My Wife Found My Sexy Phone Pics and Won’t Let It Go

So here you are, long after the discovery of a liaison that, if not adulterous, was certainly adulter-ish. Your wife is still angry with you, still feels aggrieved and mistrustful. You’ve gone to counseling, but she hasn’t reconciled herself to a husband who, early in a marriage, was swapping sexual pics with another woman. You think she’s being unpleasantly manipulative; she may think she’s reminding you that you’re on probation, that you have further to go to earn back her trust.

It’s often said that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. In this case, your marriage is now on its sickbed. One issue here is how much you and your wife value it. That’s hard for an outsider to assess. Anger, like love, isn’t a voluntary emotion; you can’t simply decide to dial it up or down. But surely your wife isn’t the only angry spouse in your marriage. You say you felt emotionally abused by your wife even during the affair (a serious complaint); you think your relationship isn’t healthy, “but it’s what I’ve got” — not exactly a Hallmark sentiment. Do you truly think that getting rid of those pics would fix what’s wrong here? If your counselor made a list of what was rotten in your marriage, I doubt your wife’s vengeful lock screen would make the Top 10.

I have been divorced for many years. My ex-husband is now married to a dentist. As part of our divorce agreement, I am responsible for the children’s health insurance, including dental coverage. There were no issues until I had a brief period of unemployment. When I got a new job, it included health and dental insurance, but there was a waiting period for coverage. To cover that brief period, I bought health insurance for myself and my children but did not purchase dental insurance.

During that time, my ex-husband took our daughter to the dentist for a checkup. The dental practice my daughter visits is her stepmother’s office. When my ex-husband sent me the bill for this visit, which came to $400, I asked if the visit could be postdated by just a day, so I could submit it for insurance. He told me that doing so was illegal and that I needed to pay, and that he didn’t appreciate the fact that I didn’t have any dental coverage.

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I asked my daughter why she didn’t let me know about the appointment so I could let her know our dental insurance ended. She said she thought that because it was her stepmother’s office, she was fine.

Since that time I have been receiving bills from this dental practice. I have had conversations with their accounts-payable department to let them know that my daughter is the dentist’s stepdaughter. But no understanding was reached; I have not paid, as I believe it’s wrong to have charged me when it was known that I didn’t have company insurance at the time. I am now getting bills from a collection agency for the $400.

So my question for you is: Do I pay it just to make it go away or try again to reason with my ex-husband and his wife to please drop these fees? Name Withheld

Communication between ex-spouses can be like pulling teeth. So it’s not surprising that you didn’t warn your husband that it would be financially inconvenient for your daughter to have dental treatment at that time. Given that you are in charge of medical insurance, you could reasonably think it odd that your child was taken for a dental visit without your knowledge. But again, not so surprising, especially if your daughter’s teeth are normally looked after at her stepmother’s office.

While your husband is correct that it would be wrong and could be illegal to file a false claim, he and his wife might have been able to help you by agreeing to lower the costs or to spread them out. The fact that the charge was sent to a collection agency also sounds less than cordial. Still, if I understand the situation correctly, you were in breach of your divorce agreement, even if your reasons were entirely understandable. Absent any information from you to the contrary, then, he was entitled to assume that your daughter was covered. You’re asking him and his wife to cover costs that you are liable for. I’m afraid you’d better bite down and pay up.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/magazine/my-wife-found-my-sexy-phone-pics-and-wont-let-it-go.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

College Advice I Wish I’d Taken

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Credit
Kearin Ever Cook/Pratt Institute

I taught my first class at Columbia University’s M.F.A. program this month, and even though I’ve been teaching college writing since 1993, I initially felt a little intimidated by the school’s regal campus. That, and regretful.

I enjoyed going to college at the University of Michigan, an hour from home, but my secret humiliation is: I was the type of mediocre student I now disdain. As a freshman, I cared about my friends, my boyfriend and my poetry. Or, I cared about what my boyfriend thought of my friends, what my friends thought of him, and what they thought of my poetry about him. Here’s what I wish I’d known and done differently:

A’S ARE COOL AND COME WITH PERKS As a student, I saw myself as anti-establishment, and I hated tests; I barely maintained a B average. I thought only nerds spent weekends in the library studying. Recently I learned that my niece Dara, a sophomore at New York University with a 3.7 G.P.A. (and a boyfriend), was offered a week of travel in Buenos Aires as part of her honors seminar. I was retroactively envious to learn that a 3.5 G.P.A. or higher at many schools qualifies you for free trips, scholarships, grants, awards, private parties and top internships. At 20, I was too busy freaking out when said boyfriend disappeared (after sleeping with one of said friends). Students certainly don’t need to strive obsessively for perfection, but I should have prioritized grades, not guys.

SHOW UP AND SPEAK UP If a class was boring or it snowed, I’d skip. My rationale was that nobody in the 300-person lecture hall would notice and I could get notes later. Attendance barely counted. When I went, I’d sit quietly in back. Yet as a teacher, I see that the students who come weekly, sit in front, and ask and answer questions get higher grades and frankly, preferential treatment. After 15 weeks, I barely know the absentees or anyone Snapchatting the term away on their iPhones. It’s not just that these students flush $300 down the toilet every time they miss my class; participating can actually lead to payoffs. I reward those who try harder with recommendations, references, professional contacts and encouragement.

CLASS CONNECTIONS CAN LAUNCH YOUR CAREER As an undergrad, I rarely visited my professors during office hours. I didn’t want to annoy teachers with what I considered triviality. Besides, I thought I knew everything already. In graduate school, on the other hand, I went to the readings of a professor I admired. Eventually, I’d go to his office just to vent. Once, after I complained about a dead-end job, he recommended me for a position at The New Yorker, jump-starting my career.

But it’s not just your professors who will help your life trajectory. Several classmates of mine from graduate school wound up working as editors at other publications, and they have since hired me for freelance work. Years later, I’ve helped students and colleagues where I teach, at the New School and New York University, land jobs, get published and meet with editors and agents.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/17/opinion/college-advice-professor.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

How Google’s Physical Keys Will Protect Your Password

The physical keys are an evolution of two-factor authentication, an extra security layer to ensure that your password is being entered by you. Google was one of the first companies to start offering two-factor authentication back in 2010, not long after it learned that it had been hacked by state-sponsored Chinese hackers.

After the attack, Google’s security team came up with a motto: “Never again.” The company later rolled out two-factor authentication for Google customers’ Gmail accounts. It involved text messaging a unique code to your phone that you must type in after entering your password in order to log in.

Unfortunately, those text messages can be hijacked. Last month, security researchers at Positive Technologies, a security firm, demonstrated how they could use vulnerabilities in the cellular network to intercept text messages for a set period of time.

The idea of Google’s Advanced Protection Program is to provide people with a physical device that is much harder to steal than a text message. Google is marketing the program as a tool for a tiny set of people who are at high risk of online attacks, like victims of stalking, dissidents inside authoritarian countries or journalists who need to protect their sources.

But why should extra-tough security benefit such a small group? Everyone should be able to enjoy stronger security.

So we tested Google’s Advanced Protection Program and vetted it with security researchers to see if the program could be used by the masses. The verdict: Many people should consider signing up for the security system and buying a pair of keys. But if you are married to some non-Google apps that are not yet compatible with the keys, you should wait and see if the program matures.

Setting Up Advanced Protection

Anyone with a Google account can sign up for the security program on Google’s Advanced Protection webpage. To get started, you will have to buy two physical keys for about $20 each. Google recommends buying one from Feitian and another from Yubico.

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The keys, which look like thumb drives and can fit on your key chain, contain digital signatures that prove you are you. To set one up, you plug the key into a computer USB port, tap a button and name it. (The Feitian key wirelessly communicates with your smartphone to authenticate the login.) This process takes a few minutes.

On a computer and a smartphone, you need to log in with the key only once, and Google will remember the devices for future logins. That is more convenient than traditional two-factor authentication, which requires entering a unique code each time you log in.

But there are trade-offs. Google’s Advanced Protection cuts off all third-party access by default, allowing only applications that support its security keys. For the time being, that means only Google’s Gmail mail app, Google’s Backup and Sync app, and Google’s Chrome browser.

On an iPhone, for example, you will have to use Google’s Gmail or Inbox apps for email, and on a computer, you can use only the Chrome browser when signing in with a browser. So if you rely on Apple Mail to gain access to your Gmail on an iPhone, or if you use Microsoft Outlook for getting into Gmail on a PC, you’re out of luck. Google says its goal is to eventually allow third-party apps to work with the program, but it is also up to other companies to update their apps to support the keys.

Testing the Security

Despite the drawbacks, security researchers agree that the Advanced Protection Program is a solid piece of security and relatively painless to use, even for everyday use for people outside high-security jobs.

Mr. Sabin, the former N.S.A. hacker, who is now a director of network security at GRA Quantum, a security consulting firm, said the physical keys had pros and cons. On one hand, if you lose a key, a hacker would have a hard time figuring out which account it was associated with.

On the other hand, if you lose the keys or don’t have the keys around when you need to log in to a new device, it takes longer to regain access to your account. Google has put in place more elaborate recovery steps for Advanced Protection users, including additional reviews and requests for details about why users have lost access to their account. In our test, we answered security questions to try to recover an account, and Google said it would review the recovery request and respond within a few days.

Runa Sandvik, the director of information security at The New York Times, said the keys were not much of a hassle. She said Google’s requirement of using two keys meant you essentially had a spare: If you lose one key, you can get into your account with the remaining key.

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But she noted that the keys could get annoying if you used many devices and constantly needed to carry the keys around to log in to your account. That may be an issue for people who work in the technology industry, but most people probably use only one computer and one phone.

Ms. Sandvik, who has been testing Google’s program to assess whether to recommend it to the newsroom, said she had not yet discovered vulnerabilities in the security key system outside of the slim possibility that a hacker gained possession of both your password and your key.

“It’s something that is relatively easy to set up once you have both keys,” Ms. Sandvik said. “I don’t see a reason you shouldn’t turn this on.”

The Bottom Line

While the security keys are easy to set up and provide tough security, they may be disruptive to your productivity if you rely on apps that are incompatible with the keys.

It took a few minutes for us to migrate to Google’s apps from Apple’s and integrate them into our newsroom workflow, which already relies on Google’s mail, messaging and cloud storage services. But using the keys required sacrificing an important feature — Apple’s V.I.P. alerts, which notify you when people you deem important email you. Google’s iOS apps for Gmail and Inbox lack a similar feature. For people with flooded inboxes, lacking V.I.P. alerts makes sifting through emails time-consuming.

Another example of how the keys can stifle productivity: Many employers still require using the Microsoft Outlook app for email, which won’t work with the keys.

If using Google’s security program would disrupt your work, you may want to wait for more companies to update their apps to support the keys, which rely on a standard called FIDO, for Fast Identity Online. Mr. Sabin predicts that many apps will follow Google’s lead.

If you decide to wait, don’t procrastinate on turning on traditional two-factor authentication that relies on text messages. While it is hackable, it is still much safer than relying on a password alone to protect you.

The question is how long it will take security researchers to find a way to hack the physical keys as well. When asked if he had already circumvented physical multifactor authentication devices like Google’s keys, Mr. Sabin would offer only: “No comment.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/25/technology/personaltech/google-keys-advanced-protection-program.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

For Your Brain’s Sake, Keep Moving

Last year, in an important study published in NeuroImage, the researchers found for the first time that young brain cells in adult mice that spent a month with running wheels in their cages did seem to be different from those in animals that did not run. For the experiment, the scientists injected a modified rabies vaccine into the animals, where it entered the nervous system and brain. They then tracked and labeled connections between brain cells and learned that compared to the sedentary animals’ brain cells, the runners’ newborn neurons had more and longer dendrites, the snaky tendrils that help to connect the cells into the neural communications network. They also found that more of these connections led to portions of the brain that are important for spatial memory, which is our internal map of where we have been and how we got there.

This type of memory is often diminished in the early stages of dementia.

But these findings, while intriguing, involved animals that had been running for a month, which is the equivalent of years of physical activity by people. The researchers wondered whether such changes in neurons and connections might actually begin earlier and maybe almost immediately after the animals began to exercise.

So for the new study, which was published last month in Scientific Reports, most of the same researchers gathered a group of adult, male mice. (Males were used to avoid accounting for the effects of the female reproductive cycle.) The animals were injected with a substance that marks newborn neurons. Half were then allowed to run for a week on wheels in their cages, while the others remained inactive. Afterward, some were also injected with the modified rabies vaccine to track new synapses and connections between the neurons.

When the scientists then microscopically examined brain tissue, they found that the runners’ brains, as expected, teemed with far more new neurons than did the brains of the sedentary animals, even though the runners had been exercising for only a week.

Interestingly, these neurons also looked unique. They were larger and, as in the study of mice that ran for a month, displayed more and longer dendrites than similar neurons in the other animals. In effect, the young neurons in the runners’ brains appeared to be more mature after only a week of exercise than brain cells from inactive animals.

These young cells were better integrated into the overall brain circuitry, too, with more connections into portions of the brain involved in spatial and other types of memory. Most surprising to the scientists, these cells also proved to be less easily activated by neurochemical messages to fire rapidly, which is usually a hallmark of more mature neurons. They remained calmer and less prone to excitability than new neurons in the inactive animals’ brains.

What these differences in cell structure and connection mean for brain function remains uncertain, though, says Henriette van Praag, a principal investigator at the National Institutes of Health and senior author of this and the earlier study. Neither study was designed to look into whether the running mice thought and remembered differently than mice that were sedentary for most of the day.

But the current study “provides more pieces of evidence that brain cells produced under running conditions are not just quantitatively but qualitatively different” than other neurons, she says, “and these differences are evident very soon” after exercise begins.

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Perhaps most important, the new brain cells in the runners tended to integrate into and bulk up portions of the brain that, if damaged by disease, are associated with early memory loss and dementia, she adds.

Of course, this experiment used mice, which are not people. While some past neurological studies with people have hinted that exercise might alter our brain structure in similar ways, she says, that possibility is still theoretical.

Still, she says, “I think it is a very good idea for the sake of the brain to be moving and active.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/04/well/move/for-your-brains-sake-keep-moving.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Battle of Brains vs. Brawn

But whether a similar trade-off occurred with our muscles has remained in doubt. Muscles potentially provided another route to survival during our species’ early days. With sufficient brawn, animals, including people, could physically overpower prey and sprint from danger.

But muscles are also very calorically needy and, like brain tissue, use blood sugar as their primary fuel. So scientists have wondered whether and how early humans’ bodies balanced the fueling needs of their brains and their brawn. Did one take precedence over the other? If so, that choice could tell us something about the underpinnings of human development and also how best, even now, to manage thinking and moving.

Since experiments on cavepeople are, however, not practicable, researchers at Cambridge University in England decided instead to focus on the bodily machinations of 62 elite, collegiate rowers for their new study, which was published this month in Scientific Reports.

The scientists hoped to suss out what happens when both muscles and minds are stressed, and if one of those operations gets preferential treatment from the body.

To find out, they asked the rowers, who were all young, male and fit, to visit a university lab on three separate occasions.

During one visit, the men sat quietly while dozens of words were displayed on a large screen in front of them. The men had three minutes to memorize the words and then, immediately afterward (when the screen went dark) write down as many as they could remember. This was their mental task.

On another day, they rowed on a rowing machine as intensely as they could for three minutes while the researchers tracked their power output, testing muscular prowess.

Finally, on the last visit, they rowed for three minutes while simultaneously viewing a list of new words and then, immediately afterward, writing down as many as they could recall.

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Then the researchers simply compared their performance on each task. Almost uniformly, the men had been able to produce fewer watts and recall fewer words when they performed the muscular and mental tasks together.

But the falloff in physical functioning was much steeper than the mental slump. The rowers lost almost 13 percent of their power output, a decline that was about 30 percent greater than their loss in word recall after the combined session.

“Our proposed explanation for this finding is that they were both competing for the same resource,” which in this case was blood sugar for fuel, says Danny Longman, a postdoctoral research fellow at Cambridge who led the study.

And the brain won.

The implication of this victory is that thinking probably provided more advantage for us during evolution than brawniness, Dr. Longman says, and on those occasions that both systems needed to be fed, the brain got its portion first.

Of course, this study was very short-term and viewed the tug-of-war between brains and muscles only indirectly. The researchers did not track actual changes in blood sugar uptake by any tissues. They also looked only at quite-intense exercise and used memory recall as their sole marker for thinking.

But even with these limitations, the study to some extent advances our understanding of how we became the species that we are, Dr. Longman says.

“For me, the main message of this study is a bit philosophical,” he says. “An enlarged and highly functioning brain is one of the key factors that make us human. This study demonstrated, in a very simple way, this defining characteristic of our species.”

More humbly, the results also indicate that intense workouts may not be the optimal time to compose your next epic poem or calculate tax withholding.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/25/well/move/the-battle-of-brains-vs-brawn.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

As Winter Sets In, Tiny Shrews Shrink Their Skulls and Brains

Previous research had hinted that all shrew species might undergo a reduction in body and head mass during the winter. There is even a term for it, Dehnel’s Phenomenon, named after the Polish zoologist who conducted that research, August Dehnel.

But previous studies only demonstrated the effect across whole populations of the small mammals, leaving open the possibility that larger-headed shrews were dying off in winter, reducing the average head size of the spring shrew populace.

To study individual shrews, the researchers used live traps to capture the animals in Germany from summer 2014 to fall 2015. The captured shrews were X-rayed and implanted with a microchip. Twelve shrews were captured and measured at three distinct intervals, each of them displaying the same pattern: a peak head size in summer, a cranial reduction in winter and then regrowth in spring.

About the size of a mouse and found in nearly all regions of the world, shrews are often mistaken for rodents, but are more closely related to moles.

Exactly how a shrew shrinks its brain is still something of a head-scratcher. Changes in cranial size tend to be “unidirectional and finite” in vertebrates, the study notes. But there is evidence that the shrew’s brain case shrinks when the joints between the bones of the skull reabsorb tissue during autumn and winter. As spring approaches, the bone tissue regenerates.

The researchers could not say how the reduced brain size might affect the shrew’s cognitive abilities, and plan future research to learn more.

Knowing that a mammal can successfully shrink and regrow its own body — especially a complex organ like the brain — could open up exciting new avenues for exploration. Mr. Lazaro said that his team had already been approached by medical researchers with an interest in bone and joint diseases. The findings “could mean an important advance for the study of degenerative bone diseases such as osteoporosis,” he said.

Correction: October 25, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of species of shrews. There are hundreds of species, not three.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/23/science/shrews-shrink-heads-brains.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Exploring Rodin’s Place in Literary History

The subject of creator and muse plays a central role in Rodin’s oeuvre. Mr. Gleis pointed out that even “The Thinker,” of which the museum owns a 30-inch-tall bronze that was cast in the early 1880s, captures the artist’s endless search for intellectual fodder. The marble sculpture “Man and His Thought,” another item from the Alte Nationalgalerie’s permanent collection, shows a man breathing life into an androgynous figure.

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Rainer Maria Rilke published a book of essays on Rodin in 1904. The poet played an important role in Rodin’s popularization in the German-speaking world.

Credit
Nationalgalerie–Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Catherine Chevillot, director of the Musée Rodin, explained that the moment of inspiration is inextricably linked to the act of creation in the sculptor’s figures. “Rodin is permanently haunted by the question of what constitutes art,” she said by phone from Paris. “The idea that the artist has to decide at the moment that a creation arises — also that life arises — is key to understanding his work.”

Ms. Chevillot noted the particularly spontaneous nature of “The Hero,” in which the female muse emerges like “smoke or waves from the male figure, a continuity of form which mocks his realism.”

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“Whether or not she has a head is of no importance to him,” she said of Rodin. “What is important is the deep expression of the composition as a whole.”

In the poem “Nike” — the exhibit will display the original manuscript, on loan from the Swiss National Library in Bern — Rilke tried not to respond directly to the sculpture but to create a work of art in its own right. In a 1920 letter to his patroness Nanny Wunderly-Volkart, he even tried to obscure the connection.

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“The Thinker.”

Credit
Andres Kilger/Nationalgalerie–Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

“It is never about translating a painting or a sculpture” into words, the Rilke scholar Torsten Hoffmann said by phone from Frankfurt. “He finds that boring. He is interested in what a painting or sculpture can do for him as a poet and human being.”

“Nike” emerged after a period from 1916 to 1919 that Rilke described as “the most hopeless years” of his life. By 1922, Rilke had finished his most famous works, the “Duineser Elegien” and “Sonnets to Orpheus,” both of which were published in 1923. Mr. Hoffmann said, however, that it would be inaccurate to credit Rodin’s “Hero” with a phase of renewed creativity.

“Rilke senses his own condition in the sculpture, with this angel, genius or muse,” Mr. Hoffmann said, citing “the decisive turning point” for the poet as the end of World War I and his return to Paris. But Rilke’s first encounter with Rodin in the early 20th century had a direct effect on his aesthetic. The “New Poems” of 1907 and 1908 stand as a case in point.

“Rilke tries to create a very clear form — with 14 lines, 14 verses — something similar to a sculpture,” Mr. Hoffmann said. “Just as Rodin creates things with his hands, Rilke takes up external subjects at this time. In previous work, he is more introspective.”

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“Man and His Thought” shows a man breathing life into an androgynous figure.

Credit
Andres Kilger/Nationalgalerie–Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Rilke not only handled the sale of Rodin’s work in the German-speaking world as his personal secretary from 1905 to 1906, but also defended him against conservative criticism in a 1907 lecture delivered in cities including Dresden and Bremen. A series of watercolors in particular had caused a scandal in Germany for their graphic nudity.

As early as 1896, the Alte Nationalgalerie acquired its first Rodin works. Its director at the time, Hugo von Tschudi, also became the first to purchase a Manet painting (“In the Winter Garden”) for a museum. “Rodin-Rilke-Hofmannsthal” will be set up among French Impressionist works as a kind of “exhibit within an exhibit,” said Mr. Gleis, paying homage to the farsighted vision of Mr. Tschudi and previous directors.

He acknowledged the challenge of contributing to the dialogue about Rodin after a glut of centenary events but said he hoped that the exhibit’s interdisciplinary approach would raise questions not just about art, but also about literary history.

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“Such a mix exists already in the art world, but it is more comprehensive for this house,” Mr. Gleis said. “I hope it will lead to a new point of view.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/arts/rodin-rilke-museum-berlin.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Why The Athletic Wants to Pillage Newspapers

These reporters are skilled experts feeling the strains of a crippled industry, and many are looking for a way out. Mather knows it.

Mather, 37, founded The Athletic with Adam Hansmann, 29. They worked together at Strava, an app and website for weekend warriors and elite competitors that calls itself the social network for athletes.

That experience, along with their frustration at the difficulty of finding high-quality sportswriting that wasn’t bogged down by pop-up ads, informed their big bet. They believe there are hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions, of enthusiastic sports fans willing to pay $60 annually — less with frequently offered discounts — for good reporting and writing, a clean app and no ads.

They have raised almost $8 million in venture capital funding and have recurring subscription revenue, ensuring the site won’t shutter soon. But the question everybody in sports media is asking is, What happens in three, five, seven years? Will The Athletic’s business model allow it to survive that long?

Newspapers are a classic example of a bundle. Subscribers might read just one section, but their subscription gets them the entire paper. Mather and Hansmann believe that sports is an undervalued part of that bundle, and that there are tens of thousands of sports fans in each city who don’t care about the other sections, and would rather jettison their subscription and pay for The Athletic instead.

“I think the sports page has carried local papers for a while, and they don’t treat it well,” Mather said.

After waiting nine months to debut its second local site, Toronto, and another five months for its third, Cleveland, the company planned to grow the number of local sites slowly, before tackling national ones. But that timeline was drastically altered after layoffs at ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, Vice Sports and Vocativ this spring and summer put dozens of talented, well-connected journalists on the market.

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“I’d say it’s probably the largest talent displacement in sports media ever,” Hansmann said.

The Athletic raised $5.6 million in venture capital financing in July to take advantage of the moment, adding to the $2.3 million seed round it raised in January.

“It was really hard to see everything that was happening in terms of the layoffs,” said Deepen Parikh, an executive at Courtside Ventures, one of The Athletic’s largest investors, “and knowing we really, genuinely had an opportunity to capitalize on it and not take it.”

The Athletic did not need to raise any financing, its executives said. Only one of the local sites, Toronto, breaks even — Chicago and the Bay Area and “a few smaller markets” are on track to do so by the end of the year, executives said — but most subscribers pay upfront for an annual subscription, so The Athletic had cash in hand to continue operations.

The company has wasted no time spending the new money. It started sites in Detroit, Philadelphia, the Bay Area and Minnesota, brought on the former Fox Sports writer Stewart Mandel to lead a national college football site and hired the former Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis to head up another for national college basketball.

Paul Fichtenbaum, a former top Sports Illustrated editor who had been working for The Athletic as a consultant, was hired to oversee the national sites and start a longform vertical, called Ink. “Building a company is exciting,” he said, but the “bigger opportunity to change an industry is really something that we all aspire to.”

Now the plan is to raise even more money soon, and to gain a foothold in every American and Canadian professional sports market within two years. “If there is a hockey, basketball, baseball or football team” in a city, Hansmann said, “that’s the starting point.”

It is that kind of ambition, in an industry that has sustained a decade of retrenchment, that has most of the sports media industry rooting for The Athletic’s success. Every writer knows he or she could be the next victim of a naïve pivot to video.

But Mather and Hansmann have displayed sharp elbows, and not everybody is happy with them. Newspaper sports editors have been left smarting after losing reporters to The Athletic — four writers for The Athletic Bay Area worked at the Bay Area Newspaper Group a few months ago. And then there is Dejan Kovacevic, a longtime Pittsburgh sportswriter who started DK Pittsburgh Sports, a subscription-based local sports site that in some ways is a model for The Athletic, three years ago.

In an email, Kovacevic said that Mather and Hansmann had approached him to be an adviser but that they couldn’t agree on compensation. The Athletic, he said, promised not to start a Pittsburgh site. Instead, The Athletic Pittsburgh hired a second writer away from DK Pittsburgh Sports recently. Kovacevic also said that Mather and Hansmann were unhappy when he sold a copy of his publishing platform to Greg Bedard, who launched a subscription sports site in Boston this summer, because they said it raised their cost of doing business.

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Mather said that when The Athletic’s executives spoke with Kovacevic, they had no intention of expanding into Pittsburgh in the near term, and that he and Hansmann “only make ‘promises’ to our customers, employees, investors and partners.”

“We are doing great work,” Mather said. “We treat our writers really well, we pay them well, and we are doing amazing journalism. If someone has a problem with that, that’s on them.”

Mather and Hansmann also don’t hew to traditional — they would say antiquated — norms about the separation of business and advertising efforts, and are already cozier with the teams they cover than many outlets. They have an agreement with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, for instance, whereby Argonauts season-ticket holders can receive a trial subscription to The Athletic, paid for by the Argonauts.

Hansmann said The Athletic pulled no punches in its reporting on the Argonauts, while Mather suggested The Athletic could partner with teams on insider video or events in which subscribers go to the stadium early for exclusive access. Fichtenbaum said his understanding was that the Argonauts partnership was a one-off.

Similarly, many of The Athletic’s representatives sang the virtues of its digital presentation, which shuns banner ads. But Parikh, the investor, said, “Advertising has a very real opportunity down the road with The Athletic,” before adding that it would have to be “customer centric.”

Mather and Hansmann declined to disclose subscription numbers, but they have said Toronto, their most successful local site, has more than 15,000 subscribers. The national sites figure to boost local subscription numbers.

As The Athletic’s costs rise — it will soon need a bigger office, and the company is beginning to hire nonrevenue-generating support staff like accountants and human resources personnel — the company will seemingly need to attract casual sports fans. But Mather and Hansmann are not convinced.

“In a city like Chicago, there are 100,000 die-hard fans,” Mather said. “That is a very lucrative subscription business. There are over 100,000 die-hard fans of Chicago teams outside of Chicago,” he added, and he says they aren’t served well. “Bleacher Report is empty calories. SB Nation is empty calories. The newspapers are doing nothing.”

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More journalists and investors will pay attention if The Athletic can get to the point that it can rely only on its own revenue, rather than having to turn to venture capital. Successful online media subscription products usually either cost hundreds or thousands of dollars annually and appeal to information-starved professionals — like The Information and Politico Pro — or have relatively inexpensive subscriptions that support relatively few writers — like DK Pittsburgh Sports and Stratechery.

While The Athletic aspires to be the Spotify or Netflix of sports media, the only media companies that have achieved scale with a relatively low price point (and the help of ads) are the very same newspapers The Athletic is intent on destroying.

Bleacher Report was the big sports media winner of the era when scale and online advertising revenue seemed like the future of media. It was rarely profitable and raised $40 million in venture capital funding before being bought by Turner in 2012 for about $175 million. According to skeptical media executives and investors interviewed for this article, something similar is most likely the best-case scenario for The Athletic.

Mather and Hansmann insist that they, and their investors, are in it for the long haul, and that the time is finally right for a subscription media product to go big. “The advertising business model does not align with quality,” Mather said. “It’s hot takes instead of objective analysis, it’s short-term instead of long-term, it’s serving sponsors instead of users, it’s thinking big instead of great.”

“It really comes down to the business model,” he added. “That is our core belief.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/23/sports/the-athletic-newspapers.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries for Scarce A.I. Talent

The cutting edge of artificial intelligence research is based on a set of mathematical techniques called deep neural networks. These networks are mathematical algorithms that can learn tasks on their own by analyzing data. By looking for patterns in millions of dog photos, for example, a neural network can learn to recognize a dog. This mathematical idea dates back to the 1950s, but it remained on the fringes of academia and industry until about five years ago.

By 2013, Google, Facebook and a few other companies started to recruit the relatively few researchers who specialized in these techniques. Neural networks now help recognize faces in photos posted to Facebook, identify commands spoken into living-room digital assistants like the Amazon Echo and instantly translate foreign languages on Microsoft’s Skype phone service.

Using the same mathematical techniques, researchers are improving self-driving cars and developing hospital services that can identify illness and disease in medical scans, digital assistants that can not only recognize spoken words but understand them, automated stock-trading systems and robots that pick up objects they’ve never seen before.

With so few A.I. specialists available, big tech companies are also hiring the best and brightest of academia. In the process, they are limiting the number of professors who can teach the technology.

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Uber hired 40 people from Carnegie Mellon’s groundbreaking A.I. program in 2015 to work on its self-driving-car project. Over the last several years, four of the best-known A.I. researchers in academia have left or taken leave from their professorships at Stanford University. At the University of Washington, six of 20 artificial intelligence professors are now on leave or partial leave and working for outside companies.

“There is a giant sucking sound of academics going into industry,” said Oren Etzioni, who is on leave from his position as a professor at the University of Washington to oversee the nonprofit Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Some professors are finding a way to compromise. Luke Zettlemoyer of the University of Washington turned down a position at a Google-run Seattle laboratory that he said would have paid him more than three times his current salary (about $180,000, according to public records). Instead, he chose a post at the Allen Institute that allowed him to continue teaching.

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Artificial intelligence fueled a computer’s victory over Lee Se-dol, a world champion in the game of Go, in the Google DeepMind Challenge Match last year.

Credit
Jung Yeon-Je/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“There are plenty of faculty that do this, splitting their time in various percentages between industry and academia,” Mr. Zettlemoyer said. “The salaries are so much higher in industry, people only do this because they really care about being an academian.”

To bring in new A.I. engineers, companies like Google and Facebook are running classes that aim to teach “deep learning” and related techniques to existing employees. And nonprofits like Fast.ai and companies like Deeplearning.ai, founded by a former Stanford professor who helped create the Google Brain lab, offer online courses.

The basic concepts of deep learning are not hard to grasp, requiring little more than high-school-level math. But real expertise requires more significant math and an intuitive talent that some call “a dark art.” Specific knowledge is needed for fields like self-driving cars, robotics and health care.

In order to keep pace, smaller companies are looking for talent in unusual places. Some are hiring physicists and astronomers who have the necessary math skills. Other start-ups from the United States are looking for workers in Asia, Eastern Europe and other locations where wages are lower.

“I can’t compete with Google, and I don’t want to,” said Chris Nicholson, the chief executive and a co-founder of Skymind, a start-up in San Francisco that has hired engineers in eight countries. “So I offer very attractive salaries in countries that undervalue engineering talent.”

But the industry’s giants are doing much the same. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others have opened A.I. labs in Toronto and Montreal, where much of this research outside the United States is being done. Google also is hiring in China, where Microsoft has long had a strong presence.

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Not surprisingly, many think the talent shortage won’t be alleviated for years.

“Of course demand outweighs supply. And things are not getting better any time soon,” Yoshua Bengio, a professor at the University of Montreal and a prominent A.I. researcher, said. “It takes many years to train a Ph.D.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/22/technology/artificial-intelligence-experts-salaries.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

‘Willing to Do Everything,’ Mothers Defend Sons Accused of Sexual Assault

And some of the most potent advocates for those men have been a group of women: their own mothers.

Some of the mothers met with Ms. DeVos in July to tell their stories, and Ms. DeVos alluded to them in a speech she gave last month. An advocacy group founded in 2013 by several mothers, Families Advocating for Campus Equality, or FACE, has grown to hundreds of families, who have exchanged tens of thousands of messages through their email list, said Cynthia Garrett, co-president of the group.

The mothers lobby Congress, testify on proposed legislation and policy, and track lawsuits filed by men who say they have been wrongly accused. A bill in the California Legislature that they testified against, which would have enshrined the Obama-era regulations into state law, passed both houses but was vetoed this month by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, who said it was “time to pause” on the issue.

The group holds twice-yearly meetings, where parents and sons share personal experiences and listen to advice from psychologists and lawyers.

Away from the public eye, families have spent tens of thousands of dollars and dipped into retirement savings to hire lawyers and therapists for their sons. Some have pressured colleges to reconsider punishment or expunge disciplinary notations from transcripts, so that other colleges and employers cannot see them.

Ms. Seefeld said she hired a lawyer and even a public relations firm, and used her political connections as a teachers’ union leader, to try to get the University of North Dakota to reverse her son’s three-year banishment after a woman accused him of nonconsensual sex.

“I was willing to do everything and anything,” Ms. Seefeld said. Her son Caleb Warner was ultimately cleared after the college took a second look at the case.

The mothers’ resolve comes from their raw maternal instinct to protect their children. But several who agreed to interviews also said they did not doubt that their sons’ accusers had felt hurt.

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Their sons may not have been falsely accused, the mothers said, but they had been wrongly accused. They made a distinction.

One mother, Judith, said her son had been expelled after having sex with a student who said she had been too intoxicated to give consent.

“In my generation, what these girls are going through was never considered assault,” Judith said. “It was considered, ‘I was stupid and I got embarrassed.’”

Ms. DeVos issued temporary guidance for colleges last month and will invite public comment while developing permanent regulations. Most significantly so far, she has lifted the requirement that colleges use the lowest standard of proof, “preponderance of the evidence,” in deciding whether to uphold a charge of sexual misconduct. Colleges are now free to demand more convincing evidence, a move that the mothers and other advocates for the accused had called for, saying that students should not be punished in cases where there is some doubt about the accusation.

The most active mothers said they stepped forward because they often had more time than their husbands, and because they made a strategic decision that they could be effective on the issue of sexual assault precisely because they are women and, as some described themselves, feminists. “We recognized that power,” Ms. Seefeld said.

Many women, however, feel exactly the opposite way.

A number of women’s groups and victims’ advocates have argued that a tougher standard of proof will discourage women from coming forward. They have not been shy about expressing their view of the mothers as “rape deniers” and misogynists who blame women for inviting male violence against them.

Jessica Davidson, a victim of campus sexual assault and the managing director of End Rape on Campus, said it appeared that the mothers had a strong emotional impact on Ms. DeVos, who separately met with victims, including Ms. Davidson.

“It is of course an immensely difficult thing to believe somebody you love could rape or harm another person,” Ms. Davidson said.

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who met with several mothers in July, spoke in September at George Mason University in Virginia about campus sexual assault regulations.

Credit
Mike Theiler/Reuters

But, she said of the mothers, “I think it’s the wrong thing for them to do to try and push back an entire movement.”

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Of a dozen mothers who were interviewed, almost all asked to be identified by their first names only. They said they wanted to protect their sons from being publicly revealed as having been disciplined, or even accused, in a sexual assault case. The mothers obsessively type their sons’ names into Google, and are relieved when their cases do not come up.

Some of the mothers remember the moment they learned their sons had been accused as vividly as other people remember hearing that planes had struck the World Trade Center.

Alison was pushing her cart down the aisle at a supermarket, looking at Tide detergent, when she got the call from her younger son. He had left home for college for the first time about seven weeks before.

“I think I have a problem,” her son said. “It’s bad.”

She felt a flash of irritation.

“How many times have I told you, you need to keep it zippered,” she said she told him.

Then the gravity of the situation sank in. “I need to hire a lawyer,” she thought.

A female student had told the university police that she had been sexually assaulted at an apartment near campus.

As Alison tells it, the woman had propositioned her son and consented to sex. She learned more about her 19-year-old son’s intimate behavior than any mother would want to know, and found herself talking about it “as if it were the grocery list,” she recalled.

Officials at the university declined to comment on the case, citing student confidentiality rules.

According to university documents provided by Alison, her son was cleared. Additionally, a grand jury declined to indict him, she said. But, Alison contends, the investigation should never even have gotten that far, and the damage was already done.

Her son had become a pariah, dropped by his friends and called a rapist by women on campus. The semester after he was cleared he called home, sobbing, to say he could no longer take it and was dropping out, she said.

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Five years later, at 24, he has not received a diploma and is trying to ease back into college life by taking courses online.

Alison and her son were among the delegation that met with Ms. DeVos in July. “It was very solemn,” Alison said. “It was as if we all, everyone in the room, had attended the same funeral together.”

Judith, whose son was expelled, said that at first her son did not tell her about the complaint against him, thinking he could handle it alone. She found out when he was taken to a hospital, suicidal.

She described herself as a lifelong Democrat and feminist who went to college in the 1970s at the height of the sexual revolution and women’s liberation movements. Her husband and their two sons were “super respectful” of women, she said.

“We don’t really need to teach our sons not to rape,” she said.

Four years after being kicked out of school, she said, her son is leading a “double life,” unable to confide in colleagues at work, and avoiding college classmates and his hometown.

Gloria Davidson, whose daughter, Jessica, runs End Rape on Campus, said that as the mother of a 21-year-old son, she could empathize with the mothers of accused students — to a point.

“Any mother is watching out for the children, that’s what mothers do,” Ms. Davidson said. “But I think all mothers should get the facts and open their eyes to what could have happened or not.”

Few mothers have been as public and assertive as Ms. Seefeld. In 2010 her son, Mr. Warner, learned he had been accused of sexual assault by a fellow student at the University of North Dakota. Mr. Warner contended that the sex was consensual, but he was suspended and banned from campus for three years.

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His mother leveraged the connections she had developed over years as a high school psychology and sociology teacher in Fargo, and as a union leader. She contacted the State Board of Higher Education and visited state legislators.

Hearing that the university was about to start a fund-raising drive, and thus would not want bad publicity, Ms. Seefeld said, she emailed its president about 9 p.m. one night. She wrote that she had hired a lawyer to look into suing the university, and a public relations firm to help her publicize her son’s case, she said. “Within 30 minutes I heard from the president,” she said, and he told her the case would be reviewed.

A spokesman for the university declined to comment. But university documents provided by Ms. Seefeld show that the school did review the verdict, and nullified it because of a new development: The police said that they had found inconsistencies in the accuser’s account and that some witnesses had contradicted it. They issued a warrant for her arrest on a charge of filing a false police report. (The woman left the state and has not been arrested. She did not respond to telephone messages.)

Realizing she was not alone, Ms. Seefeld helped found FACE, the advocacy group for accused students. She said the group does not want to attack women. But if the mothers do not defend their sons, she said, who will?

“I just thought it was so wrong, and I thought how could anybody let this stand,” she said of her son’s punishment. “And pretty much the most significant weapon I had was the weapon of public opinion, so that was the weapon I was wielding the hardest.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/22/us/campus-sex-assault-mothers.html?partner=rss&emc=rss