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  • Film Review: ‘Little Woods’ April 20, 2019
    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens […]
    Peter Debruge
  • SiriusXM Unveils $8 Essential Plan for Consumers Without Cars April 20, 2019
    SiriusXM wants to cater consumers without cars, or cars without compatible stereos, with a new $8 plan for mobile and in-home listening. Dubbed SiriusXM Essential, the plan offers access to 200+ channels featuring the network’s entire music programming, as well comedy, news and select sports channels. Consumers will be able to test the new plan […]
    Janko Rottgers
  • Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway’s ‘Hillary and Clinton’ April 20, 2019
    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked […]
  • Adam Lambert Back to ‘Idol’ to Mentor Finalists Through Queen’s Catalog April 20, 2019
    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he st […]
  • Beyonce’s Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE) April 19, 2019
    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [ […]
    Shirley Halperin
  • Synthplex Conference Draws 2,500 Electronic Music Enthusiasts to Burbank April 19, 2019
    The inaugural SYNTHPLEX Music Conference, held in Burbank on March 28 through 31, drew more than 2,500 electronic music enthusiasts. The confab included performances, lectures and, most importantly, hands-on time with instrument manufacturers — from marquee names like Roland and Elektron down to smaller, more boutique modular companies. Among the highlights […]
    Shirley Halperin
  • ‘Field of Dreams’ Turns 30: Why the Baseball Classic Still Holds a Special Place in America’s Hearts (and Heartland) April 19, 2019
    Humphrey Bogart never said, “Play it again, Sam” in the 1942 Oscar-winning classic “Casablanca.” In fact, no one says it in the movie. And the mysterious voice in the adored 1989 fantasy film “Field of Dreams” does not tell Kevin Costner: “If you build it, they will come.” Released 30 years ago on April 21, […]
    Pat Saperstein
  • J-Pop Stars Perfume Talk Coachella, Influences and Sourdough Bread April 19, 2019
    One of Japan’s most popular groups, Perfume became the first J-Pop act to ever take the stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival with a performance last weekend. Formed in 2000, the electro-pop trio will do another set at the fest’s Gobi Tent on Sunday. That concert will conclude Perfume’s U.S. tour to promote their album, “Future Pop.” Nocchi [ […]
  • TV News Roundup: Netflix’s ‘Laugh-In’ 50th Anniversary Tribute Sets Premiere Date April 19, 2019
    In today’s TV News roundup, Netflix sets the premiere date for its 50th anniversary special of “Laugh-In.” DATES “Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” the 50th anniversary tribute to the original series by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, will premiere on Netflix on May 14. The special, which was taped at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, pays […]
    Jordan Moreau
  • Live+3 Ratings for Week of April 8: NCAA Championship Game Dunks on Competition April 19, 2019
    The final of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, in which Virginia triumphed over a spirited Texas Tech team, unsurprisingly finished way out in front in the Live+3 ratings for the week of April 8. Although the sports broadcast’s scripted competition made some gains, its 5.4 ratings still more than doubled that of “Grey’s Anatomy” in […]
    Will Thorne

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Top Book News provided by The New York Review of Books©

  • The Mueller Report’s ‘Smoking Gun’ on Obstruction of Justice
    With the delivery of the Mueller report, even partly redacted as it is, Congress now has firm evidence, based on testimony from the White House Counsel and others, of a clear “nexus to the proceeding” and “corrupt intent” in the president’s conduct in pressuring Comey to end the investigation of Flynn. Not only does the Mueller report not exonerate Trump of obstruction of justice, but it has also given Congress a clear path to pursue the charge.
  • A Specter Is Haunting Xi’s China: ‘Mr. Democracy’
    Enter Xu Zhangrun. A fifty-six-year-old professor of constitutional law at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, Xu is well known in Beijing as a moderate and prolific critic of the government’s increasing embrace of authoritarianism. The government is, of course, adept at marginalizing such voices. As a result, Xu and his supporters are unknown to the vast majority of Chinese people. That makes it hard for public intellectuals to effect change. But they perform another, important function: reflecting the Zeitgeist of an era.
  • ‘A Painter Not Human’
    Antonello’s real subjects are universals rather than particulars: love, despair, sorrow, amusement, and, above all, light. No one, not even Leonardo or Piero della Francesca, has ever paid such penetrating attention to the way light works. He knew nothing of photons or electromagnetic waves, but he understood, and recorded with uncanny penetration, the differences among beams, rays, reflections, glow, luminosity, and radiance. At the same time, he was a master of psychological detail and of nature, taking care to paint the reflections of infinitesimal ducks on a distant pond, or to set Saint Jerome at ease in his study by surrounding him with a scholar’s ideal company: a placidly loping lion and a sleeping tiger cat.
  • Medicine in the Gray Zone
    To the Editors: I was delighted to see that The New York Review and none other than the supremely talented Dr. Jerome Groopman took the time to review my book Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart. But I’d like to respond to several points in the review that draw heavily on “A Pioneering Heart Surgeon’s Secret History of Research Violations, Conflicts of Interest and Poor Outcomes,” a May 2018 article by Charles Ornstein of ProPublica and Mike Hixenbaugh of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Feasting on Erasmus
    To the Editors: For book writers today, a common occupational hazard is the cannibalizing book review. After spending years researching and writing a book, the author finds a reviewer consuming his or her material and presenting it as his own. But Eamon Duffy, in his review of my book Fatal Discord, goes a step further.
  • The Bees That Live on Human Tears
    In our culture, bees seem deeply ingrained in the rituals of mourning. In Greek mythology and many other traditions, African and Amerindian, bees shuttle between life here above and the underworld. The Delphic oracle was closely associated with bees. It seems fitting that the Taiwanese woman who had come to the hospital complaining of a swollen eye should have acquired her tear-drinking bees while visiting a relative’s grave. But poets seem to have known about the special significance of bees all along, and their connection to what Virgil called lacrimae rerum, “the tears of things.”
  • Claudia Andujar: Witness to the Yanomami’s Last Struggle
    Policing the Amazon demands enormous sums of money and unwavering political commitment. Under Bolsonaro, it’s as though all the security cameras have been turned off. Thus the indigenous peoples’ struggle for survival that has lasted half a millennium may be about to end: some of the last people on earth who look at the world and see a wondrously different reality from the one we perceive are all but defenseless under Brazil’s new president. And it could be that soon all that will remain of their presence on this earth will be Claudia Andujar’s glorious photographs.
  • The Roots of Trumpian Agitprop
    “Trump 2020” is the Triumphant Will jump-cut at microchip processor speed. It aims to overwhelm in the fidgety style of the twenty-first century. It proclaims adoration, it rewards the faithful. If you like the idea of an America of more rallies, more flags, more fists, you’ll love this commercial. Of course, Trump is not Hitler. MAGA rallies are not Nuremberg rallies. There is bombast but Trump’s threats, even his shouts of “treason,” are rhetorical—incitements that can be disowned should less inhibited enthusiasts take up arms against enemies of the people. Other such spectacles are surely in the pipeline.
  • Why Democrats Like Taxes Again
    Unlike past election cycles, this time Democrats won’t be content to propose higher tax rates simply as a vehicle for realizing other policy aspirations. Raising taxes has become an end in itself, as a way to radically reorder our economy and even the structure of power. Some Democrats have realized that taxes can be wielded to reduce income inequality and, in the process, take power out of a few private hands and invest it instead in the democratic collective. This marks a dramatic change—and a very necessary one.
  • Heaven Can’t Wait
    I Am God is an almost outrageously charming book. In the first of his seven novels to be published in English, Giacomo Sartori takes a simple, playful premise and sets the universe crazily spinning. The Italian writer has conjured up a delicious, comical stream of omniconsciousness: a pensive diary by the original omniscient narrator, God. Sartori’s God, a being of authentic complexity and paradoxical humanity, of both otherworldly dignity and satirical absurdity, is an irresistible character. He is also in love. Imagine how disconcerting this is for God.
  • From Writer to Painter: Van Gogh’s London Pilgrimage
    Van Gogh’s English years gave him not only a technique but a sensibility: literary, visionary, symbol-haunted, always aware—unlike some of his more formalistic disciples—of the written word as an ally, not an enemy, to the drawn or painted line. As for the bold, dynamic strokes that pack tension and action into illustrations from the social-reformer Victorian papers, Van Gogh never abandoned this “English line.” It helped to build up the crow-haunted skies, the wind-scoured wheatfields, the spookily tangled tree-roots, in late paintings of Provence and his final home at Auvers-sur-Oise.
  • The Creative Clamor of Igiaba Scego’s ‘Beyond Babylon’
    There is no better time than now to bring this novel into English. Now, when women’s voices are being heard in a new way, when the silence surrounding sexual abuse is being shattered, articulated, exposed. Now, when the question of Italy’s identity in relation to the rest of Europe is increasingly in peril because of growing populism, growing xenophobia, and racially motivated crimes. Now, when those in power in Italy call to keep out foreigners and close its borders—an attitude unfortunately mirrored in other parts of the word—is the moment to read Beyond Babylon, a book that insists on all that is open and flowing, coalescent and coexistent.
  • Our Lying Eyes
    An eyewitness’s identification of an accused defendant often provides some of the most dramatic and powerful evidence in a criminal case. “Do you see in this courtroom the person you saw fire the fatal shot?” asks the prosecutor. “Yes,” says the eyewitness, pointing to the defendant, adding for good measure, “I will never forget his face.” But in fact the eyewitness is frequently wrong: inaccurate eyewitness identifications appear to be the single greatest contributor to wrongful convictions. For example, they were introduced as evidence in over 70 percent of the more than 360 cases that the Innocence Project, using DNA analysis, later proved were wrongful convictions. Nearly a third of these cases, moreover, involved multiple misidentifications of the defendant.
  • Brexit and a Border Town: Troubles Ahead in Northern Ireland?
    Although there is little grassroots support for a wholesale return to armed struggle, Brexit does carry the risk of violence. Any form of Brexit that implies the need for new infrastructure at the border sets the stage for an escalation: customs checkpoints would be easy targets, and if attacked, they would need an armed police presence, creating both additional targets and a sense of regression to the days when Northern Ireland was an “open-air prison.” In turn, violence could creep into urban areas that are close to the border—like Derry.
  • A Reader’s Guide to Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
    Even if some novels feel like supersonic flights and others like leisurely tours, there’s no doubt in my mind that the means of transport closest to the experience of written narrative is the train. On the plane, you are merely trapped in your seat and too distant from the land to have much experience of it. Aboard a steamer, you’re isolated in the monotony of the ocean. On a bus, you’re very much part of the traffic, in thrall to circumstance. 
  • ‘The Jungle’: Putting the Refugee Crisis Center-Stage
    Tellingly, some of the actors had to earn exceptions (by way of petitions) to the Trump administration’s “Muslim travel ban” in order to enter the United States to perform. That is a clue to the resonance the play has wherever it tours. The nationalities and geography depicted have come far from their original setting, in the camp at Calais, but the stories The Jungle tells are everywhere the same.
  • Shostakovich, My Grandfather, and the Chimes of Novorossiysk
    Once, my grandfather telephoned Shostakovich to say he was in Moscow, with two bottles of Novorossiysk’s famous Abrau-Durso champagne and—no less famous, though in narrower circles—some salted bream. “Why are you sitting there all alone?” Shostakovich demanded. “Haul them over!” The composer and the mayor demolished the meltingly oily fish in Shostakovich’s kitchen, washing it down, blasphemously, with champagne. He and Grandfather used to play film-score music four-handed, a homage to their youth, when both earned extra rubles by playing accompaniment to silent movies. While Shostakovich played, the nervous tics that habitually plagued his features disappeared. He seemed almost happy. And so I grew up with a sense of tantalizing proximity to genius and history and to the men who made it—one with music, another with the monument that enshrined it.
  • ‘I Have Let Whitman Alone’
    In 1855 no one had yet heard anything like the raw, declamatory, and jubilant voice of the self-proclaimed “American, one of the roughs, a kosmos”—Walt Whitman, who in Leaves of Grass, his dazzling poetic debut, announced, “I celebrate myself,/And what I assume you shall assume,/For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Whitman was unequivocally declaring his own independence from poetic conventions and niceties. Here was a poet of the people for the people, without pretension or pomp, who wrote verse that captured everyday speech, both its fluency and its clank. “The best writing,” Whitman would say, “has no lace on its sleeves.”
  • The Sly Modernity of Édouard Laboulaye’s Fairy Tales
    Smack-Bam, or the Art of Governing Men collects sixteen tales by Édouard Laboulaye, a French law professor and jurist of the Second Empire, and an activist for abolition and women’s rights. Laboulaye’s creative work has been eclipsed by his political career, but in his day he was recognized as a writer of fiction, too, and especially known for his fairy tales—with their satirical asides, irreverent humor, and free use of international sources, it is not hard to see why. 
  • A Mind in Line
    The Labyrinth is the Saul Steinberg book that was in the house when I was growing up. I must have been about seven years old when I first opened it on my lap. Despite lacking text of any kind, this book told even a child that it was meant to be leafed through from start to finish.
  • Report from Rojava: What the West Owes its Best Ally Against ISIS
    Neighboring Iraq has become an object lesson in how territorial reconquest can provide a false sense of security. Since “victory” was declared in December 2017, ISIS sleeper cells have launched hundreds of attacks: assassinations, kidnappings, and bombings—some in towns and districts never held by the group. The fate of these ISIS fighters and their families is a grave challenge facing the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (NES). It’s time for the Western powers of the Coalition to repay their debt to their SDF allies in the fight against ISIS by recognizing the NES diplomatically.
  • How Should a Millennial Be?
    “The great millennial novelist”—the mantle has been thrust, by Boomers and Gen Xers alike, upon the Irish writer Sally Rooney, whose two carefully observed and gentle comedies of manners both appeared before her twenty-eighth birthday.
  • What Koestler Knew About Jokes
    Lately, I’ve been thinking about Arthur Koestler, as politics, which is to say, this presidency, has turned a spotlight, a searchlight even, on humor and on humorists. Humor is not innocent, Koestler knew; its roots lie in “aggression and apprehension.” Aristotle thought laughter was linked to “ugliness and debasement”; Descartes that it “was a manifestation of joy mixed with surprise or hatred.” It was not surprising given the insult implicit in laughter, Koestler suggests, that powerful men would seek to thwart those who inspired others to laugh at their expense. “Under the tyrannies of Hitler in Germany and of Stalin in the Soviet Union, humour was driven underground,” he writes. “Dictators fear laughter more than bombs.”
  • Are the Humanities History?
    On all fronts, fields like history and English, philosophy and classical studies, art history and comparative literature are under siege. Almost all disciplines have been affected, but none more so than history. The number of history majors nationwide fell from 34,642 in 2008 to 24,266 in 2017. Languages and literature courses have been hit, too: between 2013 and 2016, US colleges cut 651 foreign-language programs. Defenders of the humanities generally emphasize what the field can do for the individual: they promote self-discovery, breed good citizens, and teach critical thinking. No doubt the humanities do broaden the mind and deepen the soul. But to dismiss their practical worth seems both short-sighted and self-defeating.
  • The Equivocal Legacy of Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    By the time she died, in 1935, all her books were out of print, and early posthumous efforts to keep her reputation alive foundered. It was not until the 1970s, amid the renewed interest of second-wave feminists, that scholars rediscovered this forgotten writer. Yet their initial rush of excitement in doing so was often replaced, as her writings on race came to light, with a sense of confusion and disappointment. How could it be that this progressive feminist activist followed such an injurious line of thinking? 
  • The Godfather
    A virtual aesthetic vampire, Philip Johnson habitually drained meaning from architecture by reducing it to a consumable style.
  • In Praise of Public Libraries
    A public library is predicated on an ethos of sharing and egalitarianism. It is nonjudgmental. It stands in stark opposition to the materialism and individualism that otherwise define our culture. It is defiantly, proudly, communal. The sociologist Eric Klinenberg reminds us that libraries were once called palaces for the people. Klinenberg is interested in the ways that common spaces can repair our fractious and polarized civic life. And though he argues in his new book that playgrounds, sporting clubs, diners, parks, farmer’s markets, and churches—anything, really, that puts people in close contact with one another—have the capacity to strengthen what Tocqueville called the cross-cutting ties that bind us to those who in many ways are different from us, he suggests that libraries may be the most effective.
  • Graciela Iturbide, Visionary Ethnographer
    According to Iturbide, there are—pace Cartier-Bresson—two “decisive moments” in photography: “One, when you take the photo; and two, when you discover it in the contact sheet, because you often think you took one photo, and another comes out.” But perhaps there is a third decisive moment in Iturbide’s photography, the moment a relationship begins. When Iturbide first spotted Díaz at the Juchitán market, in her halo of iguanas, she asked to take her picture. In Our Lady of the Iguanas (1979), Díaz is vaulted from the market’s everyday bustle into the realm of myth. 
  • One Year of Gaza Protests. A New Era of Palestinian Struggle?
    The experience of Gazans over the past fifty-two weeks has been another grim reminder of how easily popular mobilization is crushed and how staggering the cost can be, with lethal force unleashed on Palestinian civilian demonstrators. What thus started as a social movement with genuine grassroots support in Gaza, the Great March of Return, one year later risks being subsumed into the nihilistic closed-loop system of episodic belligerence that characterizes relations between Israel and Hamas. Yet the rightward trajectory of Israel’s politics and the growing consensus behind Israel’s de facto annexation of the West Bank are unwittingly beginning to transform Palestinians, formerly fragmented into territorial and political silos, into a single collective entity facing different aspects of the same oppressive power: an Israeli state that discriminates in favor of Jews over Palestinians across the entire land.
  • Ingmar Bergman, Novelist
    As he entered old age and grew increasingly exasperated with filmmaking, Ingmar Bergman turned to another medium, one that would allow him to revisit one particular “framework of reality”—his parents’ lives and doomed marriage—and weave an entirely new kind of pattern from it. That medium was fiction.
  • What Happened in Hanoi?
    Shortly after the success of The Art of the Deal (1987) made Donald Trump a supposed expert on negotiation, he lobbied the George H.W. Bush administration to put him in charge of arms reduction talks with the Soviet Union. The position went instead to Richard Burt, an experienced diplomat and arms control expert. When the two men met at a New York social event, Trump pulled Burt aside to tell him what he would have done—and what Burt should do—to start off the negotiations. Greet the Soviets warmly, he said. Let the delegation get seated and open their papers. Then stand up, put your knuckles on the table, lean over, say “Fuck you,” and walk out of the room.
  • Known Unknowns
    To the Editors: Thomas Nagel may have slightly overstated the difference between humans and nonhuman animals. Unlike humans, he writes, “ far as we know, do not evaluate their own beliefs and motives before acting on them.” In fact, there is evidence that some nonhuman animals—dolphins, monkeys, pigeons, rats—are indeed capable of consciously evaluating their own beliefs.
  • No Nukes
    To the Editors: John Banville’s absorbing review of books about the Cambridge Five replicates errors made in Roland Philipp’s book A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean.
  • Holding Starr Accountable
    To the Editors: Much as I admire Sean Wilentz, I am disturbed by the disconnect with human suffering revealed by a comparison of these two statements in his review of Kenneth Starr’s book Contempt.
  • The Rap Sheet of the French Police
    To the Editors: The excellent article by James McAuley on the gilets jaunes movement referred to the deaths of two adolescents in 2005 that sparked widespread urban violence (“the killing of two minority youths by French police in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois”). The term “killing” seems inappropriate.
  • Not Another Brexit Jeremiad
    Throughout my adulthood, I felt alien in Britain, never properly settling there but returning for a few years at a time. I have sometimes aired my criticisms about the ways in which even the supposedly liberal elites have failed to regard immigrants as properly British. Since 2016, though, I have grown closer to my country. For that, I owe something to the referendum for revealing deeper schisms in British society than the lines between native and immigrant, schisms that had, in a very British way, been papered over for years. Brexit has thus created space for other British identities.
  • One Step Closer to an Elusive Peace in Afghanistan
    The last peace process that older Afghans remember was the UN-led talks that ended in the Geneva Accords in 1988 and led to the final withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Those talks took four years to conclude. Now, for the first time since the Russians left, many Afghans are hoping for a possible end to the war and a political deal that most could live with—even if some, inevitably, fear the prospect of a new government in which the Taliban is a partner. If the uncharacteristic patience of the normally impulsive US president holds, his envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, may yet deliver such a settlement.
  • When Women Take the Baton
    The Metropolitan Opera, representing arguably the most traditionalist musical form in an already innovation-wary field, has twenty-three conductors on rotation this season, all of whom are men. And many women in opera who are credited as assistant conductors are often restricted to piano accompaniment, the recently-appointed Chicago Opera Theater music director Lidiya Yankovskaya told me. Of the top twenty world orchestras as ranked by a panel of esteemed music critics—which Gramophone published in 2008—not one has a female conductor on staff. Some, including the Vienna Philharmonic, do have female guest conductors in rotation.
  • Whitaker, Fugitive from Justice
    On March 2, former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker abruptly resigned from a new Justice Department position only two weeks into the job—after he learned that he would likely be fired if he refused to answer questions from the department’s Inspector General about his controversial tenure as the nation’s top law enforcement official. As a result, investigators may never learn whether President Trump attempted to enlist Whitaker in an effort to impede a federal criminal investigation into whether the president himself conspired to violate campaign finance laws.
  • Race & Romance in America
    When I was five and we went back to India for a visit, everyone was upset about two things. The first was that my brother and I still did not speak Malayalam. The second was how much I had "changed" since I was a baby. Toward the end of the visit, my grandmother gave me a bottle of Fair & Lovely. I knew what it was. I had seen the advertisement on train station walls. It showed a woman's face getting lighter and happier and lighter and happier. Coming back to New Mexico was almost a relief. In New Mexico, I wasn't dark. I was just brown.
  • The Ominous Decadence of László Nemes’s ‘Sunset’
    Sunset, the forty-two-year-old French-Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes’s follow-up to his astonishing 2015 debut Son of Saul, is a gothic melodrama and a modernist period piece, set on the eve of World War I and shadowed by impending doom. Less dire than Saul but nonetheless alarming, Sunset tracks the quest of its protagonist, the young milliner Irisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), an orphan arrived in Budapest, to find employment at Leiter, the fashionable, luxury emporium founded by her parents. Perhaps Nemes—an artist far more comfortable discussing his filmmaking than his politics—is speaking through the character who says of Leiter’s elaborate creations: “the horror of the world hides beneath these infinitely pretty things.”
  • What Is the World to Do About Gene-Editing?
    He Jiankui’s announcement that in November that he had created the first two gene-edited humans in history was met with universal condemnation. Hundreds of Chinese scientists signed a letter calling the research “crazy,” CRISPR’s co-creator, Jennifer Doudna, said she was “horrified,” and Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes for Health, labeled it “profoundly disturbing.” If everyone can agree He crossed some kind of line, the questions of what that line is and where it should be are still open. The disturbing thing about the aftermath of the He affair is that a reckoning with these questions hasn’t happened.

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