What Makes People Charismatic, and How You Can Be, Too

Going back to the three pillars, the most charismatic people you know on a personal level have generally achieved a high level of success in only one, or perhaps two, of these traits. A rare few, though, show a mastery of all three.

Dr. King, for example, displayed signs of mastery in each of these pillars, leading to the rare classification that Ms. Cabane calls “visionary charisma.”

If that’s the top of the hierarchy, the next three examples would reside somewhere in the middle.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, exhibited mastery in power and achieved high marks for presence. However, according to his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs, in her 2018 memoir “Small Fry,” he lacked warmth. Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, also arguably lacks warmth. He’s a classic introvert who makes up for his lack of people skills with mastery in presence and above-average levels of power.

Mr. Jobs, according to Ms. Cabane, is best classified as having “authority charisma,” while Mr. Musk has “focus charisma.”

Then there are those like Emilia Clarke, who starred on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Clarke’s exuberance earns her high marks in “kindness charisma,” a classification for those who excel at the warmth pillar, while maintaining a high presence but low power.

This is just scratching the surface, of course. But the important takeaway here is that charisma isn’t a singular thing. Instead, it’s often best to think of it in the same way you would consider intelligence. Earning high marks in math and science is a signal of intelligence, but so is mastery in art or music. Trying to compare one intelligent person to another just leads to more confusion. The same can be said for charisma.

Charisma training: Low-hanging-fruit edition

If you’re looking for a good starting point to be more likable, Dr. Antonakis suggests storytelling.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/smarter-living/what-makes-people-charismatic-and-how-you-can-be-too.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Catch a Buzz With Two New Books About Bugs

Sverdrup-Thygeson urges us to “talk nicely about bugs” — but if there’s one insect that deserves our scorn, it’s the mosquito.

Unlike other insects, mosquitoes don’t pollinate plants or break down waste. Contrary to popular belief (even Sverdrup-Thygeson falls into this trap), they’re not a major, irreplaceable food source for other animals, either. In fact, as Timothy Winegard explains in his wide-ranging “The Mosquito,” about the only thing they’re good for is wreaking havoc.

Mosquitoes are the deadliest animal on earth, and the competition isn’t even close. Since 2000, they’ve killed an average of almost two million people yearly, vastly more than snakes (50,000), dogs (25,000), crocodiles (1,000), lions (100) and sharks (10) combined. In fact, mosquito-borne diseases, especially malaria, have killed nearly half of all 108 billion human beings who’ve ever lived.

[ Read an excerpt from “The Mosquito.” ]

Winegard is a historian, not a scientist (he teaches at Colorado Mesa University), and whereas Sverdrup-Thygeson’s book flits from topic to topic like a bee in an orchard, “The Mosquito” is more systematic. Winegard marches forward from antiquity to the modern day, showing how mosquitoes have repeatedly upended history. “More than any other external participant,” he writes, “the mosquito, as our deadliest predator, drove the events of human history to create our present reality.”

Topics covered include Alexander the Great’s campaigns, the rise of Christianity, the African slave trade, the Panama Canal, apartheid, and the Haitian and American Revolutions. In fact, much as Mozambique honors the AK-47 on its flag, according to Winegard’s telling, the United States and Haiti should probably honor mosquitoes on theirs. The bugs were that decisive in winning independence, devastating the invading European troops who (unlike native-born rebels) lacked much disease resistance. It’s not guns, germs and steel here — it’s all germs.

And we’re still dealing with the fallout of mosquitoes today. In Italy, China and the United States, the northern half of each country has long dominated the economy, while the southern half lagged. Why? Winegard argues that the warmer southern lands were historically prone to malaria, which killed many people and sapped the strength of survivors. Even in places where we’ve eliminated malaria today, those age-old patterns persist.

As these examples show, Winegard isn’t afraid of sweeping explanations, but his enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of him. One chapter unpacks the American Civil War, noting that disease caused nearly two-thirds of Union deaths and three-quarters of Confederacy deaths. But dysentery, pneumonia and typhus actually killed far more people than mosquito-borne diseases during the conflict. Not every last event in history traces back to bugs.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/books/review/mosquito-timothy-winegard-buzz-sting-bite-anne-sverdup-thygeson.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

How YouTube Misinformation Resolved a WhatsApp Mystery in Brazil

MACEIÓ, Brazil — We traveled to Brazil this spring for many reasons, but one of them was to try to solve a mystery that had been bothering us for months.

Conventional wisdom has said that WhatsApp, a popular messaging service owned by Facebook, played a major and potentially decisive role in circulating false information that drove Brazilians toward the long-shot, far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro.

But the more we looked, the harder it became to square this with what we knew about social media and what we were finding in Brazil.

[Watch our report on YouTube’s influence in Brazil for The Times’s new TV show, “The Weekly,” on FX and Hulu.]

For one thing, WhatsApp is just a user-driven messaging service. Unlike open and algorithm-driven platforms like Facebook, it serves as more of a passive vector for pre-existing extremism or conspiracism than a generator of those things. This sentiment and material was coming from somewhere else.

For another, the more we looked at the rise of Brazil’s far right, the more we encountered stories of radicalization and misinformation that centered not on WhatsApp but on YouTube, which even many far-right politicians cite as a deciding factor in their elections.

We landed in Brazil hoping to unravel this seeming mystery. What had really happened there, why were so many observers crediting it to WhatsApp and what did it mean about the power of social media to distort or upend democracies worldwide?

Everything began to click into place when we met Luciana Brito, a soft-spoken clinical psychologist who works with families affected by the Zika virus.

Her work had put her on the front lines of the struggle against conspiracy theories, threats and hatred swirling on both platforms. And it allowed her to see what we — like so many observers — had missed: that WhatsApp and YouTube had come to form a powerful, and at times dangerous, feedback loop of extremism and misinformation.

Either platform had plenty of weaknesses on its own. But, together, they had formed a pipeline of misinformation, spreading conspiracy theories, campaign material and political propaganda throughout Brazil.

The YouTube-to-WhatsApp Pipeline

The first breakthrough came when we spoke to Yasodara Cordova, who at the time was a researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Illiteracy remains widespread in some parts of Brazil, she said, ruling out text-based social media or news sources for many people. And TV networks can be low-quality, which has helped drive YouTube’s stunning growth in many parts of Brazil, particularly on mobile.

But YouTube has had less success in poorer regions of Brazil for one simple reason: Users cannot afford the cellphone data.

“The internet in Brazil is really expensive,” Ms. Cordova said. “I think it’s the fourth or fifth country in terms of internet prices.”

WhatsApp has become a workaround. The messaging app has a deal with some carriers to offer free data on the app, and poorer users found that this offered them a way around YouTube’s unaffordability. They would share snippets of YouTube videos that they found on WhatsApp, where the videos can be watched and shared for free.

Ms. Cordova suspected that the WhatsApp-spread misinformation had often come from videos that first went viral on YouTube, where they had been boosted by the extremism-favoring algorithms that we documented in our story earlier this week.

YouTube users then pushed clips of those videos to WhatsApp, whose users would have seen their news diets on the messaging service suddenly shaped by whatever YouTube’s algorithms happened to boost. It was like an infection jumping from one host to the next.

And those WhatsApp users could share the video clips but, because open internet access might be too expensive, or because of illiteracy, were not always in a position to check the videos’ veracity or to seek out alternate points of view.

“They just receive information, they read it, and they pass it along,” Ms. Cordova said. “That’s how it works. Because it’s too expensive to make a Google search.”

Could this really be happening at a wide enough scale to impact Brazilian politics? Before heading to Brazil to investigate, we asked Virgilio Almeida, a computer scientist at the Federal University of Minas Gerais who, along with a team of student researchers, has been studying far-right content on YouTube and WhatsApp: What did the evidence show?

Mr. Almeida and his team tracked tens of thousands of messages in hundreds of Brazilian WhatsApp groups to look for trends that might shed light on the question.

The team found that users in these groups uploaded one video for every 14 text messages, an astonishingly high rate.

Though the researchers could not be sure how many of the videos came from YouTube, they found that the WhatsApp users linked to YouTube more than any other site — 10 times as frequently as they linked to Facebook — bolstering the theory of a YouTube-to-WhatsApp pipeline.

Together, the two data points suggested that YouTube clips may be reaching enormous audiences on WhatsApp in Brazil — particularly among poorer and illiterate Brazilians who, to the surprise of many observers, shifted toward Mr. Bolsonaro in the recent election.

The two platforms, combined, “become an important portal for transmitting rumors, false information, fake news,” Mr. Almeida said. “That’s the big picture.”

A spokesman for WhatsApp said that public groups account for a small fraction of WhatsApp conversations and so may not be representative. Internal company data, he said, indicates that most Brazilians share videos at a lower rate than the users whom Mr. Almeida followed. The groups that Mr. Almeida’s team examined may not be representative.

The spokesman added that the company is committed to limiting the spread of misinformation, by setting policies, for example, that restrict how widely messages can be forwarded.

‘After They Launch a Video, We Start Receiving Threats’

By the time we arrived in Brazil, we were eager to understand whether this was really happening at rates as high as Mr. Almeida’s research had suggested. And we wanted to know whether, like on YouTube itself, the videos that went viral on WhatsApp tended to inflate the reach of extremism and conspiracy theories.

In Maceió, a city in Brazil’s northeast that was among the hardest hit by the 2015 Zika virus outbreak, we saw the pipeline in action. On our second night in town, we spoke with Dr. Brito, the psychologist who works with Zika-affected families.

That day, we had watched Dr. Brito meet with a group of local mothers with Zika and try her best to swat back dangerous rumors that blamed the disease on vaccines or international conspiracies — and that the mothers repeatedly said they had encountered on YouTube or WhatsApp.

It was nearly midnight by the time she sat down to speak with us. She was exhausted after a day so busy that she didn’t eat lunch until after 9 p.m., and had a splitting headache. But she had something important that she wanted to show us.

Scrolling through her phone, Dr. Brito pulled up a WhatsApp message she had received from a father of a child with microcephaly, a condition caused by Zika. It contained a clip, cut from a YouTube video, claiming that Zika had been spread by the Rockefeller Foundation as part of a conspiracy to legalize abortion in Brazil. The father demanded to know if it was true.

This had become a common occurrence, she said.

“What happens is they’ll get little snippets of the video, and then those snippets get circulated by WhatsApp,” she said. “YouTube is a tool they don’t access directly, but they’ll click a link from YouTube if it ends up on WhatsApp.”

The videos often spread in WhatsApp chat groups that had been set up to share information and news about coping with Zika, turning users’ efforts to take control of their families’ health against them.

“The first thing they do is to pick up their phone, and go on WhatsApp to ask other mothers, and exchange information that way,” said Auriene Oliviera, an infectious disease specialist in Maceió.

“The mothers organize themselves on WhatsApp,” she added, so misinformation had proven especially viral there.

Dr. Brito and her colleagues participated in WhatsApp groups and tried to debunk the theories, but the questions kept coming.

The consequences could be severe, not just for the doubt-stricken families, but also for Dr. Brito and her colleagues.

Right-wing YouTubers had hijacked already-viral Zika conspiracies, and added a twist: Womens’ rights groups, they claimed, had helped engineer the virus as an excuse to impose mandatory abortions.

In this way, the YouTubers redirected viewers’ fear into rage, which they wielded against favorite targets — like Dr. Brito’s group, which had advocated for exceptions to Brazil’s abortion ban for mothers with Zika.

“Right after they launch a video, we start receiving threats,” she said.

Threats had grown so frequent that the police set up a special channel for her and her colleagues to report them. Dr. Brito said her organization did not want to overwhelm the police, so they filed reports only when they received threats that were especially serious — approximately once a week, she estimated.

Even some mothers had grown skeptical of the rights groups seeking to help them.

“These women are very vulnerable. And when the state is absent, and public policies are absent, then it’s very easy for them to fall into the trap of believing in these theories,” Dr. Brito said.

“The biggest impact is that these women stop believing in science,” she said. “The second is hate.”

She added, “So there is a lot of despair.”

‘I Was Scared to Give Any More Vaccines to My Daughter’

Meeting the users who had misinformation served to them on the YouTube-to-WhatsApp pipeline made clear just how outmatched regular people can be against these platforms.

At her home the next day, one of the mothers who had asked Dr. Brito about vaccines, Gisleangela Oliveira dos Santos, said, “Everything you don’t know, you can find on YouTube.”

Three years ago, when her second child was given a diagnosis of microcephaly, information was scarce. So she sought out every scrap she could, including on YouTube.

Again and again, it served her videos attributing Zika to bad vaccines or international conspiracies. Other mothers had the same experience, and they shared their findings on group text messages.

Some of the YouTube videos had been staged to resemble news reports or advice from health workers. The recommendation systems are still promoting them, the Harvard analysis found, recommending them alongside more reputable medical advice and surfacing them as top search results.

A spokesman for YouTube confirmed the findings, calling the results unintended, and said the company would change how its search tool surfaced videos related to Zika.

Ms. Oliveira dos Santos knew that the internet could be unreliable. And she believed in vaccines: She knew that they could protect children from serious diseases. But after watching the videos, she felt paralyzed by doubt.

Though she gave her child standard childhood vaccines, she said, “I was scared to give any more vaccines to my daughter after that.” She and her mother have both stopped taking vaccines as well.

That wasn’t the only issue on which YouTube altered her thinking.

She had not initially been a supporter of Mr. Bolsonaro, she said. But friends of hers kept sending her videos about him. So she turned to YouTube to find out more.

“I searched, and I became convinced by what he said, and what he would change and what he would improve,” she said. “That influenced me a lot.”

In October, she voted for him.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/the-weekly/how-youtube-misinformation-resolved-a-whatsapp-mystery-in-brazil.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Small Miracles, Wrapped in Pancakes, at Let’s Makan

Sometimes a single dish justifies a restaurant’s existence. At Let’s Makan in Chinatown, it’s a snack: apam balik, a pancake that on the streets of Malaysia might be thick and porous or, as served here, dosa-thin, tender at the heart and so crisp at the edges that it stops just short of shattering.

A batter of flour and coconut milk is poured so it veils the pan — copper with a steel bottom, custom-made in Malaysia because an ordinary skillet won’t do; even, impartial heat is required, lest the sides of the pancake turn brittle.

It cooks slowly. (You can monitor its progress from your table.) Halfway through, peanuts go in, roasted, pulverized and primed with sugar. Nubs of butter are pressed on top, and then the pancake is folded in two and handed over in a paper sleeve, still hot.

In Malaysia, apam balik is found everywhere. In New York, we must salute it as a small miracle: The meld of nuts and butter is half crunch, half cream, the sugar near-liquid and oozy.

Other pancakes may be tinged with ube or pandan, whose flavor is all scent, calling to mind banana leaves and rice mid-steam; strewn with sweet corn or coconut flakes; and spread with kaya — a jam with the soul of custard, uniting coconut milk and caramelized sugar — or more pedestrian Nutella.

“We do not recommend more than one spread for the best experience,” the menu warns. Overdress the pancake and crispness is lost, as is the point.

The chef, Sow Khuan Lee, known as Anne, learned to cook at her family’s restaurant in Ipoh, Malaysia. But she resisted the restaurant life and came to New York in the late ’80s to escape it. “She wanted to follow her own path,” said her older daughter, Michelle Lam.

Still, the kitchen called to her. Ms. Lee started making kuih, Malaysian sweets, at home; it turned into a business. When a storefront opened up on Bayard Street in 2017, a family friend from Ipoh, Kenny Lee (no relation), proposed turning it into a snack shop.

In a more staid culture, these snacks would count as meals, like kolo mee, egg noodles inked with soy sauce and shallot-steeped oil, then overlaid with choy sum (flowering cabbage), ruffly wood-ear mushrooms and two kinds of pork, minced and incarnadine, tasting of smoke and honey.

Or pan mee, flat-band noodles, stretched by hand, submerged in a broth of long-simmered chicken bones and heaped with ground pork, mushrooms and fried anchovies stacked high, irreproachably crunchy. Or pork, mushrooms and noodles with just a spoonful of curry sauce, a dish whose comforts speak to whatever place you call home.

Ms. Lee runs the kitchen with the help of “all the aunties in the back,” her daughter said. Ms. Lam pitches in, too, between classes at law school, alongside Mr. Lee’s elder son, Jonathan, who just graduated from college with a degree in biology.

The menu’s less traditional items are the children’s contribution. Best is the Crazy Rich Sandwich, built of bak kwa, panels of grilled ground pork with the salty-sweet fervor of jerky but juicier, and pork rousong, the meat dried and shredded into a crackly haze, on a toasted potato bun slaked with Kewpie mayo.

There are a few disappointments: Nasi lemak is more scant than versions elsewhere in town, and overpowered by onions; the excellent kaya is immured in bread gone stiff.

But vegetable curry has a reliably rousing kick, and almost any dish benefits from a jolt of satisfyingly funky housemade sambal or pickled green finger chiles in rice vinegar and soy sauce — each condiment 25 cents and worth the ride.

Let’s Makan (Malaysian English for “Let’s eat”) is sleepy at midday. Two tables gleam with hundreds of pennies trapped under glass. Packages of kuih await by the cash register, varieties changing by the day, maybe springy layered rice-flour cakes or sticky rice cooked in coconut milk and the blue runoff of soaked butterfly pea flowers.

There is one more treat, at least for now: ais kacang, shaved ice plumped by evaporated milk and palm sugar syrup and buried under red beans, sweet corn, peanuts, tendrils of green jelly and palm seeds as fat as tears. It is every shade of sweet, cold, earthy and bright, and will disappear as fast as summer.

Follow NYT Food on Twitter and NYT Cooking on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. Get regular updates from NYT Cooking, with recipe suggestions, cooking tips and shopping advice.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/dining/lets-makan-review-malaysian.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Special Forces Sergeant, Killed in Niger Ambush, Is Awarded a Silver Star

Sergeant Jeremiah Johnson was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star for valor on Saturday near where he grew up in Greeneville, Tenn. Footage taken from a camera on his helmet, and later released in an Islamic State propaganda video, provided key evidence for some of the awards, including his own.

Sergeant Black’s family members flew to Fort Bragg, N.C., to receive his Bronze Star in a small ceremony on Tuesday. There, they stood alongside living members of Team 3212 who received their medals. Sergeant Black was recognized for killing several enemy fighters and for firing and maneuvering across open ground under intense fire in an effort to help protect his team, according to his citation.

Sgt. First Class Brent Bartels was awarded the Silver Star in the same ceremony. During the ambush, he was driving one of the team’s trucks when he was shot in the arm. Wounded, he doubled back in the truck and picked up the team leader, Captain Perozeni, who had been thrown from the bed of the vehicle during the firefight.

A sergeant first class whose name was not released and who joined Team 3212 just weeks before the ambush as its acting intelligence sergeant also received a Silver Star.

Absent was Captain Perozeni, who was initially recommended for the Silver Star. His award, according to a defense official, was reduced twice to an Army Commendation Medal. Some of the awards given to the team were also downgraded. Captain Perozeni was punished twice by the Army, only to have both letters of reprimand rescinded.

In Miami on Friday, Sergeant La David Johnson’s family will receive his Silver Star. Representative Frederica S. Wilson, a Florida Democrat who listened to President Trump’s conversation with the sergeant’s widow and publicly criticized the president afterward, is expected to be there, and Army officials fear that the event might turn into a political show.

The body of Sergeant La David Johnson, an Army mechanic and the driver of one of the Americans’ trucks, had been missing for two days before he was found by locals in the area. He had been pinned down by heavy fire and could not get back into the driver’s seat of his truck. He ran west for almost a quarter-mile before taking cover, firing until the advancing militants surrounded and killed him.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/us/niger-ambush-silver-star.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Burner Apps and No Selfies When Reviewing Restaurants

How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Tejal Rao, the California restaurant critic based in Los Angeles, discussed the tech she’s using.

What are your most important tech tools for doing your work as our first California restaurant critic?

My phone is such a big part of my daily reporting. I use it to make reservations, to take a quick note during dinner, to document menus and dishes and to record a snippet of audio here and there.

I also need to totally disconnect from my phone when I’m writing or I don’t get anything done. I use an app called Forest to help me manage the precious hours I spend sitting at my desk and typing. Forest plants a little tree on a timer, and then for the amount of time you’ve picked, it reminds you not to check Twitter or whatever tends to distract you. It doesn’t lock you out; it just reminds you very gently to go away, put your phone down and let the tree grow. It shouldn’t work so well, but I love my dumb digital trees. Forest, combined with the white noise of Rainy Mood on my headphones, is the only way I get any writing done.

What are some of your favorite tech uses by restaurants? And what are your least favorite?

I think tech works best in restaurants when, as a diner, you’re mostly unaware of its presence and it’s not an obstacle in between you and the servers or the kitchen.

Obvious tech uses, like an iPad menu, generally end up feeling cold, and a little goofy, as if the restaurant is really stretching itself to feel modern. Apps that track data from diners can be really amazing for personalizing an experience, but work only if the staff knows how to use the data and kind of interpret it in a meaningful and professional way.

When restaurants get it wrong, being overly personal, it can be creepy.

Two words: Yelp reviews. How do you feel about them?

I know restaurant critics are supposed to trivialize Yelp, but I do refer to Yelp as a resource sometimes. It’s a great way to see older editions of the menu that people photographed, and the space, or to see poorly lit photos of dishes that might not be around anymore. I’d never use the reviews to inform my opinion — there are too many posted by representatives and friends of the restaurants, and by people who haven’t eaten there — but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t scroll through.

You have to keep your identity disguised so that restaurants don’t treat you favorably. That seems impossible in the digital age. How do you do it?

It is impossible. But I keep trying because when I’ve been recognized, I’ve had a different experience from when I haven’t been recognized.

Yes, there are things a restaurant can’t adapt at the last second if they recognize a critic, but the sad truth is that so many restaurants are truly great only if you’re a V.I.P., and it’s a completely different experience for regular folks. And if restaurant is great only for its V.I.P.s, is it really great? (No, it’s not.)

So I don’t post selfies on social media. I make reservations in other names or have other people make them for me, then show up as their guest. I sometimes use a burner app to switch out phone numbers. If The Times gave me a makeup and wig budget, I probably wouldn’t join the Ruth Reichl school of costumes, but I completely understand why she went to such extremes sometimes.

Outside of work, what tech product are you obsessed with?

A friend in Los Angeles recently introduce me to iNaturalist, which is a really cool app for keeping track of all the flowers and trees that I don’t yet recognize. I walk a lot in Los Angeles, and around other parts of California, both for work and for fun. I’m obsessed with not just recording what I see but learning how to identify it.

I’m also living for TikTok cooking videos and memes — cooking in rivers, walking in intricately cut banana peels, all of it.

What do you do when you’re taking a break from going to restaurants? Do you open a delivery app?

I sometimes treat myself to delivery from one of my favorite places in the city and time it so that it gets to my place right as I’m getting home from the gym.

But I’m a former restaurant cook, and in addition to filing reviews, I write a monthly recipe column for The New York Times Magazine, so that means if I have any free time outside of restaurants, I’m in my kitchen at home, cooking for friends. I read a lot of cookbooks and bookmark pages of things to try, and sometimes I develop a recipe out of a dish I liked at a restaurant.

What tools do you love using in the kitchen?

I believe in the metric system, and I love a digital scale. I do have a multipurpose electric pressure cooker, an off-brand Instant Pot, but unfortunately it has become a single-use tool for lentils and dried beans.

I also love my kitchen’s most low-tech tools: a big stone mortar and pestle for quickly peeling garlic and crushing spices and curry pastes, as well as my narrow, plastic Benriner mandoline for slicing anything evenly, in bulk.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/technology/personaltech/burner-apps-and-no-selfies-when-reviewing-restaurants.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Why an Heiress Spent Her Fortune Trying to Keep Immigrants Out

His internal memorandums betrayed the cold calculus behind his attentions. “Mrs. May has been our single biggest supporter. She just gave us another $400,000,” he wrote. “That relationship is pretty well under control.”

Patrick Burns, an early employee of FAIR who would often talk to Mrs. May at the group’s events, saw her as vulnerable. “She was isolated up in Ligonier and John was a predator who got inside her perimeter wire and basically found a source of money to fund the immigration reform movement,” he said in an interview. “John looked at Cordy as a buffalo to hunt and bone out for wealth.”

The Tanton-May Network

Mrs. May faced criticism even from within her family for the groups she supported. A young cousin asked whether her causes weren’t discriminatory, racist or, as Mrs. May recalled in a letter, “the one that really puts my teeth on edge … ‘elitist.’”

She produced a five-page typed response, rife with comments about Filipinos “pouring” into Hawaii and “Orientals and Indians” sneaking across “long stretches of unmanned border” with Canada.

She compared medical science’s success in reducing infant mortality rates to veterinarians prolonging the lives “of useless cattle.” Birthrates had dropped in a few areas, she noted, and millions died of starvation every year, but population growth rates continued to climb. “Even wars no longer make much dent; during 11 years of conflict, both North and South Vietnam showed a net increase in population,” she wrote.

Legal and illegal immigration led to overpopulation, she said, “the root cause of unemployment, inflation, urban sprawl, highway (and skyway) congestion, shortages of all sorts (not the least of which is energy), vanishing farmland, environmental deterioration and civil unrest.”

Mrs. May’s Laurel Foundation gave $5,000 to the Institute for Western Values to distribute a translation of the French dystopian novel “The Camp of the Saints” in the United States. The book, about an invasion of poor immigrants overwhelming Europe, is an essential text in white-nationalist circles and has often been cited by the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. A subsequent English edition was published by the Social Contract Press, which was founded by Dr. Tanton and funded by Mrs. May’s foundation.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/us/anti-immigration-cordelia-scaife-may.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

What Different-Looking People Would Like You to Know Before You Stare

Emily Orbert has used a wheelchair since she was 21, and has heard “every joke out there about Speed Racer and speeding tickets,” she wrote. “Definitely don’t ask me what happened, or tell me I’m too pretty for a wheelchair, or tell me you are proud of me, or ‘good for you’ when I do something as simple as picking up a dropped object.”

“What’s annoying,” added Ellen H, who is six feet tall, “is that people seem comfortable commenting on my appearance as soon as they meet me: ‘Wow, you’re big!’ ‘How tall are you?’ ‘Do you play basketball?’ What I would like is for people to say nothing about my appearance. Greet me as if I’m 5’6!”

Another correspondent, who is very petite, hears a different vein of remarks. “Many people seem to think it’s a compliment to comment on how tiny I am. Women especially seem to think it’s flattering to comment on my size. But I’ve struggled in the past with my relationship to food. Commenting on my size, even as a compliment, is triggering for me.”

On Common Sense

In many cases, the bad behavior my correspondents witness is no different from the bad behavior anybody witnesses. “People are people,” said Ms. Kendall. “Some are delightful to have a conversation with, and some are socially unaware and ask very private and personal questions — no matter who you are.”

Another woman, who is small enough that she buys children’s clothes, wrote that “I’ve had a boss lift me up off the ground in front of other people. It made me feel small and powerless and childlike. It’s never appropriate to lift an adult off the floor at work, unless you work at Cirque du Soleil.”

On Offering Help

You may be quietly horrified by these exhibits in the Tactlessness Hall of Fame, but even well-meaning people can make life difficult — by stepping in to help, unbidden.

“If you want to help me, please ask, ‘Would it be helpful if …?’, and understand if I decline your offer,” wrote Ms. Obert.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/smarter-living/what-different-looking-people-would-like-you-to-know-before-you-stare.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

The Day Jeffrey Epstein Told Me He Had Dirt on Powerful People

I can’t say how old she was, but my guess would be late teens or perhaps 20. Given Mr. Epstein’s past, this struck me as far too close to the line. Why would Mr. Epstein want a reporter’s first impression to be that of a young woman opening his door?

The woman led me up a monumental staircase to a room on the second floor overlooking the Frick museum across the street. It was quiet, the lighting dim, and the air-conditioning was set very low. After a few minutes, Mr. Epstein bounded in, dressed casually in jeans and a polo shirt, shook my hand and said he was a big fan of my work. He had a big smile and warm manner. He was trim and energetic, perhaps from all the yoga he said he was practicing. He was undeniably charismatic.

Before we left the room he took me to a wall covered with framed photographs. He pointed to a full-length shot of a man in traditional Arab dress. “That’s M.B.S.,” he said, referring to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The crown prince had visited him many times, and they spoke often, Mr. Epstein said.

He led me to a large room at the rear of the house. There was an expansive table with about 20 chairs. Mr. Epstein took a seat at the head, and I sat to his left. He had a computer, a small blackboard and a phone to his right. He said he was doing some foreign-currency trading.

Behind him was a table covered with more photographs. I noticed one of Mr. Epstein with former President Bill Clinton, and another of him with the director Woody Allen. Displaying photos of celebrities who had been caught up in sex scandals of their own also struck me as odd.

Mr. Epstein avoided specifics about his work for Tesla. He told me that he had good reason to be cryptic: Once it became public that he was advising the company, he’d have to stop doing so, because he was “radioactive.” He predicted that everyone at Tesla would deny talking to him or being his friend.

He said this was something he’d become used to, even though it didn’t stop people from visiting him, coming to his dinner parties or asking him for money. (That was why, Mr. Epstein told me without any trace of irony, he was considering becoming a minister so that his acquaintances would be confident that their conversations would be kept confidential.)

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/12/business/jeffrey-epstein-interview.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

From the Country’s New Poet Laureate, Poems Reclaiming Tribal Culture

By Joy Harjo

In June, after decades as a significant presence for poetry readers, Joy Harjo was named United States poet laureate. A member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, she’s the first indigenous poet to hold the post. This is overdue, and political: a reminder to those who view America as a white nation that we are nothing of the sort, and a reminder to those who believe it’s acceptable to terrorize and brutalize asylum seekers that the only real native Americans are pre-European indigenous peoples.

“An American Sunrise” is tribal history and retrieval. Harjo writes of ancestral lands and culture, and their loss, through personal, mythic and political lenses. In a prefatory prose statement Harjo explains the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which expelled tribes from their land, making explicit connection between past and present: “The indigenous peoples who are making their way up from the Southern Hemisphere are a continuation of the Trail of Tears.” She makes the connection again when, in “Exile of Memory,” a long poem of short parts, she describes the treatment of indigenous child migrants in the 19th century, with imagery suggestive of current headlines: “They were lined up to sleep alone in their army-issued cages.”

Harjo has several modes in this book, her latest of eight collections. There’s flat recitation of facts: “One March a few years back, I was in residence at a private women’s college in Atlanta,” begins a prose piece that summarizes a re-enactment of a 19th-century massacre, and concludes with a dead grandfather galloping along the highway on a horse. There’s incantation: “Bless the ears of this land, for they hear cries of heartache and shouts of celebration.” And there’s praise: “My man’s feet are the sure steps of a father / … when he laughs he opens all the doors of our hearts.”

“An American Sunrise” is full of celebration, crisis, brokenness and healing, with poems that rely on lyric techniques like repetition, avoidance of temporal specifics and the urge to speak collectively: “All night we dance the weave of joy and tears / all night we’re lit with the sunrise of forever.”

The scarcity of the quotidian here reflects Harjo’s embrace of poetry as ritual, perhaps as sacred, a form apart from life’s healthy trivialities. Yet this can make what’s deeply felt feel oddly impersonal. My favorite poems in this collection contain specific detail and description.

In “Washing My Mother’s Body,” Harjo’s speaker narrates: “I never got to wash my mother’s body when she died. / I return to take care of her in memory. / … I find the white enamel pan. … I pick up the bar of soap. … As I wash my mother’s face, I tell her / how beautiful she is.” Gesture swells into homage and complicates into anecdote, so that washing her mother’s arm leads to a reverie about her mother’s love of jewelry and to the “burn scar on her arm, / From when she cooked at the place with the cruel boss.” Ritual becomes visionary as the mother’s body becomes a crossroads of tenderness, suffering, joy and oppression both intimate and public.

And it helps show what’s at stake when, in “How to Write a Poem in a Time of War,” Harjo describes soldiers who “crawl the city, / the river, the town, the village, / the bedroom, our kitchen” — moving the violence close — and “eat everything. / Or burn it.” The poem also mentions “Our beloved twin girls curled up in their nightgowns, / next to their father and me.” How to write a poem in a time of war? Sing, Harjo says, of “our home place from which we were stolen / in these smoky green hills. / Yes, begin here.”

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/books/review/an-american-sunrise-poems-joy-harjo.html?emc=rss&partner=rss