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THE HUFFINGTON POST MAGAZINE

NOVEMBER 11, 2012

TOXIC DANGERS PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

The Plight of a Protective Parent in a Chemical World

BRAIN DRAIN NO WAY OUT AFTER THE VOTE


11.11.12 #22 CONTENTS

Enter POINTERS: Obama’s Winning Tweet, Christie Rejects Romney, ‘Firm and Fresh’ Vegans MOVING IMAGE Q&A: Ari Graynor

Voices

TOXIC DANGERS

BY LYNNE PEEPLES

CAROLYN EDGAR: Always Blaming the Parents JAMES McGARRY: After Sandy: Break the Silence SUNJEEV BERY: Saving Star Wars

FROM TOP: “UNACCEPTABLE LEVELS”; CODY PICKENS; HOLLIS BENNETT; ATISHA PAULSON

QUOTED

BRAIN DRAIN BY GERRY SMITH

Exit FILM: Anna Karenina Is Big on Show, Low on Substance BOOKS: Fetishizing the Printed Page

NO WAY OUT

BY PETER S. GOODMAN

eWISE: Please Advise Yourself to Stop That GREATEST PERSON: Marsha Four TFU

“IT’S LIKE BEIRUT”

BY ATISHA PAULSON

FROM THE EDITOR: Bridging the Divide ON THE COVER: Ed Brown for

Huffington by Rayon Richards


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

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Bridging the Divide N THIS WEEK’S ISSUE of Huffington, Peter Goodman puts the spotlight on one of the under-discussed barriers to employment around the country: the fact that “getting a job and getting to a job are two different things.” Peter illustrates the predicaments and paradoxes that affect the nearly 40 million Americans who live in parts of American cities that lack public transportation: work has shifted to the suburbs, yet many of those who need the jobs cannot afford cars to make the necessary commute. We meet Lebron Stinson, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a former delivery truck driver: “The jobs are in one place,” writes Goodman, “he

ART STREIBER

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is in another, and the bus does not bridge the divide.” Like so many of our country’s infrastructure failings, the lack of public transportation is rooted in a harsh political reality. As Tom Dugan, the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority executive director, puts it, “Most of our people are the working poor. In Chattanooga, no elected official is going to win an election based on a transit issue.” In the meantime, people like Lebron Stinson are left waiting, as he puts it, “to feel like I’m part of the world again.” Elsewhere in the issue, Lynne Peeples writes about one man’s environmental awakening, as he realizes just how many toxic chemicals he and his family come

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

into contact with. Thinking back to his own childhood toys and action figures, Ed Brown says, “not once did I ever think about what those things were made out of — the paint on them, or the plastic they were made out of, or the stickers on the sides of them... My parents, I’m sure they didn’t think about it either.” After asking questions about the thousands of chemicals produced or imported into the U.S. every year — and learning of the lax regulations that allow potentially harmful chemicals into everything from shampoos to children’s Halloween costumes — Brown took up the cause as an activist and documentary filmmaker. “The worst part, for me, was learning that our corporations, our courts, and even the government, feel that all of those chemicals inside of our bodies are completely acceptable,” he says. And Gerry Smith writes about what would seem to be an uncontroversial immigration issue — the question of whether those who come to America and actually create jobs can stay and continue to create jobs. With the number of immigrant-founded

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startups in decline, it’s a question with implications not only for immigrants, but for all who are affected by our ongoing jobs crisis, since immigrants are more than twice as likely to start businesses as nativeborn Americans. Smith introduces us Work to Asaf Darash, an has shifted to Israeli entrepreneur the suburbs, who came to America yet many of and started a small those who business. He has need the jobs 15 employees, and cannot afford planned to hire more. to make the Yet his visa renewal necessary application has been commute.” denied, and he faces deportation. As Gerry writes, the rejection stirs a range of emotions in Darash. But mostly confusion. “In his homeland of Israel, politicians fight over who can attract more foreign entrepreneurs,” Gerry writes. “The United States, he says, should be rolling out the welcome mat for him, not ushering him out the door.”

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BARACK OBAMA’S TWITTER

1 OBAMA’S WINNING TWEET

POINTERS

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Soon after the media called Ohio for President Obama, he tweeted, “Four more years,” with this photo of him and Michelle hugging. Americans must have embraced the sentiment because just 22 minutes later it was retweeted more than 226,000 times—making it the most popular tweet ever and shattering the record Justin Bieber had held. A tweet Obama wrote earlier in the night (“This is because of you. Thank you.”) quickly took the number two position.


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POINTERS

CHRISTIE REJECTS ROMNEY

Maybe he had more important things going on at home, but N.J. Gov. Chris Christie turned down a request from the Romney campaign to appear at a rally Sunday night in Pennsylvania, just 20 minutes from Trenton. Christie, who is up for reelection next year, had been an outspoken Romney surrogate but didn’t hold back praising President Obama for his response to Hurricane Sandy. Romney offered his accolades to Christie for helping the people of New Jersey in the storm’s aftermath. “They’re in a hard way, and we appreciate his hard work,” he said Sunday.

FROM TOP: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES; WSMV; AP PHOTO/MATT ROURKE

3 DEATHBED CONFESSION GOES AWRY

4

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Facing what he thought were his final moments, a Nashville man confessed to murder—then survived. James Washington was serving time for another crime when he suffered a heart attack and admitted to killing Joyce Goodener in 1995. “He kind of got as best as he could, motioned, and said, ‘I have something to tell you. I have to get something off my conscience and you need to hear this.’ He said, ‘I killed somebody. I beat her to death,’” prison guard James Tomlinson said in court. Washington tried to take back the confession after he recovered, but he was found guilty and faces life in prison.

BIDEN TEASES 2016 RUN When Vice President Joe Biden cast his vote Tuesday morning in Greenville, Del., he told reporters it was the eighth time he’s been on the statewide ballot—and counting. When asked if he thought it would be the last time he voted for himself, he replied, “No, I don’t think so.” Biden also urged Americans to “stand in line as long as you have to” and exercise their right to vote.


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POINTERS

NO DOUBT MAKES EMBARRASSING MISSTEP

After a decade hiatus, No Doubt returned with a new album—but the band pulled the video for its second single following racism complaints. The Native American community was less than excited by the headdresses, tepees and smoke signals featured in the video for “Looking Hot,” posted to YouTube. “Although we consulted with Native American friends and Native American studies experts at the University of California, we realize now that we have offended people,” the band wrote in an apology statement.

VEGANS ‘STAY FIRM AND FRESH,’ SAYS PETA

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FROM TOP: NEIL MOCKFORD/FILMMAGIC/GETTY IMAGES; PETA

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A new ad from PETA Europe touts the sexual benefits of going vegan, showing men swinging giant phallic vegetables between their legs as they play tennis, work and dance in a club. “The cholesterol in meat, eggs and dairy products can clog our arteries and slow the flow of blood to all the body’s organs–including those that are vital in bed,” the organization explained on its website.

THAT’S VIRAL COLORADO BECOMES THE FIRST STATE TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA

A selection of the week’s most talked-about stories. HEADLINES TO VIEW FULL STORIES

GEORGE LUCAS MIGHT BE SELLING OUT, GIVES $4 BILLION TO CHARITY

IS THIS A GOOD ENOUGH EXCUSE NOT TO TIP?

BOY MEETS WORLD IS GETTING A SEQUEL

MORE STATES APPROVE GAY MARRIAGE!


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MOVING IMAGE

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After the Vote After many months of fierce political debate and nearly $6 billion in campaign spending, voters finally made their decisions at the polls on Tuesday. Here are some portraits of voters in California, where President Obama won handily and several hotly-contested ballot measures were at stake. Not all of them told us who they voted for. PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOE SCHMELZER AND DAVID VINCENT WOLF

S.A. Bud Pascale of Los Angeles, California.


Danielle Lee of Ladera Heights, California, voted for Obama.


Sally-Ann Cohen of West Hollywood, California, voted for Obama.


Kijana Mahdi and Sevrina Elkins of Beverly Hills, California, voted for Obama.


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MOVING IMAGE

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Miriam Hendeles of Beverly Hills, California, voted for Obama.


Kory Yanagihara of West Hollywood, California, voted for Obama.


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MOVING IMAGE

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Qwes Kross of Beverly Hills, California, voted for Obama.


Larry Grossman of West Hollywood, California, voted for Obama.


Nancy and Ryan Williams of Ladera Heights, California, voted for Obama.


Dickran Jebejian of Los Angeles, California, voted for Obama.


Frankie Banks and Freddie King of Ladera Heights, California.


Paul Roberson of West Hollywood, California, voted for Obama.


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CHRISTOPHER BEYER/CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES

Ari Graynor Talks Dirty

Q&A

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Q&A

N THE NEW Broadway show The Performers, Ari Graynor plays Peeps, a porn star attending the Adult Film Awards with her husband and fellow porn star Mandrew (Cheyenne Jackson). The script, unsurprisingly, contains some outrageous language, but it was hardly intimidating for the 29-year-old actress. Graynor, who is known for her turn as Meadow Soprano’s roommate in The Sopranos as well as her breakout performance in the film Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, starred as a phone sex operator in the recent movie For a Good Time, Call… In her latest stage role, Graynor manages to get big laughs while treating her character with the utmost seriousness. — Lori Fradkin

We were initially supposed to do this interview on October 30, but then the hurricane struck and Broadway shows were canceled. What was it like going back to work after that? I felt two ways. One, this really puts everything into perspective. Why would we be nervous? There [are] so many bigger issues. Yet at the same time, it’s such a weird time to be in the city. And I think it brings a lot of fears to the forefront of people’s minds, and it feels important and valid to be the court jesters of New York and let people laugh for an hour and a half. Why did you want to play Peeps? She feels like a lot of what I know is inside of me that I have a hard time expressing. And I love that the emotional reality is as intense

as anything you would see in the finest dramas — issues of betrayal, of monogamy, of love, of aging, of impending parenthood. When we were sitting around the table the first few days of rehearsal, we were breaking down these characters as if it were Hamlet. Did you worry about comparisons to Katie, your character in For a Good Time, Call…? I thought long and hard about doing this play for that reason. What if people think they’re similar, even though I know they’re not? What if people think that all I can do is play contemporary sex workers? You know, my fear of people forgetting that I can and want to do dramatic work. At the end of the day, I knew in my heart that they were completely different. Katie was somebody that was so well-defended, and her reveal was much more about

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Q&A

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how vulnerable and insecure she was. She walked through the world with a type of confidence — sometimes real, sometimes false — that was very much her armor. Peeps is exactly the opposite. She is all heart, she is all soul, she is all love. There is no filter. Henry Winkler plays Chuck Wood, a legend in the adult film industry. What is he like to work with? Henry Winkler is the most lovable man. He is like everybody’s favorite grandfather. And to hear him say some of the things he says in the play – I was watching rehearsals today, and I just was dying laughing with my hands covering my eyes.

JEFF VESPA/WIREIMAGE

There’s a scene in which you present an award in a dress with a high slit. Are you intentionally channeling Angelina Jolie? [Laughs] I mean, the dress was always gonna be designed with a slit, but I definitely thought that I should present my leg in maybe an honorary Angelina Jolie type of way. You’ve said in past interviews that you’ve gotten more nervous about live performance as you’ve gotten older. Why is that? Well, it’s funny. I had felt that the past three plays that I had done. But so far with this, I haven’t

felt nervous. I feel the same kind of excitement and freedom I felt as a kid on stage. Maybe part of it has to do with where I am in my personal life. Right now I have this kind of incredible luxury – natural disasters notwithstanding – to be really present in the work. This is what I’m doing right now. This is what’s going on. I think when you feel less present, that’s when the nerves and panic set in. So the thrill is back. I mean, it’s terrifying every night, but it’s the rush kind of terror rather than the panic terror. So far, so good.

Graynor at Hollywood Life’s 11th Annual Young Hollywood Awards in 2009.


Voices

CAROLYN EDGAR

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Always Blaming the Parents WHEN THE NANNY of a wealthy Upper West Side family was accused of murdering two of her employer’s three children, the response from some was all too familiar: blame the mother. Commenters on sites all across the Internet have attacked the chil-

ILLUSTRATION BY KYLE T. WEBSTER

dren’s mother, Marina Krim, for hiring a nanny instead of caring for her three children without assistance. Responding to a recent article at The Daily Beast about the Krim murders, a commenter said, “Maybe parents ought to think long and hard about their choices and maybe raise their own

Carolyn Edgar is a New York City lawyer and writer


Voices children instead of farming it out to third-world refugees.” By faulting the parents, victimblamers seek to convince themselves that tragedies like the Krim murders could never happen to them. It’s a phenomenon that even has a name among health and safety experts—the “It won’t happen to me” myth. We hope that if we can pin evil on someone’s choices, it protects us from the same evil. But it won’t, of course. Instead, the rush to judgment inflicts even more pain on grieving parents, and prevents us from focusing on how to lessen the chances that other families may suffer a similar fate. As anyone who follows child murder stories knows, “it won’t happen to me” parent-blaming happens whenever children are the victims of grisly attacks. When a crazed gunman shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, some questioned why anyone would take small children to a midnight showing of a movie like The Dark Knight in the first. In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, Geraldo Rivera famously opined that Martin may have never attracted George Zimmerman’s notice had his parents not allowed him to

CAROLYN EDGAR

HUFFINGTON 11.11.12

dress like a “thug” in a hoodie. In response to those who have lambasted Ms. Krim as a spoiled rich woman who couldn’t handle her own kids, people close to the Krims have defended her as a mother. In a recent New York Times article, Karen Krim, Ms. Krim’s mother-in-law, described Ms. Krim as a “hands-on” mother who “didn’t have a nanny so she could go out and play tennis—not that there’s anything The wrong with that.” notion that But what if Ms. women should Krim had hired a be able to nanny so she could go take care of out and play tennis? their children Would that make her without any an uncaring mother? outside help The notion that wom- is pure myth.” en should be able to take care of their children without any outside help is pure myth. As Jessica Valenti points out in her new book Why Have Kids?, “It used to be that parenting was thought of as a community exercise, with help from family and neighbors… now it’s positioned as all-American individualism.” Despite the guilt-inducing rhetoric to the contrary, it is the rare


Voices family—even with a stay-at-home mom who does all of the day-today care herself—who will never pay someone to watch their children. Honest parents know—and fear—that disaster can strike their kids, no matter who is in charge. That’s one reason this case has resonated with so many people. A trusted nanny having a sudden mental breakdown—as appears to be the case with Ms. Ortega—is as random and uncontrollable as a freak accident. Child care is a universal need— and concern—for all families. That makes the Krim case not just another example of rich people problems.  Indeed, if any parents should be worried about the possibility that “this could happen to me,” it is not well-heeled women who can afford to pay a premium for nannies who come through agencies that provide extensive background screening. Lower-income families are at even greater risk, often having little choice but to leave their children with shady caregivers, sometimes with devastating results.  Last year, a worker left seven children alone in her home daycare facility in Houston to go shopping; a fire broke out while

CAROLYN EDGAR

HUFFINGTON 11.11.12

she was gone, killing four of the children. If the Krim case is going to start a conversation about nannies and childcare, the focus should be on providing greater controls, for the benefit of both families and nannies alike, to what is now a shadowy, underHonest regulated market. parents In any event, the know—and focus on Ms. Krim’s fear—that parenting choices is disaster can misplaced. Whethstrike their er Ms. Krim was kids, no a model mom or a matter who is neglectful one is irin charge.” relevant. By all accounts, Ms. Krim was a wonderful mother—but even if she was awful, her kids didn’t deserve to die. When senseless violence takes the lives of young children, judging another family’s parenting choices allows us to delude ourselves into believing that random evil can be avoided. That, of course, is a fallacy. Lulu and Leo Krim are not dead because they had a bad mother. If anything, this case shows that wealth and privilege have no power to protect our children from unpredictable harm.


JAMES McGARRY

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After Sandy: Break the Silence

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VERY FOUR YEARS PRESIDENTIAL candidates tell the American people that that election is a turning point for the country. This year they might have actually been right. To be sure, there are always differences between candidates. On a range of issues, from health care to tax reform, voters this year faced a real choice about two different approaches to governing. But the other turning point in this election, which has a very real impact on the future of this country, was the bipartisan silence, during almost all of the campaign, on one of the most critical issues of ILLUSTRATION BY KYLE T. WEBSTER

James McGarry is a policy analyst and communications associate at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network


Voices our time. By this I refer to the silence around climate change. For the first time in 24 years, the words “climate” and “warming” were not used once in the presidential debate, while “oil” and “natural gas” were mentioned 56 times. To put that in context, the U.S. just experienced the warmest eight months on record, during which time over 60 percent of the nation experienced moderate-to-exceptional drought conditions, 44,000 wild fires burned 7.7 million acres, and U.S. corn production reached its lowest yield in 17 years. In 2011, the 14 most severe weather events in the country cost the U.S. close to $140 billion. I write this in the midst of Hurricane Sandy, which is on track to be the largest storm ever to hit the east coast. The nation is haltingly moving from one disaster to the next while the candidates bickered about who can drill for more oil and gas. To ignore the problem of greenhouse gas emissions while millions of Americans are suffering as a result is either denial to the extreme or the peak of negligence. Now, before people jump to

JAMES McGARRY

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conclusions, let’s clear up one misconception right away. Averting the worst consequences of global climate change is not about protecting the planet. It is about protecting us. As the extreme weather events of the last decade have shown us time and time again, the The planet is quite canation is pable of protecthaltingly ing itself.  Eons ago, moving from Earth existed and one disaster even prospered unto the next der conditions that while the would be uninhabitcandidates able to mankind and bickered most other forms of about who can life today. The heat drill for more waves, flooding, wild oil and gas.” fires and gale force winds that we now experience with increasing frequency and intensity are all a part of the Earth’s adaptive capacity to adjust to a changing climate. Pumping more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere does not threaten the planet—it has been a lot hotter than this in its 4.5 billion years—but it surely makes the planet more threatening to us.


Voices Put another way, we are turning the planet into something that we, and much of life as we know it, cannot live in. Don’t believe me? Ask the Pacific islanders of low lying nations like Papua New Guinea who are now climate refugees after permanently evacuating their homes in the wake of sea level rise. Ask the owners of the 275,000 homes that were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina, or the 600,000 pets that were killed or left without a home from that storm. It is going to be some time before we know the full costs of Hurricane Sandy. What we know for sure, however, is that until we open up a dialogue about climate change in this country, based on the premise that the 99 percent of climatologists who say that climate change is happening and that human beings are to blame, are correct, we do not stand a chance. When our leaders focus on an “all of the above energy strategy” and “clean coal and natural gas,” that sends the wrong signal. That says that we are not ready to think about the sweeping changes needed to stem the tide of these destructive weather events from which we seem to be perpetually recovering.

JAMES McGARRY

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We know what has to be done. Clean renewable energy that can produce electricity while emitting zero carbon dioxide is available today. Energy efficient appliances that can do the same Averting work as their less efthe worst ficient counterparts consequences with less energy are of global available now. Presiclimate dent Obama finalized change is new fuel economy not about standards for cars protecting and light trucks so the planet. It that by 2025 the is about U.S. auto fleet will protecting us.” have to get about 54.5 miles per gallon. This will save Americans roughly 3 million barrels of oil per day and $140 billion per year. That was a good step, but it is not by itself enough. The U.S. has to break its silence on climate change, accept that our current energy-intense lifestyles are responsible for the increasingly violent weather patterns, and tax, or otherwise limit the fossil fuels that are emitting climate-altering greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  The planet does not need to be saved. We do.


Voices

SUNJEEV BERY

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Saving Star Wars WHILE HURRICANE SANDY was pounding on our windows, Disney quietly slipped the announcement that it had purchased Lucasfilm under our doors. For just over $4 billion, Disney will not only acquire the special effects machine that George Lucas built, but it will also get its hands on three treatments for a new series of Star Wars films. The first of these Star Wars

ILLUSTRATION BY KYLE T. WEBSTER

movies, Episode VII, will be released in 2015. This is both an opportunity and treacherous territory. Will a third trilogy make up for the flimsiness of the second? Or is this going to be another round of Happy Meal entertainment—dumb accents, lame characters and everything else? Whoever Disney hires—and whatever these hires produce— there are some basic rules that

Sunjeev Bery is a writer based in Washington, D.C.


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SUNJEEV BERY

the next Star Wars team must keep in mind:

WE AREN’T KIDS ANYMORE: Yes,

you read that right. We’ve grown up. We’ve lived through recessions, wars and political turmoil. We’ve started families, raised children and dealt with heartbreak. Everyone who saw the original movies in the theaters is a lot older now. We don’t want another pathetic attempt to replace Chewbacca or the Ewoks with some kind of secondgeneration Jar Jar Binks. We want something that speaks to us as adults. And if you do it right, we’ll still take our kids to the theaters with us. We promise.

GET BACK TO STORYTELLING: The

Sarlacc Pit? X-wing fighters? A dome-shaped robot? These were all the curious inventions of the original Star Wars franchise. They propelled the original trilogy forward. Don’t even try to achieve this again. Trinkets, gadgets, unique aliens and spacecraft will be in the next trilogy. But they will not be substitutes for epic, beautiful storytelling. In the first trilogy, the visual landscape Lucas brought forward was so new that it could at times be a sub-

stitute for the story. Not this time. It will feel flimsy and cheap.

USE THE FORCE (A LOT LESS): The

original trilogy included an exploration of George Lucas’ sci-fi spirituality. That has now been thoroughly explored. Don’t try to rely on the Force as a plot device or scene accelerator. It won’t We want work. It’s been done. something This time around, the that speaks Force can only be the lightest of background to us as adults. And props—a subtle nod to Lucas’ creation, but if you do it right, we’ll nothing more.

AVOID THE CHEAP TRICKS: Ever since

still take our kids to the theaters with us.”

9/11, there have been about 72,000 movies in which some metaphor for Al Qaeda is attacking some metaphor for New York. In some cases, the moviemakers don’t even bother to find a metaphor. They just attack the city again. Maybe it’s an alien invasion. Maybe it’s the Decepticons. Maybe it is a Batman nemesis. Please don’t give us yet another post-9/11 metaphor dressed up in Star Wars garb. Give us something new.


Voices

SUNJEEV BERY

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AVOID THE OTHER CHEAP TRICKS TOO: The Death Star was the original mega evil device. Since then, there have been about 84,000 movies with various evil devices that needed to be stopped/destroyed/stolen/buried forever. You can’t recreate the Death Star or anything like it. George Lucas already did that. Skip this plot device, and avoid all variants of it.

STUDY THE STAR WARS UNIVERSE: When Senator Palpatine became the emperor, he defeated democracy. When Darth Vader destroyed Princess Leia’s home planet, he committed genocide. When the Rebel Alliance blew up the Death Star, they smashed a dictatorship. These are heavy matters. Sure, we didn’t always understand the storyline in these terms. But one reason why the original Star Wars trilogy lingered for so long in our minds was that as we climbed through our childhood years, the Star Wars universe gave us more and more to think about. The next movies must do this as well—but our minds are now much older, and much more stuck in their ways.

WRITE A STAR WARS MYTHOLOGY FOR TODAY: Multiple human societ-

ies are now in the midst of dramatic and diverse kinds of turmoil. At the risk of being grandiose, we need signs and stories to help us navigate This is the days ahead. We both an don’t all necessarily opportunity think we do, but we do. and treacherSomeone will soon ous territory. make the movies that Will a third help us understand trilogy make this global moment. up for the As laughable as it now flimsiness of sounds, if those movthe second?” ies have the words “Star Wars” in the title, if they can credibly embed these issues in the Star Wars universe, they will achieve a status that rivals the original franchise. Can Disney pull it off? Would Disney even want to? I’m extremely skeptical. Still, the creatives and executives tasked with producing the next Star Wars trilogy are going to be held to these standards, whether anyone realizes it or not. Powerful childhood experiences are not easily recreated. But that’s what anyone taking on the next Star Wars trilogy is agreeing to do.


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CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: JORDAN STRAUSS/INVISION/AP; JASON LAVERIS/ FILMMAGIC/GETTY IMAGES; NADINE RUPP/GETTY IMAGES

“Let me put it this way. I wouldn’t listen to a Rhianna album for $250.00.”

“I’m not married, so I can sleep with whomever I want. That’s why I became a talk show host, so I would meet a different person every day.”

—Chelsea Handler on Conan

“I think you’re going to see, ‘Well, Obama is reelected. The idea that we can’t let that happen is done.’ Now it is going to be, ‘OK man, we just got to get something done.’”

—Joe Biden

on MSNBC’s Hardball

—HuffPost commenter efell

on Rihanna’s plans to release a $250 version of her album Unapologetic

“The path to becoming rich in America requires coming up with another idea that contributes to the dumbing down of society.”

—HuffPost commenter chemguy

on 17-year-old Nick D’Aloisio’s summarization app, Summly


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If the president of United States comes here and he’s willing to help my people and he does it, then I’m gonna say nice things about him because he’s earned it.

—N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, according to Reuters

“Let’s hear once again how the firefighters, police are ruining the economy. Go ahead, someone say it, I dare you.”

—HuffPost commenter CAdawn on Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: LLOYD BISHOP/NBC; STAN HONDA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES; AP PHOTO/ KOJI SASAHARA

“Welcome to Late

Night with Jimmy Fallon everybody, please keep it down.” —Jimmy Fallon as he filmed his show without a studio audience during Hurricane Sandy

“If Apple could put their logo on dog poop, some people would stand in line overnight to buy it.”

—HuffPost commenter CountWestwest on the iPad mini


11.11.12 #22 FEATURES

TOXIC DANGERS BRAIN DRAIN NO WAY OUT

ATISHA PAULSON

“IT’S LIKE BEIRUT”


TOXIC DANGERS


TOXIC DANGERS

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d Brown recalls

the “funny taste” of Darth Vader’s legs. He also remembers how it never stopped him from chewing more teeth marks into his Star Wars action figure. “I still wish I was 5 years old,” said Brown. “Playing with my little Transformers or GI Joe guys, not once did I ever think about what those things were made out of — the paint on them, or the plastic they were made out of, or the stickers on the sides of them... My parents, I’m sure they didn’t think about it either.” Three decades later, and now a parent himself, Brown thinks about those things. Like a growing number of moms and dads, he thinks about not only what toxic chemicals might lace his kids’ toys, but also what could con-

The plight of a protective parent in a CHEMICAL WORLD Lynne Peeples Frank Stockton taminate school supplies, Halloween costumes, mattresses, paints, cleaners and shampoos. Such thoughts can be overwhelming. An estimated 26.9 trillion pounds of some 84,000 different chemicals are produced in or imported into the U.S. every year. That’s about 250 pounds of synthetic substances per U.S. resident, per day, with the potential consequences of exposures to those chemicals going beyond the indi-


PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

Ed Brown, his wife Lauren and their two children, Brayden and Maia.


JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES

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vidual. Researchers have calculated the cost of virtually unregulated chemical use at nearly $80 billion in annual health care costs, lost working hours and stolen IQ points. And such studies are far from comprehensive. In addition to arguing that stiffer government regulation would mean a poorer economy, the general claim of the chemical industry is that there is too little evidence to prove sufficient harm from their products — usually because they either haven’t looked for them or because they don’t know exactly what to look for, according to critics. As Joel Tickner of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, said, “We often misinterpret the lack of proof of harm as evidence of safety.” But enough dangers have been discovered to raise some red flags for a representative sample of commonly used chemicals. Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and brominated flame retardants, for example, have earned notoriety thanks to their tightening ties with rising rates of conditions such as childhood cancer, obesity, asthma and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). “Most of the toxicants we’re

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talking about are widespread, if not universal,” said Bruce Lanphear, an environmental health expert at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “It’s not like just a few children are affected.” Still, Brown’s concerns were initially personal. After his wife miscarried for the second time — between the births of their two healthy kids — he became suspicious of environmental exposures, especially after reading an influential study that found more than 200 industrial chemicals coursing through umbilical cord blood. Each new bit of information triggered more questions, and soon Brown’s investigation into today’s complicated chemical environment became about more than protecting his own family. He grabbed a video camera and, between shifts waiting tables at a small town Pennsylvania res-

In 2007 Fisher-Price recalled 83 types of toys because of a high level of lead in the paint.


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taurant, visited 78 environmental experts and advocates — from Vermont to California — in search of answers. (Industry groups and government agencies refused to meet with him.) His resulting documentary, Unacceptable Levels, will be available for community screenings starting in January. Brown said he found many of the answers difficult to understand — everything from the years, even decades, that a product can spend on the market before being proven toxic, to the lack of action that the government may take after a product is deemed dangerous. “The worst part, for me anyway, was learning that our corpora-

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tions, our courts, and even the government, feel that all of those chemicals inside of our bodies are completely acceptable — they are an acceptable level of risk,” Brown says in his film. “And acceptable doesn’t mean good here, folks.”

A PARENT’S PREDICAMENT

Over the past few years, Brown and his wife, Lauren, have attempted to rid their family’s home of toxic chemicals. Brayden, 4, and Maia, 2, now play with wooden toys — although their parents are still careful to avoid arsenic-treated wood. They also eat organic food and use carcinogen-free personal care products. But Ed and Lauren Brown have also learned that a parent can only

A still from Brown’s documentary of his children, Brayden and Maia.


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go so far. A chemical ingredient could be legally left off a label, or may never have been tested for its health harms. And sometimes there are simply no safer alternatives. The Brown family TV, for example, still contains flame retardants. “It is very overwhelming,” said Lauren. “I keep thinking, ‘What else can I do?’” With a PhD in biology, Sandra Steingraber may have a seeming advantage in her ability to steer her two kids away from environmental toxins. In fact, she chose her family’s upstate New York home based in large part on the town’s high ratings on the Toxic Release Inventory, an EPA database that tracks toxic chemical disposal and releases in communities around the country. Still, she too faces roadblocks. “I know the scientific literature and I’m a conscious parent. But I can only do so much as a mother,” said Steingraber, an ecologist and author. “I can’t vet every goodie bag that comes home from every birthday party. I can’t go to the nail salon and make sure there’s no formaldehyde or toluene in the air or products applied to my daughter. “I can’t stand between my children’s bodies and the some 200

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! “We often misinterpret the lack of PROOF OF HARM as evidence of safety.” brain poisons that circulate in our economy,” she added. David Bellinger, an expert in children’s environmental health at Harvard, has associated three of those brain poisons — lead, organophosphate pesticides and methylmercury — to nationwide drops in IQ of 23 million, 17 million and 0.3 million, respectively, based on prior studies of the average impact of environmental exposures on children’s intelligence. So, rather than try to be her own Environmental Protection Agency or Consumer Product Safety Commission, Steingraber said she is instead looking to the federal government to fulfill its obligation to “safeguard the health of people from the things we can’t, through individual behavior, safeguard ourselves from.” Lindsay Dahl, deputy director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, is focused on the same goal. Earlier this year, her nonprofit coalition


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helped lead more than 200 moms and kids as part of the National Stroller Brigade in Washington, D.C. Their mission: convince Congress to retire the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), the country’s main law regulating chemicals used in everyday products, and replace it with the stronger, more precautionary Safe Chemicals Act. That legislation, first proposed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) in 2010, now awaits a Senate vote. The swap would essentially shift the burden of proof for

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chemical safety from the current assumption that a chemical is safe until proven toxic by the EPA to a requirement for industry to prove that a chemical is safe prior to placing it on store shelves. Of all the parents among the nearly 3,400 people who have so far attended screenings of his film worldwide, Brown said that at least nine out of every 10 had no prior idea that most of the products they buy have never been tested for effects on a child’s brain, immune or reproductive system. “We fundamentally need better laws to protect the public,” said Dahl, “not better shopping lists.”

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) proposed the Safe Chemicals Act in 2010.


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FROM TOP: COURTESY OF ED BROWN ; DAVID MCNEW/GETTY IMAGES

INDUSTRY INFLUENCE

When Steingraber and her family moved to Ulysses, New York, in 2003, she said it “seemed like the perfect place.” Having grown up herself downwind from polluting coal-fired power plants in Illinois, she appreciated the clean air, the clean water and the region’s nonexistent history of fossil fuel extraction. Little did she know, however, that the natural gas industry already had their eyes on the shale beneath her home. “I had no idea that the house sits on top of bedrock that contains a motherlode of methane,” said Steingraber. Yet again, a mother’s best efforts could fall short of protecting her children from toxic chemicals. Steingraber continues to fight against fracking in upstate New York, which she believes “poses a massive public health problem.” She is further convinced that the road to TSCA reform “runs straight through our energy system.” Byproducts from fossil fuel production are used by the chemical industry to create common goods including solvents, pesticides and plastics.

The pervasiveness and persistence of the chemical economy is obvious to Brown as well. He suggests a different course: simply embrace it. “Ultimately, I see all of these companies — DuPont, Monsanto, Dow — as having to be part of the solution long-term. For anyone to have any illusions that those companies and their influence isn’t going to be a factor in changing chemical policy is naive,” said Brown. The success to-date of the European Union’s progressive new chemical regulation has largely been dependent on the cooperation of many actors, including industry and other stakeholders, according to EU officials. Sen. Lautenberg is hopeful that similar collaborations

ABOVE: A still

of household cleaning products from Brown’s documentary. BELOW: A crop duster sprays pesticides.


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Hannah Pingree speaking, former Speaker of the House of Maine


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will lead to new regulations that put the public’s well-being above a corporation’s bottom line. “Since 2005, I’ve been working to protect American families from toxic chemicals by requiring chemical companies to prove their products are safe before they end up in our homes and our children’s bodies,” said Sen. Lautenberg. “Throughout that process, my door has been open to work with anyone who wants meaningful reform that protects public health. We will keep fighting for a vote in the Senate on my Safe Chemicals Act and will push to see that legislation signed into law by the President.” The American Chemistry Council, the lobbying group for the chemical industry, has been taking Sen. Lautenberg up on that offer yet remains unhappy with the current proposal. “A modern TSCA must provide consumers with confidence that the federal regulatory system is working, while at the same time enabling America’s chemical manufacturers to innovate, compete and create jobs,” said Scott Jenson of the ACC. “We are encouraging Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to craft a new proposal

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that will attract bipartisan support and create a world-class regulatory system that provides for the safe use of chemicals, protects American jobs and maintains U.S. global leadership in innovation.” Some advocates say they are soured by what they see as undue industry influence — whether in the form of revolving-door personnel or campaign contributions. Todd Stedeford, a former lawyer and scientist for one of the largest makers of flame retardants, Albemarle, was recently hired by the EPA to lead a pro-

ABOVE:

Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, addresses the American Chemistry Council. BELOW: EPA administrator Lisa Jackson at the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act.


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gram studying the safety of industrial chemicals — including flame retardants. While advocates find this suspicious, the EPA defends their decision. “The agency benefits from having employees from different backgrounds and experience, whether they are from the public or private sector,” according to an EPA spokesperson. “There are no concerns of industry influence given that Dr. Stedeford voluntarily recused himself from any direct involvement in matters related to Albemarle and issues related to flame retardants.” Meanwhile, chemical interests have spent some $375 million since 2005 to elect and influence federal leaders, specifically in regards to the pending overhaul of TSCA, according to a report released in October by Common Cause, a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizens lobbying organization. “Stakeholders and members on the other side of the aisle must recognize the gravity of public health risks and the widespread support for updating the law,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who has unveiled legislation similar to the Safe Chemicals Act in the House. “People are concerned

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about the chemicals they are being exposed to but don’t have faith in the federal government to act.” “Industry has succeeded in becoming the gatekeeper to any efforts for reform,” added Steingraber. “There’s been lots of nascent efforts. But, in the end, the empire always strikes back.”

BURDEN OF PROOF

A look back to World War II can offer some insight into the origin of today’s industrial chemical landscape. Under the secrecy and immediacy of wartime, companies churned out massive quantities of synthetic chemicals while taking little time to consider their safety. More immediate concerns took precedent such as putting soldiers in uniforms and equipping them with weapons — including weapons to fight malarial mosquitoes.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), proposed legislation like the Safe Chemicals Act in the House.


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After the war, post-Depression economic concerns kept that manufacturing machine moving. Companies repurposed chemical goods such as nylon, BPA and DDT for domestic uses. And they did so, again, generally without pausing to think about the health ramifications. New chemicals quickly followed suit as companies like Dupont raised the public’s support and appetite for new products — from Tupperware to televisions. Industry giant Dupont Co.’s motto reflected the widespread attitude of the day: “Better Things For Better Living … Through Chemistry.” “In the burgeoning post-WWII economy, we were looking at all kinds of new ideas. Chemistry created a new world, much for the betterment of humankind,” said Brown. “Hindsight is always 20/20.” By the time the U.S. government passed legislation to regulate toxic chemicals in 1976, some 62,000 chemicals already filled the U.S. market. That new law, while meant to regulate all industrial chemicals, actually kept the ball rolling for the chemical industry: TSCA grandfathered in most existing chemicals such as BPA under presumptions of safety

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! “I can’t stand between my children’s bodies and the some 200 BRAIN POISONS that circulate in our economy.” despite the lack of safety testing. The EPA reports that it has only been able to require testing of little more than 200 members of that list, due to the “legal and procedural hurdles that TSCA imposes.” Today, the vast majority of chemicals in use remain among those first 62,000, noted Richard Denison, senior scientist with the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund. Of the rest — the more than 20,000 chemicals introduced in the U.S. since 1976 — few of those have undergone any thorough health risk assessment either. And even when the science does prove a chemical’s harm, added Denison, the EPA’s hands tend to be tied. “The language of TSCA requires that the EPA, before it can do any kind of regulation of a chemical, has to find the risk posed by that chemical unreasonable,” he said. “That term is not defined in the law.”


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The court effectively defined “unreasonable risk” in a precedent-setting 1991 decision, which overturned a 1989 EPA rule banning most uses of asbestos. Meanwhile, the medical community had already been linking the mineral fiber with disease since 1900 when London-based Dr. H. Montague Murray reportedly lost a 33-year-old patient to pulmonary fibrosis. The patient had previously been the sole survivor of 10 men who worked in a carding room at an asbestos factory. To have won the court’s approval on the asbestos ban, explained Denison, the EPA would have had to define a level of regulation for each and every use of asbestos while thoroughly considering all alternatives and costs. “That essentially set up a burden that EPA has never overcome,” Denison said. The Government Accountability Office acknowledged the agency’s predicament a few years later, after looking into the law’s ability to limit the manufacture, distribution and use of toxic chemicals. Their finding: The “act’s legal standards are so high that they have usually discouraged EPA from using these authorities.”

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Harvard’s Bellinger expressed his frustration, and sense of urgency: “We need to figure out a way to be proactive, and not continue to use children as biological detectors of bad chemicals.”

LAGGING BEHIND

The EU has been arguably proactive since 2007. That year, a landmark EU law called the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, or REACH, entered into force. “One of its basic elements is the reversal of the burden of proof,” said Jukka Malm, director of regulatory affairs for the European Chemicals Agency, the authority responsible for implementing REACH. Industries that want to sell chemicals in the EU must follow systematic guidelines to ensure use of those chemicals is safe, and that safer alternatives are used where necessary. Malm’s agency is then obligated to carry out compliance checks. “The REACH model has many of the key elements that should be part of regulatory reform of TSCA,” said Leonardo Trasande, associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine at NYU Lagone Medical Center. “The emphasis is on erring on the side of caution in terms of children and


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other vulnerable populations.” Other countries have begun to follow the EU’s lead, including Taiwan, China and Australia. Of course, even with REACH, the EU needs to be able to adapt to new challenges and new science to better protect public health, admitted Malm. European authorities are involved in an ongoing discussion about how to take into account the effects of exposures to chemical combinations, he said, as well as cumulative low-dose exposures. Scientists are finding more and more hints that standard risk assessments, which typically test chemicals one-by-one and rely on the old adage, “the dose makes the poison,” may fall short of pro-

tecting the public. Exposures to multiple chemicals may magnify the dangers. Lead and tobacco, for example, can interact to cause more harm together than each alone. Meanwhile, tiny doses of synthetic chemicals appear able to trick the body’s natural hormones. “We are learning a great deal about how chemicals can affect our health in different ways,” said Denison. NYU’s Trasande, for example, published a study in September that found a significant association between levels of BPA in kids’ urine and obesity, after accounting for other factors such as caloric intake and television watching. BPA is currently banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from sippy cups and baby bottles but continues to be used in everything from

Jessica Alba, left, on Capitol Hill to discuss the Safe Chemicals Act.


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plastic water bottles to the lining of aluminum cans. The obesity epidemic, said Trasande, may not be fully explained by a lack of exercise or overeating — although drinking cans of soda could pose the double threat of hormone-altering BPA and extra calories. And obesity’s societal price tag is one of many potentially costly consequences of chemicals not included in the $76.6 billion he associated with common childhood conditions in 2008. Unfortunately, as Andy Igrejas, national campaign director for the nonprofit Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, noted, current U.S. regulatory rules are handicapped from responding to any of this new science. “TSCA never even responded to the old science,” he said. The Safe Chemical Act would not only give the EPA the legal authority to require testing to identify and restrict toxic chemicals — both those on the grandfathered list and those coming through the pipeline for the first time — but it would also compel the agency to update their scientific methodologies to ensure those assessments consider the same subtle health effects that scientists are now see-

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! ‘Made in America’ could no longer be a selling point but rather a WARNING LABEL. ing, explained Igrejas. As other countries move forward with their own stricter chemical policies, Igrejas pointed to another economic consequence that might be worth considering: “Made in America” could no longer be a selling point but rather a warning label. Brown’s parents, since seeing their son’s film, have begun changing their own buying habits. They now choose organic products whenever possible. Yet, they too, have found a revised shopping list isn’t always sufficient. His mom recently came home from a salon with a bottle of shampoo labelled “organic”. Brown recalled reading the names of several synthetic chemicals on the back label, just as he once did when narrowing the cause of Brayden’s eczema down to a baby shampoo. “People want to do the right thing,” he said, “but turns out it’s still just as wrong.”


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>> Why we’re driving immigrant talent overseas


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FEATURE_TITLE

Asaf Darash, from Israel, is the founder of the startup company Regpack.

ASAF DARASH, AN ISRAELI ENTREPRENEUR, was putting his 18-month-old son to bed when he received the news he had been dreading. He had applied to renew his temporary visa back in April. It was now the middle of September, a few weeks away from his visa expiration, and immigration officials had still not responded. As he watched his son fall asleep, he opened an urgent email from his attorney. His application was denied. He faced deportation. ¶ “You read it and you’re like ‘No, this can’t be right,’” Darash reBY GERRY SMITH >> PHOTOGRAPHS BY CODY PICKENS


called. “I remember standing in the middle of the house and thinking ‘What do I do now?’” Darash moved to the United States six years ago to study computer science at the University of California at Berkeley. After earning a Ph.D, he started a company, Regpack, that helps organizations process online registrations. He worked 16-hour days for two years to get his startup off the ground. Now, those long hours are paying off. He is attracting investors

and adding clients. And he is doing something unusual in a bleak economy: He is creating jobs. He has 15 employees in San Francisco, and plans to hire dozens more. Darash has a soft voice, piercing brown eyes and a smile that reveals a small gap between his front teeth. His head is shaved bald. He is, in many ways, not a typical tech entrepreneur. At 38, he is old by startup standards. While many of his peers wear tshirts and sandals to the office, Darash dresses in button-down shirts tucked into designer jeans and black leather shoes.

Darash and his team at Regpack headquarters in San Francisco.


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“If Mark Zuckerberg had been a foreign student, Facebook would never have gotten started in the United States.” I met Darash a few weeks after his visa was denied at his office in downtown San Francisco. The windows were open, and you could hear the clang of trolley bells down below on Market Street. Behind him were framed photos of his wife and two kids — ages 8 and 18 months. It was a Thursday morning, and he had just showed off his company’s software to a potential client. Later, he would meet with his programmers and talk to investors. Then, he would close his office door to talk privately with lawyers about his last-minute options to remain in the country. Stories like his are not unique. They’re also troubling for the U.S. economy, advocates say. For the first time, the number of immigrant-founded startups is in decline, as foreign-born entrepreneurs struggle to obtain a limited number of visas and green cards and decide to launch companies

in other countries that offer perks to start businesses there. Losing founders like Darash, who launch startups that create jobs, means that America risks losing a source of employment and a competitive edge in the global economy as the country claws its way out of a recession, they say. For years, immigrant entrepreneurs have propelled the growth of Silicon Valley, building some of the most successful tech companies in the world: Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, was born in Russia; Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and Tesla, was born in South Africa; Vinod Khosla, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, was born in India. When they immigrated, it was likely easier for them because there was not a backlog that there is today, according to Vivek Wadhwa, a professor at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University who researches high-tech immigration. Immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a business as native-born Americans, according


JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES (BRIN); KEVIN WINTER/GETTY IMAGES (MUSK); NOAH BERGER/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES (KHOSLA)

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to a report earlier this year by the Partnership for a New American Economy. And their companies have produced sizable economic benefits. This year, engineering and technology companies founded in the United States employed about 560,000 workers and generated $63 billion in sales, according to Wadhwa. About a quarter of those companies had at least one foreign-born founder.

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An estimated three out of every four startups fail, if not more. But by the conventional wisdom of Silicon Valley, Darash’s chances were even slimmer. For one, he does not have a co-founder. He insists he doesn’t need one. (Paul Graham, creator of the startup incubator Y Combinator, has said having a co-founder is critical because “a startup is too much for one person to bear.”) Darash also never worked for a major tech company before, so he did not have the network of contacts that

Left to right: Google coFounder Sergey Brin, co -founder of Paypal and Tesla Elon Musk and Vinod Khosla,


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“It’s hard to explain how much sacrifice you make to bring a company from an idea to something real.” help other entrepreneurs find engineers and meet investors. But what he has lacked in support and connections he has made up for through a work ethic that borders on obsession. “Asaf is a stubborn guy,” said Adam Gries, a childhood friend and founder of Smart Bites, a smartphone app that teaches people English. “He gets into his head that something is going to happen and he’s tenacious.” Darash awakes every morning at 4:30 a.m., takes the BART train from his home in Berkeley to San Francisco, and arrives at the office by 6 a.m. He works for an hour, then walks across the street to the gym to swim and lift weights (A back injury he suffered while serving in the Israeli army requires him to stay physically strong). He typically does not go home until 9 p.m., after his children have gone to bed. Employees say he is a “total workaholic” who sends emails

past midnight and sleeps just a few hours a night. “I have a one-and-a-half year old who sees his Daddy maybe three hours a week,” Darash said. “It’s hard to explain how much sacrifice you make to bring a company from an idea to something real, especially if it’s a company with high-level technology.” He is hands-on about all aspects of the company, from courting new clients to writing code. But lately, Darash has been distracted, spending valuable hours gathering documents and talking to lawyers, instead of running his company. His wife recently flew back to Israel to find housing and a school for their kids in case they have to leave the United States. He describes feeling a range of emotions: anger, fear, frustration. Mostly, though, he is confused. In his homeland of Israel, politicians fight over who can attract more foreign entrepreneurs. The United States, he says, should be rolling out the welcome mat for him, not ushering him out the door.


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“I could not even comprehend this would become a problem,” he said. “I’m creating a company. I’m creating jobs. There’s nothing bad in what I’m doing and there’s nothing I’m taking away from someone else. The only thing I’m doing is creating more!”

“SERIOUS ALARM”

Since 2005, the number of immigrant-founded startups in Silicon Valley has declined from 52 percent to 44 percent, according to Wadhwa, who argues this drop is cause for “serious alarm” because America needs to attract immigrant entrepreneurs for its economy to recover. “The United States risks losing a key growth engine right at the moment when it’s economy is stuck in a deep ditch, growing slowly and struggling to create jobs,” Wadhwa wrote in his new book, The Immigrant Exodus. Their recent decline could be linked to entrepreneurs finding better business prospects abroad, especially in countries with growing economies like India and China. But advocates say a major reason why immigrants are launching fewer startups in the United States is because they are

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struggling to secure visas to remain in the country. The number of H-1B visas, or temporary worker visas for skilled immigrants, is capped at 65,000 a year, with an additional 20,000 available for immigrants with advanced degrees. Demand for those visas far outstrips supply. (This year, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, received about 277,000 petitions for H-1B visas.) And each country is restricted to 7 percent of the 140,000 employment-based green cards that are issued annually, meaning immigrants from China and India often must wait more than a decade for permanent residency. These limits were not a problem before, but have now fallen far short of demand as millions of immigrants with high-tech skills have flocked to the United States. Foreign-born entrepreneurs can face additional obstacles. To qualify for an H-1B visa, applicants must prove that someone else controls their employment. For immigrant founders, that means creating a separate board of directors and relinquishing some ownership of their company. Darash and his lawyer say that his visa was denied because, according to immigration officials, he did not adequately prove that someone could fire him. Visa applicants


Darash fears for the future of Regpack should he be sent back to Israel.


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who are entrepreneurs must also pay themselves the prevailing wage of a chief executive, which many are unable to do because they have invested their money in building their businesses. Such rules are meant to ensure companies don’t outsource H-1B workers to outside contractors or use visas to save money on payroll. A USCIS spokesman said the agency “takes seriously our responsibility to detect and prevent immigration benefit fraud, especially where it poses a risk to the integrity of our nation’s immigration system or national security.” But by creating such obstacles for foreign entrepreneurs, the United States risks losing the next big tech company to another country, advocates say. “If Mark Zuckerberg had been a foreign student, Facebook would never have gotten started in the United States. He wouldn’t have had any options,” said Eleanor Pelta, an immigration attorney and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Chris Bentley, a spokesman for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the agency does not comment on specific cases. But he said each visa ap-

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plicant is considered individually. “Each case is unique,” he said. “There’s no cookie-cutter path that applies to everyone.” The Obama Administration announced a plan last year to make it easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to qualify for visas. Foreign-born founders could qualify for a “national interest” waiver — and waive other visa requirements — if they show “exceptional ability.” Federal immigration officials approved about 4,000 petitions for national interest waivers this year. But immigration lawyers say the standard for meeting them is difficult. Darash’s situation is similar to that of another Israeli entrepreneur, Amit Aharoni, who in 2010 founded a company called CruiseWise, which helps people find online deals for cruise packages. Last fall, Aharoni, 32, learned that his visa application was denied because, according to immigration officials, the job of chief executive “is not a specialty occupation that requires an advanced degree,” he said. The letter stated that he must leave the country immediately. Aharoni booked a flight the next day to Canada, where he stayed with friends while trying to resolve his situation. His co-founder managed the company’s day-today operations, but while Aharoni was gone, the company struggled.


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“They’re saying, ‘We believe in you.’ And I’m wondering, ‘What are you believing in?’” “To work remotely is far from ideal, especially when trying to meet a deadline or grow a company,” Aharoni said in an interview. “These are crucial times in a company’s lifecycle. You have to be there with the team.” Six weeks later, ABC News broadcast a story on Aharoni’s situation. The next day, immigration officials reconsidered and approved his visa. Aharoni said they did not give him a reason for why they changed their minds, though he suspects it was due to media attention surrounding his case. Still, his dilemma — along with Darash’s — shows the types of roadblocks that many foreign-born founders can face, Aharoni said. “Asaf’s case is another demonstration of the unfriendliness to immigrant entrepreneurs and people who are taking a lot of risks to build businesses here,” Aharoni said. In Congress, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill in May that would allow foreign en-

trepreneurs to live in the United States as long as they raise a minimum level of financing and employ a certain number of workers. But the prospects of the Startup Visa Act remain uncertain, largely because changes to immigration policy are considered politically controversial, especially during an election year. Opponents argue that temporary visas allow immigrants to take jobs away from capable Americans, depress wages and discourage American-born students from entering high-tech careers. “The influx of foreign workers has driven the best and the brightest Americans away from the field,” said Norman Matloff, a computer science professor at the University of California at Davis and an outspoken critic of expanding visas. But advocates argue that creating additional visas for immigrant entrepreneurs would not take jobs away from Americans, but instead would create more jobs by allowing foreign-born founders to grow their companies in the United States.


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With no imminent fix from Washington, a project called Blueseed has proposed a solution of its own. The company plans to anchor a cruise ship 12 miles off the San Francisco coast where immigrant entrepreneurs can live on the ship and work on their startups. They would not need visas because they would reside in international waters. By the end of 2013, about 1,000 immigrant entrepreneurs are expected to live on the boat, according to Blueseed chief financial officer Sam Bhagwat. Meanwhile, several countries are offering perks to persuade entrepreneurs to start businesses outside the United States. One initiative, Startup Chile, gives $40,000 to foreign entrepreneurs who launch companies in the South American country. The government-led initiative also offers them free office space and Spanish classes and connects them with investors and mentors. Such aggressive recruiting tactics by other countries — coupled with strict immigration policies in the United States — could hurt America’s long-term competitiveness in the global economy, according to Wadhwa. “Over time, the economic growth that should be happening

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here is happening in other countries,” Wadhwa told Huffington.

“NOT SURE I CAN FIX THIS”

Darash’s story began with an early love of computers. As a boy in Jerusalem, he visited his aunt, who was a programmer for an Israeli software company. It was the mid1980s, and computers were still rare. Darash, who was 11, had never seen one before. He was captivated. “I had a million questions,” he recalled. A week later, his father returned from a business trip with a new desktop. Darash taught himself how to code. Still curious, he took the computer apart. “I remember my father coming into my room and seeing all the pieces on the floor and saying ‘What did you do?’” Darash recalled. “And I said, ‘I wanted to see how it works!’” Two decades later, that same fascination with computers brought him to the University of California-Berkeley on a Fulbright scholarship. After finishing his dissertation, he considered a career in academia, but was drawn to the open-minded, risk-taking culture of Silicon Valley. “I felt like I’d reached a place where I could just be me,” he said. “I could say my crazy ideas and people would say ‘Oh, that’s actually interesting.’ It was like living in the best


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possible place for my situation.” In the fall of 2010, Darash founded Regpack, which sells software that helps organizations with online registrations and payments. Darash calls it a “complex e-commerce solution.” The company’s clients include groups who run camps, sports leagues, seminars and conferences. In the beginning, Darash hired two programmers off Craigslist and deposited $100,000 of his money in a bank account. The three worked in an office furnished with mismatched Ikea tables and typed computer code late into the night, stopping only to eat takeout or play card games. Their initial efforts were a disaster. The software didn’t work. Customers complained about losing data. But they fixed the bugs, and now, Regpack has found a measure of success. It has more than 200 clients and is adding 15 to 20 new ones each week. It recently raised $1.9 million in funding from investors. This quarter, it will earn about $250,000, Darash said. The company is not yet profitable, but by the end of next year, he predicts it will make between $10 million and $12 million. The offices of RegPack are lo-

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cated on the 10th floor of the Phelan building, named after a local politician whose father was an Irish immigrant. In one room, eight salespeople, phones cradled against their ears, assist customers. In another, seven programmers wearing t-shirts, jeans, and oversized headphones type line after line of code. A banner on the wall features a computer-drawn cartoon of a blonde-haired woman in a blue pantsuit. She is carrying documents and extending her arm toward the company’s slogan: “Regpack, the SMART online registration software.” The company’s employees show how Silicon Valley has come to rely on immigrant talent. One programmer is from China. Three others are from India. Darash’s assistant is also from Israel. Except for one, they have all become U.S. citizens. Every Friday afternoon, they sit in a circle and discuss what they accomplished that week while sipping wine and beer from plastic cups. Account managers discuss new clients they pursued. Programmers talk about software bugs they fixed and new features they launched.  “How cool is that?” Darash says after one of them speaks. “That is totally awesome!” he says after another. “I’ve seen a big change in him since he built this company,” says


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his sister, Merav Darash, 39, a biologist who lives in Israel. “I’ve seen a spark in his eyes. He feels like he has come to a place in his life where he finally knows exactly what he wants to do, and he truly believes in it.” But after his visa was denied, Darash felt lost. He confided in a friend who tried to draw attention to his situation on Facebook: “Urgent visa help needed for a friend to save 15 American Jobs.” Soon, Darash began receiving emails and phone calls from strangers who connected him with immigration

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lawyers and members of Congress. But his immigration status remained unchanged. Darash then broke the news to his employees. After he spoke, the room went quiet for several seconds. Many had questions: What does this mean for the company? If you leave for Israel, can you come back? “You’ll solve this,” one employee told him. “You’ve solved more complicated stuff.” Yes, he had solved complicated problems before. He spent countless hours creating new technology that he believes will make e-commerce more efficient. But there is a logic to how computers work. Federal immigration offi-

Darash and the Regpack staff.


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cials, Darash learned, don’t operate by the same logic. Darash tried to appear confident for his employees. But privately he was uncertain. We sat in his office for 30 seconds in silence as he fought back his emotions. “It’s a lot of pressure,” Darash said. “They’re saying, ‘We believe in you.’ And I’m wondering, ‘What are you believing in? I’m not sure I can fix this.’ It’s a type of feeling I’ve never felt.” If Darash moves back to Israel, his company may survive, he says. But it may lose momentum. He figures it could take six months to reorganize, create new networks and find new employees in Israel. It would also be difficult for him to make day-to-day decisions with a 10-hour time difference between him and his team in San Francisco. For that reason, any new employees that he hires would be based in Israel, not the United States, he says. “Regpack isn’t going away,” Darash said. “The question is ‘Where will it grow?’” His concerns go beyond his employees. He worries what this uncertainty means for his current and potential investors. He also is concerned about the impact on

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his family, particularly his 8-yearold son, if they are forced to leave the country. “This is a major thing to do to my 8-year-old,” Darash said. “He thinks, ‘We’re here. I have friends.’ This is the stage where they build their identity. I don’t know how this will affect him in the long-run.” In recent days, he has explored alternatives for staying in the country. He applied for a different kind of visa — known as an E-2 — that is given to immigrants from certain countries who invest a substantial amount of money in a U.S. business. Darash and his lawyer expect to learn the outcome of his application in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Darash tries to remain upbeat — an attitude that has carried him this far. “Every entrepreneur is sort of delusional with how optimistic he is because that’s what you need to be,” he said. “You’re taking something that everybody is telling you ‘No, it won’t work, it’s impossible,’ and you’re doing it anyway. You have to believe it will be okay because otherwise we would never build companies. We would never go and do crazy stuff that makes a difference in the world.” “I have to believe this will be okay as well,” he said.


NO WAY OUT HOW PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION KEEPS JOBS FROM THE POOR


N THE MONTHS since he lost his job driving a delivery truck for a door company, Lebron Stinson has absorbed a bitter geography lesson about this riverfront city: The jobs are in one place, he is in another, and the bus does not bridge the divide. Stinson lives downtown, where many of the factories that once employed willing hands have been converted into chic eateries. The majority of jobs are out in the suburbs, in the strip malls, office parks and chain restaurants that stretch eastward. Most of this sprawl lies beyond reach of the public BY PETER S. GOODMAN // PHOTOGRAPHS BY HOLLIS BENNETT

Stinson at home in South Side Chattanooga, an area far flung from most jobs he is able to do.


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bus system, and Stinson cannot afford a car. Friends have told him about a building materials business that would hire him on the spot, but the company is 26 miles away and over the Georgia state line, reachable only by car. A plywood company would hire him, too, but that job is 30 miles away. Merely getting to the state Career Center to maintain his a $180-a-week unemployment check and search through job listings on a public computer requires a 40-minute bus ride.

Lean, able-bodied and proud, Stinson is accustomed to earning his way. He does not want an unemployment check any more than he wants extra time to sit around his cramped apartment watching daytime television. He would much prefer not using the food stamps that have become the only thing sparing him from hunger. He wants what he has had for most of his 49 years: He wants a job. But in Chattanooga, as in much of America, getting a job and getting to a job are two different things. “That’s the thing that hurts me

Stinson on his way to a career center on the free downtown shuttle bus.


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the most, having experience and qualifications, but you can’t get to the destination,” Stinson says. “It’s a painful situation here. I’ll tell you, I’m not one to give up hope, but, man, it makes your self-esteem drop. Your confidence disappears. Sometimes, I just can’t think about it. You get so it’s all that’s in your head. ‘I need a job, but I can’t get there.’ I just want to feel like I’m back, like I’m part of the world again.” Stinson’s challenge underscores a formidable barrier separating millions of poor Americans from the working world, particularly as work continues to shift to the suburbs: Limited public transportation networks reduce the ability of those who need work to actually find it, worsening an already bleak job market. On top of the most catastrophic economic downturn since the Great Depression, the continued impact of automation, and the shift of domestic production to lower-wage nations, here is a less dramatic yet no less decisive constraint that limits opportunities for many working-age Americans: The bus does not go where the paychecks are. Nearly 40 million working-age

people now live in parts of major American metropolitan areas that lack public transportation, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. The consequences of this disconnection fall with particular severity on the poor. One in 10 low-income resi-

IN CHATTANOOGA, AS IN MUCH OF AMERICA, GETTING A JOB AND GETTING TO A JOB ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. dents relies on some form of public transportation to get to work, according to the report. In the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, nearly half of all jobs lie more than 10 miles from the downtown core, according to a prior study by Elizabeth Kneebone, a Brookings researcher. For the typical resident, more than two-thirds of the jobs in the 100 largest metro areas are beyond range of a 90-minute commute using mass transit. A separate Brookings study re-


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leased recently finds that the typical job in major metro areas is accessible to only 27 percent of all working age adults within an hour-and-a-half commute on public transportation. Many of the country’s best-connected metropolitan areas are in the West and the Northeast, according to Brookings. Despite its notoriety as a car-centric domain, the Los Angeles metro area has a mass transit system that gets within three-quarters of a mile of 96 percent of all working-age residents, the study finds. The San Francisco Bay Area, New York,

Miami and Las Vegas are similarly well served. The least-connected urban areas are in the South, among them Nashville, Richmond, and Jackson, Miss. At the bottom of the list is Chattanooga, a metropolitan area with an official labor force of about 262,000 people. Here, only 22.5 percent of workingage residents have access to public transportation. Among urban planners, Chattanooga has developed a reputation as a place that has gotten a lot right in recent times. Its redeveloped waterfront on the banks of the Tennessee River features a pedestrian-only bridge. A free shuttle bus service operates

Stinson prepares to check job listings at the Career Center in the Brainerd district of Chattanooga.


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downtown, using a fleet of electric vehicles. Bike rental stations dot denser neighborhoods. But as work has continued its steady march to the suburbs, the transit system has failed to keep pace, limited by what local officials portray as weak public financing. The result is a metropolitan area in which anyone without a car faces severe limits on employment options. “There are whole parts of town where the bus doesn’t go,” says Robert Lawrence, who runs a job search program at Chattanooga Community Kitchen, a social service agency focused on the homeless. “Bus service doesn’t run at all if you’ve got a third-shift job. Some of them walk for miles, every day and late at night. A lot of them lose their jobs. It’s tremendously frustrating.” For the frustrated people here, the limits of mass transit restrict the boundaries of possibility, reinforcing poverty and a nebulous sense of futility. They can see opportunities, but often cannot reach them — at least not without extraordinary struggle. For Stinson, it all dates back to a summer night five years ago, when a tire on his 1987 Chevy

pickup truck went flat while he was driving near his house. He pulled into a parking spot, left the pickup and went home. When he returned the following morning, his vehicle was gone. He reported it stolen to the police, but it was never recovered. His delivery job was only a fiveminute walk. But when that business shut down in April and he began looking for other work, he found himself studying the bus schedule alongside the job listings — an exercise full of exasperation and missed opportunities. As the months pass without a

The 4 bus drops Sharon Smith closest to her job, but it’s still a two-anda-half-hour walk from her stop.


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paycheck, his eyes show the weight of sadness and wounded pride. “Sometimes, it hits me and I get so depressed,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Man, what is happening?’ You feel like you’re losing your mind. I’ve got to do something. If I had transport, I’d be back at work by now. I know this.”

WHERE THE SKY IS BLUE When Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield was growing up in the 1950s, his father worked in textile plants in mill towns in Georgia and Tennessee. Nearly all the workers occupied modest homes clustered near the factories. “My father never drove” Littlefield says. “He would always walk to work. We don’t build cities like that anymore. Perhaps we should.” As Littlefield, 66, forged his own career as an urban planner, he watched U.S. metropolitan areas push out their boundaries. “Everybody wanted to live out in the suburbs and have an acre or two,” he says. “They wanted to be out where the sky is blue and the grass is green, with cul de sacs, and curvilinear streets and no sidewalks.” Government enabled this development by constructing an arte-

rial system of roads and highways that put the private automobile at the center of life, yielding the suburban sprawl that defines major metro areas from Phoenix to Houston to Atlanta. As people have come to live further apart from one another while commuting greater distances to their jobs, running public transit systems has proven increasingly challenging and expensive, requiring broader areas of coverage. At the same time, economic inequality has separated many communities into two camps — those who

ONE IN 10 LOW-INCOME RESIDENTS RELIES ON SOME FORM OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION TO GET TO WORK. can afford cars, and those who depend upon buses and trains. This is especially so in mediumsized cities such as Chattanooga, whose metro area is home to about 530,000 people, putting it in the company of Modesto, Calif., and Jackson, Miss. In big, dense cities such as New York and Chi-


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cago, traffic can be so awful that even millionaires who can afford chauffeured limousines sometimes ride subways to avoid congestion. But in communities like this, traffic is nearly nonexistent, making cars the favored conveyance for anyone who can afford one. Roughly three-fourths of the ridership on the public buses operated by the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority are people who lack an alternative, up from about half in the late-1970s, says Tom Dugan, the authority’s executive director. The reality of the bus as a vehicle that most local people neither encounter nor desire translates into weak local funding for the transit authority, Dugan complains. “Most of our people are the working poor,” Dugan says. “In Chattanooga, no elected official is going to win an election based on a transit issue.” Roughly one-third of the system’s $15.7 million operating budget comes from the city, with 40 percent coming from rider fares, and the rest from state and federal support. Two years ago, when Dugan compared his system to those of 56 metro areas with similar populations, he found that

Chattanooga ranked 52nd in local funding per capita, and 53rd in the percentage of transit money that comes from local sources. “In any city, public transport is an important part of the transit system and that seems to get lost,” Mayor Littlefield says. “Some of the more conservative people in the community believe that it’s OK to spend public money on roads, but it’s not OK to spend

“IN CHATTANOOGA, NO ELECTED OFFICIAL IS GOING TO WIN AN ELECTION BASED ON A TRANSIT ISSUE.” on public transportation, such as buses and rail — that those have to be self-supporting.” The tenets of the so-called New Urbanism infuse local planning discussions with encouragement of bicycling, walking and mass transit. Updated zoning policies have clustered condos near new office space and bus service. Young professionals are fixing up bungalow-style homes that formerly sheltered down-


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town factory workers, eschewing the suburbs for life within pedestrian proximity to shops and restaurants. While this trend may eventually yield better-connected neighborhoods, the present is still colored by mismatch, with major employment centers setting up out on the periphery, far from mass transit. In recent years, two major employers set up in an office park some 14 miles east of downtown. Volkswagen manufactures its popular Passat sedans here, employing some 3,200 people. Amazon. com has set up a distribution center that employs 2,000 people. Yet one major barrier prevents would-be job seekers like Stinson from securing positions at either of those locations: The nearest bus stop is a half-hour walk away. The bus line that stops there, the Number 6, offers limited service, requiring that passengers call a dispatcher to request a bus. That bus doesn’t run before 6:45 in the morning, making it difficult for people on early shifts to get to work on time. It doesn’t run after 6:45 in the evening, making it challenging for people who work nights to get home. On Sundays, it doesn’t run at all.

TALKING TO GOD On Sundays, when Sharon Smith must get to Amazon.com for her minimum-wage job cleaning the restrooms, she must walk along the shoulder of a highway for more than three miles. She takes the Number 4 bus. She steps off at a busy intersection flanked by a BP gas station and a SunTrust bank and sets out on foot, walking alongside speeding cars for about 90 minutes. Smith, 43, is willing to make that walk because her job at Amazon amounts to her escape route from the downward spiral that seized her last fall, when her beatup 1997 Infiniti finally succumbed to wiring problems. Fixing the car would have cost $2,000. That was money she did not have, not on the $9-an-hour she was then earning cleaning the restrooms at the Volkswagen plant through a staffing agency. Once her car died, she could no longer reliably get to work, and they were cutting her hours anyway. She had often driven all the way out to the plant, only to be sent home after an hour or two. Without a paycheck, she fell behind on the $350-a-month rent and was eventually evicted from her apartment. She landed in a


Smith stands at an intersection before her long journey to her custodial job.


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homeless shelter that had been set up temporarily, just for the winter months. When spring came, she pitched a tent in a makeshift encampment carved into a slice of scraggly brush set between railroad tracks and an abandoned warehouse. She bought a barbecue grill at a dollar store, using it to grill chicken and pork chops she procured with food stamps. Her restroom was the bushes or the public facilities at the Community Kitchen, the social service agency nearby. She contended with ticks, spider bites, and the men in tents all around her, who were prone to drunken fights and petty theft. They stole clothing, bicycles, food and even toothbrushes, she says. One of them once sneaked into her tent seeking sex, she says, and she had to fight him off. Someone swiped her cell phone, which had all the phone numbers she valued in the world, including those of her four stepsisters. Her cheeks burnt pink by the sun and her blond hair pulled back into a rough ponytail, Smith conveys a sense that she is prepared to protect herself. “I can take an ass-whooping as much as I can give an ass-whooping,” she

says. But after two months in the tent, she could bear it no longer. She took refuge in a vacant house that had been lost to foreclosure, a place lacking both water and power. She lights candles, cooks on her grill, and cadges buckets of water from unsuspecting neighbors, tapping their garden hoses

“EVERYTHING THAT I REALLY HAVE TO HAVE IN MY LIFE IS IN THIS BOOK BAG.” when they are away, in order to flush the toilet. “This is humiliating to me,” Smith says. “It’s embarrassing to be in this situation. How in the hell did this happen?” This is a purely rhetorical question. Smith has been homeless before, and she has struggled with drug addiction — crack cocaine in particular — which devoured her life in Atlanta, where she worked as an installer for a local telephone company, earning some $60,000 a year. “I met this guy,” she says, the preamble to a tangled story that involves losing her four-bedroom home, her job and


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her mental well-being, along the way landing in Chattanooga. She has been clean in recent years, she says, and she is intent on achieving a modest form of self-sufficiency, a station centered on one key element — a steady paycheck. “My dream is just to have an apartment,” she says, “a place somewhere where I can lock a door, and I don’t have to worry about someone coming in and stealing my clothes. I’m just try-

ing to get myself stable again. I’d be satisfied with a one-room shack, as long as it’s got a door that could lock.” But even that aspiration felt beyond her as she trudged to staffing offices looking for work — nearly any sort of work. “There’s all kinds of things I can do,” Smith says, rattling off the ways she has earned a paycheck — driving a forklift, operating factory machinery, mopping floors, and installing Internet service. But one thing she could not do kept tripping her up. She could

Smith on the move, wary of cars as her route to work has no sidewalks.


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not get to most of the jobs. “They’d ask me, ‘Can you get here?’ and I’d be looking at the bus schedule,” she says. “I’d tell them, ‘I’ll figure it out.’ A lot of temp places don’t even want to hire you if you don’t have a car and you have to take the bus. If you call a temp agency and say, ‘Do you have any jobs on the bus line?’ they will flat out say, ‘No,’ and hang up on you.” The agency that hired her for the job at the Amazon plant cut her a break. She started on the morning shift, which required that she arrive by 6 a.m., but that was impossible given the bus schedule. The boss offered flexibility. “She told me, ‘Whatever time you can get here, that’s when you start,’” Smith says. She started last spring. Since then, she has earned about $500 every two weeks, saving as much as she can toward securing an apartment. She has investigated the motels that have become de facto housing for low-wage service sector workers, but rejected them as a trap. Most would absorb most of her pay, leaving with her with almost nothing toward the security deposit she needs to get an apartment. The one motel she

could afford — one that charges $125 a week — sits in a neighborhood known as Red Bank, which is devoid of bus service, making it impossible for her to get to work. Back in her Atlanta days, she was making $26 an hour. Now, she is at the bottom of the American wage scale, but she celebrates this as a beginning. “Seven twenty-five an hour is better than zero,” she says. “I’m going to work, and if I have to continue to walk, I will. I will do whatever I’ve got to do, except get on my knees or lie on my back. It’s tiring, it’s frustrating, it’s rough, but you’ve got to crawl before you can walk.” This is the thought that drives her as she leaves the abandoned house and heads for the bus stop, trudging through the muggy southern Tennessee air. She is working night shifts lately, so she makes this trip in the mid-afternoon. On a recent day, she is wearing a faded and too-big black T-shirt bearing pink letters: “MOTIVATION 101.” She got it out of the donated clothes closet at the Community Kitchen. A purple backpack is slung over her shoulder, holding the ID card that gets her into the Amazon plant, the debit card on which her paycheck is deposited, her driver’s license, her Social Security card.


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“Everything that I really have to have in my life is in this book bag,” she says. She pulls out one of those items, a piece of plywood with a phone number written across it in pencil, the number of a man with a vacant apartment who will accept the so-called Section 8 voucher she has recently secured, entitling her to federally subsidized rent. Assuming that his apartment passes a required inspection, she can move in three weeks from this day. “Three weeks,” she says repeatedly, as if chanting a phrase that will open the gates to a better world. “If I can make it through these three weeks.” The Number 4 bus makes its way past the hulking shells of dismantled factories now shadowed by knee-high weeds, then across a highway overpass, and past a cemetery for soldiers, the white markers laid out like dominoes. It rolls past an Applebee’s restaurant, a Krispy Kreme donut shop, a Bi-Lo supermarket, and a pawnshop. It goes by the Hamilton Inn, a tan fortress of a motel shimmering in the heat, where Smith knows a room with a minirefrigerator and stovetop can be

had for $231.72 a week, but where vacancies are rare. It goes past Fast Quick Loans, where a yellow banner draped across the storefront promises: “First Loan Free.” “Most of the time, I doze off,” Smith says, “but sometimes I look out the window. It’s relax-

“I’M NOT ONE TO GIVE UP HOPE, BUT, MAN, IT MAKES YOUR SELF-ESTEEM DROP. YOUR CONFIDENCE DISAPPEARS.” ing. You can look at things and get a better view.” The bus goes past a Sears department store and a furniture outlet. Forty-five minutes after the beginning of this journey, it turns into the Hamilton Place shopping mall, where Smith steps off and transfers to the Number 6, which — after another 30 minutes — deposits her a half-hour’s walk from Amazon. Unless it is a Sunday. On Sundays, she steps off the Number 4 at Shallowford Road and


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walks west for three blocks, then north up Hickory Valley Road, past mostly empty spaces punctuated by churches — the Hickory Valley Baptist Church, St. Michael’s Charismatic Anglican Church, Tyner Pent Church of God. “I believe in God,” she says. “I talk to him the whole way as I’m walking. I just thank him that I woke up today, and that I’m not using drugs. I thank him for my job. I look at this way: God has something in store for me. I just haven’t figured out what it is yet.” She arrives at Amazon just before 6 p.m, tired and sweaty. She uses baby wipes to clean herself up. She spends the night scrubbing toilets, scraping gum off floors, putting soap in the dispensers, and wiping the mirrors. When her shift ends, just after 6 in the morning on Monday, she walks a half-hour to a Shell station and dials the CARTA dispatcher to ask for a Number 6. Once, she waited in the pouring rain for more than two hours, she says, but most days, the bus comes within a half-hour. While she waits, she sits on a block of concrete and watches cars go by. On a recent afternoon, Smith taps her latest paycheck for a

$300 down payment on a used Ford Windstar van. “I can live in the car, sleep in the car, find somewhere cool to park and just lie down,” she says. She can free herself from the Chattanooga bus system, and proceed with her plans. “I don’t care what the car looks like, as long as it gets me from point A to point B,” she says. “All I’ve got to do is make it through these three weeks.”

‘I WAS A PART OF THAT’ For Lebron Stinson, time seems to be rolling backward, with each week adding to the distance separating him from the working world. Back when Stinson was a teenager, he played trumpet in his high school band. He played so well that he got recruited into a working R&B group that played gigs in Atlanta and Knoxville — the Inner City Emotions. He enrolled in college. But when he was 19, he met a girl at a softball game, and everything changed. “Lo and behold, there she was pregnant,” he says. “I had to leave the band, leave school and get familiar with Pampers.” Needing to support a family, he began bartending a waiting tables at a local country club, earning about $350 a week — decent


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money in the mid-1980s. Then he jumped to driving a truck and he earned more. By the early-1990s, he was earning about $40,000 a year, he says, running a distribution route for a local bakery. “I loved that job,” he says. “I’d wake up and spring out of bed like I was going to a party.” He moved into a duplex apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting and a balcony — “a small bachelor’s luxurious pad,” he says. He bought a motorcycle. But when he came back from a

vacation, the boss confronted him with complaints that out-of-date product had been landing on customer’s shelves. It cost him his job. “Ever since then, it’s been rough,” he says. “All downhill since then.” Desperate for something to pay the bills, he took what was available — a job as a maintenance technician at a motel for $9 an hour. Then he got a job as a driver at a recycling company, where he made $10.25 an hour. But he lost that position after kidney surgery laid him up for several weeks, he says. His next job, at a building materials supply operation, paid

Stinson is still struggling against numerous odds to secure a job.


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only $8.50. He gave up the duplex apartment for a bedroom in a rooming house. For the last five years, he’s been making $7.25 as a driver for a door company. “Backwards,” he says. “It’s devastating.” When the door company shut down in April, he found himself needing food stamps and an unemployment check. Merely figuring out how to apply was bewildering, he says. “It’s still sinking in,” he says. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. I’m not accustomed to begging and relying on others.” He went everywhere he could reach by foot in search of another job, he says. He stopped in at hotels downtown to ask about building maintenance or valet parking positions. He showed up at construction offices and courier services. Most of the time, he was turned away and told to apply online. “Me being a truck driver, I’m almost computer illiterate,” he says. On this day, Stinson takes the bus to the Career Center to check job listings. He sits in a waiting room and stares at the orange walls until a caseworker emerges and calls his name. She shows him three active listings, the maximum

he is allowed to see each time. One is a full-time job for $9.50 an hour driving a delivery truck for Dr. Pepper and Snapple. The loading dock is less than two miles from his house. The bus doesn’t go there, but it’s a manageable walk, he says. But this employer will only take applications online. When the caseworker helps him navigate to the Web page using a Career Center computer, the site shows only jobs in Louisiana and Texas, and not the position in Chattanooga. The second listing is for a parttime position, driving a school bus for about $9 an hour, from a spot that is more than three miles from his house and far from the bus. The third one is a warehouse position at the Amazon plant. It pays more than $10 an hour, but it’s a shift job that ends after midnight. He could take the bus out there, but how would he get home? “It seems like every move you make, you run into a bigger obstacle,” he says. Friends with cars have offered to shuttle him to and from work, but he does not see that as sustainable. “They’ll do that for four, five days,” he says. “Then they’ll start saying, ‘Well, I’ve got something else to do today.’” What he has to do today is the same thing as most days: Try to


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stay focused. Try to stay fed. Try to get through the hours. Try to keep looking for work without dwelling on the particulars of a situation that does not add up. The state deposits his weekly unemployment check onto his debit card — $180, minus $65 for child support for his youngest daughter, who is about to turn 18. He pays $75 a week in rent. He goes to the grocery to buy some essentials — toothpaste, eggs, and a beef roast that he plans to ration to get through the week. Like that, his balance is near zero. “The grace of God is how I’m making it,” he says. “It’s just rough. When he rides the bus, he finds himself studying the surroundings for signs of his imprint, reminders of his labors. There is the recycling center where he used to move boxes. There is the motel he helped bring into existence by dropping off the rebar. “It gives you a sense of satisfaction, seeing what you helped build,” he says. “You think, ‘I was a part of that.’” These days, Stinson feels a gnawing sense of torpor. He sits in his room watching television, the choices limited since he dropped cable to save money. “Gunsmoke.

Bonanza. I Love Lucy,” he says. “Your old, wholesome, antenna TV.” He flips through women’s magazines that pile up in the mailbox, the subscriptions of a long-departed tenant. “Sometimes, when you just sit at home for long periods of time, you get fatigued,” he says. “You get bored. You do.” He knows that his physical health is key to staying ready to work, but it’s hard to stay in shape while he is sitting around, even as he forces himself to do calisthenics. It’s hard to eat right when he is counting down to the penny and sometimes yielding to the temptations of cheap comfort in the face of too much time to kill. “I’m not eating enough vegetables,” he says. “You’re already depressed, so you just pull something out of a box and throw it in the microwave.” It is debilitating, he says, the joblessness, the lack of transportation, the tortuous feelings of being stuck. Yet there are moments of clarity. It hits him that he is but one break away from regular life. All he needs is a job. “I just can’t get there, man,” he says. “I say to myself every day, ‘If I had transportation, I could do what I set out to do, find a job with fair pay and be productive.’”


IT’S LIKE BEIRUT. “ ” AFTER SANDY, STATEN ISLANDERS PICK UP THE PIECES, TOGETHER. PHOTOGRAPHS BY ATISHA PAULSON

PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK


›› IN THE DAYS AFTER THE STORM,

as the stories from Staten Island began to emerge, it became clear that Hurricane Sandy had dealt the “forgotten borough” an exceptionally violent blow. The waves had covered bungalows, swept houses off their foundations, and caused at least 23 deaths, more than half the city’s total. The blue-collar New Yorkers who called this place home were left reaching for exotic metaphors. As one local hospital worker put it, “It’s like Beirut over here, bro.” Staten Islanders have long felt slighted by city and state officials. Beneath that resentment lies a fierce sense of self-reliance, taking the relief effort into their own hands. “I have never been so proud in my life to be from Staten Island,” read one Facebook posting.

A car is misplaced in the storm’s aftermath.


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Staten Island resident George Calbe.


Newspapers brought grim reports for days.


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A woman searches for blankets on Father Capodonno Blvd.


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Many homes were completely destroyed.


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The community responded by bringing clothes and other necessities.


Canned goods from neighbors help the recovery effort.


A man begins stripping contaminated drywall from the basement.


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A piano is filled with mud.


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Ruined belongings await collection.


Another block is ravaged by the storm.


A resident begins the daunting task of rebuilding.


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A man in need of dry shoes.


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A resident begins the clean-up process.


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Philip Ferrante surveys the damage, looking at the place where his house used to stand.


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Anna Karenina Is Big on Show, Low on Substance BY GAZELLE EMAMI

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BOUT HALFWAY THROUGH Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, the narrator becomes so omniscient he enters the mind of a dog, as her master orders her down the wrong hunting path. “‘Well, if that’s what he wants, I’ll do it, but I can’t answer for myself now,’ she thought. She scented nothing now; she could only see and hear, without understanding anything.” It’s the most extreme example of how much the near 1,000-page epic internalizes—most of the novel is spent winding through the inner recesses of one character after anoth-

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er’s thoughts, and second thoughts. The dog’s experience here—a fruitless exercise that favors the eyes and ears over the mind—is not unlike watching Joe Wright’s film adaptation of Anna Karenina. Rather than try to engage with its characters’ complexities, it busies itself with visual distractions that splinter off in every direction, save one that leads to a point. The distractions begin and end with Wright’s unconventional decision to set Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky’s forbidden affair on a stage, instead of St. Petersburg and Moscow. “Just as the Russian aristocracy could be described as living on a stage, our story unfolds in a dilapidated theater,” he ex-

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Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson shine as Kitty and Levin in Anna Karenina’s sweeter, secondary love story.


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plained. In this one central place of action, sounds layer and scenes blend into one another: exit stage left at a dinner party, enter a wideopen field in the Russian countryside. Initially, it seems there’s a use for this shtick. The more than 100 sets that were built for the job are both gorgeous to watch in motion, and ease the progression from scene to scene (as does Tom Stoppard’s chiseled, 130-page script). But Wright’s retelling becomes increasingly aimless, his stage gimmick prodding plot points along from one

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to the next, without waiting for the characters catch up. The film—which opens in the U.S. next Friday—premiered to mixed reviews at the Toronto Film Festival in September. Some were thrilled by the visual flourishes; others found that while impressive, they left no impression. “Whereas the book is sprawling, searching and realistic, the film is constricted, deterministic and counterfeit,” Todd McCarthy wrote in The Hollywood Reporter, while Time’s Richard Corliss called it “intelligently ecstatic.” The New York Times’ Terrence Rafferty put it more diplomatically last week: “every movie adaptation of Anna Karenina is

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Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) and Count Vronsky (Aaron TaylorJohnson) in the early stages of their affair.


Exit unfaithful in its own way.” Wright’s Anna stars Keira Knightley in the titular role: a highsociety woman who leaves behind her beloved nine-year-old child and unloved husband (a well-cast Jude Law) for a younger man, Count Vronsky (a miscast Aaron TaylorJohnson). It marks Wright’s third collaboration with Knightley, beginning with 2005’s refreshingly wellpaced Pride & Prejudice. Knightley looks the part as Anna—dark mess of curls, flickering eyes and elusive charm—but feels more an approximation of her. The more revelatory performances come from the supporting cast. Matthew MacFayden, who played Darcy to Knightley’s Elizabeth in Pride & Prejudice, delights as her gregarious brother, Oblonsky. And Wright’s inclusion of Levin and Kitty—the novel’s secondary love story, oft-overlooked in film—elicits two of the film’s most genuine character interpretations. One of Wright’s more astute choices was in not casting Anna and Vronsky’s story as one of epic love, as it has been in previous tellings. Tolstoy’s novel is realistic fiction, and his lovers—stuck in a lustful, unhealthy codependency— suffer for it. The problem, then, comes in Wright’s surface treat-

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ment of their relationship. With little explanation of how Anna’s life regresses with Vronsky—as he maintains his social cachet, and she is increasingly ostracized—the cause of her slide into depression is hopelessly confused. As Tolstoy reminds us often in Anna, even so-called surface issues—lust, jealousy, selfishness— have depth. Wright is keenly aware of this. “... The tradition of realism

Every movie adaptation of Anna Karenina is unfaithful in its own way.” is too obsessed with the surface of things, and what I find so engaging in Tolstoy’s novels are the twists and turns in the landscape of the characters’ minds,” he told the New York Times. “I wanted to find a form of expression that was more capable of conveying that sort of experience.” But Wright’s interpretation feels more like an earnest attempt to justify remaking a film that’s been done at least 11 times before him. The result is an Anna you must follow mindlessly, without understanding anything.


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BOOKS

Fetishizing the Printed Page COURTESY OF VISUAL EDITIONS

BY ANDREW LOSOWSKY

IKE PHYSICAL BOOKS, ebooks have weight. A computer scientist at UC Berkeley calculated as much in 2011, finding that a 4GB ebook reader filled with 3,500 ebooks weighs a billionth of a billionth of a gram more than if it were empty of data —a difference that is approximately the same weight as a molecule of DNA. The same number of physical books would weigh about two tons. Ebooks aren’t only lighter than their print counterparts—they’re also cheaper, instantly accessible

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Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes features a different diecut on every page.


STEPHEN FERRY, FROM, “VIOLENTOLOGY: A MANUAL OF THE COLUMBIAN CONFLICT,” PUBLISHED BY UMBRAGE EDITIONS (VIOLENTOLOGY, SOLDIERS, GUNSHOT); CHRIS WARE/ PANTHEON (“BUILDING STORIES” ILLUSTRATION)

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around the world, and unlimited in supply. For these reasons and more, the growth in American ebook usage has been swift and inevitable. Earlier this year, Amazon released figures saying that, for every 100 physical books sold on its site, it had sold 114 ebooks.

BOOKS

But print is fighting back. Now that physical books have lost their monopoly on long-form storytelling, they aren’t disappearing. Instead, booksellers, publishers and readers are taking a closer look at why we like books at all—for many, that feeling of loss has provided an opportunity. Instead of killing physical books, ebooks have actually encouraged a new level of fetishization of the printed page. Beautifully made editions that sit as

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Violentology (left) had its pages printed on the press of a legendary newspaper. Building Stories (right) is a box of 14 graphic novels that all come in different shapes and sizes.


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Exit objets d’art on the shelf or coffee table, are rising in prevalence. Publishers are investing in more luscious, expensive print editions. Taschen makes stunning art books that are artworks in themselves, often costing hundreds of dollars. McSweeneys continues to experiment with formats and materials.  The attributes that ebooks don’t do well or at all—heavy paper stocks, bookmark ribbons, book plates, artful typography, metallic foils, and stunning, colorful covers—are being implemented in what many see a new flourishing of the mass-produced book arts. Penguin in particular is repackaging classics texts that are available for free online in luscious, collective packages such as Penguin Threads (stitched covers) and Penguin Drop Caps, covers with one oversized letter in typography (A for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and so on). In some instances, the narratives of stories are being augmented by physical, sensory content, such as with Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer (Visual Editions), which used remarkable die-cuts on every single page; Chris Ware’s Building Stories (Pantheon), a box of 14 differ-

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ent graphic novel publications in a wide variety of shapes and sizes; or Anne Carson’s Nox (New Directions), a poetic collage to her deceased brother that opens into a 192-page accordion-style fold-out. To make Violentology, a book about violence in Colombia, American publisher Umbrage had the pages printed on the press of a legendary newspaper bombed by drug baron Pablo Escobar, and hand-sewn by a local bindery. What makes them different

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Pages from Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes.


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COURTESY OF NEW DIRECTIONS

The attributes that ebooks don’t do well or at all—heavy paper stocks, bookmark ribbons, book plates, artful typography, metallic foils, and stunning, colorful covers—are being implemented in what many see a new flourishing of the mass-produced book arts.”

from their digital counterparts? It may be stating the obvious, but books exist—in a way that memory on a microchip does not. Enduring physical presence is no small thing in an age when information appears on a screen, then changes, evolves, and at times even disappears. And as efficient as ebook retailers are, clicking to purchase is a fairly soulless affair

in comparison to the pleasures of browsing in a bookstore. As Anna Gerber and Britt Iversen, publishers of one of the hottest new book art companies, Visual Editions, said in an interview with website The Experts Agree, “We think it’s the right time, in terms of how we read, how books are being made, how books are being thought of, to be publishing visually rich books that also tell wonderful stories.” This might be a generational anomaly, created by those with nostalgia for print and libraries, soon to disappear once the digital natives are in charge. Or this might be the moment where print, freed from its need to do everything, becomes even better at doing what it can do uniquely. In the years to come, if you want to know why physical books and bookstores seem more special than ever, maybe you should thank Amazon.

Anne Carson’s Nox is a poetic collage to her deceased brother that opens into an accordionstyle fold-out.


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eWISE

BY KATY HALL

I’d like to know how to stop people from using the annoying “Please advise.” It’s used as a passive-aggressive way to drop the ball in the other person’s court. Much better to come out and ask for help, or state what your real question is. Please advise :-) — F.H.

Q

In terms of office passive aggression, this is right up there with “Thanks in advance!” or copying a similarly qualified colleague to answer a question rather than figuring it out yourself. If someone is regularly writing you emails that begin with a description of a catastrophe and end with “Please advise,” there may be a polite way to train him out of it. If fixing the catastrophe is not your job, you can tell him what you’d do in a similar situation and connect him with the

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resources he needs. “Hope that helps!” is an insincere but effective way to signal you have no more assistance to offer. And yes, it’s best to avoid commands like “Please advise” or “Let me know” when asking a favor. As you suggested, just ask the question and hope you haven’t annoyed the person beyond the point of answering it. Hope that helps!


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eWISE

If a friend who posts crazy conservative rants (like insulting the appearance of Democratic women) on their own Facebook page posts some sort of compliment on your wall or tags you in a well-meaning note — do you remove/untag?  — L.H., Atlanta FROM TOP: SHUTTERSTOCK / SCOTT SANDERS; PETER KRAMER/NBC/NBC NEWSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES; WILLIAM B. PLOWMAN/NBC/NBC NEWSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES; ALLISON JOYCE/GETTY IMAGES; MICHAEL N. TODARO/GETTY IMAGES; STEVEN LAWTON/GETTY IMAGES

Q

The technical solution would be to adjust your privacy settings, which allow you to approve wall posts and tags before they appear on your timeline. Public communications with this friend don’t need to come as a surprise. The larger question, though, is why you are engaging with a person whose worldview sickens you and whose friendship embarrasses you. It sounds like this person is containing her inflammatory rants to her own wall, not using your profile to rail against marriage equality or campaign for Richard Mourdock. If simply being associated with this person by Facebook praise makes you cringe, you probably have no interest in reading her status updates and may want to consider unfriending, on Facebook and in life. Untagging yourself in her complimentary note could help pave the way.

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Have a question about electronic etiquette? Email ewise@huffingtonpost.com.

ENOUGH ALREADY

totally over. Things we’re

Deep-fried turkey Donald Trump The phrase ‘feminine products’ Branded Facebook likes Chuck Todd explaining the electorate

Power outages Levi Johnston No Doubt in 2012

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Blood has a very peculiar… old… dark smell. It’s like from all-oftime old. You never forget that smell. Or the smell of burning flesh.”

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GREATEST PERSON OF THE WEEK

Marsha Four

No One Comes Back the Same

BY DAVID WOOD

ASK MARSHA FOUR about the Vietnam War and she turns her gaze toward the window and falls silent. She sighs. Presses her lips together, starts to speak. Stops. She puts on her tough-girl face. Her eyes tear up. Her hand trembles. She shakes her head. Sighs again. “Blood has a very peculiar… old… dark smell,” Marsha says softly. “It’s like from all-of-time PHOTOGRAPHS BY RYAN SMITH

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Exit old. You never forget that smell. Or the smell of burning flesh.” 18th Surgical Hospital, Quang Tri, Republic of South Vietnam, 1969. A few miles north, a killing zone where Americans and North Vietnamese are locked in desperate battle. Marsha, age 22, had graduated the year before from St. Vincent’s School of Nursing in Indianapolis. Never worked in an emergency room. Never seen a body mutilated. A straight-A, white-glove Irish Catholic girl, gone to war. Now, suddenly, medics are bursting through the doors carrying litters with the wounded and dying, their eyes wide with pain and desperation. Focus: scissor off the fatigues and boots, scan the body to assess the gaping wounds, insert a chest tube, catheters, an IV, try not to notice that’s a person down there with a name and a mother back home. This is here, now. Keep his throat clear as he’s pushed into surgery and pivot to the next bloody litter as more medevac helicopters thwackthwack to a landing outside. “The abnormal becomes normal,” she says when she speaks again. “War becomes normal. Death becomes normal. You do what you have to do. We worked hard. Played

GREATEST PERSON OF THE WEEK

hard. We tried to find as much humor and laughter as we could.”

‘WE WEREN’T SATISFIED’ Outside, an elevated train rumbles past the window that looks out on a dreary North Philadelphia neighborhood. Marsha is now the director of a non-profit, the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center. She struggles to explain what has drawn her back,

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Marsha takes a coffee break outside of the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service & Education Center.


Exit from a comfortable postwar suburban life, to one dedicated to the veterans who crowd through her door. Some force seems to bind those who are back from war, no matter how long it’s been, a magnetism that transcends color and income and education and status, drawing servicemen and women back… to service. No one comes back from a war zone the same. Well before the end of her year in the combat zone, the well-behaved, obedient young Marsha had evaporated in the heated intensity of war. In her place was a chain-smoking, harddrinking tough who could shoot an M-16 with deadly accuracy, who shrugged off incoming artillery and mortar rounds, who quickly learned to ignore what the good sisters of St. Vincent’s had taught her: that every patient was a human being who loved and was loved. No, they were just bodies to be prepped for surgery. Still, they are catalogued deep in her heart. Currents of emotion run strong through war, and if Marsha was forced to suppress her compassion for the wounded, she held on gratefully to the intense bonds that flourished among the doc-

GREATEST PERSON OF THE WEEK

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tors, nurses, medics and corpsmen joined in combat surgery. In her 12 months in Vietnam, Marsha learned to love the people who served in the military, and to hate war. She distrusted authority and got good at thwarting it. “You didn’t have to believe what you were told,” she said. “There are things that are just… wrong. We weren’t satisfied.” She painted the door of her

War becomes normal. Death becomes normal. You do what you have to do. We worked hard. Played hard. We tried to find as much humor and laughter as we could.” hooch black and emblazoned it with a gigantic peace symbol. When her commanding colonel sent a soldier to repaint the door a flat blue, Marsha redecorated her living quarters to resemble a prison cell with bars on the window. After the war, she was restless. An acquaintance from Vietnam showed up in a Volkswagen bus two weeks after she got home, and invited her along. When they tired of life on the road, they settled down


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and got married. Marsha worked in a civilian hospital. Took a break to rack meat in the butchers’ department of a grocery store. Raised three sons. Still restless.

TURNING BACK Seventeen years after she returned from Vietnam, her rising anger finally burst. Too many veterans homeless, without jobs, floundering in the backwash of waves of combat. Too many military women suffering sexual trauma. In 1987 she began working with the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-

GREATEST PERSON OF THE WEEK

Service and Education Center, which provided a safe, clean place for veterans to gather, to secure VA benefits and find a job, to get PTSD counseling, a hot shower and haircut, a good lunch. Soon, she was asked to be the director. “It is too easy,” she explains, “to turn your back and not be involved.” She took over when the center’s budget was $500,000. Now it runs on $5 million a year, providing a range of free services from computer repair training to transitional housing—125 beds for men and 30 for homeless women. It is a warm and safe place for veterans, a sanctuary against the chaos and danger of the streets. Here, veterans help veterans assault the tangled

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David Douglas (left), PVMSEC’s accredited Veteran Service Officer, discusses veterans’ benefits and entitlements, and is ready to help file a claim if needed.


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bureaucracy of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Marsha spends her days on the phone, berating VA officials, coaxing donors, collaborating with other organizations. A pair of shoes worn by her father, whom she adored, lie at her feet. The Bronze Star she won for valor in Vietnam hides on a crowded bookshelf. She is a veteran in the world of veterans affairs, a familiar voice testifying before

GREATEST PERSON OF THE WEEK

Congress. Mornings, she’s often standing out on North 4th Street in front of the center, with coffee and a cigarette, chatting with staff and old soldiers. She holds special concern for the waves of young veterans surging home from a decade of war, many of them having endured three or four year-long tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. Marsha knows what that can do to a human being, and she fears what is coming. “We are going to pay a price,” she says, “for what we have done to this generation.”

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Marsha began working at the center in 1987, and is now the director.


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VICTOR J. BLUE/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES (SANDY); AP PHOTO/HASAN JAMALI (BAHRAIN); GETTY IMAGES/IMAGE SOURCE (WALNUT); REDDIT.COM/PHOENIXSONGFAWKES (RECEIPT); BENJAMIN C TANKERSLEY/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES (DUFFY)

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Bloomberg: 30-40,000 New Yorkers Will Have to Find New Homes

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Bahraini Activist Imprisoned for Tweets Insulting the King

Vote for ‘the Cute One,’ Political Group Urges Women

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THIEF DRIVES AWAY WITH HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IN STOLEN WALNUTS

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Single Mom Leaves Outrageous Note on Dinner Receipt


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ANDREW BURTON/GETTY IMAGES (GAS LINE); REDDIT.COM//KYRAGRACE (T-SHIRT); GETTY IMAGES (KITTEN); CARLOS KEYES /NANA GOUVEA (MODEL); GETTY IMAGES/RUBBERBALL (TOOTHBRUSH)

Man Pulls Gun in Gas Line During Sandy Fuel Shortage

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High School Students Told to Remove Pro-Gay Rainbow T-Shirts

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SCIENTISTS SEW KITTENS’ EYES SHUT AT BIRTH TO CURE LAZY EYE

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British Student Swallows Her Toothbrush

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Model Uses Hurricane Sandy Destruction As Photo Op


Editor-in-Chief:

Arianna Huffington Executive Editor: Timothy L. O’Brien Executive Features Editor: John Montorio Managing Editor: Katy Hall Senior Culture Editor: Gazelle Emami Senior Politics Editor: Sasha Belenky Senior Voices Editor: Stuart Whatley Quoted Editor: MacGregor Thomson Viral Editor: Dean Praetorius Social Editor: Mia Aquino Editorial Assistant: Jenny Macksamie Editorial Intern: Emma Diab Creative Director: Josh Klenert Art Director: Andrea Nasca Photography Director: Anna Dickson Associate Photo Editor: Wendy George Designers: Martin Gee, Troy Dunham, Eve Binder, Susana Soares Production Director: Peter Niceberg AOL Mobile SVP Mail & Mobile: David Temkin Mobile UX and Design Director: Jeremy LaCroix Product Managers: Mimmie Huang, Luan Tran Developers: Scott Tury, Mike Levine, Carl Haines, Terence Worley, Sudheer Agrawal, Jacob Knobel, Eisuke Arai Tech Leadership: Umesh Rao QA: Scott Basham, Eileen Miller Sales: Mandar Shinde, Jami Lawrence AOL, Inc. Chairman & CEO:

Tim Armstrong

PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK


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