaults, she had been trading electronic messages with an upperclassman, Robert Rando, who had offered "to hook me up with alcohol if I would hook up with him." Marie said she took the note as a joke but had had a stressful day, and accepted the cadet's invitation to join him and some friends for drinks in the room Cadet Meester shared with another cadet.

At the time, she said, she knew Cadet Meester only by sight, not name. She said she talked and joked mostly with Cadet Rando, and as the two drank shots of tequila, she said, he kissed her and she reciprocated. They also took "body shots," drinking tequila after licking the salt off each others' shoulders and necks.

Marie said she did not want to share "body shots" with Cadet Meester who, she said, violently pulled up her shirt. But she also said she did not remember protesting or saying no because she had lost control and was having trouble standing. "The room was spinning," she said. "My whole body felt numb."

Later, when Cadet Rando left the room to find a place where he could be alone with Marie, Cadet Meester forced her on the bed, she said, raping and sodomizing her. She said she drifted in and out of consciousness, but awoke to find herself sitting on the floor of his room, with her clothes in a pile. Once Marie was dressed, Cadet Rando delivered her to her room. Suzanne Crespo, one of Marie's roommates, testified that her head was down and she looked like a rag doll.

"I remember feeling it was a terrible dream," Marie said. "I wanted it to stop, but I didn't say anything."

The next day, Marie told Cadet Crespo about the "terrible dream." Cadet Crespo recalled telling her, "Being unconscious means you're not consenting."

Jason A. Wager, Cadet Meester's roommate, testified today that the next day, Cadet Meester told him he had had sex with Marie.

"He felt really stupid about doing that, because she was a four degree" or freshman, "and he also mentioned that he had not used a condom," Cadet Wager said. The cadet maintained that he had gone to sleep just as Cadet Meester was kissing the accuser, and said he had not heard any protest.

Captain Kathleen Reder, one of two counsels representing Cadet Meester, said that without any overt protest, Cadet Meester could not have known he was acting against Marie's will. "There's no excuse for not manifesting a lack of consent," she said.

At the close of the one-day hearing, Cadet Meester said, "I am not a perfect cadet, perfect student or perfect person, but I am not a rapist."

Today's hearing represented a big change from the academy's initial response to Marie's report of rape.

The cadet reported the incident to the academy's authorities within 48 hours, but found investigators focusing on her own previous infractions fraternizing with her boyfriend, who was also a cadet at the academy. The authorities ordered Marie to march in full uniform on a public square for 265 hours. She was given 7 Class D "hits," as demerits are called here, a single one of which could have been grounds for dismissal from the academy. One of those hits, she said in an earlier interview, was for "sex in the dorms," in connection with her reported rape. When that happened, she said in the interview, she decided to leave the academy.

The investigating officer, Major Tom McDowell, will make a recommendation about court-martial to the authorities within two weeks, roughly the same time as graduation day.

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College President's Résumé Fails Student Exam

PQ+ | Thursday 02:43:07 EST | comments (0)

College President's Résumé Fails Student Exam

TOCCOA, Ga., May 13 — When people here suggest to Joel Elliott, the soft-spoken student newspaper editor at Toccoa Falls College, a tiny evangelical institution tucked into the northeast Georgia hills, that he "do the Christian thing" and soft-pedal a story, he now has a ready retort.

"What about, `The truth will set you free?' " he says.

Mr. Elliott, 24, has learned a lot this semester. His big lesson began in January, when a fellow reporter at the town's twice-a-week Toccoa Record, where Mr. Elliott works full-time to pay his tuition, relayed a tip: rumor in town had it that the college president's credentials were not what they were supposed to be.

Mr. Elliott, coincidentally, was also taking an advanced reporting class, for which one of the semesterlong projects he could choose was to write biographical sketches of all the college's presidents, past and present. So he figured he would put the rumor to rest and kill two birds with one stone.

He hunted around and found a number of college publications, dated as recently as April 4, saying the current president, Donald O. Young, had earned a master's degree from the Fuller School of World Missions in Pasadena, Calif. He checked with the Fuller School, and learned, to his surprise, that Mr. Young had never completed his master's studies.

He confronted Mr. Young, who insisted that the claim of a master's was a mistake made by a former secretary who had typed up his résumé, that he had caught the mistake upon his arrival at Toccoa Falls in 2000, and that his lack of a graduate degree was common knowledge among the faculty — in short, that there was no story.

Mr. Elliott interviewed the chairman of Toccoa's trustees, who said that the mistake was anything but common knowledge, and that Mr. Young would not have made the first cut as a candidate for the presidency if the board had known he did not have a graduate degree.

Then he wrote up the article.

"Some people thought it would be better to handle this in-house, rather than to bring it before the public," Mr. Elliott said. "I said it would have been better to handle it in-house, but it's too late. It hasn't been."

Published in The Record on April 29 and in the student newspaper on May 2 — under the hardly hard-hitting headline "TFC trustees support Young" — his articles nonetheless dropped like a thunderclap on the campus of the 96-year-old college, named for a 186-foot waterfall that cascades from the foothills of the Appalachians.

Faculty members and administrators seemed to fear Mr. Elliott's scoop would wash away the college's credibility — at a time when Toccoa Falls was already struggling with money shortages and a drop in enrollment to 785 from as high as 927.

"It's negative publicity that we wish we were not experiencing right now," David G. Reese, the academic dean who is the college's official spokesman, said of the articles.

Other professors point with some pride to the way the 47-member faculty responded: on May 5, it met in secret and recorded a vote of "no confidence" in Mr. Young. On Saturday, Mr. Young — who calls himself Dr. Young, on the strength of an honorary degree that Toccoa Falls awarded him a few years ago — resigned. He did not respond to messages left on his cellphone today.

For Mr. Elliott, meanwhile, the turmoil his articles stirred up here has affected him, too. Other students have questioned his integrity, his manliness and even his faith.

But Mr. Elliott was no ink-stained interloper in the Bible belt. His parents in even tinier Howe, Ind., staunch Baptists, had home-schooled him. Dissatisfied with Indiana University at Fort Wayne, he had transferred first to Pensacola Christian College in Florida before switching again to Toccoa Falls, which is affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, three years ago.

Until Pensacola, Mr. Elliott said, he had no experience with journalism. But he said he was kicked out of that college after not quite three semesters for a litany of reasons, including two illicit body-piercings and — more tellingly — posting a few items on an online, underground newspaper on which students complained about the college's "oppressive" environment.

When he arrived at Toccoa Falls, he decided to major in journalism. His professor, Oliver Witte, a veteran of The Milwaukee Journal, says Mr. Elliott "has what I can't teach — the fire in the belly."

But not everyone on campus is so approving. Dr. Reese, for example, says that Mr. Elliott found himself at a fork in the road between the Christian way and the way of a newspaperman, and chose newspaperman. "The prescription that Jesus gives us in the Gospel of Matthew if we find someone overtaken in a sin, or who has wronged us, is to go to them, privately, and if they recognize it and show a readiness to make it right, you've accomplished your mission," Dr. Reese said. "Joel's view was that it would all be swept under the rug. That is a choice he had to make."

He added: "As a Christian, I feel it could have been better handled."

Mr. Elliott acknowledges the dilemma, and says he faced a similar, if more abstract, one on an exam in his reporting class not long ago. "The question was, ‘What's the difference between a journalist and a Christian journalist?' " he said. "But I'm not so much concerned with that."

For now, he says he is more concerned with finishing his own degree in the fall, and then looking for a job at a somewhat bigger newspaper. (He is willing to move anywhere.) He is re-examining his own faith, he said, unsure in which Christian denomination he will find his home.

And he is still struggling with what he has wrought, here in Toccoa.

"I didn't want to bash the school," he said. "I love the school. It was a rough thing to write, a story that had great potential for causing damage to the school. But if I can't handle a situation here, when I'm still a student, with something that's close to my heart, and do what I feel is right, how can I expect to do the right thing later on when I'm on the job?"

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Graduates Lower Sights in Stagnant Job Market

Living | Thursday 02:42:02 EST | comments (0)

Graduates Lower Sights in Stagnant Job Market

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., May 12 — In years past, most seniors at the University of North Carolina ignored the recruiters from Newell Rubbermaid, the maker of dishwashing gloves and Calphalon cookware, dismissing the company as another unfashionable manufacturer. This year, the handful of students Newell hired as management trainees became minor campus celebrities, simply because they had secured jobs months before graduation.

When North Carolina seniors receive their diplomas here on Sunday, only about 15 percent of them will have jobs awaiting them, half the percentage that did a few springs ago, according to a university estimate. Another 25 percent will enroll in graduate school, leaving about 6 in 10 seniors without a long-term plan come Monday morning.

The nation's class of 2003 was the last one to enter college while the stock market was still rising, but it is graduating into the worst hiring slump in 20 years, one that is now into its second year on campuses and has afflicted young and well-educated workers to an unusual degree.

Corporations, after cutting their hiring of new graduates by 36 percent between 2001 and 2002, are hiring about the same number of graduates as they did last year, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

"We definitely picked the wrong time to be graduating from college," said Morgan Bushey, 21, who will make about $200 a week teaching English in France, after having been rejected by seven law schools. "We just have to hold on with our fingertips for a few years until we can do what we really want to do."

The lack of jobs is the main reason that applications to medical school increased this year for the first time in seven years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Applications to law schools jumped 10 percent, after having risen almost 18 percent last year. The number of people taking the Graduate Record Exam, the standardized test required for most doctoral and master's programs, rose to its highest level ever, after declining through much of the late 1990's.

Meanwhile, applications to Teach for America, which recruits college graduates to teach for two years in public schools in poor neighborhoods, have more than tripled in the last two years; Wendy Kopp, the program's founder, said the economy appeared to be one reason. Americorps, the national service program that pays $9,300 a year, and the Peace Corps have also become more popular and more selective.

College seniors have reacted to their poor timing with a mixture of anxiety and level-headedness. Many recall the signing bonuses and stock options offered to graduates a few years ahead of them and wonder how their own careers will get started.

"There is a haunting sense of insecurity," said Michael Barlow, a senior here who hopes eventually to work in the Foreign Service and is still looking for a job. "It is terrifying to be out of school with no job lined up and ready to go."

But few of them express the frustration that is common among older unemployed workers who know that their long-term prospects have dimmed and who have dropped out of the labor force in large numbers during the last two years.

Asha Rangaraj, a North Carolina senior from Monroe, La., recalls that her brother, two years older than she is, was hired out of college to work for Bill Gates's money manager "really without any experience." She, on the other hand, endured a few unpromising interviews before deciding to enroll in North Carolina's master's program in accounting — in large part because 99 percent of its graduates get jobs, she said.

Still, Ms. Rangaraj said: "I think it's definitely temporary. Everybody has that feeling — two or three years, and everything will be back to normal."

The change has been particularly unpleasant in Chapel Hill, home to one of the country's most selective public universities, whose lush campus sits just a few miles from Research Triangle Park, the once-booming technology cluster.

But seniors on every campus — big and small, Ivy League and community college — are struggling to find entry-level jobs that they want, college officials say.

"It's pretty grim," said Jack R. Rayman, the director of career services at Pennsylvania State University. Its graduate-school fair drew thousands of students this year, filling large ballrooms in the student union.

Over all, the unemployment rate for people ages 20 through 24 rose to 10.1 percent last month, up from 9.9 percent a year earlier and less than 7 percent in 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jobless rate for the entire work force was 6 percent last month.

Courtney Flaks, 21, a senior at the University of North Carolina from North Brunswick, N.J., said her plan was "just to go home and annoy people for jobs. I don't have any idea how long it's going to take."

Ms. Flaks, who is seeking a job as a graphic designer at a magazine, had a summer internship at Seventeen magazine and recently won a competition to redesign the nameplate of a campus literary magazine. Even so, she has had little success just finding openings to apply for.

"I finally have an interview, kind of," Ms. Flaks said, of an upcoming visit to Condé Nast, the publishing company in New York. "It's an exploratory interview. I don't know what that means."

Many of this year's success stories have come at companies like Newell that were the antithesis of excitement during the dot-com craze of the late 1990's. This year, however, excitement requires little more than an offer of a good-paying job.

According to Marcia B. Harris, the director of career services here, North Carolina's biggest recruiters — and thus hottest companies — include Newell; Enterprise Rent-a-Car; Ferguson Enterprises, a distributor of plumbing supplies, and Modern Woodmen of America, an insurer.

Newell has a management trainee program that is hiring 400 college graduates this year across the country.

By contrast, Accenture and Ernst & Young, consulting firms that specialize in technology and that each hired 25 seniors at the peak of the boom, hired a combined total of three or four this year, Ms. Harris said.

Jon Narveson, another senior, from Asheville, N.C., came to Chapel Hill expecting that he would end up at a computer company, he said. He will instead move to Charlotte this summer and oversee Newell products at some Lowe's home-improvement stores in the area.

"Whether it's fashionable or unfashionable doesn't matter to me," Mr. Narveson said. What matters, he said, is that he likes the Newell executives he met and that they seem eager to help him learn the business.

The students who have been accepted by Teach for America or the Peace Corps, in spite of this year's odds, express similar gratitude.

After watching many of last year's seniors return home after graduation without jobs, Stephanie L. Scott adopted an attitude of "whatever it takes," she said. As a backup, she and a friend met in a library for two hours, three times a week over the course of two months, to study for the G.R.E. But her first priority was Teach for America, and she will begin teaching in Louisiana this summer.

"Right now, it almost doesn't matter what you're doing," said Ms. Scott, who is from Goldsboro, N.C., and was the first person in her family to attend college. "If you have a job, people look at you like, `You're so lucky.' "

In fact, many seniors said that the last few months had given them a sense of rejection on a scale they had never before felt. Ms. Bushey said she could not help but compare applying to college, when she was accepted at North Carolina before Thanksgiving, to the string of law-school rejections she received, including some from places she had thought of as safety schools.

Some juniors here said they were already preparing themselves for similar experiences next year.

"When we were going into school, there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm to go get your four years of education and then get a job," said Matt Tepper, North Carolina's student body president, who will remain on campus for both sessions of summer school after struggling to find a paid internship. "Now it seems like everybody is going to law school."

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Doing Science at the Top of the World

Science | Thursday 02:41:18 EST | comments (0)

Doing Science at the Top of the World

ON THE SEA ICE 30 MILES FROM THE NORTH POLE — Three broken bolts. A vital part of the first sustained effort to monitor big climate shifts at the top of the world was being threatened by three broken bolts.

The bolts were in a simple winch used to haul up a $200,000 array of instruments, strung on a two-mile Kevlar strand, that had spent a year collecting data on currents, salinity and other conditions in the ocean at the pole.

Six leading polar oceanographers and marine engineers huddled around the broken winch next to a manhole-size opening that had been melted the day before through the nine-foot-thick ice, staring at the line dangling in the slushy green water.

If they could find no replacements for a few dollars' worth of fasteners, the winch would be useless scrap, the instruments might be stuck in the sea, and the replacements for the coming year would not be deployed.

Such is the craft of science at the ends of the earth — particularly this end of the earth, where the pole sits over a 14,000-foot-deep ocean cloaked in shifting ice.

Hand-held satellite navigation devices and telephones provide a welcome sense of connectedness. But in a place where sea-ice runways crack apart, even the simplest setback can threaten ambitious research and, potentially, the researchers themselves.

The winch problem was just one of myriad challenges, large and small, that confronted scientists who recently ventured north to decipher disturbing changes in the polar ice, ocean and atmosphere.

The anchored instrument array was the centerpiece of the North Pole Environmental Observatory, a five-year $4 million effort to establish the first year-round record of conditions here.

Such a portrait was much needed, given that polar ice had been retreating record distances in summertime over the last decade and that sharp warming around the Arctic perimeter was prompting serious talk of an ice-free polar sea by midcentury. The changes could be a temporary shift in the range of normal variation. Or they could be an early result of global warming from rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

But this climate puzzle could only be solved at the pole itself, where pirouetting ice floes cloak the ocean in crackled whiteness and make it impossible to establish anything more than a fleeting foothold.

Unlike almost anywhere else on the planet, this environment required a research team that combined the intellectual power of scientists with the brute strength of furniture movers, the wile of backcountry mechanics, the courage (or recklessness) of extreme athletes and the willingness to carry a shotgun to ward off polar bears.

Over three weeks in late April and early May, the project leader, Dr. Jamie Morison, an oceanographer at the University of Washington, and 14 colleagues from the West Coast and Japan brought this suite of skills to the Arctic as they successfully — albeit sometimes just barely — completed the fourth year of the observatory mission.

Spring is the only time of year when daylight is constant but the ice is not yet warmed so much that its surface turns to knee-deep slush.

Eventually, in their offices and labs in Seattle and Tokyo, the scientists will sift figures and report their findings in learned journals. Now, though, they were nursing bashed and frost-split knuckles and struggling with countless mechanical and logistical crises.

Working nearly around the clock in the constant daylight, they lived on power naps and stray bits of food, including juice boxes whose contents chilled to the consistency of a Slurpee and, in one case, a shared day-old salmon sandwich rendered crunchy by the frigid air.

Their mission was to measure vagaries in the ice, the influx of heat from the sun and from warm currents deep in the sea and the chemistry and dynamics of water layers from the surface on down.

They would swap the old and new underwater instrument chains and install three drifting instrument-studded buoys in the sea ice around the pole. Several scientists would hopscotch by plane and helicopter from northernmost Canada toward the encampments, measuring ocean and ice conditions along the way.

As a whole, the project is a work in progress, with problems and successes one year leading to modifications the next.

The goal, Dr. Morison said, is eventually to devise a permanent means of monitoring changes in the ice and the waters flowing beneath it from the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the great rivers of Siberia and Canada.

The work could improve weather forecasts and clarify whether a warming world, by unbalancing the Arctic system, could lead to calamitous climate changes around the Northern Hemisphere.

"We're trying to establish a pretty much automated way of keeping track of how the Arctic Ocean and sea ice are changing, and they've changed quite a bit in the last 15 years," Dr. Morison said.

The work is "about the toughest kind of oceanography you can imagine," said Dr. Neil R. Swanberg, program director for Arctic system science for the National Science Foundation, which is financing the observatory project.

It is vital because the pole is an ideal place to study whether the changes afoot are a wiggle or the first stage of a sharp turn, Dr. Swanberg said, adding, "The North Pole observatory is right on the interface where a lot of these things are happening."

Now if someone could just find some bolts.

Dr. Morison and five members of his team worked on the winch, debating options as their flash-frozen exhalations built white frost on their beards.

"There's three good mechanics here, so let's figure this out," said Eric Boget, one of the divers who had snared the mooring 12 hours earlier and who is an ocean engineer at the University of Washington.

The winch was perhaps the simplest piece of equipment in the two-tent encampment. But like everything else in sight, from the soot-stained Russian helicopter to the Iridium satellite telephones, it had to function for the project to succeed.

As the winch was dissected, the second diver, Jim Osse, who is also an ocean engineer, scooped thickening "grease ice" from the hole. The slush was the sea's way of announcing that it was preparing to close the portal as the 28-degree water was chilled by the 15-below-zero air.

Jim Johnson, an engineer from the university who helped design the instrument string, sat at a table nearby, frowning as he entered notes on the new problems in his log with a pencil. (Ink freezes.)

Even in a place where time loses all meaning, with today starting in March and ending in September, time was the enemy. For one thing, no one knew how long the Russian helicopter crew would be willing to wait. The tiny camp here was set up for just four people. There were six extra people, and before long they would have to be ferried back to Camp Borneo, a commercial base camp set up 60 miles from the pole each spring by Russian and French entrepreneurs.

For now, the copter pilot and crew idly smoked and snapped pictures of one another near a whimsical "North Pole Was Here" sign set up by the mooring team (a tribute to the fact that the ice camp was drifting 400 yards an hour). At any moment, they could be radioed to pick up the dozen ski trekkers who were nearing the pole or to ferry six Muscovite skydivers who were arriving soon on a plane from Siberia.

At any moment, an open-water crack could split the encampment, just as one, in late March, sundered the first runway built for Borneo just three hours after two 20-ton Russian airplanes lifted off. Or colliding floes could lift a pressure ridge like one that crushed the snowmobile hut of an expedition near Alaska years earlier.

For the scientists at the winch, many of whom had made 12 or more trips to the Arctic, those are just some reasons the North Pole is little studied. Science here is mainly a grueling process of packing, loading, getting there, unloading, unpacking, waiting, rushing, breaking things, repairing things and always improvising.

There is the cold, which for this expedition rarely rose above 10 below zero and can cause liquid crystal displays on instruments and laptops to solidify.

Then there is the distance. From Camp Borneo, it is a two-and-a-half-hour 510-mile flight to the northernmost permanent human outpost in the world, a Canadian military base called Alert. Distance translated into a lack of vital things.

Some scientists were stranded in a marginally heated tent at the runway, miles from all the camps, when helicopter fuel ran short after storms in Siberia grounded Russian supply planes.

In sharp contrast to the South Pole, where researchers from 29 countries efficiently operate out of a host of permanent research stations, here scientists sat for hours then worked in frenzied bursts on the fast-changing icescape. One described it as "adrenalin moments surrounded by slabs of time."

Dr. Timothy D. Stanton, an oceanographer from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., went 18 hours without a sip of water on the day when he hiked a half-mile from the Borneo runway to install his "baby," an automated $40,000 buoy designed to measure small amounts of heat flowing through the waters beneath the ice. The information could help improve computer models of the polar climate.

It took 10 hours for Dr. Stanton to drill a foot-wide hole in the ice with an auger and wrestle the buoy and its antennas and "top hat" dome into place. Then he had to test its systems and make sure that it could send the information back to Monterey as it drifted past Greenland in the months to come.

Out on the ice, a distant dot from the runway, Dr. Stanton plugged his laptop into the buoy and gave it a farewell checkup. And there was no sign of life.

The buoy, which had traveled 5,000 miles on two bumpy airplane rides and had then been hauled behind the old bulldozer over the rough ice, might be dead. Perhaps the fault lay in an adjustment that Dr. Stanton had tried a few days earlier. He had modified a microchip in the buoy innards and then hastily had to undo that repair.

"These are showstopper things I had to resolve sort of here and now," he said. "You couldn't say, `Well, I'll sleep on it.' "

Dr. Stanton ferreted out the fault and soldered new connections. He was nearly euphoric when he was finally able to trek back to the tent near the runway and found that Dean Stewart, an engineer, had fired up a stove and produced a pot of drinking water by melting ice.

[True euphoria struck a week later, when Dr. Stanton was back in Monterey and saw figures from the polar waters flowing in regularly from the buoy.

"It calls in twice a day, like a good child," he said in a recent e-mail message.

But that would be later.]

For now, Dr. Stanton huddled on the ice with the divers and Dr. Morison and the balky winch and the broken bolts, trying to help.

Dr. Stanton, Dr. Morison and some visitors had to leave when the helicopter fired up its jet engines to head to Borneo. They were following one of the three axioms of Arctic life that Mr. Osse had listed earlier: never pass up a meal, never pass up a shower and never pass up a flight south.

In the end, the divers and engineers who stayed behind extracted three identical bolts from the brake on the opposite side of the device, and they fit perfectly in place of the ones that had fractured.

From a grab bag of fasteners, the scientists found others to replace the ones that had been scavenged.

Someone fired up the generator, the winch spun, and the strand of instruments with their yearlong lode of data rose from the steaming, slushy hole.

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How Microsoft Warded Off Rival

Finance | Thursday 02:40:13 EST | comments (0)

How Microsoft Warded Off Rival
International Herald Tribune

BRUSSELS, May 14 — At least 90 percent of the world's personal computers run on Windows software. But Microsoft wanted still more.

Last summer, Orlando Ayala, then in charge of worldwide sales at Microsoft, sent an e-mail message titled Microsoft Confidential to senior managers laying out a company strategy to dissuade governments across the globe from choosing cheaper alternatives to the ubiquitous Windows computer software systems.

Mr. Ayala's message told executives that if a deal involving governments or large institutions looked doomed, they were authorized to draw from a special fund to offer the software at a steep discount or even free if necessary. Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, was sent a copy of the e-mail message.

The memo on protecting sales of Windows and other desktop software mentioned Linux, a still small but emerging software competitor that is not owned by any specific company. "Under NO circumstances lose against Linux," Mr. Ayala wrote.

This memo, as well as other e-mail messages and internal Microsoft documents obtained from a recipient of the Microsoft e-mail, offers a rare glimpse these days into the inner workings of Microsoft, the world's largest software company. They spell out a program of tactics that were carried out in recent years, ranging from steep price discounts to Microsoft employees lying about their identities at trade shows.

The Microsoft campaign against Linux raises questions about how much its aggressive, take-no-prisoners corporate culture has changed, despite having gone through a lengthy, reputation-tarnishing court battle in the United States that resulted in Microsoft's being found to have repeatedly violated antitrust laws.

Perhaps most important, certain discounts may run afoul of European market regulators, who are still investigating accusations that Microsoft abused their antitrust laws.

Discounting is a perfectly normal corporate practice. But under European law, companies that hold a dominant market position like Microsoft are prohibited from offering discounts that are aimed at blocking competitors from the market. Microsoft has been concerned with the legality of its discounts in the past, consulting a London law firm on a specific discount plan in 1998, before it was determined in court that the company had a monopoly in desktop operating systems.

In a telephone interview today, Jean-Philippe Courtois, the chairman of Microsoft's operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, defended the use of the special fund described in Mr. Ayala's e-mail message, saying it was part of a strategy to be "competitive" and "relevant" in the market for big government and education deals.

"Linux is obviously a key competitor," Mr. Courtois said. Rivals use similar tactics, he said.

Sun Microsystems, for example, "is giving away StarOffice to basically governments and schools," he said. The Sun suite of programs runs on both Windows and Linux operating systems.

Mr. Courtois said that Microsoft sometimes gave software to "very low-income countries." He cited a program where Microsoft donated software in South Africa and helped train teachers to use it.

Mr. Ayala's memo said that the discounts could be offered to "developed and developing countries," and that an "initial focus" was being put on Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, India and China.

In his e-mail message, he focused on governments and large institutions buying mostly desktop software. A separate memo described a discounting program for corporate customers worldwide.

Two days after Mr. Ayala sent his e-mail message, Michael Sinneck, the executive in charge of Microsoft's services department, sent a message giving details of a program to provide corporate clients with discounts on the hourly rates charged by Microsoft's consulting business.

The memo said nearly $180 million had been allocated in the 2003 fiscal year, which ends in June, for this purpose alone. Of that, $140 million was earmarked for consulting services for server software, an area where Microsoft has a growing share of the market but still faces lively competition, particularly from big companies like I.B.M. that are promoting Linux as an alternative to Microsoft Windows.

Servers are the powerful computers used by corporations to store data, manage Web sites and perform other network tasks. The software that runs servers is the subject of one of the two antitrust cases currently open against Microsoft in the European Community. In broad terms, Microsoft is accused of illegally leveraging its overwhelming dominance of the PC software market into the server market.

European antitrust laws are generally stricter than comparable American laws, but the Microsoft practices described in the memos may raise red flags for regulators in the United States as well.

In June 2001, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled that Microsoft had violated antitrust laws by bullying business partners and rivals to thwart any competitive challenge to Windows. Later that year, Microsoft reached a settlement with the Bush administration, agreeing not to use its monopoly power in PC software, including pricing deals and contract terms, to effectively force PC makers to favor Microsoft products over competing offerings.

Among the documents is an e-mail message from an outside lawyer, Bill Allan of the London-based firm Linklaters, to Microsoft that offers a precise interpretation of European Community law on the matter of discounts, including the view that short-term discounting would be more likely to escape scrutiny. The message, from 1998, advised Microsoft that its discounts should not discriminate between clients and that discounts could not be aimed at excluding competitors from the market.

"Discounts are not per se unlawful," Charles Stark, a former antitrust official at the Justice Department and a partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Brussels, said in an interview. "It depends on the market circumstances and how they use them and what their impact is."

Mr. Stark, who has not seen the documents, pointed out that under European law "pricing behavior can be viewed differently by a dominant firm than by a nondominant firm."

Asked whether the discounting program for server software consulting was legal in Europe, given Microsoft's position, Mr. Courtois, the Microsoft executive, said that consulting was a "break even" business.

"We are not a global services company," he said. "We need to compete against the big guys."

Mr. Courtois cited I.B.M. and Oracle as companies with large consulting businesses.

The Microsoft documents show the preoccupation among top managers with countering the open-source movement, a group of programmers who want the software that runs computers to be offered free of charge. The codes behind open-source software are developed openly by independent teams of programmers, allowing companies to customize their programs and paying for services to make the software perform better. This is in stark contrast to Microsoft, which keeps most of its source code secret — although governments and some corporations are increasingly allowed to view the code.

Linux, the biggest open-source threat to Microsoft, has a tiny share of the market for personal computer software. But Linux was installed in 26 percent of the large data-serving computers sold last year that power corporate networks and the Internet, according to International Data, a market research company. Microsoft's Windows was the operating system on 44 percent of the servers.

The server market is one area where Linux appears to have some momentum. The use of Linux is also being supported by a handful of Microsoft rivals and encouraged by many governments, especially in Europe, as a cheaper and perhaps more secure alternative to Windows software. The French, for example, have a Web site that recommends Linux systems for government departments.

Mr. Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, once referred to Linux's licensing as "a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."

In the face of this competition, the Microsoft documents show the significant resources the company devotes — and the unconventional tactics it sometimes uses — to combat Linux.

Chris O'Rourke, a Microsoft employee, described attending LinuxWorld, a trade fair in California, where he "purported to be an independent computer consultant" working with several public school districts, according to an e-mail message he sent on Aug. 20, 2002.

"In general, people bought this without question," Mr. O'Rourke wrote. "Hook, line and sinker."

He said his goal was to glean intelligence about the competition. His guise, Mr. O'Rourke said, "got folks to open up and talk." Mr. O'Rourke did not respond to a fax and voice mail message seeking comment.

Another employee, Todd Brix, said in an e-mail message that he attended a Linux conference in June 2001 in San Jose, Calif., pretending to be an "ambivalent OEM." Original equipment manufacturers, or O.E.M.'s, are companies like Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computer that buy Windows software licenses.

Reached at his office on Tuesday, Mr. Brix said that when attending such a show, "you don't broadcast that you're a Microsoft person."

"You don't disguise that fact," he said. "You just don't lead with your chin."

In his message, Mr. Brix described the technical issues discussed at the show and said the tone of the meeting "was an even mix of Local Union hall teamster gathering, Christian Scientist revival and Amway sales conference."

Of all the Microsoft tactics described in the internal messages, the two discount programs appear to be the most aggressive — and perhaps the most legally questionable.

Mr. Ayala sent his memo at 8:17 a.m. on July 16, 2002. In addition to Mr. Ballmer, the recipients included two Microsoft vice presidents — James Allchin and Jeffrey S. Raikes — along with some of the company's top lawyers and the general managers of Microsoft's operations in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Mr. Ayala wrote that in today's "difficult economic environment" some institutions and companies were focusing on cheaper software."

"It is important," he continued, "that we have a way to address large PC purchases that involve low-cost/no-cost competitors in the education (and government) sectors, especially in emerging markets."

The solution, he wrote, was to "tip the scales" toward Microsoft in these deals by using the special fund, which he called the Education and Government Incentive Program.

The fund was to be used "only in deals we would lose otherwise," Mr. Ayala said.

When he wrote the memo, Mr. Ayala was a quite high-level executive at Microsoft, reporting directly to Mr. Ballmer. He was in charge of sales and marketing and responsible for roughly 22,000 of the more than 50,000 Microsoft employees.

In March, Mr. Ayala was transferred to lead a new division that focuses on small and medium-size companies. This new push is one of Microsoft's top priorities. Mr. Ayala was not available to comment.

In his separate e-mail message, Mr. Sinneck, the Microsoft services executive, wrote that the consulting fund would be used to cover the difference between the "discounted customer rate and the standard services billing rate per hour."

Reached this week, Larry Meadows, marketing manager for Microsoft's services group at company headquarters in Redmond, Wash., said the fund could be used "anywhere it needs to be."

"There's not really a limit to say that you can use it only in certain geographies," Mr. Meadows added.

He said the funds would be used again in the next fiscal year that begins in July.

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Verizon Sets Up Phone Booths to Give Access to the Internet

NYC | Thursday 02:39:08 EST | comments (0)

Verizon Sets Up Phone Booths to Give Access to the Internet

Verizon Communications yesterday introduced one of the oldest items in its inventory — the humble phone booth — as its newest weapon in the bitter competition to dominate the broadband communications market of the future.

Verizon said that subscribers to its high-speed Internet access service would be able to go online wirelessly at no charge when they are near a Verizon phone booth in Manhattan.

Verizon said that 150 phone booths — from the Battery to Columbia University — had already been equipped with radio-signal technology, popularly known as Wi-Fi, to enable mobile computer users who are within 300 feet of a booth to connect to the Internet. About 1,000 booths covering virtually all of Manhattan and a few spots in the other boroughs will become Wi-Fi "hot spots" by the end of the year, the company said.

The new service was announced yesterday along with a bundle of price cuts and service enhancements for Verizon Online — the company's D.S.L., or digital subscriber line, service — which provides fast Internet access.

Verizon, the nation's largest phone company, has been struggling to catch up with rivals in the high-speed broadband market. So far, cable television companies have signed up twice as many broadband customers as the phone companies have. And among the phone companies, Verizon has trailed SBC Communications.

Verizon loses money on Internet access services but analysts have said that Verizon and other former Bell companies have to offer competitive online service plans if they are to hang on to their current customers and attract new ones as competition increases in the traditional phone business.

Analysts said the changes announced yesterday added up to a big improvement in Verizon's broadband offerings. But the announcement came on a day when AT&T said it would begin competing with Verizon to sell local phone service in Virginia and Maryland, and Cablevision Systems announced plans to sell phone service on Long Island, another Verizon market, this fall over its cable network. The news sent Verizon's share price down 11 cents, to $37.39.

"Things are only going to heat up further from here," said John Hodulik, who follows telecommunications companies for UBS Warburg.

Important elements of Verizon's new broadband package had already been promised, like free use of MSN 8.0, the latest package of Internet programming and software support from Microsoft. Others, like a significant price cut in Verizon Online, had been leaked in recent news reports. Thus, the most intriguing part of the service improvements is the new wireless service, which will be available only in New York.

Verizon, which is based in New York, sells local service in 29 states. Over the long term, analysts said, Verizon could use its hundreds of thousands of phone booths in major cities from Boston to Honolulu to become one of the nation's most extensive networks of hot spots for wireless Internet connections.

Until now, Wi-Fi hot spots have been offered free in a few public areas by cities like New York and San Francisco or by individuals sharing their signal transmission equipment — sometimes without realizing it — with anyone in the neighborhood. Some companies have been trying to build networks of hot spots in places like airports and Starbucks coffee shops where visitors can log on, but have charged relatively high prices for the service.

"This is the first attempt to mass market Wi-Fi in the United States," said David Burstein, editor of D.S.L. Prime, a newsletter that tracks Internet services.

Because the Wi-Fi service is being offered free with Verizon Online, it will be difficult to determine how much value consumers will assign to it. As a result, Verizon's marketing experiment is not likely to answer the question of whether Wi-Fi service can be profitable in its own right.

But Verizon's announcement was welcomed as a major boost by Wayport, a leading start-up company in the fast-expanding Wi-Fi industry. Wayport, which is based in Austin, Tex., has hot spots in 525 hotels and 12 airports, charging consumers $19.95 a month, or $6.95 a day at airports.

Wayport's plan for profitability envisions forming alliances with large phone companies like Verizon and AT&T that might bundle Wayport into their own networks or sign roaming agreements to share customers, said Daniel J. Lowden, the company's vice president for marketing.

Wayport is already working on such an agreement with Verizon's cellular phone business, Mr. Lowden said, and Verizon's plunge into Wi-Fi as part of its D.S.L. strategy is seen as an important endorsement of the technology.

Verizon, for its part, was cautious about its expansion into the Wi-Fi market. "We're clearly at the bottom end of the learning curve of what this will mean to the users," said Bruce Gordon, president of retail markets for Verizon.

Verizon said that while it expected to expand the Wi-Fi offering to other major markets, like Washington, Boston and Seattle, where it has many online customers, it would not make a definite commitment until it had studied how the service was used in Manhattan.

And Mr. Gordon denied speculation that Verizon was planning to sell Wi-Fi access separately to computer users who are not Verizon Online customers.

Verizon said that it cost roughly $5,000 to create a Wi-Fi hot spot. But the company said it did not expect the Wi-Fi investment or the price cuts to its D.S.L. service to hurt earnings this year.

Verizon said that these costs would be offset by lower churn rates — the number of customers who drop service each year — and growth in the enrollment of new broadband subscribers. Verizon, which finished last year with about 1.8 million broadband customers, has said it may need nearly twice that many to begin making money from the service.

Verizon's new package roughly doubles the top access speed for its D.S.L. service. That makes it comparable in many cases to the broadband speeds offered by cable television companies, at least for now.

But cable companies can boost their speeds. Indeed, Comcast, one of Verizon's largest cable competitors, already provides premium-priced service twice as fast as Verizon's new top speed to a small number of business customers.

Verizon will cut prices to $34.95 a month for regular subscribers and less than $30 for subscribers who also buy Verizon's package of local and long-distance phone service. That pricing structure gives Verizon a $5 to $10 price advantage over the cable services and is comparable to prices offered by SBC Communications, which reported 2.5 million D.S.L. subscribers at the end of the first quarter.

The price cuts are expected to increase the pressure on the slower dial-up services, including the dominant players like AOL and Earthlink. Just 16 million of the 60 million American households online at the end of 2002 had broadband service, but the industry has assumed the broadband share will climb rapidly if the price declines.

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The rising nouveau riche

China | Thursday 02:38:22 EST | comments (0)

The rising nouveau riche
by Annie Wang, SCMP PRD

BING WAS NIUNIU'S high school classmate in Beijing before Niuniu went to the United States. He was one of several boys who had a crush on Niuniu. At that time, very few children from the mainland had the opportunity to go to America at such an early age. Niuniu's classmates envied her.

Bing never had the courage to confess his feelings to Niuniu, and love between boys and girls was forbidden in schools then.

Ten years later, Niuniu and Bing meet again in Beijing.

Bing owns his own business, drives a Mercedes-Benz, wears a Versace shirt and a Rolex watch, and carries a Nokia mobile phone and a Louis Vuitton wallet.

Bing wants to tell Niuniu that his wallet is authentic, not like the fakes Hong Kong people buy in Shenzhen. Bing, who likes to impress, would tell Niuniu to look at his wallet from afar, so she could see the colour remained the same: a rich honey brown, thereby authenticating it.

Bing is a typical example of China's rising nouveau riche. He is stylish from head to toe - well, almost. To be more accurate, he is chic from eyebrow to toe. His hairstyle is not quite right, with the hair on top of his head long and concentrated and the sides shaved to a stubble, making him look like someone from a small town whose barber has not seen television or a magazine in years.

Most of Niuniu's childhood friends in Beijing are doing well financially - understandable, considering they're from well-connected families. Being in the right place at the right time, they enjoy the cushion of both socialism and capitalism. Bing tells Niuniu that she could have become a member of the Chinese upper class if she hadn't gone to America, implying that Niuniu's status as a struggling middle-class employee failed to impress him.

Niuniu was Bing's first love and also the only woman not impressed by his financial success. He tells Niuniu stories about how he tossed US$100 (HK$780) chips on the gaming tables as tips in Las Vegas casinos and how he was driven around in stretch limousines complete with television, DVD player, a fully stocked bar and a personal driver. But Niuniu is not interested.

He has a new girlfriend each time he visits Niuniu even though he is married. He doesn't feel ashamed but instead wants to show how popular he is with women. He wants to make Niuniu jealous but instead she ignores him. Not being able to impress others with his wealth and power angers and hurts Bing.

One day he invites Niuniu for coffee. She arrives 15 minutes late, and he sees it as a good chance to get one over on her.

''I have overseas returnees working for me. I'd fire them on the spot if they were late for a meeting, even just one minute late,'' he says when she arrives.

''I'm not your employee,'' Niuniu replies politely, with a smile.

Bing finally asks the question he's been wanting to ask Niuniu for a long time. ''Do you think that although I didn't go to school in America, I am still on the way to being fully Westernised?''

Niuniu knows that like many new rich in China, Bing has the false image that being promiscuous is celebrated in the West. ''Your clothes are Westernised, but your concepts aren't,'' she tells him.

Bing is displeased and defends himself. ''We don't need to be Westernised to be cool. I can buy all kinds of imported products as long as I have money, and I never have to consider the price.''

''Good for you,'' says Niuniu.

Bing continues: ''Tell me one thing that China doesn't have, but that America does.''

Niuniu thinks for a second and says: ''Clean air.''

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The civil war on Sars

China | Thursday 02:37:35 EST | comments (0)

The civil war on Sars
by Annie Wang, SCMP PRD

ARE HUMANS BORN good or evil? Why do we sometimes need to feel good about ourselves by putting others down? Why is a sense of superiority needed to boost our ego? Regional discrimination is common in China and that has become evident during the Sars outbreak. Sars makes us wear masks as a protective measure. At the same time, the disease helps unmask our true nature, normally hidden behind the soft veils of personalities. Now, every raw emotion is exposed.

As usual, Niuniu logs on to a popular Internet chat room to gather information for her stories and sees a heated debate raging.

It started with a provocative message from someone called ''Hong Kong Babe''.

Hong Kong Babe posts the chat room message on the Web site owned by a mainland company. The message reads: ''You mainlanders make the Chinese look bad in front of the world. You mainlanders are so backward! We Hong Kong people have to suffer with you now. We want to go back to British rule!'' As probably expected, or hoped for, Hong Kong Babe's message creates a stir.

A guy called ''Northern Love'' responds: ''You must be a skinny flat-chested babe who is not civilised enough to speak Putonghua. Don't you know the whole thing started because people in your region eat anything with legs but tables, anything that flies but airplanes, and anything that swims but ships. Because of your eating habits, we - the Northerners - get the germs from you who get the germs from animals!''

Before Hong Kong Babe can reply, a message from ''Spring Ocean'' appears. ''Hi, anybody from Taiwan? I'm from Taipei. I think the reason our situation in Taiwan is not as bad as Hong Kong is because we aren't cramped; we have more space. We aren't as bad as the mainland because Taiwan is more advanced, medically and politically.''

Hong Kong Babe finally posts a message: ''FYI: I live in the Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island. Here, life is better than on Kowloon-side. Those who live in old, dirty, and inexpensive places are more likely to get infected. The area where I live has many foreigners.'' Surprisingly, Hong Kong Babe does not draw more hostile responses. Instead, the message board evolves into a tug of war between two mainland cities.

''Louis Vutton'' (sic): ''Hi, I'm from the mainland. To be specific, I'm from Shanghai. I feel safe living in Shanghai. Once again, we've done a better job than Beijing.''

''Magic Dragon'': ''Beijing's situation is so bad because so many sick people from out of town have come to Beijing to get treated in the hospitals. When they need help, the first place they think of is Beijing, not Shanghai. Beijing people have never been as selfish as the Shanghainese!''

Seeing the situation disintegrate, someone named ''American Passport'' posts his message: ''Guys, stop fighting. It doesn't matter if you are from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Beijing or Shanghai, you are all deemed the same here in America! Nobody is better than anyone else. Do you know that many US Chinatowns' business has dropped severely? So has the business in the Japanese enclave near my house. Some of my American co-workers think everyone with an Asian face might have relatives who live with pigs.''

Following American Passport, Niuniu posts her own message. She gives herself a name, ''China Doll''.

China Doll: ''A Taiwanese author once said that each Chinese individual is a dragon, but when the Chinese group together, they become a fat worm. Do you know why? The Chinese have never been united. They always try to categorise themselves and others. The city people look down on the country people, the rich look down on the poor. It is so stupid!''

''Domestic Love'' posts a response: ''Who are you? Writing slogans here? Where are you from? How dare you refer to the Chinese as they? How dare you call us stupid?" Niuniu feels funny but being attacked online doesn't upset her. Instead, it is entertaining for some reason. She understands why Hong Kong Babe has written those provocative messages. She must be bored and wants attention. Under a new identity, you can do anything you want and say anything you want.

So China Doll writes: ''I'm a Beijing-born Chinese-American. My family tree consists of a Taiwanese father, a stepmother from northeast China, and a Beijing mother who married an American. In one word, I'm Chinese.''

Louis Vutton: ''This 'China Doll' sounds suspicious with such a complicated background. Might be an American spy. We'd better report her to the online police.''

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Japanese Cult Vows to Save a Seal and the World

Asia | Thursday 02:36:12 EST | comments (0)

Japanese Cult Vows to Save a Seal and the World

GODAISHI, Japan, May 13 — The trees were doing just fine in this tiny mountain hamlet, before the people in the odd white suits showed up the other day. Indeed, in a manner commonly seen in Japan, the pines grow straight and tall here, as neat as columns.

But that did not stop members of the group, which calls itself the Pana Wave Laboratory, from wrapping the trees in white sheets — halfway up the mountainside, in fact — when they pitched camp with a score of vehicles, all white, behind an abandoned school.

Ever since they started roaming Japan in caravan formation late last month, the movements of the group, which predicts that the world will come to an end on Thursday, with a reversal of the earth's magnetic poles and cataclysmic earthquakes, has been the object of a mass media frenzy of the kind that periodically sweeps Japan.

In most places where they have stopped, their unusual dress and behavior — they do not believe in bathing, and reportedly eat only instant noodles — has scared the wits out of the locals, for whom memories of another doomsday sect, Aum Shinrikyo, are all too fresh.

[In an attempt to gauge the potential threat posed by the group, on Wednesday police officers across the country raided buildings it occupies, Reuters reported.]

On recent days, Pana Wave has lightened its own story line dramatically, issuing statements saying that all hope is not yet lost for the earth, if only Tama-chan, a bearded seal that showed up, far from its native arctic habitat, in a Tokyo river last August, is "rescued."

If anything, the media frenzy surrounding Tama-chan has been even more intense than the interest showered on Pana Wave, with almost daily bulletins on its whereabouts on the nightly news.

The animal has displaced Hello Kitty as Japan's most beloved mascot, and whether or not it saves the earth, the sect's linking its own image to that of the seal was a savvy bit of public relations.

Along with building specially reinforced, Buckminster Fuller-style geodesic domes, which the group's reported 1,200 members believe are cataclysm-proof, Pana Wave has reportedly also been digging swimming pools, which press reports say are intended to house Tama-chan.

From behind a yellow crime scene cordon put up, as one policeman said, to "avoid trouble," Mika Fujimoto, a 17-year-old who took the day off from work and drove 90 minutes to get a glimpse of the Pana Wave members, shouted, "We support you because you care for Tama-chan!" at some of the white-clad members who moved around mysteriously in the distance.

"I don't know about the end of the world stuff," she added, "but at least on Tama-chan we can agree."

Although Pana Wave has been a harmless oddity so far, one community after another has chased it away, forcing its all-white motorcade back onto the highways, where the cortege of journalists who follow has grown by the week.

It has not helped its image that wherever the group has stopped, the local police have recalled that the Aum sect — which killed 12 people and injured 5,500 in March 1995 in a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway system — had similarly benign-seeming origins.

The group's recent wanderings also have been driven by some of its own rather particular requirements. Its leader, Yuko Chino, 69, is said to be suffering from cancer caused, Pana Wave members say, by electromagnetic waves manipulated by obscure Communist groups working in cahoots with agents of the former Soviet Union.

Her survival and their own health, members believe, depend on finding that rarest of sites in Japan: a place where there are few electrical power lines, which is what brought them back to where they began 10 years ago, this little depopulated mountain village of terraced rice fields worked by old women in straw hats.

The end of the world may be nigh, but Pana Wave is rebuilding its base here as a precaution, and the construction is not quite complete, which is why it needs to camp out.

Although it is merely a half-hour drive from Fukui, a smart and prosperous looking city of about 250,000, the little town of Godaishi is about as rustic as one finds on Japan's main island of Honshu.

In the early afternoon elderly women — there appear to be few youths here — take a break from tending their rice paddies by sitting in a shady spot on the sidewalk for a chat. "They haven't done anything wrong in the 10 years they've been here," said one of the women, who gave her name only as Maeda. "They have never stolen so much as a single leek. I have to say that the white clothes are a bit strange, though."

Since their return here, Godaishi has become a place of pilgrimage, and not just for the news media that rush about at the least rumor of a Pana Wave sighting, or for the sometimes overbearing policemen, who have staked out every driveway and barn. Ordinary curiosity seekers, too, are legion, and many of them seem far more leery than the locals.

"They don't work, and yet they have all of these vehicles," said Michiko Watanabe, 49, who drove here with a friend and her Chihuahua in a Mercedes to get a glimpse of the group. "It sort of leaves you with an uneasy feeling. Where do they get the money, and what happens when it all runs out?"

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Spirits Get the Blame in Cambodian Illness

Asia | Thursday 02:35:15 EST | comments (0)

Spirits Get the Blame in Cambodian Illness

PING, Cambodia — The skeletons of two chickens dangle ominously above the forest path that leads into Ping, warning of disease and death.

Inside the tiny village, straw effigies holding wood replicas of swords, rifles and even a rocket launcher guard flimsy huts against angry spirits.

Since early March, the 392 people of Ping and its mountain neighbor, Bornhok, have been locked in mortal struggle against a nameless disease that has sickened more than 30 of them and killed 7 in an agony of coughing, choking and delirium.

None of the villagers seem to know just which spirits turned against them or what transgressions they were punishing here in the northwest mountains of Ratanakiri Province, near Vietnam.

When doctors of Western medicine rushed in to help, they too were baffled by a mystery pulmonary disease that closely mimicked SARS, the new plague of a distant outside world.

The World Health Organization described it as "an outbreak of an unidentified syndrome with fever, diarrhea and respiratory symptoms and a high fatality rate."

Unlike SARS, though, it seems to have responded to antibiotics. The deaths slowed and seem for now to have stopped.

Meou Vang, the chief of Bornhok village, said this proved the power not of modern medicine but of the tribal rituals he led — the sacrifices of the hanging chickens as well as pigs, the anointing of homes with a mixture of sacrificial blood and rice wine, and the fearsomeness of the straw sentries that stand guard.

These effigies, like supernatural scarecrows, periodically appear in doorways and on fence posts in Cambodian villages when people sense the presence of ghosts.

Most often they are put up to protect against disease, but they can also be a response to the deaths of farm animals or even to the ominous barking of dogs or the moaning of frightened chickens.

"I know the disease was caused by spirits because after we held a big ceremony with all the villagers, people stopped dying and didn't get sick any more," the village chief said.

The random attacks of the disease have made it hard to pinpoint just which spirits are angry, he said.

One shaman told the people of Ping that they were being punished for felling sacred trees. Another told the family of a 16-year-old girl named Mel — one of the first to die — that she was being punished for having a sexual affair.

Her older sister, Nieng, said the shaman had told the truth about Mel, who sometimes disappeared into the woods to collect cashew nuts. Nieng too had fallen ill, but recovered after 10 days in the provincial hospital, two hours' drive by motorbike through the forest.

Since then, someone has taken down the effigy from the front of their cursed house, and it lies now in a discarded heap of straw and rags.

Taking a cautious approach, Chief Meou Vang said he had led ceremonies to appease all the spirits that inhabit the surrounding forests.

Arak Chantoo, the mountain spirit, is the Zeus of the pantheon, and when it is angry it is believed to bring chest pains, headache, dizziness, high fever, hydrophobia and sometimes death, anthropologists say.

Arak Bree, the forest spirit, must approve new cultivation by these slash-and-burn hill tribe farmers. Arak Long and Arak Ghree, the tree spirits, must give permission for the cutting of any significant trees.

Arak Gow protects sacred stones and can bring headaches and insanity when these are stepped on. The cure is to wash the stones with the blood of sacrificial animals.

After their recent sacrifices, the villagers ate the meat and drank the blood and wine, then retreated to their homes for 24 hours to allow the spirits to have their fill as well, Chief Meou Vang said.

Meanwhile, the practitioners of Western medicine were busy too. Every day, Lam Komchoeum, 42, a villager who runs a small government health post in the woods, made his rounds on his motorbike, trying to persuade sick residents to travel to the provincial hospital.

He was frightened to enter the disease-afflicted villages, he said, but the reason he gave for doing so anyway seemed more extraordinary than simple heroism. It was bureaucratic duty. "If I didn't go, the provincial health department would be angry with me," he said.

These forests, along the heavily bombed Ho Chi Minh Trail of the Vietnam War, are well acquainted with death. Now, as outsiders move in to seize the land, the local tribes are forced deeper into the mountains, where they struggle with growing poverty and disease.

This deprivation lies at the heart of the epidemic, the World Health Organization reported after its researchers visited the villages. "The high fatality rate is probably due to the underlying bad health status of the population," it said, "with chronic malnutrition and chronic infection with malaria and tuberculosis."

Last year, a private survey found that 60 percent of hill tribe children had suffered from fever in the previous two weeks, said Dr. Prudence Hamade, a doctor with Health Unlimited, a British medical group that works with the poorest and most remote villagers in border areas. She said one in four children die here before they reach the age of 5.

The only furnishings in the house where Mel, the 16-year-old girl, died are a pile of tattered sleeping mats and a few woven baskets. Dozens of small gourds hold water that was carried from a distant stream and is so scarce that it is rarely used for washing. Beside them lay a pile of purple tubers.

"You eat them and you give them to the pigs," said Mr. Lam Komchoeum, the health worker. "Usually people have rice to eat from October until June or July." And after that — he pointed to the tubers on the floor.

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Director of the Whitney Resigns

Arts | Thursday 02:34:32 EST | comments (0)

Director of the Whitney Resigns

Maxwell L. Anderson, director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, resigned Monday after a tumultuous five years in the post, the museum announced.

Rumors of trouble between Mr. Anderson and the Whitney's board had been circulating around the gossipy art world for some time. Mr. Anderson said in a statement that it had "become clear in recent months that the board and I have a different sense of the Whitney's future, in both the scale of its ambitions and the balance of its programming."

Leonard A. Lauder, the museum's chairman, agreed. "Max is a brilliant man of many talents," Mr. Lauder said in an interview. "It is unfortunate that there wasn't a perfect match of his skills and ambitions and that of the Whitney's."

Mr. Anderson, speaking by phone, said he was particularly disappointed when the board abandoned its plans to build a $200 million expansion designed by the Rotterdam-based architect Rem Koolhaas. When the project was officially scrapped last month, museum officials said they were concerned that the building would have been too expensive to operate let alone build in the current economic climate.

"We are trustees of a nonprofit organization," Mr. Lauder said. "We had to be prudent."

But Mr. Anderson called the issue of the building's expense debatable.

"In October 2001 the board was thrilled with the plan," he said, but over the months there were "incremental nagging doubts."

The board and Mr. Anderson also clashed over programming. Some people at the museum said board members had complained that Mr. Anderson did not go far enough in offering a balanced mix of more accessible shows and scholarly ones.

"Over the last five years I tried to embrace the Whitney's mandate to exhibit art with few compromises," Mr. Anderson said. "When it came down to it," he added, "with 42 trustees it was impossible to please everybody, and it had become increasingly more difficult to be in the vanguard." Museum officials, however, complained that Mr. Anderson had not generated enough original exhibitions.

When he first arrived at the museum, Mr. Anderson reorganized the staff, assigning specific curators to specialized areas. In the process several top curators resigned. For the first biennial under his directorship, which took place in 2000, rather than using the museum's staff to organize the show as it had always done in the past, he hired a team of outside curators, representing different regions of the country. The museum's biennials — primarily a showcase for new artists — are always exhibitions that the art world loves to hate, but this one was met with particularly tepid reviews.

During his tenure Mr. Anderson built the museum's collections by establishing acquisition committees in previously unsupported areas like film and video, architecture, and new media. He also founded the museum's first conservation department, directed the compilation of the first handbook to the permanent collection and increased the public's access to the collection both through exhibitions at the museum and through touring shows.

Before coming to the Whitney Mr. Anderson, 47, had been the director of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto for three years. A native New Yorker, he graduated from Dartmouth College and earned a Ph.D. in fine arts from Harvard University. For six years, until 1987, he worked in the department of Greek and Roman art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. From 1987 to 1995 he was director of the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta.

Mr. Anderson's departure leaves the museum only further short-staffed. In March, Willard Holmes, its deputy director for nine years, resigned to become director of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. He has not been replaced yet.

Mr. Anderson said he would stay on in the director's post until the fall. The board plans to name a search committee to find his replacement.

After he leaves the Whitney, Mr. Anderson said, he will become a Leadership Fellow at the Chief Executive Leadership Institute at the Yale School of Management, where he will advise on issues affecting public organizations.

"That will give me time to think about my future," he said.

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Fort Worth Updates Its Museums

Arts | Thursday 02:33:57 EST | comments (0)

Fort Worth Updates Its Museums

FORT WORTH is unusual among small American cities for its high incidence of seriously ambitious art museums. There are three to be exact - a lot for a town of 535,000 people. For more than 30 years they have shared a swath of meticulously maintained greensward along Camp Bowie Boulevard, not far from the Will Rogers Memorial Center near the center of town.

One has tended to outshine the others: the Kimbell Art Museum, blessed with an acclaimed building designed by Louis Kahn, opened in 1972 with a small, choice collection of ancient and Asian art and European painting. In the Kimbell's shadow are the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum, the state's first art museum (founded in 1892 and committed to living artists almost since then), and the Amon Carter Museum, founded in 1961 to house a collection of Western art, including a cache of works by Frederick Remington. Both institutions have been perennially hamstrung by cramped buildings that no amount of fiddling or expanding seemed to improve.

Now the balance has shifted. In October 2001, the Amon Carter, having torn down two awkward additions and called back the original architect, Philip Johnson, unveiled a handsome new wing that triples its gallery space while dovetailing nicely with the original building. And in December of 2002, the Fort Worth Modern pulled up stakes altogether for a striking new building, designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, that is right next to the Kimbell.

To see the results, I went to Fort Worth with my husband in early April for a weekend. What we found was, as they say, a whole new ballgame.

There are not many places where you can contemplate new museum architecture without getting depressed, view extraordinary groupings of European and American paintings and have an epiphany in feminist history all in the same day, while stumbling across a calf-cutting contest and never once have to resort to vehicular transportation. All these high points were within comfortable walking distance of one another.

First we paid our respects to the Kimbell, which I had not visited for more than 20 years. In the downstairs entrance hall we found a stunning array of European paintings: Caravaggio, de la Tour, Picasso, Goya, Velázquez, Bellini - a nice welcome but, well, a little premature. Upstairs we discovered why. While the building is as great as ever, the airy central gallery once used for the display of art has been given over to a large gift shop that, to add insult to injury, sells toys and frivolous accessories for the home along with art books and postcards. One group of galleries was closed for the installation of a traveling exhibition of Egyptian art (opening today); another held a traveling show of so-so quality: "Modigliani and the Artists of Montparnasse" (through May 25). I suggest visiting Fort Worth when the Kimbell is devoting more of its luminous gallery space to its own superb collection.

Nearby, the new Modern impressively synthesizes late-20th-century austerity with the more intimate scale and textures of Japanese and Bauhaus architecture. This imposing two-story Minimalist structure in glass, steel and architectural concrete quintuples the museum's gallery space and includes its first cafe (highly recommended for lunch). Curling around a two-acre reflecting pool, Mr. Ando's design exploits the fact that in a place as historically parched as Texas, few things are as riveting as quantities of water, elegantly presented. When the water's surface is nearly level with the floor - as it is in the museum's enormous foyer, the cafe and the wonderful glass-walled corridors that wrap around the exteriors of the ground-floor galleries - the experience is sublime. A sprawling, garrulous Philip Guston retrospective (through June 8) filled the upstairs galleries at the time of our visit, but it is great to see the collection begin to strut its stuff on the ground floor.

Despite the thrills of the Ando building, the biggest surprise of the trip came at the Amon Carter. The compact two-story Johnson addition is admirably understated, lined with exquisitely fossil-pocked Texas limestone. Like Mr. Ando, Mr. Johnson seems to have taken a page from Kahn's use of unadorned surfaces as well as his exploitation of the clear Texas light. The museum's popular Western art, mostly by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, still occupies pride of place in the old building (which now resembles a spacious and sprightly porch) and fills a long new gallery leading to a skylighted dome. The real treat is upstairs: the museum's 19th- and early-20th-century American paintings ensconced in skylighted galleries. There are exemplary canvases by Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Martin Johnson Heade, Thomas Eakins, John Frederick Peto and John Mix Stanley, as well as works by American modernists like Georgia O'Keeffe, Arthur Dove and Stuart Davis (six astutely selected Davis works form a veritable survey). There were also impressive displays from the museum's large photography collection and a lively exhibition of watercolors by Winslow Homer, which he made during fishing trips into the wilderness.

Pleasant nonart adventures lurk nearby. The newest is the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, which opened last June in a small Art Deco-style building on the other side of Lancaster Avenue, a short walk from the Kimbell. The incongruous Beaux-Arts interior is overdone and occasionally tacky - as in the lenticular images of Western heroines, including Georgia O'Keeffe, that line the balcony. But the exhibits are both illuminating and uplifting (take your daughter). Packed with artifacts and punctuated with kiosks showing film clips (Dale Evans's saddle, the sequined costumes of the eminent Western designer Nudie and a white leather trick saddle passed down from mother to daughter), it vividly traces the daring and the achievements of professional cowgirls, the first American women to live off their earnings as athletes. On our way to the museum we ventured into the Coliseum at the Art Deco Will Rogers Memorial Center and were smitten by the sight of highly trained horses shadowing the movements of young steers with amazing quickness, skill and, it seemed, no apparent direction from their riders. (We learned that it was a calf-cutting contest; that, yes, the riders don't do a whole lot and that there is something horse- or cattle-related at the arena nearly every week.) On our way back we came upon a sizable flea market in the center's Hall of Cattle and found a painting that fitted both our budget requirements (under $10) and our weekend luggage.

For accommodations, we lucked into the Ashton, a new 39-room boutique hotel that occupies a refurbished 1916 Italianate Arts and Crafts building, of brick with wrought-iron balconies - on Main Street, a five-minute drive from the museum cluster. Well run and extremely comfortable, the hotel is part of a downtown revitalization that has brought back to serviceable life many of the turn-of-the-20th-century and Art Deco buildings that managed to survive the city's various postwar building booms.

And Fort Worth seems to excel at casual, inexpensive dining. Joe T. Garcia's offers unpretentious but outstanding Mexican food (there is no menu). If you're willing to wait in line on busy nights, you can dine beneath the stars in the large, lush garden. At Angelo's, a legendary barbecue place that is beyond authentic, spurs are normal and stuffed trophies of several species, including moose and buffalo, stare down as you tuck into what may be the world's best ribs. If the experience doesn't bring out the inner vegetarian in you, you probably don't have one.

In other words, a weekend of looking at art and architecture of Fort Worth can be punctuated with equally vivid encounters with the plainer, indigenous pleasures of Texas life.

If You Go


Admission to the permanent collections of all the art museums is free; charges vary for special exhibitions. All are closed Monday.

Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie Boulevard, (817) 332-8451; www.kimbellart.org. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday noon to 8, Sunday noon to 5.

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell Street, (817) 738-9215; www.the modern.org. Open Tuesday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday till 5, Friday noon to 8, Sunday noon to 5.

Amon Carter Museum, 3501 Camp Bowie Boulevard, (817) 738-1933; www.cartermuseum.org. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday till 8, Sunday noon to 5.

National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, 1720 Gendy Street, (817) 336-4475; www.cowgirl.net. Open Tuesday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday till 5, Sunday noon to 5. Admission $6.

Where to Stay

The Ashton Hotel, 610 Main Street, (817) 332-0100, fax (817) 332-0110, www.theashton hotel.com, has 39 double rooms with king-size beds, ranging from $250 to $750.

Where to Eat

Joe T. Garcia's, 2201 North Commerce Street, (817) 626-8571, is open for lunch and dinner every day. A meal for two, with fajitas and margaritas, is about $35.

Angelo's Bar-B-Que, 2533 White Settlement Road, (817) 332-0357, www.angelosbbq.com, is open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday. A dinner of ribs plus wine is $27.

ROBERTA SMITH is an art critic for The Times.

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A Master of Pulp Art Lives to See a Tribute

Arts | Thursday 02:33:05 EST | comments (0)

A Master of Pulp Art Lives to See a Tribute

GREAT NECK, N.Y., May 8 — Growing up on the Lower East Side in the early 20th century, Ernest Chiriacka was simply possessed by the need to draw, using whatever was available — a leftover lump of charcoal, a spent match or a piece of chalk at school.

As a teenager he became known as the Rembrandt of Third Avenue. As a young man, he had a thriving career doing illustrations for Esquire and the Saturday Evening Post. And later he made a handsome living from his studio here, painting landscapes and classic scenes of the American West.

But it is for his work illustrating the lurid tales of murder and intrigue that captivated Depression readers that he is about to be honored. Mr. Chiriacka, who was about to celebrate his 90th birthday Sunday, is, museum officials say, the only living artist among the dozens represented in "Pulp Art: Vamps, Villains and Victors from the Robert Lesser Collection," opening Friday at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

"I don't know how it happened or why," Mr. Chiriacka said the other day, seeming unimpressed with his sudden recognition. Sitting in a room that, like the rest of his spacious Long Island home, is lined with his paintings and sculptures, he said that he did not know what the museum had chosen, or even where they had acquired it. Still, he accepted an invitation to attend the press preview.

The show, which includes more than 100 images of gangsters, half-naked buxom blondes, armed maniacs, bug-eyed monsters and gunslingers dispensing rough justice, is perhaps the most comprehensive of its kind, museum officials say. And at a time when Hollywood is increasingly mining the comic book characters that were successors to the pulps, it may have added significance.

Arnold L. Lehman, director of the museum, said that he had come across the collection while putting together a show from Mr. Lesser's collection of robots and space toys. Mr. Lesser, a retired electric-sign salesman, has also amassed one of the most extensive collections of paintings used to illustrate pulp fiction stories that were popular between the two world wars.

Mr. Lehman said the paintings represented "a whole aspect of American art that has completely disappeared from the scene," but one that "occupied a very important part of America's visual life."

"I had a very, very early childhood recognition of these images but frankly they were new to me and new to our curators even though we had a sense of recognition," he said.

Because they were illustrations for commercial magazines, Mr. Lehman said, there was no great significance attached to the works themselves, and many were destroyed. "In a sense they were considered vehicles, as the production parts of how the magazines came out," Mr. Lehman said. "But 99 percent of them were fully composed paintings."

The paintings, which Mr. Lehman placed at the intersection of art and commercial, popular culture, became more daring and lurid as the competition to leap out at readers became fiercer, he said, much like today, when magazines use increasingly sexual images or hire prominent photographers to produce their covers.

The exhibition makes this connection explicit with a contemporary display that Anne Pasternak, who served as curator, said was intended to show what she sees as the legacy of pulp art today. The display includes several photographs by Helmut Newton, as well as paintings by Alexis Rockman.

For Mr. Chiriacka, though, his work illustrating pulp stories was simply a natural outgrowth of his other commerical drawing, and a way to make money. "This was during the Depression, when people needed something to do," he said. "These things came out for a nickel. You'd get two or three stories and you were able to sit and enjoy yourself for a couple of hours. It was a bad time, the Depression, truly a bad time."

Something of an artistic polymath, Mr. Chiriacka was creative in several media. As a boy, he said, he had always dreamed of being a cowboy in California and fashioned chaps from a black bag he purchased for 50 cents, decorating it with tacks discarded from a newsstand. He made furniture, too, including the ornate screen and secretaries that still stand in his house.

But mostly, he loved to draw. He would copy paintings from museums, first through a program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then through a job reproducing the great masters on the walls of a coffee shop, which he took, he said, for the paints and brushes he was given. He studied at the Art Students League, the National Academy of Design and the Grand Central School of Art.

His art has helped him, too, he said. Mr. Chiriacka, the son of Greek immigrants, managed to quickly get a job painting posters for movie houses after proposing marriage. "I was making $27 a week — that was good money," he said, laughing. "The minute I got that job, $27, we married."

Over the years, he has gone through several stylistic phases, painting landscapes and other scenes from his imagination.

"I wouldn't know what I was going to do, or what would come of this, but I would paint for two hours, or two and a half hours until I felt that was it," he said. "I didn't stand back and go forward like artists used to do, put a stroke and then walk away and look at it, and then come back and do something else and then walk away. I didn't do that. I simply painted."

"That's the way it was, not knowing what was going to come through, but something would come through," he said.

The pulps and pinups were different. "You can't fake that," he said, looking at a painting of a dark blond vamp on his easel. For those, he used models, and, for the pinups, at least, a chaperon. In those days, Mr. Chiriacka explained, agents would encourage their models to concoct scandalous tales to land their names in the papers. To ward off the possibility of a woman posing "completely stripped" as he put it, falsely accusing him of anything untoward, he always had his friend Harry present.

Mr. Chiriacka, who would sometimes make characters bald if he could, because painting hair was so difficult, said that he found painting or sculpturing himself easy. It is something he has done many times, easily, even without a mirror. "I know my figure," he said, standing in his studio.

These days, he and his daughter, Athene Westergaard, split their time between Great Neck and Minneapolis, where she has a house. He has not painted much since his wife died a year and a half ago, but he is thinking about starting again.

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Writer's Youths in Pain Have the Will to Survive

Arts | Thursday 02:32:13 EST | comments (0)

Writer's Youths in Pain Have the Will to Survive

Look at the plays and novels of Adam Rapp, and you're likely to flinch. In "Nocturne," produced at New York Theater Workshop in 2001, a young man accidentally kills his sister, comes to New York to be a writer and finally returns home, only to have his father die in his arms.

In his 1999 novel, "The Copper Elephant" (Front Street Books), Mr. Rapp created a sci-fi-flavored tale in which children are used as slave labor in subterranean mines.

His most recent play, "Stone Cold Dead Serious," is no exception to that dark milieu.

The play, which runs through Saturday at the Chashama Theater, at 135 West 42nd Street in Manhattan, tells the tale of the 16-year-old Wynne Ledbetter, a video-game-playing prodigy whose efforts to save his family from lower-class malaise include being abused by a pedophile, rescuing his prostitute sister from drugs and fighting in hand-to-hand combat.

Still, all that evidence to the contrary, Mr. Rapp says he isn't tortured. "The stories are refracted through my own experience," he said in an interview at Chashama. "But they are more emotionally autobiographical than actually autobiographical."

At 34 Mr. Rapp embodies in many ways that classic New York archetype: a writer on the cusp, a prolific young playwright who seemingly spends every waking hour hacking away at his computer in his East Village apartment, trying to perfect his voice and pay the rent. When he's not writing, he's at the theater, tending bar and listening in to the audiences' instant critiques.

He has a work ethic that borders on obsessive. Mr. Rapp, a former basketball prospect, says he regularly reads or writes 6 to 10 hours a day.

"I figure I got to write it right now," he says. "Or I'll forget it."

By this point he could be accused of overcompensating.

In addition to "Stone Cold Dead Serious," Mr. Rapp has had four productions in recent years in New York; he has been produced in London twice and at respected regional theaters like the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass.; the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn.; and the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.

He has published five novels in the young-adult genre and says he has about 20 plays in various stages of completion.

His work has begun to pay off.

He is able — barely — to support himself as a writer, taking commissions from theater companies and small advances for his novels. In a couple of weeks he will decamp for Los Angeles to become a staff writer for the producer Steven Bochco. (He will cash the checks, he said, despite sensing that television is the "death of our culture.")

He has also been noted by critics. Writing in The New York Times, Bruce Weber said "Stone Cold Dead Serious" was "as sincerely sad a commentary on our culture as I've seen in recent memory. And its fear for young people is unfortunately deeply convincing." As that suggests, the topic of his perpetual output is more often than not the plight of teenagers, young adults in peril and pain but with the will to survive. Mr. Rapp said his use of young characters was partly artistic opportunism, partly sympathetic exploration.

"I like to write about teenagers because it's such an uncertain and dramatic time," he said. "There's so much they are up against, so many pressures: drugs, AIDS, puberty," and sexually transmitted diseases. "Your life is constantly on edge."

Mr. Rapp had a hard childhood, complete with borderline poverty, divorced parents and stints in reform and military school. "There were some broken windows and some shoplifting," he said. "I wasn't a happy kid."

His writing also shows an exuberant love for the written word. ("Loquacious" is an adjective that has been used in reference to his characters.)

A prolific reader and writer who came to both habits well after puberty, Mr. Rapp tells stories that encase classical themes — class and envy, ambition and alienation — in blunt terms and in modern settings.

His drive seems to have more than a little to do with some friendly sibling rivalry: Mr. Rapp's younger brother, Anthony, was a child actor who became a Broadway star as part of the original ensemble of the musical "Rent." (He also appears, sort of, in "Stone Cold" as a recorded offstage character.) Mr. Rapp's older sister, Anne, meanwhile, was a serious-minded A student.

"It drove me to have some sort of success," Mr. Rapp said, of his siblings. "I mean, my sister was a good student; my brother was this little prodigy. I had do something."

A tall, gawky redhead, Mr. Rapp spent many of his formative years in Joliet, Ill., a blue-collar town about 25 miles southwest of Chicago where for years one of the most famous buildings in town was the Joliet Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison, now closed.

Mr. Rapp's father, Douglas, was a systems analyst who left the family when Mr. Rapp was 5; his mother, Mary Lee, was a nurse who worked in the prison hospital shortly before her death from cancer in 1997.

Anthony, now 31, was a child actor with an impressive résumé, including a national tour of "The King and I" and a stint on Broadway in 1982 as the Little Prince in the short-lived musical "The Little Prince and the Aviator."

With each acting job Anthony was earning money for the family, but he was also forcing Adam and his family to move, a development that had no small effect on Adam's view of the stage.

"I hated the theater," he said. "It was always breaking up my life."

Anthony confirmed this: "Adam and I weren't very close growing up because I was the theater guy, and and he was the jock."

In Joliet Adam Rapp lived with his mother and two siblings in a shoe-box apartment, a setting that audiences watching "Stone Cold" will recognize.

"It's an apartment where the mother buys little things to try to make their home feel like it's middle class," he said. "When you're poor, you don't want anyone to know you're poor."

Visits to his father — who married a more well-off woman shortly after leaving his family — were also sources of embarrassment.

"I was always worrying about using the right salad fork," he said. "I was used to Hamburger Helper."

Mr. Rapp says he poured much of this angst into his first novel, "Missing the Piano," a coming-of-age tale set in a military school. It was published in 1994 by Viking.

Not that he ever expected to write anything. Even today, writing very nearly takes a backseat to his first passion: basketball. Wide-shouldered and 6-foot-3, Mr. Rapp was a star guard on his high school team, a silky three-point shooter who was good enough to earn a basketball scholarship to Clarke College, a small liberal arts college in Dubuque, Iowa. (He later played semi-pro ball in Europe.)

It was at Clarke College that he suddenly found an artistic voice.

"I was walking past this classroom, and I heard this ethereal music and looked in and saw all these people writing," he recalled. "So I walked in and just started writing."

That class, a poetry seminar, unlocked a wealth of stories inside Mr. Rapp, and shortly after graduating from Clarke in 1991, he moved to New York to live with his little brother in a one-bedroom apartment in the East Village. Living with Anthony, Adam says he finally found a liking for the theater, if only out of loneliness.

"I didn't have any friends," he said. "But I thought, `If I write a play, people might do it, and then I'd have people to hang out with.' "

So, Mr. Rapp, who just had sold "Missing the Piano," began writing plays, the first of which was "Prostethics and the $25,000 Pyramid," an absurdist tale of a gay athlete and his best friend. The play was produced downtown in 1994. (Anthony starred as the athlete's boyfriend.) Five more plays, in five more years, followed.

Then in 1999 Mr. Rapp was accepted to the prestigious two-year playwriting program at Juilliard. That presaged other honors: a 1999 Princess Grace Award for playwriting, a 2000 grant from Mabou Mines, a 2001 Helen Merrill Award, for emerging artists.

All of which left his kid brother somewhat speechless.

"I don't know if he ever read a book from cover to cover as a kid," Anthony said. "And the theater was a world that he had so resisted. Now, he's such a part of it in such a wonderful way."

On most nights Mr. Rapp is at the Chashama Theater, handing over $2 beers and eavesdropping on patrons' conversations.

"It really only works when they don't know that I'm the playwright," Mr. Rapp said, with a smile. "Otherwise, I hide."

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A Whiff of Camelot as 'West Wing' Ends an Era

Arts | Thursday 02:31:31 EST | comments (0)

A Whiff of Camelot as 'West Wing' Ends an Era

NBC can resist everything except temptation. Diane slept with Sam on "Cheers," Niles married Daphne on "Frasier," and even in the busy emergency room of "E.R." no doctor ever went unloved for more than a season. This network, which has only one season left of "Friends," plans to introduce a sitcom called "Coupling" in the fall. On that show six single friends have a lot of sex.

"The West Wing" broke many conventions when it began on NBC in 1999, but one of the most startling was its chastity: a man and a woman could be hypnotically drawn to each other for months, even years, and never consummate their passion.

Like the dialogue on screwball comedies written under the decency restrictions of the Hays Code, language on "The West Wing" took the place of lovemaking. Josh Lyman and his assistant, Donna Moss, would bicker, banter and tease, their volubility rushing in to suppress vice. It was the same for C. J. Cregg, the White House spokeswoman, or Amy Gardner, the women's-rights lobbyist. Like characters played by Rosalind Russell or Carole Lombard, both women wisecracked their way around their feelings. The only impulse that was regularly acted on in that White House was principle.

Idealism was the sex of "The West Wing," an élan vital that drove even small-minded people to mad acts of ethics.

It was the most romantic show on television.

That will change next season. Aaron Sorkin, the creator, writer and executive producer of "The West Wing," is not returning to the show, and neither is another executive producer, Thomas Schlamme.

NBC, concerned about this season's drop in the ratings, declared that the show would go on under the guidance of the third executive producer, John Wells, who also oversees "E.R." and "Third Watch." Jeff Zucker, the president of NBC Entertainment, assured advertisers that "The West Wing" was still a good buy, with the "most upscale audience" of any show on television.

Given Mr. Wells's other work, the show's episodes may become easier to follow: plots are likely to be ripped from the headlines, not from history books or Shakespeare, and if Mr. Zucker has any say, someone is certainly going to have sex besides the uxorious President Bartlet.

The dialogue is likely to be less richly woven, and the cultural allusions more accessible than St. Augustine, Gilbert and Sullivan and Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto. There may be sharper contrasts among the characters: the people in Mr. Sorkin's world were a little like the puppets in the movie "Lili," different expressions of their creator's vision.

Even bit players brought in to provide some mischief, like Ainsley Hayes, the blond Republican firebrand, cannot resist the lure of democratic virtue. She quickly proved as high-minded and chaste as all the other workaholic, sexually repressed Democrats working in the Bartlet White House.

Mr. Sorkin's "West Wing" was a boy's vision of the true Camelot: knights at the Round Table and Guinevere safely upstairs and locked in her chastity belt.

Certainly the show will be less literate. It is hard to believe that in a Sorkinless "West Wing" a young White House aide will sarcastically refer to a French rival as Tartuffe.

Mr. Sorkin, moreover, leaves his successors with something that President Bush's aides never faced when Bill Clinton left office: a dignified exit. Since earlier this month, when Mr. Sorkin announced he was leaving, the subsequent two shows have been dazzling, as witty and suspenseful as any of the episodes that earned "The West Wing" so many Emmy awards. The surprise ending in tonight's finale is just as rewarding. (The writing is as delicate as ever: a kidnapping subplot gives Bartlet a chance to deliver to Toby the most sweetly understated expressions of fatherly love likely to be found on television.)

Mr. Sorkin's "West Wing" ends the way it began, with honor, not lust, quickening the pulses of his characters. Two weeks ago Vice President John Hoynes was found out to be having an extramarital affair with a Washington socialite, who leaked his classified pillow talk to a newspaper in preparation for a tell-all book.

Any other show would have given viewers a glimpse of this executive-branch seduction. On "The West Wing" not only are the adulterous couple not shown together, but the socialite is never seen.

Instead viewers witness a tantalizing tussle between principle and self-interest. The chief of staff assures the vice president that he can "weather this," and so does the president.

"Apologize and move on," Bartlet says. "Accept responsibility."

The vice president, however, takes the noble route and resigns. "The truth is," he says, "I took an oath, too."

In the finale, President Bartlet faces an even more wrenching decision than the vice president does, and Mr. Sorkin leaves NBC with a tough act to follow.

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Real Life More Sordid Than Eastenders - Study

Living | Thursday 02:30:29 EST | comments (0)

Real Life More Sordid Than Eastenders - Study
Filed at 11:58 p.m. ET

LONDON (Reuters) - A study of the level of adultery, prostitution and illegitimacy portrayed in BBC television soap opera Eastenders has found it falls short of the scale of marital infidelity in real life.

Despite the show's reputation for sensational storylines, New Scientist magazine reported on Thursday that its characters are paragons of virtue compared to the general public.

Trawling back through 18 years of fictional east London life, the magazine found that just two percent of the program's female characters and 1.7 of its men had an affair per year.

That compares to real life levels of 9 percent for women and 14.6 percent for men.

Men rarely pay for sex in Eastenders, with just 0.18 percent of the characters visiting a prostitute per year, compared to a national figure of 4.3 percent.

The show's Ian Beale discovered that another man had fathered what he thought was his own child -- yet such illegitimacy is almost twice as common outside the serial.

In Britain around 10 percent of all births are estimated to be to ``deceived fathers,'' compared to just 5.8 percent in the program.

The show's writers nearly match national levels of rape, with 0.35 percent of the cast suffering a sexual attack compared to a public figure of 0.3 percent.

But the serial's characters are far more likely to come to a sticky end than the rest of the public, with 0.22 percent of the cast murdered per year compared to a national level of 0.0016 percent.

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Los Angeles Clubs of the Moment

Living | Thursday 02:29:50 EST | comments (0)

Los Angeles Clubs of the Moment

LA BREA TAR PITS, a bunch of fossil-filled gooey puddles smack in the middle of cosmopolitan Los Angeles, exist as a reminder of the manifold mysteries of the land and our species. But they are not the only such wonder of nature in Los Angeles. The other is its night life.

Every weekday, hundreds of Hollywood's young and beautiful progeny come together at one of the night's preselected hot spots, which are recognizable by the throng of indignant people outside the velvet ropes and, beyond them, the autograph hunters and paparazzi waiting to pounce on any celebrity leaving the club. These nights are not advertised. They are simply known. And this is where the mystery part comes in: overnight, one club that was trendy on a certain night will no longer be cool, and the crowd will move to a new club. And all these clubs are within a few miles of one another, either in Hollywood (around Hollywood Boulevard) or in West Hollywood (around Sunset Boulevard).This migratory pattern is much like that of a monarch butterfly: it is a beautiful sight, but no one knows exactly how the destinations are chosen.

Before we begin exploring this geographical conundrum, it is necessary to learn a few facts that may be a bit hard for the working man or woman to fathom. The first is that Monday night is the new Friday night. The second is that Tuesday night is the new Saturday night.

In Hollywood, the word unemployed seems to have become synonymous with the word actor. And the unemployed are under the delusion that when they are in a club drinking, socializing and finding out at which rich guy's house the after-party will be, they are in fact working, though no actual salary is drawn. They call it networking. Thus, night life in Los Angeles is predicated on the idea that day jobs are for the unambitious, and therefore staying out all night on Monday and Tuesday to party can be accomplished guilt free.

"Most people are in this town to work," said Jenifer Rosero, a co-owner of Supermarket Events and Brent Bolthouse Productions, the longest-running promoter of in-crowd club nights in Los Angeles. "They want to be famous, they want to act, they want to model, they want to be in a music video, or, let's face it, they want the opportunity to have sex with someone famous. And they have the chance to do that in my nightclubs."

For the sake of convenience, we will lump these aspirants together with the young and broke, the old and rich, and the attractive and confused. Add to these the famous, the wannabe famous, the friends of the famous, the pretending-to-be-famous, the pretending-to-be-friends-of-the-famous and anyone who says, thinks or tells people he can make them famous, and you have the main cast of Hollywood night-life players. In any other city, this is a small group of people. In Hollywood, it is its own universe. And this universe moves in mysterious ways.

When asked in a telephone interview if this scene had a name, Hartwell, who plays host to a notoriously hard-to-get-into party on Tuesdays at Bar Deluxe, consulted a friend. "What do you call the scene that moves from party to party, event to event, club to club?" he asked. The answer: "The scene."

According to Dean May, a Los Angeles scene staple who can be spotted at all of the right parties: "As long as you know it's going to be hard to get into, it's going to be good. But nothing really lasts more than six months here. Things just kind of die. First, people in the circle know about it and it's good. Then people from the Valley start coming in. And if the promoters need to make money, and start charging them and letting them in, that's when it gets bad and people move on."

No matter which party one attends, the entertainment is in the people watching and eavesdropping, especially in the women's bathroom. It is not a cut-loose-and-get-drunk atmosphere. It is a see-and-be-seen scene. After all, the gene pool in these clubs is astounding. These are the places frequented by Britney Spears, Vin Diesel, Christina Aguilera, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicolas Cage, Hugh Hefner (and his gaggle of blond Playmates) and any other singer, actor, supermodel or Hollywood power broker with an expense account.

One can also see just about anyone who has had his or her 15 minutes of fame in the last decade. In past years, when the Whiskey Bar at the Sunset Marquis was in its heyday one could see Verne Troyer (who played Mini Me in the Austin Powers movies) or John Bryan (famous for appearing on tabloid front pages sucking Fergie's toes) mingling with rock singers like Robert Plant and Billy Corgan. Beyond celebrity, young bands just signed to major labels, aspiring actresses who should be resting for the next day's audition, and models with purses full of comp cards are all craning their heads at these parties, straining to see if they should be meeting someone more useful than the person they are currently talking with.

In some of these clubs the greeting "Hello" has been replaced by "What do you do?" or "What are you working on?" In fact, some people don't even have actual names; they are simply known as "the guy who's friends with Leonardo DiCaprio" or "the girl who was on 'Survivor.' "

"It's a terribly small scene, and it only takes you a few months of going out to notice how small it is," said Zen Freeman of Truth Be Told P.R., which has been trying to draw the Thursday crowd to a new party it plays host to at the restaurant and club White Lotus. "As long as you know Hartwell, and the doorperson Allison at Nacional, and the guys at White Lotus, you can go straight in and see the same old faces. It's definitely set in stone where to go each night in Hollywood."

FOR a closer examination of the migratory pattern of the scene, take a look at the Lounge at the Standard hotel on Sunset Boulevard. On a Wednesday night, the purple-light-bathed room is jammed, while outside gorgeous and hip men and women - whom any other club would be glad to have on its guest list - wait futilely behind the velvet ropes. Inside, one can spot rock stars, pro football players, famous actors, powerful film executives and a former child star or two. On a Friday night, the club has pretty much the exact same doormen, D.J., staff, manager and ambience, but the lounge is nearly empty. Why does the scene choose Wednesday - and only Wednesday - to be at the Standard?

Wendell Green, who is the general manager of the Lounge at the Standard in Hollywood (as well as the Roof Lounge at the Standard's downtown hotel), has a few theories. One is that on weekends, the Hollywood crowd avoids Sunset Boulevard, which is overrun by drunken, "yo, baby"-yelling revelers from the San Fernando Valley and Orange County. "My girlfriend always quotes 'Ghostbusters,' " Mr. Green said. " 'Don't cross the streams, it would be bad.' Here, the crowds don't intermingle."

Mr. Green originally started Wednesday nights as a small underground party, with no intention of competing with bigger clubs. He booked two musicians, Danny Saber and Twiggy Ramirez, as disc jockeys. But, Mr. Green said, the night "caught like wildfire, and it got so popular that Twiggy and Danny stopped doing it because their friends couldn't get in."

Hartwell, at Bar Deluxe, has occasionally moved his parties to different clubs. When he does, there are no advertisements or announcements. He just tells 100 of his friends, and the rest of the crowd hears through word of mouth.

The people at Bolthouse Productions, which holds regular club parties three nights a week, figure that the scene flourishes wherever the famous decide to plant themselves. In fact, one of the company's greatest coups was turning the top floor of Dublin's, one of the most populist meat-market bars on the Sunset Strip, into a party with the tightest list on Monday nights (which was actually mentioned in a hit by the rapper Jay-Z). Of course, the party has already moved elsewhere, to a Greek restaurant called Joseph's Cafe, on Mondays.

"We live in a celebrity, entertainment-driven town, and we've never exposed anyone or let press come in or talked about anyone," said Ms. Rosero of Bolthouse Productions. "And therefore the celebrities keep coming back, which drives a lot of other people. I think it has to do with letting these people have peace of mind and seclusion when they're inside."

One of the great attractions and mysteries of the Bolthouse parties is where the ever-changing array of young gorgeous girls come from.

"The Bolthouse parties in particular are a hunting ground," Mr. Green of the Standard said. "Female celebrities don't go out. Male celebrities go out. So the parties became known for having the male celebrities, like Shaq and Justin Murdoch and Brandon Davis and Leonardo DiCaprio. They used to all hunt in a pack."

As for atmosphere, most of the clubs are lounges with a small area set aside for dancing. The Standard is more of a rock 'n' roll scene, the Bolthouse parties have a predilection for hip-hop, and Hartwell's events are a little smaller and more laid-back. Then there is the question of getting in. Unless you know or are with someone who knows the doorperson, the best approach is to call in advance. Otherwise, show up early, keep your cool if the doorperson doesn't let you in at first and, as shallow as this is, include as many attractive women in your group as possible.

"The rest comes down to your accouterments, the way you finish yourself off," said one club promoter, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "In New York, it was easier. You could look at people's shoes. In Los Angeles, you can wear Adidas and Levi's, but be driving a Porsche."

Visitor Information

Here is a glimpse of the weekly club circuit for the Hollywood scene. For each night of the week, the available parties are listed in order of popularity. Be forewarned that showing up may not necessarily guarantee admittance, especially if you are part of a pack of males. It is advisable to call the promoter or the club in advance to try to get on the guest list, though names are added at the promoter's discretion. Showing up early (around 10 p.m.) and dressing fashionably (but at the same time not overdressing) will also improve chances of admission.

All nightclubs are for ages 21 and over; cover charges vary by club and clientele, from free admission to $20. In addition, most of these clubs, all within a few miles of one another in Hollywood and West Hollywood, are open most other nights of the week and are much easier to get into then.

Monday: Joseph's Cafe, 1775 Ivar Street, (323) 462-8697, or, for Bolthouse Productions, (323) 848-9300.

Les Deux Café, 1638 North Las Palmas; (323) 465-0509.

Snatch at Cinespace, 6356 Hollywood Boulevard; (323) 817-3456.

Tuesday: Bar Deluxe, 1710 North Las Palmas.

Nacional, 1645 Wilcox Avenue; (323) 962-7712.

Wednesday: The Lounge at the Standard, 8300 Sunset Boulevard; (323) 650-9090 or (323) 822-3111.

Thursday: The Lounge (formerly Latin Lounge), 9077 Santa Monica Boulevard; (310) 888-8811, or call Bolthouse Productions (above).

Eleven at White Lotus, 1743 North Cahuenga Boulevard; (323) 463-0060.

Friday: Shag at 1650, 1650 Schrader Boulevard; (323) 465-7449.

The Whiskey Bar at the Sunset Marquis Hotel, 1200 North Alta Loma Road; (310) 657-1333.

Saturday: Social Studies at AD, 836 North Highland Avenue; (323) 692-5657, or call Bolthouse Productions (above).

NEIL STRAUSS is a cultural correspondent for The New York Times in Los Angeles.

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Politics and Sacred Ground, 1853

NYC | Thursday 02:29:10 EST | comments (0)

Politics and Sacred Ground, 1853

That vast Manhattan architectural and public works project, the likes of which New York City had never seen before, was begun in a time of economic crisis and changed the city forever?

Hint: Stakeholders ranging from real-estate moguls to state and city politicians exerted intense pressure. Republicans stepped in to bigfoot the process. Initial, ho-hum plans were rejected. In the hard-fought design competition that followed, a showdown led to the choice of the Republicans' favorite. The winning and losing designs were placed on display for all to see. Immediately, then, the winning design was altered by powerful competing interests.

Another hint: Think way before ground zero.

The project was Central Park, and there are many eerie parallels between that effort and the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.

"The creation of Central Park, one of the greatest works of art in America, is an epic story," said Morrison H. Heckscher, Lawrence A. Fleischman chairman of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "And the dynamic hasn't changed all that much through the centuries."

Today the museum is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the park it has inhabited since 1880 with the opening of "Central Park: A Sesquicentennial Celebration." The exhibition, curated by Mr. Heckscher, traces the design and building of the first great public park in America. The show features the original presentation plans and drawings by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, who won an 1858 design contest that was curiously echoed in the ground zero competition decided last February.

On July 21, 1853, the State Legislature designated as "a public place" the lands that were to become Central Park, accomplishing the unheard-of removal of 17,000 potential building sites from the real-estate market.

"It's appropriate to celebrate the year of the Legislature's decision rather than, say, the design competition in 1858," said Sara Cedar Miller, the historian and photographer for the Central Park Conservancy, which helped to organize the Met exhibition. "The vision to take so much land for a city park was unprecedented in the history of this country."

The show's 60 original maps, drawings, watercolors, lithographs, engravings, paintings and photographs include rare stereograph views of the park from the museum's collections as well as those of the New York City Municipal Archives, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New-York Historical Society.

In the exhibit, the genesis of Central Park can be seen in an 8-foot-by-2.5-foot original engraving on heavy paper — decorated with a blue and green wash — of the famous April 1811 commissioners' plan that established the grid pattern for Manhattan. It delineated 12 north-south avenues, 155 east-west streets and a planned public park called the Parade, a 229-acre tract between 23rd Streets and 34th Streets.

As demonstrated by the subsequent 1836 Colton Map (a rare section of an early engraver's test print is on view in the show), the Parade succumbed to real-estate speculation before it could be built. The ensuing clamor for a large public park ended in the election of Mayor Ambrose C. Kingsland, who in 1851 proposed the creation of just such an amenity.

"The rich wanted New York to be a major metropolis, and a park was de rigueur, as in Paris and London," said Ms. Miller, author of "Central Park, an American Masterpiece" (Harry N. Abrams, 2003, $45). "And visionaries saw the park as an outdoor classroom in urban reform. They thought immigrants would witness the fine clothes and the carriages and would want to work hard to be part of the American dream."

In addition, as at ground zero, Mr. Heckscher said, "there certainly was pressure to make a decision on the use of the land."

The city's parks at the time were largely decorous and enclosed, often privately maintained, like Gramercy Park. And although City Hall Park was open to the public, those hungry for nature had to cross the Hudson or head to the dead at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

The State Legislature finally stepped in to check the corruption of Tammany Hall, Ms. Miller said, and it voted to create a park from 59th to 106th Streets, later expanded to 110th Street in 1863. Many of the great 19th-century public parks of England and France had once been royal hunting grounds given over to the people, "which makes the vote of the Legislature to create a park even more unique," Ms. Miller said.

The Central Park tract was swampy, scrubby, rocky and not easily farmed. Another of the treasures on view is the original 1855 drainage plan of Egbert Ludovicus Viele, who was hired in 1854 to be the park's chief engineer. He had come up with a design that, though lackluster, was at first accepted by park commissioners in 1856. That workmanlike plan — also presented in the exhibition — so appalled Vaux that he politicked to throw the choice open to a competition.

Vaux had been a partner of Andrew Jackson Downing, the nation's foremost landscape gardener, and he entered the competition with Viele's gifted park construction superintendent, Olmsted. After toiling at his day job in the park, Olmsted would travel to the town house of Vaux, helping to design the park during the winter of 1857-58. Their hand-drawn original 11-foot-long-by-3-foot-wide presentation drawing is one of the stars of the exhibition.

Also part of the exhibition are eight of the original 11 presentation boards created by Olmsted and Vaux to hawk their plan. The boards feature black-and-white "before" pictures of the existing parkland, taken by the studio of the photographer Matthew Brady (some possibly by Brady himself), as well as oil renderings of the park that would be, some by Vaux. Alone among all the entries, the Olmsted and Vaux plan (they called it Greensward) called for submerged road cuts, isolating the park from crosstown traffic.

The park, Mr. Heckscher said, "was to be a place for passive entertainment, and for the appreciation of nature — a public living room for people of all classes, who were supposed to be on their best behavior."

In all, there were 33 competing design proposals, compared with seven in the final round at ground zero. In the end, the park battle narrowed down to two plans, as in the recent drawdown between Daniel Libeskind and Rafael Viñoly.

The exhibition presents two new discoveries: the runner-up design in the competition by Samuel J. Gustin, as well as an exuberant original ink-and-watercolor entry by John Rink. They have not been on public display since the competition, and both were discovered by Ms. Miller.

Though the Gustin plan was originally the betting favorite (not unlike the Viñoly plan after a key planning committee supported it at the 11th hour in the February ground-zero smackdown with Mr. Libeskind), the Republican-backed Greensward plan was victorious. The final 1858 commissioners' tally presaged the vote in 2003, when Republican Gov. George E. Pataki threw his weight behind the Libeskind design.

Shortly after it was accepted, the Greensward plan was modified to accommodate wealthy New Yorkers' demand for carriage drives and riding trails, adding to the pedestrian paths originally envisioned. An attempt to shrink the size of the park was beaten back by Mayor Fernando Wood, "which was the best thing — and possibly the only good thing — he ever did," Ms. Miller said, noting that Wood was an otherwise undistinguished politician. In the end, admirers of Central Park inspired the movement for state and national parks. And, even then, imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. "Every city in the country," Ms. Miller said, "wanted its own Central Park."

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He's 20, and at 93, She's His Oldest Friend

Living | Thursday 02:28:02 EST | comments (0)

He's 20, and at 93, She's His Oldest Friend

Late in the afternoon, the old woman knew to look for him. Four o'clock. Their time.

The young man entered her tidy room in the nursing home, where the pillow on her bed is winsomely inscribed, "If things get better with age, then I'm approaching magnificence." Her roommate was out. She has dementia and sometimes mumbles to herself: "Why am I here?" "This place — where is anybody?"

After adjusting the cushion in her wheelchair, the young man steered the old woman down to the day room at the Jewish Home and Hospital nursing home on West 106th Street in Manhattan. She likes to sit there, for some variety in the slow ebb and flow of her life.

He read her mail for her: opera news, jokes her daughter had found on the Internet. She chuckled. She pressed him about whether he was exercising. "No, but I will," he said. "I'm going to swim." She said, "I always tell young people, live right, because in your old age it will tell on you."

Another resident sat down at the piano. She flailed away, unable to summon the right notes.

The old woman said, "My grandmother used to say, `You spend a lifetime learning and then you forget it all.' " The young man said, "Maybe I should just skip some of the remembering."

Two people, the young man and the old woman, day after day. Elvis Checo is 20. Margaret Oliver is 93. A full 73 years of separation, yet when they are together time collapses. She makes him feel older. He makes her feel younger. Ms. Oliver says, "When we're together, it's like we're the same age."

Establishing connections between the generations is one of the root ambitions of those who work with the elderly, expressed in a growing spate of intergenerational programs. Bringing together young and old can reduce the dismissive scorn many of the elderly feel from younger generations, and it can ease the impinging loneliness of old age. And the young can profit from the accumulated wisdom of the elderly. They've seen some things.

Many intergenerational connections are fleeting, lacking density. Once in a while, though, youth and age in juxtaposition build into something luminous and eternal. Something having to do with two people liking each other, no matter their ages.

It often takes a stimulus to join the generations: community service credit in school or cash. When Elvis Checo was 15, he wanted something to fill the summer, and contacted the Department for the Aging's intergenerational office. He was referred to the Jewish Home and Hospital, and the volunteer office started him off wheeling people to recreational therapy, helping with the activities. Later, the home hired him to assist in the religious life department.

Nearly two years ago, a daughter of Ms. Oliver showed up in the volunteer office looking for someone to spend time with her mother. Elvis, barely 18, was willing. The daughter agreed to pay him $10 an hour, money to fill his empty pockets, if he would come for an hour every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 4.

At first, Ms. Oliver wondered, what would a teenager want with her — someone rolling around in a wheelchair, who relishes opera, who does not use a computer, who cannot even get the remote control to work? Elvis wondered, what would an old woman want with him — a spirited teenager still trying to decipher girls, who relaxes with video games and rap music, who likes to toss down a few beers with the guys?

Yet she felt the glow of Elvis. Those liquid eyes, that enchanting smile. Best of all, he did not treat her as some dithering fossil but as a friend. And Ms. Oliver was the flip side of what Elvis imagined. She did not look on him as a spacey drudge. She was fun. He could even tell her risqué jokes and she would laugh uproariously.

An odd balance formed. Another resident later hired Mr. Checo to help with his physical therapy, and he finds himself in the home every day. Pretty much daily, he bounces in to see Ms. Oliver. He gets paid for just three hours but sees her far more often. He wants to. She reminds him of his grandmother in the Dominican Republic.

And so evolved not "Tuesdays with Morrie" but Everyday with Ms. Oliver.

Ms. Oliver has short steel-gray hair, empathic eyes. A former dressmaker, originally from Augusta, Ga., both her husbands long dead, she moved into the nursing home two years ago. Hobbled by arthritis, she cannot walk much, knows this is the best place for her. As in any nursing home, the accent is on filling the hours in an environment missing the high drama of life beyond its doors.

The Slow Ticking of Time

She watches TV — C-Span, the BBC, Court TV — but easily tires of the passivity of television viewing. She reads, especially Agatha Christie, listens to classical music and opera. There's Bingo, a trivia game, lectures. Family members visit when they can: twin daughters, who are 70, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren. She goes to bed at 9, is up at 7:30 and still has improbable amounts of time on her hands.

The slow ticking of time is old age's exhaustive song, creating a tension that never goes away. "Every now and then I say, `Why am I here?' " Ms. Oliver said. "My answer is this is the way of life and nature made it this way. So you deal with it as much as possible by distracting yourself. Otherwise you look around at the people who are worse than you and you realize that could be you. Because you're not going to get better. You're not going to get younger. When you live in a nursing home, you lose anticipation. You're not anticipating meeting someone or going somewhere or seeing something new. That anticipation is a very big part of what's enjoyable about life. There isn't much to look forward to at this age."

Elvis piped up, "Miss Oliver, think of it as you're having a little vacation from everything you've done before."

She gave a good laugh. "Oh, Elvis," she said. "You're like a breath of spring."

Seeing her so much, he understands her alternative universe. "Reaching old age is loneliness, depression," he said. "You don't feel you're part of the world anymore. You're in the way. You're a pest. You have to depend on someone. That disturbs Miss Oliver. My goal is to make her still feel part of the world."

Mozart was on the radio. Ms. Oliver's eyes were closed when Elvis arrived. They went to the day room, got a choice spot. It has a wall of windows facing 106th Street, upholstered chairs, two enormous fish tanks, a piano. One of the residents, a jazz musician, likes to play the piano. He has lost both legs. He plays beautifully, but Ms. Oliver can always tell something is off, because he cannot press the pedals.

"So you going to have a Chunky today?" Elvis asked. "What do you think?" Ms. Oliver said. "I've got my Bingo money. I've won three straight times."

Early on, Elvis discovered Ms. Oliver's weakness for ginger ale and Chunkys. So he routinely brings her the drink and the candy. Their private ritual.

He told her he was worried about a friend: "He's traveling around in the moon, as usual. He can't make up his mind on things." She said, "Remember what you learned from me about making decisions." He said, "Yes, learning how to say no."

"And then learning how to evaluate a situation and see if it changes," she said.

He said; "Yeah, I told you how my brother had his first kid when he was 15. He has three kids and he's 26. With three different women. He didn't learn. Now he's learning. The difference between him and me is he just lives the moment. I look five years ahead. I got that from you."

His eyes stared into hers.

No getting around it, Elvis has had a down-and-out life of hardship and forced maturity. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, poor, he drank water laced with sugar in place of juice. He recalls one toy, a police car. Someone stole it. His father, a plumber, left when he was days old. His mother moved to New York, scratching out a living with a food truck, and he joined her when he was 9. His mother had her truck, serving cooked food out in the street. He helped, grilling burgers in the truck. He got out of school and cooked until 2 in the morning, got to bed at 3, got up three hours later for school. Homework? Forget it.

When Elvis was 15, his mother returned for a while to the Dominican Republic, her wrists aching from carpal tunnel syndrome. He stayed in New York with his brother, but with his adding girlfriends and children, Elvis fled to his own room in an S.R.O. Fifteen, living alone, supporting himself, just barely, from work at the nursing home. Sometimes he went two days without eating.

He still lives alone, in a forlorn room in Washington Heights, just a bed, a bureau, a TV and two chairs, a tiny kitchen he finds too foul and roach-ridden to use. "To go home, I have to go through five different drug stops," he said. "Those are the opportunities I see. That's the success I see. I've never done any of that. I've come here and seen there's another future, another life. It keeps me out of the street, out of trouble, and teaches me how to be a professional."

He Wants to Go Places

Ms. Oliver understands his complicated life and its weight, and has helped him clarify his purpose. He graduated from high school in February 2001, took a break, and plans to start at La Guardia Community College next month. He wants to go places. He intends to arrange his classes so he can still work at the nursing home and, of course, keep visiting Ms. Oliver.

He glanced over at her. "Miss Oliver makes me feel I am someone," he said. They were feasting on a Chunky. "Here's the last piece of Chunky," he said. "That's going to be my last Chunky," she said. He arched his eyebrows: "Oh yeah, who you kidding?"

Old people. Why do the young patronize them? Why do they make them invisible, irrelevant? Ms. Oliver wonders about these things. One day she said to Elvis: "My son-in-law said that Eskimos used to put the old people up with the walruses and they ate them and then they killed the walruses. There's a tribe in Africa I heard where after a certain age they put old people up in the hills and let them fend for themselves."

Elvis frowned. "We ought to look up to old people," he said. "They know so much. Look at you. I can't believe all you know."

She beamed at him. That Elvis, what a charmer. She once suggested he should go into the ministry, boy would he be perfect.

She also appreciates that there is plenty he knows that she does not. Once she asked him whether he was into rap music, an enigma to her, and he said, sure, he liked to rhyme with his friends, do some battles. She learned about CD's from him.

She wagged her head, "I'm still puzzled how they get messages up to outer space."

"Satellites, Miss Oliver," Elvis said.

They've gotten so close they feel they're plugged into each other's minds. Whenever Ms. Oliver needs help with something, Elvis seems to materialize. The other day, she wanted the tape flipped in her tape player, and her arthritic hands could not manage it. Sorcererlike, Elvis appeared. Aides hector them about the time they spend together: "What, are you two, an item?" Ms. Oliver laughs and says: "I'm almost 75 years older than Elvis. Some item!"

The dinner hour. He slid her into her assigned seat. On the wall beside her was a board that gave the day, the date, the next holiday, the season, the weather — the latest particulars at a timeless place.

She eats in 15 minutes. Why dither? The behavior of some other residents makes her petulant. The woman who sits near her at dinner has Alzheimer's, sometimes curses a blue streak. Her ululations the night before hit Ms. Oliver like stones. "I feel like I'm part of a street gang," she said.

"You can't let it bother you," Elvis said. "She can't help it. You have to be open-minded and just ignore her." Well, here was Elvis giving her words of wisdom.

Twenty years talking to 93. She had to admit: 20 years was right. She cooled off.

Gossiping About Birthday Girl

They clucked about Birthday Girl. It was their code name for one of the aides, lets them camouflage their gossip. The gossip tumbled out.

Thursday in the day room, boiling with arrivals and departures. Mr. Checo said a secretary had been flirting with him. What to do?

She said: "Ask her if she'd like to see `Chicago.' And you know what she'll say: `I thought you'd never ask.' "

On Thursday, Elvis always filled out her weekly menu, and they went through the options: tuna sandwich or veal, cheese ravioli or breaded fish. He knows her tastes so well he really does not need to ask — always takes the hot dog and beans, cranberry juice, ice cream every day.

They resumed their easy chitchat, the back and forth of their simple declarative sentences. They talked about going to a pizza parlor when the weather improved — a modest excursion that meant anticipation, possibility. Ms. Oliver's face shone.

Then Elvis turned serious: "A friend of mine recently got shot right in the neck. He's alive, he's O.K., but he was on the ground, twitching, and it was hard seeing that, someone you're friends with."

"What was it?" Ms. Oliver said.

"It was a stray bullet," he said.

She gave a worried look. "You have to watch yourself, Elvis," she said. "Soon, I hope, you'll get out of there."

Mr. Checo said that after college he might apply to medical school. "The question is if I get the scholarship," he said.

"You would make a great doctor," she said. "You know, Elvis, it's important to lead your life in a meaningful way. So you don't get old and say I should have done this and I should have done that. I don't feel that way." Elvis said, "I have those same thoughts, but you put it into words."

"The thing is, don't beat yourself up," Ms. Oliver said.

"I used to be really hard on myself, because I felt I had to prove something," Elvis said. "I grew up being what a psychiatrist would call an obsessive compulsive person. Then I came here and I met you and I saw you laugh about things and I calmed down. I take things easier because I see you do."

Ms. Oliver mentioned that a researcher from a hospital had been by, wanting her to donate her body for research. "I was thinking, the way the world is going, I don't feel they need to save any more people," she said. "I almost think that nature is trying to depopulate the world."

"Boy, you're right about that," Elvis said.

"You know something, Elvis, I don't feel old," she said.

Elvis said, "You don't seem old to me."

The day room began emptying out, the low throb of voices evaporating. They gazed out the windows of this place for the old, afternoon sliding toward twilight. Storm clouds threatened in the packed gray sky. Spring on 106th Street. Ms. Oliver asked him to drape her blanket over her legs. "My legs get cold," she said. "When I was young I would see people sitting like this with blankets over their legs and I didn't know why. It's because your knees get cold."

She said that she had just had her monthly weighing and had gained two pounds since last month: "It's all that chocolate."

"You've got to watch your figure, huh?" Elvis said. He gave her an impish smile. He asked her, "Want to have a Chunky?"

Ms. Oliver smiled back. "Why Elvis, I thought you'd never ask."

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U.S. Lowers 'Normal' Levels for Blood Pressure Readings

Living | Thursday 02:26:13 EST | comments (0)

U.S. Lowers 'Normal' Levels for Blood Pressure Readings

Millions of people who in the past would have been told that their blood pressure was normal or "high normal" should now be told that they actually have a condition called prehypertension that threatens their health, according to guidelines issued yesterday by government health experts.

The new category includes 45 million Americans whose blood pressure is 120 to 139 millimeters of mercury systolic (the top number) or 80 to 90 diastolic (bottom number). People with readings in this range do not have high blood pressure yet and do not need to take medication.

But the new guidelines advise doctors that such people are likely to develop high blood pressure, and should be urged to try to lower their pressure by losing excess weight, exercising more, quitting smoking, cutting back on salt, having no more than one or two alcoholic drinks a day and eating more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

The guidelines and a report were issued by the National High Blood Pressure Education Program, part of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. They were posted yesterday on the Web site of the Journal of the American Medical Association, at www.jama.com, and will be published in the journal's May 21 issue.

It has long been known that elevated blood pressure is a serious health threat, but this report represents the first time that the government's blood pressure panel has flagged relatively low readings as a harbinger of disease.

A statement issued by the institute said the new recommendations were based on studies showing that artery damage and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease can begin even at blood pressure levels that until recently were thought to be normal. The risk of heart disease and stroke starts to rise at readings as low as 115/75, and doubles for each increase of 20/10 millimeters of mercury.

The report urges doctors and patients to take high blood pressure more seriously and treat it more aggressively, often with more than one drug. High blood pressure greatly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. Heart disease, which kills more than 700,000 Americans a year, is the nation's leading cause of death.

"The prehypertension area is important," Dr. Edward J. Roccella, coordinator of the program, said. "We want people to act long before the disease is established, to prevent the progressive blood pressure rise."

In addition to weight loss and diet changes, he said, the program was recommending 30 minutes of exercise most days, which could be broken into two 15-minute walks.

"If you don't have time for physical activity, you will have time for illness," Dr. Roccella said. "Illness doesn't make an appointment."

Blood pressure tends to increase steadily with age, and the new report says that even people whose readings are normal at the age of 55 have a 90 percent chance of eventually developing high blood pressure, although changes in diet and exercise can ward it off.

The guidelines define normal blood pressure as a reading below 120/80 millimeters of mercury. High blood pressure is defined as any reading above 140 millimeters of mercury systolic (top number) or above 90 diastolic (bottom number). The top number is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is contracting, and the bottom number is the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.

Information is available at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines /hypertension.

The last report from the same group, in 1997, allowed slightly higher pressures to be classified as normal, and gave the label high normal to systolic levels of 130 to 139 and diastolic levels of 85 to 89. The new guidelines eliminate the high-normal category.

Fifty million Americans, or one in four adults, have high blood pressure, also called hypertension, and only a third of them have it under control. A billion people worldwide are affected. In most cases, the cause is not known.

Hypertension has no symptoms, and 30 percent of those who have it are not aware of it. The pressure does its damage by injuring the arteries and causing them to stiffen, which increases the pressure more.

The new report suggests that better control of blood pressure could drastically reduce the number of deaths from heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease. Lowering high blood pressure may also reduce the progression of dementia and cognitive impairment, which are more common in people with hypertension.

The report also states that controlling hypertension has been associated with a 35 to 40 percent average reduction in the incidence of stroke, a 20 to 25 percent reduction in heart attacks and more than a 50 percent reduction in heart failure. The report also estimates that in patients with other cardiovascular risk factors, a sustained 12-point reduction in systolic blood pressure over 10 years will prevent one death for every 10 patients treated.

Although for many years doctors believed, and advised patients, that the more important number in a blood pressure reading was the bottom one, or diastolic pressure, in the last decade or so studies have shown that the top number is at least as important, especially in older people, in whom it tends to rise. Drugs to lower blood pressure usually work for both readings, Dr. Roccella said.

When blood pressure is high enough to require medication, the goal for most people is to get it below 140/90, although those with diabetes or kidney disease are urged to aim for 130/80. Even though normal is considered 120/80, that is simply not a realistic goal for many patients, Dr. Roccella said.

Several classes of drugs are used to treat hypertension, including diuretics, commonly called water pills, as well as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitors. Some people can get results with one drug, but those with higher levels often need more than one, the report said. Many of the medicines have been combined so that patients can take two drugs in a single pill.

Many of the drugs can have side effects like lightheadedness, coughing and sexual problems, but not all patients suffer from them. Those who do can often switch to a different type of drug that will lower blood pressure without causing problems, said Dr. Aram Chobanian, dean of the Boston University Medical School and chairman of the committee that produced the guidelines.

"We wouldn't say, `Stay on one line of drugs if you're having side effects,' " Dr. Chobanian said.

The report notes that for unknown reasons African-Americans have better results with diuretics and calcium blockers than with beta blockers, ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, and that blacks are also more likely than whites to suffer side effects from ACE inhibitors.

The report says that many people benefit from diuretics, alone or in combination, but adds that they are underused and should probably be prescribed more often.

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Wired to the Brain of a Rat, a Robot Takes On the World

Science | Thursday 02:24:57 EST | comments (0)

Wired to the Brain of a Rat, a Robot Takes On the World

THE nerve center of a conventional robot is a microprocessor of silicon and metal. But for a robot under development at Georgia Tech, commands are relayed by 2,000 or so cells from a rat's brain.

A group led by a university researcher has created a part mechanical, part biological robot that operates on the basis of the neural activity of rat brain cells grown in a dish. The neural signals are analyzed by a computer that looks for patterns emitted by the brain cells and then translates those patterns into robotic movement. If the neurons fire a certain way, for example, the robot's right wheel rotates once.

The leader of the group, Steve M. Potter, a professor in the Laboratory for Neuroengineering at Georgia Tech, calls his creation a Hybrot, short for hybrid robot.

"It's very much a symbiosis," he said, "a digital computer and a living neural network working together."

Dr. Potter has been building the system of hardware, software, incubators and rat neurons that constitute the Hybrot since 1993, when he was a postdoctoral student at the California Institute of Technology. He and his group have not only introduced the neurons to the world outside their dish; the team has also closely monitored minute changes that take place in the shape and connections of the neurons as they are stimulated, using techniques like time-lapse photography and laser imaging.

Dr. Potter hopes that close observation of how brain cells behave as they are exposed to a world of sensation will help researchers understand the way small groups of neurons go about learning. "If the network begins to get better at a job," he said, "we will watch what changed within the network to allow it to do that."

Dr. Jonathan Wolpaw, laboratory chief and professor of neuroscience at the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health and the State University of New York at Albany, said that Dr. Potter's research could yield a simple system for exploring the capacity of neurons and circuits to change based on incoming activity.

"These changes could be analogues of what happens in learning," Dr. Wolpaw said. "You are dealing with neurons, the same tissue as in a brain," although in a different setting and with different circuitry. "Some things presumably are in common, for example, the neuron's capacity for plasticity," he said.

In Dr. Potter's hybrid system, the layer of rat neurons is grown over an array of electrodes that pick up the neurons' electrical activity. A computer analyzes the activity of the several thousand brain cells in real time to detect spikes produced by neurons firing near an electrode.

A silver three-wheeled model of the robot is commercially available through the Swiss robotics maker K-Team (www.k-team.com) for about $3,000 and is about the size of a hockey puck. It trundles along at a top speed of one meter per second.

"We assign a direction of movement, say, a step forward, that is automatically triggered by a pattern of spikes," said Thomas DeMarse, a former member of Dr. Potter's group who is an assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida. "Twenty of these patterns, for instance, means 20 rotations of the wheel."

As the robot moves, it functions as a sensory system, delivering feedback to the neurons through the electrodes. For example, Mr. DeMarse said, the robot has sensors for light and feeds electrical signals proportional to the light back to the electrodes. "We return information to the dish on the intensity of light as the robot gets closer and the light gets brighter."

The researchers monitor the activity of the neurons for new signals and new connections. Dr. Potter said that the feedback mechanism was crucial to the functioning of the neural network. In traditional, isolated cultured networks, he said, in which neurons are not connected to a body, the activity patterns of the neurons are largely pathological. "They behave in an aberrant way," he said. "It's a symptom of sensory deprivation, because the neurons are not receiving the input they usually get."

He decided to provide a body for the neurons early in his research, first in computer simulation and then in reality, so that neurons would have feedback. In that way, if the cells learned, he and his group might observe the changes that came about in the network. "People say learning is a change in behavior that comes from experience," he said. "For a cultured network to learn, it must first be able to behave."

There is an analogy to the human nervous system in the feedback loop developed by Dr. Potter, said Nicholas Hatsopoulos, an assistant professor in the department of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Hatsopoulos also works on brain-machine interfaces, including ways that brain signals may one day be used to move prosthetic devices.

"Potter's device has sensors that pick up information, and then the signals go back to the dish and stimulate the cells," he said. Similarly, he said, "signals out of the brain control the arm, but there are also sensors in the muscles and skin that send information back, too."

Such feedback loops are necessary to basic research in brain-machine interactions, he said. Researchers need not only to record signals that drive a device but also take signals from sensors and stimulate the nervous system. "Closing the loop will be a key issue in moving this field to the next level, for the feedback presumably helps learning," he said.

Miguel A. L. Nicolelis, a neuroscientist at Duke University, has identified signals generated by a monkey's brain as it gets ready to move, and then used the signals to move a robotic arm. "We are discovering that when animals learn to operate a robotic device, the operation changes the sensory and motor maps of the animal," he said. "Steve is looking for the same thing at the cellular level."

Dr. Potter has not yet demonstrated learning in his network but said he might be able to do so within six months. In experiments, Dr. Potter said he hoped to observe the Hybrot following an object at a certain distance.

"The next step is to watch it to see if it becomes better at following this object," he said. "That would become exciting."

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Popping Corks: A Sound Bound for Oblivion?

Living | Thursday 02:24:15 EST | comments (0)

Popping Corks: A Sound Bound for Oblivion?

FOR years the wine industry has talked vaguely about someday replacing the corks on bottles of fine wine with screwcaps. Now somebody is doing something about it. Recently, the Napa Wine Company in Oakville, Calif., converted one of its bottling lines to accommodate screwcap bottles. The Napa Valley Wine Company is not a manufacturer of jug wine. It is where boutique wineries like Pahlmeyer, Fife, La Sirena, Staglin Family and Bryant Family have their grapes transformed into wine.

For years, winemakers have been searching for a replacement for corks. Corks leak, corks break, corks crumble. Corks come out too easily or they don't come out at all. And worst of all, corks can impart moldy odors to the wines they are supposed to preserve.

Of course, the single best alternative has been around for a long time: the humble screwcap, familiar to anyone who ever opened a gallon jug of Hearty Burgundy. Or, for that matter, to anyone who has ever shared a bottle from the library of a great Bordeaux château that uses corks for show and screwtops in the winery.

Unfortunately, what is reasonable to winemakers is often sacrilegious to consumers, particularly those who do not know much about wine. Hearing a wine steward whisper "Excellent choice, sir" as he extracts the cork and hands it to you (to do what?), is a solemn event for the uninitiated.

The cork is sacred, the screwtop profane. The wine is secondary. Which is why the Napa Wine Company's bottling-line investment is newsworthy. Custom-crush facilities like Napa Wine make only luxury wines, which means there have to be enough prestigious Napa Valley winemakers thinking of screwcaps to make the investment worthwhile.

Sheldon Parker, Napa Wine's general manager, said that he had only one screwcap client, Downing Family Vineyards. But he said he had four others, which he declined to identify, "lined up." Downing put screwcaps on 200 cases of Napa zinfandel last year, but did not set any trends.

Randall Grahm, the iconoclastic California winemaker, bottled 80,000 cases of his Bonny Doon Vineyard wines in screwcap bottles last year. And this year, he said, Bonny Doon will use screwcaps on 200,000 cases. "We are jumping in with both feet," he said.

Screwcaps received a great deal of publicity when, in 1997, Gordon Getty, the multimillionaire, announced that he would use screwtops for the $150-a-bottle wines produced at his Plumpjack Winery in the Napa Valley. He has continued to put at least half of his tiny output — some 300 cases annually — into screwcap bottles.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a spokesman for the wine giant E&J Gallo said the company was "continually exploring new developments" in ways to bottle wine, including "plastic corks and screwcaps." Gallo, which produces an estimated six million cases of wine a year from its four California wineries, said it would wait "for consumers to tell us what they think" before bottling more of its wine under screwcaps.

Other wineries using screwcaps for at least part of their production are, among others, Fetzer, which uses them on wines exported to Europe; Sonoma-Cutrer, on some bottles of top-of-the-line chardonnay; and Murphy-Goode, an Alexander Valley winery, on its entire new line of wines called Tin Roof.

"We did 20,000 cases of sauvignon blanc and 6,000 cases of chardonnay," said David Ready, Murphy-Goode's winemaker, "and we plan to do at least one red wine with screwcaps as well." The wines did well at the winery's shop, Mr. Ready said, and preliminary reports showed them doing well in the market, too.

"They're making really good headway," he said. "It looks like being unique and different is an advantage right now."

In Oregon, the Argyle winery in Dundee has bottled both merlot and cabernet franc with screwcaps and the Willakenzie winery is experimenting with them on some of its pinot gris.

Tesco, a major supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, uses screwtops on its private-label wines and demands them from major suppliers like Georges Duboeuf of the Beaujolais region. In a 10-week period last year, Tesco reported, it sold 1.5 million bottles of wine with screwcaps. Mr. Duboeuf told me recently that he had been shipping Beaujolais with screwcaps to various markets, particularly Switzerland, for six years.

Bodegas Torres, one of Spain's largest wineries, is bottling some of its white wines with Stelvin screwcaps. (Stelvin is the trade name for screwcaps made by Pechiney, a French packaging company.) Miguel Torres, the president, told Wine Spectator, a consumer magazine, that he had shipped 12,000 cases of screwcap-topped Vina Esmeralda, a muscatel and gewürztraminer blend, to British retailers. He said he planned a similar step in the United States next year.

"I'm very happy with the initial results," Mr. Torres said.

The Torres initiative is of particular interest because, after Portugal, Spain is the world's biggest supplier of natural corks.

Screwcaps have become popular in the Clare Valley of Australia and in New Zealand, where Kim Crawford, of Kim Crawford Wines in Marlborough, is an outspoken advocate. His 2001 Marlborough dry riesling was the first premium quality New Zealand wine in recent years to be released in the domestic market with screwcaps.

Richard Poyol, who heads Pechiney's Stelvin branch in California, said that he has only five customers now, but that several very large wineries are experimenting with his company's screwcaps. He said Pechiney supplies winemakers throughout Europe from its plant at Chalon-sur-Saône. Stelvins used in this country are made in Canada, Mr. Poyol said.

American wineries use fewer than 10 million screwcaps a year. Switzerland, whose wineries have used screwcaps for more than a decade, now employs some 70 million of them annually.

"Far too much wine gets spoiled by cork contamination," Mr. Crawford said, citing a 2000 Air New Zealand competition in which the judges declared 32 percent of riesling entries to be "corked," or tainted. The main cause of cork taint is a compound called 2,4,6-trichloro anisole, or TCA, formed by the interaction of moisture, chlorine and mold.

Estimates of how much wine is "corked" vary from as high as 10 percent to less than 1 percent.

As an informal gauge, when the Dining section's tasting panel judges wines, we usually open two dozen bottles and find at least one to be corked. Often consumers drink corked wine unknowingly. They may not like it, but assume that is the way the bottle is supposed to taste. Most restaurants will replace a corked bottle unless it is very old. Some retailers will, too, if the bottle has not been lying in the consumer's cellar or hall closet for years.

When corks dry out or crumble with age, wine oxidizes. Most serious wine collectors have their corks replaced every 10 to 25 years. There is a theory that corks "breathe" and that air seeping through the cork somehow helps the wine to age properly. In fact, good corks do not breathe, and the air between the wine and the cork bottom provides whatever oxygen the wine might need. The same is true of the air under a screwcap.

More than two-thirds of all corks come from Portugal, and the Portuguese cork industry has spent astronomic sums in recent years to fight TCA. The incidence has decreased. Plastic corks, another alternative to genuine cork, are used by winemakers all over the world. They too have leakage problems and can be difficult to extract. And they can produce off-odors.

William Hambrecht, a San Francisco investment banker and wine entrepreneur, recently lost two entire vintages at Belvedere, his Sonoma winery, because of plastic corks that were tainted in manufacturing.

"Apparently, they changed the formula for the plastic," Mr. Hambrecht said. He said he had settled with the manufacturer and reverted to traditional corks.

To entice more consumers the industry must improve the look of screwcaps, most of which do look cheap. They need not; some miniature bottles of Champagne sport a bulbous top swathed in gold foil. They look almost identical to full-size Champagne bottles, but the foil covers ball-top, screw-on plastic caps.

Image-changing is difficult, especially where tradition is involved. New thinking will be required. As the New Zealanders put it in their "Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative," a sort of anti-cork manifesto published in 2001, "the romance of the cork" must give way to "the true romance of great wine, time after time, with no disappointments due to tainted or oxidized wine."

A massive switch to screwcaps is not imminent. "There is a market for them," said Sheldon Parker of the Napa Wine Company, "but they will never replace corks. They are an option."

Mr. Parker has 50 clients who are sticking with corks for the time being, at least. Mr. Ready at Murphy-Goode is far more optimistic about screwcaps. "Recently, I tasted two versions of a zinfandel from Downing Family Vineyards," he said. "The same wine in two bottles, one with a cork, one with a screwcap. Both had been bottled a year." He liked the wine under the screwcap better, finding it "jammier and fruitier," he said.

"I get calls from other wineries every day asking about our Tin Roof line," he said. "There are dozens of people eager to jump in. I'll bet that in 10 years, 80 percent of all good wines will be under screwcaps."

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Giving a Car to Charity May Aid Giver the Most

Finance | Thursday 02:23:27 EST | comments (0)

Giving a Car to Charity May Aid Giver the Most

WASHINGTON -- How much of a tax deduction can you safely claim on the old junker you gave to a charity that advertised on the radio for car donations?

Quite a bit, according to a new study by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Research by the office, which raised eyebrows in Congress, found that 733,000 taxpayers claimed they donated cars in 2000 worth a total of $2.5 billion. That reduced their tax bills by an average of $892 each, or a total of $654 million.

Yet "no data exist on whether these deductions were appropriately claimed," the auditors said.

The Internal Revenue Service has a program for identifying whether deductions of $5,000 or more for donated goods, including cars, have been overstated, but was unable to tell the auditors "whether cases referred for further review by this program are ever pursued," the G.A.O. said.

Many tax experts suspect that the real value was much lower than the $3,400 average, and that few taxpayers donate a car worth that much; such a vehicle is more likely to be traded in, sold or passed on to a relative, they say.

"It's likely that only a small percentage of valuable cars are being donated," said a Republican staff member for the Senate Finance Committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Cathleen A. Berrick, a financial expert with the General Accounting Office who testified before the committee, offered an example, a 1983 truck donated to a tax-deductible charity in 2000. The owner claimed a deduction of $2,400, but the truck brought just $375 at auction.

Of that amount, $312 went for expenses, like advertising, cleaning and repairs, leaving net proceeds of $63. The charity, which was not identified, split that amount with its fund-raiser, so it received only $31.50.

How much this deduction cost the Treasury is not clear, but people who donate cars are typically among the 30 percent of taxpayers who itemize on their tax returns, experts say. The Republican staff member, said such donors are "easily in the 28 percent bracket." In the case of the 1983 truck, that would mean a reduction in the tax bill of $672. So the deduction cost the Treasury $21 for each $1 the charity received.

The G.A.O. study found that sometimes charities do worse. One group told the auditors that it would accept vehicles that might not yield a profit, after towing and other expenses, because accepting the junker generates "good will for future donations."

And even when the vehicle is worth something, the charity may not get much of the value. A survey of 187 California charities found that 72 received less than 40 percent of a car's value after accounting for expenses, including payments to auction houses and professional fund-raisers.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is chairman of the Finance Committee, said: "It's really surprising that charities sometimes get pennies on the dollar from vehicle donations. With all of the ads encouraging vehicle donation, reasonable consumers assume charities always get the lion's share from those transactions. Unfortunately, that's not the case."

Many of the charities let fund-raising companies — some of them for-profit enterprises — handle picking up and selling such vehicles.

Mr. Grassley, who said he was considering how to clean up the system, said: "We need to make sure Uncle Sam isn't being taken for a ride by people overstating the value of their donated cars. It isn't really fair to take a $5,000 tax deduction for a car that sells for $400 at auction and nets $40 for a charity."

One possibility, tax experts say, would be to require the charity to report back to the taxpayer on what the vehicle sold for, and limit the taxpayer's deduction to that amount. At the moment, however, charities have no interest in how much the taxpayer claims on his or her return. The process, according to the committee staff member, is in the hands of "a whole host of people who have no driving interest in assuring an accurate statement."

In fact, the General Accounting Office studied 117 advertisements placed by charities seeking donations, and found that 38 specified that donors could claim fair market value, "while 8 identified that a donor could claim full or maximum market value." Other ads referred donors to used-car guides like the Kelley Blue Book, although using such a guide fairly would require the donor to make a realistic assessment of the vehicle's condition.

Indeed, many charities that advertise seeking donations promise free towing. If the car has to be hauled away, how much can it be worth?

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Free Air or Not, Your Tires Need It

Living | Thursday 02:22:10 EST | comments (0)

Free Air or Not, Your Tires Need It

The question from my daughter, a new driver, came one cold rainy evening. "Where do I go to get air for my tires?" she asked. I had to confess to that parental rarity: no answer. The gas station I most often used in our New Jersey town had recently removed its air pump. Another pump I knew of was broken.

Her concern made me realize that it had been a long time since I had checked the air in my own tires. (Or cleaned my gutters, waterproofed my boots, defrosted my refrigerator or any of the other tasks that fall into the same category of tedious responsibility.) Soft tires can lead to flats and accidents, and they reduce fuel economy, but many of us fail to tend to them. An estimated one-third of vehicles on the road have at least one soft tire.

It used to be easier to attend to one's pneumatic responsibilities. When attendants routinely wiped windshields and offered to check oil levels, gas stations all had free air pumps.

Now, you may not find a working air pump at all. The modern concept of a gas station is less car-servicing business and more convenience store with gas pump. Air for customers' tires isn't much of a concern.

A study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in November 2001 showed that while 90 percent of gas stations had air pumps, 10 percent of them didn't work, and of those that did, nearly a third provided inaccurate pressure readings. If you do find one working, you are likely to have to pay to use it.

My daughter and I spent that evening driving around in a cold drizzle looking for a pump. I asked her if she had quarters.

"How much air do you get for a quarter?" she asked.

"Just about enough to fill three tires," I answered, speaking from experience.

"How much for 50 cents?"

"The same."

But in the end we had a stroke of luck. In Clifton, N.J., at the E&A Gulf station, we actually found a free pump.

"The station up the road charges 50 cents for air," I teased the attendant. "Is their air better than your air?"

"Free air is good," he said. "People like free air."

"Free air" — a slogan once displayed at gas station tire pumps — symbolized the freedom of the road in the early days of auto travel, when flat tires were almost daily events. Now, using an air pump usually costs a quarter or 50 cents for five minutes.

While air for tires may no longer be free, it's still a bargain. A 20 percent underinflation in a car's tires can increase fuel consumption by 10 percent, according to Bill Egan, a Goodyear engineer. The highway safety agency and the Department of Energy have calculated that underinflated tires increase gas consumption in this country by 3.4 million gallons a day, or 1.24 billion a year. Calculating the cost of gasoline at about $1.60 a gallon, that's nearly $2 billion.

Underinflation also causes flats. The Society of Automotive Engineers has reported that 87 percent of flat tires have a history of underinflation.

And soft tires can also lead to handling problems, especially on trucks and S.U.V.'s. Studies released by the highway safety agency and the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering suggest that about a quarter of cars and a third of S.U.V.'s and light trucks are operating with at least one tire that is 20 percent below ideal pressure.

Basic tire care is simple. Find the suggested pressure numbers inside the door frame or in the owner's manual. (Don't go by the figure stamped on the tire; it is the maximum pressure for the tire itself but may not be right for your particular car.) Then use a gauge to check the tires. The familiar tire gauge, about the size of a fat pen, costs about $5; digital models run to $20 or so. Tires should be checked when cool or at least after a relatively short drive. And don't forget to check the spare.

Few drivers check their tire inflation pressure monthly, as recommended. (The American Rubber Manufacturers Association says the proportion is 11 percent).

After the Firestone tire recall of 2000, Congress passed a law requiring that vehicles have signals on the instrument panel to alert drivers to low tire pressure, but it doesn't take effect until 2006. So far, the systems that might be used to accomplish this remain technically quirky.

For decades, a gas-station air pump was usually an Air Tower, made by the Eco Company, which is now part of OPW, a maker of pumps based in Cincinnati. To use it, you simply turn a dial to the desired inflation pressure number and hold the hose to the tire until the machine chimes three times. "The Air Tower is reliable, field-proven and time-tested," said Gary Specht, customer service manager for OPW, but though the company still makes it, it has fallen out of favor because it is comparatively expensive to build and maintain.

Now, motorists will often encounter pumps made by Air Serv of Mendota Heights, Minn., sometimes combined with vacuum cleaners. Some are free, others take coins. Probably the most common is a model with a retractable hose to guard against vandalism.

If you miss the old days, you can buy a restored classic pump from Vintage Vending in Salem, N.H., which specializes in restored Coca-Cola machines, gasoline pumps and the like. The company will sell a restored vintage Air Tower for $1,995.

posted by paul | link | Comments (0)

11 May 2003

The Price of Power

PQ+ | Sunday 00:34:51 EST | comments (0)

The Price of Power

On July 24, 1998, a lone gunman entered the United States Capitol. He wore a green fedora and carried a .38 Smith & Wesson, with extra bullets in his pockets. He was not a particularly good shot, but he had the rare clarity of mind of someone propelled by delusion, including the firm belief that there was a ''ruby satellite system'' in the Capitol that could reverse time. At the front door, he drew his pistol only inches from a Capitol Police officer's head and shot him, point-blank. He then turned near a statue of Abraham Lincoln and began shooting at another officer. In the exchange of gunfire, a tourist was hit in the face. As the intruder approached the office of Representative Tom DeLay, a detective named John M. Gibson yelled for everyone to get down. Staff members hid under their desks. Gibson opened fire, hitting the gunman again and again before collapsing himself.

''They got John!'' one of DeLay's aides yelled. ''They got John!''

Only moments earlier, William Harrison Frist, then an unheralded Republican senator from Tennessee, was on the other side of the Capitol, out of earshot of the gunfire, speaking on the patient's bill of rights. ''As a practicing physician,'' he stated, ''I am absolutely convinced that health care is delivered best when that relationship between the doctor and the patient is given the very highest priority.'' When he finished, the onetime heart and lung transplant surgeon adjourned the Senate and headed to the airport. But as he climbed in his aide's car, the Capitol physician's office called and said, ''We have men down.''

Frist drove as close to the scene as he could. He took off his coat and ran past the police barricade. ''I'm Senator Frist,'' he told an officer, flashing his ID. ''I'm a doctor.''

The police, still fearing there was more than one shooter, ushered him down a long marble corridor that smelled of gunpowder. He knelt by the first victim, checking his wounds and inserting a breathing tube. He lifted him on a stretcher and assisted paramedics as they wheeled him into an ambulance. But before they could close the door, the patient went into cardiac arrest. Although Frist helped to shock back his heartbeat, he was certain the man would die from his injuries.

A medic yelled that there were more victims inside, and Frist rushed back into the building to treat another of the wounded, a slight man who was lying on the carpet and bleeding heavily. An artery in his chest was severed, and Frist concentrated on stemming the flow of blood. He then rode along with him in the ambulance, keeping him alive by forcing oxygen into his lungs. Only as they approached the hospital did he learn that the man he had rescued was the accused gunman, Russell Weston Jr. ''You're not a judge; you're not a jury,'' Frist later explained. ''You're a physician.''

The scene, like so many in the life of Bill Frist (only months ago he rescued a family in a car accident while driving through Florida on vacation), has helped to elevate him above the ranks of the ordinary politician. Last December, when he stepped in to replace the Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, in the wake of Lott's racially charged remarks, he was hailed by his colleagues not as an astute politician but as a citizen legislator, known less for his voting record than for his ''healing touch.'' At a time when the Senate was increasingly ridiculed as obstructionist and out of touch -- ''a cruel joke,'' as one historian called it -- Frist was seen as someone who could master not only the institution behind closed doors but its image in front of the public as well. Though he had less political experience than any other Senate leader in history, he represented the G.O.P.'s ideal vision of itself: someone who saves lives not through doling out government aid but through his own daring acts. ''He's our messiah,'' a Republican aide proclaimed after he was chosen.

At his first news conference as majority leader, Frist fueled the impression that even his ideology was rooted in the purity of medicine. He said that his training allowed him ''to listen very, very closely, to diagnose, to treat and, yes, to heal.'' He accepted his new responsibility, he added, ''with a profound sense of humility very similar to placing that heart into a dying woman or a child or a man.''

It is, of course, common to see politics through the prism of your experiences. Plato thought that philosophers should rule as kings. And while it is true that medicine and politics often share the goal of aiding others, in practice they are quite different. Indeed, where medicine is supposed to be clinical and dispassionate, democratic politics often requires unseemly compromise and a certain ruthlessness. It is less about saving lives than serving them through tedious, incremental steps.

After barely 100 days as majority leader, Frist has found himself caught between these two forces, between the vision of himself as a savior and his own political ambitions. Rather than being hailed as a messiah, he was, only a few weeks ago, denounced by members of his own party as a betrayer, a double-dealing politician who negotiated what they called ''a secret deal'' on the president's tax cut. And the story of how Frist has tried to reconcile these competing visions of himself -- and in the process to emerge as the heir to George Bush in 2008 -- is not just about the power of healing but also about the price of power.

ne day not long ago, I went to meet Frist in his office. In the arcane world of the Senate, where nearly everything is meted out according to station (there are separate elevators and subway cars reserved for senators), the size and location of your office is perhaps the most visible measure of influence. While junior members are relegated to basements in distant buildings, Frist's main office is in the oldest part of the Capitol, just off the Senate floor. Lott had cleared away his belongings, and Frist's name was now stenciled on the large mahogany door in gold. Rather than ''Senator,'' however, he had added the letters ''M.D.''

As I waited in his reception area, I glimpsed what Howard Baker, another majority leader from Tennessee, had called ''the second-greatest view in Washington: the Washington Monument and the Mall.'' After a while, Frist hurried in wearing an elegant dark blue suit with a light blue tie. He has been called ''the new face of the Republican Party,'' and up close he has immaculate features and thick brown hair. But there is something slightly mechanical about his manner, as if after years of performing surgery, he has learned to hold himself perfectly still. ''I'm Dr. Frist,'' he said, extending his hand.

As several aides vied for his attention, he led me through a series of doors until we reached his private office. It was unusually spare. There was a desk and a couch and, in place of the traditional wall of photos with presidents and dignitaries, only two paintings. ''They're from my son,'' he said of the artwork. ''I don't want all that other stuff that people put up.''

On his bookshelf was ''Master of the Senate,'' the third volume of Robert A. Caro's epic biography on Lyndon Johnson. ''People ask me if I've read it,'' Frist told me, ''and the answer is yes. But I don't want to be like him. I want to be just the opposite. That's the last leader I want to become.''

While Senate majority leader is one of the most coveted positions in Washington, it was not created by the Constitution but by other senators and thus has little power of decree, which is why it has been famously -- or infamously -- occupied by masters of the art of the deal. (''I'm a compromiser and a maneuverer,'' Johnson once said.) It is a job that previous Senate leaders have likened to ''herding cats'' and ''trying to push a wet noodle.'' And though in December Frist was seen by the White House as the ideal man for the job -- an untarnished and loyal ally who would carry its water -- he has increasingly struggled to move the Republican agenda with only a one-seat majority and little experience. Even on his first day, after hours of negotiating a deal on extending unemployment benefits, the Democratic minority threatened at the last minute to undermine him. ''After a lot of hard work, I'm obviously disappointed, because this is the first move out for me, . . .'' Frist declared on the Senate floor in exasperation. ''But I guess that is what I can come to expect.'' Unlike the speaker of the House, he could not ram through legislation simply by using parliamentary rules. A single senator, using a filibuster, could impede him; a single defector from his ranks could stop him cold. After Republicans boasted that they needed only one vote to pass Bush's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, Frist spent days trying to use his influence to find that vote. By the end of his first 100 days, he was still looking.

But this morning, before Frist set out on his schedule, he walked over to an antique cabinet. Inside was his medical bag. ''I always keep it right here,'' he said. He carried it to the center of the room and began to go through it. ''This is basically everything you need.'' He pulled out a series of long, slender tubes. ''I can use these to breathe in someone.'' He tilted his head back, exposing the white of his neck, and outlined with his fingers where he would make an incision. ''There's a little piece of cartilage that you can cut and then slip the tube into.'' After a brief demonstration, he dropped the tube and held up what appeared to be a mask. ''This is for mouth to mouth,'' he said, ''and this is an endotracheal tube, like the one I used in the Capitol shooting.'' He removed a strange L-shaped tool. ''Come here,'' he said to one of his aides, who was trying to usher him to his next appointment. ''Open your mouth.'' His startled subject took a step back. ''I won't stick it in,'' Frist assured him. ''This is called a laryngoscope.'' He had applied one during the recent car accident in Florida. ''I told the paramedic, 'Get away,' and I used this one, because you can get a little more leverage.'' He continued to go through the items, checking the batteries, unscrewing tops, examining syringes. ''Oh, yeah,'' he exclaimed, pointing to a defibrillator. ''This is if you were to drop dead. The first guy I resuscitated over here in the Dirksen Building, I had to shock him seven times to get him back. But I got him back.'' He paused and looked at all the items spread on the couch. ''I can keep anyone alive,'' he said. ''I don't care what their problem is. This is all you need.''

"The Iconography of the Healer,'' as Bill Frist calls it, began in his family long before the senator was born. It accumulated the power of myth on Feb. 3, 1914, when the Mobile & Ohio passenger train was approaching the station in Meridian, Miss., where Bill Frist's grandfather, Jacob Chester Frist, worked as the stationmaster. As he peered down from the platform, Jacob Frist saw several pedestrians crossing the tracks in front of the speeding train and broke into a run, shouting for them to get out of the way. Everyone jumped back except for an elderly woman who was holding her grandchild, a 3-year-old who was crippled from a previous spine injury and encased in a full body cast. ''I was helping . . . keep the people out of danger, . . .'' the station porter later recalled, ''when I saw Stationmaster Frist hurl himself ahead of the moving train.'' As Frist pushed the woman and child out of the way, the train slammed into him, throwing him at least 15 feet in the air. ''If Stationmaster Frist had not hurled himself . . . against this woman and child,'' another witness told authorities, they would ''undoubtedly have been killed.''

Jacob Frist, meanwhile, lay on the ground, his head severely traumatized, his leg shattered. For nearly a year he was confined to his house. After an account of his heroism appeared in The Meridian Star, people from across the country deluged him with letters, including one that said, ''Your brave act was such as our Savior would have us do.''

In March 1915, President Woodrow Wilson awarded him a medal and commendation. In a note expressing his thanks, Jacob Frist wrote: ''I shall hand them down to my children and hope that my boys will do the same thing when they grow to be men should they ever have occasion to be placed in a like position. I think it the duty of every man, when women and children are in danger of being killed to try and save them.''

Nearly five years after he was injured, Jacob Frist died from a cerebral hemorrhage, which was attributed to the accident. Bill Frist's father, Thomas, was only 8 years old. The accident was the last thing, he said, he remembered of his father.

Raised in a boarding house, Thomas Frist eventually became a doctor, which, as his son later observed, ''offered him the two things he most needed -- a way to ensure that his family was well provided for and a way to validate the selfless generosity that lay behind his father's impulsive sacrifice.'' In 1968, with the owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, he helped found the Hospital Corporation of America, one of the first private hospital chains in the country. ''He was this incredibly odd combination,'' one of the family's friends confided. ''On the one hand, he was this old-fashioned doctor who made everyone feel at ease, and on the other, this kind of hustler.'' As his business dealings transformed the Frists into one of the richest families in America, he continued to preach the power of his calling, especially to his children. His first son, Thomas Jr., who helped his father start H.C.A., initially became a surgeon. And his second son, Robert, also became a surgeon. Of all the children, though, nearly everyone agreed that Billy Frist was the most like his father. He had the old man's courtly charm, his missionary spirit and, what's more, he had the same ambition.

In ''Transplant: A Heart Surgeon's Account of the Life-and-Death Dramas of the New Medicine,'' an unusually candid memoir that Frist wrote before he ran for office, he said of his childhood: ''I longed to be first in everything, to be king of the hill, the grammar school capo di capo. I imagine I was quite insufferable.'' He sought out younger boys, he said, ''who could look up to me, admire me. . . . I found it a virtual sin against nature when one of my young friends, though smaller, could kick a ball farther than I could. I resented anyone my age who was more popular, bigger, faster or smarter. I was jealous of them. I feared them. They might take over.'' By high school, he was, among other things, class president, quarterback and voted most likely to succeed. Printed under his yearbook photo was his nickname: Mr. President.

When Frist arrived at Princeton in 1970, with aviator glasses and short hair, he quickly signed up for pre-med courses. ''Having people come up to my father and say, 'Thank you for saving the life of my mother,''' Frist told me, ''that became a part not just of his identity but my identity.'' He rarely slept and was often seen in his room, late at night, poring over his books. ''In those days, there were groupies who would come in after class and want to continue the discussion,'' Uwe E. Reinhardt, the noted health economist who became Frist's close friend and mentor, told me. ''And Billy Frist was always there.''

On one final exam, Reinhardt asked his students to come up with a corrupt accounting scheme to show how companies could legally commit fraud. ''I do remember he gave the most ingenious answer I had ever seen,'' Reinhardt said. ''It was wholly corrupt.''

After graduating cum laude, Frist set out, at last, to medical school at Harvard, which offered him, as he put it, a chance to ''help others, to do good, while reaping most of the benefits our society can bestow -- prestige, power and wealth.''

During his second year at Harvard, he saw his first heart. ''I stared at it cradled in my hand, spellbound,'' he said. Later, he spent days and nights in the lab, dissecting the hearts of cats for a research project, convinced he was on the verge of a scientific breakthrough. But with only six weeks to complete his project, he ran out of specimens. Though he was an animal lover, he went to shelters, collecting cats as pets, before sacrificing them in the interest of science. It was, he acknowledged in ''Transplant,'' ''a heinous and dishonest thing to do, and I was totally schizoid about the entire matter. By day, I was little Billy Frist, the boy who . . . had decided to become a doctor because of his gentle father. . . . By night, I was Dr. William Harrison Frist, future cardiothoracic surgeon, who was not going to let a few sentiments about cute, furry little creatures stand in the way of his career.''

Within the world of medicine, cardiothoracic surgeons are generally considered a breed unto themselves: they are stereotypically the most driven, intrepid and emotionally detached. Frist, who taught himself to fly at 16, seemed much less removed than many other surgical residents. Patients recall Frist leaning into them, attuned to their needs and fears. But he also maintained an ability to separate himself that sometimes startled even his friends. ''People would get close to Bill, and then the wall would suddenly come up,'' his college roommate, Rob Mowrey, said.

Consumed by his training to be a heart transplant surgeon, the one person he allowed in was his high-school sweetheart, who also planned to become a doctor. After dating for 10 years, they finally got engaged. But weeks before the wedding, increasingly filled with doubts, he met another young woman, named Karyn, who came into the emergency room with a sprained wrist. ''I felt as if I'd known her all my life,'' he said later. Two days before the wedding, after being up for 48 hours on call, Frist flew to Nashville, still in his hospital whites. They sat at his fiancee's house, surrounded by gifts. ''I explained that nothing was right with my life,'' he wrote. ''With me. With me and her. I cried. And she cried, and I stayed an hour, and I flew back to Boston the next morning. . . . I headed straight to the hospital from the airport. My next shift was starting.''

ne day in the late 80's, after he had married Karyn and started his own transplant center at Vanderbilt University, Frist got a call in the middle of the night. A colleague said, ''I think we've got a heart.''

Frist took out the three-by-five card that he always carried with him. It was before the days of organ registries, and on it was a list of all his patients waiting for a donor. There were not enough hearts for all of them, and he knew that whomever he chose, another on the list would most likely die. A doctor had once asked him, ''How can you play God like that?''

Frist now went down the list and reluctantly made his choice. ''I would always be worried about the person who had just died,'' his wife told me. ''But Bill wouldn't think about that. He couldn't. He would only think about retrieving the heart and the patient he was going to give it to.''

As he raced to catch a plane, Frist carried two pairs of scissors, scrubs, tubing, six bags of saltwater and a red-and-white Igloo cooler. When he arrived at the hospital, he stood over the body, cutting open the donor's chest with a scalpel and scissors. He took out the heart and held it up. It weighed only about 10 ounces. He packed it in ice and placed it in the Igloo. Then he raced back to Tennessee, where his patient was already waiting in the operating room.

''You take what people regard as the soul of life outside the body,'' he told me, as he sometimes had other reporters, while we were walking through the Senate. ''Then you take another heart, and it's sitting in a bucket like a piece of meat, and you carefully lower it in.'' As he demonstrated, he held out his hand motionless, as if it were a heart. ''Then, bang, it starts beating again.''

He often worked for days on end; on vacations he would take his beeper, prepared at any moment to harvest a heart. He enclosed on the back page of ''Transplant'' an organ donor card for readers to fill out. ''I pursued every vehicle I could,'' he explained.

In 1993, he was appointed by Ned McWherter, the governor of Tennessee, to head a commission on the state's $3 billion Medicaid program. The governor told Frist that based on his findings he was going to take the $3 billion and put it into a total managed-care system.

Frist was startled. ''How can you do that? You're just one person.''

The governor laughed. ''That's what politics is all about.''

''At that point the light clicked,'' Frist told me. ''The power . . . of one individual.''

Then that same year, as his old friend Professor Reinhardt accompanied him on a plane trip to harvest a heart, Frist had his head buried in a large ring binder. ''I was teasing him,'' Reinhardt said, ''about looking up in a manual where the heart is.'' Frist lifted his head and shouted over the roar of the engine, ''This is campaign literature.'' Later, after he had removed the heart, he said, ''This is my last transplant.''

The announcement that Frist intended to run in 1994 for the United States Senate against Jim Sasser, an 18-year incumbent in line to become the next Democratic majority leader, initially stunned most of his family and friends. Frist was so consumed with medicine that he hadn't even voted until 1988. Yet what surprised some people even more than his decision to run was the party with which he chose to align himself. ''I always assumed he was a Democrat,'' said Dr. Norman Shumway, the renowned transplant surgeon who trained him at Stanford. Reinhardt assumed the same thing: ''I thought he was naturally a Democrat.''

At Princeton, Frist had worked as an intern for a Democratic congressman. His mother was a staunch liberal who liked to tell friends, ''I'll die before I vote for a Republican.'' His oldest brother, Thomas Jr., had donated to Democrats throughout the state, including Sasser. Even Bill Frist's father, who often voted Republican, had recently contributed to the Democratic National Committee.

And while Bill Frist hadn't registered to vote until 1988, when he did, he donated $1,000 to the Democratic presidential candidate, Al Gore, the only politician whom he praised in ''Transplant.'' And in 1993, when he made his first foray into public policy and led the state Medicare commission, it was for McWherter, a lifelong Democrat.

Several friends told me that Frist had confided that he wasn't sure whether he should run as a Democrat or as a Republican. ''I said, 'What are you?''' McWherter recalled asking him at one point. ''He said, 'Well, I'm not sure.' I said: 'Well, you got to make up your mind. This is a two party system.'''

According to some friends, before he chose, he even did ''research'' to see if he had a better chance of being elected as a Democrat or Republican. ''They looked at the east of Tennessee and decided he had a better chance getting elected as a Republican,'' one friend told me.

When I asked Frist about his ideological evolution, he said, ''I just didn't change; those are my values.'' He denied doing any kind of polling, but acknowledged that he had told people he didn't know which party to join. ''The pattern in my life is to systematically address an issue, and that was just another issue. I made a list of 20 people and said, 'I want to do something that is beyond saving people one on one.' I went around and talked to everybody, everyone I knew in politics, and said, 'What is the real difference between Democrat and Republican?'''

And if there was any ideological ambivalence -- ''That party stuff doesn't matter to me,'' he had initially told Reinhardt -- once he made his decision he showed little evidence of it. It was a year in which Democrats were in trouble throughout the country, a year of a massive anti-incumbent revolt led by Newt Gingrich, and Frist seized on the backlash with fervor. After vowing to the state party chairman, ''I will be the best student you will ever meet,'' he prepared 16, 17, 24 hours a day -- and longer, staying up three nights straight, then napping for an hour and going another three days in a row, including Sundays. He sought advice from the masters of the art, most notably Karl Rove, who would later steer George Bush into the White House and who traveled with Frist briefly at the outset of the campaign. ''I've never spoken about it before,'' Frist said when I asked about it. ''But it did have an impact. The fact that this guy had come in, and no one thought I could win. And he said, 'You could do this thing.'''

And as his main tutor Frist hired Tom Perdue, a brilliant and ruthless campaign manager who only a few years earlier had settled a $400,000 libel suit for accusing an opponent of bribery and who now helped devise a strategy that would serve as a blueprint for Frist's entire career. While Frist attacked Sasser endlessly as an ignoble Washington insider -- his commercials featured ''The Ballad of Liberal, Taxing, Two-Faced Jim'' -- Frist portrayed himself as the quintessential outsider, a noble doctor. His unofficial campaign slogan was ''Listen, diagnose and fix.''

Drawing on more than $3.7 million of his own estimated $20 million fortune, much of which had been earned from stock in his father's and brother's company H.C.A., he dispatched Perdue to unleash a barrage of negative attacks. One commercial showed Sasser's face on Mount Rushmore alongside Dan Rostenkowski, the Democratic congressman recently indicted for corruption. His campaign also tried to link Sasser to Joycelyn Elders, the black surgeon general who had spoken controversially about masturbation, and Marion Barry, the black mayor of Washington who had been caught smoking crack cocaine with a former girlfriend. ''We'd never seen anything like it,'' Sasser told me. ''I'd been in the Senate 18 years, and I'd never seen a campaign so vicious. Handbills would mysteriously appear in redneck areas showing me with Joycelyn Elders. He'd say while he was saving lives as a heart surgeon, I was busy sending Tennessee dollars to Marion Barry. It was clearly a racist attack. The slanders went on and on and on.''

In the end, Frist achieved one of the most stunning upsets in electoral history -- ''a political earthquake,'' as he proclaimed at his victory party. Or, as one newspaper exclaimed with a hint of disbelief, ''Is There a Doctor in the Senate?''

"I just want to put another log on the fire,'' Frist said, standing in his office one winter afternoon. He went out of the room and came back with several logs bundled in his arms and placed them in the fireplace.

As he sat down at a long wooden conference table, he clapped his hands and said, ''So what are we going to do?''

I said I wanted to talk about how he had transformed himself from a doctor into a senator. ''It's been pretty seamless,'' he said. ''The learning curve in medicine is much steeper and more arduous. This comes naturally.'' He paused, as if he had said something he regretted. ''So if you say that, it's like you're a natural politician. But I do like people, so it's not hard.''

As he spoke, an aide came in the room. He nodded toward me. ''This is my psychoanalyst here,'' Frist joked. Then, comparing his new role with his old one, he continued, ''Addressing the big issues -- life-and-death things -- I think that can apply to the political end of it.''

That same day, amid hours of meeting with advisers trying to break a Democratic filibuster of a Bush judicial nominee, Miguel Estrada, Frist appeared on the Senate floor and said he wanted to ''put my physician hat on for one second.'' The terrorist threat had recently gone up from yellow to orange.

''This is a time of stress,'' he said. ''In talking to my colleagues and their families, I sense that when we go to this high alert . . . people do not sleep as well. Some people eat more. . . . Some people develop back pain.'' He listed several things that people could do to cope. ''Again, as a doctor -- and then I will take my doctor hat off -- exercise regularly, eat well and get a good night's rest.''

When he returned to his office, he asked me: ''Did you hear my talk on the floor? Me just talking about it will help in these life-and-death issues.'' Later he held a private conference call with a group of Senate spouses, who had expressed growing alarm over the senators' physical safety.

Frist told everyone to get out pencils and paper. ''No. 1,'' he said, ''during an attack cellphones won't work. No. 2, local phones may go out as well, so you need an out-of-state contact.''

''I have a question about iodine,'' one senator's wife asked.

''If you're near a nuclear reaction,'' Frist explained, ''it protects the thyroid, but it doesn't protect the rest of the body.''

What about duct tape?

''Karyn Frist, do we have duct tape in the house?'' he asked his wife, who was also on the phone. He said he only advocated it for high-risk scenarios, and he told them not to worry about their spouses. If anything ever happened at the Capitol, he said, ''I will act with no hesitation. . . . That's what I did for a living before I came here.''

Afterward, while the two of us sat by the fire, he seemed pleased with the call. ''To me, the mission is no different'' between a doctor and a senator, he said, sipping from a cup that said ''Senate Majority Leader.'' ''So it's not a matter of changing; it's a matter of adapting and compromising. There's much more negotiation in this business. In medicine, there is no room for compromise, and in this, there is much more negotiation to reach one's goals.'' Then, as he stood to go, he added, ''The danger is if you adapt too much you can never recover.''

When Frist first arrived in the Senate in 1994, he quickly discovered what every new member did -- that despite holding one of the highest offices in the land, he had little influence within the institution. Ranked No. 99 out of 100 in seniority, Frist wasn't even initially given permanent office space. After the first State of the Union address, his wife recalled: "We just stood there by ourselves. No one came up to him, and I felt so bad. I wanted to go out and grab one of these reporters, and say: 'Please talk to my husband. He's a senator from Tennessee.'"

Until then, there were primarily only two routes to power within the institution: one, which had prevailed for centuries, was through the back alleys of the institution; the other, which had become more prevalent in recent years with the advent of cable news channels and C-Span, was by building up a base of power outside the institution -- by, in effect, running against its tradition of horse trading, as someone like John McCain had. But while the former route could take years and taint your image, the latter never allowed you to truly dominate the institution. And Frist, who had become one of the quickest studies in politics, seemed to pursue a different path, one that had rarely, if ever, been tried. "I don't have time to pay my dues, to be congressman, a cabinet member, another senator," he said.

At first, it appeared that he intended to rise only by adhering to tradition, by bending to the will of his party patrons. Where he had once expressed doubts about his party allegiance, he now voted, with rare exceptions, the party line. He voted against gay employment rights and the Endangered Species Act. He voted for Bill Clinton's impeachment and against campaign finance reform. He voted for reducing Medicare growth and minimizing the role of government in health care, though a close friend told me that before running for office Frist had expressed a desire for a universal health care system like Canada's. And though other friends told me that they were certain Frist was for abortion rights, he voted steadfastly anti-abortion. (Even on one of the few occasions that he bucked his party and voted for Henry Foster as surgeon general, it seemed more personal than political. Foster, whom conservatives opposed because he had performed abortions as an obstetrician, was from Frist's home state and an old medical colleague.)

Before long, Frist's voting record was nearly indistinguishable first from Bob Dole's and then Lott's. Each told colleagues privately that Frist had the makings to one day be majority leader. And while Lott promoted him as the "resident doctor," Frist began his own crusades not just to serve people but also to save them -- to rescue thousands of Americans dying from lack of organ donations and millions decimated by AIDS in Africa. But when his initiatives clashed with the entrenched powers in his party, he nearly always tailored them to appease his Republican patrons. After the Bush administration objected to his provision to increase emergency spending on AIDS to $500 million in 2002, he withdrew it at the last minute, cutting the initiative by more than half for that year. "It was devastating," said Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance. "He had the right instincts, but he refused to stand by his own policy." While Frist told Zeitz and others to be patient -- that he would eventually prevail by working within the system -- he also spoke of the competing instincts within him. "There is this tension between two forces I am engaged in," he once told The Boston Globe, "between raw political power versus what is probably a little more deeply inside of me, the real quest, the real drive for substantive issues, of really changing things for these few years I am in the United States Senate."

After he joined anti-abortion conservatives and opposed creating human embryos for research, many in the medical establishment complained that he had finally turned his back on his own profession -- denying patients the best chance for a cure for diabetes and Parkinson's disease. Charles Barnett, a Tennessee doctor, told National Journal: "Bill Frist is the biggest disappointment to me. . . . He took this political stand not to help people, but to pay off the far right so nobody would get mad at him."

Frist said to me: "Are there things I've done -- or have I voted certain ways -- that if I could, I'd take them over and go back and redo them? The answer is yes." When I asked him for examples, he cited only one: the farm bill.

Finally in 2000, after six years of accumulating the goodwill of his Senate leaders, Frist started to construct his own political machine with the help of a new powerful patron: George Bush. Already connected to Karl Rove, Frist took several unheralded jobs -- including Senate liaison to the campaign -- that cemented his ties to the Bush team, which soon put him on the short list of vice-presidential candidates. During his own Senate re-election bid that year, Frist even coordinated his advertising with Bush -- a little-noticed gesture that helped deliver Gore's home state to Bush.

More important, Frist decided in 2000 to take the largest political gamble since he ran for office and to assume the chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which controls every race across the country by recruiting candidates and disbursing millions of dollars. "Most of my colleagues advised me not to do it," Frist explained. "Most said, You're a policy maker, you pull people together. Then all of a sudden you're a raw political figure. You're out there with the harshest political rhetoric. You have to be shrill and tear into the guts of people."

As he had in 1994, he immediately showed how aggressive he could be, releasing a series of attack ads that exploited Bush's popularity on the war on terrorism. "That comes from Frist," said his old mentor, Perdue, who at the time was running the Senate campaign of Saxby Chambliss in Georgia. "That was not just one day, 'Let's use the president.' That was well thought out." He added: "Frist didn't do that without a tacit approval. He would never violate his relationship with the president, and that was a very good strategy."

While some Democrats claimed that Frist was calling into question their patriotism, Frist relied again on Perdue, who unleashed what was considered the most devastating ad of the cycle: it showed a picture of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein that eventually faded into the Democratic incumbent, Max Cleland, a Vietnam war hero who lost both his legs and his right arm in battle. Perdue told me that he sent each commercial he made to Frist and his staff to "let them be another focus group," and "they never told us not to do anything."

Hunkered down at his campaign headquarters, Frist spent hours recruiting candidates with Rove, with whom he communicated on his BlackBerry, and raising money. Just as he had once found a way to legally circumvent the accounting system on his college exam, he now found loopholes in the campaign finance system. Rather than divest his stocks from his family's company, which in 1994 merged with another company and was later fined $1.7 billion for the most massive health care fraud in history, he simply kept his stocks in a blind trust. And while the company still donated to his own campaign and to the Senate campaign committee, Frist specifically targeted pharmaceutical companies for donations -- and in particular Eli Lilly, which along with its employees gave more than $400,000 to the senatorial war chest during the election cycle. The company went so far as to buy 5,000 copies of Frist's new book, "When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism From the Senate's Only Doctor," which it distributed to doctors around the country. In contrast to Jim Wright, the former speaker of the House who had to resign over selling his book to lobbyists, Frist made sure he didn't receive any financial remuneration and instead gave the profits to charity. Meanwhile, Frist offered his own boost to the company -- introducing a provision that, among other things, protected Eli Lilly from lawsuits over a vaccine that thousands of parents maintained caused autism in their children. After the bill stalled, the same exact language mysteriously appeared in the Homeland Security Bill and consequently passed. (Representative Dick Armey belatedly took credit for inserting the language several weeks after his retirement, though few believe he acted alone. In January, Frist honored a deal brokered by Lott to remove it. But after he tried to reintroduce the bill again this year, angry families declared in a press release, "Frist tries to move under the veil of war.") By the eve of the 2002 election, Frist had raised more money than any G.O.P. senatorial campaign chairman in history. "All of a sudden, he became a natural," Perdue said.

What is striking is not that Frist has increasingly mastered the art of politics -- after all, he is in a profession that demands it -- but that unlike other politicians, he has mastered the art of seeming above it. Rather than act like a consummate insider, he maintained the glow of a noble outsider. Once, while other senators were in committee meetings, he resuscitated a tourist dying of a heart attack. Another time he ran from a leadership meeting to rescue Senator Strom Thurmond after he collapsed on the Senate floor. Unlike John Glenn or John McCain, who entered politics as heroes, he had become a hero while in politics.

By the time he defied all expectations and delivered the Senate back to Republicans in the fall election, he had quietly amassed one of the most formidable political machines in Washington, commanding the loyalty not only of the senators he had brought into power but the entire G.O.P. caucus and the White House as well. When Lott's status as majority leader came under siege barely a month later, Frist emerged as the most likely candidate for a job that most spend their entire careers seeking. "He was tough enough to make it happen," Bob Dole told me of Frist's positioning himself to be a potential majority leader. "I think he knew there might be an opportunity when he was ready."

Frist had already conferred with his advisers about running for president in 2008, and some of his allies cautioned him that being majority leader could damage his presidential hopes -- that the Senate had become increasingly ungovernable, a place that sank the higher ambitions of all those who tried to preside over it. Lott, who was once seen as a rising star, had been vanquished, and Dole, who had abandoned the position to run for president, could never fully escape his reputation as a wizard of Byzantine transactions. Frist had even once told his wife: "Don't ever let me become majority leader. What majority leader has ever been a great legislator?" But for all its risks, the position seemed to hold an even greater lure -- overnight it would transform the doctor into one of the most dominant and recognizable politicians in America.

Frist soon began to organize behind the scenes. "He believes there was a divine sense in this," his friend Dr. Thomas Nesbitt Jr. explained. "He believes that God had his hand in this."

Speaking to me of his campaign for majority leader, Frist said, "It's a little like driving down the road in Florida and seeing people dying and responding."

Though more experienced members tried to outflank him, none had reputations that could counter the damage to the party's image. More significant, none had the invisible hand of the White House behind them. Reinhardt, who like many of Frist's friends and allies says he believes Frist will use his power to become a historic leader, explained the relationship this way: "Part of this came from the White House, which said this is a good guy we can use, and part of it came from his side. I would be very shocked if Billy wasn't thinking of the presidency in 2008, and he feels that being in that camp at this time is useful for his career."

Finally, on Dec. 19, Frist sent out a simple statement: "If it is clear that a majority of the Republican Caucus believes a change in leadership would benefit the institution of the United States Senate, I will likely step forward for that role." The next day his old benefactor Lott stepped down.

Not long ago, Frist was sitting in his new office when a senator he had just helped elect returned his call. Frist put him on speakerphone. "Did I get you out of the most important meeting now?" Frist said, his accent rising slightly.

"Well, I'll tell you what, if I had to sit there any longer and listen to Leahy and Schumer [expletive] and moan. . . . "

Frist joked about life in the big city, and then he asked the member for a small favor: he needed him to recite a speech in the old Senate chamber -- a ritual that usually fell to the lowest person on the Senate totem poll. "It's an annual tradition . . . to have a senator read it," he said, noting he had done it, too. "You got C-Span with you in the room, watching you."

"I don't have to wear a wig, do I?"

Frist smiled. "I'd really encourage you to do it," he said.

The newly elected senator hesitated for a moment. "That'll be neat."

"Good. . . . I'll put you down."

Before hanging up, the other senator said he had a small favor to ask of Frist, too: a major Republican donor was seeking an ambassadorship to some overseas economic development organization. "I don't even know what the hell it is," the junior senator said, "but he wants it."

Frist thought about it for a moment. "He has lots of dollar figures down there?"

"That's exactly right. And he did raise a chunk of money for me."

"All right," Frist said. "You're a good man."

The exchange, which took place while I was sitting in the room, offered a glimpse not just of the Senate business but also of the business of the Senate. Early on, Frist used his newfound leverage -- maneuvering and compromising -- to pass the appropriation bills and legislation outlawing partial-birth abortions. But before long, even more than his predecessors, he found himself unable to control the unruly cloakrooms of the Senate. He failed to enact much of Bush's heralded faith-based initiative or find the one vote he needed for drilling in the Alaskan wildlife refuge or overcome the Democrats' filibuster of Estrada. Lott had told The Times of his old disciple: "I guess I just have a different view of how to get things done. They used to criticize me for moving the trains, but after all, what's the main goal here?"

Then only a few weeks ago, when he tried to broker an old-fashioned deal and move the trains on the president's most important domestic initiative -- a $726 billion tax cut -- he made what he acknowledged was a critical "mistake." Unable to muster enough votes to pass a budget that would accommodate such a large figure, he approved a pact with two moderate Senate Republicans to reduce the tax cut by more than half, which was not, given his slim majority, an unreasonable compromise. But in a move that reflected his inexperience -- Dole had cautioned him that "the only thing you have up there is your word" -- he failed to mention the agreement to G.O.P. leaders or to the administration, which was determined to stick to a higher figure. And in an extraordinary step, many Republicans, who had only months earlier championed him, publicly rebuked him.

"You just feel very betrayed, very frankly," Representative Sue Myrick of North Carolina told The Washington Times. "We were just furious, and we're still furious." Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, whom Frist had just helped elect, told The Washington Post, "The way to lose everyone over time is have people feel you are not dealing straight up." Anonymous White House aides even let it be known that Rove had tracked down Frist while he was on a trip in Asia and told him he had disappointed the president.

Rather than rescue the institution, he seemed on the verge of becoming just another product of it. Where he had come to power promising to be "a healer" -- to avoid the kind of rhetoric and divisiveness of Lott -- only a few weeks ago he chose to support a key conservative ally, Senator Rick Santorum, who likened homosexuality to incest and polygamy. And after barely 100 days, there were reports that Frist was "losing control of his troops" and "off to a rocky start." It was as if he had achieved what he had always wanted, only to find it came at an unforeseeable cost.

Once, on the night of Bush's State of the Union address, while I was waiting in his office lobby, an aide told me that the senator wanted to see me right away. When I entered his office, Frist was leaning over his desk, his face slightly flushed. "The White House just called," he said. The president, he explained, was going to champion in his speech a proposal that Frist had been working on for years -- to triple financing to $15 billion over five years for the fight against AIDS in Africa. "This is big," Frist said. He started to pace in the room. "This is big," he said again. Later, after the speech, he said, "I told the president, 'You just saved hundreds of thousands of lives,' and he looked at me and said, 'We just saved a lot more than that."'

It was after midnight, but Frist lingered in his empty office. "This is why I went into politics," he said. "This is it! This is it!"

But within days it emerged that the White House had found the money for the proposal, in part, by slashing other health financing. And after Frist bowed to many of Bush's conditions that caused the various financing proposals to founder in Congress, a leading AIDS organization put out a news release saying, "Senator Frist Sabotages Key AIDS Initiatives." Protesters soon appeared outside Frist's Washington home at 6 a.m., blaring sirens, while others stormed into his Senate office hours later, yelling, "Frist is being a doctor of rhetoric instead of a doctor of action."

When a photo of Frist appeared in the paper, looking ashen, his friend Reinhardt told me: "Poor Billy. I've never seen him look so beleaguered."

Recently, just before his 51st birthday, Frist took a break from the Senate and visited his alma mater, Princeton. He had composed a speech called "The Floor of the U.S. Senate: Is Transplanting Ideas Any Different From Transplanting Hearts?" Addressing the packed auditorium, he talked about his vision of merging medicine and politics, of saving lives, an ideal that still seemed to captivate him. Then Frist paused and looked out at the crowd. "Majority leader sounds good, . . ." he said. "But people assume you've got a lot of power. . . . There is no power to it. You learn quickly that there's no power."

David Grann is a frequent contributor to the magazine. He wrote most recently about the baseball player Barry Bonds.

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Billions in Charity Money Could Be Saved, Study Says

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Billions in Charity Money Could Be Saved, Study Says

When he was in politics, Bill Bradley, the former senator from New Jersey, was known for proposing big ideas to shake up the established order and entrenched constituencies. So perhaps it should not be a surprise that he is now doing the same thing to the world of philanthropy.

As the "lead adviser" to the Institute for the Nonprofit Sector at McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm better known for its work in the business world, he and two other consultants have rocked the nonprofit sector with a study estimating that charities could free up $100 billion each year, enough to give every high school graduate in the country a $40,000 scholarship.

The study, which nonprofit organizations say threatens their financial support by implying that they are wasting large sums of money through inept and sloppy management, has the philanthropic world buzzing like a swarm of indignant hornets — and fighting back hard.

One foundation executive went so far as to invoke the specter of the discredited Enron Corporation, which was lavishly praised by McKinsey consultants before it became the symbol of corporate excess and deceit.

"The last time McKinsey came into an industry to tell it to completely recalculate how it was doing its business was when Jeff Skilling went to Enron and told it that it wasn't an energy company," said Vincent Stehle, the program officer overseeing the nonprofit sector program at the Surdna Foundation.

Mr. Bradley, who pushed for major overhauls of the tax code, health care and campaign finance while in the Senate or on the campaign trail, seems undisturbed and even delighted by the hubbub he and his co-authors have caused.

"When you aim for big reform, part of it is putting things together in a way that people aren't used to hearing it," he said in an interview. "That may upset some people until they get used to what you're saying."

Mr. Bradley, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000, said that getting involved in the nonprofit sector was a way of continuing his commitment to public service without having to be in public office.

"I was in public life to change the world, and I still have that desire," Mr. Bradley said. "This happens to be a sector where you can take some very big steps toward that end."

The study, which appears in this month's Harvard Business Review, uses assessment techniques borrowed from the business world to suggest ways that nonprofit organizations might wring money out of their operations and plow it instead into programs and services.

The authors estimate, for instance, that $15 billion to $26 billion a year could be pared from fund-raising costs if organizations solicited more gifts through the Internet and focused on attracting fewer but larger grants and contributions.

Some $55 billion a year would materialize, they said, if nonprofits working to provide similar services reduced the gaps between more cost-efficient organizations and less-efficient ones. The study found, for instance, that even if the best and worst quarter of more than 300 local affiliates of three national youth-service organizations were excluded, some affiliates spent as much as 67 percent more per person served than others.

The authors said that if nonprofit institutions could find a way to cut just a fraction of a cent more out of each dollar they spend a year, it would free up $20 billion.

Mr. Bradley and his colleagues freely concede that the decision to put dollar estimates in the new study was partly intended to be provocative, but they insist they were conservative.

"Numbers have a way of capturing people's attention in a way that concepts that have been talked about for a long time don't," said Les Silverman, a McKinsey consultant who was an author of the study. "Some will quibble with them, but we think they will call attention to the real opportunities there are for improvement."

Some people in the nonprofit sector concede that the researchers have a point and that the study addresses an issue — efficiency — of paramount importance in an era when donors are demanding more accountability from charities.

"It's riding the wave of interest in nonprofit performance," said Alan Abramson, director of the nonprofit sector and philanthropy program at the Aspen Institute, "and they go beyond what some other folks have done by trying to quantify what could be saved if nonprofits were able to become more efficient and effective."

But Mr. Abramson and others argue that the study could harm nonprofit groups by making them look like spendthrifts.

Diana Aviv, president and chief executive of the Independent Sector, a trade association representing some 700 nonprofit organizations, said: "Its headline of saying there is $100 billion in savings to be achieved is unrealistic and unhelpful. When lawmakers and donors see a headline like that suggest charities are inefficient, ineffective and extravagant, they will use it to justify cutbacks in support for the sector."

Nonetheless, Ms. Aviv said, "There are any number of suggestions in there that we would be unwise not to examine, if only for partial value."

Ms. Aviv and other nonprofit executives also argue that each of the McKinsey recommendations comes with a cost of its own.

The business tool of setting benchmarks to improve performance increases administrative costs, for instance, and donors are particularly sensitive to increases in such costs.

"The whole benchmarking approach has so far been a little bit like chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," Mr. Abramson said. "True, it's worth the effort to get the bottom dwellers to improve their operations, but 20 years from now, there will still be a bottom half, no matter how much improvement is made."

Notably, the study's authors did not take aim at administrative costs, the favorite whipping boy of charity watchdogs and donors. Rather, they said nonprofits might even need to spend more on management.

"Because administrative costs are easy to measure, they're measured and people pay attention to them," said Paul Jansen, another author of the study. "It's going to take management capacity to capture the opportunities we've identified for improvements."

Mr. Bradley and Mr. Jansen are old hands at throwing bombs in the nonprofit arena. Last year, they raised hackles with an opinion piece in The New York Times that suggested foundations would do better to spend more today than to conserve their assets for perpetuity.

That debate was not new, but McKinsey, which published a more full-blown article on the issue by Mr. Jansen and his colleague David Katz, grabbed attention by using a standard business calculation to weigh the effectiveness of a dollar spent today against a dollar spent 20 years from now.

The authors revisit that study in the new one, saying $30 billion more would flow out of foundations and endowed institutions if they would simply increase the amount they pay out to 7 percent from the federally mandated 5 percent.

Mr. Bradley says the new study now puts the previous one in context.

"We're not jumping on the bandwagon again so much as simply showing how more money could flow into programs and services, not just from foundations and endowments, but from the entire sector," Mr. Bradley said.

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Back-Room Theocrat

PQ+ | Sunday 00:33:06 EST | comments (0)

Back-Room Theocrat

Najaf is one of the great spiritual centers of the world's 120 million Shiites because it is home to the tomb of Imam Ali, founder of the Shiite faith and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. But the true heart of Najaf today, and the place where the political future of Iraq may be decided, is not Ali's tomb; it is a ramshackle building on an alley across the street from the ornate shrine.

Every day, a crowd gathers at the building, trying to talk its way past the locked doors, making faint pleas and waving pieces of paper -- petitions, requests, questions -- in front of the guards. The people want to see Moqtadah al-Sadr, who, although he is only 30, has emerged, since the destruction of Saddam Hussein's government, as the most powerful Shiite leader in Iraq, a man who is adored by his followers and feared by his adversaries. Many of those at the doors want only to pay homage, to touch his hand or to kiss his turban.

Inside the building, Sadr's de facto headquarters, there is a small atrium that most days is crowded with dozens of his aides -- clerics in turbans and cloaks who spend much of their time milling around, smoking cheap cigarettes. Sadr's office is nearby, through a set of wood doors. It is a small room with whitewashed walls and thin cushions on the ground. When I was led inside on a recent morning, Sadr sat in a corner. Right next to him, propped up against the wall, was a large framed portrait of his father, Muhammad al-Sadr, the grand ayatollah of the Shiite community in Iraq who was assassinated by agents of Hussein's government in 1999.

Moqtadah al-Sadr's followers were assembled in a thick line that snaked out the office door and through the atrium. One after another they stepped forward and knelt before him. Their first gesture was a handshake, followed in most cases by an attempt to kiss Sadr's hand, something he always recoiled from, sometimes sharply; Sadr regards such acts of fealty as excessively subservient. Kissing of his cheeks was permitted, and of his black turban.

The petitioners whispered their requests into his ear, and he listened, his expression unchanging. It was the expression I saw on his face the day before, during a sermon he delivered at the Kufa mosque, on the outskirts of Najaf, to tens of thousands of followers: a look of grave determination.

''You should say something about the cleaning of Najaf,'' one man suggested.

Sadr nodded his head. Among the other duties he bears, he is the waste-disposal chief of Najaf. ''There are heaps of garbage in the streets,'' he replied. ''Groups of people should be formed, and they should use loudspeakers to encourage people to cooperate with each other to make the city cleaner. We will arrange some vehicles and volunteers for this job.''

''Thank you,'' the petitioner said.

''I am your servant,'' Sadr replied.

Sadr was being humble. He is a servant only to forces that might be stronger than he, as flesh is a servant to bullets. He is the focal point of the guessing game over who will run Iraq and what direction the country will take: about 60 percent of Iraqis are Shiites. The choices he makes -- cooperating with the occupying Americans or opposing them, cooperating with his Shiite rivals or opposing them -- will determine not only his own future, but also Iraq's. Sadr's seriousness is understandable; the pressures that bear upon him are enormous, and if he makes a single mistake, he might be crushed.

Another man approached and explained that he found a house that had been left by its owner, probably a member of the Baath Party who fled Najaf when Saddam Hussein fell. The man asked Sadr for permission to move into it.

Sadr answered: ''As long as you have your own house, even if it is small, it would be haram'' -- he used the Arabic word to denote something that is religiously forbidden -- ''to take it. Haram.''

Sadr is also Najaf's housing chief.

''May Allah bless you,'' the man said, then crept away.

Another man came forward.

''Well, what is it that you would like from me?'' Sadr asked.

''I would like 250,'' he said, meaning 250,000 Iraqi dinars, about $150.

Sadr is also Najaf's financial chief.

''O.K., I am at your service,'' Sadr replied, and signed a piece of paper that was placed in front of him.

Mudher al-Husseini, a youthful follower of Sadr's, approached his leader and asked permission to read a new poem. Sadr agreed. The poem, written by a well-known local Shiite poet named Majid al-Auqabi, was titled, ''Let Allah Forgive the Past.'' Its rhyme is lost in translation, but not its meaning.

''Saddam forced us to eat cattle feed,'' Husseini began. ''But today is the day to shout. The dollar is seducing us, but it is better to be a martyr than to take the dollar. Coalition treads have trampled the people. We don't want a ruler from them; we want our own ruler. We don't want to be cheated again.''

Husseini spoke loudly and emotionally; the hand with which he held the poem shook, and his other hand, wrapped in a fist, punched the warm air. An elderly man sitting next to him began to weep; so did others.

''We don't want to be cheated again,'' Husseini continued. ''Brother Iraqis, give us your hand, and our quarrels will be removed. You people who looted, how can you feed your children with haram money? Everything that has been looted must be returned to Islamic houses. Say no to bullets that cause death. All Iraqis are wounded, and their wounds need to be healed.''

When he finished, a shout went up in the room.

''We will follow Sadr!''

Sadr's grim countenance did not change.

ajaf is home not only to the tomb of Imam Ali, but also to another historical landmark that in contemporary political terms is more important: the Hawza. The Hawza is a loose-knit religious seminary that dates back a thousand years. It is the oldest Shiite seminary in the world, and its clerics have played pivotal roles in Middle Eastern history. Senior clerics from Najaf encouraged the 1920 revolution against British rule in Iraq, and they played a similar role in the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, which like Iraq is predominantly Shiite.

But the Iranian revolution, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, signaled a shift in the Hawza's importance. At roughly the same time as Khomeini's accession to power in Iran, Hussein's Sunni-dominated government increased its repression of Shiites, using its trademark tools of murder and torture. Najaf's clerics -- the ones who weren't killed or imprisoned or forced to flee to Iran -- were severely restricted. Beginning in the 1980's, the seminary in the holy Iranian city of Qum became the locus of Shiite activism.

That is likely to change now that the clerics in Najaf can speak their minds, and that's why Sadr is so crucial. He is too young to be a senior cleric -- he is still a religious student -- but he heads the most powerful faction at the Hawza, and his faction has most clearly indicated a desire to play a political role in determining the country's future. The Sadr movement, as it is often called, already dominates the sprawling Baghdad slum that was known as Saddam City until a few weeks ago, when it was renamed, unofficially, Sadr City. The movement also has backing in Karbala, another holy city, and in Nasiriya. In socioeconomic terms, its support is strongest among the poor; middle-class Shiites are wary of its fundamentalist leanings. In geographic terms, its following is stronger in central Iraq than in southern Iraq. (The north is dominated by Kurds.)

When I presented myself at Sadr's headquarters, I was led to a room on the second floor and told to wait. After a few minutes, Sadr walked into the room along with several aides, many of them as young as he is or younger. They, too, were unsmiling. Perhaps what their faces portrayed is the fatal determination of youth, youth who are convinced that right and resolve are the spears behind which their goals will be reached.

Sadr did not reveal his plans in detail, perhaps because he is improvising them; it is impossible to control a situation with so many variables. What he does, and what he becomes, depend not just on his own intentions but also on those of the Americans, whose plans are unknown and perhaps undecided, and those too of his rivals -- other Shiite leaders, as well as Sunni leaders and Kurds. Will Sadr become a political leader or a religious leader or a corpse? The answer is unknown to him; he says he believes it will be decided by Allah.

''I think it will be very hard to make a completely Islamic state in the near future, but hopefully in the distant future,'' he said, through the interpreter who accompanied me. Sadr speaks in a strong voice, absent of doubt. ''Our government should be led by religious men, but they should be very good in science too. Religion is with politics and politics is with religion. They are as one.''

He had mentioned, in his sermon at the Kufa mosque, that ''enemies'' would try to stand in the way of Iraq's Shiites. He did not name the enemies, so I asked whether it was the Americans whom he had in mind.

He didn't hesitate. ''Everyone knows that America is not looking for reforms to unify the country,'' he said. ''They will be an enemy to us, or shall we say they will not be a friend to us. We are looking for a unified Islamic nation, so we think our aim is different than their aim.''

For policy makers in Washington, there are two nightmare scenarios for Iraq. The first is that Iraq becomes an Islamic state led by Shiite clerics from Najaf. The second is that Iraq becomes an Islamic state led by Shiite clerics from Najaf who are, in turn, led by fundamentalists in Iran. The latter possibility was bolstered on April 8, when Kadhem al-Husseini al-Haeri, an Iraqi cleric living in Qum, Iran, issued a fatwa, or religious order, that urged clerics in neighboring Iraq to ''seize the first possible opportunity to fill the power vacuum in the administration of Iraqi cities.'' Using phrases and ideas common among fundamentalists in Iran, the fatwa also said, ''People have to be taught not to collapse morally before the means used by the Great Satan'' -- the United States -- ''if it stays in Iraq. It will try to spread moral decay, incite lust by allowing easy access to stimulating satellite channels and spread debauchery to weaken people's faith.''

I asked Sadr to describe his relationship with Haeri. ''My father said that the most respected man after himself is Kadhem al-Haeri, and so we follow him, for he touches reality,'' Sadr replied.

The Iranian connection is evident in Najaf. At the gates to Imam Ali's tomb and in the alley leading to Sadr's headquarters, merchants have set up card tables from which they sell pictures of Sadr, his father and Khomeini. But Iran's influence may decline in importance as Iraq's Shiites flex their rediscovered muscles. They were weak and vulnerable during Hussein's rule, but not anymore.

Even middle-class Shiites who dislike fundamentalism revered Muhammad al-Sadr. In 1992, with the approval of the government, he became grand ayatollah of Iraq's Shiite community. His six-year tenure as grand ayatollah was marked by two trends: he was a man of peace who urged Shiites and Sunnis to drop their differences and live together as brothers, and he also became increasingly vocal in his criticism of Hussein's rule. It was this second action that apparently led to his killing in an ambush on Feb. 19, 1999.

On that day, Sadr was driving from his office, on the outskirts of Najaf, to his home. At a roundabout, his vehicle was riddled with machine-gun fire by assailants believed to have been agents of the Mukhabarat, Hussein's secret police. Sadr was killed in the fusillade, along with his driver and two of his sons, Mustafa and Muamal. The killings sparked violent protests, the most severe of which occurred in Saddam City; there was violence around Nasiriya, too.

Moqtadah al-Sadr's older brothers were their father's chief aides, and they were being groomed for leadership roles. The assassinations left Moqtadah as the heir apparent of the family. Afterward, his movements were strictly controlled and monitored by the Mukhabarat, until just weeks ago, when the Mukhabarat, along with the rest of Hussein's apparatus of oppression, was vanquished by American forces. Moqtadah al-Sadr not only outlasted Saddam Hussein; he also outsmarted him. He knew to wait for the right moment to carry on the mission of his martyred family. He also knows now that he may, in the end, share their fate.

The Hawza is deeply divided, and its division is manifested in its physical structure: it has none. The Hawza consists of mosques, houses and rooms scattered around impoverished Najaf, where different factions oversee instruction. The two most important factions are led by Sadr and by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sestani, the official religious leader of Iraq's Shiites. Through his son, who acts as his spokesman, Sestani has made it clear that he believes politics to be beneath the calling of religious figures. A few days after the collapse of Hussein's government, his house was surrounded by men said to be followers of Sadr's, and they demanded that he leave the country because he had been insufficiently active against Hussein. The standoff was defused, but Sestani and Sadr still do not speak with each other.

Sestani's office is located 150 yards from Sadr's, up another alley. When I went to Sestani's office, I was told by one of his assistants, standing at the entrance, that I could not speak with Sestani or his son, but that I could leave written questions, and a written response would be provided on the following day. My interpreter wrote down my questions, one of which asked why Sestani and Sadr were not on speaking terms.

The assistant objected to that one.

''There is no comparison!'' he said, angrily. He meant that Sestani is the highest religious authority among Iraq's Shiites and that Sadr is just an upstart who does not merit a comparison with the grand ayatollah.

Still, the assistant agreed to deliver the questions to Sestani's son, and told us to return at 10 the next morning. We did, and received a list of terse, handwritten replies.

To my question about the rivalry, the answer was, ''The position of Moqtadah al-Sadr and the religious leadership is well known by the people. His excellency'' -- a reference to Sestani -- ''is not a party in any kind of dispute. He is above all disputes and is responsible for all people.''

I had also asked whether Sestani had had or wanted any contact with the Americans occupying Iraq. The answer was concise: No.

What's dangerous about the divisions in the Hawza is that such disputes have a history of being settled violently. Just a few days after the fall of Hussein, a prominent Shiite, Sheik Abdel Majid al-Khoei, returned to Najaf from exile in London. Khoei was the son of a previous grand ayatollah, and his return, arranged and financed by the American government, appeared to be a bid by Washington to insert into Najaf a moderate, pro-Western figure.

It didn't work. On the evening of April 9, Khoei entered the shrine of Imam Ali to meet with a group of religious leaders, including the shrine's caretaker, Haider al-Rafaei, who had cooperated with Hussein's government. The meeting was an apparent attempt at reconciliation. According to a reporter for the Knight Ridder/Tribune news service, who was in Najaf that day, Khoei was accompanied by an American who identified himself as ''Dave, an employee of the U.S. government.'' Khoei had reportedly been staying at a university complex with Special Operations soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.

What happened next is unclear, but most reports say that once Khoei entered the shrine and met with Rafaei, several hundred people gathered around them, chanting the name of Muhammad al-Sadr. The crowd regarded Rafaei as a Hussein loyalist and was skeptical of Khoei's motives. Violence broke out, and in the melee Khoei and Rafaei were beaten, shot and hacked to death.

The killings raised tensions in Najaf, with Sadr's followers accused of inciting and carrying out the violence. The killings also appear to have led the Americans to abandon, for now, their attempt to play a role in Najaf; during the three days I was there, I never saw American troops patrolling the streets or even driving through them. The town appears to be a no-go area for them, just as Saddam City, now Sadr City, in Baghdad, is devoid of any significant American presence. The Americans would appear to have no idea what is happening in these places, and no control over them.

I asked Sadr whether his movement was behind the killings of Khoei and Rafaei.

''I would like to draw your attention to the kind of wars our enemies fight against us,'' he said. ''They can't fight directly, so they fight by spreading rumors in order to bring about the downfall of great leaders who can rule this society correctly. They fabricate rumors and accusations of being a murderer or being against religious scholars. All of these are lies.''

I stopped by Sadr's office again the following day. He was not there, but one of his aides, at the entrance, offered me a statement that Sadr had just issued. According to the statement, several followers of Sadr's had been detained by Iraqis belonging to a new political party. The statement demanded their release and warned that if anti-Sadr forces continued such activities, they would be dealt with like ''qirada khusran'' -- defeated monkeys, which is one of the lowest insults in Arabic.

The wording was harsh and at odds with other statements by Sadr, in which he counseled followers to avoid violence. During his sermon at Kufa, he urged everyone to organize protests against the American occupation of Iraq, but he also said, ''I ask you kindly not to shed a drop of blood.''

Even if Sadr genuinely wants a peaceful solution, can violence be avoided? There are the Americans to deal with, and the Sunnis, as well as his rivals at the Hawza, not to mention the Communists and Kurds and Christians and Turkomans. Profound political change in Iraq rarely occurs in a peaceful manner; it rarely occurs in a peaceful manner anywhere.

Peter Maass is a contributing writer, currently reporting for the magazine from Iraq.

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Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception

Arts | Sunday 00:32:01 EST | comments (0)

Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception

A staff reporter for The New York Times committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud while covering significant news events in recent months, an investigation by Times journalists has found. The widespread fabrication and plagiarism represent a profound betrayal of trust and a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.

The reporter, Jayson Blair, 27, misled readers and Times colleagues with dispatches that purported to be from Maryland, Texas and other states, when often he was far away, in New York. He fabricated comments. He concocted scenes. He lifted material from other newspapers and wire services. He selected details from photographs to create the impression he had been somewhere or seen someone, when he had not.

And he used these techniques to write falsely about emotionally charged moments in recent history, from the deadly sniper attacks in suburban Washington to the anguish of families grieving for loved ones killed in Iraq.

In an inquiry focused on correcting the record and explaining how such fraud could have been sustained within the ranks of The Times, the Times journalists have so far uncovered new problems in at least 36 of the 73 articles Mr. Blair wrote since he started getting national reporting assignments late last October. In the final months the audacity of the deceptions grew by the week, suggesting the work of a troubled young man veering toward professional self-destruction.

Mr. Blair, who has resigned from the paper, was a reporter at The Times for nearly four years, and he was prolific. Spot checks of the more than 600 articles he wrote before October have found other apparent fabrications, and that inquiry continues. The Times is asking readers to report any additional falsehoods in Mr. Blair's work; the e-mail address is retrace@nytimes.com.

Every newspaper, like every bank and every police department, trusts its employees to uphold central principles, and the inquiry found that Mr. Blair repeatedly violated the cardinal tenet of journalism, which is simply truth. His tools of deceit were a cellphone and a laptop computer — which allowed him to blur his true whereabouts — as well as round-the-clock access to databases of news articles from which he stole.

The Times inquiry also establishes that various editors and reporters expressed misgivings about Mr. Blair's reporting skills, maturity and behavior during his five-year journey from raw intern to reporter on national news events. Their warnings centered mostly on the errors in his articles.

His mistakes became so routine, his behavior so unprofessional, that by April 2002, Jonathan Landman, the metropolitan editor, dashed off a two-sentence e-mail message to newsroom administrators that read: "We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now."

After taking a leave for personal problems and being sternly warned, both orally and in writing, that his job was in peril, Mr. Blair improved his performance. By last October, the newspaper's top two editors — who said they believed that Mr. Blair had turned his life and work around — had guided him to the understaffed national desk, where he was assigned to help cover the Washington sniper case.

By the end of that month, public officials and colleagues were beginning to challenge his reporting. By November, the investigation has found, he was fabricating quotations and scenes, undetected. By March, he was lying in his articles and to his editors about being at a court hearing in Virginia, in a police chief's home in Maryland and in front of a soldier's home in West Virginia. By the end of April another newspaper was raising questions about plagiarism. And by the first of May, his career at The Times was over.

A few days later, Mr. Blair issued a statement that referred to "personal problems" and expressed contrition. But during several telephone conversations last week, he declined repeated requests to help the newspaper correct the record or comment on any aspect of his work. He did not respond to messages left on his cellphone, with his family and with his union representative on Friday afternoon.

The reporting for this article included more than 150 interviews with subjects of Mr. Blair's articles and people who worked with him; interviews with Times officials familiar with travel, telephone and other business records; an examination of other records including e-mail messages provided by colleagues trying to correct the record or shed light on Mr. Blair's activities; and a review of reports from competing news organizations.

The investigation suggests several reasons Mr. Blair's deceits went undetected for so long: a failure of communication among senior editors; few complaints from the subjects of his articles; his savviness and his ingenious ways of covering his tracks. Most of all, no one saw his carelessness as a sign that he was capable of systematic fraud.

Mr. Blair was just one of about 375 reporters at The Times; his tenure was brief. But the damage he has done to the newspaper and its employees will not completely fade with next week's editions, or next month's, or next year's.

"It's a huge black eye," said Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company and publisher of the newspaper, whose family has owned a controlling interest in The Times for 107 years. "It's an abrogation of the trust between the newspaper and its readers."

For all the pain resonating through the Times newsroom, the hurt may be more acute in places like Bethesda, Md., where one of Mr. Blair's fabricated articles described American soldiers injured in combat. The puzzlement is deeper, too, in places like Marmet, W. Va., where a woman named Glenda Nelson learned that Mr. Blair had quoted her in a news article, even though she had never spoken to anyone from The Times.

"The New York Times," she said. "You would expect more out of that."

The Deception
Reporting Process Riddled With Lies

Two wounded marines lay side by side at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. One of them, Jayson Blair wrote, "questioned the legitimacy of his emotional pain as he considered his comrade in the next bed, a runner who had lost part of his leg to a land mine in Iraq."

The scene, as described by Mr. Blair in an article that The Times published on April 19, was as false as it was riveting. In fact, it was false from its very first word, its uppercase dateline, which told readers that the reporter was in Bethesda and had witnessed the scene. He had not.

Still, the image was so compelling, the words so haunting, that The Times featured one of the soldier's comments as its Quotation of the Day, appearing on Page 2. "It's kind of hard to feel sorry for yourself when so many people were hurt worse or died," it quoted Lance Cpl. James Klingel as saying.

Mr. Blair did indeed interview Corporal Klingel, but it was by telephone, and it was a day or two after the soldier had been discharged from the medical center. Although the corporal, whose right arm and leg had been injured by a falling cargo hatch, said he could not be sure whether he uttered what would become the Quotation of the Day, he said he was positive that Mr. Blair never visited him in the hospital.

"I actually read that article about me in The New York Times," Corporal Klingel said by telephone last week from his parents' home. "Most of that stuff I didn't say."

He is confident, for instance, that he never told Mr. Blair that he was having nightmares about his tour of duty, as Mr. Blair reported. Nor did he suggest that it was about time, as Mr. Blair wrote, "for another appointment with a chaplain."

Not all of what Mr. Blair wrote was false, but much of what was true in his article was apparently lifted from other news reports. In fact, his 1,831-word front-page article, which purported to draw on "long conversations" with six wounded servicemen, relied on the means of deception that had infected dozens of his other articles over the last few months.

Mr. Blair was not finished with his virtual visit to Bethesda. Sgt. Eric Alva, now a partial amputee, was indeed Corporal Klingel's roommate for two days. But the sergeant, who is quoted by Mr. Blair, never spoke to him, said Lt. Cmdr. Jerry Rostad, a medical center spokesman. And a hospitalman whom Mr. Blair describes as being down the hall, Brian Alaniz, was discharged five days before Corporal Klingel arrived.

"Our records indicate that at no time did Mr. Blair visit N.N.M.C. or interview patients," Commander Rostad said.

As he would do in other articles, Mr. Blair appears to have stitched this narrative by drawing at least partly on information available in the databases of various news organizations. For example, he describes Hospitalman Alaniz as someone who "not only lost his right leg, but also had a finger torn off, broke his left leg and took shrapnel in his groin and arms." His description seems to mirror one that had appeared in The Washington Post.

Mr. Blair's deceptive techniques flouted long-followed rules at The Times. The paper, concerned about maintaining its integrity among readers, tells its journalists to follow many guidelines as described in a memo on the newsroom's internal Web site. Among those guidelines: "When we use facts gathered by any other organization, we attribute them"; "writers at The Times are their own principal fact checkers and often their only ones"; "we should distinguish in print between personal interviews and telephone or e-mail interviews."

In addition, the newspaper uses a dateline only when a reporter has visited the place.

Mr. Blair knew that rule. In March of last year, an editors' note published in The Times about an article by another reporter prompted Mr. Blair to e-mail a colleague the entry in The Times's stylebook about "dateline integrity." In part, the stylebook explains that a dateline guarantees that the reporter whose name appears on the article "was at the specified place on the date given, and provided the bulk of the information."

But for many photographers assigned to work with Mr. Blair, he was often just a voice on the phone, one saying he was on his way or just around the corner.

On April 6, for example, he was supposedly reporting from Cleveland. He described a church service attended by the Rev. Tandy Sloan, whose missing son, an Army supply clerk, had been pronounced dead in Iraq the previous day. There is no evidence that Mr. Blair was either at that service or at an earlier one also described in his article.

A freelance photographer whom Mr. Blair had arranged to meet outside the Cleveland church on April 6 found it maddening that he could not seem to connect with him. The photographer, Haraz Ghanbari, was so intent on a meeting that he placed nine calls to Mr. Blair's cellphone from 9:32 a.m. to 2:07 p.m., and kept trying six more times until 10:13 p.m., when he finally gave up.

Mr. Ghanbari said he managed to reach Mr. Blair three times, and three times Mr. Blair had excuses for why they could not meet. In one instance, Mr. Ghanbari said, Mr. Blair explained that he had left the church in the middle of the service "to get his cellphone fixed" — that was why so many of his calls had gone unanswered — "and was already on his way back."

"I just thought it was weird how he never showed up," Mr. Ghanbari said.

The article that Mr. Blair eventually filed incorporated at least a half-dozen passages lifted nearly verbatim from other news sources, including four from The Washington Post.

Some of Mr. Blair's articles in recent months provide vivid descriptions of scenes that often occurred in the privacy of people's homes but that, travel records and interviews show, Mr. Blair could not have witnessed.

On March 24, for example, he filed an article with the dateline Hunt Valley, Md., in which he described an anxious mother and father, Martha and Michael Gardner, awaiting word on their son, Michael Gardner II, a Marine scout then in Iraq.

Mr. Blair described Mrs. Gardner "turning swiftly in her chair to listen to an anchor report of a Marine unit"; he also wrote about the red, white and blue pansies in her front yard. In an interview last week, Mrs. Gardner said Mr. Blair had spoken to her only by phone.

Some Times photo editors now suspect that Mr. Blair gained access to the digital photos that Doug Mills, the photographer, transmitted that night to The Times's picture department, including photos of the Gardners watching the news, as well as the flowers in their yard.

As he often did, Mr. Blair briefed his editors by e-mail about the progress of his reporting. "I am giving them a breather for about 30 minutes," he wrote to the national editor, Jim Roberts, at one point, referring to the Gardners. "It's amazing timing. Lots of wrenching ups and downs with all the reports of casualties."

"Each time a casualty is reported," he added, "it gets tense and nervous, and then a sense of relief comes over the room that it has not been their son's group that has been attacked."

The Gardner family, who had spent considerable time on the phone with Mr. Blair, were delighted with the article. They wrote The Times saying so, and their letter was published.

Mr. Roberts was also pleased. He would later identify Mr. Blair's dispatch from Hunt Valley, Md., as a singular moment: this reporter was demonstrating hustle and flair. He had no reason to know that Mr. Blair was demonstrating a different sort of enterprise.

He was actually e-mailing from New York.

The Reporter
An Engaging Air, a Nose for Gossip

He got it.

That was the consensus about one of the college students seeking an internship at The New York Times. He was only 21, but this Jayson Blair, the son of a federal official and a schoolteacher from Virginia, got what it meant to be a newspaper reporter.

"I've seen some who like to abuse the power they have been entrusted with," Mr. Blair had written in seeking the internship. But, he had added, "my kindred spirits are the ones who became journalists because they wanted to help people."

Whether as a student journalist at the University of Maryland or as an intern at The Boston Globe, the short and ubiquitous Mr. Blair stood out. He seemed to be constantly working, whether on articles or on sources. Some, like a fellow student, Catherine Welch, admired him. "You thought, `That's what I want to be,' " she said.

Others considered him immature, with a hungry ambition and an unsettling interest in newsroom gossip.

"He wasn't very well liked by the other interns," said Jennifer McMenamin, another Maryland student who, with Mr. Blair, was a Globe intern in the summer of 1997. "I think he saw the rest of the intern class as competition."

Citing a U.S. News and World Report researcher, The Washington Post reported yesterday that while reporting for The Globe, Mr. Blair apparently lied about having interviewed the mayor of Washington, Anthony Williams.

His interest in journalism dated at least to his years at Centreville High School, in Clifton, Va., where he asked to interview the new principal for the school paper within minutes of her introduction to the faculty. "He was always into the newspaper business, even here," the principal, Pamela Y. Latt, recalled. "He had a wonderful, positive persistence about him that we all admired."

Mr. Blair's Times supervisors and Maryland professors emphasize that he earned an internship at The Times because of glowing recommendations and a remarkable work history, not because he is black. The Times offered him a slot in an internship program that was then being used in large part to help the paper diversify its newsroom.

During his 10-week internship at The Times, in the summer of 1998, Mr. Blair wrote 19 news articles, helped other reporters and never seemed to leave the newsroom. "He did well," recalled Sheila Rule, a senior editor who oversees the internship program. "He did very well."

But Joyce Purnick, who was the metropolitan editor at the time, recalled thinking that he was better at newsroom socializing than at reporting, and told him during a candid lunch that after graduation he should work for a smaller newspaper. "I was telling him, `Go learn the business,' " she said.

At summer's end, The Times offered Mr. Blair an extended internship, but he had more college course work to do before his scheduled graduation in December 1998. When he returned to the Times newsroom in June 1999, Ms. Rule said, everyone assumed he had graduated. He had not; college officials say he has more than a year of course work to complete.

Mr. Blair was assigned to work in The Times's police bureau, where he churned out article after article about the crimes of the day, impressing colleagues with his lightning-quick writing ability and his willingness to work long hours. But Jerry Gray, one of several Times editors to become mentors to Mr. Blair, repeatedly warned him that he was too sloppy — in his reporting and in his appearance.

"There's a theme here," Mr. Gray remembers telling the young reporter. "There are many eccentric people here, but they've earned it."

In November 1999, the paper promoted Mr. Blair to intermediate reporter, the next step toward winning a full-time staff position. While reporting on business for the metropolitan desk, editors say, he was energetic and willing to work all hours. He was also a study in carelessness, they say, with his telephone voicemail box too full to accept messages, and his writing commitments too numerous.

Charles Strum, his editor at the time, encouraged Mr. Blair to pace himself and take time off. "I told him that he needed to find a different way to nourish himself than drinking scotch, smoking cigarettes and buying Cheez Doodles from the vending machines," Mr. Strum said.

Mr. Blair persevered, although he clearly needed to cut down on mistakes and demonstrate an ability to write with greater depth, according to Jonathan Landman, who succeeded Ms. Purnick as metropolitan editor.

In the fall of 2000, Joseph Lelyveld, then executive editor, the highest-ranking editor at The Times, sent the strong message that too many mistakes were finding their way into the news pages; someone had even misspelled the publisher's surname, Sulzberger. That prompted Mr. Landman to appoint an editor to investigate and tally the corrections generated by the metropolitan staff.

"Accuracy is all we have," Mr. Landman wrote in a staff e-mail message. "It's what we are and what we sell."

Mr. Blair continued to make mistakes, requiring more corrections, more explanations, more lectures about the importance of accuracy. Many newsroom colleagues say he also did brazen things, including delighting in showing around copies of confidential Times documents, running up company expenses from a bar around the corner, and taking company cars for extended periods, racking up parking tickets.

At the same time, though, many at The Times grew fond of the affable Mr. Blair, who seemed especially gifted at office politics. He made a point of getting to know many of the newsroom support workers, for example. His distinctive laugh became a familiar sound.

"He had charisma, enormous charisma," David Carr, a Times media reporter, said. Mr. Blair, he added, often praised articles written by colleagues, and, frequently, "it was something far down in the story, so you'd know he read it."

In January 2001, Mr. Blair was promoted to full-time reporter with the consensus of a recruiting committee of roughly half a dozen people headed by Gerald M. Boyd, then a deputy managing editor, and the approval of Mr. Lelyveld.

Mr. Landman said last week that he had been against the recommendation — that he "wasn't asked so much as told" about Mr. Blair's promotion. But he also emphasized that he did not protest the move.

The publisher and the executive editor, he said, had made clear the company's commitment to diversity — "and properly so," he said. In addition, he said, Mr. Blair seemed to be making the mistakes of a beginner and was still demonstrating great promise. "I thought he was going to make it."

Mr. Boyd, who is now managing editor, the second-highest-ranking newsroom executive, said last week that the decision to advance Mr. Blair had not been based on race. Indeed, plenty of young white reporters have been swiftly promoted through the ranks.

"To say now that his promotion was about diversity in my view doesn't begin to capture what was going on," said Mr. Boyd, who is himself African-American. "He was a young, promising reporter who had done a job that warranted promotion."

But if anything, Mr. Blair's performance after his promotion declined; he made more errors and clashed with more editors. Then came the catastrophes of Sept. 11, 2001, and things got worse.

Mr. Blair said he had lost a cousin in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, and provided the name of his dead relative to a high-ranking editor at The Times. He cited his loss as a reason to be excused from writing the "Portraits of Grief" vignettes of the victims.

Reached by telephone last week, the father of his supposed cousin said Mr. Blair was not related to the family.

A few weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, he wrote an article laden with errors. Many reporters make mistakes, and statistics about corrections are only a rough barometer of journalistic skills. When considered over all, Mr. Blair's correction rate at The Times was within acceptable limits. Still, this article required a correction so extensive that it attracted the attention of the new executive editor, Howell Raines.

Mr. Blair's e-mail from that time demonstrate how he expressed penitence to Mr. Landman, then vented to another editor about how he had "held my nose" while writing the apology. Meanwhile, after a disagreement with a third editor, Patrick LaForge, who tracks corrections for the metropolitan desk, he threatened to take up the issue "with the people who hired me — and they all have executive or managing editor in their titles."

A lot was going on at that time: fear of further terrorist attacks, anthrax scares, grief. Uncharacteristic behavior was not uncommon among people in the city or in the newsroom. Still, Mr. Blair's actions stood out. He made mistakes and was unavailable for long stretches.

Mr. Landman sent Mr. Blair a sharply worded evaluation in January 2002, noting that his correction rate was "extraordinarily high by the standards of the paper." Mr. Landman then forwarded copies of that evaluation to Mr. Boyd and William E. Schmidt, associate managing editor for news administration, along with a note that read, "There's big trouble I want you both to be aware of."

At that point Mr. Blair told Susan Edgerley, a deputy metropolitan editor, about his considerable personal problems, she said, and she referred him to a counseling service. When he returned to the newsroom after a two-week break, editors say, efforts were made to help him focus on accuracy rather than productivity. But the inaccuracies soon returned.

By early April, Mr. Blair's performance had prompted Mr. Landman to write that the newspaper had to "stop Jayson from writing for the Times." The next day, Mr. Blair received a letter of reprimand. He took another brief leave.

When he returned to the newsroom weeks later, Mr. Landman and Jeanne Pinder, the reporter's immediate supervisor, had a tough-love plan in place. Mr. Blair would start off with very short articles, again focusing on accuracy, not productivity, with Ms. Pinder brooking no nonsense about tardiness or extended unavailability.

Mr. Blair resented this short-leash approach, Mr. Landman said, but it seemed to work. The reporter's number of published corrections plummeted and, with time, he was allowed to tackle larger reporting assignments. In fact, within several weeks he was quietly agitating for jobs in other departments, away from Ms. Pinder and the metropolitan desk.

Finally, Mr. Landman reluctantly signed off on a plan to send Mr. Blair to the sports department, although he recalled warning the sports editor: "If you take Jayson, be careful." Mr. Boyd also said that the sports editor was briefed on Mr. Blair's work history and was provided with his most recent evaluation.

Mr. Blair had just moved to the sports department when he was rerouted to the national desk to help in the coverage of the sniper case developing in his hometown area. The change in assignment took Mr. Landman, Ms. Pinder and others on the metropolitan desk by surprise.

"Nobody was asking my opinion," Mr. Landman said. "What I thought was on the record abundantly."

Ms. Pinder, though, said she offered to discuss Mr. Blair's history and habits with anybody — mostly, she said, "because we wanted him to succeed."

The Big Time
New Assignments for a `Hungry Guy'

The sniper attacks in suburban Washington dominated the nation's newspapers last October. "This was a `flood the zone' story," Mr. Roberts, the national editor, recalled, invoking the phrase that has come to embody the paper's aggressive approach to covering major news events under Mr. Raines, its executive editor.

Mr. Raines and Mr. Boyd, the managing editor, quickly increased the size of the team to eight reporters, Mr. Blair among them. "This guy's hungry," Mr. Raines said last week, recalling why he and Mr. Boyd picked Mr. Blair.

Both editors said the seeming improvement in Mr. Blair's accuracy last summer demonstrated that he was ready to help cover a complicated, high-profile assignment. But they did not tell Mr. Roberts or his deputies about the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Blair's reporting.

"That discussion did not happen," Mr. Raines said, adding that he had seen no need for such a discussion because Mr. Blair's performance had improved, and because "we do not stigmatize people for seeking help."

Instead, Mr. Boyd recommended Mr. Blair as a reporter who knew his way around Washington suburbs. "He wasn't sent down to be the first lead writer or the second or third or fourth or fifth writer," Mr. Boyd said. "He was managed and was not thrust into something over his head."

But Mr. Blair received far less supervision than he had on Mr. Landman's staff, many editors agreed. He was sent into a confusing world of feuding law enforcement agencies, a job that would have tested the skills of the most seasoned reporter. Still, Mr. Blair seemed to throw himself into the fray of reporters fiercely jockeying for leaks and scoops.

"There was a general sense he wanted to impress us," recalled Nick Fox, the editor who supervised much of Mr. Blair's sniper coverage.

Impress he did. Just six days after his arrival in Maryland, Mr. Blair landed a front-page exclusive with startling details about the arrest of John Muhammad, one of the two sniper suspects. The article, attributed entirely to the accounts of five unidentified law enforcement sources, reported that the United States attorney for Maryland, under pressure from the White House, had forced investigators to end their interrogation of Mr. Muhammad perhaps just as he was ready to confess.

It was an important article, and plainly accurate in its central point: that local and federal authorities were feuding over custody of the sniper suspects. But in retrospect, interviews show, the article contained a serious flaw, as well as a factual error.

Two senior law enforcement officials who otherwise bitterly disagree on much of what happened that day are in agreement on this much: Mr. Muhammad was not, as Mr. Blair reported, "explaining the roots of his anger" when the interrogation was interrupted. Rather, they said, the discussion touched on minor matters, like arranging for a shower and meal.

The article drew immediate fire. Both the United States attorney, Thomas M. DiBiagio, and a senior Federal Bureau of Investigation official issued statements denying certain details. Similar concerns were raised with senior editors by several veteran reporters in The Times's Washington bureau who cover law enforcement.

Mr. Roberts and Mr. Fox said in interviews last week that the statements would have raised far more serious concerns in their minds had they been aware of Mr. Blair's history of inaccuracy. Both editors also said they had never asked Mr. Blair to identify his sources in the article.

"I can't imagine accepting unnamed sources from him as the basis of a story had we known what was going on," Mr. Fox said. "If somebody had said, `Watch out for this guy,' I would have questioned everything that he did. I can't even imagine being comfortable with going with the story at all, if I had known that the metro editors flat out didn't trust him."

Mr. Raines and Mr. Boyd, who knew more of Mr. Blair's history, also did not ask him to identify his sources. The two editors said that given what they knew then, there was no need. There was no inkling, Mr. Raines said, that the newspaper was dealing with "a pathological pattern of misrepresentation, fabricating and deceiving."

Mr. Raines said he saw no reason at that point to alert Mr. Roberts to Mr. Blair's earlier troubles. Rather, in keeping with his practice of complimenting what he considered exemplary work, Mr. Raines sent Mr. Blair a note of praise for his "great shoe-leather reporting."

Mr. Blair was further rewarded when he was given responsibility for leading the coverage of the sniper prosecution. The assignment advanced him toward potentially joining the national staff.

On Dec. 22, another article about the sniper case by Mr. Blair appeared on the front page. Citing unidentified law enforcement officials once again, his article explained why "all the evidence" pointed to Mr. Muhammad's teenage accomplice, Lee Malvo, as the triggerman. And once again his reporting drew strong criticism, this time from a prosecutor who called a news conference to denounce it.

"I don't think that anybody in the investigation is responsible for the leak, because so much of it was dead wrong," the prosecutor, Robert Horan Jr., the commonwealth attorney in Fairfax County, Va., said at the news conference.

Mr. Boyd was clearly concerned about Mr. Horan's accusations, colleagues recalled. He repeatedly pressed Mr. Roberts to reach Mr. Horan and have him specify his problems with Mr. Blair's article.

"I went to Jim and said, `Let's check this out thoroughly because Jayson has had problems,' " Mr. Boyd said. Mr. Roberts said he did not recall being told that Mr. Blair had had problems.

Again, no editor at The Times pressed Mr. Blair to identify by name his sources on the article. But Mr. Roberts said he had had a more general discussion with Mr. Blair to determine whether his sources were in a position to know what he had reported.

After repeated efforts, Mr. Roberts reached Mr. Horan. "It was kind of a Mexican standoff," Mr. Horan recalled. "I was not going to tell him what was true and what was not true. I detected in him a real concern that they had published something incorrect."

"I don't know today whether Blair just had a bad source," he continued. "It was equally probable at the time that he was just sitting there writing fiction."

Mr. Roberts, meanwhile, said Mr. Horan complained about leaks, and never raised the possibility that Mr. Blair was fabricating details.

In the end, Mr. Raines said last week, the paper handled the criticisms of both articles appropriately. "I'm confident we went through the proper journalistic steps," he said.

It was not until January, Mr. Roberts recalled, that he was warned about Mr. Blair's record of inaccuracy. He said Mr. Landman quietly told him that Mr. Blair was prone to error and needed to be watched. Mr. Roberts added that he did not pass the warning on to his deputies. "It got socked in the back of my head," he said.

By then, however, those deputies had already formed their own assessments of Mr. Blair's work. They said they considered him a sloppy writer who was often difficult to track down and at times even elusive about his whereabouts. At the same time, he seemed eager and energetic.

Close scrutiny of his travel expenses would have revealed other signs that Mr. Blair was not where his editors thought he was, and, even more alarming, that he was perhaps concocting law enforcement sources. But at the time his expense records were being quickly reviewed by an administrative assistant; editors did not examine them.

On an expense report filed in January, for example, he indicated that he had bought blankets at a Marshalls department store in Washington; the receipt showed that the purchase was made at a Marshalls in Brooklyn. He also reported a purchase at a Starbucks in Washington; again, the receipt showed that it was in Brooklyn. On both days, he was supposedly writing articles from the Washington area.

Mr. Blair also reported that he dined with a law enforcement official at a Tutta Pasta restaurant in Washington on the day he wrote an article from there. As the receipt makes clear, this Tutta Pasta is in Brooklyn. Mr. Blair said he dined with the same official at Penang, another New York City restaurant that Mr. Blair placed in Washington on his expense reports.

Reached last week, the official said he had never dined with Mr. Blair, and in fact was in Florida with his wife on one of the dates.

According to cellphone records, computer logs and other records recently described by New York Times administrators, Mr. Blair had by this point developed a pattern of pretending to cover events in the Mid-Atlantic region when in fact he was spending most of his time in New York, where he was often at work refining a book proposal about the sniper case.

In e-mail messages to colleagues, for example, he conveyed the impression of a travel-weary national correspondent who spent far too much time in La Guardia Airport terminals. Conversely, colleagues marveled at his productivity, at his seemingly indefatigable constitution. "Man, you really get around," one fellow reporter wrote Mr. Blair in an e-mail message.

Mr. Raines took note, too, especially after Mr. Blair's tale from Hunt Valley. By April, Mr. Raines recalled, senior editors were discussing whether Mr. Blair should be considered for a permanent slot on the national reporting staff.

"My feeling was, here was a guy who had been working hard and getting into the paper on significant stories," Mr. Raines said. The plan, he said, was for Mr. Roberts to give Mr. Blair a two- or three-month tryout in the mid-Atlantic bureau to see if he could do the job.

Mr. Roberts said he resisted the idea, and told Mr. Boyd he had misgivings about Mr. Blair. "He works the way he lives — sloppily," he recalled telling Mr. Boyd, who said last week he had agreed that Mr. Blair was not the best candidate for the job.

But with his staff stretched thin to supply reporters for Iraqi war coverage and elsewhere, Mr. Roberts had little choice but to press Mr. Blair into duty on the home front.

After the Hunt Valley article in late March, Mr. Blair pulled details out of thin air in his coverage of one of the biggest stories to come from the war, the capture and rescue of Pfc. Jessica D. Lynch.

In an article on March 27 that carried a dateline from Palestine, W.Va., Mr. Blair wrote that Private Lynch's father, Gregory Lynch Sr., "choked up as he stood on his porch here overlooking the tobacco fields and cattle pastures." The porch overlooks no such thing.

He also wrote that Private Lynch's family had a long history of military service; it does not, family members said. He wrote that their home was on a hilltop; it is in a valley. And he wrote that Ms. Lynch's brother was in the West Virginia National Guard; he is in the Army.

The article astonished the Lynch family and friends, said Brandi Lynch, Jessica's sister. "We were joking about the tobacco fields and the cattle." Asked why no one in the family called to complain about the many errors, she said, "We just figured it was going to be a one-time thing."

It now appears that Mr. Blair may never have gone to West Virginia, from where he claimed to have filed five articles about the Lynch family. E-mail messages and cellphone records suggest that during much of that time he was in New York. Not a single member of the Lynch family remembers speaking to Mr. Blair.

Between the first coverage of the sniper attacks in late October and late April, Mr. Blair filed articles claiming to be from 20 cities in six states. Yet during those five months, he did not submit a single receipt for a hotel room, rental car or airplane ticket, officials at The Times said.

Mr. Blair did not have a company credit card — the reasons are unclear — and had been forced to rely on Mr. Roberts's credit card to pay bills from his first weeks on the sniper story. His own credit cards, he had told a Times administrator, were beyond their credit limit. The only expense he filed with regularity was for his cellphone, that indispensable tool of his dual existence.

"To have a national reporter who is working in a traveling capacity for the paper and not file expenses for those trips for a four-month period is certainly in hindsight something that should attract our attention," Mr. Boyd said.

On April 29, toward the end of his remarkable run of deceit, Mr. Blair was summoned to the newsroom to answer accusations of plagiarism lodged by The San Antonio Express-News. The concerns centered on an article that he claimed to have written from Los Fresnos, Tex., about the anguish of a missing soldier's mother.

In a series of tense meetings over two days, Mr. Roberts repeatedly pressed Mr. Blair for evidence that he had indeed interviewed the mother. Sitting in Mr. Roberts's small office, the reporter produced pages of handwritten notes to allay his editor's increasing concern.

Mr. Roberts needed more — "You've got to come clean with us," he said — and zeroed in on the mother's house in Texas. He asked Mr. Blair to describe what he had seen.

Mr. Blair did not hesitate. He told Mr. Roberts of the reddish roof on the white stucco house, of the red Jeep in the driveway, of the roses blooming in the yard. Mr. Roberts later inspected unpublished photographs of the mother's house, which matched Mr. Blair's descriptions in every detail.

It was not until Mr. Blair's deceptions were uncovered that Mr. Roberts learned how the reporter could have deceived him yet again: by consulting the newspaper's computerized photo archives.

What haunts Mr. Roberts now, he says, is one particular moment when editor and reporter were facing each other in a showdown over the core aim of their profession: truth.

"Look me in the eye and tell me you did what you say you did," Mr. Roberts demanded. Mr. Blair returned his gaze and said he had.

The Lessons
When Wrong, 'Get Right'

The New York Times continues as before. Every morning, stacks of The Times are piled at newsstands throughout the city; every morning, newspaper carriers toss plastic bags containing that day's issue onto the lawns of readers from Oregon to Maine. What remains unclear is how long those copies will carry the dust from the public collapse of a young journalist's career.

Mr. Blair is no longer welcome in the newsroom he so often seemed unable to leave. Many of his friends express anger at him for his betrayal, and at The Times for not heeding signs of his self-destructive nature. Others wonder what comes next for him; Thomas Kunkel, dean of the journalism program at the University of Maryland, gently suggested that the former student might return to earn that college degree.

But Mr. Blair harmed more than himself. Although the deceit of one Times reporter does not impugn the work of 375 others, experts and teachers of journalism say that The Times must repair the damage done to the public trust.

"To the best of my knowledge, there has never been anything like this at The New York Times," said Alex S. Jones, a former Times reporter and the co-author of "The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind The New York Times" (Little Brown, 1999). He added: "There has never been a systematic effort to lie and cheat as a reporter at The New York Times comparable to what Jayson Blair seems to have done."

Mr. Jones suggested that the newspaper might conduct random checks of the veracity of news articles after publication. But Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, questioned how much a newspaper can guard against willful fraud by deceitful reporters.

"It's difficult to catch someone who is deliberately trying to deceive you," Mr. Rosenstiel said. "There are risks if you create a system that is so suspicious of reporters in a newsroom that it can interfere with the relationship of creativity that you need in a newsroom — of the trust between reporters and editors."

Still, in the midst of covering a succession of major news events, from serial killings and catastrophes to the outbreak of war, something clearly broke down in the Times newsroom. It appears to have been communication — the very purpose of the newspaper itself.

Some reporters and administrators did not tell editors about Mr. Blair's erratic behavior. Editors did not seek or heed the warnings of other editors about his reporting. Five years' worth of information about Mr. Blair was available in one building, yet no one put it together to determine whether he should be put under intense pressure and assigned to cover high-profile national events.

"Maybe this crystallizes a little that we can find better ways to build lines of communication across what is, to be fair, a massive newsroom," said Mr. Sulzberger, the publisher.

But Mr. Sulzberger emphasized that as The New York Times continues to examine how its employees and readers were betrayed, there will be no newsroom search for scapegoats. "The person who did this is Jayson Blair," he said. "Let's not begin to demonize our executives — either the desk editors or the executive editor or, dare I say, the publisher."

Mr. Raines, who referred to the Blair episode as a "terrible mistake," said that in addition to correcting the record so badly corrupted by Mr. Blair, he planned to assign a task force of newsroom employees to identify lessons for the newspaper. He repeatedly quoted a lesson he said he learned long ago from A. M. Rosenthal, a former executive editor.

"When you're wrong in this profession, there is only one thing to do," he said. "And that is get right as fast as you can."

For now, the atmosphere pervading the newsroom is that of an estranged relative's protracted wake. Employees accept the condolences of callers. They discuss what they might have done differently. They find comfort in gallows humor. And, of course, they talk endlessly about how Jayson could have done this.

Readers with information about other articles by Jayson Blair that may be false wholly or in part are asked to e-mail The Times: retrace@nytimes.com.

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Halt of SARS in Vietnam Could Hold Lessons for Other Nations

Asia | Sunday 00:31:41 EST | comments (0)

Halt of SARS in Vietnam Could Hold Lessons for Other Nations

HANOI, Vietnam, May 5 — Doctors and nurses clustered around the bed of Nguyen Thi Men when she emerged in mid-March from a nine-day coma, urging her to stay alive.

"Breathe, breathe," they said. "Keep trying. Your husband and your children are waiting for you."

She heard them and she tried, although she felt as if she were drowning, she said in an interview this weekend at her home.

"I saw a lot of doctors looking at me and it really raised my spirits," she said. "So many people looking after me. I was very touched."

What she did not yet know was that they had gathered to view a miracle. She was the only survivor from among the six most critically ill patients infected when SARS broke out in the Hanoi French Hospital more than two months ago.

Her survival became a hopeful symbol for Vietnam, which on April 28 was declared by the World Health Organization to be the first nation to contain and eliminate the disease. Vietnam earned that distinction by going 20 straight days without a new case after recording 63 infections, including the six critical cases. Five people had died.

"Vietnam has been able to show the world that there is hope that SARS can be contained," said Pascale Brudon, the World Health Organization representative for Vietnam.

The country's success was not a miracle, said Aileen Plant, who led the fight against SARS in Vietnam for the World Health Organization. "This was real, old-fashioned infectious disease containment," she said. "It all comes back to the same thing, which is stopping infected people from infecting other people."

After a crucial meeting on March 9 with members of the World Health Organization, the government decided to fight the outbreak openly and aggressively, Ms. Plant said. A task force was formed, information gathering was centralized and virtually the whole government was mobilized to deal with the infection and its consequences.

"It was the speed, the leadership, the transparency, the flexibility, the intensity with which they educated people what to do," she said. "It all sounds a lot easier than it is."

Vietnam's luck was that the disease had entered the country through just one infected person, an American who brought it from abroad. The Vietnamese capitalized on this luck by moving fast to confine the outbreak to the hospital.

That patient, Johnny Chen, a 50-year-old businessman, came to Hanoi in late February after a stay at the Metropole Hotel in Hong Kong, where many of the early cases were contracted.

He fell ill and was taken to the privately run Hanoi French Hospital. He was later evacuated to Hong Kong, where he died. His illness was first identified as a new and unknown disease by a World Health Organization doctor, Carlo Urbani, 46, who later died of SARS himself.

At the urging of Dr. Urbani and his colleagues, Vietnam closed the hospital to new patients and visitors on March 11. Most of the hospital's staff remained inside, some falling ill, others watching their colleagues sicken and die.

"The net effect probably was that they gave SARS to each other and not to the outside world," Ms. Plant said.

Ms. Men, 46, is a pediatric nurse at the hospital, but she often helped out in other wards. It is impossible to know exactly how she was infected, but on the evening of March 1, she said, she spent some time in the room of Mr. Chen, who was critically ill.

In the following days she began to suffer headaches, fever, diarrhea and exhaustion. "It was strange," she said. "A strange, overpowering tiredness."

When she checked herself into the hospital, two other nurses had already fallen ill, but, she said, "it never entered our heads that we could die."

They were friends in nearby beds and they joked, they gossiped, they sang and they left their rooms to wash their hair. But they grew sicker. One nurse, Nguyen Thi Luong, who would be the first to die, was put on a respirator in the next room. Ms. Men could hear it, "Beep-beep, beep-beep."

As the hospital's doctors and nurses were falling ill, the government was coming to grips with the crisis.

It formed a steering committee, led by the health minister, that reported directly to Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and involved the departments of transportation, customs, finance, education and the interior as well as medical experts.

Provincial officials were ordered to file daily 4 p.m. updates. They were told to isolate patients and send them to two designated hospitals in Hanoi. Two suburban hospitals were prepared as isolation centers in case they were needed.

Health workers traced and monitored hundreds of people who had interacted with workers or patients at the hospital, including one "very friendly" man, the father of a patient, who had more than 120 close business and social contacts.

Each of these people was visited every day, said Huang Thuy Long, a steering committee member who heads the National Institute for Hygienics and Epidemiology.

An immigration screening system was set up, soon to be bolstered by seven $50,000 infrared machines at airports and border crossings to detect people with high temperatures, Mr. Huang said. Hundreds of electronic thermometers are being bought for use by immigration agents.

He said 2,000 Vietnamese students studying in China would be isolated for 10 days whenever they returned.

Health experts say there are sure to be more cases of SARS as travelers pass in and out of Vietnam.

The challenge for the government will be to identify and isolate them quickly, as it has now learned to do, before another epidemic is touched off.

The Hanoi French Hospital, in which the outbreak was contained, has transferred the last of its patients to another hospital and is being thoroughly disinfected.

The walls are being repainted, the carpets are being changed and medical equipment is being steam cleaned.

Ms. Men desperately wants to go back to work when the hospital reopens, but it is not certain that she can.

She is still weak and short of breath, and her right leg, immobile during her coma, is painful and has lost some of its function.

When she emerged from the coma six weeks ago, she said: "I couldn't even recognize my own body. It wouldn't do anything I wanted it to. It seemed to belong to someone else."

There was pain everywhere, as if she were being tortured.

"The doctor told me, `Now everything depends on you,' " she said. " `You have to try hard to breathe.' "

Before he removed the tube that had been forcing oxygen into her lungs through an incision in her throat, she practiced breathing, in and out, as if the training wheels were being taken off her bicycle.

"I felt that I was drowning," she said, "like somebody was pushing me under water."

Her doctors stood over her, the only colleague they had managed to save. "Keep going, otherwise all our work will be wasted," she said they told her. "That made me stronger. That made me feel that I was living for other people."

At home with her husband, she has two small daughters to raise. She also has two grown sons. At work she has newborns to care for.

"I want to go back and see my friends and start my life again," she said. "I like my work. It's a happy job." A few days ago, one month after she was discharged, a doctor checked her lungs and found severe scarring. He could not tell her how well she would heal or how long it might take.

At the end of the interview, as her 7-year-old daughter jumped rope outside, Ms. Men limped to a dresser to fetch a certificate from a long-distance race.

It will not be enough for her to walk again, she said. Ms. Men is a competitive runner.

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Turner Sells a Huge Block of AOL Stock

Finance | Sunday 00:31:19 EST | comments (0)

Turner Sells a Huge Block of AOL Stock

Ted Turner, the vice chairman and largest individual shareholder of AOL Time Warner, said yesterday that he had sold about 60 million shares, more than half his holdings, for about $790 million.

People close to Mr. Turner said that the sale reflected his growing disenchantment with the company's prospects. He effectively capitulated to the 70 percent decline in the share price over the last two years, giving up hope of a significant rebound soon. It was unclear why he picked yesterday to unload such a large stake.

People involved in the transaction said that Mr. Turner sold the shares to Goldman, Sachs, which is seeking to resell them to institutional investors. The news that such a big block of shares will be hitting the market is likely to depress the price today.

There also appeared to be a thaw in the relations of Mr. Turner, whose remaining 45 million shares still make him the biggest individual shareholder, and Stephen M. Case, who is resigning as chairman at the company's annual meeting next week because of pressure from Mr. Turner and other major shareholders.

In a statement, Mr. Turner said he "remains supportive of management and has voted in line with management's recommendations on every item scheduled for vote," including the re-election of Mr. Case as a director.

Mr. Turner is also stepping down as vice chairman, but he confirmed yesterday that he, too, would remain a director. Two people close to him said that he felt an obligation to stay on the board, in part because few of the directors had spent much of their careers in the media business. People close to Mr. Turner said he continued to alternate between warm feelings for Richard D. Parsons, the chief executive, and frustration that he generally feels the company is being poorly managed.

Mr. Turner also ended what had been a long, painful process of gradually selling his shares at depressed or falling prices. He said he was stopping a previous plan to periodically sell smaller chunks of his stock to meet his many charitable commitments.

Those steady sales helped hold down the share price, and some analysts said his decision to finish it off with one big sale might remove at least one burden from the share price.

"From an AOL shareholder perspective, it is nice to see an orderly sale process as opposed to the daily drip of a million-share blocks," said Jordan Rohan, an analyst at the SoundView Technology Group.

Mr. Turner transferred about 10 million shares to a charitable trust before they were sold. All of the shares were sold together to Goldman for a bit less than $13.15 a share, a discount to yesterday's closing price of $13.38 cents. Yesterday, Goldman, Sachs was seeking to sell the shares for about $13.15 a share, people involved said. Goldman, Sachs declined to comment. The shares have recently rebounded from lows of about $10 a share.

Mr. Turner did not specify his plans for the cash he raised, but people close to him said that he did not intend to try to buy back any of his former businesses, like CNN or the Atlanta Braves baseball team, which he sold to Time Warner before it merged with America Online.

Associates of Mr. Turner say he continues to complain about AOL Time Warner's efforts to sell business to reduce its debt. He is especially disappointed AOL has begun seeking to sell the three Atlanta sports teams, including the Braves. And he has been particularly critical of discussions to sell its winter sports teams, the Hawks of the National Basketball League and the Thrashers of the National Hockey League, separately from the Braves and the Turner South regional cable channel. He believes that the teams and channel are worth more together, people close to him said. AOL Time Warner is negotiating a deal to sell the winter teams to David McDavid, the owner of a chain of car dealerships in Texas. But a person close to Mr. Turner said he had no interest in buying back control of the teams.

Mr. Turner has plenty of other uses for his money, including philanthropic promises to the United Nations and other organizations, an expanding chain of Buffalo-meat restaurants and a film company.

Over the last year, Mr. Turner has made no secret of his bitterness over AOL's acquisition of Time Warner, sometimes publicly lacerating himself for leaving much of his own wealth tied up in one company. Mr. Turner's friends say he has been particularly furious about accusations of improper accounting at AOL before the merger closed, raising the possibility that it misled Time Warner's shareholders about its financial health.

Now AOL faces inquiries by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department into accounting, mainly at the America Online division before and after the merger. It also faces the possibility of expensive shareholder lawsuits contending that AOL defrauded Time Warner shareholders.

Anger over the merger and its consequences are expected to emerge again at the annual meeting next week, when some institutional shareholders may withhold their votes from Mr. Case over his role as the architect of the deal.

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America's Broadband Dream Is Alive in Korea

Asia | Sunday 00:30:42 EST | comments (0)

America's Broadband Dream Is Alive in Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — As Cho Won Hee zips effortlessly from one Web site to another, his doting mother at his side, it is easy to understand why Silicon Valley views South Korea as the promised land of instant access to the Internet.

The Chos' high-speed digital line — 100 times faster than the typical dial-up connection in the United States — is their zippy gateway to home entertainment, education and shopping, all for $32 a month. And despite the relatively recent arrival of such connections, the Chos, like many Koreans, are already as addicted to their broadband hookup as most Americans are to their television sets.

The Chos are at the cutting edge of South Korea's grand experiment with all things broadband, the catch-all name for high-speed digital connections. With a hefty push from the government, South Korea's telecommunications providers have built the world's most comprehensive Internet network, supplying affordable and reliable access that far surpasses what is available in the United States, even in those homes that have their own broadband setup.

And now that most of the nation is online at high speeds, South Koreans are shifting more of their analog lives to their computers, where they watch soap operas, attend virtual test preparation schools, sing karaoke and, most of all, play games.

By embracing broadband so heartily, Koreans have turned their country into a test case for the visionaries who, just a few years ago, imagined a future of nearly infinite digital possibilities. While those dreams have hit speed bumps in the United States and elsewhere, South Korea — with Japan not far behind — is racing ahead.

In the process, Koreans are offering a glimpse of what wired societies are supposed to look like, where fast Internet connections vastly increase access to information, help lift productivity and create new markets.

"The killer application of the Internet is speed," said Lee Yong Kyung, the chief executive of the KT Corporation, formerly known as Korea Telecom, which controls nearly half of the country's broadband market. "The money is in the pipes."

But maybe not yet. Intense competition and overbuilding has made prying profits out of building those pipes difficult. And while some content providers have flourished, many others still exist on government subsidies. Broadband has also spawned worrying social trends, some say, raising concerns about children addicted to online games and a growing digital divide between the young and the old.

This is not unexpected, given the extraordinary pace of change. Since 1998, telecommunications companies here have installed nearly 11 million broadband lines, over 5 million of those in the last year alone. High-speed lines now reach significantly more than half of all homes with Internet access.

The numbers are startling, given that South Korea was among the nations hardest hit by the Asian financial crisis just half a decade ago. But rather than retrench, the country turned a disaster into an opportunity. Spending on broadband and other high-technology gear helped lead a transformation of the economy, pushing the overall information technology sector to about 13 percent of economic activity and making South Korea much less dependent on heavy industry.

"In Korea, there was a sense of crisis and they needed to take aggressive action to keep up with globalization," said Izumi Aizu, who runs the Tokyo-based Asia Network Research Inc. "In the U.S., the Internet has turned into a very conventional business."

By racing the fastest down the information highway, Korea has highlighted how far the United States has to go. Though broadband connections are increasingly common in America, service is comparatively expensive and coverage spotty.

Telecommunications companies in the United States, from start-ups to long established businesses, spent hundreds of billions of dollars to build fiber optic networks, but many ran out of cash before they brought those lines the "last mile" to people's doors.

When it comes to high-speed penetration of the home, the United States lags well behind South Korea and Canada, and has slipped below Japan.

America's uneven adoption of broadband has Silicon Valley executives looking at South Korea with envy. While often disdainful of government intervention, many high-technology leaders in the United States now argue that Korean policy makers got it right by actively promoting the technology. The Korean government built a nationwide fiber network to get students and others hooked on high-speed service. To keep prices low, it encouraged rivals to compete with the former state-run monopoly, KT, and it provided loans to software ventures.

By contrast, the effort to bring broadband to the American home is bogged down in the fight between the regional Bell companies and their rivals.

Fee-based online services are now blossoming in Korea. Once a novelty, home shopping now makes up 8.7 percent of all retail sales, a rate that is expected nearly to double by 2005, according to Accenture, the global consulting service.

For the Chos, their experience began, like so many Koreans, when Won Hee, now 20, visited one of Seoul's many PC bangs, or Internet cafes, while in high school. Soon he was studying for his college entrance exams online and shopping for music, videos, furniture and a vacuum for his mother.

Though he attends lectures at his college, he does most of his other school work online, including making presentations with his classmates. "The speed is the biggest difference," he said. "Because all my friends have broadband, we tend to use the Internet even more."

Though Korean parents often fawn over their sons, Mr. Cho's parents grew jealous of Won Hee's connection. Since he was always online at night, his father stayed late at his office, where he had his own broadband line. His mother wanted to study for a real estate broker's license online.

So the Chos leased a Wi-Fi base station from KT so their other computers could gain access to the high-speed connection. Mr. Cho started coming home earlier and Mrs. Cho signed up for her course. Wi-Fi, also known as wireless fidelity, is a technology for providing wireless Internet access.

Including their home phone, three cellphones and cable television, the Chos spend about $200 a month on telecommunications fees, which is not atypical for wired families in Korea and a hefty expense in a country where the median annual household income is under $20,000, roughly half that in the United States. Despite the relatively low cost for high-speed Internet, that overall sum, most experts here agree, is close to the limit of what ordinary families will pay. So companies are now focusing on providing even faster connection speeds and new services without raising prices.

Like many American broadband users, the Chos started out with what is called A.D.S.L., for asymmetric digital subscriber line, which is best at downloading data over broadband telephone networks. But they recently upgraded to a system that is even faster in both directions, making it easier to use interactive games and other two-way services. The lines, capable of speeds of up to 40 megabits per second, are much faster than anything commonly available in the United States, where 1 megabit to 3 megabit transmission rates are typical.

High-speed digital access is creating businesses that were unworkable with ordinary dial-up connections. The Korean company Megastudy, for example, has built the country's biggest online test preparation school for college entrance exams, while KT and rival Hanaro Telecom sell accounting services over the Web to small businesses.

But entertainment, as expected, is the big attraction, especially games and videos. In 2001, SBSi, the interactive division of the Seoul Broadcasting System, started charging 500 South Korean won (about 40 cents) a show to watch soap operas and other streaming video programs. The service has attracted 1.8 million registered users; 4,000 more sign up every day. The drama "All In," the true story of a Korean gambler who beat the odds in Las Vegas, drew 1.6 million viewers during its initial 24-episode run online; now 10,000 Koreans a day pay to see reruns on their computers.

"On the basis of this new infrastructure," said Hwang Eun Ju, a manager in SBSi's strategy division, "we could develop and benefit from new broadband content."

While content providers are taking advantage of Korea's broadband network, the companies that built it are besieged. Growth of new subscribers is leveling off and providers, locked in a price war, are cutting installation fees and giving away modems.

KT has the deepest pockets, but its continuing investment in the new super-fast interactive technology is expected to keep its broadband division in the red for at least another year. The chief of the No. 2 player, Hanaro, resigned in March in response to the company's mounting losses. The third-largest provider, Korea Thrunet, filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors, also in March, after failing to find new investors.

"Turning a profit is not the issue; it's whether they can survive or not," said Song Sauk Hun, an analyst at Gartner Korea.

After encouraging rivals to enter the market, the government is now quietly endorsing consolidation.

The United States has gone through a similar shakeout, except it happened before the broadband network was extensively built. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 set off a surge of expansion that collapsed when the Internet bubble burst, driving many of the broadband start-ups, like Rhythms NetConnections and NorthPoint Communications, out of business. While fixed-line operators in Korea and Japan were cajoled into making D.S.L. service available at low cost, analysts say that the Bells are reluctant to cut prices.

At around $50 a month, broadband costs about twice as much in the United States as in Korea and Japan. Worse, broadband in the United States is slower and less suited for interactive entertainment and other two-way uses because it relies on an asymmetric system that receives data much faster than it can send it.

The Bells say they are doing everything they can to promote broadband. But critics say the phone companies view broadband as more of a threat than an opportunity, so they have done little to rectify these problems.

The phone companies "are a very powerful industry that spends enormous amount on lobbying," said Charles H. Ferguson, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington who is working on a book on broadband. "They've been able to retard progress and competition."

Even so, after a slow start, the United States is catching up, mostly because the cable industry has picked up the ball. At the end of 2002, about 16.4 million homes had broadband lines, up 52 percent from a year earlier. Cable companies, which provide more than half of all connections, will invest at least $10 billion this year in new infrastructure.

America's suburban expanse certainly adds to the expense of connecting every home, but until broadband costs less, supporters say, consumers will remain wary.

"If the prices for high-speed access were $25 or $27," said Joseph A. Crupi, vice president for broadband communication at Texas Instruments, "it would be a no-brainer."

But while few question the advantages of having the nation hooked to the Internet by high-speed services, many argue about whether the benefits are worth the cost. The Telecommunications Industry Association, which represents Intel, Cisco Systems and Lucent Technologies, among others, wants Washington to take a larger role in shaping a national broadband policy. A bill now before Congress would provide tax breaks of $2 billion over 10 years; it faces an uphill struggle at a time of budget deficits.

Having seen how South Korea has turned itself into an Internet powerhouse, broadband advocates say that the United States risks losing out by not moving faster.

"People must have access to high-speed Internet from home, as well as work," said Paul Saffo, a director of the Institute for the Future, a technology industry forecasting group in Menlo Park, Calif., "or we won't be full players in the global economy."

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Gunshot Victim in Chinatown Is Identified as Bus Worker, 27

NYC | Sunday 00:26:26 EST | comments (0)

Gunshot Victim in Chinatown Is Identified as Bus Worker, 27

The operator of a Chinatown bus company competing with others in a bitter battle for riders was shot and killed on Friday night on a street near his home, and detectives yesterday were investigating whether the slaying was related to the unusual feud, police officials said.

The gunman, whom the police described as an Asian man in his 20's wearing a waist-length black jacket and a white baseball cap, was apparently waiting for the victim, De Jian Chen, 27, outside Mr. Chen's home on Henry Street, the police said. About 9:15 p.m., as Mr. Chen climbed out of a friend's white Lexus at Forsythe and Henry Streets, the gunman opened fire with a .45-caliber pistol, the police said.

But he missed his mark, and Mr. Chen ran down Henry Street and around the corner onto Market Street, the police said. The gunman followed, catching up with Mr. Chen in front of 32 Market Street and firing again, this time hitting him three times in the back and once in the arm. Mr. Chen collapsed and was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later at New York University Downtown Hospital, the police said.

The police and a business associate of the victim, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, provided different accounts of his relationship to the bus company. The police said Mr. Chen worked for the company, Dragon Coach U.S.A., at 87 East Broadway, and had an ownership interest in another bus company. The associate said Mr. Chen was an owner of Dragon Coach U.S.A. and ran buses from New York City to Philadelphia, Washington and Richmond, Va., and played a lesser role in a company that ran buses to Atlanta.

Over the last year, several Chinatown bus lines that offer low fares to Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and other destinations have competed so fiercely for riders that fistfights have broken out between rival employees, and neighbors have complained of ganglike violence.

Last year, the police and prosecutors investigated certain companies and people associated with them, according to a law enforcement official, but no charges were filed. Last May, Mr. Chen was arrested and charged with first-degree assault; he was accused by the police of deliberately driving his bus into a man affiliated with a rival company. That case is pending.

Police officials said yesterday that detectives from the Fifth Precinct were investigating several motives for the killing, including a possible connection to the larger bus company feud. Yesterday afternoon, several of Mr. Chen's friends gathered in the back room of the Dragon Coach U.S.A. offices but would not speak to a reporter.

The business associate and another Chinatown bus company, called Dragon Coach, said Mr. Chen had worked at Dragon Coach until this year, when he created Dragon Coach U.S.A. A lawyer for Dragon Coach, Laurence Olive, said he plans to file a lawsuit against Dragon Coach U.S.A. to stop it from using the Dragon Coach name.

The business associate said he spoke to Mr. Chen hours before he was killed and was later stunned to learn of the shooting. Asked about the history of competition among the bus companies in Chinatown, he said he had heard about the violence but was unfamiliar with the details.

Recently, Dragon Coach U.S.A. had begun marketing tickets on the Internet, according to the associate, selling thousands more each month.

Yesterday morning, other than a few pieces of yellow crime-scene tape, there were few signs of the killing on the stretch of Market Street where Mr. Chen was shot, just a block from the Manhattan Bridge and the landmark First Chinese Presbyterian Church. Worshipers went in and out of a storefront Buddhist temple at 32 Market Street, burning incense and praying.

At night, the block is usually quiet, residents said. Tony Leung, 43, who lives across the street, said the gunshots had startled him. "I heard about four or five shots," he said.

The police said the gunman was about 5-foot-6 and weighed about 140 pounds. They asked anyone with information about the case to call the Police Department's CrimeStoppers line, 1-800-577-TIPS (1-800-577-8477).

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Apartment Market: Small Is Big

NYC | Sunday 00:25:50 EST | comments (0)

Apartment Market: Small Is Big

The winds of national economic malaise are but a gentle breeze as they pass beneath the gray canopy and by the small but elegant marble lobby of the Central, a condominium and onetime single room occupancy hotel, at the corner of 88th Street and Broadway.

They stirred Matthew Levine, an administrator at Cardozo Law School, to give up the small studio apartment he had rented for a decade — at a steeply increasing rent — to buy his first condo, a crisp white one-bedroom unit just down the hall with much more space, a better view and a mortgage at rates that would have been unimaginable when he started renting.

Downstairs, Lisa Ernst, who runs a small nonprofit organization, became a landlady. She rented out her first condominium, purchased at end of the real estate recession a decade ago, and bought a one-bedroom apartment one floor below Mr. Levine's sixth-floor apartment.

The ill winds gave a moment of pause to Roberta Petersen, who purchased a studio in the Central when it was first transformed from a seedy hotel into a condominium in 1983 and who has been renting it out since she gave up her job at the New York Public Library a few years later and moved to Atlanta with her husband, an investment banker.

With high-end rents falling across the city, Ms. Petersen considered selling, especially after Mr. Levine, her tenant, found his dream apartment only days after signing a lease renewal. In the end she decided to rent out her apartment again, at least in part out of a romantic urge to maintain a bond with New York. But she had to settle for a rent of $1,675 a month, $160 less than she had been expecting.

"It probably would have been smart to have sold it," she said. "But I was feeling such a strong connection to New York. It was the most interesting and exciting city I had lived in, and I have lived in Düsseldorf, Nice, Florence and London."

Her new tenant, a Harvard law graduate who is a second-year associate at a law firm, decided to rent the studio on an impulse as soon as he had seen it. He had been renting a one-bedroom in the neighborhood for $2,450 a month and found that with an 80-hour work week he did not have much time to enjoy the extra space.

The ebb and flow of humanity in and out of the building at 250 West 88th Street, where half of the 59 apartments are one-bedrooms or studios, is in some ways perfectly ordinary, but it illuminates some basic facts about the city's apartment market these days.

While figures for Manhattan show that sales of the largest and most luxurious apartments softened last year, for the second year in a row, sales and prices of small apartments have remained strong. Sales of studios and one-bedrooms increased 25 percent last year over 2001, when transactions all but stopped after the Sept. 11 attacks. Sales of other apartments increased 7 percent from the year earlier.

The strength of the market for smaller apartments is also measurable in another way: the gap in price, measured in dollars per square foot, between them and the larger and generally more luxurious apartments is narrowing.

In the real estate recession of the late 1980's and early 1990's, the market for these small and smaller apartments virtually collapsed. Some banks would not even issue mortgages for studios, while others, brokers recall, sold off foreclosed Manhattan studios for as little as $15,000.

But this time around, as New York and the nation struggle with a stagnating economy, sales of these smaller apartments have remained strong.

Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, an appraisal company, recalled that much of his business in the early 1990's consisted of appraising properties in foreclosure. "I remember thinking you could buy a studio in Tudor City and put the entire purchase price on a credit card," he said.

The market shift can be seen by comparing the prices of studios, square foot by square foot, with larger apartments during the last decade. For a generation, larger apartments have commanded a premium over smaller ones, leading many people looking for large family size apartments to buy smaller adjacent ones to combine.

But as the prices of larger apartments have fallen, the gap between studios and larger apartments has narrowed.

In 1993, for example, two-bedroom co-ops sold on average for 79 percent more per square foot than co-op studios ($251 per square foot versus $140). Last year that gap narrowed to 33 percent ($595 for the two-bedroom versus $446 for the studio), based on an analysis of figures compiled by Mr. Miller for a market report for Douglas Elliman, the residential brokerage. The gap for condos of those apartment sizes also declined, but by less, from a 40 percent premium in 1993 ($337 a square foot for the two-bedroom, $241 for the studio) to 23 percent in 2002 ($740 for the two-bedroom, $601 for the studio).

There are seemingly as many forces driving the market for these lower-priced apartments as there are buyers and sellers at the Central and other co-op and condo buildings.

This market is stronger than it was a decade ago, some real estate analysts say, because there was a glut of new construction and conversions in the late 1980's — more than 22,000 condominium units came on the market between 1985 and 1990, according to an industry group, the Real Estate Board of New York — and very little has been added in recent years.

Then there has been the sharp decline in interest rates, from more than 10 percent on a 30-year mortgage in 1990 to less than 6 percent this year, lowering the cost of owning an apartment.

Others emphasize the decline of stock prices, which have led investors to seek a safe haven in real estate, which they believe can provide long-term gains. And if real-estate prices drop, at least they have a place to live.

Another theory links the strength in the condo and co-op market to weakened demand in the rental market. The uncertainties of war and peace and terrorism are said to be leading some renters to shop around and look for a more permanent abode.

"Something has happened in the world that makes people much more home oriented," said Ruth McCoy, an executive vice president at Brown Harris Stevens. "They want that security of owning. With interest rates as low as they are, it just makes sense to buy."

David Michonski, chief executive of Coldwell Banker/Hunt Kennedy, said he had found buyers at all market levels — including foreign buyers looking for a New York place and parents looking for college apartments for their children — shifting money from stocks and bonds into real estate.

"There are people saying, `You know, hon, we lost $200,000 in our portfolio; let's go buy a pied-à-terre in New York,' " he said.

Hy Rosen has seen the downs and ups of the market for smaller apartments. In 1987, he and his wife, Myrna, bought a 309-square-foot studio at 320 East 54th Street from the sponsor of its condominium conversion for $110,000. Their plan was to use it during the week, weekending in Rockland County.

He watched the value of his new apartment plummet as the market for studio apartments faltered in the recession in the early 1990's. But when they decided to rent it out, they were gradually able to negotiate rent increases to $1,900 a month from $1,300.

Then as the New York economy suffered, their tenant, who was on a month to month lease, called attention to the lower rental prices in the classified ads, and they dropped the rent to $1,700. Now the apartment is in contract for about $240,000, more than double what they paid for it.

"I bought if for $110,000 and a year later it was worth $85,000 — but it came back," he said. "I have some stocks that I bought that will never come back because the companies don't exist anymore."

Studios have always been an important part of the real estate market in Manhattan, where high land costs over the years led landlords to pack smaller apartments into their buildings. While Manhattan has 42 percent of New York City's co-ops and condos, it has 62 percent of the 45,700 studio units, according to the 1999 New York City Housing Vacancy Survey.

Beyond ManhattanGreater Demand
For Studios In the other boroughs, and across the Hudson in New Jersey, brokers have noted some similar patterns. Sales of very expensive apartments have slowed, with prices remaining at their recent highs or slightly below them. At the same time the market for less expensive apartments — including studios, one-bedrooms and some lower-price larger units — remains strong, as renters, taking advantage of low interest rates are stepping up to buy.

"Studios are good investment properties," said Randy Lyn Ketive, a broker in Fort Lee and a principal in the Classic Realty Group. "The rental market has gone down the drain in the last six months now that it is cheaper to own than to rent. The customer who rented here two or three years ago is now buying."

Jean Austin, owner of Brooklyn Bridge Realty on Court Street in Cobble Hill, said, "The very high end is moving slower, but still moving." But most of her sales lately have been not to the legendary Manhattan exiles lured to Brooklyn by lower prices and more space. "To tell you the truth," she said, "our sales are to people already renting in the neighborhood."

In lower-priced areas, like the Bronx and along Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, low interest rates have spurred sales in all apartment sizes. "We have a general shortage of housing in all categories; everything is flying out of here," said Joe Hasselt of Hasselt Realty on East Tremont Avenue in Westchester Square in the Bronx. "It is quite surprising considering that the unemployment rate in the Bronx in now 10 percent."

And at the Fairview, a 424-apartment cooperative at 61-20 Grand Central Parkway in Forest Hills, Queens, a studio apartment is setting a local record: the highest price yet paid for a studio there, $135,000.

Gregory J. Carlson, executive director the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives and Condominiums, who lives in the building, said the buyers, a young couple, were moving to escape the high cost of living in Chinatown in Manhattan. At 720 square feet, the studio was larger than many one-bedrooms in Manhattan, he said.

Another factor in the strength of the small apartment market is the supply of new apartments. During the last few years, almost no new studio apartments have been built, while hundreds of larger apartments have been completed.

Louise Sunshine, head of the Sunshine Group and a marketing consultant for luxury condominium developments, said that while most new condos were studios or one-bedrooms in 1990, the studios developed in the last few years have been largely confined to condominium hotel projects.

In 1990, one of five new condominium apartments was a studio, but by 2000, only one of 50 new condo apartments was a studio, Ms. Sunshine said. One-bedroom apartments made up half of new condominiums in 1990, but only 20 percent in 2000.

The Central was built in an earlier era of space and elegance, though it was never among the most exclusive West Side addresses. In 1915, annual leases were advertised at $1,400 to $1,600, but by 1933, a seven-room apartment could be leased for "a bargain rental" of "$1,200 a year and up."

But by the the 1960's, the building had gone through many changes, riding the ups and downs of the economy and achieving a certain notoriety. Its apartments had been stripped and converted into the 180-room Central Apartment Hotel. It occasionally drew police attention, as when a $25-a-week guest killed the hotel manager with a hatchet in 1966. It was reborn as the Central condominium in 1983, with a lobby of white marble, a domed ceiling and polished brass, and a new glass-walled eighth floor.

Roberta Petersen was one of the first new owners. An art and history major in college, she had come to New York to study library science at Pratt and stayed 15 years, working at an auction house, the Metropolitan Museum and finally the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue.

She had lived in a one-bedroom apartment at East 69th Street in the 1970's and immediately sold it for under $100,000 after the building was converted to a co-op. She realized she had made a mistake when the apartment doubled in price in two years. "Once you sell something in New York, you can never get it back again," she said, wistfully.

So she bought a new studio condo in the Central with hardwood floors and no original details for $72,500 and another $7,500 for built-ins and joined the condo board. After she moved to Atlanta, she stayed on the board for a while for the chance to go to New York for meetings, and she still comes back, buying art for Atlanta clients.

At the Central
A Renter Becomes
An Apartment Owner In 1993, Matthew Levine was looking for a new apartment, his third studio since moving to New York a few years earlier. He found what he wanted in Apartment 208.

A couple was planning on pulling up stakes in New York and moving to New Zealand. He would build a boat, and she would write a book. They wanted to sell, but buyers were scarce because banks were leery of writing mortgages on studios in the depressed market, they told him, and were prepared to rent instead.

Mr. Levine was ready to sign, but then a buyer stepped forward. Lisa Ernst had been looking to rent but found that every apartment she saw "was a shoe box and they wanted $1,000 a month for it." So by the time she got to the Central, she was ready to buy. The sellers wanted $135,000. They settled on $124,000.

"I was buying my first place, and ignorance was bliss," Ms. Ernst said. "I wasn't doing it for investment purposes — I wanted to find a place where I could live. I had to borrow from everyone I knew. For three or four years I was barely making ends meet, but after that it totally paid off for me."

Mr. Levine was left out. But the sellers of Apartment 208 introduced Mr. Levine to Ms. Petersen, the owner of No. 608, who was looking for a tenant, and he rented instead for just under $1,200 a month.

Ms. Ernst, who now runs ThinkQuest New York City, a group that sponsors a computer competition for New York City students, gradually began a "three-year plan" to save enough money to buy a larger apartment.

Mr. Levine continued to pay rent to Ms. Petersen, year after year, a rent that gradually rose to $1,835. But the market was tight, and finding a better rental was difficult.

He was busy with his work as associate dean for business affairs at Cardozo Law School and performing with the Blue Hill Troupe, a light opera company on the Upper East Side. Every time he renewed his lease he thought about buying, but then didn't. "Prices rose," he said. "Two years later, I wished I had bought two years ago."

But for Mr. Levine, buying an apartment was caught up with other more complicated issues, like growing up and settling down. "I was always hoping that when I got married I would get a bigger apartment and I thought that then, I wouldn't buy anything smaller than a two bedroom," he said.

Then as his latest lease renewal date approached, Mr. Levine, still single, began to get serious about buying his own apartment. "It was partly that I was 44 years old, living in studio apartments for 15 years," Mr. Levine said. "I thought it was about time I got a real apartment that had light and had a bedroom and where I was making an investment."

But he just could not find the right apartment at the right price and signed a renewal lease for his studio. The next day his broker called and said a one-bedroom was on the market on his floor. After a hectic week of negotiating, he made a deal for $440,000, about 10 percent above the asking price.

Mr. Levine calculated that with his new mortgage and maintenance, property taxes and tax deductions, his monthly housing costs would rise from $1,835 to $2,200 in exchange for a much larger space.

The deal gave Mr. Levine a new perspective on the rental market when he began holding open houses and working with his landlord, Ms. Petersen, to rent her studio. During the summer, Ms. Ernst had moved into her new one-bedroom apartment and rented her studio for $2,000. But by October, Mr. Levine and Ms. Petersen had found little interest at that price and eventually rented it out for $1,675 a month.

Mr. Levine provided some compensation to Ms. Petersen for the broken lease, but his purchase had compensation of its own. He bought his first dining room table. Some condo owners in the building began greeting him by name. And perhaps because of his M.B.A. degree, he was asked if he wanted to serve on the condo board.

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Neighbors of Vast Hog Farms Say Foul Air Endangers Their Health

Living | Sunday 00:24:51 EST | comments (0)

Neighbors of Vast Hog Farms Say Foul Air Endangers Their Health

PAULDING, Ohio, May 8 — Robert Thornell says that five years ago an invisible swirling poison invaded his family farm and the house he had built with his hands. It robbed him of his memory, his balance and his ability to work. It left him with mood swings, a stutter and fistfuls of pills. He went from doctor to doctor, unable to understand what was happening to him.

The 14th doctor finally said he knew the source of the maladies: cesspools the size of football fields belonging to the industrial hog farm a half-mile from the Thornell home.

"I never related it to the hogs at all," said Mr. Thornell, who is now 55.

A growing number of scientists and public health officials around the country say they have traced a variety of health problems faced by neighbors of huge industrial farms to vast amounts of concentrated animal waste, which emit toxic gases while collecting in open-air cesspools or evaporating through sprays. The gases, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, are poisonous.

The waste is collected in pools because the concentration of hogs is so high that it must be treated before it can be used as fertilizer.

Livestock trade officials and Bush administration regulators say more study is needed before any cause and effect can be proved. But Dr. Kaye H. Kilburn, a professor at the University of Southern California who studies the effects of toxic chemicals on the brain, said evidence strongly supported a link between the farms and the illnesses.

In Iowa, one of the country's two biggest pork-producing states (North Carolina is the other), state environment officials started conducting air quality tests for hydrogen sulfide and ammonia at six neighborhood locations around hog farms last month. Brian Button, an air information specialist with the state, said preliminary data showed that 22 times in April, the gases exceeded the state's recommended air standards of 15 parts per billion of hydrogen sulfide and 150 parts per billion of ammonia, averaged over an hour. The highest level recorded for hydrogen sulfide was 70 parts per billion, a level that would have exceeded the air standards for at least six other states.

Dr. Kilburn, who runs a business diagnosing neurological disorders, said that over the last three years he had seen about 50 patients, including Mr. Thornell and his wife, Diane, who had suffered neurological damage he judged to be a result of hydrogen sulfide poisoning from industrial farms. The Thornells are considering a lawsuit based on his work.

"The coincidence of people showing a pattern of impairment and being exposed to hydrogen sulfide arising from lagoons where hog manure is stored and then sprayed on fields or sprayed into the air" makes a connection "practically undeniable," Dr. Kilburn said in an interview.

Industrial farms often house thousands, if not tens of thousands, of hogs, which generate millions of gallons of waste each year. Runoff and water pollution have been the focus of many of the government and academic studies of such farms' environmental impact.

In comparison, little has been done by federal or state environmental officials to monitor or limit air pollution from these farms. The Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have formed a joint committee to look at farm air pollution.

Around industrial hog farms across the country, people say their sickness rolls in with the wind. It brings headaches that do not go away and trips to the emergency room for children whose lungs suddenly close up. People young and old have become familiar with inhalers, nebulizers and oxygen tanks. They complain of diarrhea, nosebleeds, earaches and lung burns.

Paul Isbell of Houston, Miss., started experiencing seizures after a hog farm moved in down the road. Jeremiah Burns of Hubbardston, Mich., now carries a six-pound oxygen tank with him. Kevin Pearson of Meservey, Iowa, carried a towel in his car because he vomited five or six times a week on his way to work. Julie Jansen's six children suffered flulike symptoms and diarrhea when farms moved into their neighborhood in Renville, Minn. One of Ms. Jansen's daughters was found by Dr. Kilburn to have neurological damage. She has problems with balance and has lost some feeling in her fingers.

Public health officials have been cautious in drawing a clear link from hydrogen sulfide to neurological damage, though they say low-level exposure has been connected to fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, poor memory, dizziness and other health problems.

"In community exposures, when they are exposed to a mixture of chemicals — hydrogen sulfide included — there have been neurological effects reported as well," said Selene Chou, who manages the hydrogen sulfide toxicological profile for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a sister agency of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Based on what I see, there could be neurological effects, but we don't know at what low level of chronic exposure," Ms. Chou said. "That information is badly needed, because communities have experienced these effects."

The agricultural industry, backed by some government officials, contends that these health effects are at best poorly documented. They say that scientific studies have relied too much on the testimony of the people with medical problems, and that there is no way to prove that those problems are directly attributable to the farms.

"The health concern issues raised by the residents are totally unfounded," said Ron Prestage, an owner of Prestage Farms, the target of two suits filed by Mississippi residents. "There has never been a neighbor of a farm who has come forward with any documentation of a health problem of any kind."

Ohio pork producers agree.

"I do not think there is any way that it can be proven that that hog farm, which is a half-mile away, has any effect," said Dick Isler, the executive vice president of the Ohio Pork Producers Council, who said he knew about Mr. Thornell's case. Mr. Isler said studies showed that "any time you are more than a hundred feet away it is not a problem."

Residents say they do not have difficulty proving that they are ill — their medications and oxygen tanks demonstrate that. They acknowledge that for many symptoms, the link to the farms is circumstantial. But in the most extreme cases, they say the evidence of a link is clear.

Bush administration officials are negotiating with lobbyists for the large farms to establish voluntary monitoring of air pollution, which will give farm operators amnesty for any Clean Air Act violations while generating data that will enable regulators to track the type and source of pollutants more accurately.

"We are negotiating with industry to work on capturing better information as to what emissions factors are in play," said J. P. Suarez, who is in charge of enforcement for the environmental agency.

Growing layers of lawsuits, government reports and regulatory tussles on the state and federal levels are signs of increasing tensions. Some 1,800 residents of Mississippi have filed class-action lawsuits against factory farms, and the state health agency has put a moratorium on new ones. In response to citizen complaints, a few states, including Texas and Minnesota, have set pollution standards aimed at the farms. Iowa's state environmental agency recently announced that it would institute new pollution regulations affecting the farms. But the state legislature, under industry pressure, nullified those regulations last week, saying they were overreaching.

State and federal efforts to regulate the water pollution from factory farms may actually cause the farms to divert chemicals into the air, the National Academy of Sciences says. Farms have adopted the practice of spraying liquid manure into the air when cesspool levels get too high, a practice that creates mists that are easily carried by the wind.

When Mr. Thornell first became ill, he said, he thought he had suffered a nervous breakdown. Unable to go back to work as a schoolteacher, he retired on disability at 53. For two years, he had no idea what was happening. Then he learned about Dr. Kilburn's research while watching television. He sent an e-mail message to Dr. Kilburn, who told him to come to Pasadena for a diagnosis.

The Thornells, who had never been to California, drove all the way, with a stop at the Grand Canyon. The diagnosis for both Mr. Thornell and his wife was irreversible brain injuries from the hydrogen sulfide gas.

Mrs. Thornell said her husband had lost his energetic smile. Now he speaks slowly and often loses his train of thought. He does not drive far from the house by himself, because he often gets lost.

"It's like I have a 2.1 gigahertz body with a 75 megahertz mind," Mr. Thornell said. "I feel like collateral damage."

Mrs. Thornell added, "It's the price we pay for cheap food."

Over the last 20 years, the industrialization of agriculture, especially the emergence of large-scale livestock farms, has raised concerns about pollution in rural areas.

"It is no longer the mom-and-pop operation it used to be," said Viney Aneja, a professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences at North Carolina State University who has studied factory farms' air pollution. "This is a factory. Treat it as one. It should be under the same constraints as a chemical operation."

Some former government employees said industry pressure had limited their ability to study and combat the problem.

Former Environmental Protection Agency prosecutors said they started looking at air pollution from factory farms in 1998, but political appointees issued a directive in early 2002 that effectively stymied new cases. "You had decisions about enforcement that were being made on the political level without any input from the enforcement," said Michele Merkel, a prosecutor who resigned from the agency in protest.

Eric Schaeffer, the former director of civil enforcement at the environmental agency, said Agriculture Department officials tried to exert influence to protect the industrial farms. "They essentially wanted veto power," he said.

Lisa Harrison, a spokeswoman for the environmental agency, said, "Given the sensitivity of air emissions issues, headquarters is directly involved in the decision-making process." She said enforcement decisions were made within the agency, and enforcement was continuing.

At the Agriculture Department, officials have reclassified research topics relating to industrial farms and health, including antibiotic-resistant pathogens, as "sensitive." As a result, at least one scientist, James Zahn, has left the department. "It was a choke hold on objective research," said Dr. Zahn, who had studied swine and bacteria until he left last fall. "Originally we were praised for the work we were doing. All of a sudden we were told, no more antibiotic resistance work."

Internal department e-mail messages made available by the Natural Resources News Service show that Dr. Zahn's superiors barred him from presenting research at a conference in Iowa in 2002. A message from a supervisor advised Dr. Zahn that "politically sensitive and controversial issues require discretion."

Julie Quick, an Agriculture Department spokeswoman, said that Dr. Zahn was discouraged from speaking about his research because he is not an expert on how the compounds in swine manure affect human health.

Disputes within regulatory agencies seem distant concerns to the Thornells, who have been advised by Dr. Kilburn to move out of their home. Their neurological damage is irreversible, but they can prevent it from getting worse, he told them.

"If I could sell the house, I would move in a second, but I don't know where to go," Mr. Thornell said. "I've lived here for 44 years. This is home to me."

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It's a Ball. No, It's a Pretzel. Must Be a Proton.

Science | Sunday 00:24:02 EST | comments (0)

It's a Ball. No, It's a Pretzel. Must Be a Proton.

Ask four physicists a seemingly simple question — Is a proton round? — and these might be their responses:



The first two answers are both correct.

What do you mean by "round"?

"It's not a well-defined question," said Dr. Robert L. Jaffe, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In the realm of the subatomic, shape is not a straightforward concept. At the very least, a new theory suggests, a proton, a basic constituent of atoms, may not be as simply round as physicists once thought and as drawn in textbooks.

"I'm going to tell them it's round," said Dr. Xiangdong Ji, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland. "That's the answer that's still correct. Unless I can then teach someone a lesson in quantum mechanics. Actually, in quantum mechanics, measurement is not a simple thing."

Add the fuzziness of quantum mechanics — the notion that an object does not exist in a definite place and time but is instead spread out as a mist of probabilities and possibilities — and the question becomes a variant of a philosophical conundrum: if a proton is not round, but no one can see that it's not round, is it still not round?

Years ago, proton-proton collisions yielded some evidence of a nonspherical shape.

"They came out spinning when they weren't supposed to be spinning," said Dr. John P. Ralston, a physics professor at the University of Kansas. "It's as if they flatten out like water balloons. It's the only known way to explain the data."

Experiments at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Va., a couple of years ago spurred a new round of debate.

There, scientists slammed electrons into protons and recorded the motion of the recoiling protons and deflected electrons. The particles were deflected not just by electric forces — protons are positively charged, electrons are negatively charged — but also by magnetic forces. Electrons and protons both exude magnetic fields, acting like tiny bar magnets.

The experiments showed that when electrons were shot at higher energies, penetrating deeper into the protons, the electric interactions dropped off more quickly than the magnetic ones, contrary to many physicists' expectations that the electric-to-magnetic ratio should remain constant.

"All textbooks show pictures and formulas," said Dr. Gerald A. Miller, who is a professor of physics at the University of Washington. "I have four or five of them on my shelf." He said his first reaction to the Jefferson data was that the data were wrong. "My second reaction was this looked like something else I thought was wrong."

Dr. Miller and two colleagues published a paper in 1996 that predicted a falloff in the electric-to-magnetic ratio. Dr. Miller thought they had somehow made a mistake in their calculations then.

A byproduct of Dr. Miller's theory is that a proton is not always round — or rather, it is not just round. The proton instead exists as a mixture of many shapes. Some look like doughnuts. Others resemble peanuts or odd-looking pretzels.

"It's all these shapes at the same time," said Dr. Miller, who presented his latest ideas at a meeting of the American Physical Society last month in Philadelphia.

While Dr. Miller can easily produce pictures of these shapes on his computer, they are not tangible attributes. And, on average, the shapes still smudge into a round sphere, he said.

Dr. Ji of Maryland said any directly measurable property, like the density of electric charge, would appear spherical. Thus, the proton can be thought of as both round and not round.

The pictures also depend on assumptions of what is inside a proton.

In the late 1960's, particle experiments knocking electrons into the protons indicated that protons had a definite size — about a millionth of a billionth of a meter wide — and that the electrons were bouncing off hard, pointlike objects within the proton.

Earlier, physicists had worked out a mathematical construct for organizing a glut of particles they saw in experiments, describing them as made of still smaller particles known as quarks. In the quark model, a proton consists of two "up" quarks and one "down" quark.

The tiny objects detected within the proton turned out to be quarks. However, a proton is not made of just two up quarks and one down quark; the total mass of those three quarks is far less than that of the full proton. Part of the mass gain comes courtesy of special relativity; the quarks swirl at nearly the speed of light.

But the proton also contains a roiling sea of "virtual particles" — pairs of quarks and their corresponding mirror twins, or anti-quarks, that continually wink in and out of existence — and gluons, particles that bind the quarks together.

"It's like looking inside a black hole," Dr. Ralston said. "Everything must be roaring at superhigh energies."

Most physicists believe they now have a fundamental theory known as quantum chromodynamics that fully describes the behavior of particles within that roiling sea within the proton. But the equations are too complex to solve exactly.

So physicists simplify. Instead of trying to track every virtual particle and gluon in the calculations, one approach is to clump each of the three bare quarks with a surrounding cloud of virtual particles and then regard each clump as a single object.

In the simplest formulation, the three larger, heavier objects, called constituent quarks, move at slow speeds, and calculations indicated that the shape of the proton had to be round. That led to the expectations of the constant electric-to-magnetic ratio.

"Only naïve people thought it would be constant," Dr. Jaffe said.

Dr. Miller's work is a not-so-simple version of the constituent quark model. By adding additional interactions, Dr. Miller showed that the motion of the constituent quarks could contribute angular momentum to the proton — like the moon orbiting the earth — and that generates a multitude of possible shapes.

Others are skeptical because Dr. Miller's model is not derived from fundamental equations of physics. "Some people joke there are more models than there are theorists," Dr. Ji said.

An experiment that scientists hope to conduct at Jefferson in a few years may flesh out the sketch of the proton. By hitting protons with yet higher-energy electrons, the collisions will emit photons that can be assembled into a sort of photograph.

Dr. Ralston says the photograph will provide pictorial proof that protons are not round.

Dr. Ji agrees that the images may not be round, but that does not prove the protons aren't. The images, he said, will pick out only certain quarks, like a photograph taken through color filters. The blue regions of the earth, for example, certainly do not look round.

Physicists still have much to learn about a proton, round or not.

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Young Lives Transformed, Guided by a Camera Lens

Arts | Sunday 00:23:22 EST | comments (0)

Young Lives Transformed, Guided by a Camera Lens

GUATEMALA CITY — One of the first photographs Evelyn Mansilla ever took was of a peaceful landscape of rolling hills peeking out through a thicket of trees. Not a single soul or a speck of garbage was visible, which was almost miraculous, since she took the photo inside the sprawling municipal dump where she and her mother often joined dozens of neighbors to scavenge.

Point of view is all.

"I am here, but it is not all bad, and it could be worse," said Ms. Mansilla, who lives a few blocks from the dump. "You have to see something positive. You have to look for alternatives. We may live in the dump but, look, there is also a forest."

The transforming power of art is urgent among Ms. Mansilla and her friends at the Fotokids, an arts group founded in 1991 as Out of the Dump by Nancy McGirr, a news photographer. Coming from families who survived on castoffs, many were the kind of raggedy children who seemed destined to be pushed aside themselves.

To outsiders Guatemala can seem frozen in time, a country in which tourists descend on rural villages boorishly photographing Mayan priests burning incense on church steps or women weaving colorful skirts. The Fotokids' vision bridges the modern and the traditional, the rich and the poor. They unblinkingly document impoverished slums that have surreal names like Hope or the Jewel; they also embrace moments of giddy joy and even beauty.

Their work has been exhibited in Britain, Germany and Spain and featured in promotional campaigns for children's rights. Several of the Fotokids are now in college studying art, photography or journalism; Ms. Mansilla, 21, is among the journalism students. Others have taken part in a design workshop that has produced posters for advertising campaigns.

A soft light fills the two-story house where Ms. McGirr and her small staff teach, feed and encourage the students. They drift in each afternoon, many still dressed in their white-and-blue school uniforms, and settle around a seminar table in a room lined with books and photos. They live near the dump or come from other poor neighborhoods, some of them riding in packed buses for 90 minutes.

Ms. McGirr has lived in Central America since 1983, one of the journalists from the United States who covered the region's civil wars. She was working for Reuters in 1989 in El Salvador when several Salvadoran colleagues were killed by the army. The killings — which others told her to forget since no gringos would care about the deaths of local journalists — left her weary and infuriated.

She moved to Guatemala, a beautiful but troubled country still in the grip of a brutal war, which would eventually claim the lives of some 200,000 people before ending in 1996.

"I came to Guatemala to mellow out," she said. "That shows you how sick I was."

A nun she had befriended persuaded her to help out with classes the nun held in a room over a mechanic's shop at the dump. Ms. McGirr showed up with her cameras and was soon offering the youngsters a chance to take pictures with some point-and-shoots that she had bought. At first she was printing the work herself, as well as paying for it, until a friend brought the children's photos to the attention of executives at Konica, which donated cameras and film. A turning point came when the children had sold enough postcards and photos to turn a small profit.

"I asked them, `Should we open savings accounts?' " she said. "They said: `No. Put us in school.' "

Fotokids, which has since expanded into Honduras, aims to give the children skills and confidence whether they become photographers or not.

"It's to help them recognize they have a gift," Ms. McGirr said. They have this core inside themselves that gives them a way to express themselves in anything."

The confidence is evident among youths like Atiliano Pérez, who left the farm village of Jalapa when he was 8 to join his older brother in the capital. Now 22, he is about to begin art school.

"In the countryside you feel pretty much abandoned," he said. "There I would have worked in agriculture, taking care of my father's animals. I would not have been able to study much after the fourth grade. Now I am preparing my portfolio. I have had so many experiences to develop myself, to be free."

His recent work includes tiny snapshots from his neighborhood, a rough place of concrete houses tucked under towering power lines. There are close-ups of weathered wooden doors, street scenes glimpsed through gates and fences; one is of a slender teenage girl whose face and hair glow from a shaft of sunlight piercing a dark living room.

The shock value that some viewers associate with the youngsters' early photos of desperately poor places gives way to a sharpness of vision over time, as the photographers develop their own takes on the world. They start out taking pictures of everyday people in ordinary situations, like the man who smilingly flexes his muscles while he takes a break from washing the plastic bags he scavenged from the dump.

Just as many of them have been able to move out of the dump, they have also moved on artistically. They like taking photos of big buildings or angular streetscapes or moody portraits. Some reflect a fascination with lines and tones; others immerse themselves in reflections and shadows.

"It would be easy to keep these kids in their box of `poor kid done good,' " said Logan Robertson, the group's administrative director. "But these kids have broken those assumptions. It's not their deal. They are interested in the world around them. They do not see themselves as victims."

That is a challenge for the viewer, too. Daniel Huecker, an instructor, remembered how Mr. Pérez photographed a pair of hands tied together. Mr. Huecker thought it was a comment on the violence that tore apart the country during the war. It turned out that Mr. Pérez had tied up his drunken brother to quiet him after a binge and was intrigued by the lines and texture of the bound hands.

"When people think of children doing photography, they think of a naïve vision and that we can see through a child's eye," Mr. Huecker said. Instead, he said, "what we see, we bring our own interests, just as the kids bring their own."

Ms. Mansilla is sharing her vision with a new generation, holding classes in a town an hour outside of the capital. Had it not been for her camera, she might have gone on like some other poor youths, drifting along into motherhood, marriage and life on the fringe.

Still, it has not been easy, as seen in a self-portrait she created with dark hues and the words "I have a Big Weight, which I cannot stand anymore."

She is the eldest of five children, the one who always had to be the strongest, the best behaved, the most caring.

"My childhood was short," she said. "All my life has gone quickly. But art was like an escape hatch for me. That is my time. That is my space. Now I mark every stage of my life with a photo."

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A Spy Turned Artist Found a Fugitive, Then Found His Subject

Arts | Sunday 00:22:14 EST | comments (0)

A Spy Turned Artist Found a Fugitive, Then Found His Subject

He will forever be known as the man who captured Adolf Eichmann. But more than 40 years after he snatched that fugitive Nazi off a street in Argentina to face judgment in Jerusalem for directing the mass murder of Jews, Peter Zvi Malkin is making a new mark as the man who captured Eichmann on paper.

As an artist Mr. Malkin long used his gift for drawing and painting as a cover for his operations for the Israeli secret services, including his 1960 Mossad mission to kidnap Eichmann. Now his work has been collected in a two-volume set of images that memorialize his time in Argentina, family members he lost to the Holocaust and a rainbow world of vibrant humanity.

"For me painting is like an operation," he said, speaking of spy work. "The most difficult thing is the idea."

Now in his vigorous 70's with the build of a fireplug, he lives in the East 30's in Manhattan and keeps a studio on the Lower East Side. In an interview he proudly leafed through the new books, which reproduce about 175 of his vividly colored expressionistic paintings, many made while he stalked and guarded Eichmann.

Many of his works cry out with his prose poems and letters from his children in English and Hebrew, the words boldly printed over images of maps, foreign guidebooks and telephone book pages, a pentimento of distant and vanished worlds.

Some of his work, with strong planes of color and black outlines, recalls Georges Rouault, but Mr. Malkin said: "I'll tell you the truth. I didn't know who is Rouault." Rather, he said, he was influenced by stained glass images in Argentina's churches.

Critics in Israel, Europe and Latin America have praised his work. The Jerusalem Post called him a "naïf of formidable powers."

He also received a rave review from New York's most venerable prosecutor. "He's an extremely talented artist, and he did some of his work under the most difficult and trying circumstances, when guarding an all-time murderer," said Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, who is also a fan of Mr. Malkin's undercover work.

The first volume, "The Argentina Journal," has previously exhibited work mostly from a 1960 South American guidebook that Mr. Malkin covered with paintings and drawings on the Eichmann mission. One is a pencil portrait of Eichmann over a map of South America.

"You paint?" he said Eichmann once asked him, having caught a glimpse of his makeshift sketchbook. Breaking a ban on chitchat with the prisoner, Mr. Malkin, who speaks seven languages, said he replied, "Yes, I play with paint." The two ended up carrying on a stilted dialogue of sorts, Mr. Malkin recounted in his 1990 book, "Eichmann in My Hands," written with Harry Stein.

The companion to "The Argentina Journal," called "Casting Pebbles on the Water With a Cluster of Colors," has new work: images of lovers, crowd scenes and still lifes superimposed on pages of a small atlas. It was inspired, Mr. Malkin wrote, by the Jewish tradition of casting bread upon the water "to give, asking nothing in return but to be blessed."

He began preparing the books after meeting the woman who became his editor, Patricia G. Ambinder, in 1995. To accompany the Argentina pictures, he wrote some 60 essays in Hebrew and translated them into English, which she then edited. "He's probably the most humane man I've ever worked with," Ms. Ambinder said, "which is why he's able to do superhuman things." (The books, published by VWF Publishing, are sold at $90 a set through www.peterzmalkin.com or through major online booksellers.)

Mr. Malkin (who also goes by Malchin, the name he was given at birth) said he spent 27 years in the Israeli secret services, ultimately as operations director and often under the cover of a traveling artist. Even today, with Mr. Malkin long out of intelligence work, his studio in a housing project at the easternmost end of Grand Street abutting the F.D.R. Drive seems suspiciously clean and orderly, but, he said, he indeed works there nights producing the canvases that are all over. "By dirty doesn't show you're a good painter," he said. His snooping taught him to leave places immaculate, he said: "In the secret service, it's not how you go in, it's how you go out."

He was born in British Palestine around 1929 and within a few years traveled twice with his parents back to their birthplace in Poland in an ultimately futile effort to rescue his married older sister, Fruma, and her family. They later perished in the Holocaust, along with 150 of his other relatives, Mr. Malkin said.

As a schoolboy, he wrote, he was recruited into the Haganah, the underground army fighting for a Jewish nation. He fought in the war for independence in 1948, he said, and later joined the country's secret service, then called Shin Beth, specializing in safecracking and explosives.

"I never killed anybody in my life," Mr. Malkin said. But he led many operations he will not discuss, saying only, "I helped get information."

Among his proudest exploits, he said, was obtaining a list of former Nazi rocket scientists working for Egypt. He said he once eavesdropped on a meeting of Arab officials by hiding under their conference table. He was picked up or arrested about 40 times, he said, always talking his way out of trouble.

After an initially discounted 1957 tip exposed the whereabouts and alias of Eichmann, the Mossad leader Isser Harel sent a commando team of Mr. Malkin and six others to Buenos Aires to bring Eichmann back alive.

During surveillance around the suburb of San Fernando, where Eichmann was living as Ricardo Klement, Mr. Malkin had lots of time, he said, to fill his guidebook with images in water colors, acrylic and even the makeup that was kept on hand to disguise Eichmann when they caught him.

"I spent a lot of time in churches," he said, showing the paintings of stained glass windows. "If you go to a synagogue, someone is always asking if you're alone, if you're married. In a church in a hundred years no one would ask." He also painted local people and the safe houses his team had prepared, members of his lost family and even a schematic of the kidnapping plan.

"It was like a race between me and the pictures," Mr. Malkin said. "I wanted to finish covering the Argentina pages before I left."

In May 1960 Mr. Malkin, wearing gloves out of revulsion over touching Eichmann, grabbed him as he got off a bus near his home. Fellow agents bundled him into a waiting car and sped him to a nearby safe house, where Mr. Malkin often sketched while guarding him. Eichmann, drugged and disguised as a hung-over airline steward, was soon smuggled to Israel aboard an El Al jetliner. After a four-month trial the next year, he was found guilty of crimes against humanity. He was hanged and cremated, and his ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean.

The story was told on television in 1996 in "The Man Who Captured Eichmann," with Arliss Howard as Mr. Malkin and Robert Duvall as Eichmann.

Mr. Malkin said he retired from Mossad in 1976 to devote himself to painting, lecturing and private security work. "I'm out of the secret service business for sure," he said. "But I help."

One of those he helped was Mr. Morgenthau, who in the late 1970's was investigating two rogue C.I.A. agents, Frank Terpil and Edwin P. Wilson, who were suspected of selling weapons and explosives to the Libyans and Ugandans. Wary of going to the C.I.A., Mr. Morgenthau said he approached Mossad and was put in touch with Mr. Malkin. "He gave us some very, very valuable information," he said. The two C.I.A. men were later convicted, but Mr. Terpil fled to Syria, then Cuba.

Mr. Morgenthau said he in turn helped Mr. Malkin get his green card. Mr. Malkin has since been naturalized while retaining Israeli citizenship. He goes back and forth to Israel, where his wife, Roni, lives. One of their sons, Omer, a financial consultant, was in the World Trade Center's south tower on Sept. 11, 2001, and narrowly missed the attack when he left his office to meet his father, who was a few blocks away.

In a Chinatown restaurant, where he was being interviewed, Mr. Malkin reached for the check. A reporter grabbed it first. Mr. Malkin snatched it away good-naturedly. "I shoot you if you do that," he said.

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How Does a Piano Get to Carnegie Hall?

PQ+ | Sunday 00:21:27 EST | comments (0)

How Does a Piano Get to Carnegie Hall?

The contest was between a giant sandwich of wood — 18 strips of maple, each about half as long as a city bus — and half a dozen workers with muscles, a pneumatic wrench and a time-conscious foreman. The workers were supposed to bend and shove those 18 strips into a familiar-looking shape, and beat the clock. "We're allotted 20 minutes," the foreman, Joseph Gurrado, muttered.

After 14 minutes of pushing and pulling and flexing and grunting that another boss standing nearby called "the Fred Flintstone part of the operation," the wood was forced into a curve. And, in the too-warm basement of a gritty factory that opened when Ulysses S. Grant was president, piano No. K0862 was born.

Like other newborns, it came with hopes for greatness and fears that it might not measure up despite a distinguished family name, Steinway.

Or that it would be grumbled about by Steinway's customers — temperamental, obsessive, finicky pianists whose love-hate relationship with the company and its products is as complicated and emotional as anything in Chekhov. Yes, pianists grouse that Steinways are not what they used to be. Yes, pianists ascribe whatever faults they found in whatever Steinway they just played to every Steinway. And no, the majority would never play anything but.

Steinway knows all this. Like No. K0862, every new piano that rolls out of the Steinway & Sons factory — in Astoria, Queens, next to oil tanks that block the view of the Rikers Island jails — is an attempt to refute the notion that the only good Steinway is an old Steinway.

So how good will No. K0862 be? Will it sound like "a squadron of dive bombers," as the pianist Gary Graffman said of a Steinway he hated on first hearing but came to love? Or will it begin life with the enormous bass and sweet-singing treble that pianists prize the way wine lovers prize a 1989 Romanée-Conti? Will it be good enough for Steinway's concert division, which supplies pianos to big-name artists?

No one can say. Not yet.

It will take about eight months to finish No. K0862, an 8-foot 11 3/8-inch concert grand. Along the way, the rim will be aged in a room as dim as a wine cellar. It will be sprayed with lacquer, rubbed and sprayed again.

Its 340-pound iron plate will be lowered in and lifted out 10 or 12 times. It will spend time in rooms where workers wear oxygen masks to avoid getting headaches (or getting high) from smelly glues. It will be broken in by a machine that plays scales without complaint, unlike a student.

Someone walking through the factory, following the progress of No. K0862, could forget a basic fact about what goes on there: Every Steinway is made the same way from the same materials by the same workers. Yet every Steinway ends up being different from every other — not in appearance, perhaps, but in ways that are not easily put into words: colorations of sound, nuances of strength or delicacy, what some pianists call personality. Some Steinways end up sounding small or mellow, fine for chamber music. Some are so percussive a full-strength orchestra cannot drown them out. On some, the keys move with little effort. On others, the pianist's hands and arms get a workout.

Why? No one at Steinway can really say.

Perhaps it is the wood. No matter how carefully Steinway selects or prepares each batch, some trees get more sunlight than others in the forest, and some get more water. Certain piano technicians say uncontrollable factors make the difference.

Perhaps, in a plant where everyone is an expert craftsman, some are great, others merely good.

Someday, if its personality turns out to be extroverted but not strident, if its key action turns out to be loose but not mushy, No. K0862 may be pounded or caressed in public by someone like Alfred Brendel or Maurizio Pollini at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center. First, though, No. K0862 will be pounded and caressed in the factory by woodworkers with tattoos on their burly arms, by technicians known as bellymen, by tuners confident that they can improve it, no matter how good it sounds at first.

There is Anthony Biondi, 31, who was hired nine years ago as a veneer cutter, someone who selects wood for rims. His tools include the oldest machine still used in the factory, a 130-year-old cutter, and the newest, a million-dollar trimmer that arrived in January.

There is his boss, Mr. Gurrado, the foreman. In a company once legendary for its "lifers," he is a new kind of middle manager. When Steinway hired him in 2000, he had no experience in woodworking but 15 years of manufacturing everything from leather goods to lemonade. He replaced a foreman who retired after 41 years of making Steinway rims.

And there is Andrew Horbachevsky, the 44-year-old manufacturing director, who has worked for Steinway for 15 years. "This company kind of sucks you in," he said. "I've had a dream where my wife turned into a piano."

A Holdout in Queens

Steinway remains one of the last outposts of hand craftsmanship in a machine-dominated industry in what was once a boomtown for piano makers. Steinway is now one of the last large manufacturing operations in New York City, which the State Labor Department says lost 666,400 factory jobs between 1962 and the end of last year, when 217,000 remained.

Unlike competitors that left for plants in the Sun Belt, Steinway has stayed put. The factory was originally the centerpiece of a 400-acre company town where Steinway workers lived in Steinway-built houses and shopped at Steinway-owned stores.

By moving everything but their store and their offices out of Manhattan, the Steinways hoped to elude 19th-century labor turmoil. They succeeded, for a while.

Eventually, the Steinways sold all but 11 acres, and, in 1972 they sold the company itself, which was unionized in the 1930's. But their name remains on Steinway Street, and company officials say that most of the 450 workers at the plant still live in the neighborhood. Mr. Biondi, the veneer cutter, bicycles to work in warm weather.

Real Ebony? $50,000

Now as in the past, the products made in the Steinway factory are famous, and famously expensive. No. K0862 will sell for about the same as one of the most expensive Mercedes-Benz coupes: $92,800.

No. K0862 will have what Steinway calls an ebonized finish, meaning it will be painted black. Real ebony is available, for an extra $50,000: Steinway says it has no effect on the sound. But the guts of every concert grand — the strings, the hammers that strike them, the keys to which the hammers are attached — are identical.

That raises the question of age. Is a brand-new piano ready the moment it leaves the factory?

Maybe, maybe not. In the 1920's, a golden age for Steinway, there were probably pianists and tuners who whined that the best pianos were those made at the end of the 19th century. There are certainly pianists today with a fondness if not a reverence for Steinways from the 1920's and 1930's. "The majority of instruments from back then, there's a level of color and personality that is undeniable," said the pianist Stephen Hough.

As for what comes out of the factory these days, the pianist Erika Nickrenz said: "The brand-new Steinways tend to be a little blank. They have all the characteristics, but it takes pianists to play them and really bring out what's there." But, in a tryout at Steinway's showroom in Manhattan, she preferred a concert grand that left the factory on April 27 to four others, including one from 1962.

"Older is not better, and we can prove it," said Bruce A. Stevens, the company's president. "Where that started was with people who make their living rebuilding Steinways, and they tell their customers that. We've just about given up rebutting it." But not completely. A moment later, he used the word poppycock.

Determining which pianos are great is terribly subjective. In 1981, The Atlantic Monthly watched Steinway assemble a concert grand, No. K2571. By the time the magazine published its 18,000-word article, that piano had been put before André-Michel Schub, who picked a different instrument for a recital at the factory. But Richard Goode played No. K2571 at Alice Tully Hall.

And then, when it was not quite two years old, Rudolf Serkin adopted it. "He wasn't really happy with the Steinways he had been playing in concert," recalled the manager of Steinway's dealership in Boston, Paul Murphy. So Steinway lined up half a dozen grands for Serkin to try.

He chose No. K2571 and had it shipped first to the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont and later to his studio nearby. It stayed there until shortly before his death in 1991, when Mr. Murphy delivered a new piano, hauled away No. K2571 and gave it the equivalent of a 100,000-mile tuneup. Mr. Murphy later sold No. K2571 to a medical student from Japan. She took it to Kyoto.

Guts of Steel

In the two decades since that piano left the factory, Steinway has done some modernizing. Computer-generated bar codes now track the parts of a piano in the making. In 1981, one way that was done was on file cards in the pocket of a great-grandson of the company's founder.

Machines now cut the wood for the lids and legs — something done by hand until about 15 years ago. "This is furniture-making," Mr. Horbachevsky said. But he added, "There are operations we can't automate because that would take the soul out of Steinway."

One of those operations is the one Mr. Gurrado inherited last year, rim-bending. It had gone unchanged for so long because the piano has gone unchanged for so long.

What Steinway's original square pianos — or its earliest grands — did not have were rigid rims. The company's second generation perfected that. One of the Steinways after the ampersand in the company's name, C.F. Theodore Steinway, held more than 40 patents and collaborated with the physicist Hermann von Helmholtz to marry the methodology of science to the making of pianos. They reasoned that longer and stronger strings would produce a larger and louder sound but would also put extreme pressure on the rim.

C.F. Theodore Steinway's solution is Mr. Gurrado's: rim lamination. C.F. Theodore Steinway figured that gluing thin strips of wood together would create a rim noticeably stronger and more durable than one crafted from just one or two thick boards. Even the glue would add strength. Laminating the rim was one of the innovations that made possible an instrument with a big sound, the grand piano Steinway has manufactured ever since.

When a Book Is a Sandwich

The eight-month manufacturing schedule for No. K0862 does not include the morning Mr. Biondi spent slicing the stack of wood for the rim into pieces 3/16 of an inch thick and roughly eight feet long. Nor the time he spent taping those pieces into 22-foot-long strips to form the "book," as the sandwich of wood that becomes a rim is known at the factory.

Among Steinway's workers, Mr. Horbachevsky says, rim-bending was once dominated by Italians. No one can say for sure why they were hired for those jobs more often than for others, but when a job was available, someone at Steinway would tell a friend, who would apply.

In the 1980's, Caribbean immigrants began taking the place of Italians who retired. In the 1990's, the labor pool changed again. Now the crew includes three Bosnians.

Among them is Nazif Sutrovic, who was a police official in Sarajevo during the 1984 Winter Olympics and has worked at Steinway since 1997. Apologizing for his balky English, he says, "I don't have time to go to school." He has another job, as the superintendent of a Brooklyn apartment building.

The Wood Gets Amnesia

On the way to what Steinway calls the rim-bending machine — though it is essentially a piano-shaped vise perfected by C. F. Theodore Steinway, and has no motor — Mr. Gurrado's crew made an important stop They fed the book, layer by layer, through a glue-spreader that looks something like a washer with a wringer. At the far end, two workers, Tommy Stavrianos and Jean Robert Laguerre, dipped brushes in glue pots for touch-ups.

Mr. Stavrianos — at 28, the youngest man on the crew — and his colleagues talk proudly of the pianos they make and the company's traditions. But they are not the concert-hall regulars that their pianos are. The radios around the factory play soft rock and jazz, not stations where Steinway artists are often heard.

The rim-benders use their physical strength in a way that is unusual in a modern factory. At 9:54 a.m., the crew leader, Eric Lall, is busy shoving the book into place along the side of the piano where the keys for the bass notes will be. He begins tightening spindles on the clamps while Patrick Acosta, 30, uses a long-handled lever to force the rest of the book toward the big curve at the end.

Mr. Acosta says this is all the exercise he needs, or gets: "I build pianos. That's my workout." The lever in his hands weighs 80 pounds. The clamps — "posts," the crew calls them — are 65 pounds each.

At 10:10, with a whack from Mr. Acosta, the rim is done. "Fourteen minutes," Mr. Gurrado says.

The time allotted for bending a rim is 20 to 25 minutes. As he explains, "We're working against the glue." It begins to set that fast.

The rim spends its first 24 hours clamped in place. "Wood has a memory," Mr. Gurrado says. The day in the clamps is deprogramming time, so the wood will forget its past and not pop out of its new shape.

After three days across the workroom from where it was bent — Mr. Gurrado does not want to shock it by moving it out of a by-now-familiar environment too quickly — it goes to a room that looks like a wine cellar but is warm and dry and on an upper floor in the factory. It will spend about 60 days there, with 500 other rims that are awaiting sounding boards, plates and keys.

"It's going to be whatever it's going to be, good or whatever," Mr. Stavrianos says after parking it there. "There's nothing you can do now but wait. It's out of our hands."

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An Editor's Fashion Legacy Ends on a Quiet and Distant Runway

Fashion | Sunday 00:17:05 EST | comments (0)

An Editor's Fashion Legacy Ends on a Quiet and Distant Runway

There were barely used Manolo Blahnik shoes, some selling for as little as $50. Purses by Chanel and Prada, many new and still stuffed with packaging, sold for $175 and up. There were 15 Hermès scarves, framed and suitable for hanging, Chanel suits, Armani tuxedo pants and four Versace haute-couture pieces with handwritten labels: "X Directrice Vogue Inglese."

They had belonged to Elizabeth Tilberis, the editor of British Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, who died of ovarian cancer at the age of 51. Four years after her death, her clothing and other property found its way to an auction house in rural Maine, on a road dotted with convenience stores, bait shops and a Veterans of Foreign Wars post. The materials were sold on April 30 before a crowd of roughly 300, mostly locals, including Neil Andersen, an owner of the A-1 Diner in Augusta. He bought nine lots of Tilberis's Chanel couture — suits and jackets in the $200 to $400 range, which he called "a steal" — and a pair of Prada skis for $225.

"I'm not sure people realized what they were looking at," Mr. Andersen said of the couture pieces. "I wasn't sure, either, until I looked at the labels and went, `Oh my God.' "

The disbursal of the glamorous trappings of Tilberis's three decades in international fashion, by the Cyr Auction Company of Gray, Me., about 30 minutes north of Portland, might seem a disconcerting coda to her life.

But the auctioneer, James Cyr, insisted it was business as usual. Last winter, one of his scouts in the Hamptons had seen a couple of antiques that Tilberis's husband, Andrew Tilberis, was selling, and told Mr. Cyr about them, adding that Mr. Tilberis had more to sell. Besides clothing, there was antique furniture, art and a collection of letters written to Tilberis by Diana, Princess of Wales, a close friend. Many items came from the Hamptons home, which Mr. Tilberis sold in February.

Mr. Cyr was planning to visit the Hamptons to review other estates, and arranged a meeting with Mr. Tilberis. "I looked at what Andrew had — the furniture, the clothing, the Diana letters — and I thought it had a lot of potential, considering how famous Liz was and the connections she had in the fashion world," Mr. Cyr said. "It didn't matter whether the objects were sold in New York or Maine. He said, `I've been caretaker of these things long enough, and now it's time to streamline my life.' He took the things that meant the most to him, and we took the rest."

Louisa Terry, a former assistant to Tilberis at Harper's Bazaar, who described her as "a second mother," and helped select the items, said it was hard for her to see the clothing and other personal items sold.

But Mr. Tilberis described the auction as a kind of cleansing. "I felt it was time to clear the decks," he said. "I don't put that much importance on objects like these, and I really wanted to just get rid of it all. I feel like a great load has been lifted off me."

The result was an eclectic array of possessions that provided glimpses into the life of one of the fashion world's brightest stars. Bidders, in person, as well as by phone and Internet, snapped up furniture ranging from a modernist glass-and-chrome conference table ($2,500) to a country-style cupboard that had belonged to Mr. Tilberis's family in Bath, England ($400). There were candlesticks by Donna Karan ($100), a pair of elegant Versace lamps ($700) and a drawing of Tilberis done by Karl Lagerfeld ($550). The eight Diana letters, written in large, looping script on cream-colored paper and tucked into clear plastic sheaths, failed to attain reserve prices that Mr. Tilberis had set for them, he said. He plans to pass them on to his two sons.

Many of the glimpses were poignant, especially during the sale of clothing. Tilberis's six-year battle with cancer transformed her from a size 14 to a 6 ("At last I look good in Chanel!" she once said to a favorite photographer, Patrick Demarchelier), and the contrast in sizes between some of the auctioned suits suggested the toll the illness took on her body. The presentation of Tilberis's mother's wedding dress, in a floor-length dove-colored velvet, drew gasps from the crowd, followed by groans when it sold for $75.

Mr. Cyr, who did not give figures, said he thought the proceeds compared favorably with the sale of some of Tilberis's jewelry, clothing and furniture by the auction house Doyle New York in 2001. (Doyle representatives would not provide a dollar figure for its sale.) Mr. Tilberis said he expected to net at most $40,000 from the Maine sale and planned to donate 15 to 20 percent to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. His wife had been president of the organization, and had helped raise millions of dollars for it, in part through sales and auctions of racks of designer clothing in the Hamptons.

It was the clothing, as well as Tilberis's reputation in the fashion world, that drew Mr. Andersen, the diner owner, who runs a side business selling designer clothing on eBay. Despite the bargains, Mr. Andersen said, he could not get over the sadness that hung over the event. He had been a student of Tilberis's career — he said he still has the first issue of Harper's Bazaar that she edited, in 1992, its striking cover photo of Linda Evangelista announcing a bold new direction for the magazine — and her presence seemed to cling stubbornly to many of the objects in the auction.

"It was so sad to think of this woman suffering this great tragedy, and then to see people pawing through all these beautiful things," Mr. Andersen said. "Then, at one point, I heard somebody say, `In the end, it's just stuff,' and they're absolutely right. The good part is that somebody else might get to enjoy it."

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My Lingerie, a Story in 3 Acts

Living | Sunday 00:16:11 EST | comments (0)

My Lingerie, a Story in 3 Acts

I DON'T have the body of a lingerie model, but I have the underwear drawer of one. Not that models need the frilly garments. Truth is, perfect shape or not, no one actually needs a black and red flouncy silk thing called a baby doll, certainly not a 38-year-old mother of two like me.

I first discovered the world of fine washables right out of college while working as a fact checker at a women's magazine. When I got my first paycheck, I planned to spend the discretionary dollars on a fantastic outfit to wear to the office. But the meager remainder after I had paid my rent and bills — around $20 — was not enough to buy more than a pair of underwear. So that's what I bought, at Bloomingdale's. They were black satin, by Natori.

Swishing around in such extravagance the next day under my CP Shades skirt, I felt just as cool as the fashion editors in Armani. I imagined that if I were hit by a bus, the emergency medical guys who took off my clothes to administer life-saving techniques would work that much harder upon seeing my undergarments.

Hooked, I started acquiring camisoles, thongs, demibras. It was on a first date with an older, successful freelance writer that I discovered the effect of lingerie on men. Over dinner he seemed to be staring at my left shoulder, where, I noticed, a magenta bra strap was showing. Should I cover it up? I experimented, strategically moving my shirt so that more of the strap was exposed. "Check, please!" he said.

The fact that an older, successful man was at my mercy because of a bra strap was a revelation. I felt like Catherine Deneuve in "Belle de Jour." Somehow, sexy underwear had blinded him to my flaws. As other men were similarly seduced, the delusion became contagious. I started to believe that any imperfection could be trumped by lingerie. A thong canceled out a flat behind. A bustier negated a soft belly. Lingerie turned into part of my standard uniform for dates, like lipstick and a good top. I felt naked without it.

Glenn, the man I eventually married, had never been with an underwear enthusiast before, and boy was he glad to meet me. Early on, I planned stealth missions. He would go to the bathroom, and come back to find me fully costumed on the couch. "Ta da!" I'd say, and he would clap. As the years passed, I continued to surprise him, but we also shopped together. In fact we could chart our major life events by acquisitions: the black lace slip I ta-da'ed on our first anniversary (hearty applause); the cerulean panties I wore at our wedding (new and blue!); the green silk peignoir (XL) he gave me when I was miserably and hugely pregnant with our first daughter. Along with our Brooklyn apartment, children and job pressures, lingerie was an interest we shared. We both loved it, he for his reasons, and I for his reasons.

The least expensive piece, a pink cotton camisole, something Glenn bought at a street fair, was his favorite. I found it plain, modest enough to wear in public, but he loved how it looked. When he was diagnosed with cancer seven years into our marriage, I wore it nearly every night, desperate to do whatever pleased him while I still had the chance. But the magic of my undergarment could not stop the spread of malignant cells. Five months later, Glenn died at the age of 34. The week before his death, it occurred to me that I should tuck that camisole into the coffin with him, but, like so many things during that time, I forgot and then it was too late. It never occurred to me to wear it to the funeral, or ever again. The camisole, the pleasure of it, died with him. I wanted him to have it. I regret that he does not.

I was not a merry widow. My underwear drawer was suddenly a pit of painful memories. All of it had to go: the black velvet bustier from Valentine's Day 1993; the purple thong-bra set from our fifth anniversary; and especially the pink camisole. Along with other post-mortem duties like meeting with estate lawyers, ordering death certificates and headstones, I took a morning to empty the contents of my top drawer into a plastic garbage bag and haul it to the street.

The next day I walked to Duane Reade and bought a dozen pair of Hanes Her Way bikini briefs. The Maidenform bras came next. I adapted to this change as well as I handled others. That is to say, with difficulty and resignation. I was no longer a woman who fortified herself with fancy lingerie to feel sophisticated and sexy. I was a widow who hid in no-frills garments to feel nothing.

I stayed numb for eight months. And then the cotton briefs started to itch. In a way, I had set myself up. Before Glenn's diagnosis I had started a novel, "The Accidental Virgin," in which the main character works at a lingerie retail site. So to work on the book I had to re-enter the world of tangas and thongs that I had abandoned during Glenn's illness and the fallow months after his death.

But as I browsed online I started to feel that old longing for intimates. And, it followed — intimacy. Lingerie was getting bolder and wilder, and the images I saw on my screen showed that anything was possible. For the future of undergarments, and, maybe, for me.

Soon I found myself doing another kind of online browsing, checking out the personal ads. "I'm sensitive, understanding. A great listener," one read. "Now send me a picture of you in your underwear." I laughed out loud. He was joking, of course. But, having just finished a thorough tour of agentprovocateur.com, I could not help thinking, "This is the guy for me."

His name was Steve, and we met nearly two months after our initial e-mail exchange. I did not buy new underwear for our first date; at the time it still felt like a betrayal of Glenn. But when, on our third date, a couple of weeks later, Steve announced that lingerie did little for him anyway (this said after I had apologized for the Hanes and Maidenform), I found myself slightly disappointed. We were together for a few months when I decided to challenge his notions. I was at Banana Republic, looking for a black cardigan, when, impulsively, I bought a gray cotton camisole and short shorts set instead. That night, when Steve was brushing his teeth, I hurried into my new things. I could not say "Ta da" when he came into the bedroom. That would have been weird. So I said nothing. Neither did he. His silence was so loud I could hear crickets outside. Finally, I said, "Do you like my outfit?" He said, "Yes, very pretty."

The following week, I tried something more dramatic: thigh-high black stockings and a purple satin thong. He was similarly uninterested. I, on the other hand, was beginning to enjoy myself hugely, and started making as many trips to Victoria's Secret as I had in my 20's. Though the celebrity models who sell naughty lingerie are barely out of their teens, the most successful of Victoria's Secret's five subbrands is Body by Victoria, aimed at women 28 to 40.

This time around, along with the frisson of secret sexiness, the intimates felt comforting and normal, like a welcome home.

Two and a half years after the great purge, my underwear drawer has been replenished with sheer satiny things. It's funny that retailers once called these pieces "foundation garments," because that is exactly what they are — the most elemental fashion choice a woman can make. It is the secret support, the second skin that walks with you around every unexpected bend. It reflects who you are and what you are looking forward to. As I see the contents of my underwear drawer gradually turn from black and white back into Technicolor, I can sense the vivid shift in myself.

Granted, Steve remains unmoved. But it isn't about him. In my second shot at both lingerie and love, I am fiercely intent on doing whatever pleases me while I still have the chance. Which is why, last month, I filled a garbage bag with Hanes Her Ways and Maidenforms and hauled it to the street, never to be seen on the likes of me again.

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Lore Among The Ruins

Travel | Sunday 00:14:25 EST | comments (0)

Lore Among The Ruins

WHEN Western civilization becomes trying, you can always leave it for another. One way is to go back in time to Maya civilization. At the height of their empire, from the 3rd to the 10th century, the Maya ruled in an unbroken chain of cities and villages from southern Mexico through Guatemala and Belize and down to western Honduras and El Salvador. It would take a lifetime, maybe many, to see the architectural ruins and remains of those cities, so staggeringly beautiful and strange.

Some are largely unexplored, still remote, reached only by river or on foot. Others are easily accessible; it is possible to wake up at dawn in, say, Brooklyn, and be standing in the long shadow of the Maya at sundown.

Speed is hardly of the essence, though. An investment of time among the Maya ruins brings particularly pleasurable returns. Thousands of travelers endure rapid tours of the best-known sites, like Chichén Itzá, in the Yucatán, and Monte Albán, outside the colonial city of Oaxaca, hardly pausing to absorb what they are seeing. Far better to let oneself get lost in the jungle in a still largely unexcavated place -- like Palenque in northern Chiapas or Cobá, in the heart of Quintana Roo.

Palenque has always been one of my favorite places on earth. Surrounded by mists and magic, set to the morning soundtrack of growling howler monkeys, it is an utterly peaceful site in the first and last hours of the day. Filled with temples, hieroglyphs, fantastically complex carved panels and sculptures of kings and warriors and cosmic monsters, Palenque is a place to get lost in a sense of wonder.

How did the Maya create such stunningly precise calendars, still accurate today? What are the roots of their gorgeous hieroglyphs, the only indigenous written language of the Americas? The answers may be somewhere here, probably hidden in the ruins, or deep in the jungle that swallowed Palenque for centuries.

People have been making up stories about the Maya for more than 200 years. The first Spanish military officer who explored Palenque, in 1784, thought it was Atlantis risen, and that its architects had to be from Rome or Carthage. In the late 60's, a Swiss hotelkeeper, Erich von Daniken, posited that visitors from outer space built the place, and he sold millions of copies of his book ''Chariots of the Gods'' to credulous readers.

Moises Morales, creator and keeper of Panchán, a complex of cabanas and restaurants near the site, has seen his share of New Age seekers, shamans and shams at Palenque. But he calls the site a place transformed by the eye of the beholder, ''a beautiful toy to play with.'' And what a plaything!

There are sites along the Maya route that may be bigger and grander. But Palenque remains somewhat lost in the jungle; it has been slow to give up its secrets. A certain amount has been reconstructed thus far from the great jigsaw of its ruins.

The site was first settled by farmers sometime between 100 B.C. and A.D. 100. Deciphered glyphs show that a great dynasty arose in A.D. 431. Soon after that, Palenque began trading with communities hundreds of miles distant. It reached the height of its power and creativity under the rule of Pakal, who held power from 615 to 683. In his day, it was probably the most powerful city in the west of the Maya region, and that power resonates today in Palenque's palace and in its great temples.

Pakal's tomb, discovered 50 years ago deep inside the magnificent Temple of the Inscriptions, has been closed for renovations, and the site's custodians do not know when it will reopen. When I saw it, I marveled at a beautifully detailed carved-stone sarcophagus slab showing Pakal transformed into a god at the moment of his descent into the underworld, clambering down a celestial tree into the mortal embrace of a serpent. For Pakal, after 68 years in power, it seems to have been a glorious exit.

Palenque contains 22 major structures and building groups; scores more are still hidden in the jungle, awaiting excavation. The cleared area is not much more than a square mile, but it can take days to absorb it all. Moving slowly is a good idea on several fronts, since the temperature and humidity are usually well into the 80's by midmorning between March and November.

Among Palenque's most magnificent structures is the Palace, which faces the Temple of the Inscriptions in the site's main square. Palenque's largest complex of buildings, the Palace includes courtyards, stucco panels of supernatural beings and cosmic creatures, and hidden chambers that housed political rulers.

Nearby stand the edifices known as the Crosses Group -- the Temples of the Sun, the Cross and the Foliated Cross, dating from the reign of Pakal's son and successor, Kan Balam II (A.D. 684-702). On the summer solstice, the rays of the setting sun light the inner sanctuary of the Temple of the Foliated Cross and a magnificent sculptured panel showing Kan Balam's enthronement.

Close study of Maya sites pays off in yielding comprehension of another time and another world. At the entrance to Palenque are skilled guides who can help a first-time traveler decipher its intricate art, architecture and ambience. A modern museum with some of Palenque's greatest sculptures and inscriptions sits two miles from the gate; it also sells an excellent English-language handbook called ''Palenque: An Essential Guide.'' The books of Michael D. Coe, a longtime expert on the Maya, are another fine introduction to this world.

There are two wonderful, utterly different, places to stay in Palenque. Both are set in jungly landscapes at the edge of the entrance to the archeological zone.

The first, Chan-Kah Resort Village, is comfortable and well-appointed, with an enormous swimming pool, quiet little bungalows with stone floors and picture windows, an old-fashioned ambience and a pretty good restaurant. Chan-Kah plays host to a number of international conferences and gatherings of groups from archaeologists to birders, and a stay there should be booked at least a month in advance.

On the other hand, one just wanders into Panchán, a collection of small inns, bungalows and cottages just off the main road before the park's entrance. The summer of love never ended at Panchán. You can try to book a room, but its ''Don't Worry, Be Happy'' outlook extends to the practice of taking reservations. But there always seems to be a spare bungalow, or at least a place to hang a hammock.

Panchán is a paradise for backpackers, though it would probably be hell for those seeking five-star comforts. On a recent visit, in December, there were at least five different sets of lodgings, ranging from $4 for a communal camp-out, to $8 to $12 for wildly varying cabanas and bungalows, up to $18 for a spacious, clean room with a shower and toilet.

The crowning glory of Mr. Morales's dominion is the cozy open-air restaurant run by his extended family under his well-earned nickname: Don Mucho. Improbable as it may seem in the middle of the jungle, the restaurant serves terrific food from a menu marrying Tuscany and Mexico. I tasted some of the best thin-crust pizza in my memory, along with pastas swathed in freshly made pesto and organic vegetables. Good wines are sold at fair prices.

The crowd is a hoot -- three generations of hipsters and tripsters, all friendly and worldly folks, from sophisticated 50-somethings to tattooed teens. After dinner, our waitress shed her shoes and did a fire dance, spinning flaming torches like an Ole Miss baton-twirler gone loco, as the kitchen staff provided the music on congas and bongos.

Equally fine culinary and cultural pleasures may be found on a complete different stretch of the Maya Route: in Quintana Roo, on the Caribbean.

Visitors can fly straight to Cancún, rent a car or a taxi, and head south for 90 minutes to the crossroads at Tulum.

To the right lies 30 miles of good road ending at Cobá, a sprawling city in the jungle that was home to as many as 50,000 people a millennium ago. Cobá features a beautifully preserved ball court, an extraordinary pyramid and pleasant and well-groomed trails that were part of a straight-and-true highway system devised by the Maya for trade and political interactions more than 1,300 years ago.

Cobá may have been the largest city in all the Mundo Maya; its boundaries have not yet been defined by archaeologists. On its trails, which run for more than two miles through the jungle, the weary, the young and the old can be ferried by bicyclists pulling a Mexican version of a rickshaw. A half-mile from the entrance stands a Club Med with a good restaurant, a swimming pool and well-appointed rooms.

To the left at the Tulum crossroads lies the Caribbean, and close by is the Maya ruin of Tulum, which is not the greatest example of Maya culture. It is mainly notable for location, location, location: the only Maya ruin in Mexico with an ocean view. Its main temples are minor compared with anything at Palenque or Cobá. Still, the temple known as the Castillo, perched precariously on the rocks overlooking the sea, is a magnificent place if you arrive early or late to avoid the crowds.

A choice of beachfront lodgings within a few minutes of Tulum ranges from $10 palapas to a $60-a-night Mexico-à-go-go experience (a miniresort called Zamas) to the $250-a-night pamperings of Las Ranitas, a French-run hotel. And dotted throughout the land are the villages of the descendants of the people who built this civilization. The Maya people are six million strong today. They have survived genocide in Guatemala, oppression and benign neglect in Mexico, and they live on. Time among the Maya, away from the clock of the modern world, is time worth taking.

Ruins and rooms

Most people who visit Palenque fly to the city of Villahermosa, and rent a car or hire a taxi at $65 to $75 for the two-hour drive.
The site is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $2.80 (figured at 10.9 pesos to the dollar). The fee for a private tour of Palenque is negotiable; a charge of $20 for a two-hour tour is fair.
Chan-Kah Resort Village is at Kilometer 0.3 on Carretera a las Ruinas, Palenque 29960, Mexico; (52-916) 934-5-1100, fax (52-916) 934-5-0820 www.chan-kah.com. A double room is $100 a night.
Between Chan-Kah and the ruins is Panchán, a complex of cabanas the best of which is Chato's Cabañas. It is near Kilometer 5 on Carretera a las Ruinas, Palenque. A double room at Chato's is $14 a night. For inquiries and reservations (52-916) 348 5820, (52-916) 34 177 77, elpanchan@yahoo.com. Don Mucho restaurant at Panchán, next to the cabanas, serves Italian and Mexican dishes and features local organically grown vegetables. Meal with wine for two: $35. No reservations, no phone.
Cobá and Tulum
There are buses from the Cancún airport to Playa del Carmen ($6) and then buses to Tulum ($2.80), a trip of almost 70 miles total, but it is not worth the wait and bother. A car rental or taxi ride is a better idea; fares are negotiable, but anything more than $60 is exorbitant.
The ruins at Cobá and Tulum are open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in winter). Admission to each is $2.80.
Club Med at Cobá, Zona Arqueológica Cobá, Quintana Roo, (52-985) 85 815 27, fax (52-985) 858-1524; www.clubmedvillas.com. A double is $64.
Zamas, (52-984) 87 12-067, phone and fax (52-984) 877-8523; Web site www.zamas.com. Double rooms are $50 to $135. Zamas is three miles south of the Tulum ruins and about 90 minutes from the Cancún airport. The Que Fresco restaurant at Zamas is by far the best in town, serving fresh fish ($10 or $11) and pizza ($6.50 to $9) cooked in a wood-fired oven and a variety of vegetarian foods.
Las Ranitas, Kilometer 9 Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila, phone and fax (52-984) 87 78 554, Web site www.lasranitas.com. Double rates $170 to $300. No credit cards accepted. About five miles south of the Tulum ruins, and 90 minutes' drive from Cancún airport.
Alternative ways to see this part of the world, far from the crowds of Cancún, include bike and backpack tours.
EcoColors, Calle Camaron 32, Supermanza 27, Cancún, Quintana Roo, (52-998) 884-3667, fax (52-998) 884 9580, www.ecotravelmexico.com, is one outfit offering a variety of trips, from one day (boating and hiking, $75 from Tulum or $99 from other locations) to 15 days ($1,850). TIM WEINER

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