• Meet the Man Who Invented Dinosaurs & Nearly Had His Own Museum in Central Park – Dusty Old Thing

    Sir Richard Owen at one point taught natural history to Queen Victoria’s children, he was respected in his field, though he did argue with a number of his fellow scientists, including Charles Darwin. Owen formed the theory of what dinosaurs were after reading the work of other esteemed scientists like, Gideon Mantell. Owen named this new genre of animal dinosauria, meaning “terrible lizards” in Greek. He first published his findings in a paper in 1842 that set the scientific community on its head. The sensationalist tone of his classifications would soon be followed by even more sensational public displays.

    Owen sought to give life to the fossils that had been found and enlisted the help of scientific artists to help the world visualize what they might have looked like. Overnight the Victorians went from a young world to one in which monsters had roamed the earth sometime long before humanity had recorded history. Owen did not believe in evolution though he was incredibly dedicated to natural history.

  • Comment les services de renseignement israéliens collaborent à la lutte contre #BDS à travers le monde

    Mossad involved in anti-boycott activity, Israeli minister’s datebooks reveal - Israel News -

    The datebooks of Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan for 2018 reveal that he cooperated with the Mossad in the fight against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

    The diaries, which were released in response to a Freedom of Information request, show that Erdan met with Mossad head Yossi Cohen about “the struggle against the boycott.” The request was made by the Hatzlaha movement, an organization promoting a fair society and economy, to all ministers, deputy ministers and ministry directors-general.

    Officials in the Strategic Affairs Ministry are proud of their work with the state’s security agencies, but hide the content and full scope of these activities on grounds that if these would be revealed, it would undermine the covert efforts being made against BDS and its leaders. Officials in Erdan’s office said that the meeting with Cohen was merely a “review,” but sources familiar with the ministry’s activities told Haaretz that the ministry indeed cooperates with the Mossad.

    Erdan’s datebooks also show meetings with the head of the National Security Council and the head of the NSC’s intelligence branch, as well as meetings with representatives of numerous Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith, the American Jewish Congress, the umbrella organization of French Jewry, the U.S. Reform Movement and others. There are also logs of various meetings and phone calls that Erdan’s chief of staff held with foreign leaders and diplomats, as well as meetings with settler leaders, including the heads of the Samaria Regional Council and the Hebron Hills Regional Council.

    Many of Erdan’s meetings in 2018 were devoted to establishing a public benefit corporation which at first was called Kella Shlomo but whose name was later changed to Concert. Its aim was to covertly advance “mass awareness activities” as part of “the struggle against the campaign to delegitimize” Israel globally. This corporation, which received 128 million shekels (about $36 million) in government funding and was to also collect 128 million shekels in private contributions, is not subject to the Freedom of Information Law.

    In early 2018 Haaretz published the list of shareholders and directors in the company, which include former Strategic Affairs Ministry director general Yossi Kuperwasser; former UN ambassador Dore Gold, a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; former UN ambassador Ron Prosor; businessman Micah Avni, whose father, Richard Lakin, was killed in a 2015 terror attack in Jerusalem; Amos Yadlin, who heads Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies; Miri Eisin, who served as the prime minister’s adviser on the foreign press during the Second Lebanon War; former National Security Council chief Yaakov Amidror; and Sagi Balasha, a former CEO of the Israeli-American Council.
    Demonstrators wear shirts reading “Boycott Israel” during a protest in Paris, Dec. 9, 2017.
    Demonstrators wear shirts reading “Boycott Israel” during a protest in Paris, Dec. 9, 2017. AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu

    According to a government resolution, the funding was granted to implement part of the ministry’s activities related to the fights against delegitimization and boycotts against the State of Israel. It says the company would raise the private portion of its financing for the initiative from philanthropic sources or pro-Israel organizations. A steering committee was to be appointed for the initiative to comprise representatives of the government and the other funding partners.
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    According to a ministry document revealed by The Seventh Eye website, the organization was expected to carry out mass awareness activities and work to exploit the wisdom of crowds, “making new ideas accessible to decision-makers and donors in the Jewish world, and developing new tools to combat the delegitimization of Israel.”

    Elad Mann, Hatzlacha’s legal adviser, said, “Revealing the date books of senior and elected officials is crucial to understanding how the government system works and it has great value taken together with other details of information. This is how to monitor the government and its priorities or the actions it takes with more efficiency and transparency.”

    Erdan’s office said that he “met during this past term with heads of the security echelons to give them a survey of the ministry’s activities in the struggle against the delegitimization and boycott of Israel.”

    Josh Breiner contributed to this report.

  • The woman fighting back against India’s rape culture

    When a man tried to rape #Usha_Vishwakarma she decided to fight back by setting up self-defence classes for women and girls.

    At first, people accused her of being a sex worker. But now she runs an award-winning organisation and has won the community’s respect.
    #Inde #résistance #femmes #culture_du_viol

    • In China, a Viral Video Sets Off a Challenge to Rape Culture

      The images were meant to exonerate #Richard_Liu, the e-commerce mogul. They have also helped fuel a nascent #NoPerfectVictim movement.

      Richard Liu, the Chinese e-commerce billionaire, walked into an apartment building around 10 p.m., a young woman on his arm and his assistant in tow. Leaving the assistant behind, the young woman took Mr. Liu to an elevator. Then, she showed him into her apartment.

      His entrance was captured by the apartment building’s surveillance cameras and wound up on the Chinese internet. Titled “Proof of a Gold Digger Trap?,” the heavily edited video aimed to show that the young woman was inviting him up for sex — and that he was therefore innocent of her rape allegations against him.

      For many people in China, it worked. Online public opinion quickly dismissed her allegations. In a country where discussion of rape has been muted and the #MeToo movement has been held back by cultural mores and government censorship, that could have been the end of the story.

      But some in China have pushed back. Using hashtags like #NoPerfectVictim, they are questioning widely held ideas about rape culture and consent.

      The video has become part of that debate, which some feminism scholars believe is a first for the country. The government has clamped down on discussion of gender issues like the #MeToo movement because of its distrust of independent social movements. Officials banned the #MeToo hashtag last year. In 2015, they seized gender rights activists known as the Feminist Five. Some online petitions supporting Mr. Liu’s accuser were deleted.

      But on Weibo, the popular Chinese social media service, the #NoPerfectVictim hashtag has drawn more than 17 million page views, with over 22,000 posts and comments. Dozens at least have shared their stories of sexual assault.

      “Nobody should ask an individual to be perfect,” wrote Zhou Xiaoxuan, who has become the face of China’s #MeToo movement after she sued a famous TV anchor on allegations that he sexually assaulted her in 2014 when she was an intern. “But the public is asking this of the victims of sexual assault, who happen to be in the least favorable position to prove their tragedies.” Her lawsuit is pending.

      The allegations against Mr. Liu, the founder and chairman of the online retailer, riveted China. He was arrested last year in Minneapolis after the young woman accused him of raping her after a business dinner. The prosecutors in Minnesota declined to charge Mr. Liu. The woman, Liu Jingyao, a 21-year-old student at the University of Minnesota, sued Mr. Liu and is seeking damages of more than $50,000. (Liu is a common surname in China.)

      Debate about the incident has raged online in China. When the “Gold Digger” video emerged, it shifted sentiment toward Mr. Liu.
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      Mr. Liu’s attorney in Beijing, who shared the video on Weibo under her verified account, said that according to her client the video was authentic.

      “The surveillance video speaks for itself, as does the prosecutor’s decision not to bring charges against our client,” Jill Brisbois, Mr. Liu’s attorney in the United States, said in a statement. “We believe in his innocence, which is firmly supported by all of the evidence, and we will continue to vigorously defend his reputation in court.”

      The video is silent, but subtitles make the point so nobody will miss it. “The woman showed Richard Liu into the elevator,” says one. “The woman pushed the floor button voluntarily,” says another. “Once again,” says a third, “the woman gestured an invitation.”

      Still, the video does not show the most crucial moment, which is what happened between Mr. Liu and Ms. Liu after the apartment door closed.

      “The full video depicts a young woman unable to locate her own apartment and a billionaire instructing her to take his arm to steady her gait,” said Wil Florin, Ms. Liu’s attorney, who accused Mr. Liu’s representatives of releasing the video. “The release of an incomplete video and the forceful silencing of Jingyao’s many social media supporters will not stop a Minnesota civil jury from hearing the truth.” declined to comment on the origin of the video.

      In the eyes of many, it contradicted the narrative in Ms. Liu’s lawsuit of an innocent, helpless victim. In my WeChat groups, men and women alike said the video confirmed their suspicions that Ms. Liu was asking for sex and was only after Mr. Liu’s money. A young woman from a good family would never socialize on a business occasion like that, some men said. A businesswoman asked why Ms. Liu didn’t say no to drinks.

      At first, I saw the video as a setback for China’s #MeToo movement, which was already facing insurmountable obstacles from a deeply misogynistic society, internet censors and a patriarchal government. Already, my “no means no” arguments with acquaintances had been met with groans.
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      The rare people of prominence who spoke in support of Ms. Liu were getting vicious criticism. Zhao Hejuan, chief executive of the technology media company TMTPost, had to disable comments on her Weibo account after she received death threats. She had criticized Mr. Liu, a married man with a young daughter, for not living up to the expectations of a public figure.

      Then I came across a seven-minute video titled “I’m also a victim of sexual assault,” in which four women and a man spoke to the camera about their stories. The video, produced by organizers of the hashtag #HereForUs, tried to clearly define sexual assault to viewers, explaining that it can take place between people who know each other and under complex circumstances.

      The man was molested by an older boy in his childhood. One of the women was raped by a classmate when she was sick in bed. One was assaulted by a powerful man at work but did not dare speak out because she thought nobody would believe her. One was raped after consuming too much alcohol on a date.

      “Slut-shaming doesn’t come from others,” she said in the video. “I’ll be the first one to slut-shame myself.”

      One woman with a red cross tattooed on her throat said an older boy in her neighborhood had assaulted her when she was 10. When she ran home, her parents scolded her for being late after school.

      “My childhood ended then and there,” she said in the video. “I haven’t died because I toughed it out all these years.”

      The video has been viewed nearly 700,000 times on Weibo. But creators of the video still have a hard time speaking out further, reflecting the obstacles faced by feminists in China.

      It was produced by a group of people who started the #HereForUs hashtag in China as a way to support victims of sexual harassment and assault. They were excited when I reached out to interview them. One of them postponed her visit to her parents for the interview.

      Then the day before our meeting, they messaged me that they no longer wanted to be interviewed. They worried that their appearance in The New York Times could anger the Chinese government and get their hashtag censored. I got a similar response from the organizer of the #NoPerfectVictim hashtag. Another woman begged me not to connect her name to the Chinese government for fear of losing her job.

      Their reluctance is understandable. They believe their hashtags have brought women together and given them the courage to share their stories. Some victims say that simply telling someone about their experiences is therapeutic, making the hashtags too valuable to be lost, the organizers said.

      “The world is full of things that hurt women,” said Liang Xiaowen, a 27-year-old lawyer now living in New York City. She wrote online that she had been molested by a family acquaintance when she was 11 and had lived with shame and guilt ever since. “I want to expand the boundaries of safe space by sharing my story.”

      A decentralized, behind-the-scenes approach is essential if the #MeToo movement is to grow in China, said Lü Pin, founding editor of Feminist Voices, an advocacy platform for women’s rights in China.

      “It’s amazing that they created such a phenomenon under such difficult circumstances,” Ms. Lü said.
      #Chine #vidéo

  • Why race science is on the rise again | Books | The Guardian

    It was only towards the end of the 20th century that genetic data revealed that the human variation we see is not a matter of hard types but small and subtle gradations, each local community blending into the next. As much as 95% of the genetic difference in our species sits within the major population groups, not between them. Statistically, this means that, although I look nothing like the white British woman who lives upstairs, it’s possible for me to have more in common genetically with her than with my Indian-born neighbour.

    After the second world war, race science gradually became taboo. But one of the key people to have kept his racial worldview intact, Mehler learned, was a shadowy figure called Roger Pearson, who is in his 90s today (he declined to speak to me). Pearson had been an officer in the British Indian army and then, in the 1950s, worked as managing director of a group of tea gardens in what was then known as East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. It was around this time that he began publishing newsletters, printed in India, exploring issues of race, science and immigration.

    Very quickly, Mehler says, Pearson connected with like-minded thinkers all over the world. “He was beginning to institutionally organise the remnants of the prewar academic scholars who were doing work on eugenics and race. The war had disrupted all of their careers, and after the war they were trying to re‑establish themselves.” They included Nazi race scientist Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, who before the war ended had run experiments on the body parts of murdered children sent to him from Auschwitz.

    One of Pearson’s publications, the Northlander, described itself as a monthly review of “pan-Nordic affairs”, by which it meant matters of interest to white northern Europeans. Its first edition in 1958 complained about the illegitimate children born due to the stationing of “Negro” troops in Germany after the war, and about immigrants arriving in Britain from the West Indies. “Britain resounds to the sound and sight of primitive peoples and of jungle rhythms,” Pearson warned. “Why cannot we see the rot that is taking place in Britain herself?”

    The public may have assumed that scientific racism was dead, but the racists were always active under the radar. In The Bell Curve (1994), a notorious bestseller, US political scientist Charles Murray and psychologist Richard Herrnstein suggested that black Americans were less intelligent than white and Asian Americans. A review in the New York Review of Books observed that they referenced five articles from Mankind Quarterly, a journal co-founded by Pearson and Von Verschuer; they cited no fewer than 17 researchers who had contributed to the journal. Although The Bell Curve was widely panned (an article in American Behavioral Scientist described it as “fascist ideology”), Scientific American noted in 2017 that Murray was enjoying “an unfortunate resurgence”. Facing down protesters, he has been invited to give lectures on college campuses across the US.

    “Mother Nature’s the racist,” he has said. “I’m just shining the light.” Former guests on his show include one-time columnist Katie Hopkins and bestselling author Jordan Peterson.

    What is worrying is that the thinkers who supply the material being brandished online have begun asserting a presence in other, more credible spaces.

    The editors of Mankind Quarterly, which has been called a “white supremacist journal”, have begun to assert a presence in other, more widely trusted scientific publications. Assistant editor Richard Lynn today sits on the editorial advisory board of Personality and Individual Differences, produced by Elsevier, one of the world’s largest scientific publishers, with the Lancet among its titles. In 2017, both Lynn and Meisenberg were listed on the editorial board of Intelligence, a psychology journal also published by Elsevier.

    In late 2017, the editor-in-chief of Intelligence told me that their presence in his journal reflected his “commitment to academic freedom”. Yet after my inquiries to both him and Elsevier, I found that Lynn and Meisenberg had been quietly removed from the editorial board by the end of 2018.

    A common theme among today’s “race realists” is their belief that because biological race differences exist, diversity and equal opportunity programmes – designed to make society fairer – are doomed to fail. If an equal world isn’t being forged fast enough, it is due to a permanent natural roadblock created by the fact that, deep down, we’re not the same. “We have two nested fallacies here,” Marks continues. The first is that the human species comes packaged up in a small number of discrete races, each with their own different traits. “Second is the idea that there are innate explanations for political and economic inequality. What you’re saying is, inequality exists, but it doesn’t represent historical injustice. These guys are trying to manipulate science to construct imaginary boundaries to social progress.”

    #racisme_scientifique not dead
    Et belle récup d’une peinture classique, @mad_meg.

  • New Zealand’s Next Liberal Milestone: A Budget Guided by ‘Well-Being’ - The New York Times

    That means that as the center-left government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sets its priorities in the budget that will be unveiled on May 30, it is moving away from more traditional bottom-line measures like productivity and economic growth and instead focusing on goals like community and cultural connection and equity in well-being across generations.

    “This budget is a game-changing event,” said Richard Layard, a professor at the London School of Economics who is an expert on life satisfaction across populations.

    New Zealand is not the only country that is starting to rethink whether blunt economic measurements like gross domestic product are the best gauge of a nation’s success. But, Dr. Layard said, there has been “no other major country that has so explicitly adopted well-being as its objective.”

    As a major example of what that new framework will produce, Ms. Ardern unveiled on Sunday the biggest spending proposal to date in her coming budget: more than $200 million to bolster services for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

    #décroissance #bien-être #Nouvelle_Zélande

  • L’oligarchie s’amuse

    Le bal masqué de Dior à Venise, échos d’un Fellini contemporain - Godfrey Deeny - traduit par Paul Kaplan - 19 Mai 2019 - fashion network,10

    Pietro Beccari, le PDG de Christian Dior, et Elisabetta Beccari - Photo : Virgile Guinard

    Maria Grazia Chiuri ne prend jamais vraiment de vacances. À peine deux semaines après le défilé de la collection Croisière 2020 de Christian Dior, organisé à Marrakech, la créatrice italienne a dessiné les costumes d’une performance fantasmagorique donnée samedi soir, juste avant le bal Tiepolo organisé par Dior à Venise, qui faisait écho aux revendications politiques et à l’ambiance générale de la Biennale.

    Des dieux et des déesses dorés, plusieurs Jules César, des comtesses aux proportions divines, des courtisanes cruelles, des dandys coiffés de plumes géantes, une Cléopâtre majestueuse, et diverses figures célestes - dont une qui a passé la soirée perchée au sommet d’une grande échelle à pêcher un globe argenté parmi les célébrités... Karlie Kloss jetait des oeillades fatales derrière son éventail, vêtue d’une robe corset imprimée. Sienna Miller est arrivée sous une gigantesque cape en soie beige et une robe moulante et scintillante, pendue au bras de son nouveau cavalier, Lucas Zwirner. Tilda Swinton était sanglée dans un costume en soie bouclée et Monica Bellucci et Dasha Zhukova resplendissaient dans leurs robe et cape à fleurs. 100 % Dior.

    Samedi soir, après un véritable embouteillage nautique, des dizaines de bateaux de luxe Riva ont débarqué les invités sur les marches du palazzo, tandis que la troupe de danseuses Parolabianca se produisait sur une terrasse au bord du canal. Trois d’entre elles étaient juchées sur des échasses pour donner encore plus d’ampleur aux motifs étranges de Maria Grazia Chiuri - imprimés pêle-mêle d’animaux mythologiques, de cieux nocturnes, de crustacés géants, de taureaux en plein galop et d’amiraux de la Renaissance. « Des voyages célestes et ancestraux à travers le ciel », résume la directrice artistique des collections féminines de Dior.

    « Je pense que nous, Italiens, avons oublié que nous sommes une nation de navigateurs, surtout les Vénitiens. Que nous avons fini par nous intégrer dans des centaines de cultures et de pays. Et que nous sommes une nation d’immigrés sur toute la planète depuis de nombreuses générations », rappelle-t-elle.

    Des images dignes de cette Biennale, marquée par l’appel de nombreux artistes en faveur de frontières plus ouvertes . Cet après-midi-là, l’artiste aborigène australien Richard Bell a fait remorquer une péniche autour de Venise, transportant un pavillon factice enchaîné sur le bateau pour critiquer l’#impérialisme et le #colonialisme de son pays. Dans l’Arsenal, centre névralgique de la Biennale, l’artiste suisse Christoph Büchel a installé Barca Nostra, un bateau de pêche rouillé de 21 mètres qui a coulé au large de Lampedusa en 2015, entraînant la mort de près d’un millier de #réfugiés.

    Dans le cadre de l’exposition principale, nombreuses étaient les images puissantes d’exclusion et de dialogue des cultures - on retient surtout les photos nocturnes de Soham Gupta qui représentent des étrangers indiens errant dans les décombres de #Calcutta, les films d’Arthur Jafa sur les droits civiques et les superbes collages autobiographiques de Njideka Akunyili Crosby, artiste américaine née au Nigeria. Sans oublier la Sud-Africaine Zanele Muholi qui a fait un autoportrait quotidien pendant un an pour dénoncer les crimes de #haine et l’#homophobie dans son pays natal, tandis que le pavillon vénézuélien n’a pas ouvert en raison des troubles politiques dans son pays.

    De l’autre côté de la ville, le bal avait lieu au Palazzo Labia, célèbre pour les fresques sublimes de Giambattista Tiepolo, notamment dans l’immense salle de bal aménagée sur deux étages, ornée de scènes légendaires de la vie d’Antoine et Cléopâtre. La somptueuse soirée de Dior rappelait le célèbre bal oriental de 1951, organisé dans le même palais par son propriétaire mexicain de l’époque, Charles de Beistegui, qui avait redonné à l’édifice sa splendeur d’origine. Entré dans l’histoire comme « le bal du siècle », l’événement est resté dans les mémoires grâce aux nombreux costumes et robes dessinés conjointement par Salvador Dali et Christian Dior.

    C’est Dior qui a financé le bal, qui a permis de récolter des fonds pour la fondation Venetian Heritage, qui soutient plus de 100 projets de restauration du patrimoine vénitien et dont c’est le 20e anniversaire cette année. Le président américain de l’organisation internationale, Peter Marino, est un architecte qui a dessiné des boutiques parmi les plus remarquables du monde, pour des marques comme #Louis_Vuitton, #Chanel et, bien sûr, #Dior.

    « Les temps changent. Le bal de Beistegui était un événement fabuleux organisé pour les personnes les plus fortunées de la planète. Celui-ci aussi est un grand bal, mais il a pour but de récolter des fonds pour nos projets », précise Peter Marino, vêtu d’une veste, d’une culotte et de bottes Renaissance entièrement noirs, comme Vélasquez aurait pu en porter s’il avait fréquenté les bars gays de New York. Après le dîner, une vente aux enchères a permis de recueillir plus de 400 000 euros pour protéger le patrimoine vénitien.

    Comme pour sa collection Croisière - qui contenait des collaborations avec des artisans marocains, des fabricants de tissus perlés massaï et d’imprimés wax ivoiriens, des artistes et des créateurs de toute l’Afrique et de sa diaspora -, Maria Grazia Chiuri a travaillé avec des acteurs locaux de premier plan pour son bal Tiepolo.

    Les tables joliment décorées, en suivant des thèmes variés selon les salles - jungle, sicilienne et chinoise - comportaient des sphinx égyptiens, des œufs d’autruche géants, d’énormes candélabres en verre, des perroquets en céramique et des nappes sur mesure du légendaire fabricant de tissus et peintre vénitien Fortuny. Les invités ont pu déguster un pudding de fruits de mer composé de caviar, de homards et de crevettes, suivi d’un délicieux bar, préparé par Silvio Giavedoni, chef du restaurant Quadri de la place Saint-Marc, étoilé au guide Michelin.

    Pour ses costumes de bal, Maria Grazia Chiuri a également fait appel au fabricant de soie Rubelli, ainsi qu’à Bevilacqua, le célèbre spécialiste du velours et de damas « soprarizzo », dont le siège se trouve de l’autre côté du Grand Canal, en face du Palazzo Labia. Une demi-douzaine de danseuses de la troupe Parolabianca ont clôturé la soirée en dansant sous les fresques maniéristes de Tiepolo, au son d’une harpe malienne et de violons.

    Un événement vif, effronté, licencieux et provocateur... comme tous les grands bals masqués. Le #masque donne la liberté d’être poliment impoli - si on croise quelqu’un qu’on préfère éviter, il suffit de prétendre qu’on ne l’a pas reconnu. La soirée s’est déroulée dans une ambiance digne d’un film de Merchant Ivory ou de #Fellini et de son Casanova. Personnage que Sienna Miller a d’ailleurs côtoyé dans un de ses films...

    « Monsieur Dior a toujours adoré Venise. Ses artistes, ses artisans et son art font donc partie du patrimoine de Dior. Une raison de plus pour laquelle j’ai adoré mettre à contribution le savoir-faire vénitien pour organiser le bal », confie Maria Grazia Chiuri.

    Geste gracieux, Dior a offert un éventail à chaque invité, imprimé d’une célèbre phrase de son fondateur : « Les fêtes ont ceci de nécessaire qu’elles apportent de la joie ».

    #fric #ruissellement #bernard_arnault

  • As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money - The New York Times

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    At a cramped desk on the 22nd floor of a downtown Manhattan office building, Gary Roth spotted a looming disaster.

    An urban planner with two master’s degrees, Mr. Roth had a new job in 2010 analyzing taxi policy for the New York City government. But almost immediately, he noticed something disturbing: The price of a taxi medallion — the permit that lets a driver own a cab — had soared to nearly $700,000 from $200,000. In order to buy medallions, drivers were taking out loans they could not afford.

    Mr. Roth compiled his concerns in a report, and he and several colleagues warned that if the city did not take action, the loans would become unsustainable and the market could collapse.

    They were not the only ones worried about taxi medallions. In Albany, state inspectors gave a presentation to top officials showing that medallion owners were not making enough money to support their loans. And in Washington, D.C., federal examiners repeatedly noted that banks were increasing profits by steering cabbies into risky loans.

    They were all ignored.

    Medallion prices rose above $1 million before crashing in late 2014, wiping out the futures of thousands of immigrant drivers and creating a crisis that has continued to ravage the industry today. Despite years of warning signs, at least seven government agencies did little to stop the collapse, The New York Times found.

    Instead, eager to profit off medallions or blinded by the taxi industry’s political connections, the agencies that were supposed to police the industry helped a small group of bankers and brokers to reshape it into their own moneymaking machine, according to internal records and interviews with more than 50 former government employees.

    For more than a decade, the agencies reduced oversight of the taxi trade, exempted it from regulations, subsidized its operations and promoted its practices, records and interviews showed.

    Their actions turned one of the best-known symbols of New York — its signature yellow cabs — into a financial trap for thousands of immigrant drivers. More than 950 have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records, and many more struggle to stay afloat.

    Remember the ‘10,000 Hours’ Rule for Success? Forget About It
    “Nobody wanted to upset the industry,” said David Klahr, who from 2007 to 2016 held several management posts at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that oversees cabs. “Nobody wanted to kill the golden goose.”

    New York City in particular failed the taxi industry, The Times found. Two former mayors, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg, placed political allies inside the Taxi and Limousine Commission and directed it to sell medallions to help them balance budgets and fund priorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio continued the policies.

    Under Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. de Blasio, the city made more than $855 million by selling taxi medallions and collecting taxes on private sales, according to the city.

    But during that period, much like in the mortgage lending crisis, a group of industry leaders enriched themselves by artificially inflating medallion prices. They encouraged medallion buyers to borrow as much as possible and ensnared them in interest-only loans and other one-sided deals that often required them to pay hefty fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up most of their monthly incomes.

    When the medallion market collapsed, the government largely abandoned the drivers who bore the brunt of the crisis. Officials did not bail out borrowers or persuade banks to soften loan terms.

    “They sell us medallions, and they knew it wasn’t worth price. They knew,” said Wael Ghobrayal, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who bought a medallion at a city auction for $890,000 and now cannot make his loan payments and support his three children.

    “They lost nothing. I lost everything,” he said.

    The Times conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed thousands of records and built several databases to unravel the story of the downfall of the taxi industry in New York and across the United States. The investigation unearthed a collapse that was years in the making, aided almost as much by regulators as by taxi tycoons.

    Publicly, government officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft.

    In interviews with The Times, they blamed each other.

    The officials who ran the city Taxi and Limousine Commission in the run-up to the crash said it was the job of bank examiners, not the commission, to control lending practices.

    The New York Department of Financial Services said that while it supervised some of the banks involved in the taxi industry, it deferred to federal inspectors in many cases.

    The federal agency that oversaw many of the largest lenders in the industry, the National Credit Union Administration, said those lenders were meeting the needs of borrowers.

    The N.C.U.A. released a March 2019 internal audit that scolded its regulators for not aggressively enforcing rules in medallion lending. But even that audit partially absolved the government. The lenders, it said, all had boards of directors that were supposed to prevent reckless practices.

    And several officials criticized Congress, which two decades ago excepted credit unions in the taxi industry from some rules that applied to other credit unions. After that, the officials said, government agencies had to treat those lenders differently.

    Ultimately, former employees said, the regulatory system was set up to ensure that lenders were financially stable, and medallions were sold. But almost nothing protected the drivers.

    Matthew W. Daus, far right, at a hearing of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2004. CreditMarilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    Matthew W. Daus was an unconventional choice to regulate New York’s taxi industry. He was a lawyer from Brooklyn and a leader of a political club that backed Mr. Giuliani for mayor.

    The Giuliani administration hired him as a lawyer for the Taxi and Limousine Commission before appointing him chairman in 2001, a leadership post he kept after Mr. Bloomberg became mayor in 2002.

    The commission oversaw the drivers and fleets that owned the medallions for the city’s 12,000 cabs. It licensed all participants and decided what cabs could charge, where they could go and which type of vehicle they could use.

    And under Mr. Bloomberg, it also began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    At the time, the mayor said the growing city needed more yellow cabs. But he also was eager for revenue. He had a $3.8 billion hole in his budget.

    The sales put the taxi commission in an unusual position.

    It had a long history of being entangled with the industry. Its first chairman, appointed in 1971, was convicted of a bribery scheme involving an industry lobbyist. Four other leaders since then had worked in the business.

    It often sent staffers to conferences where companies involved in the taxi business paid for liquor, meals and tickets to shows, and at least one past member of its board had run for office in a campaign financed by the industry.

    Still, the agency had never been asked to generate so much money from the business it was supposed to be regulating.

    Former staffers said officials chose to sell medallions with the method they thought would bring in the most revenue: a series of limited auctions that required participants to submit sealed bids above ever-increasing minimums.

    Ahead of the sales, the city placed ads on television and radio, and in newspapers and newsletters, and held seminars promoting the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    “Medallions have a long history as a solid investment with steady growth,” Mr. Daus wrote in one newsletter. In addition to guaranteed employment, he wrote, “a medallion is collateral that can assist in home financing, college tuition or even ‘worry-free’ retirement.”

    At the first auctions under Mr. Bloomberg in 2004, bids topped $300,000, surprising experts.

    Some former staffers said in interviews they believed the ad campaign inappropriately inflated prices by implying medallions would make buyers rich, no matter the cost. Seven said they complained.

    The city eventually added a disclaimer to ads, saying past performance did not guarantee future results. But it kept advertising.

    During the same period, the city also posted information on its website that said that medallion prices were, on average, 13 percent higher than they really were, according to a Times data analysis.

    In several interviews, Mr. Daus defended the ad campaigns, saying they reached people who had been unable to break into the tight market. The ads were true at the time, he said. He added he had never heard internal complaints about the ads.

    In all, the city held 16 auctions between 2004 and 2014.

    “People don’t realize how organized it is,” Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, a lender to medallion buyers, said in a 2011 interview with Tearsheet Podcast. “The City of New York, more or less, is our partner because they want to see prices go as high as possible.”

    Help from a federal agency

    New York City made more than $855 million from taxi medallion sales under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

    For decades, a niche banking system had grown up around the taxi industry, and at its center were about half a dozen nonprofit credit unions that specialized in medallion loans. But as the auctions continued, the families that ran the credit unions began to grow frustrated.

    Around them, they saw other lenders making money by issuing loans that they could not because of the rules governing credit unions. They recognized a business opportunity, and they wanted in.

    They found a receptive audience at the National Credit Union Administration.

    The N.C.U.A. was the small federal agency that regulated the nation’s credit unions. It set the rules, examined their books and insured their accounts.

    Like the city taxi commission, the N.C.U.A. had long had ties to the industry that it regulated. One judge had called it a “rogue federal agency” focused on promoting the industry.

    In 2004, its chairman was Dennis Dollar, a former Mississippi state representative who had previously worked as the chief executive of a credit union. He had just been inducted into the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame, and he had said one of his top priorities was streamlining regulation.

    Dennis Dollar, the former chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, is now a consultant in the industry. 

    Under Mr. Dollar and others, the N.C.U.A. issued waivers that exempted medallion loans from longstanding rules, including a regulation requiring each loan to have a down payment of at least 20 percent. The waivers allowed the lenders to keep up with competitors and to write more profitable loans.

    Mr. Dollar, who left government to become a consultant for credit unions, said the agency was following the lead of Congress, which passed a law in 1998 exempting credit unions specializing in medallion loans from some regulations. The law signaled that those lenders needed leeway, such as the waivers, he said.

    “If we did not do so, the average cabdriver couldn’t get a medallion loan,” Mr. Dollar said.

    The federal law and the N.C.U.A. waivers were not the only benefits the industry received. The federal government also provided many medallion lenders with financial assistance and guaranteed a portion of their taxi loans, assuring that if those loans failed, they would still be partially paid, according to records and interviews.

    As lenders wrote increasingly risky loans, medallion prices neared $500,000 in 2006.

    ‘Snoozing and napping’

    Under Mr. Bloomberg, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    Another agency was also supposed to be keeping an eye on lending practices. New York State banking regulators are required to inspect all financial institutions chartered in the state. But after 2008, they were forced to focus their attention on the banks most affected by the global economic meltdown, according to former employees.

    As a result, some industry veterans said, the state stopped examining medallion loans closely.

    “The state banking department would come in, and they’d be doing the exam in one room, and the N.C.U.A. would be in another room,” said Larry Fisher, who was then the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders. “And you could catch the state banking department snoozing and napping and going on the internet and not doing much at all.”

    The state banking department, which is now called the New York Department of Financial Services, disputed that characterization and said it had acted consistently and appropriately.

    Former federal regulators described a similar trend at their agencies after the recession.

    Some former employees of the N.C.U.A., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said that as medallion prices climbed, they tried to raise issues with loans and were told not to worry. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Board also oversaw some lenders and did not intervene.

    A spokesman for the Federal Reserve said the agency was not a primary regulator of the taxi lending industry. The rest of the agencies declined to comment.

    “It was obvious that the loans were unusual and risky,” said Patrick Collins, a former N.C.U.A. examiner. But, he said, there was a belief inside his agency that the loans would be fine because the industry had been stable for decades.

    Meanwhile, in New York City, the taxi commission reduced oversight.

    For years, it had made medallion purchasers file forms describing how they came up with the money, including details on all loans. It also had required industry participants to submit annual disclosures on their finances, loans and conflicts of interest.

    But officials never analyzed the forms filed by buyers, and in the 2000s, they stopped requiring the annual disclosures altogether.

    “Reviewing these disclosures was an onerous lift for us,” the commission’s communications office said in a recent email.

    By 2008, the price of a medallion rose to $600,000.

    At around the same time, the commission began focusing on new priorities. It started developing the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” a model for future cabs.

    The agency’s main enforcement activities targeted drivers who cheated passengers or discriminated against people of color. “Nobody really scrutinized medallion transfers,” said Charles Tortorici, a former commission lawyer.

    A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement that during the mayor’s tenure, the city improved the industry by installing credit card machines and GPS devices, making fleets more environmentally efficient and creating green taxis for boroughs outside Manhattan.

    “The industry was always its own worst enemy, fighting every reform tooth and nail,” said the spokesman, Marc La Vorgna. “We put our energy and political capital into the reforms that most directly and immediately impacted the riding public.”

    Records show that since 2008, the taxi commission has not taken a single enforcement action against brokers, the powerful players who arrange medallion sales and loans.

    Alex Korenkov, a broker, suggested in an interview that he and other brokers took notice of the city’s hands-off approach.

    “Let’s put it this way,” he said. “If governing body does not care, then free-for-all.”

    By the time that Mr. Roth wrote his report at the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2010, it was clear that something strange was happening in the medallion market.

    Mr. Daus gave a speech that year that mentioned the unusual lending practices. During the speech, he said banks were letting medallion buyers obtain loans without any down payment. Experts have since said that should have raised red flags. But at the time, Mr. Daus seemed pleased.

    “Some of these folks were offering zero percent down,” he said. “You tell me what bank walks around asking for zero percent down on a loan? It’s just really amazing.”

    In interviews, Mr. Daus acknowledged that the practice was unusual but said the taxi commission had no authority over lending.

    Inside the commission, at least four employees raised concerns about the medallion prices and lending practices, according to the employees, who described their own unease as well as Mr. Roth’s report.

    David S. Yassky, a former city councilman who succeeded Mr. Daus as commission chairman in 2010, said in an interview that he never saw Mr. Roth’s report.

    Mr. Yassky said the medallion prices puzzled him, but he could not determine if they were inflated, in part because people were still eager to buy. Medallions may have been undervalued for decades, and the price spike could have been the market recognizing the true value, he suggested.

    Meera Joshi, who became chairwoman in 2014, said in an interview that she was worried about medallion costs and lending practices but was pushed to prioritize other responsibilities. Dominic Williams, Mr. de Blasio’s chief policy adviser, said the city focused on initiatives such as improving accessibility because no one was complaining about loans.

    Worries about the taxi industry also emerged at the National Credit Union Administration. In late 2011, as the price of some medallions reached $800,000, a group of agency examiners wrote a paper on the risks in the industry, according to a recent report by the agency’s inspector general.

    In 2012, 2013 and 2014, inspectors routinely documented instances of credit unions violating lending rules, the inspector general’s report said.

    David S. Yassky, the former chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

    The N.C.U.A. chose not to penalize medallion lenders or impose extra oversight. It did not take any wide industry action until April 2014, when it sent a letter reminding the credit unions in the taxi market to act responsibly.

    Former staffers said the agency was still focused on the fallout from the recession.

    A spokesman for the N.C.U.A. disputed that characterization and said the agency conducted appropriate enforcement.

    He added the agency took actions to ensure the credit unions remained solvent, which was its mission. He said Congress allowed the lenders to concentrate heavily on medallion loans, which left them vulnerable when Uber and Lyft arrived.

    At the New York Department of Financial Services, bank examiners noticed risky practices and interest-only loans and repeatedly wrote warnings starting in 2010, according to the state. At least one report expressed concern of a potential market bubble, the state said.

    Eventually, examiners became so concerned that they made a PowerPoint presentation and called a meeting in 2014 to show it to a dozen top officials.

    “Since 2001, individual medallion has risen 455%,” the presentation warned, according to a copy obtained by The Times. The presentation suggested state action, such as sending a letter to the industry or revoking charters from some lenders.

    The state did neither. The department had recently merged with the insurance department, and former employees said it was finding its footing.

    The department superintendent at the time, Benjamin M. Lawsky, a former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said he did not, as a rule, discuss his tenure at the department.

    In an emailed statement, the department denied it struggled after the merger and said it took action to stop the collapse of the medallion market. A department spokesman provided a long list of warnings, suggestions and guidelines that it said examiners had issued to lenders. He said that starting in 2012, the department downgraded some of its own internal ratings of the lenders.

    The list did not include any instances of the department formally penalizing a medallion lender, or making any public statement about the industry before it collapsed.

    Between 2010 and 2014, as officials at every level of government failed to rein in the risky lending practices, records show that roughly 1,500 people bought taxi medallions. Over all, including refinancings of old loans and extensions required by banks, medallion owners signed at least 10,000 loans in that time.

    Several regulators who tried to raise alarms said they believed the government stood aside because of the industry’s connections.

    Many pointed to one company — Medallion Financial, run by the Murstein family. Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, the current governor’s father, was a paid member of its board from 1996 until he died in 2015.

    Others noted that Mr. de Blasio has long been close to the industry. When he ran for mayor in 2013, an industry lobbyist, Michael Woloz, was a top fund-raiser, records show. And Evgeny Freidman, a major fleet owner who has admitted to artificially inflating medallion prices, has said he is close to the mayor.

    Some people, including Mr. Dollar, the former N.C.U.A. chairman, said Congress excepted the taxi trade from rules because the industry was supported by former United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York, who was then the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

    “The taxi industry is one of the most politically connected industries in the city,” said Fidel Del Valle, who was the chairman of the taxi commission from 1991 to 1994. He later worked as a lawyer for drivers and a consultant to an owner association run by Mr. Freidman. “It’s been that way for decades, and they’ve used that influence to push back on regulation, with a lot of success.”

    A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said Medallion Financial was not regulated by the state, so the elder Mr. Cuomo’s position on the board was irrelevant. A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said the industry’s connections did not influence the city.

    Mr. Murstein, Mr. Woloz, Mr. Freidman and Mr. D’Amato all declined to comment.

    The aftermath
    “I think city will help me,” Mohammad Hossain, who is in deep debt from a taxi medallion loan, said at his family’s home in the Bronx.

    New York held its final independent medallion auction in February 2014. By then, concerns about medallion prices were common in the news media and government offices, and Uber had established itself. Still, the city sold medallions to more than 150 bidders. (“It’s better than the stock market,” one ad said.)

    Forty percent of the people who bought medallions at that auction have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records.

    Mohammad Hossain, 47, from Bangladesh, who purchased a medallion for $853,000 at the auction, said he could barely make his monthly payments and was getting squeezed by his lender. “I bought medallion from the city,” he said through tears. “I think city will help me, you know. I assume that.”

    The de Blasio administration’s only major response to the crisis has been to push for a cap on ride-hail cars. The City Council at first rejected a cap in 2015 before approving it last year.

    Taxi industry veterans said the cap did not address the cause of the crisis: the lending practices.

    Richard Weinberg, a taxi commission hearing officer from 1988 to 2002 and a lawyer for drivers since then, said that when the medallion bubble began to burst, the city should have frozen prices, adjusted fares and fees and convinced banks to be flexible with drivers. That could have allowed prices to fall slowly. “That could’ve saved a lot of people,” he said.

    In an interview, Dean Fuleihan, the first deputy mayor, said the city did help taxi owners, including by reducing some fees, taxes and inspection mandates, and by talking to banks about loans. He said that if the City Council had passed the cap in 2015, it would have helped.

    “We do care about those drivers, we care about those families. We attempted throughout this period to take actions,” he said.

    Federal regulators also have not significantly helped medallion owners.

    In 2017 and 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed or merged several credit unions for “unsafe business practices” in medallion lending. It took over many of the loans, but did not soften terms, according to borrowers. Instead, it tried to get money out as quickly as possible.

    The failure of the credit unions has cost the national credit union insurance fund more than $750 million, which will hurt all credit union members.

    In August 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed Melrose in what it said was the biggest credit union liquidation in United States history. The agency barred Melrose’s general counsel from working for credit unions and brought civil charges against its former C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, saying he used company funds to help industry partners in exchange for gifts.

    The general counsel, Mitchell Reiver, declined to answer questions but said he did nothing wrong. Mr. Kaufman said in an interview that the N.C.U.A. made up the charges to distract from its role in the crisis.

    “I’m definitely a scapegoat,” Mr. Kaufman said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

    Glamour, then poverty
    After he struggled to repay his taxi medallion loan, Abel Vela left his family in New York and moved back to Peru, where living costs were cheaper.  

    During the medallion bubble, the city produced a television commercial to promote the permits. In the ad, which aired in 2004, four cabbies stood around a taxi discussing the perks of the job. One said buying a medallion was the best decision he had ever made. They all smiled. Then Mr. Daus appeared on screen to announce an auction.

    Fifteen years later, the cabbies remember the ad with scorn. Three of the four were eventually enticed to refinance their original loans under far riskier terms that left them in heavy debt.

    One of the cabbies, Abel Vela, had to leave his wife and children and return to his home country, Peru, because living costs were lower there. He is now 74 and still working to survive.

    The city aired a commercial in 2004 to promote an upcoming auction of taxi medallions. The ad featured real cab drivers, but three of them eventually took on risky loans and suffered financial blows.
    The only woman in the ad, Marie Applyrs, a Haitian immigrant, fell behind on her loan payments and filed for bankruptcy in November 2017. She lost her cab, and her home. She now lives with her children, switching from home to home every few months.

    “When the ad happened, the taxi was in vogue. I think I still have the tape somewhere. It was glamorous,” she said. “Now, I’m in the poorhouse.”

    Today, the only person from the television commercial still active in the industry is Mr. Daus. He works as a lawyer for lenders.

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    Madeline Rosenberg contributed reporting. Doris Burke contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • ‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers - The New York Times

    Mohammed Hoque with his three children in their studio apartment in Jamaica, Queens.

    May 19, 2019 - The phone call that ruined Mohammed Hoque’s life came in April 2014 as he began another long day driving a New York City taxi, a job he had held since emigrating from Bangladesh nine years earlier.

    The call came from a prominent businessman who was selling a medallion, the coveted city permit that allows a driver to own a yellow cab instead of working for someone else. If Mr. Hoque gave him $50,000 that day, he promised to arrange a loan for the purchase.

    After years chafing under bosses he hated, Mr. Hoque thought his dreams of wealth and independence were coming true. He emptied his bank account, borrowed from friends and hurried to the man’s office in Astoria, Queens. Mr. Hoque handed over a check and received a stack of papers. He signed his name and left, eager to tell his wife.

    Mr. Hoque made about $30,000 that year. He had no idea, he said later, that he had just signed a contract that required him to pay $1.7 million.

    Over the past year, a spate of suicides by taxi drivers in New York City has highlighted in brutal terms the overwhelming debt and financial plight of medallion owners. All along, officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    But a New York Times investigation found much of the devastation can be traced to a handful of powerful industry leaders who steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst. Over more than a decade, they channeled thousands of drivers into reckless loans and extracted hundreds of millions of dollars before the market collapsed.

    These business practices generated huge profits for bankers, brokers, lawyers, investors, fleet owners and debt collectors. The leaders of nonprofit credit unions became multimillionaires. Medallion brokers grew rich enough to buy yachts and waterfront properties. One of the most successful bankers hired the rap star Nicki Minaj to perform at a family party.

    But the methods stripped immigrant families of their life savings, crushed drivers under debt they could not repay and engulfed an industry that has long defined New York. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records. Thousands more are barely hanging on.

    The practices were strikingly similar to those behind the housing market crash that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown: Banks and loosely regulated private lenders wrote risky loans and encouraged frequent refinancing; drivers took on debt they could not afford, under terms they often did not understand.

    Some big banks even entered the taxi industry in the aftermath of the housing crash, seeking a new market, with new borrowers.

    The combination of easy money, eager borrowers and the lure of a rare asset helped prices soar far above what medallions were really worth. Some industry leaders fed the frenzy by purposefully overpaying for medallions in order to inflate prices, The Times found.

    Between 2002 and 2014, the price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million from $200,000, even though city records showed that driver incomes barely changed.

    About 4,000 drivers bought medallions in that period, records show. They were excited to buy, but they were enticed by a dubious premise.

    What Actually Happened to New York’s Taxi DriversMay 28, 2019

    After the medallion market collapsed, Mayor Bill de Blasio opted not to fund a bailout, and earlier this year, the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, shut down the committee overseeing the taxi industry, saying it had completed most of its work.

    Over 10 months, The Times interviewed 450 people, built a database of every medallion sale since 1995 and reviewed thousands of individual loans and other documents, including internal bank records and confidential profit-sharing agreements.

    The investigation found example after example of drivers trapped in exploitative loans, including hundreds who signed interest-only loans that required them to pay exorbitant fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up almost all their monthly income, indefinitely.

    A Pakistani immigrant who thought he was just buying a car ended up with a $780,000 medallion loan that left him unable to pay rent. A Bangladeshi immigrant said he was told to lie about his income on his loan application; he eventually lost his medallion. A Haitian immigrant who worked to exhaustion to make his monthly payments discovered he had been paying only interest and went bankrupt.

    Abdur Rahim, who is from Bangladesh, is one of several cab drivers who allege they were duped into signing exploitative loans. 
    It is unclear if the practices violated any laws. But after reviewing The Times’s findings, experts said the methods were among the worst that have been used since the housing crash.

    “I don’t think I could concoct a more predatory scheme if I tried,” said Roger Bertling, the senior instructor at Harvard Law School’s clinic on predatory lending and consumer protection. “This was modern-day indentured servitude.”

    Lenders developed their techniques in New York but spread them to Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and elsewhere, transforming taxi industries across the United States.

    In interviews, lenders denied wrongdoing. They noted that regulators approved their practices, and said some borrowers made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. They said some drivers were happy to use climbing medallion values as collateral to take out cash, and that those who sold their medallions at the height of the market made money.

    The lenders said they believed medallion values would keep increasing, as they almost always had. No one, they said, could have predicted Uber and Lyft would emerge to undercut the business.

    “People love to blame banks for things that happen because they’re big bad banks,” said Robert Familant, the former head of Progressive Credit Union, a small nonprofit that specialized in medallion loans. “We didn’t do anything, in my opinion, other than try to help small businesspeople become successful.”

    Mr. Familant made about $30 million in salary and deferred payouts during the bubble, including $4.8 million in bonuses and incentives in 2014, the year it burst, according to disclosure forms.

    Meera Joshi, who joined the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2011 and became chairwoman in 2014, said it was not the city’s job to regulate lending. But she acknowledged that officials saw red flags and could have done something.

    “There were lots of players, and lots of people just watched it happen. So the T.L.C. watched it happen. The lenders watched it happen. The borrowers watched it happen as their investment went up, and it wasn’t until it started falling apart that people started taking action and pointing fingers,” said Ms. Joshi, who left the commission in March. “It was a party. Why stop it?”

    Every day, about 250,000 people hail a New York City yellow taxi. Most probably do not know they are participating in an unconventional economic system about as old as the Empire State Building.

    The city created taxi medallions in 1937. Unlicensed cabs crowded city streets, so officials designed about 12,000 specialized tin plates and made it illegal to operate a taxi without one bolted to the hood of the car. The city sold each medallion for $10.

    People who bought medallions could sell them, just like any other asset. The only restriction: Officials designated roughly half as “independent medallions” and eventually required that those always be owned by whoever was driving that cab.

    Over time, as yellow taxis became symbols of New York, a cutthroat industry grew around them. A few entrepreneurs obtained most of the nonindependent medallions and built fleets that controlled the market. They were family operations largely based in the industrial neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and Long Island City in Queens.

    Allegations of corruption, racism and exploitation dogged the industry. Some fleet bosses were accused of cheating drivers. Some drivers refused to go outside Manhattan or pick up black and Latino passengers. Fleet drivers typically worked 60 hours a week, made less than minimum wage and received no benefits, according to city studies.

    Still, driving could serve as a path to the middle class. Drivers could save to buy an independent medallion, which would increase their earnings and give them an asset they could someday sell for a retirement nest egg.

    Those who borrowed money to buy a medallion typically had to submit a large down payment and repay within five to 10 years.

    The conservative lending strategy produced modest returns. The city did not release new medallions for almost 60 years, and values slowly climbed, hitting $100,000 in 1985 and $200,000 in 1997.

    “It was a safe and stable asset, and it provided a good life for those of us who were lucky enough to buy them,” said Guy Roberts, who began driving in 1979 and eventually bought medallions and formed a fleet. “Not an easy life, but a good life.”

    “And then,” he said, “everything changed.”

    – Before coming to America, Mohammed Hoque lived comfortably in Chittagong, a city on Bangladesh’s southern coast. He was a serious student and a gifted runner, despite a small and stocky frame. His father and grandfather were teachers; he said he surpassed them, becoming an education official with a master’s degree in management. He supervised dozens of schools and traveled on a government-issued motorcycle. In 2004, when he was 33, he married Fouzia Mahabub. -

    That same year, several of his friends signed up for the green card lottery, and their thirst for opportunity was contagious. He applied, and won.

    His wife had an uncle in Jamaica, Queens, so they went there. They found a studio apartment. Mr. Hoque wanted to work in education, but he did not speak enough English. A friend recommended the taxi industry.

    It was an increasingly common move for South Asian immigrants. In 2005, about 40 percent of New York cabbies were born in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan, according to the United States Census Bureau. Over all, just 9 percent were born in the United States.

    Mr. Hoque and his wife emigrated from Bangladesh, and have rented the same apartment in Queens since 2005.

    Mr. Hoque joined Taxifleet Management, a large fleet run by the Weingartens, a Russian immigrant family whose patriarchs called themselves the “Three Wise Men.”

    He worked 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week. On a good day, he said, he brought home $100. He often felt lonely on the road, and he developed back pain from sitting all day and diabetes, medical records show.

    He could have worked fewer shifts. He also could have moved out of the studio. But he drove as much as feasible and spent as little as possible. He had heard the city would soon be auctioning off new medallions. He was saving to buy one.

    Andrew Murstein, left, with his father, Alvin.CreditChester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
    In the early 2000s, a new generation took power in New York’s cab industry. They were the sons of longtime industry leaders, and they had new ideas for making money.

    Few people represented the shift better than Andrew Murstein.

    Mr. Murstein was the grandson of a Polish immigrant who bought one of the first medallions, built one of the city’s biggest fleets and began informally lending to other buyers in the 1970s. Mr. Murstein attended business school and started his career at Bear Stearns and Salomon Brothers, the investment banks.

    When he joined the taxi business, he has said, he pushed his family to sell off many medallions and to establish a bank to focus on lending. Medallion Financial went public in 1996. Its motto was, “In niches, there are riches.”

    Dozens of industry veterans said Mr. Murstein and his father, Alvin, were among those who helped to move the industry to less conservative lending practices. The industry veterans said the Mursteins, as well as others, started saying medallion values would always rise and used that idea to focus on lending to lower-income drivers, which was riskier but more profitable.

    The strategy began to be used by the industry’s other major lenders — Progressive Credit Union, Melrose Credit Union and Lomto Credit Union, all family-run nonprofits that made essentially all their money from medallion loans, according to financial disclosures.

    “We didn’t want to be the one left behind,” said Monte Silberger, Lomto’s controller and then chief financial officer from 1999 to 2017.

    The lenders began accepting smaller down payments. By 2013, many medallion buyers were not handing over any down payment at all, according to an analysis of buyer applications submitted to the city.

    “It got to a point where we didn’t even check their income or credit score,” Mr. Silberger said. “It didn’t matter.”

    Lenders also encouraged existing borrowers to refinance and take out more money when medallion prices rose, according to interviews with dozens of borrowers and loan officers. There is no comprehensive data, but bank disclosures suggest that thousands of owners refinanced.

    Industry veterans said it became common for owners to refinance to buy a house or to put children through college. “You’d walk into the bank and walk out 30 minutes later with an extra $200,000,” said Lou Bakalar, a broker who arranged loans.

    Yvon Augustin has been living with help from his children ever since he declared bankruptcy and lost his taxi medallion.

    Some pointed to the refinancing to argue that irresponsible borrowers fueled the crisis. “Medallion owners were misusing it,” said Aleksey Medvedovskiy, a fleet owner who also worked as a broker. “They used it as an A.T.M.”

    As lenders loosened standards, they increased returns. Rather than raising interest rates, they made borrowers pay a mix of costs — origination fees, legal fees, financing fees, refinancing fees, filing fees, fees for paying too late and fees for paying too early, according to a Times review of more than 500 loans included in legal cases. Many lenders also made borrowers split their loan and pay a much higher rate on the second loan, documents show.

    Lenders also extended loan lengths. Instead of requiring repayment in five or 10 years, they developed deals that lasted as long as 50 years, locking in decades of interest payments. And some wrote interest-only loans that could continue forever.

    “We couldn’t figure out why the company was doing so many interest-only loans,” said Michelle Pirritano, a Medallion Financial loan analyst from 2007 to 2011. “It was a good revenue stream, but it didn’t really make sense as a loan. I mean, it wasn’t really a loan, because it wasn’t being repaid.”

    Almost every loan reviewed by The Times included a clause that spiked the interest rate to as high as 24 percent if it was not repaid in three years. Lenders included the clause — called a “balloon” — so that borrowers almost always had to extend the loan, possibly at a higher rate than in the original terms, and with additional fees.

    Yvon Augustin was caught in one of those loans. He bought a medallion in 2006, a decade after emigrating from Haiti. He said he paid $2,275 every month — more than half his income, he said — and thought he was paying off the loan. But last year, his bank used the balloon to demand that he repay everything. That is when he learned he had been paying only the interest, he said.

    Mr. Augustin, 69, declared bankruptcy and lost his medallion. He lives off assistance from his children.

    During the global financial crisis, Eugene Haber, a lawyer for the taxi industry, started getting calls from bankers he had never met.

    Mr. Haber had written a template for medallion loans in the 1970s. By 2008, his thick mustache had turned white, and he thought he knew everybody in the industry. Suddenly, new bankers began calling his suite in a Long Island office park. Capital One, Signature Bank, New York Commercial Bank and others wanted to issue medallion loans, he said.

    Some of the banks were looking for new borrowers after the housing market collapsed, Mr. Haber said. “They needed somewhere else to invest,” he said. He said he represented some banks at loan signings but eventually became embittered because he believed banks were knowingly lending to people who could not repay.

    Instead of lending directly, the big banks worked through powerful industry players. They enlisted large fleet owners and brokers — especially Neil Greenbaum, Richard Chipman, Savas Konstantinides, Roman Sapino and Basil Messados — to use the banks’ money to lend to medallion buyers. In return, the owners and brokers received a cut of the monthly payments and sometimes an additional fee.

    The fleet owners and brokers, who technically issued the loans, did not face the same scrutiny as banks.

    “They did loans that were frankly insane,” said Larry Fisher, who from 2003 to 2016 oversaw medallion lending at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry. “It contributed to the price increases and put a lot of pressure on the rest of us to keep up.”

    Evgeny Freidman, a fleet owner, has said he purposely overbid for taxi medallions in order to drive up their value.CreditSasha Maslov
    Still, Mr. Fisher said, Melrose followed lending rules. “A lot of people tend to blame others for their own misfortune,” he said. “If they want to blame the lender for the medallion going down the tubes the way it has, I think they’re misplaced.”

    Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner and the broker and lender who arranged Mr. Hoque’s loans, said every loan issued by his company abided by federal and state banking guidelines. “I am very sympathetic to the plight of immigrant families who are seeking a better life in this country and in this city,” said Mr. Konstantinides, who added that he was also an immigrant.

    Walter Rabin, who led Capital One’s medallion lending division between 2007 and 2012 and has led Signature Bank’s medallion lending division since, said he was one of the industry’s most conservative lenders. He said he could not speak for the brokers and fleet owners with whom he worked.

    Mr. Rabin and other Signature executives denied fault for the market collapse and blamed the city for allowing ride-hail companies to enter with little regulation. “It’s the City of New York that took the biggest advantage of the drivers,” said Joseph J. DePaolo, the president and chief executive of Signature. “It’s not the banks.”

    New York Commercial Bank said in a statement that it began issuing medallion loans before the housing crisis and that they were a very small part of its business. The bank did not engage in risky lending practices, a spokesman said.

    Mr. Messados said in an interview that he disagreed with interest-only loans and other one-sided terms. But he said he was caught between banks developing the loans and drivers clamoring for them. “They were insisting on this,” he said. “What are you supposed to do? Say, ‘I’m not doing the sale?’”

    Several lenders challenged the idea that borrowers were unsophisticated. They said that some got better deals by negotiating with multiple lenders at once.

    Mr. Greenbaum, Mr. Chipman and Mr. Sapino declined to comment, as did Capital One.

    Some fleet owners worked to manipulate prices. In the most prominent example, Evgeny Freidman, a brash Russian immigrant who owned so many medallions that some called him “The Taxi King,” said he purposefully overpaid for medallions sold at city auctions. He reasoned that the higher prices would become the industry standard, making the medallions he already owned worth more. Mr. Freidman, who was partners with Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, disclosed the plan in a 2012 speech at Yeshiva University. He recently pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud. He declined to comment.

    As medallion prices kept increasing, the industry became strained. Drivers had to work longer hours to make monthly payments. Eventually, loan records show, many drivers had to use almost all their income on payments.

    “The prices got to be ridiculous,” said Vincent Sapone, the retired manager of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, an owner association. “When it got close to $1 million, nobody was going to pay that amount of money, unless they came from another country. Nobody from Brooklyn was going to pay that.”

    Some drivers have alleged in court that lenders tricked them into signing loans.

    Muhammad Ashraf, who is not fluent in English, said he thought he was getting a loan to purchase a car but ended up in debt to buy a taxi medallion instead.

    Muhammad Ashraf, a Pakistani immigrant, alleged that a broker, Heath Candero, duped him into a $780,000 interest-only loan. He said in an interview in Urdu that he could not speak English fluently and thought he was just signing a loan to buy a car. He said he found out about the loan when his bank sued him for not fully repaying. The bank eventually decided not to pursue a case against Mr. Ashraf. He also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Candero. That case was dismissed. A lawyer for Mr. Candero declined to comment.

    Abdur Rahim, a Bangladeshi immigrant, alleged that his lender, Bay Ridge Credit Union, inserted hidden fees. In an interview, he added he was told to lie on his loan application. The application, reviewed by The Times, said he made $128,389, but he said his tax return showed he made about $25,000. In court, Bay Ridge has denied there were hidden fees and said Mr. Rahim was “confusing the predatory-lending statute with a mere bad investment.” The credit union declined to comment.

    Several employees of lenders said they were pushed to write loans, encouraged by bonuses and perks such as tickets to sporting events and free trips to the Bahamas.

    They also said drivers almost never had lawyers at loan closings. Borrowers instead trusted their broker to represent them, even though, unbeknown to them, the broker was often getting paid by the bank.

    Stan Zurbin, who between 2009 and 2012 did consulting work for a lender that issued medallion loans, said that as prices rose, lenders in the industry increasingly lent to immigrants.

    “They didn’t have 750 credit scores, let’s just say,” he said. “A lot of them had just come into the country. A lot of them just had no idea what they were signing.”

    The $1 million medallion
    Mrs. Hoque did not want her husband to buy a medallion. She wanted to use their savings to buy a house. They had their first child in 2008, and they planned to have more. They needed to leave the studio apartment, and she thought a home would be a safer investment.

    But Mr. Hoque could not shake the idea, especially after several friends bought medallions at the city’s February 2014 auction.

    One friend introduced him to a man called “Big Savas.” It was Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner who also had a brokerage and a lending company, Mega Funding.

    The call came a few weeks later. A medallion owner had died, and the family was selling for $1 million.

    Mr. Hoque said he later learned the $50,000 he paid up front was just for taxes. Mega eventually requested twice that amount for fees and a down payment, records show. Mr. Hoque said he maxed out credit cards and borrowed from a dozen friends and relatives.

    Fees and interest would bring the total repayment to more than $1.7 million, documents show. It was split into two loans, both issued by Mega with New York Commercial Bank. The loans made him pay $5,000 a month — most of the $6,400 he could earn as a medallion owner.

    Mohammed Hoque’s Medallion Loans Consumed Most of His Taxi Revenue
    After paying his two medallion loans and business costs, Mr. Hoque had about $1,400 left over each month to pay the rent on his studio apartment in Queens and cover his living expenses.

    Estimated monthly revenue $11,845

    Gas $1,500

    Income after expenses $1,400

    Vehicle maintenance $1,300

    Medallion loan 1 $4,114

    Insurance $1,200

    Car loan $650

    Credit card fees $400

    Medallion loan 2 $881

    Other work-related expenses $400

    By the time the deal closed in July 2014, Mr. Hoque had heard of a new company called Uber. He wondered if it would hurt the business, but nobody seemed to be worried.

    As Mr. Hoque drove to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s downtown office for final approval of the purchase, he fantasized about becoming rich, buying a big house and bringing his siblings to America. After a commission official reviewed his application and loan records, he said he was ushered into the elegant “Taxi of Tomorrow” room. An official pointed a camera. Mr. Hoque smiled.

    “These are little cash cows running around the city spitting out money,” Mr. Murstein said, beaming in a navy suit and pink tie.

    He did not mention he was quietly leaving the business, a move that would benefit him when the market collapsed.

    By the time of the appearance, Medallion Financial had been cutting the number of medallion loans on its books for years, according to disclosures it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Murstein later said the company started exiting the business and focusing on other ventures before 2010.

    Mr. Murstein declined numerous interview requests. He also declined to answer some written questions, including why he promoted medallions while exiting the business. In emails and through a spokesman, he acknowledged that Medallion Financial reduced down payments but said it rarely issued interest-only loans or charged borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    “Many times, we did not match what our competitors were willing to do and in retrospect, thankfully, we lost the business,” he wrote to The Times.

    Interviews with three former staffers, and a Times review of loan documents that were filed as part of lawsuits brought by Medallion Financial against borrowers, indicate the company issued many interest-only loans and routinely included a provision allowing it to charge borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    Other lenders also left the taxi industry or took precautions long before the market collapsed.

    The credit unions specializing in the industry kept making new loans. But between 2010 and 2014, they sold the loans to other financial institutions more often than in the previous five years, disclosure forms show. Progressive Credit Union, run by Mr. Familant, sold loans off almost twice as often, the forms show. By 2012, that credit union was selling the majority of the loans it issued.

    In a statement, Mr. Familant said the selling of loans was a standard banking practice that did not indicate a lack of confidence in the market.

    Several banks used something called a confession of judgment. It was an obscure document in which the borrower admitted defaulting on the loan — even before taking out any money at all — and authorized the bank to do whatever it wanted to collect.

    Larry Fisher was the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry, from 2003 to 2016.
    Congress has banned that practice in consumer loans, but not in business loans, which is how lenders classified medallion deals. Many states have barred it in business loans, too, but New York is not among them.

    Even as some lenders quietly braced for the market to fall, prices kept rising, and profits kept growing.

    By 2014, many of the people who helped create the bubble had made millions of dollars and invested it elsewhere.

    Medallion Financial started focusing on lending to R.V. buyers and bought a professional lacrosse team and a Nascar team, painting the car to look like a taxi. Mr. Murstein and his father made more than $42 million between 2002 and 2014, disclosures show. In 2015, Ms. Minaj, the rap star, performed at his son’s bar mitzvah.

    The Melrose C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, had the highest base salary of any large state-chartered credit union leader in America in 2013 and 2015, records show. His medallion lending supervisor, Mr. Fisher, also made millions.

    It is harder to tell how much fleet owners and brokers made, but in recent years news articles have featured some of them with new boats and houses.

    Mr. Messados’s bank records, filed in a legal case, show that by 2013, he had more than $50 million in non-taxi assets, including three homes and a yacht.

    The bubble bursts

    At least eight drivers have committed suicide, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans.
    The medallion bubble burst in late 2014. Uber and Lyft may have hastened the crisis, but virtually all of the hundreds of industry veterans interviewed for this article, including many lenders, said inflated prices and risky lending practices would have caused a collapse even if ride-hailing had never been invented.

    At the market’s height, medallion buyers were typically earning about $5,000 a month and paying about $4,500 to their loans, according to an analysis by The Times of city data and loan documents. Many owners could make their payments only by refinancing when medallion values increased, which was unsustainable, some loan officers said.

    City data shows that since Uber entered New York in 2011, yellow cab revenue has decreased by about 10 percent per cab, a significant bite for low-earning drivers but a small drop compared with medallion values, which initially rose and then fell by 90 percent.

    As values fell, borrowers asked for breaks. But many lenders went the opposite direction. They decided to leave the business and called in their loans.

    They used the confessions to get hundreds of judgments that would allow them to take money from bank accounts, court records show. Some tried to get borrowers to give up homes or a relative’s assets. Others seized medallions and quickly resold them for profit, while still charging the original borrowers fees and extra interest. Several drivers have alleged in court that their lenders ordered them to buy life insurance.

    Many lenders hired a debt collector, Anthony Medina, to seize medallions from borrowers who missed payments.

    The scars left on cabs after medallions were removed.

    Mr. Medina left notes telling borrowers they had to give the lender “relief” to get their medallions back. The notes, which were reviewed by The Times, said the seizure was “authorized by vehicle apprehension unit.” Some drivers said Mr. Medina suggested he was a police officer and made them meet him at a park at night and pay $550 extra in cash.

    One man, Jean Demosthenes, a 64-year-old Haitian immigrant who could not speak English, said in an interview in Haitian Creole that Mr. Medina cornered him in Midtown, displayed a gun and took his car.

    In an interview, Mr. Medina denied threatening anyone with a gun. He said he requested cash because drivers who had defaulted could not be trusted to write good checks. He said he met drivers at parks and referred to himself as the vehicle apprehension unit because he wanted to hide his identity out of fear he could be targeted by borrowers.

    “You’re taking words from people that are deadbeats and delinquent people. Of course, they don’t want to see me,” he said. “I’m not the bad guy. I’m just the messenger from the bank.”

    Some lenders, especially Signature Bank, have let borrowers out of their loans for one-time payments of about $250,000. But to get that money, drivers have had to find new loans. Mr. Greenbaum, a fleet owner, has provided many of those loans, sometimes at interest rates of up to 15 percent, loan documents and interviews showed.

    New York Commercial Bank said in its statement it also had modified some loans.

    Other drivers lost everything. Most of the more than 950 owners who declared bankruptcy had to forfeit their medallions. Records indicate many were bought by hedge funds hoping for prices to rise. For now, cabs sit unused.

    Jean Demosthenes said his medallion was repossessed by a man with a gun. The man denied that he was armed.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, has asked the city to bail out owners or refund auction purchasers. Others have urged the city to pressure banks to forgive loans or soften terms.

    After reviewing The Times’s findings, Deepak Gupta, a former top official at the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the New York Attorney General’s Office should investigate lenders.

    Mr. Gupta also said the state should close the loophole that let lenders classify medallion deals as business loans, even though borrowers had to guarantee them with everything they owned. Consumer loans have far more disclosure rules and protections.

    “These practices were indisputably predatory and would be illegal if they were considered consumer loans, rather than business loans,” he said.

    Last year, amid eight known suicides of drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans, the city passed a temporary cap on ride-hailing cars, created a task force to study the industry and directed the city taxi commission to do its own analysis of the debt crisis.

    Earlier this year, the Council eliminated the committee overseeing the industry after its chairman, Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, said the Council was “controlled by the homosexual community.” The speaker, Mr. Johnson, said, “The vast majority of the legislative work that we have been looking at has already been completed.”

    In a statement, a council spokesman said the committee’s duties had been transferred to the Committee on Transportation. “The Council is working to do as much as it can legislatively to help all drivers,” the spokesman said.

    As of last week, no one had been appointed to the task force.

    On the last day of 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Hoque brought their third child home from the hospital.

    Mr. Hoque cleared space for the boy’s crib, pushing aside his plastic bags of T-shirts and the fan that cooled the studio. He looked around. He could not believe he was still living in the same room.

    His loan had quickly faltered. He could not make the payments and afford rent, and his medallion was seized. Records show he paid more than $12,000 to Mega, and he said he paid another $550 to Mr. Medina to get it back. He borrowed from friends, promising it would not happen again. Then it happened four more times, he said.

    Mr. Konstantinides, the broker, said in his statement that he met with Mr. Hoque many times and twice modified one of his loans in order to lower his monthly payments. He also said he gave Mr. Hoque extra time to make some payments.

    In all, between the initial fees, monthly payments and penalties after the seizures, Mr. Hoque had paid about $400,000 into the medallion by the beginning of this year.

    But he still owed $915,000 more, plus interest, and he did not know what to do. Bankruptcy would cost money, ruin his credit and remove his only income source. And it would mean a shameful end to years of hard work. He believed his only choice was to keep working and to keep paying.

    His cab was supposed to be his ticket to money and freedom, but instead it seemed like a prison cell. Every day, he got in before the sun rose and stayed until the sky began to darken. Mr. Hoque, now 48, tried not to think about home, about what he had given up and what he had dreamed about.

    “It’s an unhuman life,” he said. “I drive and drive and drive. But I don’t know what my destination is.”

    [Read Part 2 of The Times’s investigation: As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money]

    Reporting was contributed by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Suzanne Hillinger, Derek M. Norman, Elisha Brown, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Pierre-Antoine Louis and Sameen Amin. Doris Burke and Susan Beachy contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    Follow Brian M. Rosenthal on Twitter at @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Start with the Map: David Mitchell on Imaginary Cartography | The New Yorker

    The book that first set me on my way was “Watership Down,” by Richard Adams. I was nine years old when I read it. Basking in its afterglow, I plotted an epic novel about a small group of fugitive otters—one of whom was clairvoyant—who get driven from their home by the ravages of building work, and swim up the River Severn to its source, in Wales, where they establish an egalitarian community called Ottertopia.

    As any child author can testify, you can’t begin until you’ve got the map right. So I traced the course of the River Severn from my dad’s road atlas onto Sellotaped-together sheets of A4. Along the looping river, I drew woods, hills, and marshes in the style of the maps in “The Lord of the Rings”: blobs with sticks for trees, bumps for hills, and tufts for marshes. What about toponyms, though? Should I use existing human names, or make up Otterese words for places like Worcester or Upton-upon-Severn? Would otters have words for motorways or factories or bridges? Why would they? Why wouldn’t they? Never mind, I’ll sort that out later. I spent hours on that map, plotting the otters’ progress with a dotted red line and enjoying how nonchalant I’d be at school the day after my unprecedented Booker Prize victory. I’m sure I managed at least half a page of the novel before I got distracted.

    #cartographie #esquisses #recherche #cartographie_manuelle

  • Gentrification Is a Feature, Not a Bug, of Capitalist Urban Planning

    Look a little closer, however, and some important cracks arise. In his classic 1986 book Planning the Capitalist City, Richard Foglesong analyzes the relationship between capitalism and city planning as it evolved in the United States from the colonial period through the 1920s. He frames the book around two primary contradictions: one he calls “the property contradiction,” and the other “the capitalist-democracy contradiction.”

  • ’Kill Every Buffalo You Can! Every Buffalo Dead Is an Indian Gone’ - The Atlantic

    Herds became harder to find. In some prairies, they’d completely vanished. The buffalo runners sent two men to Fort Dodge, Kansas, to ask the colonel there what the penalty was if the skinners crossed into the Texas Panhandle and onto reservation land. The Medicine Lodge Treaty said no white settlers could hunt there, but that’s where the remaining buffalo had gathered. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Dodge met with the two men, and one remembered the colonel say, “Boys, if I were a buffalo hunter I would hunt buffalo where buffalo are.” Then the colonel wished them good luck.

    In the next decade, the hide hunters exterminated nearly every buffalo. Colonel Dodge would later write that “where there were myriads of buffalo the year before, there were now myriads of carcasses. The air was foul with a sickening stench, and the vast plain which only a short twelve months before teemed with animal life, was a dead, solitary desert.”

    #buffalo #extinction #génocide

  • Régulation des contenus haineux sur les réseaux sociaux : les réponses de Zuckerberg à Macron

    La réunion entre le chef de l’Etat et le fondateur de Facebook, vendredi, a fait émerger des accords, et surtout des points de divergence.

    A l’issue de la rencontre, devant un petit groupe de journalistes, dont Le Monde, Mark Zuckerberg a déclaré :
    « Nous avons lancé cette expérimentation [avec le gouvernement français], et nous avons été très impressionnés par le sérieux de leur travail pour comprendre les systèmes que nous avons mis en place, et les défis que ces questions représentent. Je me sens conforté et optimiste vis-à-vis du futur cadre juridique qui sera mis en place. Ça va être difficile, il y aura des choses avec lesquelles nous ne serons pas d’accord, mais pour que les gens aient confiance en Internet, il doit y avoir de bonnes régulations. »

    •$ Le montant des sanctions
    Concrètement, un premier désaccord concerne le montant des sanctions prévues dans le rapport remis vendredi, en cas de manquement aux obligations de transparence et d’application de la modération des contenus haineux : jusqu’à 4 % du chiffre d’affaires mondial de l’entreprise.

    « Cela a l’air d’être le nouveau standard qui est copié-collé dans toutes les régulations », a commenté Richard Allan, responsable des affaires publiques de Facebook, en référence au même niveau de sanction mentionné dans le règlement européen sur la protection des données (RGPD) et la proposition de loi sur les contenus haineux de la députée Laetitia Avia. Sur ce dernier texte, Facebook avait déjà fait savoir qu’il trouvait le recours au chiffre d’affaires mondial excessif.
    • L’accès à l’information interne et aux algorithmes
    Une deuxième mise en garde concerne les « larges pouvoirs d’accès à l’information détenue par les plates-formes » que le rapport veut accorder au régulateur (Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel ou autre). Il est prévu des « audits » mais aussi des « accès privilégiés » aux algorithmes du réseau social.

    « Quel sera le niveau d’intrusion des demandes formulées par le régulateur pour accéder à des données sur les performances de nos systèmes ? », s’est interrogé M. Allan, imaginant le cas de demandes touchant des données « non pertinentes » aux missions de régulation ou des « sujets commerciaux sensibles ».

  • En France en 2019, être pauvre peut vous coûter la vie
    par Chloé Leprince

    Il y a six mois tout juste, un matin de novembre, ils sont morts chez eux. Sous leur toit effondré sur eux, au 65 rue d’Aubagne, à Marseille. A 600 mètres du Vieux-Port, de ses touristes plus nombreux que jamais, ils sont morts d’être du Marseille des classes populaires, de celles qui trouvent à se loger dans des immeubles décrépits parce que les loyers y sont moins chers ou tout simplement parce que ce quartier de Noailles, c’est chez eux.

    rue d’Aubagne, Marseille

    #inégalités #Marseille #pauvreté

    • L’expert judiciaire, qui avait visité le 65 rue d’Aubagne avant qu’il ne s’effondre, gère le péril de son propre immeuble loin des radars de la mairie. Sans arrêté ni évacuation.

      L’expert judiciaire qui avait déclaré le péril grave et imminent de l’immeuble du 65 rue d’Aubagne, en n’évacuant qu’un seul appartement quelques jours avant son effondrement sur 8 occupants, se retrouve lui-même en situation difficile à son domicile.
      Richard Carta, architecte DPLG du patrimoine, expert auprès de la cour d’appel d’Aix-en-Provence, gère loin des feux de la rampe une crise majeure de son immeuble au 10, rue Bossuet, 6e. La façade est de ce bel édifice bâti sous le Second empire descend dans un sous-sol argileux, tirant vers lui l’immeuble voisin. Le plancher du 1er étage est tenu par une forêt d’étais métalliques en rez-de-chaussée. Les fenêtres des 3e et 4e étages ont été étrésillonnées pour contrebalancer les étais posés côté droit. Une jauge de fissure signale la date du 2 janvier 2019. Le 65 rue d’Aubagne n’avait pas bénéficié d’autant d’attentions.
      La situation est d’autant plus sérieuse que les désordres structurels touchent le n°8 dont le hall d’entrée est entravé par des renforcements métalliques. Alors que 310 immeubles et 2 700 habitants ont été évacués depuis le drame du 5 novembre, et pour beaucoup moins que ça, cet immeuble a échappé comme par miracle au radar de la municipalité. Contacté, le service des signalements de la mairie assure n’avoir rien enregistré.

      « Nous ne sommes pas en péril mais en travaux »

      « On s’est rendu compte avant Noël qu’on avait un problème de structure et on le règle. Nous ne sommes pas en péril mais en travaux », nuance Anne-Claude Carta. Architecte et experte judiciaire comme son époux actuellement à l’étranger, elle répond à La Marseillaise que l’immeuble de 1868 sur 5 niveaux dont elle est copropriétaire ne nécessitait pas une procédure de péril. « Ça tombe bien que vous m’appeliez car nous sommes la preuve que lorsque des propriétaires prennent leurs responsabilités et font les choses correctement, il n’y a pas à reloger tout le monde à l’hôtel. » Une mauvaise gestion de l’évacuation des eaux pluviales du voisin serait la cause de tous les maux.
      Un résident du n°10 nous livre une version différente : « Après ce qui s’est passé rue d’Aubagne, ils ont fait le tour et en voyant notre façade, il y a eu panique. » Quand nous lui demandons si le péril a été déclaré, sa réponse tombe : « Non, non, ça n’a pas été mis en arrêté de péril, justement parce que dans l’immeuble y a un architecte qui y vit et qui a tout fait pour ne pas être évacué. Il a fait les démarches et le suivi. »
      « Vous venez sous influence », nous reproche le cabinet Devictor, syndic de l’immeuble, fort occupé avec 4 immeubles en péril. « L’immeuble est totalement sous contrôle. On n’a pas attendu qu’un expert de la Ville évacue tout le monde et ensuite se décharge de tout. Nous avons pris les dispositions techniques nécessaires pour ne pas évacuer. » L’essentiel est pour lui que le bureau d’études Sol-Essais ait préconisé des confortements le 18 décembre, -« validés par Bernard Bart, un expert judiciaire neutre ». Ce dernier est précisément l’expert désigné par le parquet de Marseille pour mener les investigations techniques sur le drame de la rue d’Aubagne et dont les bureaux sont à 250 mètres de la rue Bossuet. Mais s’il a été choisi, c’est surtout à la demande de l’immeuble voisin pour départager les frais.

      « Nous n’avons pas l’ombre d’une fissure dans nos appartements. Je vois mal pourquoi vous insistez aussi lourdement », s’agace Mme Carta qui nous rappelle qu’ « il y a un droit absolu dans ce pays, c’est le droit de propriété » et « ce n’est pas parce que c’est Carta qui rencontre ce genre de problème que les choses sont différentes. » Quant à « l’affaire de la rue d’Aubagne », elle déplore de ne pas être informée de l’avancée de l’enquête. « Notre nom a été mis sous les projecteurs. La presse nous a mis injustement à l’avant-poste. Pour ma part, c’est de l’histoire ancienne. On préfère aller de l’avant. » Et poser des étais en toute discrétion.

      David Coquille

    • L’automne au mois de mai à Marseille #Claude_Guillon

      L’emplacement des immeubles effondrés a été transformé en une espèce de caricature monstrueuse de jardin japonais ; murs chaulés, énorme tas de graviers bétonné (à droite). On voit mal sur mes photos à cause de la camionnette du gardien (hargneux). Un peu plus haut, un panneau porte les portraits des victimes. Je n’ai pas voulu le photographier : quand je suis passé, des habitants du quartier le réparaient.

  • The Terrifying Potential of the 5G Network | The New Yorker

    Two words explain the difference between our current wireless networks and 5G: speed and latency. 5G—if you believe the hype—is expected to be up to a hundred times faster. (A two-hour movie could be downloaded in less than four seconds.) That speed will reduce, and possibly eliminate, the delay—the latency—between instructing a computer to perform a command and its execution. This, again, if you believe the hype, will lead to a whole new Internet of Things, where everything from toasters to dog collars to dialysis pumps to running shoes will be connected. Remote robotic surgery will be routine, the military will develop hypersonic weapons, and autonomous vehicles will cruise safely along smart highways. The claims are extravagant, and the stakes are high. One estimate projects that 5G will pump twelve trillion dollars into the global economy by 2035, and add twenty-two million new jobs in the United States alone. This 5G world, we are told, will usher in a fourth industrial revolution.

    A totally connected world will also be especially susceptible to cyberattacks. Even before the introduction of 5G networks, hackers have breached the control center of a municipal dam system, stopped an Internet-connected car as it travelled down an interstate, and sabotaged home appliances. Ransomware, malware, crypto-jacking, identity theft, and data breaches have become so common that more Americans are afraid of cybercrime than they are of becoming a victim of violent crime. Adding more devices to the online universe is destined to create more opportunities for disruption. “5G is not just for refrigerators,” Spalding said. “It’s farm implements, it’s airplanes, it’s all kinds of different things that can actually kill people or that allow someone to reach into the network and direct those things to do what they want them to do. It’s a completely different threat that we’ve never experienced before.”

    Spalding’s solution, he told me, was to build the 5G network from scratch, incorporating cyber defenses into its design.

    There are very good reasons to keep a company that appears to be beholden to a government with a documented history of industrial cyber espionage, international data theft, and domestic spying out of global digital networks. But banning Huawei hardware will not secure those networks. Even in the absence of Huawei equipment, systems still may rely on software developed in China, and software can be reprogrammed remotely by malicious actors. And every device connected to the fifth-generation Internet will likely remain susceptible to hacking. According to James Baker, the former F.B.I. general counsel who runs the national-security program at the R Street Institute, “There’s a concern that those devices that are connected to the 5G network are not going to be very secure from a cyber perspective. That presents a huge vulnerability for the system, because those devices can be turned into bots, for example, and you can have a massive botnet that can be used to attack different parts of the network.”

    This past January, Tom Wheeler, who was the F.C.C. chairman during the Obama Administration, published an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled “If 5G Is So Important, Why Isn’t It Secure?” The Trump Administration had walked away from security efforts begun during Wheeler’s tenure at the F.C.C.; most notably, in recent negotiations over international standards, the U.S. eliminated a requirement that the technical specifications of 5G include cyber defense. “For the first time in history,” Wheeler wrote, “cybersecurity was being required as a forethought in the design of a new network standard—until the Trump F.C.C. repealed it.” The agency also rejected the notion that companies building and running American digital networks were responsible for overseeing their security. This might have been expected, but the current F.C.C. does not consider cybersecurity to be a part of its domain, either. “I certainly did when we were in office,” Wheeler told me. “But the Republicans who were on the commission at that point in time, and are still there, one being the chairman, opposed those activities as being overly regulatory.”

    Opening up new spectrum is crucial to achieving the super-fast speeds promised by 5G. Most American carriers are planning to migrate their services to a higher part of the spectrum, where the bands are big and broad and allow for colossal rivers of data to flow through them. (Some carriers are also working with lower-spectrum frequencies, where the speeds will not be as fast but likely more reliable.) Until recently, these high-frequency bands, which are called millimetre waves, were not available for Internet transmission, but advances in antenna technology have made it possible, at least in theory. In practice, millimetre waves are finicky: they can only travel short distances—about a thousand feet—and are impeded by walls, foliage, human bodies, and, apparently, rain.

    Deploying millions of wireless relays so close to one another and, therefore, to our bodies has elicited its own concerns. Two years ago, a hundred and eighty scientists and doctors from thirty-six countries appealed to the European Union for a moratorium on 5G adoption until the effects of the expected increase in low-level radiation were studied. In February, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, took both the F.C.C. and F.D.A. to task for pushing ahead with 5G without assessing its health risks. “We’re kind of flying blind here,” he concluded. A system built on millions of cell relays, antennas, and sensors also offers previously unthinkable surveillance potential. Telecom companies already sell location data to marketers, and law enforcement has used similar data to track protesters. 5G will catalogue exactly where someone has come from, where they are going, and what they are doing. “To give one made-up example,” Steve Bellovin, a computer-science professor at Columbia University, told the Wall Street Journal, “might a pollution sensor detect cigarette smoke or vaping, while a Bluetooth receiver picks up the identities of nearby phones? Insurance companies might be interested.” Paired with facial recognition and artificial intelligence, the data streams and location capabilities of 5G will make anonymity a historical artifact.

    To accommodate these limitations, 5G cellular relays will have to be installed inside buildings and on every city block, at least. Cell relays mounted on thirteen million utility poles, for example, will deliver 5G speeds to just over half of the American population, and cost around four hundred billion dollars to install. Rural communities will be out of luck—too many trees, too few people—despite the F.C.C.’s recently announced Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

    Deploying millions of wireless relays so close to one another and, therefore, to our bodies has elicited its own concerns. Two years ago, a hundred and eighty scientists and doctors from thirty-six countries appealed to the European Union for a moratorium on 5G adoption until the effects of the expected increase in low-level radiation were studied. In February, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, took both the F.C.C. and F.D.A. to task for pushing ahead with 5G without assessing its health risks. “We’re kind of flying blind here,” he concluded. A system built on millions of cell relays, antennas, and sensors also offers previously unthinkable surveillance potential. Telecom companies already sell location data to marketers, and law enforcement has used similar data to track protesters. 5G will catalogue exactly where someone has come from, where they are going, and what they are doing. “To give one made-up example,” Steve Bellovin, a computer-science professor at Columbia University, told the Wall Street Journal, “might a pollution sensor detect cigarette smoke or vaping, while a Bluetooth receiver picks up the identities of nearby phones? Insurance companies might be interested.” Paired with facial recognition and artificial intelligence, the data streams and location capabilities of 5G will make anonymity a historical artifact.

    #Surveillance #Santé #5G #Cybersécurité

  • Hedy West, Mississippi John Hurt & Paul Cadwell

    1965, US, video, VO ANG ,52’

    Nous démarrons cette programmation par un épisode résumant à lui seul la diversité du folk américain dans les années 60. Pete Seeger reçoit la jeune Hedy West, qui émerge à la fin des années 50. Elle joue du banjo long neck, chante fort et de manière très émouvante. Richard Anthony lui piquera la mélodie de « J’entends siffler le train »... Il reçoit également Paul Caldwell, banjoïste rapide des Appalaches, plus tout jeune et inconnu, excellent musicien trad, et enfin Mississipi John Hurt, le franc tireur blues au picking extraordinaire, connu par ses enregistrements de 1928, et star du revival blues des années 60. Episode varié donc, avec plein de super musique.

    jeudi 16 mai 2019 à (...)

  • La famille Sackler, maître des opioïdes et amie des arts

    L’OxyContin, médicament hautement addictif, a fait la fortune de cette famille qui préfère parler de son mécénat plutôt que de sa responsabilité dans la crise sanitaire aux Etats-Unis.

    La cuillère a le fond calciné, et son manche est retourné pour lui donner plus de stabilité. Comme celles utilisées par les toxicomanes qui font fondre leur drogue. Sauf que l’ustensile pèse… près de 360 kg. Le 22 juin 2018, il bloquait l’entrée du siège de Purdue Pharma, à Stamford (Connecticut). La firme, propriété de la famille Sackler, produit l’OxyContin, puissant antidouleur fabriqué à partir de morphine de synthèse.

    Ce médicament a fait la fortune des Sackler, dont la richesse est estimée par l’agence Bloomberg à 13 milliards de dollars (11,6 milliards d’euros). Hautement addictif, il est surtout accusé d’avoir fait tomber dans la drogue des milliers d’Américains et d’être responsable de la crise des opioïdes qui frappe les Etats-Unis.
    L’OxyContin, commercialisé depuis 1995, aurait fait tomber dans la drogue des milliers d’Américains
    Depuis un an, l’artiste Domenic Esposito, 49 ans, mène une guérilla contre la famille Sackler avec sa cuillère. Il l’a de nouveau exposée le 5 avril à Washington, devant l’Agence américaine du médicament (FDA), à qui il est reproché d’avoir autorisé l’OxyContin. M. Esposito se bat pour son frère Danny, de dix-huit ans son cadet, qui a sombré dans la drogue au milieu des années 2000, en commençant par l’OxyContin, avant de se tourner vers l’héroïne.

    « Il a bousillé douze années de sa vie », confie Domenic Esposito, qui nous reçoit à Westwood, dans son atelier, en face de sa maison perdue dans les forêts du Massachusetts. Sa famille veut croire à une rémission, mais la désillusion n’est jamais loin. « Ma mère m’a souvent appelé en pleurant après avoir trouvé les résidus dans une cuillère, raconte-t-il. Cette cuillère est le symbole du combat macabre de ma famille. »


    Ancien gestionnaire de capitaux reconverti dans l’art, M. Esposito a décidé de passer à l’action quand il s’est aperçu que son frère n’était pas un cas isolé.
    Le déclic s’est produit lors des journées de charité du diocèse de Boston, pendant le Carême de 2016. Catholique et bon orateur, il vante l’action du diocèse en faveur des victimes de la drogue. Et évoque son frère. Une fois son discours achevé, une dizaine de personnes viennent partager leur expérience. A chaque fois, le même scénario : une blessure banale mais nécessitant un antidouleur, et une ordonnance d’OxyContin. S’amorce alors l’engrenage de l’addiction avec, souvent, un basculement vers l’héroïne. Il s’agit bien d’une épidémie, provoquée par Purdue et les Sackler.
    Pourquoi ferrailler avec une œuvre d’art ? Parce que c’est là une des failles du clan. Si le nom de Purdue est peu connu, celui de la famille Sackler est, depuis un demi-siècle, synonyme de mécénat artistique. Au Metro­politan Museum (Met) et au Musée Guggenheim de New York, à la National Portrait Gallery de Londres ou au Louvre, à Paris, avec l’« aile ­Sackler des antiquités orientales », leur patronyme est omniprésent.

    Des personnes visitent l’aile Sackler au Metropolitan Museum of Art, à New York, le 28 mars.

    Puisque les Sackler s’abritent derrière les arts, les artistes veulent les faire périr par eux, comme le montre l’initiative de M. Esposito et comme le revendique la photographe américaine Nan Goldin, devenue dépendante à l’OxyContin après une opération. « Pour qu’ils nous écoutent, nous allons cibler leur philanthropie. Ils ont lavé leur argent maculé de sang grâce aux halls des musées et des uni­versités », accuse Mme Goldin, qui a photographié son propre calvaire.

    « Un blizzard d’ordonnances »

    En mars 2018, au Met, cinquante militants se sont allongés, feignant d’être morts, dans l’aile financée par les Sackler. En février 2019, au Musée Guggenheim, des activistes ont jeté de fausses ordonnances d’OxyContin, cruel rappel adressé à Richard Sackler, 74 ans, fils d’un des fondateurs et ex-PDG de Purdue, qui avait prédit « un blizzard d’ordonnances qui enterrerait la concurrence ».
    L’étau se resserre sur le front judiciaire, avec 1 600 plaintes déposées et des poursuites pénales engagées par les parquets de Boston et de New York

    Cela paie. En mars, le Guggenheim a fait savoir qu’il n’accepterait plus de dons de la famille, ­ tandis que Mortimer Sackler, ancien membre actif du conseil d’administration (CA) de Purdue et cousin de Richard, a dû se retirer du CA. A Londres, la Tate Gallery a fait de même, et la National Portrait Gallery a décliné une promesse de don de 1 million de livres (1,15 million d’euros).
    Parallèlement, l’étau se resserre sur le front judiciaire, avec 1 600 plaintes déposées et des poursuites pénales engagées par les parquets de Boston et de New York. Au point que la société pourrait déposer le bilan. Prolixes sur leurs activités philanthropiques et artistiques, les Sackler sont mutiques sur leur entreprise.

    La procureure générale de l’Etat de New York, Letitia James, annonce la plus importante poursuite en justice jamais intentée contre la famille Sackler, le 28 mars.

    L’histoire débute avec les trois frères Sackler, fils d’immigrants juifs de Galicie et de Pologne nés à Brooklyn. Tous trois médecins psychiatres, ils se lancent dans la pharmacie, en rachetant une petite entreprise de Greenwich Village, qui vend des produits comme la Betadine ou fait le marketing du Valium. Ils conquièrent des patients et, surtout, des médecins prescripteurs (en 1997, le patriarche, Arthur Sackler, a été distingué à titre posthume pour ses talents publicitaires).

    « Méthodes agressives »

    C’est cette recette qui, à partir de 1995, permet d’écouler l’OxyContin. A une époque où l’on cherche à apaiser les douleurs insupportables des malades du cancer, le produit apparaît comme une solution magique : il n’est pas addictif et soulage le patient pendant douze heures. Cela représente un formidable argument publicitaire, notamment parce qu’il se diffuse en continu.
    Cependant, au lieu d’être réservé aux patients en soins palliatifs, il est distribué comme de l’aspirine, à coups d’intéressement (pour les vendeurs) et de séminaires dans des palaces de Floride (pour les médecins). Les dosages très élevés créent une accoutumance mortifère. Les précieuses pilules, qui ont des qualités ­similaires à celles de l’héroïne lorsqu’elles sont brûlées, attirent l’attention des narcotrafiquants qui organisent un commerce de ­ contrebande très lucratif, avec la complicité de médecins véreux.

    Quand il apparaît que le produit est addictif, la firme choisit de ­blâmer les consommateurs. Dès 2003, l’Agence fédérale de ­contrôle des stupéfiants (DEA) l’accuse d’avoir, par ses « méthodes agressives », favorisé l’abus d’OxyContin et minimisé « les risques associés au médicament », raconte The New Yorker dans une enquête-fleuve publiée en octobre 2017 et intitulée « Un empire de douleur », qui estime à 35 milliards de dollars le chiffre d’affaires généré par le médicament.
    En 2007, Purdue accepte de verser 600 millions de dollars d’amende pour avoir prétendu que son médicament était moins addictif que ceux de ses concurrents. Trois ans plus tard, la firme élabore une nouvelle version de son produit, qui ne peut pas être transformée comme l’héroïne.

    Rumeurs de faillite

    Mais The New Yorker note qu’il s’agissait aussi de contrer l’arrivée de médicaments génériques, l’OxyContin devant tomber dans le domaine public en 2013. Et que l’effet paradoxal de l’affaire a été d’amplifier le basculement des drogués vers l’héroïne. « C’est un terrible paradoxe de l’histoire de l’OxyContin : la formule originelle a créé une génération accro aux pilules. Et sa reformulation (…) a créé une génération accro à l’héroïne. »
    L’Oklahoma, particulièrement touché, est parvenu fin mars à une transaction de 270 millions de dollars. Purdue préfère payer pour éviter un procès public et la publication de documents internes potentiellement désastreux. Des rumeurs de faillite courent, et certains Etats pourraient être tentés de conclure des transactions rapides plutôt que de ne rien obtenir.
    Pour d’autres, l’argent ne suffit pas. Il faut poursuivre les vrais coupables, et en premier lieu les Sackler. Les trois frères fondateurs sont morts, mais la famille, qui a touché 4,3 milliards de dollars de dividendes entre 2008 et 2016, dirige de facto la compagnie. Celle-ci ne s’exprime que par des communiqués laconiques, se disant soucieuse de « contribuer à lutter contre cette crise de santé publique complexe ».

    Des parents dénoncent la responsabilité de la famille Sackler dans la mort de leurs enfants, à Marlborough (Massachusetts), le 12 avril.

    Purdue répète qu’elle ne représente que 2 % des ventes d’opioïdes aux Etats-Unis, et ne peut être tenue, à elle seule, pour respon­sable de ladite crise. La procureure générale du Massachusetts, Maura Healey, ne s’en satisfait pas et a mis en examen huit membres de la famille impliqués dans l’entreprise. Elle s’appuie, entre autres, sur un courriel du patron de Purdue, Craig Landau, qui, selon la plainte, énonçait une évidence : « La famille dirigeait l’entreprise pharmaceutique mondiale Sackler et le conseil de surveillance jouait le rôle de PDG de facto. »

    « Les Sackler méritent la peine capitale »

    Les héritiers, qui estiment n’y être pour rien, se désolidarisent. C’est le cas des descendants du frère aîné et grand mécène Arthur, disparu en 1987 et dont les parts ont été récupérées non par ses enfants mais par ses frères. « Le rôle de Purdue [dans la crise des opioïdes] m’est odieux », a ainsi déclaré la fille d’Arthur, Elizabeth Sackler. Fondatrice d’un centre d’art féministe à Brooklyn, elle a aussi salué, dans le New York Times, « le courage de Nan Goldin ».
    Ses détracteurs ne l’entendent pas ainsi : ils estiment que ce sont les méthodes de marketing adoptées à partir des années 1950 par Arthur qui ont fait merveille pour l’OxyContin – méthodes auxquelles Purdue n’a renoncé que… début 2018. « Leur nom est terni pour toujours (…). Aujourd’hui, il y a des gens qui estiment que les Sackler méritent la peine capitale. Ils sont responsables de milliers de morts », accuse Domenic Esposito.
    Dans une manœuvre de sauve-qui-peut, les membres de la famille se retirent tous, depuis deux ans, du conseil d’administration de Purdue. Sans doute trop tard pour échapper aux poursuites de Mme Healey, à qui M. Esposito a offert sa cuillère militante.

  • La famille Sackler, maîtres des #opioïdes et amis des arts

    Le déclic s’est produit lors des journées de charité du diocèse de Boston, pendant le Carême de 2016. Catholique et bon orateur, il vante l’action du diocèse en faveur des victimes de la drogue. Et évoque son frère. Une fois son discours achevé, une dizaine de personnes viennent partager leur expérience. A chaque fois, le même scénario : une blessure banale mais nécessitant un antidouleur, et une ordonnance d’#OxyContin. S’amorce alors l’engrenage de l’addiction avec, souvent, un basculement vers l’héroïne. Il s’agit bien d’une épidémie, provoquée par #Purdue et les Sackler.

    Pourquoi ferrailler avec une œuvre d’art ? Parce que c’est là une des failles du clan. Si le nom de Purdue est peu connu, celui de la famille Sackler est, depuis un demi-siècle, synonyme de mécénat artistique. Au Metro­politan Museum (Met) et au Musée Guggenheim de New York, à la National Portrait Gallery de Londres ou au #Louvre, à Paris, avec l’« aile ­Sackler des antiquités orientales », leur patronyme est omniprésent.

    Cela paie. En mars, le #Guggenheim a fait savoir qu’il n’accepterait plus de dons de la famille, ­ tandis que Mortimer #Sackler, ancien membre actif du conseil d’administration (CA) de Purdue et cousin de Richard, a dû se retirer du CA. A Londres, la #Tate Gallery a fait de même, et la National Portrait Gallery a décliné une promesse de don de 1 million de livres (1,15 million d’euros).

    L’histoire débute avec les trois frères Sackler, fils d’immigrants juifs de Galice et de Pologne nés à Brooklyn. Tous trois médecins psychiatres, ils se lancent dans la pharmacie, en rachetant une petite entreprise de Greenwich Village, qui vend des produits comme la Betadine ou fait le marketing du Valium. Ils conquièrent des patients et, surtout, des médecins prescripteurs (en 1997, le patriarche, Arthur Sackler, a été distingué à titre posthume pour ses talents publicitaires).

    Mais The New Yorker note qu’il s’agissait aussi de contrer l’arrivée de médicaments génériques, l’OxyContin devant tomber dans le domaine public en 2013. Et que l’effet paradoxal de l’affaire a été d’amplifier le basculement des drogués vers l’héroïne. « C’est un terrible paradoxe de l’histoire de l’OxyContin : la formule originelle a créé une génération accro aux pilules. Et sa reformulation (…) a créé une génération accro à l’#héroïne. »

    L’#Oklahoma, particulièrement touché, est parvenu fin mars à une transaction de 270 millions de dollars. Purdue préfère payer pour éviter un procès public et la publication de documents internes potentiellement désastreux. Des rumeurs de faillite courent, et certains Etats pourraient être tentés de conclure des transactions rapides plutôt que de ne rien obtenir.

  • Les archéologues ont mis au jour des preuves des premières célébrations à grande échelle en Grande-Bretagne (des personnes et des animaux parcourant des centaines de kilomètres pour assister à des rituels de fête préhistorique). (confirmation).

    L’étude est la plus complète à ce jour [il y en avait eu déjà d’autres] a examiné les os de 131 porcs, les principaux animaux de ces fêtes, issus de quatre complexes du Néolithique supérieur (environ 2800-2400 av. J.-C.). Desservant les célèbres monuments de Stonehenge et Avebury, les quatre sites - Durrington Walls, Marden, Mount Pleasant et West Kennet Palisade Enclos - ont accueilli les tout premiers événements pan-britanniques, des festins qui ont attiré des personnes et des animaux de toute la Grande-Bretagne.


    Les résultats montrent que les os de porc extraits de ces sites provenaient d’animaux élevés aussi loin que l’Écosse, le nord-est de l’Angleterre et l’ouest du pays de Galles, ainsi que de nombreux autres endroits dans les îles britanniques. Les chercheurs estiment qu’il était peut-être important que les personnes présentes apportent des animaux élevés localement chez eux.

    Jusqu’à présent, les origines des personnes qui ont pris part à des rituels dans ces monuments mégalithiques et l’ampleur des mouvements de population de l’époque étaient des énigmes de longue date dans la préhistoire britannique.

    Le Dr Richard Madgwick, de l’École d’histoire, d’archéologie et de religion, a déclaré : “Cette étude démontre une échelle de mouvement et un niveau de complexité sociale qui n’étaient pas appréciés auparavant.”

    “Ces rassemblements pourraient être considérés comme les premiers événements culturels unis de notre île, des habitants de tous les coins de la Grande-Bretagne descendant dans les environs de Stonehenge pour se régaler de mets spécialement préparés et transportés de chez eux”.

    Représentant de grandes prouesses d’ingénierie et de mobilisation de la main-d’œuvre, les complexes néolithiques d’Henge du sud de la Grande-Bretagne ont été le point de mire de grands rassemblements du troisième millénaire avant notre ère. Les porcs étaient le principal animal utilisé pour les festins et ils fournissaient la meilleure indication de la provenance des gens qui se régalaient sur ces sites, car pratiquement aucun reste humain n’a été retrouvé.

    À l’aide d’une analyse isotopique, qui identifie les signaux chimiques provenant de la nourriture et de l’eau que les animaux ont consommées, les chercheurs ont pu déterminer les zones géographiques où les porcs ont été élevés. L’étude offre l’image la plus détaillée du degré de mobilité en Grande-Bretagne à l’époque de Stonehenge.

    Le Dr Madgwick a déclaré : « La découverte la plus surprenante est sans doute les efforts que les participants ont investis pour amener les porcs qu’ils ont eux-mêmes élevés. Il aurait été relativement facile de les acheter à proximité des lieux de fête (...) “Les porcs ne sont pas aussi aptes à se déplacer sur de grande distances que les bovins et les transporter, abattus ou sur pied, sur des centaines, voire des milliers de kilomètres, a nécessité un effort monumental.”

    Cela suggère que les contributions prescrites étaient nécessaires et que les règles dictaient que les porcs offerts devaient être élevés par les participants au festin, les accompagnant dans leur voyage, plutôt que d’être acquis localement. »

    Multi-isotope analysis reveals that feasts in the Stonehenge environs and across Wessex drew people and animals from throughout Britain | Science Advances

    R. Madgwick, A. L. Lamb, H. Sloane, A. J. Nederbragt, U. Albarella, M. Parker Pearson and J. A. Evans. Multi-isotope analysis reveals that feasts in the Stonehenge environs and across Wessex drew people and animals from throughout Britain. Science Advances, 2019 DOI : 10.1126/sciadv.aau6078

    #Préhistoire #Néolithique #Stonehenge #cérémonie #migrations #4800BP #4400BP

  • Capitalocène, racisme environnemental et écoféminisme – Agitations

    « En dehors du fait que les méthodes d’exploitation ne correspondent pas au niveau de développement social, mais aux conditions accidentelles et fort inégales dans lesquelles les producteurs sont individuellement placés, nous assistons dans ces deux formes [petite et grande culture] à une exploitation gaspilleuse des ressources du sol au lieu d’une culture consciencieuse et rationnelle de la terre, propriété commune et éternelle, condition inaliénable de l’existence et de la reproduction de générations humaines qui se relaient ».
    Karl Marx, Le Capital, Volume II

    « Quand il pleut, quand il y a de faux nuages sur Paris, n’oubliez jamais que c’est la faute du gouvernement. La production industrielle aliénée fait la pluie. La révolution fait le beau temps ».
    Guy Debord, La Planète Malade


    Indéniablement, le désastre est en cours. Les îles Marshall sont progressivement inondées, certaines ont déjà disparu. Les réfugiés climatiques se multiplient, et sont des milliers à demander l’asile climatique : ils seront plusieurs centaines de millions d’ici 30 ans (à noter qu’à ce jour, le statut de « réfugié climatique » n’est pas reconnu juridiquement par les institutions supranationales). Les catastrophes naturelles s’intensifient, l’augmentation de la salinité des eaux menace nombre de terres agricoles, les feux de forêts paraissent dans certaines régions inarrêtables. Des métropoles et mégalopoles phares du capitalisme mondialisé sont menacées d’être invivables d’ici quelques décennies, notamment Miami, New-York, Rotterdam, Tokyo, Singapour ou encore Amsterdam.

    Il serait fastidieux de recenser tous les dégâts du réchauffement climatique, et là n’est pas notre sujet. Nombre de travaux ont déjà été réalisés1 sur ce qui apparaît aujourd’hui comme une menace monstrueuse et imminente : l’effondrement de toute civilisation humaine. Les théories catastrophistes ont désormais le vent en poupe, tout comme les thèses, articles et ouvrages de collapsologie. Le survivalisme devient progressivement un thème sociétal en vogue, surfant au gré des pseudo-solutions individualistes et techno-utopistes prônées par les tenants du capitalisme vert ou par les lobbys assurantiels du risque climatique. Le changement climatique est un marché lucratif.

    Depuis des décennies, l’ampleur du danger est étudiée par des institutions et chercheurs, pour la plupart occidentaux et régulièrement subventionnés par de grands groupes capitalistes. Les plus grandes fortunes mondiales se transforment en philanthropes sauveurs de l’humanité. En 2016, Bill Gates, à travers sa fondation et le fonds Breakthrough Energy Ventures, levait un milliard de dollars afin de développer des technologies de géo-ingénierie illuminées nécessitant l’exploitation de millions de prolétaires pour des résultats plus qu’incertains. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) ou Richard Branson (Virgin) furent parmi les principaux donateurs. D’autres multi-milliardaires explorent en hélicoptère les savanes africaines et indonésiennes afin de redorer leur image en comptant le nombre d’éléphants disparus chaque année : une façon comme une autre de faire campagne sans nécessité de serrer des mains.

    Les capitalistes profitent de la déqualification du prolétariat à l’ère du Toyotisme2 pour s’arroger toutes les compétences techniques et toutes les solutions au changement climatique : les travailleurs, aliénés, sont dépossédés de toute capacité d’intervention sur la production, entrainant la promotion d’une attitude individualiste et morale sur la crise en cours. Ainsi, les capitalistes font de la crise environnementale un problème « civilisationnel », un « enjeu nouveau pour nos démocraties », se pressent pour parler de « consensus » quant au danger qui nous guette. L’idéologie citoyenniste du « tous-ensemble » ou celle pseudo-radicale de l’éco-populisme sont incapables de mettre fin aux ambitions d’exploitation des ressources naturelles propres au système actuel, précisément parce que ce dernier ne peut fonctionner qu’en accumulant toujours plus de richesses. Ces idéologies s’indignent de l’inaction de l’État, incapable de remettre l’humanité sur de bons rails. Dès lors, l’ État est le nouvel interlocuteur privilégié des acteurs des Marches pour le Climat, marches très majoritairement métropolitaines, blanches et bourgeoises. De son côté, l’économie apparaît pour ces marcheurs, dans un système mondialisé, comme lointaine, sinon secondaire : elle est un « interlocuteur » absent.

    L’indignation citoyenniste est d’un moralisme exacerbé, si bien qu’on entend parler à longueur de temps d’alternatives institutionnelles. C’est l’homme qui est visé dans son individualité, abstraitement, et ce principalement à travers son mode de consommation. La production marchande passe à la trappe au profit du « consom’acteur », le genre humain est aussi bien le fauteur de trouble que le bouc-émissaire, l’universalisme bourgeois hors-sol des Lumières reprend ses droits. Une vision fictionnelle du système-monde l’emporte à l’heure où les sols sont presque partout déjà morts.

    Contre cette lecture caricaturale de la crise en cours, nous effectuerons dans un premier temps une critique radicale du concept d’Anthropocène, en tant qu’il serait cause du réchauffement climatique, et nous lui préférerons le concept de Capitalocène. Dans un second temps, nous verrons comment le système capitaliste produit différentes formes de racisme environnemental. Enfin, nous verrons ce qu’une lecture écoféministe de la crise telle que celle de Maria Mies nous enseigne à propos des liens entre effondrement environnemental et domination masculine, le tout afin de comprendre comment les luttes actuelles (aux prises avec les contradictions du capital, de genre et avec la segmentation raciale du travail comme de l’espace) sont imbriquées et tendent à ralentir la crise.

    #capitalocène #écoféminisme


      ‘Segregated By Design’ examines the forgotten history of how our federal, state and local governments unconstitutionally segregated every major metropolitan area in America through law and policy.

      Prejudice can be birthed from a lack of understanding the historically accurate details of the past. Without being aware of the unconstitutional residential policies the United States government enacted during the middle of the twentieth century, one might have a negative view today of neighborhoods where African Americans live or even of African Americans themselves.

      We can compensate for this unlawful segregation through a national political consensus that leads to legislation. And this will only happen if the majority of Americans understand how we got here. Like Jay-Z said in a recent New York Times interview, “you can’t have a solution until you start dealing with the problem: What you reveal, you heal.” This is the major challenge at hand: to educate fellow citizens of the unconstitutional inequality that we’ve woven and, on behalf of our government, accept responsibility to fix it.

    • The Color of Law

      This “powerful and disturbing history” exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide (New York Times Book Review).

      Widely heralded as a “masterful” (Washington Post) and “essential” (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law offers “the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation” (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods. A groundbreaking, “virtually indispensable” study that has already transformed our understanding of twentieth-century urban history (Chicago Daily Observer), The Color of Law forces us to face the obligation to remedy our unconstitutional past.

  • L’extraction de pierres de taille de Stonehenge datent de 5000 ans BP.
    L’étude explique pourquoi les hommes de cette époque ont été cherchés des pierre aussi lointaine et remet aussi en cause une théorie populaire sur le transport de ces pierres.

    Les fouilles dans deux carrières du pays de Galles, connues pour être à l’origine des « pierres bleues » de Stonehenge, fournissent de nouvelles preuves de l’exploitation de mégalithes il y a 5 000 ans, selon une nouvelle étude menée par l’UCL.

    Les géologues savent depuis longtemps que 42 des plus petites pierres de Stonehenge, appelées « pierres bleues », proviennent des collines Preseli dans le Pembrokeshire, dans l’ouest du pays de Galles. Maintenant, une nouvelle étude publiée dans l’Antiquité identifie l’emplacement exact de deux de ces carrières et révèle quand et comment les pierres ont été extraites.

    Le professeur Mike Parker Pearson (Archéologie de l’UCL) et chef de l’équipe a déclaré : "Ce qui est vraiment excitant à propos de ces découvertes, c’est qu’elles nous rapprochent de la solution du plus grand mystère de Stonehenge : pourquoi ses pierres sont venues de si loin ?"

    "Tous les autres monuments néolithiques en Europe ont été construits avec des mégalithes ramenés à moins de 15 km. Nous cherchons maintenant à savoir ce qui était si spécial dans les collines de Preseli il y a 5 000 ans et s’il y avait des cercles de pierre importants ici, construits avant que les pierres bleues ne soient transférées à Stonehenge. "

    La plus grande carrière a été découverte à près de 300 km de Stonehenge sur le piton de Carn Goedog, sur le versant nord des collines de Preseli.

    "C’était la source dominante de la dolérite tachetée de Stonehenge, ainsi nommée car elle présente des taches blanches dans la roche bleue ignée. Au moins cinq pierres bleues de Stonehenge, et probablement plus, proviennent de Carn Goedog", a déclaré le géologue Richard Bevins (Musée national du pays de Galles).

    Dans la vallée en aval de Carn Goedog, un autre affleurement à Craig Rhos-y-felin a été identifié par le Dr Bevins et son confrère géologue, le Dr Rob Ixer (UCL Archaeology), à l’origine d’un type de rhyolite (...) trouvé à Stonehenge.

    Selon la nouvelle étude, les affleurements de pierre bleue sont formés de piliers naturels et verticaux.

    [Cf. photo dans l’étude originale :

    Celles-ci pourraient être extraites de la paroi en écartant les joints verticaux entre chaque pilier. Contrairement aux carrières de pierre de l’Égypte ancienne, où les obélisques étaient taillés dans le roc, les carrières galloises étaient plus faciles à exploiter.

    Les ouvriers des carrières néolithiques n’avaient besoin que d’insérer des cales dans les joints entre les piliers, puis de basculer chaque pilier au pied de l’affleurement.

    Bien que la plupart de leurs équipements soient probablement constitués de cordes périssables, de cales en bois, de maillets et de leviers, ils ont laissé d’autres outils tels que des marteaux, des pierres et des cales.

    « Les cales en pierre sont faites de mudstone importé, beaucoup plus doux que les piliers durs en dolérite. Un collègue ingénieur a suggéré que le fait de marteler un coin dur aurait pu créer des fractures de contrainte, provoquant la fissuration des minces piliers. (...) » a déclaré le professeur Parker Pearson.

    Des fouilles archéologiques au pied des deux affleurements ont mis à jour les vestiges de plates-formes en pierre et en terre fabriquées par l’homme, le bord extérieur de chaque plate-forme se terminant par une chute verticale d’environ un mètre.

    « Les piliers de la pierre bleue pourraient être basculés sur cette plate-forme, qui servait de plate-forme de chargement pour les charger sur des luges en bois avant de les traîner », a déclaré le professeur Colin Richards (Université des Highlands and Islands) (...).

    L’équipe du professeur Parker Pearson avait pour objectif important de dater les carrières de mégalithes sur les deux affleurements. Dans les sédiments mous d’une piste évidée menant du quai de chargement à Craig Rhos-y-felin et sur la plate-forme artificielle de Carn Goedog, l’équipe a récupéré des morceaux de charbon datant de 3000 ans av. notre ère.

    L’équipe pense maintenant que Stonehenge était à l’origine un cercle de piliers bruts en pierre de pierre bleue dans des fosses connues sous le nom d’Aubrey Holes, près de Stonehenge, et que les sarsens (blocs de grès) ont été ajoutés environ 500 ans plus tard.

    Les nouvelles découvertes remettent également en cause une théorie populaire selon laquelle les pierres bleues auraient été transportées par mer à Stonehenge.

    « Certaines personnes pensent que les pierres bleues ont été transportées vers le sud jusqu’à Milford Haven, puis placées sur des radeaux ou suspendues entre des bateaux, puis ont remonté le canal de Bristol et longé le Bristol Avon en direction de la plaine de Salisbury. Mais ces carrières se trouvent du côté nord des collines de Preseli. Les mégalithes auraient simplement pu aller par voie de terre jusqu’à la plaine de Salisbury », a déclaré la professeure Kate Welham (Université de Bournemouth).

    Megalith quarries for Stonehenge’s bluestones

    Pearson, M., Pollard, J., Richards, C., Welham, K., Casswell, C., French, C., . . . Ixer, R. (2019). Megalith quarries for Stonehenge’s bluestones. Antiquity, 93(367), 45-62. doi:10.15184/aqy.2018.111

    #Préhistoire #Néolithique #Stonehenge #5000BP #transport #Europe