How to Thwart Facial Recognition

“Why not give the camera what it wants, which is a face?” says Leonardo Selvaggio, an interdisciplinary artist. Just don’t give it your face. To enable people to obfuscate facial-recognition software programs, Selvaggio, who is 34 and white, made available 3-D, photo-realistic prosthetic masks of his own face to anyone who wants one. He tested the masks by asking people connected to him on Facebook to upload pictures of themselves in the prosthetic: It didn’t matter if they were skinny women or barrel-chested men; short or tall; black, brown, Asian or white — the social network’s facial-recognition software recognized them as Selvaggio. “There’s nothing more invisible to surveillance and security technology than a white man,” he says.

Selvaggio thought up the project, which he calls URME Surveillance, when he was living in Chicago, where law-enforcement officials have access to more than 30,000 interlinked video cameras across the city. He wanted to start conversations about surveillance and what technology does with our identity. He knew that researchers have found that facial-recognition software exhibits racial biases. The programs are often best at identifying white and male faces, because they have been trained on data sets that include disproportionate numbers of them, and particularly bad at identifying black faces. In law-enforcement contexts, these errors can potentially implicate people in crimes they didn’t commit.

Selvaggio sees two routes to elude facial-recognition programs. The first is to disappear: go offline and off the grid. Selvaggio prefers the second option, which is to flood the system with weird, incongruous data. Wear someone else’s likeness or lend out your own. (Before donning a prosthetic mask, check to see whether your city or state has anti-mask laws, which may make wearing one illegal.) Even without a mask, though, you can confuse some facial-recognition programs by obscuring parts of your face with makeup, costuming, hairdos and infrared light. Artificial-intelligence programs look for elliptical, symmetrical faces, so obscure an eye, cover the bridge of your nose, wear something that makes your head look unheadlike. “They have all of our information,” Selvaggio says. “So then let’s make more information that isn’t even true, and then let’s make more information on top of that.”

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/30/magazine/how-to-thwart-facial-recognition.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Why a Woman’s Sex Life Declines After Menopause (Hint: Sometimes It’s Her Partner)

The latest study, published in the medical journal Menopause, is based on surveys of more than 24,000 women taking part in an ovarian cancer screening study in Britain. The women, aged 50 to 74, answered multiple-choice health questionnaires about their sex lives at the start of the study. But the survey data are unique because about 4,500 of the women also left written comments, giving researchers a trove of new insights about women’s sex lives.

Over all, 78 percent of the women surveyed said they had an intimate partner, but fewer than half the women (49.2 percent) said they had active sex lives. The women’s written answers about why they stopped having sex revealed the pain and sadness behind the percentages.

The main reason was losing a partner to death or divorce, which was cited by 37 percent of the women. (Women who were not having sex cited multiple reasons for the decline, which is why the percentages exceed 100.)

‘‘I have been a widow for 17 years. My husband was my childhood sweetheart, there will never be anyone else.’’ (Age 72)

Some women said life was too complicated to make time for sex — 8 percent said their partner was too tired for sex, and 9 percent of women said they were also too tired for sex.

“I feel my role in life at present is to bring up my 12-year-old son; relationships come second.” (Age 50)

“Caring for older parents at the present. Lack of energy and worrying about them causes a reduction in sexual activity.” (Age 53)

“Husband busy with work. I’m busy with two children. Both collapse into bed at the end of the day.” (Age 50)

A husband with serious health issues was another common theme. About one in four women (23 percent) said the lack of sex was because of their partner’s physical problems, and 11 percent of women blamed their own physical problems.

“He does not maintain erection strong enough for penetration (after prostate surgery and diabetes). My sexual activity is limited by what my husband’s health is.” (Age 59)

“My husband had a stroke which left him paralyzed. Sexual relations are too difficult. I remain with him as a caregiver and companion.” (Age 52)

“My husband has had a heart attack — his medication leaves side effects, which makes sex very difficult, which has saddened us.” (Age 62)

Others cited mental health and addiction issues as the reason for lack of sex.

“He drinks approximately 1 to 1.5 bottles of whiskey a day. Sex is once or twice a year.” (Age 56)

“My husband suffers from anxiety and depression and this has an effect on our relationship and my sleeping.” (Age 53)

“I take an antidepressant which blunts desire for sex.” (Age 59)

About 30 percent of women said their sex lives had halted because they had “no interest.”

“Have lost all interest and feel guilty, and that makes me avoid any mention of it at all.” (Age 53)

“Several symptoms of the menopause have affected my desire for sex, which I find disappointing because I wish I had the same desire as I had in recent years.” (Age 58)

“I find it uncomfortable and sometimes painful. I use vaginal gels but doesn’t help much, so do not have sex these last months.” (Age 54)

“I love my partner very much, this problem upsets me. However if I didn’t have a partner (for sex) I wouldn’t miss it — it’s very hard to desire something you don’t want. I feel sad when I think of how we used to be. He is very understanding.” (Age 54)

And 21 percent of women said their partners had lost interest in sex.

“Only [have sex] twice a year maybe. My partner has lost his libido and never thinks of it, although he loves me and worries about it.” (Age 60)

While most of the written comments were about problems with sex, a few women left more hopeful messages.

“As I have a new partner since one year, I find my sexual life has never been better and it is certainly very frequent. Very much the reason for my happiness, contentment and well-being.” (Age 59)

Sex happens “less often than when younger. We both get tired, but when we do it, it’s good.” (Age 64)

The data and comments were analyzed by Dr. Helena Harder, a research fellow at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and colleagues. Dr. Harder said the comments show that doctors need to have more frequent conversations with women about sex.

“Women say that they are sorry that things have changed. They wish it was different,” says Dr. Harder. “But in general, it’s not being brought up in discussions. Patients need reassurance that it’s O.K. to discuss sex and ask questions. If you do that, it’s probably a good step toward making changes.”

Dr. Faubion, who is also medical director for the North American Menopause Society, notes that treatments are available to help women with vaginal dryness and painful sex. In addition, two libido drugs have been approved to help increase female desire. One is a pill and the other, an injectable, should be available this fall, although both drugs have drawbacks, including cost, limits on when they can be used and side effects, so they aren’t an option for every woman, she said.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/30/well/live/menopause-sex-decline-partner-husband-wife.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

How a Group of Heretical Thinkers Chipped Away at the Idea of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’

During the 1930s, the New York-based anthropologist Franz Boas grew increasingly worried about events in his native Germany. He was in his 70s, and close to retiring from Columbia University, where he taught his students to reject the junk science underpinning the country’s restrictive immigration laws, colonial expansion and Jim Crow. Born into a Jewish burgher family, Boas was horrified to see how the Nazis took inspiration from Americans’ pathbreaking work in eugenics and state-sanctioned bigotry. He started to put the word “race” in scare quotes, calling it a “dangerous fiction.”

Boas is at the center of Charles King’s “Gods of the Upper Air,” a group portrait of the anthropologist and his circle, who collectively attempted to chip away at entrenched notions of “us” and “them.” “This book is about women and men who found themselves on the front lines of the greatest moral battle of our time,” King writes, “the struggle to prove that — despite differences of skin color, gender, ability or custom — humanity is one undivided thing.”

A century ago, the prospect of a common humanity seemed radical to an American public that had been schooled in the inherent superiority of Western civilization. Boas and his disciples argued for pluralism and tolerance at a time when cross-cultural empathy was deemed not just threatening but almost unfathomable.

King’s elegant and kaleidoscopic book takes its title from Zora Neale Hurston, a student of Boas’s who contrasted the capacious perspective offered by the “gods of the upper air” with the cramped corner guarded by the “gods of the pigeonholes.” Conducting ethnographic research in the Caribbean, Hurston said that she planned to return to the United States with two books: “One for anthro. and one for the way I want to write it.” That second book became her lush novel about life around the Gulf Coast, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

Hurston, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead and Ella Cara Deloria are the other central figures in King’s book; like Boas, all of them came to see anthropology “not just as a science but also as a state of mind.” His ideas were particularly appealing to women who chafed at the patriarchal order. Men were constantly spouting specious and self-serving theories of what was natural; here was a man suggesting that those things might not be so natural after all.

ImageCharles King, whose new book is “Gods of the Upper Air,” about the anthropologist Franz Boas’s influence on ideas about human diversity.CreditMiriam Lomaskin

Boas became a pivotal figure in the discipline — though at first he was marginal, an itinerant scholar who had a hard time landing a secure position in the United States. For a while he held a curatorship at the relatively young American Museum of Natural History, but the museum was a creature of the establishment, hosting grand conferences on eugenics and showcasing displays on the “ill effects of racial interbreeding.” The then-dominant school of anthropology propped up a narrative tracing “the stages of human culture,” from “savagery” through to “barbarism” and finally to “civilization.” Mainstream scholars insisted that white supremacy was justified by head measurements and heel length.

Overturning this terrible science required more than fervent criticism. King, a professor at Georgetown and the author of several books about Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, describes how Boas tried to use the methods of physical anthropologists against them, deploying calipers and eye-color meters to show that the children of immigrants, born in the United States, had more in common with other American-born children than with the national groups represented by their parents. But Boas’s work in the field only accounted for part of his influence. It was mainly through his teaching at Columbia and his nurturing of a new generation of anthropologists that he changed how many Americans saw the world and, consequently, themselves.

King weaves in the stories of Hurston and Deloria, who used what they learned from Boas to study their own communities. Hurston’s “Mules and Men,” a book about African-American folklore, included an immersive account of her return to the Florida she left during the Great Migration, and her experience as not just an observer of the community but a participant in it. Deloria, who was born on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota, was a co-writer with Boas of “Dakota Grammar”; she worked on it for a decade, explaining to Boas the delicate process of deciding on the right gifts to coax candid talk from her informants. “To go at it like a white man, for me, an Indian,” she said, “is to throw up an immediate barrier between myself and my people.”

Mead and Benedict found a measure of freedom in their work. The thrice-married Mead, whose “Coming of Age in Samoa” argued that many assumptions about adolescence and sexuality were culturally contingent, had little patience for the monogamy that was expected of her; what a puritan culture wanted to call “deviancy” was, King writes, “a simple mismatch between her own temperament and the society into which she had been born.” Benedict, for her part, had been a depressed housewife before she became an anthropologist (and, for a time, Mead’s lover); she articulated the Boasian approach in her book “Patterns of Culture,” and gave its core idea a memorable name: “cultural relativity.”

King includes some of the more vexed aspects of this history, including Boas’s involvement in a sham funeral for an indigenous Greenlander whose cadaver had been secretly harvested in the name of scientific research. “Boas’s ideas,” King writes, “were often ahead of his practice.” Not to mention that social science is, well, an inexact science. The honest observer was bound to realize “how hard it was to pin down anything at all about someone else’s culture.”

This looks to be the perfect moment for King’s resolutely humane book, even if the United States of the early 20th century isn’t quite the perfect mirror. Boas and his circle confronted a bigotry that was scientifically endorsed at the time, and they dismantled it by showing it wasn’t scientific at all; today’s nativists and racists generally don’t even pretend to a scientific respectability, resorting instead to a warped version of cultural relativism for fuel in their culture war.

But what Boas advised wasn’t so much a program as a disposition — an openness toward others and a scrutiny of oneself. As King writes, “The most enduring prejudices are the comfortable ones, those hidden up close.”

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/30/books/review-gods-of-upper-air-charles-king.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Ebony Photo Archives, Nearly Hidden, Will Be Made Public

CHICAGO — For decades, the photo archive of Ebony and Jet magazines has been difficult to access and largely mysterious to scholars, an elusive treasure trove of more than four million prints and negatives that documented the lives of African-Americans.

That collection could soon be opened to the public after an auction on Wednesday in Chicago.

The winning bid came from a group of four major foundations, who in a flurry of phone calls, emails and texts over the last nine days, banded together in a highly unusual effort and bought the archive for $30 million.

Leaders of the foundations — the Ford Foundation, The J. Paul Getty Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation — said on Thursday that they were determined to save the archive, considered the most significant collection of photography depicting African-American life in the 20th century. They agreed to donate the archive to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Getty Research Institute so that it would be widely accessible to researchers, scholars and the public.

[Read more about the images in the Ebony and Jet archive.]

Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, said in an interview that the group began to form only last week. He said he was at the Prado Museum in Madrid last Tuesday when he read a news article about the impending auction on his phone. Elizabeth Alexander, the president of the Mellon Foundation, emailed Mr. Walker, suggesting — with a great deal of urgency — that they had to do something.

“The narrative that is held in that archive is central to the narrative of America in the second half of the 20th century,” Mr. Walker said. “The concern was that it should be brought into the public domain.”

Mr. Walker and Ms. Alexander talked to leaders of two more institutions and brought them on board. Each foundation promised between $5 million and $12.5 million.

Ebony and Jet, once ubiquitous publications in the homes of African-American families, chronicled the lives of black politicians, civil rights leaders, musicians, athletes, writers and everyday people.

The auction was part of bankruptcy proceedings for Johnson Publishing, based in Chicago, which founded the magazines in the 1940s and 1950s. The company, which sold the titles years ago but held onto the photo archive, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in April.

The sale of the photographs is subject to court approval.

Ms. Alexander said it was too early to say exactly what would be done with the millions of photos in the archive, but the guiding principle is that the public should be able to see them.

“For decades, people found black life in its full variety in Johnson publications,” Ms. Alexander said. “I think we actually cannot even fully measure what it is going to mean to have these images available.”

The news was a relief to historians who feared that the Ebony archive would be acquired by a collector and hidden away.

“It is impossible to overstate the importance of the accessibility of Ebony and Jet archive for not only historians and researchers, for the general public,” said Sarah Lewis, a historian at Harvard. “Understanding American culture means understanding African-American culture. This collection, as an archive, offers an invaluable oculus onto black life.”

The archive has been held in a warehouse in Chicago as its fate was being determined. The auction began last week and attracted multiple bidders, continuing until Wednesday. Details of the other bids were not made public.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/25/us/ebony-photographs-sale.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Should Black People Wear Sunscreen?

[Race affects our lives in countless ways. To read more provocative stories on race from The New York Times, sign up here to receive our weekly Race/Related newsletter.]

Little heralds the arrival of summer like the smell of open water, smokey grills and sunscreen.

Since the late 1970s, as medical researchers linked sun exposure to skin cancer, Americans have been told to dutifully slather, spray and rub on sunscreen as part of a broader package of sun protection. But does it make sense for me, a dark-skinned black woman, to wear it?

With record-breaking heat this summer, it’s an especially relevant question, and you might even expect the answer to be “absolutely.” It’s more complicated than that.

The American Academy of Dermatology’s official position on sunscreen, which is echoed by the Food and Drug Administration, is that everyone, regardless of skin tone, should wear it because, “anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race.” But because people of color are often left out of clinical trials and treatments, there is very little research available about dark-skinned people and skin cancer, which raises questions about who is being considered when organizations make these public health recommendations.

Medicine, they say, is about balancing risks, and it turns out that the benefits and risks of wearing sunscreen when you have dark skin can be murky. Many experts believe that there is no clear link between sun exposure and skin cancer among people with dark skin, and there is also a growing body of research to suggest that using certain types of sunscreen may actually be harmful, no matter who uses it.

Now, let’s get some — ahem — burning questions out of the way. Black people experience sunburn that can be painful and cause peeling. When their skin is exposed to too much sunlight, black people can suffer from hyperpigmentation and visible signs of aging, just like people with other skin types. And, of course, black skin comes in a variety of shades, some of which are more sensitive to the sun than others.

The way skin researchers often quantify different skin tones is by using a subjective measure called the Fitzpatrick scale, which breaks skin tones into six categories based on color and how easily it tans versus burns when exposed to sunlight. Under the Fitzpatrick scale, I, a person who has never had a painful sunburn in her life, rate a six.

Dr. Martin Weinstock, a professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Brown University, was an author of a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at the relationship between ultraviolet light exposure, skin color and skin cancer, and found that while such a relationship exists among people with lighter skin tones, there’s no such relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer and dark-skinned individuals.

People whose skin is naturally brown when it has not been exposed to sunlight “are quite resistant to skin cancer,” Dr. Weinstock said.

When dark-skinned people do get skin cancer, as Bob Marley famously did on his big toe, it tends to appear on “the palms of the hand and the sole of the feet,” said Dr. Adewole Adamson, a dermatologist and the director of the pigmented lesion clinic at The University of Texas at Austin’s Dell School of Medicine.

According to Dr. Adamson, the fact that dark-skinned people are most likely to get skin cancer on the areas of the body that are least likely to be exposed to sunlight suggests that this cancer is unrelated to sun exposure.

“If UV exposure was such a problem for skin cancer, you’d see a massive epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa,” he added. “They don’t have the same level of sunscreen promotion that they do here. And you hear nothing about it because there probably is no association.”

Melanin is humankind’s inborn sunscreen. Everyone has melanin, but much like swagger, some of us have more of it. Melanin is also believed to delay the visible signs of aging. It’s why “black don’t crack.”

Dark-skinned people don’t have more melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, than lighter-skinned people. But the melanocytes that we do have tend to be more productive. And it’s because of melanin that some scientists believe darker skin tones absorb between 50 to 70 percent less of the sun’s ultraviolet light than paler skin tones. Exactly how much less is not well understood because fewer studies look at how darker skin reacts to the sun.

This is not to say that dark-skinned people shouldn’t pay attention to their moles and get periodic skin checks — they should. Among dark-skinned people, skin cancer actually tends to be deadlier in part because it often goes undiagnosed for longer. It’s just that, according to these experts, the cause of that cancer isn’t necessarily the sun.

There are two broad categories of sunscreen. The first is mineral, which contains titanium dioxide or zinc. This type of sunscreen is considered safe by the F.D.A., as long it is not in powder form. It is also the type that black people tend to avoid because it often leaves a white residue on dark skin.

The second category is chemical. There is no consensus among scientists that the active ingredients in many chemical sunscreens, including oxybenzone, are safe. In fact, there’s new evidence to suggest that they may carry their own health risks.

A pilot study that the F.D.A. released earlier this year in the Journal of American Medical Academy caused a stir because it found that when participants applied a day’s worth of common sunscreens, they not only absorbed its chemicals but did so at levels that exceeded a target F.D.A. toxicology threshold.

That these chemicals are absorbed into the skin at such high concentrations doesn’t mean they’re inherently dangerous, but it does mean that they need to be studied for biological effects.

“Although over-the-counter sunscreen products are widely used, little is known about systemic exposure for most active ingredients,” the F.D.A. said in a written statement.

Kurunthachalam Kannan, the deputy director of the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in New York State’s Department of Health, Wadsworth Center, was the lead author on a study that looked at the correlation between chemical sunscreen use and endometriosis, a condition that affects the uterus.

Dr. Kannan’s study found that women who used more sunscreen that contained benzophenone or oxybenzone, two estrogenic compounds, had higher levels of the chemicals in their urine, and had higher rates of endometriosis. Dr. Kannan said he considers chemical sunscreen use something of a double-edged sword. It potentially provides protection from skin cancer, but it can also affect estrogen levels, which could lead to a variety of diseases.

These findings are part of why Dr. Adamson thinks there needs to be more discussion around the particular risks and benefits of wearing sunscreen, especially for people with dark skin.

“As I was looking at all this stuff, I’m like, there’s nothing on people of color in here and yet I see this messaging saying, ‘Hey, wear your sunscreen,’” Dr. Adamson said.

In a statement, the American Academy of Dermatology said that “while there is strong evidence to show all skin types benefit from sun protection to reduce sunburn and aging, research is emerging that explores the relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer in people of color.”

The organization has appointed a working group to review current science in the area, and to “assess our messaging on skin cancer and skin of color based on the latest research.”

In an article published earlier this year, Dr. Adamson stressed that the “one-size-fits-all approach” to sunscreen misses the mark and must change.

Telling everyone to wear sunscreen is “one of the only public health messages that we have as dermatologists,” Dr. Adamson said. “We’re not messaging right for black people.”

Are you a person with dark skin? Do you wear sunscreen? Tell us your story at racerelated@nytimes.com.

Hanah Jun contributed reporting.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/us/black-skin-sunscreen.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

How to Answer Tricky Personal Questions at a New Job

Starting a new job can make us feel like the new kid on the first day of school: nervous, yet eager to fit in and make a good first impression.

The social component is an important part of any job. Research shows that building camaraderie with co-workers and chit-chatting with supervisors can promote harmony and good health. And the first 90 days are crucial: A 2013 study found that new employees are more likely to receive support during this period.

“Social support has been widely demonstrated as one of the greatest drivers of happiness and success,” said Michael Woodward, a workplace psychologist who is known as Dr. Woody. “The stronger the support system you have around you, the more likely you are to feel comfortable, confident and able to succeed.”

Getting there, however, often means navigating a gauntlet of questions from all of these new people in your life. These are likely to range from the moderately professional to the intimately personal, including queries about your age, relationship status, employment history and social habits.

Since research suggests that first impressions last for months, how you respond, even to seemingly innocuous icebreakers, can have an impact on how your colleagues perceive you.

Instead of stumbling over your words, here’s how to answer these tricky questions with confidence.

‘How do you feel about so-and-so?’

Gossip at work is common, Dr. Woodward said, as is the desire to be a part of a group. In a new work environment, this combination can be harmful if you fall in with colleagues who are known for being negative and wasting productive time.

While complaining with co-workers can turn some of these colleagues into friends, Jill Jacinto, a millennial career expert, said it’s best to avoid gossip altogether.

“If someone asks, ‘What do you think of Mark? Have you worked with him yet?’ just focus on the professional,” she said. “‘He’s great to work with. He seems to know technology really well.’”

While your response should be professional, you should be honest, too, said Maggie Mistal, a career and executive coach.

“If you sugarcoat too much or evade, people are going to read that, too,” she said. “You want to err on the side of kindness or giving another person the benefit of the doubt.”

Instead of voicing frustrations with a colleague, Ms. Mistal suggests reframing the critique. For example, you might say, “I think she’s a professional and doing the job the way she thinks it needs to be done.” It’s an authentic, balanced approach, without being catty.

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‘Do you want to join us for happy hour?’

Chatting over lunch or at a post-work happy hour is a great way to get to know your colleagues and learn about the office ecosystem.

“Those invitations will inevitably dry up,” Ms. Jacinto said. “Even though you’re exhausted after your first week, you want to make sure you do go to those types of things and get to know your co-workers.”

Keep the conversation light, Ms. Jacinto said; pop culture, weekend plans and the best lunch spots are safe topics. However, feel free to inquire about your new colleagues’ roles, duties and history with the company, so long as you let your peers do most of the talking.

If you don’t drink alcohol, experts suggest considering making an effort to attend anyway, if that is something you feel comfortable with. Use it as an opportunity to let your new co-workers know that you’d rather get to know them over coffee instead of cocktails next time — if you’re comfortable disclosing such information, Ms. Jacinto said.

‘Are you seeing anyone?’

Questions about relationship status can be tricky to decipher because you don’t know the asker’s intention, Ms. Mistal said.

Get to the root of the inquiry by asking another question in response, she said. This could be a lighthearted quip, such as, “Why, do you know anybody?” or, “Are you?”

“You haven’t revealed anything about yourself, and you put it back on them,” she said. “But you understand the ‘why’ before you answer.”

This line of questioning can quickly lead to even more personal territory: Are you planning on getting married? Having children? Why or why not? Even if you feel like your lifestyle is being criticized, it’s best not to get defensive and to answer politely, said Sherry Sims the founder of the Black Career Women’s Network, which supports the career development of African-American women.

“We have to remember, when we want to work in environments that are diverse or we want to be inclusive, that means you’re honoring the differences and respecting that,” she said.

While you don’t need to defend your choices, by simply saying that you prefer not to talk about personal issues in the workplace you will effectively convey the message to your new colleagues not to broach this topic again, Ms. Sims said. If you’re comfortable, you can offer a compliment like, “I see you’re a parent and I’m sure that’s an amazing experience for you.”

‘When did you graduate?’

Asking when someone graduated from college a subtle way of sussing out her experience — and age. While it is illegal for an interviewer to ask a candidate how old she is, some colleagues — especially younger workers, Ms. Sims said — might forget their manners and ask outright.

If this happens to you, you can play it to your advantage. Finding a subtle way to put a timestamp on aspects of your career is an effective way of hinting at your experience without showing your hand, said Amy Cooper Hakim, an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert.

Dr. Hakim said she has done this herself when others have made comments signifying an underestimation of her experience.

“I’m in my 40s and people think I’m a lot younger,” she said. If you find your expertise questioned, she finds adding career-related context to be effective, saying, “When I was in a corporate office 15 years ago ….”

She added: “It seems adds a little bit of credibility.”

Of course, letting your actions, accomplishments and work ethic speak for themselves does more to build credibility than words alone, Dr. Hakim said.

‘Are you on social media?’

Social media platforms have permeated into the workplace and have become essential networking and career-development tools for many professions. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, many employees leverage their online connections for work purposes: 24 percent of workers use social platforms to make professional connections, 17 percent use social media to strengthen their personal relationships with co-workers and an additional 17 percent turn to social media to learn about the people they work with.

However, some of the personal updates you share with your close friends on Facebook may not be office-appropriate. For this reason, Dr. Woodward suggests you politely suggest colleagues connect with you instead on LinkedIn, a platform designed for professional connections.

If you work in a creative industry, where Instagram handles are exchanged in lieu of phone numbers, it may be difficult to skirt friend requests from colleagues, Ms. Jacinto said. Make sure your feeds are management-friendly, because you never know when your Twitter followers could come in handy later in your career.

“By virtue of them seeing you in this softer, more personal light and getting to know your interests or the other work that they don’t know about,” she said, “this gives you a slightly different channel for them to get to know you and perhaps recommend you to a colleague.”

At the end of the day, think about your career big-picture, Ms. Sims said, and professional connections are essential.

“The best thing you can do is be who you are and let your talent show,” she said. “It’s so tricky when it comes to relationships in the workplace, but you have to make sure you’re building them.”

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/29/smarter-living/how-to-answer-tricky-personal-questions-at-a-new-job.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

She Grew Up in a House Without Books. A Teacher Helped Her Realize She Could Write One Herself.

I’d just finished my sophomore year when I ran into Mary Gordon, possibly Barnard’s most prominent faculty member, on the corner of Broadway and 116th Street. I’d taken her fiction-writing workshop that semester, and she’d made a point of letting me know that she doesn’t normally take sophomores. She may have meant this as a compliment, but I took it as a warning: You hardly deserve to be here, so step it up. I was heading to the library and she’d just come from the gym. I wasn’t sure I was supposed to be seeing her like this — sweaty, in her workout gear. But she hailed me down. “What are you reading this summer?” she began, almost as if we’d already discussed the subject.

Talking to Mary Gordon takes focus and attention, if you don’t want to seem like an idiot. It’s a little like going for a run with someone who paces a minute per mile faster; our cadences may look similar to an observer, but one person is working way harder than the other. I imagine her mind is constantly whirring on different subjects: Virginia Woolf, the church, third-wave feminism. My mind, then as now, was largely occupied by what my next meal would be. The question of what I should read that summer was already worrying me before she asked. By the end of that semester, I felt totally out of my depth.

“I don’t know,” I said.

She nodded, reached into her bag, removed a notebook and scribbled a list.

Then she tore out the page and handed it to me. Read these authors, she told me, adding that it didn’t matter which of their books I picked. If I couldn’t find them at my local library, she said to ask the librarian to borrow the books from another library. I didn’t know libraries could do that.

Then she told me I was a good writer, but I had to read the right things. “You have a subject,” she told me. “Most people your age don’t have that yet.”

I have a subject? I thought. But I knew better than to ask her what it was. The names she wrote down meant nothing to me then. Most sounded Irish, and that was a relief: Roddy Doyle, Edna O’Brien, Maeve Brennan, John McGahern, William Trevor (whom we’d already read a little of in Mary’s workshop, and whose work I’d immediately fallen in love with), Grace Paley (“Jewish,” Mary said, “but you’re interested in the same details”), Katherine Anne Porter. She put “Dubliners” on the list without the author’s name, and I wanted to joke that even I had heard of that one. There were more, but these are the ones I remember because these are the ones I read.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/books/review/mary-beth-keane-reading-list-mary-gordon.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Is B.D.S. Anti-Semitic? A Closer Look at the Boycott Israel Campaign

JERUSALEM — In a matter of months, a campaign to boycott Israel has moved from the margins of politics — liberal college campuses and protest marches — to Congress, where the freshman representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan have become its most vocal backers, drawing fire from the White House.

On Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the campaign, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. With its adherents prominent in the British Labour Party and critics fighting it in Washington and dozens of state capitals, B.D.S. has become a proxy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the United States and Europe, with all the emotion the conflict stirs.

The movement’s supporters are routinely accused of anti-Semitism. Opponents are accused of trampling on free speech. Yet B.D.S. is often misunderstood and misrepresented by people on both sides. Is it a legitimate, nonviolent protest to protect the rights of Palestinians, or a movement that aims to eliminate Israel and traffics in anti-Semitism?

Here are answers to some of the most difficult questions.

What is B.D.S.?

The B.D.S. movement seeks to mobilize international economic and political pressure on Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians. Modeled on the fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa, it calls for countries, businesses and universities to sever ties with Israel unless it meets three demands:

• Ending its occupation of all land captured in 1967 and dismantling the wall and fence that separate Israel from much of the West Bank, dividing many Palestinian neighborhoods.

• Granting “full equality” to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

• Assuring the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to the homes and properties from which they or their ancestors were displaced in the wars that led to the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Many who embrace B.D.S. see it aimed primarily at ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Its demands sound innocuous enough: Israel already claims to give its Arab citizens equal protection under the law. Withdrawing from Palestinian territory would create space for a coherent Palestinian state. The fate of Palestinian refugees would have to be addressed in any ultimate resolution.

But many Israelis say the movement’s real goal is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. Full equality for Arab citizens of Israel would require overturning or amending Israeli laws that grant Jews automatic citizenship and define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Granting a right of return to the Palestinians classified as refugees — the original refugees and their millions of descendants — would spell the end of a Jewish majority.

In an interview, Omar Barghouti, a top B.D.S. spokesman, called the Israeli laws racist and exclusionary. A democratic state could still provide asylum for Jewish refugees, showing “some sensitivity to the Jewish experience,” he said, “but it cannot be a racist law that says only Jews benefit.” Asked if that means Jews cannot have their own state, he said, “Not in Palestine.”

Who is behind it?

B.D.S. describes itself as a loosely connected, nonhierarchical network of activists, though coordination is provided by the Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee, of which Mr. Barghouti, a Palestinian resident of Israel, is a co-founder.

A host of affiliated groups lead the charge for B.D.S., such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace in the United States, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and War on Want in Britain, and the World Council of Churches in Europe.

Within the West Bank and Gaza, sponsors include a broad coalition of unions and nongovernmental organizations. B.D.S. enjoys at least the tacit support of a large majority of Palestinians, according to Khalil Shikaki, a Ramallah-based pollster.

Elsewhere, it appeals to those, including a significant number of politically liberal Jews, who are frustrated by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and the blockade and frequent bloodshed in Gaza.

Is B.D.S. anti-Semitic?

Leaders of B.D.S. insist that it is not anti-Semitic, and the movement’s umbrella group explicitly rejects anti-Semitism.

But many Israelis and American Jews say it is, using the so-called three-Ds test to distinguish fair criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism: Does the criticism delegitimize Israel, apply a double standard or demonize it?

B.D.S. does all three, its critics say, by questioning Israel’s right to exist, and by singling out Israel for its treatment of Israel’s Arab citizens when minorities in some countries suffer far more. The columnist Ben-Dror Yemini, a critic of the movement, said B.D.S. supporters also demonize Israel when they portray the country as “the great danger to humanity.”

Rebutting the double-standard charge, B.D.S. leaders say that Palestinians fighting for their own rights should not be expected to give equivalent attention to abused minorities elsewhere. And Kenneth Stern, director of Bard College’s Center for the Study of Hate, urges a distinction between effect and motivation: Palestinians who feel no ill will toward Jews but yearn for self-determination in the land of their forebears may rightly argue that to disparage that yearning is a form of bigotry.

Is B.D.S. anti-Zionist?

Yes, loudly and proudly. Its founding documents explicitly reject Zionism — the belief in self-determination for the Jewish people in the biblical land of Israel — calling it the “ideological pillar of Israel’s regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.”

“A Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinian population and perpetuate a system of racial discrimination that ought to be opposed categorically,” Mr. Barghouti said.

Is it nonviolent?

In its original 2005 call, B.D.S. urged strictly “nonviolent punitive measures,” and Mr. Barghouti said B.D.S. “considers violence targeting noncombatants as illegal and immoral.” Still, he said, B.D.S. treats resistance to what it sees as Israeli oppression, including by armed struggle, as a legitimate right. Asked if B.D.S. condemned violence that targeted Israeli soldiers, he declined to comment.

Opponents have attacked B.D.S. not just for failing to condemn violence but for allowing terrorists and their supporters under its umbrella. The B.D.S. National Committee’s members, for example, include the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine. The council includes several groups designated by the United States as terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

How does B.D.S. propose to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

It does not. B.D.S. does not advocate for any specific outcome.

Critics say B.D.S. is actually counterproductive to resolving the conflict, because it rejects Israel’s right to exist in spite of settled international law; encourages Palestinians to insist on the right of return for all refugees, which Israel is unlikely to ever accept in negotiations; pressures only one side to make concessions; and discourages bridge-building efforts between Israelis and Palestinians on the grounds that they “normalize” Israel. They say its rejection of the Jewish state distracts from debate over how to end the conflict and plays into the hands of right-wing Israeli opponents of a Palestinian state.

How entrenched has B.D.S. become in the United States?

As an organized movement, not very. B.D.S. does not appear especially well financed, its leadership is atomized and at the grass-roots level even its most enthusiastic backers do not always agree on what they are trying to achieve. Still, the idea has significant support, and may be gaining ground. A survey released in February suggested that one in five Americans approved of B.D.S. as a way of opposing Israeli policy toward Palestinians. A December 2018 University of Maryland poll of a much larger sample put support at 40 percent.

Actual accomplishments have been minimal: a few dozen resolutions in university student assemblies; a handful of decisions by law-enforcement agencies to stop training with the Israeli military; votes by two faculty groups last year — the Association for Asian American Studies and the larger American Studies Association — for limited boycotts of Israeli academia.

Opponents of B.D.S. have more to show for their efforts. Legislatures in at least 26 states have passed laws barring government agencies from contracting with or investing in companies that support B.D.S. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to that effect in 2016.

The state laws are being challenged in the courts, where opponents argue that they impinge on free speech. Some of the state laws have been struck down for violating the First Amendment.

The Republican-led Senate approved a federal version of an anti-B.D.S. bill in February that would allow state and local governments to break ties with companies that join the boycott. The House passed a weaker version on Tuesday, condemning B.D.S. but with a nonbinding resolution that left out the controversial measure allowing governments to boycott companies that support the movement.

Is there a link between the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe and B.D.S.?

Anti-Semitism has increased in Europe because of numerous factors, including globalization, populism, loss of national identity and the perceived oppression of Palestinians by Israel. A growing Muslim minority, mostly from North Africa, has viewed Israeli policies toward the Palestinians as anti-Muslim, leading many to support B.D.S.

There is some overlap between support for B.D.S. and anti-Semitism.

But while the European Union and some member states have introduced labeling requirements for products from the occupied West Bank and have denied funding to academic institutions in West Bank settlements, B.D.S. has had very little impact outside university settings.

Generally there has also been far less political pushback to B.D.S. in Europe than in America, partly because Jews in Europe are fewer and less organized than in the United States. European countries have strict nondiscrimination laws that would make official adherence to B.D.S. difficult.

Is B.D.S. working?

In the most tangible ways, not so much. Despite scattered pullouts from Israel by some companies, foreign direct investment in Israel is at an all-time high. Israel’s economy is well-suited to resist boycotts because it is less dependent on exports of commodities, which can be sourced elsewhere, than on sales of intellectual property, like software, and business-to-business products, against which it is harder to mobilize consumers. And while Ireland advanced legislation to ban imports of goods produced by Israeli settlements on the West Bank last year, the B.D.S. movement acknowledges that few foreign governments have imposed sanctions on Israel.

Reputational damage is harder to quantify, and B.D.S. frequently scores public-relations victories: The singer Lana Del Rey pulled out of a Tel Aviv music festival last year and the Argentine national soccer team canceled a match in Israel. But an effort to boycott the Eurovision song contest in Israel in May failed to make much of a dent.

How do Israelis view B.D.S.?

Not kindly, though some are happy to exploit it.

Many in what is left of the peace camp support a targeted boycott of settlement products, but see a boycott of all of Israel as unacceptable.

Israel’s government has embraced two seemingly opposing views, boasting on the world stage that B.D.S. is having no effect while warning Israelis that it is a strategic threat. In domestic politics, exaggerating the threat of B.D.S. adds to the sense that Israel is besieged and that the Palestinians are not really interested in peacemaking, bolstering right-wing arguments for continued expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/27/world/middleeast/bds-israel-boycott-antisemitic.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Opinion | Spare Me the Purity Racket

WASHINGTON — After I interviewed Nancy Pelosi a few weeks ago, The HuffPost huffed that we were Dreaded Elites because we were eating chocolates and — horror of horrors — the speaker had on some good pumps.

Then this week, lefty Twitter erected a digital guillotine because I had a book party for my friend Carl Hulse, The Times’s authority on Capitol Hill for decades, attended by family, journalists, Hill denizens and a smattering of lawmakers, including Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Susan Collins.

I, the daughter of a D.C. cop, and Carl, the son of an Illinois plumber, were hilariously painted as decadent aristocrats reveling like Marie Antoinette when we should have been knitting like Madame Defarge.

Yo, proletariat: If the Democratic Party is going to be against chocolate, high heels, parties and fun, you’ve lost me. And I’ve got some bad news for you about 2020.

The progressives are the modern Puritans. The Massachusetts Bay Colony is alive and well on the Potomac and Twitter.

They eviscerate their natural allies for not being pure enough while placing all their hopes in a color-inside-the-lines lifelong Republican prosecutor appointed by Ronald Reagan.

The politics of purism makes people stupid. And nasty.

My father stayed up all night the night Truman was elected because he was so excited. I would like to stay up ’til dawn the night a Democrat wins next year because I’m so excited to see the moment when the despicable Donald Trump lumbers into a Marine helicopter and flies away for good.

But Democrats are making that dream ever more distant because they are using their time knifing one another and those who want to be on their side instead of playing it smart.

House Democrats forced Robert Mueller to testify, after he made it clear that he was spent and had nothing to add to his damning yet damnably legalistic, double-negative report, because they were hoping the hearings would jump-start howls for impeachment.

But it’s hard to get the mad blood stirring with Muellerisms like “This is outside my purview,” “I can’t get into that,” “I don’t subscribe necessarily to your — the way you analyze that,” and “I’m not going to go into the ins and outs.”

I never want to hear about the “O.L.C. opinion” again.

The Republicans were impressively craven and hypocritical. They are sticking with Trump, and no pallid reminder of his turpitude, his trellis of obstructions and his unpatriotic embrace of foreign interference in our elections, will change that.

The always blockheaded Louie Gohmert shouldn’t even be allowed to hold the coat of Mueller, a war hero and respected public official. But Gohmert yelled such crazy stuff at the former special counsel that he appeared to be auditioning for a spot on Fox News’s “The Five.”

The hearings were shameful for Republicans thirsting for re-election and a failure for Democrats thirsting for impeachment. It was many underwhelming hours of members of Congress reading to Mueller and Mueller saying, Yes, that’s what I wrote. Or at least what somebody wrote.

The recipe for emotional satisfaction on the part of the progressive left is not a recipe for removing Trump from the White House.

The argument about whether Trump is impeachable is the wrong argument. Mueller settled that. We know Trump did things worthy of impeachment. That is not the question we should be asking. The question is: Should he be impeached?

The progressive Puritans think we must honor the Constitution and go for it because it’s the right thing to do.

You can argue that impeachment, morally and constitutionally, is the right thing to do. But you also have to recognize that, historically and politically, it is not the right thing to do because it will lead to disaster.

The attempt to impeach Trump is one of the rare cases in which something obviously justified is obviously stupid.

Unbelievably, Pelosi — long a G.O.P. target for her unalloyed liberalism — is derided by the far left for her pragmatism. But she has been through enough Washington wars to know that idealism, untempered by realism, is dangerous.

An impeachment could return Trump to power. The highchair king from Fifth Avenue would exult in his victimhood and energize his always-ready-to-be aggrieved followers.

It could also lead to Democrats losing the House as their moderates fall and help Republicans hold the Senate. No Republicans would vote for impeaching Trump and some Democrats might refuse as well. Even if the House acted, Mitch McConnell would smother it in the Senate, just like he did Merrick Garland.

It’s better to pull out Trump by the roots in the election and firmly repudiate him. The Democrats should focus on the future, not the benighted past that we have been relegated to under Trump.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign focused on what a terrible person Trump is. It turned out that enough voters knew that and didn’t care. They wanted a racist Rottweiler.

Now the Democrats are once more focused on what a terrible person Trump is. Message received, many times over.

The progressives’ cry that they don’t care about the political consequences because they have a higher cause is just a purity racket.

Their mantra is like that of Ferdinand I, the Holy Roman Emperor: “Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus.” “Let justice be done, though the world perish.”

The rest of us more imperfect beings don’t want the world to perish. And maybe justice can be done, without losing the White House, the House, chocolate, high heels, parties and fun.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/27/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-trump-impeachment.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

For Years, Alcohol Was My Only Comfort. Then It Nearly Killed Me.

By 2006, it was time for me to re-enlist. My flight chief and the commander informed me that if I did I would have to go back to the flight line. For me this was not an option, so in 2007, I left active duty.

The next nine years were consumed by spiraling depression, increased alcohol consumption and a suicide attempt. To outsiders, my life seemed chaotic and out of control. I disagreed: I had a full-time job, a house and a graduate degree — markers of a successful adult. I even got married and had a daughter. While I was pregnant, my doctor told me I could have a glass of red wine nightly; it was good for my daughter’s heart and my circulation. I did, twice, but the cravings and the guilt were overwhelming. I stayed sober during the rest of my pregnancy and for the 11 months that I breastfed her. But eventually I returned to the bottle.

To Taj, my drinking was normal. To me, he seemed like a well-adjusted child despite the chaos. I showed up to sports events and helped with homework. Our home was a safe haven for his friends. We always took in the ones who were having trouble at home. I was the cool mom who always had a drink in her hand; the cool mom who never said no. I thought this was what motherhood should look like.

Most of the time, I wore my ability to outdrink everyone as a badge of honor. Alcohol became my solution to everything. I justified it by saying, “If you lived my life, you would drink, too.” I convinced myself I could stop. After all, quitting was simply a matter of will. The Air Force had taught me resiliency and strength. What other tools did I need? But alcohol had me beat; I just didn’t know it.

Eventually my alcoholism destroyed my marriage. What was once a fun and safe home for my children became a booze-fueled war zone. My daughter and son saw me angry all the time; hangovers made me short-tempered. Some nights I didn’t come home at all, leaving my son to care for his sister. I continually placed them in danger but was so self-absorbed that I never thought about the example I was setting for them. At times, I looked in the mirror, disgusted at myself as a mother, and swore I would quit. No matter how many times I tried, though, I just could not put it down, until I almost died in that drunken car crash in 2016.

After my mother bailed me out of jail, I reached out to some people I knew who had sober lives. I asked them how they did it. Some went to treatment, some took medicine to help with cravings, others simply were dry. One friend recommended that I attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I had been to meetings before, but my motivation was to learn how to drink like a “normal person,” the way other people did without losing control. Now, beaten down and utterly defeated, I went back, hoping I would learn to stop drinking for good. Everyone was happy, kind and welcoming. They asked me if I had a desire to stop drinking, and for the first time in nearly 20 years, I did. They told me that if I didn’t drink and went to meetings, they would show me a new way of life, and I would never have to take a drink again if I didn’t want to. I believed them.

I’ve been sober now for two years and 10 months. The decision to get sober and stay sober, by no means easy, was the single most important decision I have made in my life. Sobriety has allowed me to become a better parent. My life as a sober mother has cured the awful ache deep inside my core. It has given me a life I always wanted but never thought I deserved. It has taught me what is most important in motherhood: showing up for your children and being fully present for them.

Taj just finished his first year of college, and he and I are closer than we have ever been. Instead of running to his friends for advice when he has trouble with a girlfriend or is stressed out about college life, he comes to me. My daughter, now 10, is thriving. There is no more fighting in the house. We laugh, we read together and I’ve driven her all over Tennessee for dance competitions — sober. While she remembers only bits and pieces of life with me as an alcoholic, she knows the struggle I fought here. When days seem difficult, she reminds me, “I like my sober mommy so much more,” and this is all I ever need to feel whole.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/24/magazine/alcohol-sobriety-military.html?emc=rss&partner=rss