How the United States Achieved World Leadership

NONFICTION

Image
Winston Churchill views a regiment during the Council of Europe in 1949.CreditCreditAssociated Press

By Harold Evans

GRAND IMPROVISATION
America Confronts the British Superpower, 1945-1957
By Derek Leebaert
Illustrated. 612 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $35.

It was cruel of a senior official to swipe two “reckless” policy directives on trade from President Trump’s desk before he could sign them. He should not have left the chief executive to start his working day staring into empty space. Sad. Better to have left the president to contemplate a sheet of paper with a one-line sentence from a former secretary of state: Pottery Barn rule — you break it, you own it.

Colin Powell deployed the Pottery Barn metaphor before the invasion of Iraq. The Bush-Cheney administration broke the pottery, and to this day we own the terrible consequences.

Trump has in his hands a precious Etruscan vase. What happens now if he drops it — if, in a xenophobic “America First” mood, the United States breaks up the alliances with like-minded nations in NATO? Or takes an ax to the series of political, trade and financial institutions fashioned fitfully over decades by both parties? We would own the chaos.

 

We wouldn’t know where to begin recreating something like today’s system of international order because we have a flawed understanding of its history. That is Derek Leebaert’s thesis in “Grand Improvisation,” a dense reconstruction of events and leaders from 1945 to 1957 that draws impressively on many original sources.

One might quarrel with the belligerence in the subtitle, “America Confronts the British Superpower.” Leebaert, the author of several books on foreign affairs, suggests more like the reverse, with British world experience over centuries confronting an untutored Washington. He has fun with an incident in the Persian Gulf, long regarded as a British lake. In 1948 the American admiral Richard Conolly and his fleet made a grand port call on Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the ruler of the British protectorate of Bahrain. The sheikh’s personal adviser for 22 years was the Foreign Office’s Charles Dalrymple Belgrave, fluent in the gulf’s dialects and customs. He introduced Conolly to Sheikh Salman, who proudly presented his young son standing nearby. The admiral and his retinue didn’t understand the introduction or know what to do with their hats. “They assumed the son was a slave, treated him like a cloakroom attendant and quickly buried him under their headgear.” It was one of a series of gaffes that Belgrave reported back to London. Maybe the empire would not be taking second place to the Americans after all.

Leebaert’s emphasis is necessary to demolish the common notion that after 1945 a “bankrupt” Britain and its empire faded from the scene, leaving the United States to become “the world’s policeman.” The idea that a Washington-led world order snapped into place immediately after the war is accepted by any number of renowned historians. Leebaert’s thesis should send everyone back to the original sources. His arguments are buttressed by a scholar’s scoop, the text of a National Security Council document (NSC 75) he had declassified through the Freedom of Information Act. “Historians,” he proclaims, “have never seen this 40-page document.” It was nothing less than an audit of the far-flung British Empire. Nobody before had estimated what the presumed “liquidation” of the empire would mean for American security. The resounding finding of NSC 75 was that America alone could not take on the “uncountable” expense of Britain’s “globe-girdling commitments.”

Britain was not the 97-pound weakling of the Charles Atlas muscle-building craze of the time. Leebaert is no jingoist like the flag-waving Brexiteers ignorant of history as they lead Britain over a cliff. He recognizes that paying for World War II had drained the United Kingdom of gold and dollar reserves and that devaluation of the pound was inevitable. But he stresses the countervailing points that made Britain an effective international partner, stiffening a “jittery” America in looming collisions with the Soviet Union. He offers some persuasive bullet points:

· British military and related scientific industries produced higher proportions of wartime output into the 1950s than similar American sectors.

Image

· Britain was ahead in life sciences, civil nuclear energy and jet aviation. The Gloster Meteor was the first jet warplane to enter the war, and the English Electric Canberra high speed jet bomber was adapted by the American Air Force as the B-57.

 

· With the American Army heading home after defeating the fascists, the British Army of the Rhine remained the largest military presence in Western Europe.

· British intelligence services outshone the Americans. The C.I.A.’s “daring amateurs” were often diverted into futile paramilitary adventures.

Leebaert is justified in highlighting Ernest Bevin in all this. Britain’s redoubtable but unsung foreign secretary “stood against the sky” when Greece, Turkey and Berlin were in play in a treacherous game of bluff and double bluff. I knew Bevin as a formidable working-class trade union leader and Leebaert has him right. Bevin “was visibly a bruiser with a bull neck and loud voice. He was squat at 240 pounds with putty-lump features and a goggling stare that gave him an aura of menace.” He was the working man’s John Bull, the “Labour Churchill.” Bevin roasted American legislators for embracing free trade for everyone while they themselves raised tariff barriers. His staff cataloged the raw materials the United States had lacked when it became engaged in the fighting in 1942, and he observed that in any future war America would have to rely on the empire for copper, tin and other vital commodities.

A testing point for American resolve came on the rain-dank 21st day of February 1947. The British ambassador’s office alerted the State Department that in a few weeks Britain would stop assisting Greece and Turkey. In his memoirs Secretary Dean Acheson describes the message as shocking. This was exactly the reaction Bevin wanted. He had no intention of withdrawing the British troops holding off Communist guerrillas, but he wanted to scare the Americans into realizing what was at stake. The shock tactics worked to get the “jittery” Americans to pay up and show up, which they did handsomely.

In March, Truman committed $400 million for Greece and Turkey. It was the genesis of the “Truman Doctrine,” whose sweeping rhetoric, adopted by all Democratic and Republican presidents, obliged the United States to assist “free peoples” resisting “totalitarian regimes.” It was a blank check. The people of Greece were not free of venal corruptions any more than Latin America was free of brutal dictatorships, but it was easier to appeal to America’s preference for the moral high ground.

Bevin was effective again in 1948, when Stalin attempted to cut off Berlin. President Truman was up for election in four months, faced with a Republican majority in Congress opposed to European “entanglements.” But Bevin insisted the West could not let Stalin starve Berlin. The judgment of the historian Jean Smith, endorsed by Leebaert, is that without Bevin, Berlin would have been lost. Instead, hundreds of round-the-clock airdrops of food and supplies by the British and the Americans triumphantly sustained the city for 10 months. It was a turning point in the history of the 20th century.

 

Leebaert does not spend time imagining a back-to-the-future isolationist America similar to the 1930s and early ’40s, though the shadow of those years haunts his narrative. Public opinion, racked by World War I, was seduced by America First rhetoric into enacting the Neutrality Acts of 1935-39. How many remember that it was Hitler who declared war on the “half Judaized … half negrified” United States he thought had lost its will?

Leebaert makes some astute observations on the rise of China, now presenting itself as the champion of free trade and pledging aid to Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe greater than the Marshall Plan. He worries that the United States, meanwhile, has lost all caution by indiscriminately embracing obligations worldwide. He acknowledges that for all the hit-and-miss nature of the grand improvisations, an economically dominant West did contain Communism and precipitate the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. How unfortunate, in Leebaert’s view, that America has been tempted into four failed high-risk adventures in a row, “from Vietnam to Afghanistan to Iraq and back to Afghanistan.” He concludes: “There’s no assurance that the United States will remain the world’s sole superpower, or even that it will long continue to be one at all.”

Sir Harold Evans, editor at large at Reuters, is the author of “The American Century.”

Advertisements

Paul G. Allen, Microsoft’s Co-Founder, Is Dead at 65

Image
Paul G. Allen in 2014. “In his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world,” a Microsoft statement said.CreditCreditBéatrice de Géa for The New York Times

Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who helped usher in the personal computing revolution and then channeled his enormous fortune into transforming Seattle into a cultural destination, died on Monday in Seattle. He was 65.

The cause was complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his family said in a statement.

The disease recurred recently after having been in remission for years. He left Microsoft in the early 1980s, after the cancer first appeared, and, using his enormous wealth, went on to make a powerful impact on Seattle life through his philanthropy and his ownership of the N.F.L. team there, ensuring that it would remain in the city.

Mr. Allen was a force at Microsoft during its first seven years, along with its co-founder, Bill Gates, as the personal computer was moving from a hobbyist curiosity to a mainstream technology, used by both businesses and consumers.

When the company was founded, in 1975, the machines were known as microcomputers, to distinguish the desktop computers from the hulking machines of the day. Mr. Allen came up with the name Micro-Soft, an apt one for a company that made software for small computers. The term personal computer would become commonplace later.

 

The company’s first product was a much-compressed version of the Basic programming language, designed to suit those underpowered machines. Yet the company’s big move came when it promised the computer giant IBM that it would deliver the operating system software for IBM’s entry into the personal computer business. Mr. Gates and Mr. Allen committed to supplying that software in 1980.

At the time, it was a promise without a product. But Mr. Allen was instrumental in putting together a deal to buy an early operating system from a programmer in Seattle. He and Mr. Gates tweaked and massaged the code, and it became the operating system that guided the IBM personal computer, introduced in 1981.

Image
Mr. Allen, left, and Bill Gates on Oct. 19, 1981, after signing a contract with IBM to supply its line of personal computers with Microsoft software. It was a watershed moment for both IBM and Microsoft.CreditMicrosoft, via Bloomberg News

That product, called Microsoft Disk Operating System, or MS-DOS, was a watershed for the company. Later would come Microsoft’s immensely popular Windows operating system, designed to be used with a computer mouse and onscreen icons — point-and-click computing rather than typed commands. The company would also produce the Office productivity programs for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

“In his own quiet and persistent way, he created magical products, experiences and institutions, and in doing so, he changed the world,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s current chief executive, said of Mr. Allen in a statement.

 

Mr. Allen’s partnership with Mr. Gates began when they were teenagers attending the private Lakeside School in Seattle. It was there that they got their start in computing, working from a school Teletype terminal that was linked to a far-away mainframe computer under a so-called time-sharing computer system, in which operators paid for the computing time they used. Funds for the system were originally supplied by proceeds from a school bake sale.

Mr. Allen scored a perfect 1,600 on his SAT test, and went on to Washington State University. But after two years he dropped out to work as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston. Mr. Gates was nearby, attending Harvard University.

When an early microcomputer was introduced, appearing on the cover of Popular Electronics magazine, Mr. Allen persuaded Mr. Gates to drop out of Harvard and move to Albuquerque, where a start-up called MITS had built a machine that has been credited as the first personal computer. The machine lacked software, and Mr. Allen and Mr. Gates, showing up at the MITS offices, promised that they could supply it.

Their first offering was Microsoft Basic. Both Mr. Gates and Mr. Allen were skilled code creators, but Mr. Gates was more the hard-charging, volatile businessman, while Mr. Allen played the peacemaker and negotiator in those early days.

Within a few years, Microsoft moved from New Mexico to suburban Seattle. Though Mr. Allen stepped away from daily duties at Microsoft in the early 1980s, partly because of a deteriorating relationship with Mr. Gates, he remained on the Microsoft board until 2000.

Image

The cover of Mr. Allen’s memoir, published in 2011.

Mr. Allen left Microsoft after he learned he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But tensions had also flared with both Mr. Gates and Steven A. Ballmer, a close lieutenant who eventually succeeded Mr. Gates as chief executive. In his 2011 memoir, “Idea Man,” Mr. Allen recalled overhearing the two talk about reducing his stake in the company.

But Mr. Allen held his ground and his shares.

Mr. Gates said in a statement on Monday: “From our early days together at Lakeside School, through our partnership in the creation of Microsoft, to some of our joint philanthropic projects over the years, Paul was a true partner and dear friend. Personal computing would not have existed without him.”

As Microsoft became the dominant personal computer software company, Mr. Allen, as well as Mr. Gates, who was the face of the company, became immensely wealthy. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, he had a net worth of $26.1 billion.

He was also an investor and a generous philanthropist.

Mr. Allen donated more than $2 billion toward nonprofit groups dedicated to the advancement of science, technology, education, the environment and the arts. Among the scientific research organizations he funded were the Allen Institute for Brain Science in 2003 and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in 2014.

And while some of his philanthropy was global, like a passion for ending elephant poaching, much of his post-Microsoft work centered on Seattle, where he became a transformative force behind many of the city’s leading cultural institutions.

He restored the old Cinerama movie theater to modern standards seemingly ideal for watching science-fiction films, and he hired Frank Gehry to design the Museum of Pop Culture, which Mr. Allen founded in 2000 under the original name of the Experience Music Project. The wild, undulating building displayed items revealing Mr. Allen’s cultural obsessions, including guitars owned by Jimi Hendrix and Captain Kirk’s command chair from the 1960s television series “Star Trek.”

Image

Mr. Allen held the Vince Lombardi trophy after the Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos in the 2014 Super Bowl, held at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The Seahawks had considered moving out of Seattle before Mr. Allen bought the team.CreditRay Stubblebine/Reuters

In the 1990s, Mr. Allen bought a swatch of land in the South Lake Union neighborhood to help build a Seattle version of Central Park, but the public ultimately voted down the plans. He took those real estate holdings and, through his company, Vulcan, developed South Lake Union into the home of Amazon. Google and other tech companies have been opening offices in that now revitalized neighborhood.

 

“He has a definitive role of what we understand as today’s Seattle, which is about technology, about real estate and about a distinctive local culture with international visibility,” said Margaret O’Mara, a history professor at the University of Washington.

Mr. Allen also used his wealth to acquire the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association in 1988 and the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League in 1996.

Of all his investments, the ownership of professional sports teams was among the most incongruous. Sports owners, like it or not, are often in the spotlight, and Mr. Allen, by and large, had preferred to steer clear of media attention.

Yet in 1988, at 35, he bought the Trail Blazers and promised to keep the franchise in the city, one of the smallest in the league. He often flew to games from Seattle and sat courtside with his mother. Soon after he bought the team, the Trail Blazers had one of their best runs in franchise history, making it to the N.B.A. finals twice in three years, losing both times.

In a statement, Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, called Mr. Allen “the ultimate trail blazer — in business, philanthropy and in sports.” Mr. Silver said Mr. Allen, one of the longest-tenured owners in the league, was particularly interested in the league’s growth internationally and its embrace of new technologies.

In the mid-1990s, the owner of Mr. Allen’s hometown Seahawks, Ken Behring, was considering moving the team to Los Angeles because he was unable to get public funding for a new stadium in Seattle. Mr. Allen was urged to step in to keep the team in Seattle. In 1996, he bought an exclusive option to purchase the team from Mr. Behring by July 1997, an option he ultimately exercised, buying the team for $194 million.

 

Image

Mr. Allen at his home overlooking Central Park in New York in 2015.CreditJoshua Bright for The New York Times

Mr. Allen set about building the team a new home downtown. The team moved into CenturyLink Field in 2002, and Mr. Allen spent hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the stadium. Though he spoke infrequently to the media, he could often be seen at games, sometimes raising the “12” flag — representing the fans — before kickoff, a team ritual.

During his tenure the Seahawks made their only three Super Bowl appearances, winning the title once, in 2014.

“I personally valued Paul’s advice on subjects ranging from collective bargaining to bringing technology to our game,” Roger Goodell, the N.F.L. Commissioner, said in a statement.

One of Allen’s companies also owned a stake in the Seattle Sounders, one of the most successful franchises in Major League Soccer. The Sounders won the league title in 2016.

It is unclear what will happen to Mr. Allen’s teams; the details of his estate are not public. The Seahawks alone are worth an estimated $2.58 billion. Few N.F.L. and N.B.A. clubs change hands, so any sale is likely to attract substantial bids.

Paul Gardner Allen was born in Seattle on Jan. 21, 1953, to Kenneth and Edna (Faye) Allen. His father was a librarian; his mother a schoolteacher. He is survived by his sister, Jody Allen.

 

Three years ago, when commemorating Microsoft’s 40th anniversary, Mr. Allen posted on Twitter a bit of the code for the company’s first software product. At the top, it said, “Copyright 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen.”

“It’s weird to look at bits of code you wrote 40 years ago and think, ‘That led to where Microsoft is today,’ ” Mr. Allen said at the time. He sounded genuinely amazed.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misstated the cities in which Paul Allen owned professional sports teams. He owned an N.F.L. team in Seattle and an N.B.A. team in Portland, Ore. The teams were not both in Seattle.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misspelled the middle name of Paul Allen. It is Gardner, not Gardener.

Ken Belson and Karen Weise contributed reporting from Seattle.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Paul G. Allen, a Founder of Microsoft and a New Computer Era, Dies at 65. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Among the Ruins of Mexico Beach Stands One House, Built ‘for the Big One’

Image
The elevated house that the owners call the Sand Palace, on 36th Street in Mexico Beach, Fla., came through Hurricane Michael almost unscathed.CreditCreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — As they built their dream house last year on the shimmering sands of the Gulf of Mexico, Russell King and his nephew, Dr. Lebron Lackey, painstakingly documented every detail of the elevated construction, from the 40-foot pilings buried into the ground to the types of screws drilled into the walls. They picked gleaming paints from a palette of shore colors, chose salt-tolerant species to plant in the beach dunes and christened their creation the Sand Palace of Mexico Beach.

They also installed an outdoor security camera. Its video footage became the only view of their property as Hurricane Michael thundered ashore last week, the most intense storm recorded in the history of the Florida Panhandle.

The camera showed a horrifying tunnel of gray fury worsening by the hour as Dr. Lackey, a 54-year-old radiologist, stared helplessly from more than 400 miles away at the corner of his roof.

“It would buck like an airplane wing,” he said from his residence in Cleveland, Tenn. “I kept expecting to see it tear off.”

 

But it didn’t. When The New York Times published an analysis of aerial images showing a mile-long stretch of Mexico Beach where at least three-quarters of the buildings were damaged, Dr. Lackey saw his sand palace still standing, majestic amid the apocalyptic wreckage, the last surviving beachfront house on his block.

Image
The house, built of reinforced concrete, is elevated on tall pilings to allow a storm surge to pass underneath with little damage. Dell Medford, left, helped Russell King, one of the owners, clear away debris and inspect the house.CreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times

“We wanted to build it for the big one,” he said. “We just never knew we’d find the big one so fast.”

[“The power grid is destroyed” in some places. Read more here about how thousands of people may not get their electricity back for weeks.]

The story of how the sand palace made it through Michael while most of its neighbors collapsed is one about building in hurricane-prone Florida, and how construction regulations failed to imagine the Category 4 monster’s catastrophic destruction.

 

Florida’s building code, put into effect in 2002, is famously stringentwhen it comes to windstorm resistance for homes built along the hurricane-prone Atlantic shoreline. But it is less so for structures along the Panhandle, a region historically unaffected by storms as strong as the ones that have slammed into South Florida.

After Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 beast, ravaged Miami-Dade County in 1992, new construction in the southern portion of the state was required to withstand 175-mile-an-hour winds. In the coastal Panhandle counties affected by Michael, the requirement is lower, for 120 to 150 miles an hour, and the rules for certain kinds of reinforcement have applied to houses built more than a mile from shore only since 2007. Many of the residences and businesses rubbed out by Michael in Mexico Beach were far older; rebuilding them to conform to the new code will be expensive, and could price out some of the working-class people who historically have flocked to Mexico Beach.

[Hurricane Michael also hit communities in the Carolinas that were still reeling from Hurricane Florence.]

1:13Hurricane Michael’s Destruction, Viewed From Above
This footage taken from a helicopter shows how Hurricane Michael’s powerful winds wiped out many parts of Mexico Beach, Fla.Published OnCreditCreditImage by Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

Mr. King wouldn’t say how much he and Dr. Lackey spent to fortify the beachside home, which public records show has been assessed for tax purposes at a value of $400,000. Their architect, Charles A. Gaskin, said that building a house the way they did roughly doubles the cost per square foot, compared with ordinary building practices.

Other experts had different views of the expense required. An estimate published in Forbes in 2012 said implementing an array of storm-resistance measures, including some of those advised by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, would add more than $30,000 to the cost of a typical house.

“Every time something like this happens, you have to say to yourself, ‘Is there something we can do better?’” Gov. Rick Scott told reporters, as public officials were called upon once again to examine the state’s building standards.

ADVERTISEMENT

“When I saw this hurricane’s wind speeds, I knew: You could only hope there would not be too many fatalities,” said Charlie Danger, a retired Miami-Dade building chief who crusaded for stricter windstorm codes. “It pays to rebuild structures that withstand something like that. You minimize the loss of life — and the loss of infrastructure. If you lose the infrastructure, you lose everything.”

Dr. Lackey said he and Mr. King, who jointly own the Mexico Beach house, did not even refer to the minimum wind resistance required in Bay County. They built the sand palace to withstand 250 mile-an-hour winds.

The house was fashioned from poured concrete, reinforced by steel cables and rebar, with additional concrete bolstering the corners of the house. The space under the roof was minimized so that wind could not sneak in underneath and lift it off. The home’s elevation, on high pilings, was meant to keep it above the surge of seawater that usually accompanies powerful hurricanes.

Hurricane Michael: One Mile of Devastation in Florida

We analyzed aerial images of Mexico Beach, Fla., and found that at least three-quarters of the buildings along a one-mile stretch were destroyed or severely damaged.

“We’re thinking that we need to build a house that would survive for generations,” Dr. Lackey said.

“I believe the planet’s getting warmer and the storms are getting stronger,” said Mr. King, 68, an attorney. “We didn’t used to have storms like this. So people who live on the coast have to be ready for it.”

Though the family had the relief of knowing their house, which they rent out when they are not using it themselves for vacations, had remained standing, Mr. King needed to see for himself what damage the hurricane had done. He left Tennessee at 4 a.m. Saturday and drove his dark blue Ford F-150 pickup south for more than seven hours — far longer than the trip would ordinarily take, because of closed roads and recovery-crew gridlock — to reach his property at the end of 36th Street.

The siding that had wrapped around a stairway providing access to the elevated house was gone, and so were the stairs. But that was by design: The family’s architect used breakaway walls that would tear free without ripping off any more of the structure. Now there was just a gaping hole and part of a handrail, leaving the five-bedroom, five-bathroom house accessible only by ladder.

 

Up climbed Mr. King, awed by the fact that the structure had otherwise suffered only a little water damage and one cracked shower window. Even their in-home elevator appeared untouched.

“We can clean this up in a month,” he said. “But other folks, I don’t know. Look at what these people suffered.”

The duplexes next door were wiped out. Three homes across the street were leveled down to concrete slabs. A fourth house, standing but with much of the roof and some walls caved in, was being searched by a rescue team; two renters were unaccounted for, according to Mr. King. That house, too, he said, had been built with hurricanes in mind.

Image

The house was designed to withstand much stronger winds than state building codes require in the Florida Panhandle.CreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times

“It was supposed to be a fortress like this,” Mr. King said, staring in disbelief.

He said he previously owned a house on 42nd Street that still had watermarks in it from Hurricane Opal, the 1995 storm that until a few days ago had been a local benchmark for powerful cyclones. From his deck, Mr. King pointed: “It was down there, and it’s gone.”

“That’s the famous Mexico Beach pier,” he added, nodding toward a few decapitated wood pilings sticking out of the water.

Up 36th Street, north of U.S. Highway 98, the main drag, more small houses had survived the wind but were gutted by the water, even though they were several blocks inland from the beach. John Hamilton spent a weekend afternoon shoveling dark muck out of the house belonging to his sister-in-law, Sandra Richards, and her husband, Jeff Richards, who live in Eufaula, Ala., but have vacationed in Mexico Beach for decades.

 

Paper towels in the highest kitchen cabinets were soaked. Fans on the ceiling, more than eight feet up, were caked in mud.

“I can’t believe I’m not just crying my eyes out,” Ms. Richards said as her sister, Laura Hamilton, used a broken piece of door as a dustpan. “It’s incomprehensible.”

Mr. Richards noted that the couple built the house with hurricane-resistant windows in 2004, after the new statewide code went into effect. “Look at the windows: They’re all here,” he said. “If the doors had held, we probably would have been all right.”

In Areas Hit by Hurricane Michael, Lines for Necessities Grow Longer

People waiting in the many lines scattered throughout the region at grocery stores and gas stations are seeking water, ice, fuel and other essentials.

“All those Mexico Beach houses that were built in the 1970s, they’re gone,” Ms. Richards said.

Dr. Lackey said much of the small town’s charm came from its older houses and relative lack of overdevelopment, compared with bigger tourist destinations further west along the coast. Over the Fourth of July holiday, which Mexico Beach celebrated with fireworks at the pier, Dr. Lackey’s 5-year-old son, Keaton, learned how to snorkel off the beach in front of the house.

“There was a Subway — that was the one franchise eatery in town,” he said. “There was no traffic lights. It was nicknamed ‘Mayberry by the Sea.’”

Mr. King said he assumed Michael would spare the town, as other hurricanes had done.

“I said, ‘It’ll veer off. They always do. They go to Cancun or someplace,’” he said.

 

As the storm took aim, though, their most recent renters brought the patio furniture indoors and oversaw a specialist hired by Dr. Lackey and Mr. King to seal the doors the day before landfall — the sort of measure Dr. Lackey readily acknowledges may be unaffordable for most people during an emergency. The renters ate at a beloved local seafood restaurant, Toucan’s, and then evacuated from town.

“They were probably the last people to eat there,” Dr. Lackey said of Toucan’s, which did not survive.

A few days after the storm, the inside of the sand palace, immaculately decorated, remained surprisingly cool, a feature of its concrete walls. Mr. King said he hoped recovery crews from the Federal Emergency Management Agency could benefit from using their standing structure.

“If FEMA wants the house, they can have it for a few weeks,” he said. “I’m not going to complain about nothing.”

How the F.B.I. Will Investigate the Kavanaugh Accusations

Image
F.B.I. agents were ordered to examine allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.CreditCreditLexey Swall for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The renewed F.B.I. background check of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh over allegations of sexual assault will be relatively limited, relying on voluntary interviews and document production.

Former prosecutors said that because it is not a criminal investigation, F.B.I. agents will not be able to get search warrants or grand jury subpoenas compelling witnesses to testify or hand over documents. Witnesses and others can refuse to cooperate, though talking to an F.B.I. agent is often a powerful motivator to tell the truth.

At a Senate hearing on Thursday, Judge Kavanaugh forcefully denied accusations of sexual misconduct. One of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, told senators that he drunkenly pinned her on a bed during a party on a summer night in 1982, tried to take off her bathing suit and covered her mouth to keep her from screaming.

Republicans have said for days that an additional F.B.I. background check was unnecessary but reversed course on Friday after Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said he would not vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh without one. With a closely divided Senate, Republicans had little choice, and President Trump ordered the background check.

This is familiar territory for the F.B.I. As part of a routine background check, agents examined domestic abuse allegations against Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary, and provided the information to the White House. Mr. Porter, who has denied the accusations, was forced to resign this year.

Here is what you need to know:

In Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Kavanaugh pointed to “six separate F.B.I. background investigations over 26 years.” For background checks of federal judicial nominees, agents typically focus on their professional lives. According to former F.B.I. officials, agents must interview a minimum of 30 people with whom nominees worked, including judges, lawyers and law enforcement officials. Agents would also talk to anyone else whom those people suggested they interview.

The F.B.I. can follow several leads. They can interview Mark Judge, Leland Keyser and P.J. Smyth, high school friends of either Dr. Blasey or Judge Kavanaugh. Dr. Blasey has said they were at the party. Mr. Judge said on Friday that he would be willing to talk to law enforcement officials.

After Kavanaugh’s Testimony, Three Inconsistencies the F.B.I. Investigation Could Address

The Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, the man she alleges assaulted her while they were in high school, revealed several details in their stories that do not match up.

Agents could also investigate several details that could corroborate Dr. Blasey’s story. Weeks after she was assaulted, Dr. Blasey said, she saw Mr. Judge at a local Safeway grocery store. In his book, “Wasted,” Mr. Judge wrote that he worked as a bag boy in a local supermarket. The F.B.I. could ask either Safeway or Mr. Judge for employment records to determine whether he worked there during that period.

If they find any records, they could bolster Dr. Blasey’s credibility and potentially narrow the window of time in which the assault could have happened.

Agents could also study Judge Kavanaugh’s calendars from the summer of 1982 for possible dates and locations for a party like the one Dr. Blasey described and ask Columbia Country Club — where Dr. Blasey said she swam earlier that day — for visitor logs or other records dating to that summer.

And they could check municipal housing records from 1982 for homes of high school friends of Dr. Blasey or Judge Kavanaugh with floor plans that might match descriptions Dr. Blasey has given: a narrow staircase, a bedroom at the top of the stairs with a bathroom directly across from it, and a front door that would have required her to exit by passing through the living room.

In addition to investigating Dr. Blasey’s claims, the bureau is looking into accusations against Judge Kavanaugh by at least one other woman, according to a person familiar with the background check.

That woman, Deborah Ramirez, has said that Judge Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a night of drinking when they were both freshmen at Yale. Agents could interview Judge Kavanaugh’s college friends, roommates and fraternity brothers about his drinking habits at Yale, asking questions about parties in Lawrance Hall, where he lived that year and where Ms. Ramirez said the episode occurred.

Agents could also request student records from Yale that might contain disciplinary violations and any medical records from hospitals in and around New Haven that might reveal nights of heavy drinking. Though no one has publicly accused Judge Kavanaugh of any acts that prompted disciplinary measures at Yale or spoken of hospitalizations, universities and hospitals are typical sources of information in background checks.

 

A third woman, Julie Swetnick, has said that Judge Kavanaugh attended multiple parties in high school where he plied women with alcohol to try to take advantage of them. F.B.I. agents could interview a broader circle of alumni from Judge Kavanaugh’s and Ms. Swetnick’s high schools in suburban Washington to determine whether such parties took place.

It is not clear how far the F.B.I. will go in pursuing questions related to the accusations like the extent of Judge Kavanaugh’s drinking in high school and college.

That will be difficult. The allegations are decades old, and the key witness to Dr. Blasey’s account, Mr. Judge, has also denied it. Memories have faded, and documents or other information might not exist anymore. And not everyone tells the F.B.I. the truth.

But Robert Cromwell, a former agent who oversaw these types of investigations, which are known at the bureau as special presidential inquiries, said he would expect the F.B.I. to follow every lead. “They will report what the results are — whether they are exculpatory or not,” he said. “The results will stand on their own.”

The F.B.I. interview summaries, called 302s after the number of the form that agents fill out, are likely to be dry and factual. Some agents could note any changes in witness behavior if they find them meaningful. Any material contradictions would be noted in the summary of an interview. That information would ultimately be provided to the White House.

It’s not impossible. The F.B.I. has plenty of experience mounting large investigations and getting results quickly. In the days and weeks after terrorism attacks or mass shootings, the F.B.I. has completed hundreds of interviews and processed mountains of evidence, like video footage or the contents of computers and phones.

In this case, the F.B.I. is likely to make the investigation a top priority, instructing agents across the country to conduct interviews. “The F.B.I. investigation can easily be done in a week,” said Lauren C. Anderson, a former top F.B.I. official.

ADVERTISEMENT

Once again, the F.B.I. has been thrust into a politically fraught moment.

The bureau has been the target of Mr. Trump’s fury since before he became president, claiming without evidence that a cabal of F.B.I. officials was against him. He has called the investigation into whether any of his associates conspired with Russian’s election interference a witch hunt and a hoax, prompting concern among agents that he has damaged the F.B.I.’s credibility.

Now, some Republicans have dismissed the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh as nothing more than a political smear to derail his nomination. And Democrats are demanding a credible investigation before his nomination comes to a vote.

Republicans and Democrats alike are all but certain to seize on the F.B.I.’s findings to bolster their cases, and some current and former agents fear that politics will drown out any truth uncovered by the investigation. Nonetheless, James A. Gagliano, a former agent, said on Twitter, the background check is the “right path forward.”

Follow Adam Goldman on Twitter: @adamgoldmanNYT.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: No Warrants or Subpoenas, but Plenty of Leads for Agents to

reddie Oversteegen, Dutch resistance fighter who killed Nazis through seduction, dies at 92


As a teenager during World War II, Freddie Oversteegen was one of only a few Dutch women to take up arms against the country’s Nazi occupiers. (Courtesy of National Hannie Schaft Foundation)

September 16 at 9:07 PM

She was 14 when she joined the Dutch resistance, though with her long, dark hair in braids she looked at least two years younger.

When she rode her bicycle down the streets of Haarlem in North Holland, firearms hidden in a basket, Nazi officials rarely stopped to question her. When she walked through the woods, serving as a lookout or seductively leading her SS target to a secluded place, there was little indication that she carried a handgun and was preparing an execution.

The Dutch resistance was widely believed to be a man’s effort in a man’s war. If women were involved, the thinking went, they were likely doing little more than handing out anti-German pamphlets or newspapers.

Yet Freddie Oversteegen and her sister Truus, two years her senior, were rare exceptions — a pair of teenage women who took up arms against Nazi occupiers and Dutch “traitors” on the outskirts of Amsterdam. With Hannie Schaft, a onetime law student with fiery red hair, they sabotaged bridges and rail lines with dynamite, shot Nazis while riding their bikes, and donned disguises to smuggle Jewish children across the country and sometimes out of concentration camps.

In perhaps their most daring act, they seduced their targets in taverns or bars, asked if they wanted to “go for a stroll” in the forest — and “liquidated” them, as Ms. Oversteegen put it, with a pull of the trigger.

“We had to do it,” she told one interviewer. “It was a necessary evil, killing those who betrayed the good people.” When asked how many people she had killed or helped kill, she demurred: “One should not ask a soldier any of that.”


A recent image of Ms. Oversteegen. (Courtesy of National Hannie Schaft Foundation)

Freddie Oversteegen, the last remaining member of the Netherlands’ most famous female resistance cell, died Sept. 5, one day before her 93rd birthday. She was living in a nursing home in Driehuis, five miles from Haarlem, and had suffered several heart attacks in recent years, said Jeroen Pliester, chairman of the National Hannie Schaft Foundation.

The organization was founded by Ms. Oversteegen’s sister in 1996 to promote the legacy of Schaft, who was captured and executed by the Nazis weeks before the end of World War II. “Schaft became the national icon of female resistance,” Pliester said, a martyr whose story was taught to schoolchildren across the Netherlands and memorialized in a 1981 movie, “The Girl With the Red Hair,” which took its title from her nickname.

Ms. Oversteegen served as a board member in her sister’s organization. But she “decided to be a little bit out of the limelight,” Pliester said, and was sometimes overshadowed by Schaft and Truus, the group’s leader.

“I have always been a little jealous of her because she got so much attention after the war,” Ms. Oversteegen told Vice Netherlands in 2016, referring to her sister. “But then I’d just think, ‘I was in the resistance as well.’ ”

It was, she said, a source of pride and of pain — a five-year experience that she never regretted, but that came to haunt her in peacetime. Late at night, unable to fall asleep, she sometimes recalled the words of an old battle song that served as an anthem for her and her sister: “We have carried the best to their graves/ torn and fired at, beaten till the blood ran/ surrounded by the executioners on the scaffold and jail/ but the raging of the enemy doesn’t frighten us.”

Freddie Nanda Oversteegen was born in the village of Schoten, now part of Haarlem, on Sept. 6, 1925. Her parents divorced when she was a child, and Freddie and Truus were raised primarily by their mother, a communist who instilled a sense of social responsibility in the young girls; she eventually remarried and had a son.

In interviews with anthropologist Ellis Jonker, collected in the 2014 book “Under Fire: Women and World War II,” Freddie Oversteegen recalled that their mother encouraged them to make dolls for children suffering in the Spanish Civil War, and beginning in the early 1930s volunteered with International Red Aid, a kind of communist Red Cross for political prisoners around the world.

Although living in poverty, sleeping on makeshift mattresses stuffed with straw, the family harbored refugees from Germany and Amsterdam, including a Jewish couple and a mother and son who lived in their attic. After German forces invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, the couples were moved to another location; Jewish community leaders feared a potential raid, because of the family’s well-known political leanings.

“They were all deported and murdered,” Ms. Oversteegen told Jonker. “We never heard from them again. It still moves me dreadfully, whenever I talk about it.”

Ms. Oversteegen and her sister began their resistance careers by distributing pamphlets (“The Netherlands have to be free!”) and hanging anti-Nazi posters (“For every Dutch man working in Germany, a German man will go to the front!”). Their efforts apparently attracted the attention of Frans van der Wiel, commander of the underground Haarlem Council of Resistance, who invited them to join his team — with their mother’s permission.

“Only later did he tell us what we’d actually have to do: sabotage bridges and railway lines,” Truus Oversteegen said, according to Jonker. “We told him we’d like to do that. ‘And learn to shoot, to shoot Nazis,’ he added. I remember my sister saying, ‘Well, that’s something I’ve never done before!’ ”

By Truus’s account, it was Freddie Oversteegen who became the first to shoot and kill someone. “It was tragic and very difficult and we cried about it afterwards,” Truus said. “We did not feel it suited us — it never suits anybody, unless they are real criminals. . . . One loses everything. It poisons the beautiful things in life.”

The Oversteegen sisters were officially part of a seven-person resistance cell, which grew to include an eighth member, Schaft, after she joined in 1943. But the three girls worked primarily as a stand-alone unit, Pliester said, acting on instructions from the Council of Resistance.

After the war ended in 1945, Truus worked as an artist, making paintings and sculptures inspired by her years with the resistance, and wrote a popular memoir, “Not Then, Not Now, Not Ever.” She died in 2016, two years after Prime Minister Mark Rutte awarded the sisters the Mobilization War Cross, a military honor for service in World War II.

For her part, Freddie Oversteegen told Vice that she coped with the traumas of the war “by getting married and having babies.” She married Jan Dekker, taking the name Freddie Dekker-Oversteegen, and raised three children. They survive her, as do her half brother and four grandchildren. Her husband, who worked at the steel company Hoogovens, is deceased.

In interviews, Ms. Oversteegen often spoke of the physics of killing — not the feel of the trigger or kick of the gun, but the inevitable collapse that followed, her victims’ fall to the ground.

“Yes,” she told one interviewer, according to the Dutch newspaper IJmuider Courant , “I’ve shot a gun myself and I’ve seen them fall. And what is inside us at such a moment? You want to help them get up.”

R

How to weather the market storm Gangnam Style

South Korea offers lessons to Indonesia and other economies battered by financial turmoil

Like Psy leading the stage, the South Korean economy sets an example for other economies.   © WireImage/Getty Images

South Korea is having an unlikely churn in the Washington rumor mill, thanks to Bob Woodward’s book on Donald Trump’s dumpster fire of a presidency.

One of many disturbing accounts in the aptly named “Fear” has the U.S. leader looking to punish Korea’s economy. In January 2018, Trump reportedly railed against the money he thought Korea siphons from America. Trump’s solution: Tear up a U.S.-Korea free-trade deal. Though aides managed to prevent that, Trump remains raring to punish a Seoul he views as vulnerable.

Odd, considering that investors do not. South Korea is in harm’s way as Trump assaults the global trading system. Its export-led economy, one dominated by electronics companies, carmakers and shipbuilders reliant on overseas demand, is bracing for a rocky 12 months ahead.

What, then, accounts for the relative calm in Korean markets? Investors are wisely sorting the economic wheat from the chaff.

“With a current account-surplus of 5% of GDP and forex reserves of $400 billion, exhibit-A [of global financial strength] is South Korea,” says Udith Sikand of Gavekal Research. “Indeed, Korean equities have begun to disengage from the emerging market rump, being flat in U.S. dollar terms in the last two months.”

Flat is good these days, considering market volatility from Jakarta to Mumbai. South Korea is certainly in danger of becoming collateral damage as Trump trips up China and other Asian exporters. But so are Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and others. That goes doubly for Indonesia, the Philippines and India, all of which are grappling with plunging currencies. There is even chatter about another emerging-market crisis.

Not South Korea, though. It helps that growing wealth is lifting Korea out of emerging market ranks — while it still belongs to the MSCI emerging markets index, the most widely followed, it has exited others, such as the FTSE’s. But still it could have been caught in the same whirlwind. What then are officials in Seoul doing right that peers in Jakarta, Manila, New Delhi and elsewhere should be emulating?

Policy flexibility, for one thing. Between Bank of Korea liquidity bursts, fiscal recalibration and macroprudential experimentation, Seoul has a knack for confounding the naysayers. In 1998, for example, Korea was the first economy to recover from the Asian financial crisis that began in Bangkok in July 1997.

A decade later, amid the “Lehman shock,” Korea outmaneuvered the shortsellers. In October 2008, traders buzzed about balance-of-payments shortfalls in Seoul, fretting Korea might be the national equivalent of Bear Stearns. To no avail. Korea nimbly steered around the worst of the crisis.

Korea also had a good “taper tantrum” in 2013. Fears of aggressive Federal Reserve rate hikes sent tidal waves of capital rolling away from Indonesia, Thailand and other economies at the center of the 1997 turmoil. Korea’s government debt, meantime, became a safe haven.

Another lesson: Mind the national balance sheet. It helps, of course, that economic growth is around 3%. Equally important is that President Moon Jae-in has fiscal latitude. In fact, he was partly elected in May 2017 on a pledge to expand long-term public spending by about 7%. He could always up that figure should global headwinds intensify.

Seoul’s projected 1.8% budget deficit, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is a nice thing to have in a world in which China, Japan, Europe and the U.S. are drowning in debt.

“South Korea has spare capacity as shown by its negative output gap and so should be able to accommodate a fiscal expansion with only mild inflationary pressure building up,” Sikand says. “Putting it together, Korea’s strong macro balance sheet and fiscal policy flexibility.”

Finally, expect the unexpected. Trump’s assault on global trade has Seoul drawing up contingency plans — fiscal, monetary and regulatory. In late August, Moon announced a $420 billion stimulus effort, just in case.

Yet the Trump shock, in many ways, exposes how two crises of the past never really ended: Asia’s in 1997 and Wall Street’s in 2008.

Indonesia’s rupiah is down the most since that period, while the Philippine peso is down 8% versus the U.S. dollar. Asia has come a long way over the last two decades. Financial systems are stronger, governments more transparent. Currencies are more flexible. Foreign-exchange reserves have been amassed to offer insurance during times of trouble.

Two decades on, though, economies from Japan to Singapore are still too reliant on exports. Nations from Indonesia to India to the Philippines are still vulnerable to capital flight thanks to current account deficits. Leaders throughout the region still rely too much on stimulus, too little on structural retooling to address inequality.

The 2008 “Lehman shock,” meantime, remains a live issue in world markets for similar reasons. Central banks slashed rates to zero and governments cut taxes and ramped up public spending. But steps to increase innovation, competitiveness and productivity were few and far between. Trump’s trade war is rapidly bringing many of the vulnerabilities that savaged markets a decade ago back to the fore.

These tensions are bubbling up in Korea too, of course. Since May 2017, Moon’s government made little headway on altering the structure of Korea’s economy. He was elected to wean Korea off an excessive reliance on exports and a handful of conglomerates towering over Asia’s fourth-biggest economy. Instead, he spent the bulk of his time on peace talks with North Korea.

Moon made a down payment on his “income-led growth” model with a 10.9% minimum wage hike effective next year. But the absence of the deregulatory big bang for which investors hoped explains why the Kospi index has walked in place over the last 12 months, essentially unchanged.

At a moment when Asia’s other emerging economies are struggling, Korea is largely holding its own. A sign that, for all Seoul’s challenges, it is doing something right.

There is a risk Seoul’s collision course with Trump’s Washington could slam exports and drive growth sharply lower. As Woodward’s book points out, Trump has a particular obsession with allies that enjoy trade surpluses with America, fearing his base is getting ripped off.

“But we’re losing so much money in trade with South Korea and others,” Trump once complained to U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in Woodward’s telling. Mattis, reportedly, retorted that it is cheaper for Washington than losing an ally in avoiding World War III with the North.

For now, though, at least South Korea is not doing battle with speculators pouncing elsewhere in Asia. And there are lessons in that.

William Pesek is an award-winning Tokyo-based journalist and author of “Japanization: What the World Can Learn from Japan’s Lost Decades.” He was given the 2018 prize for excellence in opinion writing by the Society of Publishers in Asia, for his work for the Nikkei Asian Review.

%d bloggers like this: