A Photographer Chronicles Upheaval in His Suburban Home Town

A Photographer Chronicles Upheaval in His Suburban Home Town

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The photographer Al Thompson arrived in the United States as a teen-ager from Jamaica, in 1996, to join his mother in Spring Valley, a New York City suburb situated in Rockland County. “What was surprising to me was how big everything was,” Thompson told me recently, about visiting shops and stores during his first days in his new home. Buying CDs, making cassettes, being grounded for the first time, and playing soccer and basketball in Spring Valley Memorial Park—a focal point of the community, where he encountered a medley of “languages, accents, and inflections”—were the activities that initiated him into American teen-age life. At the time, Rockland County was one of the most diverse places in the country, and host to the largest Haitian population outside of the Miami area—Haitian Presidents have made it a point to visit this “Little Haiti” during diplomatic missions in the U.S.

In recent decades, Spring Valley’s residents of color have struggled. The nationwide drug and crime epidemics of the eighties devastated large segments of the community, affecting the area’s youth in particular. Since then, parts of the city have gentrified, while others have fallen into blight. Slowly, the black and Hispanic populations have decreased, as new, wealthier residents have moved in. A growing presence of Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jews has led to tensions reminiscent of those between Jews and blacks in Crown Heights in the late eighties. Now, in his ongoing photo series “Remnants of an Exodus,” Thompson attempts to capture the residue of these home-town upheavals.

Thompson hasn’t lived in Spring Valley for ten years, since he left for college. During that time, his mother has been slowly driven to the outskirts of the city, as the prices of homes in the center have skyrocketed. “I had been hearing about changes in the community for a while,” Thompson said. “And one day, about three years ago, I drove through to take a look for myself.” He went around his old neighborhood, looking for traces of his favorite places—restaurants and music stores—and found that they had been replaced by more popular franchises. The Seventh-day Adventist church, a block away, had a smaller congregation than it used to. He searched, to no avail, for old spots where he would go to listen to people freestyle rap. “But I kept coming back to the park,” he said.

In his memory, Spring Valley Memorial Park was vibrant and diverse, crowded with “super-duper-sweaty bodies under floodlights” and filled with “the sound of sneakers shrieking on the concrete.” Now, he says, fewer people play there, and its central role in the community has diminished. The park’s parallel bars, mesh fencing, cracked concrete, and debris-filled streams became the focus of “Remnants of an Exodus,” symbols of the old neighborhood he knew.

Thompson said that many of the people he spoke to in Spring Valley expressed a sense of “dejection.” Many still feel connected to the community, as he does, but can no longer afford to be a part of it, and so come from far away to play soccer on the weekends, if they can find old friends. Thompson’s sparse, black-and-white palette conveys a tenderness and affection for his subjects. One photo captures Emmanuel, a man whom Thompson describes as the local historian, knowledgeable about everyone and everything. The framing of his multicolored, dreadlocked hair and solid, tattooed form calls to mind Renaissance portraits of the ideal man in his ideal place.

It is the destiny of every place, in the long run, to see new people arrive and old ones go. One of gentrification’s peculiar wounds is its threat to the architecture of memories, as new stories, new histories, get imposed upon old ones. Through his photographs, Thompson attempts to reëstablish his sense of belonging in Spring Valley. Mourning what is lost, he achieves the harder feat of celebrating what will, within the people who lived and still live there, remain.

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March 20, 2019 at 06:32PM

Donna Brazile Explains Why She’s Working for Fox News

Donna Brazile Explains Why She’s Working for Fox News

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Donna Brazile, who has twice served as the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, is one of the most prominent political strategists of recent times. Brazile, Al Gore’s campaign manager in 2000, was the first African-American woman to run a campaign for a major-party Presidential nominee; she had previously worked on the Presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson, Walter Mondale, Dick Gephardt, and Michael Dukakis. She went on to spend fifteen years as a regular commentator on CNN, until, in October, 2016, she resigned. WikiLeaks had revealed that Brazile, who was serving as the chair of the D.N.C. and was on leave from the network, had shared questions for CNN Democratic primary debates and town halls with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. (She later wrote a controversial memoir, in which she argued that the Party had favored Clinton over Bernie Sanders.)

On Monday, Brazile announced that she would be joining Fox News as a contributor, writing, in a piece on the network’s Web site, that she is “excited to join the honest and passionate debate at Fox News about our future.” She described the decision as “rooted in the belief that you cannot make progress, let alone reach compromise, without first listening to, and understanding those who disagree with you on critical issues.” The news came during a particularly fraught time for the network. In recent weeks, the D.N.C. announced that it will not allow Fox News to host a Democratic primary debate (citing The New Yorker’s reporting on the network’s close ties to the Trump Administration), and the Fox News hosts Jeanine Pirro and Tucker Carlson came under new fire for bigoted remarks. (CNN reported that Pirro had been suspended.)

On Tuesday, I spoke by phone with Brazile. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed her hopes for her work on Fox News, the network’s role in fomenting hate, and why she is so frustrated with partisanship in the media.

Why did you think it was important to join Fox?

Over the last six months, I have had an opportunity to go on various shows on the Fox network, as well as MSNBC. As you probably have heard or read, CNN and I severed our ties back in 2016, after WikiLeaks distributed part of my e-mails that put me in a very awkward position of not being able to defend what I did to create more debates, town halls, and forums for the Democratic candidates in 2016. So I wanted to have access to the TV world. I consider myself a pundit; I am not a journalist. I am a pundit with a partisan point of view.

MSNBC is quite an interesting place. From 9 A.M. until 9 P.M., you can go on that [network] and agree not with just the types of topics and questions that are often posed but also make your case. Well, after six months, I just found myself thinking that, you know what? What if I tried to do the same thing with Fox? I went on Dana Perino’s show, and then when my book came out, a book I co-authored with three other women, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics,” I spent literally three days on Fox. I went from the morning shows all the way to prime time. And I came away believing that it was important to talk to that audience. Not because they agreed with me but because they were willing to listen. And the Fox audience was different; it was a different response.

Why do you think Fox wanted to have you on so much?

After Election Day, I started getting more calls from Fox to appear on the network, and the calls ranged from “Who are these new members [of Congress]?” to “What is up with the Democratic Party?” What I found interesting was that the challenges I would often have by appearing on Fox News were the kind of challenges I thought we needed. To be able to talk to people in the suburbs, to be able to talk to people in the city, to be able to talk to people who may be left of center or center-right. I found it challenging to be able to communicate and to, you know, disagree. I wanted to get back to that period where you could sit across from somebody who disagreed with you but did it in a respectful way, so you could talk to the audience and not just shout at the host or the anchor. I am going to have to, from time to time, lower my volume so I can listen, and the reason why I did it is simply because I still want to be in the game and I want to win and I am looking at the long game and not just the short game. And the long game is, if you want to help the country, if you want to try to improve democracy, you have to go into places where you are uncomfortable and try to stir things up.

You wrote, “But it concerns me, as it does the majority of good Americans, that our national debate has become hostile and disrespectful. We no longer simply agree to disagree. Too often we demonize the intentions of others. Our lines of communication are frayed, if not broken.” Do you think that Fox is a medium to help that, or has it played a role in exacerbating it?

Well, look, I don’t think Fox is alone. Do you know who you are talking to?I have been on the air now since 2001, since September 11th. Not only 9/11. I have been there after Hurricane Katrina. I have been there after the election of the first black President. I have been there twice in our electorate when the winner of the popular vote lost the Electoral College. Of course I have seen it up close and personal. Is Fox responsible alone? No. This is not just one imperfect part of our institutions. All of our institutions are broken. I don’t want to blame it on one entity. Is Fox responsible for the lack of civility?

Well, now that you mention it . . .

We have a democracy that is coming apart at the seams, where people can’t even agree to disagree. It doesn’t just exist in politics. It’s across the board. People have self-segregated. I know people who come to my classroom at Georgetown and say they don’t want to go home for Thanksgiving because their parents are talking about X and they want to talk about Y. Perhaps this is how society changed once we got into a post-industrial era, with technology where we communicate with sound bites. We often like the superficial and don’t want to get into the substance. But, no, I don’t want to put the blame on one entity. This is something we all have to decide we are going to improve.

So you don’t feel like Fox is sui generis among news or journalism networks, if we are going to call it that?

Look, you are asking me to condemn Fox without looking at the entire media landscape? You are talking to somebody who saw reporters take bait and food from WikiLeaks and turn it into a front-page story. They built their political narrative on hacked, stolen e-mails. Are you calling the right person? I am saying to you, as a journalist, that I have seen the media itself tear us apart by using material that was stolen. I mean, c’mon. Don’t call me and say, “Donna Brazile, can you now explain to us the Fox business model?” I can’t explain MSNBC, CNN, any cable channel.

We can all agree that there are major problems with the media ecosystem that go beyond Fox News. There are a lot of things that are screwed up that you and I would agree on.

Correct. Including my Church. I am a lifelong practicing Catholic and I have been to church five times this year. Is it screwed up? I don’t even have an archbishop or a cardinal. Of course. But has that turned me against religion, or turned me against my faith? No. I am using that as my analogy. I want to be a part of a network that I hope will allow me to speak to people who don’t agree with me because they don’t see me, they don’t hear me;I am invisible to them.

Do you think there is a specific role that Fox has played in terms of racism, in terms of Islamophobia, in terms of blindly supporting this President, who practices both of those things and others—

I have very strong views about Fox News that I can put in writing and post on their Web site, because I am a contributor. I took into consideration the heat and the backlash I would experience once I put my name on the dotted line. I understood that. And with that came the responsibility to speak truth to power, which I am prepared to do.

Who is the “power” you are speaking truth to by going on Fox?

I am speaking truth to power.

Who is the power?

I am speaking truth to those who are not only part of the Fox network, the Fox viewers, but anyone I can speak truth to in connection with my assignments on the Fox News network.

So this is you speaking truth to Rupert Murdoch, or whomever else?

Well, he heard my truth. I was at a dinner with him on December 3rd. I had no idea I was in the room with him, and I guarantee the way I am talking with you today, the way you have seen me talk in the past if you have ever seen me talk, that was the way I was speaking that night. And you can ask Mitch McConnell and everyone else who was there. I never back down. The same thing I would say in a room with Rupert Murdoch is the same thing I would say in a room with Barack Obama, George W. Bush, anybody else I have been in the room with. I have been in the room with Presidents, Prime Ministers, people who are powerful.

The person I am today is the person I have always been. I didn’t become chair of the Democratic Party because I am some shrinking violet. I became chair because I worked my way up, and I had worked my way to know governors, senators, congresspeople, and I have helped them get into the position they are in so they can listen to the person I am. When I tell you that I want to be able to speak to people who are not like me, who may see me or may not see me, it is because that is where I want to be at my age and my experience. That is where I have decided to be. And this is something I wanted to do. I don’t have to do it.

Believe me, I know that.

This is a decision I made.

I just want to return to this: you have, over your career, talked a lot about bigotry. Are you concerned about the amount of bigotry and racism in our society, and do you have any concern about the network you are working for propagating those things on a nightly and daily basis?

I have a concern about society in general.

O.K., and?

And I hope whenever I see it, I am going to call it out.

You will be seeing it a lot now, so that will be good.

I hope you understand that you are having a conversation with me because I chose to call you back. I chose to get your digits, and I chose to call you. I understood that when I made this decision to call you that you probably wanted to get up in my crap about going on Fox. I made my position known. I wrote a column and I put out a statement. I knew people were going to call and say, “Don’t you know the house might stink up?” “Yeah, but is that the only house that is stinky?”

I just want to be clear that you were—

No, no, I want you to be clear that I have my marbles. This is Donna Brazile. You are not talking to a phantom; you are talking to me. Don’t call me and act as if you are somehow appalled that a black woman, or a woman, or a liberal progressive, would go, “Hell, yeah, I want to go in that den.” And I want to fight from inside and fight from the outside. I may be naïve in my judgment, but I am wise in my view that, long term, we are not going to make progress by simply being out throwing rocks. I don’t want to do that. This is my decision.

It’s not courage I am used to seeing.

But you don’t know me. That’s my point. You don’t know the battles I have had to fight and wage in my life. You don’t know the struggles and the stresses I have had to deal with throughout my life. But throughout my life I have been consistent that I am willing to fight from the inside and the outside. I have always played inside, outside, long game, short game. To me, right now, I got to play. This is probably the hardest decision I have ever made in my life, because I had to think about the consequences of my actions in ways I never thought about political things. When you decide to work for a Presidential candidate, you say, “Shit, I’m about to give up two years of my life.” And for what reason? Is this the person that is going to carry the agenda and carry the vision for the next ten years of my life? To me it has never been a financial game; it’s been political survival.

It’s not a financial game?

Hell, no. Why would it be? Do you know my net worth? It’s been available online. I was a congressional staffer when I worked for Al Gore. You should see part of it. The implication is that I did it for money. Honey, I don’t do nothing for money. I grew up poor. So if I leave this earth poor, you can write this, if I leave this earth poor, then I would be poor. That’s another fallacy you get from your liberals and progressives: “Oh, she did it for money.” Meanwhile, you spend seven, eight billion in a Presidential season, six billion in a non-Presidential season, and how many women and minorities do they give contracts to? Barely any. I don’t depend on them.

Ms. Brazile, without quibbling with what you are saying—

Call me Donna, sir. And I appreciate you calling me Ms. Brazile.

Donna—

But you see, I have already come to pick up your spices, so that’s why I am getting spicy. Come on, sir. I wasn’t born yesterday. I was born in New Orleans, by the bayou, but I didn’t eat everything from the river.

Donna, I understand what you are saying. But you are talking with a moral outrage while we are discussing your life and what your life means, while ignoring the fact that you are going to work for Fox News, and what that means, and what that network is. And we both know what that network is because neither one of us was born yesterday, as you keep pointing out.

Yes, sir, I have made the decision to go work for Fox News and, as you saw in the column I wrote, I explain exactly why I am doing it.

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March 20, 2019 at 06:11PM

Why Ebix Wants to Buy India’s Corporate Travel Player Yatra for $336 Million

Why Ebix Wants to Buy India’s Corporate Travel Player Yatra for $336 Million

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Ebix, a seller of software to insurance companies for four decades, has recently been expanding its presence in the travel sector, particularly in India.

Yatra — a corporate travel services provider and India’s second largest online travel agency after MakeMyTrip Group — said Tuesday it had begun doing due diligence to consider an offer from Ebix to take it private by mid-May for about $336 million.

Ebix, a public company based in Johns Creek, Georgia, provides software to many sectors. Ebix sees Gurgaon-based Yatra as the largest of several companies it has recently acquired to build a group that cross-sells travel services like foreign exchange to corporate clients and consumers. Ebix aims to spin that travel subsidiary out.

A New IPO?

For full-year 2018, Ebix generated $497.8 million in revenue — a 37 percent rise year-over-year. However, its biggest segment is its foreign exchange unit.

Ebix offers currency exchange through its subsidiary EbixCash, one of Southeast Asia’s travel money exchanges, with more than 110,000 distribution outlets and 8,000 corporate clients. The company forecasts the unit will generate about $350 million in revenue in 2019 on a stand-alone basis.

Ebix said in a statement that it might merge Yatra with EbixCash, which already has 9,000-plus employees.

“We see India as a multibillion-dollar opportunity, possibly in the short term depending on how we execute,” Robin Raina, chairman and CEO of Ebix, said during a March earnings call with investors before publicizing an acquisition bid for Yatra.

“We are seriously contemplating the possibility of a public IPO for our Indian operations in 2019 or early 2020, and are in active discussions with a few private equity players to see if we can set up a pre-valuation benchmark,” Raina said. The company was unable to provide clarity via an executive interview by publication time.

A Travel Services Roll-up

In October 2017, Ebix tip-toed into the travel sector by buying Indian online travel company Via for $75 million. The online travel agency Via claims to have tens of thousands of home-based travel agents as resellers in India, too.

In April 2018, Ebix by acquiring foreign exchange service and Centrum Direct. In January 2019, it purchased Weizmann Forex, SL Forex, and Essel Forex.

Today Ebix claims about three-quarters market share of foreign exchange sales at India’s 32 international airports. It has benefited from India having a controlled currency. When traveling abroad, Indians must file paperwork about the amount of money they’re taking out of the country, and the sales of foreign currency exchange services are more popular in India than in some other countries as a result.

In August 2018, Ebix bought a controlling share in two travel agencies — Mercury Travels and Leisure Corp. — for a combined sum of $14.2 million. Leisure Corp.’s flagship service was corporate meetings and conferences, and Mercury Travel had a mix of corporate and adventure travel sales.

Ebix created a travel division called Mercury based on the components. It later added Pearl International Tours & Travel, Lawson Travel & Tours, and Business Travels.

Ebix intends to package all of these travel units into its EbixCash subsidiary, with more than 2,200 employees and more than 9,800 corporate clients before adding Yatra.

An Exit for Yatra

Home-grown travel company Yatra, which listed on the stock exchange in 2016, continues to claim to have the largest domestic Indian hotel supply of online players, with more than 100,000 listings. In the past half-year, Agoda, the Booking Holdings brand based in Asia, has been sourcing Indian properties from it.

However, Yatra has had to fight hard since MakeMyTrip merged with rival Ibibo in 2016 and MakeMyTrip raised $330 million from Ctrip and Naspers in 2017. Yatra’s share of consumer hotel bookings has shrunk to less than 10 percent, while MakeMyTrip brands account for about 70 percent and Booking.com holds 20 percent share.

In early 2018, Yatra racked up losses. However, in the last three months of 2018, it eked out a profit of $2 million on revenue of $31.7 million, after laying off about 10 percent of its workforce, closing its handful of bricks-and-mortar retail shops and outsourcing its call center.

Yatra’s consumer audience may offer a new market for Ebix to cross-sell its services.

More interestingly for Ebix, though, is that Yatra has invested heavily in cracking the corporate travel market, too. Ebix may see corporate customers as a more lucrative and reliable set of customers. In a telling detail, its public statements about Yatra describe it as a corporate services company rather than a travel agency.

In 2017, Yatra acquired Air Travel Bureau, a corporate bookings company that served more than 400 large and medium-sized businesses across India. That helped Yatra claim to be the largest independent provider of self-booking tools to corporations for booking flights, hotels, and insurance as measured by gross booking volume.

In February 2019, Ebix took an 80 percent controlling stake in India-based Zillious, that provides software to corporate travel agencies. Last year Zillious processed more than 8 million travel bookings.

Ebix seems likely to pair Yatra’s corporate travel services with Zillious’s somewhat overlapping ones to offer branded business travel software services in India. It may also white-label the services and allow various international travel aggregators to sell them to their corporate clients.

Paydays on Two Continents

Yatra faces an offer from Ebix it probably can’t refuse. Ebix’s generous takeover bid offers an 84 percent premium on Yatra’s market valuation as of the day of its bid.

In 2016, Yatra went public through a reverse merger with the U.S. special purpose acquisition company Terrapin 3, raising $92.5 million.

For its part, most of Ebix’s investments in India are in the form of loans granted to its Indian subsidiaries. So the goal of an initial public offering for EbixCash would be to recoup that cash to repay its loans and to expand its software business based in the U.S. Foreign exchange, including EbixCash operations, continued to be Ebix’s largest segment, accounting for 80 percent of the company’s full-year 2018 revenue.

“The overall Indian economy is growing at about 7 percent, but domestic business travel is growing at about 12 percent and is also ripe for the adoption of more efficient technology,” said Dhruv Shringi, co-founder and CEO of Yatra in an interview for January’s What India Reveals About the Future of Online Travel: A Skift Deep Dive.

Ebix and Yatra’s corporate travel aspirations have focused on the domestic business market. However, India’s outbound travel spending is expected to grow rapidly. Skift Research subscribers can learn more in the The State of India Outbound Travel 2018 report.

Photo Credit: Ebix chairman and CEO Robin Raina talks at Ebix Presents TV18 India Rising Summit 2019, a pan-India thought leadership effort sponsored by Raina’s U.S.-based software company. Ebix has bid to acquire Yatra, an online travel company in India, as part of Ebix’s expansion into travel services. Ebix

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March 20, 2019 at 06:03PM

New Chase Tool Shows Your Sign-Up Bonus Spending Progress

New Chase Tool Shows Your Sign-Up Bonus Spending Progress

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Good news, everyone! Some Chase users are reporting that the issuer now offers a sign-up bonus progress tracker that shows how much additional spend you need to complete in order to qualify for your sign-up bonus. You can also count down to the deadline by which you need to spend that amount.

TPG reader Jennifer W. shared screenshots of her progress tracker toward earning the Chase Sapphire Reserve‘s bonus in both desktop and mobile app versions:

Thus far, it appears the tracker has only been rolled out to a select subset of Chase customers, but hopefully it will soon be available for all users.

If you’ve ever struggled to track your progress toward your latest sign-up bonus, this is a fantastic tool to help you do so. Other issuers including Amex offer their own versions of this functionality, so it’s nice to see Chase stepping up.

We’ve reached out to Chase for more information and will share as we learn more.

H/T: Doctor of Credit

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

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March 20, 2019 at 05:56PM

Metro Trains Arrive at Dulles Airport During Testing Phase of Silver Line Extension

Metro Trains Arrive at Dulles Airport During Testing Phase of Silver Line Extension

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The Silver Line is slowly creeping to Dulles Airport (IAD) in what would be the first rail connection between Reagan-National Airport (DCA) and Washington-Dulles Airport. Travelers have had to rely on buses or cars for all or part of their journey between the two airports, which serve more than 20 million passengers per year combined.

Slated to begin service to the new Dulles Airport station in 2020, the Silver Line already connects nearby Reston, Virginia, to the DC area.  Track testing last month failed to cover more than 1,000 feet. However, those hurdles seem to have been overcome based on a recent picture taken at Dulles.


Photo by Edward Pizzarello/TPG.

The train wasn’t going anywhere quickly, but it’s a sign of progress for a much needed public transportation option in the DC Metro area.  Even with the airport access road that covers part of the ground between the two airports, transit times can be very unpredictable with traffic and road closures for visiting dignitaries.

When the Silver line station at Dulles Airport opens in 2020, transit times on Metro between Reagan-National and Dulles are expected to be just over an hour with one transfer.  At both ends, less than a five-minute walk will place you in the airport terminal ready to go through security.

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March 20, 2019 at 05:14PM

When You Go Away: Remembering W. S. Merwin

When You Go Away: Remembering W. S. Merwin

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When I think of W. S. Merwin, I think of oysters. Not his writing about them but his eating them. I saw him do so in 2013, when I brought him to Emory as part of a reading series I ran there. It was one of his last visits to the mainland from his adopted home of Hawaii.

He did not so much give a reading as participate in a conversation, onstage—on short risers, really—about his work and its transformations. I was awed by him, and I remember less the specifics of what he said than his demeanor, which was generous; he was somewhat frail but still hearty. His work was nearly the opposite: it is at once sturdy and rhythmic, steady in the best way, though it has a certain airiness about it, a clearing haze.

So, the oysters: after the event, a group of us took him to a lovely dinner in a back room of one of Atlanta’s terrific restaurants. When playing host, I often order for the table—at least the starters. Merwin ordered oysters, a dozen. When they came, he didn’t perform the false courtesy of offering one or making a show. It was clear that they were meant for him, and he sat and enjoyed them while others, around him, shared dishes (including oysters). It was the ordering, and sincere pleasure, of a man who knew what he liked and was purposeful in getting it. His poems could deal in ambiguities, but not his palate.

There was, in his work, many orders of pleasure, of course, and a rigor in its spokenness. His poems are also interested in certitude, or, better yet, finality. The experience of hearing him read “For the Anniversary of My Death,” as I had decades before, when he gave a reading at Stanford, stays with me. The poem remains a bravura performance, though not an ostentatious one; much like oysters, it is raw and briny and tender all at once—“and bowing not knowing to what.” There were other wonders that made their way into The New Yorker, where he published more than two hundred poems across seven decades. Like “Come Back,” from 1967: “You came back to us in a dream and we were not here / In a light dress laughing you ran down the slope / To the door / And knocked for a long time thinking it strange.” His work from that period feels almost shucked, for that’s what he’d done: thrown over and scraped clean the formal style that had won him the Yale Younger Poets Prize, in 1951. (Later he’d serve as a judge.) He was not alone among his generation—not even among his fellow Yale prize winners picked by W. H. Auden’s bold hand, like Adrienne Rich and James Wright—in turning from an earlier decorum to an openness, an immediacy, and, often, a politics that extended to form. Meter and punctuation were discarded, replaced by swift line breaks and urgent subjects, whether “The Herds” or “The Asians Dying.” Indeed, as in the work of other evolving poets, such as Amiri Baraka and June Jordan, form was exactly where politics took place, the line not so much a unit of breath as a way of breathlessly addressing a turbulent time.

Merwin’s book “The Lice,” from 1967, still seems absolutely brave in its willingness to invoke change as a necessary and human thing. This is a lesson we could stand to learn now; it might help us to make work of this urgent moment that endures. It is notable that some of his enduring work came from capturing and praising the seemingly ephemeral. Eventually, he would write about things that he came to consider eternal but that were somehow, now, in jeopardy: the whales, the rain forest, his beloved island home. He could find the forest in a leaf.

His “Looking for Mushrooms at Sunrise” enacts this attentive yet elusive praise:

Where they appear it seems I have been before

I recognize their haunts as though remembering

Another life

Where else am I walking even now

Looking for me

When Merwin came to Stanford, he was visiting Denise Levertov’s class, I recall, talking with us and looking over a few of our poems. You could add Levertov, whose teaching I admired, to the list of transformed and transformative artists of the sixties; her transformation, too, was simultaneously a change of form, which she wrote was “never more than a revelation of content.” Levertov had famously argued and ultimately broken with her longtime friend Robert Duncan about the uses of poetry in the midst of the Vietnam War. Her content and poetics had shifted, especially against the war, while Duncan expressed distaste for “empty and vain slogans,” claiming that “the poet’s role is not to oppose evil, but to imagine it.” They were, of course, both right. Merwin, starting in the late sixties, found a middle way that, for these two seemingly irreconcilable camps, would have otherwise seemed impossible, by crafting a lyric by turns outraged and interior. He essentially sang his way out.

He was generous as a reader, too, and I still remember, decades later, a poem of mine that he was kind to. Called “Casting,” the poem was about fishing with my father, and it wouldn’t appear in a book until fifteen years later, after my father had died. He said kind things about the poem, and I think he rightly warned, about its short lines, that one must be wary or at least aware of the choppy rhythm that could result. It was good advice that I wouldn’t quite follow. His work already taught me that, too: one must write as one hears and not be afraid to capture an inner voice on the page, to own that song of self. This extended to hearing other voices, as in Merwin’s tremendous translations, which remind us of the connectedness of a self across language and time.

Merwin translated from the start—twenty years’ worth of his “Selected Translations” first appeared in 1969. In that book’s introduction, he wrote of his limitations, which, as he well knew, weren’t really anything of the sort. “The only languages outside English in which I have any proficiency at all are the romance languages, particularly French and Spanish. But I long ago forgot most of what Latin I ever learned, and more recently most of what Portuguese I ever knew; my reading Italian (which was all I had) was never anything but laborious and uncertain.” The translations were never laborious nor uncertain, perhaps because he understood that a translation had to become a new poem in English. And yet they never felt like Robert Lowell’s “Imitations,” in which the loose translations become just versions of Lowell’s poems.

When I set about writing the poems for what became my third book, “Jelly Roll: a blues,” which took from the sounds and spirit of that African and American art form, I was also reading a number of Spanish-language poets, including Federico García Lorca, whose work Merwin translated. Lorca’s love and use of flamenco before being killed by the fascists was inspiring—and no less than Ralph Ellison saw the connections between flamenco and blues. Merwin, in his translations, seemed to know the power of such connections. His take on Pablo Neruda’s “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair” remains a totem for me. I realize how much of its power was hearing Neruda through Merwin and vice versa: he had a way of rendering work that also tenderized it, rather than producing the strange shoe leather or bruised fruit that some translations become from overhandling. “It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour / which the night fastens to all the timetables.” That’s Neruda via Merwin. Romantic while keen-eyed.

Was Merwin the last of our romantics? His work reversed itself, undoing modernism almost step by step: from the formal, slightly surreal verse of mid-century, he time-travelled back to the unpunctuated experiments that marked high modernism; and then to a view of nature as noble and almost human, as in the work of the British romantics; and even to French epics late in life, inspired by his farmhouse in the South of France, which he owned for more than seventy years. His was, of course, the most postmodern of acts: to undo the mask and find not only a face but a form crafted to feel natural and expansive, even as it was conscious of artifice. As I recall, during that class at Stanford, someone asked him about images, and he passionately recited the story of the Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa and the death of his daughter, captured in a famous haiku. “The world is a world of dew. And yet, and yet.”

One of Mewin’s last poems in the magazine, “Living with the News,” feels especially benedictory:

Can I get used to it day after day

a little at a time while the tide keeps

coming in faster the waves get bigger

building on each other breaking records

this is not the world that I remember

then comes the day when I open the box

that I remember packing with such care

and there is the face that I had known well

in little pieces staring up at me

it is not mentioned on the front pages

but somewhere far back near the real estate

among the things that happen every day

to someone who now happens to be me

and what can I do and who can tell me

then there is what the doctor comes to say

endless patience will never be enough

the only hope is to be the daylight

The decades reveal more than a poetic autobiography but also nothing less: the evolution of a poet in the pages of a magazine in a way that we are not likely to see again. May he still sing among the trees.

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March 20, 2019 at 05:06PM

Norwegian Air Retrenches as Boeing Grounding Thwarts Its Expansion Plans

Norwegian Air Retrenches as Boeing Grounding Thwarts Its Expansion Plans

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Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA’s reliance on the fuel-saving Boeing Co. 737 Max to underpin its ultra low-cost trans-Atlantic strategy has exposed the loss-making carrier as the most vulnerable in Europe to the worldwide grounding of the plane.

Norwegian was among the earliest adopters of the new narrow-body, using its extra range to launch services on Europe-U.S. routes traditionally dominated by twin-aisle planes. But after the fatal crash in Ethiopia on March 10 put the Max out of action, the airline has had to scrap some flights and switch others to bigger aircraft, increasing costs and reducing competitiveness in an already cut-throat market.

The 737 crisis has hit Norwegian at a time when it can least afford disruption. The carrier is already grappling with a cash squeeze from splurging on planes and was forced to raise fresh funds in a rights issue this month. The move came after British Airways parent IAG SA dropped a takeover approach, helping to send send the stock down 43 percent so far this year.

The 737 grounding is costing Norwegian as much as 15 million kroner ($1.8 million) a day, according to Ole Martin Westgaard at Oslo-based DNB bank. The carrier has said “it is obvious” that expenses should be reimbursed by Boeing, but the situation is unclear and the reduced market value of the Max could “significantly hurt” the company’s sum-of-parts valuation, the analyst said.

The discount carrier has 18 Max jets, making it the biggest operator of the model in Europe ahead of German holiday company TUI AG, which has 15. Norwegian usually deploys them on services from Scotland and Ireland to the U.S., and between Norway and the U.K.

Christopher Jasper and Irene García Pérez, ©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Bus Trip

While it’s now using older 737s on the latter routes, flights from Edinburgh to Stewart in upstate New York were terminated. Services from Dublin to Stewart and Providence, Rhode Island, were combined into a single flight to the New York town using a Boeing 787 sourced from Norwegian’s London Gatwick wide-body hub. People going to Providence have to complete their journey by bus.

“Passengers will be taken care of,” Bjorn Kjos, the carrier’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in a video message on its website. “We are combining flights, reallocating aircraft and booking customers to other departures. Only a small part of our operation is affected.”

TUI is relying on other planes to cope with the Max grounding, which affects 10 percent of its 150-strong fleet, while leasing in one or two extra jets a day and more on weekends. It has also rerouted some flights, changed departure times and will postpone non-critical work, such as repainting, to maximize resources, a spokesman said.

Software Fix

In the Middle East, FlyDubai, which has 13 Max planes representing 12 percent of total capacity, is canceling up to 15 flights a day. Customers are being given the option of re-booking with the airline, transferring to sister carrier Emirates, or receiving a refund.

The 737 Max was grounded around the world amid concern the African tragedy that killed 157 people on board was caused by the same combination of malfunctioning sensors and a computer system that took over the plane that was blamed for a Lion Air crash last October. Boeing has said it’s finalizing software and pilot-training updates to address the issue, though the company’s best-selling jet is expected to remain grounded at least through April.

Norwegian’s use of the 737 Max and 787 allowed it to steal a march on bigger rivals by utilizing the improved efficiency of the new aircraft to offer transatlantic fares they couldn’t match. But problems with the planes have made the bet look like a bad one. The 787 fleet has already been affected by engine problems at Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc.

Norwegian said in October that the 787 engine issues had already cost it 1 billion kroner, including customer claims after airports struggled to cope with a rented A380 superjumbo.

Like other Northern Hemisphere airlines, the grounding has come during the low season for Norwegian, when part of the fleet typically stands idle, and could prove more disruptive once demand begins to climb toward summer. The carrier has already been slowing its capacity growth with the closing of four European bases and a slowdown in its long-haul expansion. The Edinburgh-Stewart route was earmarked to shut later in the year.

–With assistance from Richard Weiss and Layan Odeh.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Irene García Pérez and Christopher Jasper from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: Norwegian has grounded its Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet, including this jet. The airline has had to drop some U.S. routes as a result. Norwegian Air

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March 20, 2019 at 05:06PM

Mt. Daniel — Pacific Northwest March Adventure

Mt. Daniel — Pacific Northwest March Adventure

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All photos by Jamie Caudill

This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.

On to to pow.

Finding pow on Mt. Daniel. Photo by Jamie Caudill

Taking full advantage of a sunny Pacific Northwest day, Louie, Jason, Jamie and I decided to head to Mount Daniel on Sunday, March 10th. Jason and Jamie flew in from Colorado the day before and were stoked for an adventure. I had been stuck at home with the plague for a week, so I was also itching to get out.

Awake at 5 am, we realized we’d forgotten daylight savings time. With an extra (or, psychological) hour in our plan, we parked at Salmon La Sac at 8 am, snowmobiled into the Cathedral Rock trailhead and started skinning at 9:30 am.

The first part of the skin is completely flat for about three miles. It feels twice as long on the way back.

Introducing the flat skin track that goes on forever, via a lake. Be prepared for some tired toes at the end of your tour.

Crossing a lake, the flat skin track that goes on forever. Be prepared for some tired toes at the end of your tour. Photo by Jamie Caudill

Complex terrain navigation is required for the Mt Daniel route. We followed guidance from Martin Volken’s Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes Washington guidebook, although we did opt for a slightly different route on the way up. We can’t say it was the most straightforward way, but it did go.

Reached a bit of a crux on the up route. Louie and Jason discuss options.

Reached a bit of a crux on the up route. Louie and Jason discuss options. Photo by Jamie Caudill

Figured the route out. Julia topping out from a short, spicy bootpack.

Figured the route out. Julia topping out from a short, spicy bootpack. Photo by Jamie Caudill

We turned around just shy of the summit, after we gained the ridge between the east and middle summits. The trek in took a bit longer then expected, but it was a gorgeous day with not a single cloud in the sky. Taking in the views felt like the priority.

We skied down the Daniel Glacier, enjoying fresh powder turns all the way to about 4900 feet. The top part skied phenomenally, with the lower section being a bit more wind affected. After a short climb and a few minor shenanigans involving some sun crust, we skied all the way down the valley to return to the extremely flat skin track.

Louie and I are super psyched that Jason and Jamie experienced Washington alpine skiing with breathtaking views of the Cascades. We sure hope that was convincing enough to get them to move here, or at least visit more often!

Do you ever stop and stare at snow sparkes?

Do you ever stop and stare at snow sparkles? Photo by Jamie Caudill

Just about to gain the ridge between the east and middle summit of Mt. Daniel.

Just about to gain the ridge between the east and middle summit of Mt. Daniel. Photo by Jamie Caudill

Jason enjoys his first PNW pow turn of 2019.

Jason enjoys his first PNW pow turn of 2019. Photo by Jamie Caudill

The vast glacier ahead, full of pow.

The vast glacier ahead, full of pow. Photo by Jamie Caudill

Of course, Louie had to jump off something.

Of course, Louie had to jump off something. Photo by Jamie Caudill

Jason enjoying some low angle turns through the trees lower down.

Jason enjoying some low angle turns through the trees lower down. Photo by Jamie Caudill

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March 20, 2019 at 05:05PM

All Nippon Airways Gets the (Likely) Last First Delivery of an A380

All Nippon Airways Gets the (Likely) Last First Delivery of an A380

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Japan’s All Nippon Airways made history on Wednesday for itself, its home country and Airbus. For ANA, Wednesday marked the first time a Japanese carrier has taken delivery of an A380. And for Airbus, it marked the last time it’ll make a first A380 delivery to a customer — at least, as the orders stand now. No one else has ordered the jet, and Airbus has already announced it will stop building the biggest passenger jet in the world in 2021.

In front of press and teams from Airbus and ANA, the airline received its first of three superjumbos. After a brief ceremony, ANA’s CEO Shinya Katanozaka and some of his team boarded the aircraft and departed for its new home in Tokyo.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

ANA is going to send all of its A380s on flights to Hawaii, a huge market for Japanese tourism. The livery features sea turtles, which are an iconic species in Hawaii. Not only will the first of the three ANA A380s feature this sea turtle design, but all three of them will.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

Its first A380 is registered as JA-381A and named “Lani,” will fly from Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Honolulu (HNL) beginning May 24. The airline will take delivery of two additional A380s — and each of them will be used on the Tokyo to Honolulu route.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

ANA says that Hawaii is the No. 1 resort destination for Japanese travelers. The airline currently flies Boeing 787-9s on the route, which it says are typically full. The A380 obviously represents a huge upgrade in capacity for the airline — the 787 can fit 215 passengers across three cabins, while the A380 can fit 520 passengers across four cabins.

The airline is set to take delivery of its second A380 on July 1. While the first, blue one was delivered on Wednesday and colored after the Hawaiian sky, the second will be emerald green in color after the Hawaiian ocean. Finally, in 2020, ANA will get its third and final A380, painted orange after the Hawaiian sunset.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

While Wednesday’s delivery ceremony was celebratory overall, there was a feeling of sadness among some of the Airbus team and people in attendance. This delivery marked the final first A380 to a customer on order right now. In February, Airbus announced that it would cease deliveries of the A380 in 2021, marking the end of an era for the largest passenger jet in history.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

“Today is a celebration of the A380,” said Chris Cholerton, president, civil aerospace for Rolls-Royce, which makes the engines.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin /
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus, said in his delivery remarks that the manufacturer remains fully committed to supporting all A380 operators as long as they operate the aircraft.

Inside the Aircraft

Inside, passengers can expect a four-cabin configuration across the two decks: first, business, premium economy and economy. Check out this guide for information on how to book the A380 on points and miles.

On Wednesday’s delivery event at Airbus’ Toulouse headquarters, media weren’t allowed on board the aircraft. However, inside and on the upper deck, passengers can expect eight first-class seats. With the A380, ANA will offer a first-class product on the NRT-HNL route for the first time.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

First-class suites are entirely gray in color, featuring a lie-flat bed, with its own door. Each of the enclosed suites — which are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration — features a 32-inch LCD inflight entertainment screen. The center two seats could be ideal for couples, featuring a large partition that can be situated up or down. The two middle seats cannot be made into a double bed, however.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

For the soft product in first class, passengers can expect an amenity kit from Globe-Trotter. Additionally, there will be a bedding set and PJs. Meal service will be designed by Four Seasons Resort O’Ahu at Ko Olina.

Further back on the upper deck, there are 56 business-class seats, which are also arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration and will be silver and blue in color. You can expect lie-flat functionality, an 18-inch IFE monitor and in-seat power ports.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

And rounding out the upper deck, there are 73 premium economy seats at the rear of the cabin in a 2-3-2 configuration. Each of the seats has 38 inches of pitch, along with a swivel tray table, 15.6-inch IFE screen, foot rests and power ports.

In between the first and business-class cabins, there’s a bar counter, as well as an individual bar counter in the first-class cabin. At the rear of the premium economy cabin, there’s a third bar counter for the upper deck.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

The lower deck is comprised completely of economy seats — 383 in total in a 3-4-3 configuration. Economy flyers will be happy to know each seat offers a generous 34 inches of pitch, more than the usual 32-inch legroom usually found in long-haul coach. Each seat in the cabin also has a 13.3-inch IFE screen and power ports.

Because each of ANA’s A380s were designed with leisure travel — and more specifically family travel — in mind, the airline’s introduced the ANA COUCHii. As one might expect, it’s a couch product, with the leg rest extending out into a wider seat for lounging, much like Air New Zealand’s Skycouch. The rear six rows are reserved to be able to accommodate the COUCHii.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

As far as common areas on the lower deck, there are two bar counters, as well as a “multi-purpose area,” which ANA describes as the perfect place for families to take a step away from their seat.

In all four cabins, ANA will serve a custom “Hawaii Cocktail,” which will be complimentary. Depending on your class of service, it’ll be served either in a glass or paper Flying Honu cup.

Honolulu ANA Lounge

ANA’s investing in Hawaii so much as to also build the largest airline lounge in Honolulu Airport (HNL).

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

An A380 flight will have the capacity to fill the lounge, on the third floor of Terminal 2, above Gate C4 (currently Gate 29). There will be a specialized area for families, which ANA is playing up quite a bit for its A380 operations to Hawaii.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

Additionally, premium cabin passengers on the A380 will be permitted to board the aircraft directly from a jetbridge connected to the lounge. Those in economy and premium economy will still be required to board through the regular terminal.

Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.
Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

Airbus’ delivery of the A380 to ANA marked a historic day for both the carrier and the manufacturer, but it also marks a somber milestone for the airplane. With an end date already announced for production, it’s unlikely that any other airline will buy the double-decker, whose vast size was both its main selling point and biggest weakness. As ANA’s all-out effort to serve Hawaii with the A380 shows, it’s a great plane for markets that can support it, but a tough sell for airlines that don’t have that kind of year-round heavy demand.

Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy.

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March 20, 2019 at 04:54PM

Delta Apologizes For Late Arrival of Medallion Credential Kits

Delta Apologizes For Late Arrival of Medallion Credential Kits

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Delta’s on-time performance is the envy of the aviation world, but it’s apparently not on time with everything.

With 92.7% of planes arriving on time, the largest network of lounges and cities served, and several other strong suits, Atlanta’s hometown airline took the top spot in TPG’s 2019 list of best and worst US airlines. Its SkyMiles program was also voted Best US Airline Loyalty Program by readers in the inaugural TPG Awards.

But Delta this year is lagging when it comes to a much smaller detail: the delivery of brag tags.

Medallion members will have to wait until April to get their swag
Medallion members will have to wait until April to get their swag

 

SkyMiles Medallion members the world over received an email today apologizing for the atypically late arrival of their 2019 Medallion Welcome Kit. TPG Executive Editorial Director Scott Mayerowitz and Managing Editor Alberto Riva (Platinum Medallions) as well as myself (a Diamond Medallion) received emails from “The SkyMiles Team.”


Delta’s Million Milers are still galavanting with their 2018 brag tags (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

“Unfortunately,” says the missive, “this welcome kit will be arriving later than expected — but you should expect it to arrive by the end of April at the latest. We hope that another great year of travel is already underway. Thank you again for your loyalty and apologies for the delay in receiving your welcome kit.”

In past years, these kits have arrived shortly after the new Medallion year, which begins on Feb. 1. Within, there are luggage tags and a nice note, eliciting a warm, fuzzy feeling that keeps most folks working to retain their status for another trip around the sun.

Thus far in 2019, the only Delta brag tags that have made their way out of the factory are Million Miler tags, which I received in mid-February.


Delta Million Milers received their tags in February (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)

Medallion members can load their Silver, Gold, Platinum or Diamond membership card onto their phone’s wallet via the My Delta app, but where’s the fun in that?

One has to wonder if the delay means the return of metal connector loops, or if we’ll be treated to some other fanciful material not yet seen in the world of brag tags.

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March 20, 2019 at 04:54PM