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One Country Will Replace America as the ‘Land of Opportunity’ by Doing What the U.S. Refuses To

One Country Will Replace America as the ‘Land of Opportunity’ by Doing What the U.S. Refuses To

“Germany.

Yes, Germany is now considered a blossoming land of opportunity for immigrants. It is the top immigrant destination in Europe and only second to the U.S. in number of immigrants welcomed in 2012.

The country has radically simplified the immigration process for educated E.U. citizens and foreigners and has developed special programs to encourage unemployed Europeans to migrate, with Germany footing the bill.

Jordi Colombi, a 36-year-old Spaniard profiled by the Washington Post, exemplifies this migratory pattern. Colombi’s journey from unemployment in Spain to flourishing architect in Germany is symbolic of a functional immigration system.

Germany, who the Economist calls “a bastion of strength in the fragile euro zone,” is experiencing a surge in jobs and an employment peak for the first time in 2014 since 1990. And it is growing and thriving in part because the country has laid out welcome mats for people wanting the “German dream.” Meanwhile, America’s stale immigration system that is indefinitely locked in limbo could learn a thing or two from Germany’s success.

Image Credit: AP

Germany Immigration Policy 101: In 2013, a record high of 437,000 immigrants flooded onto Germany’s border, Deutsche Bank reported. That influx has aided a shrinking pool of German workers, where the country “has Europe’s oldest population and second-lowest birthrate after Monaco,” according toBloomberg Businessweek.

Specific policies are tempting foreign individuals to seek out Germany’s employment opportunities and transition programs. E.U. nationals can easily migrate between the 28 nations. But Germany went beyond that measure by instituting a “Blue Card” system in 2013 where anyone “with a university degree and a job offer with a minimum salary of $50,000 to $64,000 a year, depending on the field” can immigrate, theWashington Post reported.

Additionally, Germany invested $609 million in a program targeting unemployed European 18- to 35-year-olds. The country pays for almost all of their assimilation including travel, language classes and accommodations during job training (though the program had to stop taking new applicants in April).

Other than occasional xenophobic incidents, the country has seen nothing but positive results of these policies. Deutsche Bank estimated that in recent years, 10% of Germany’s economic growth “can be attributed to an increase in employment of citizens from [Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain] and Eastern European partners.”

Meanwhile in America: On the other side of the spectrum, the U.S. continues to display an aggressive and degrading approach to the immigration issue. Particularly as the country faces what President Barack Obama has declared “an urgent humanitarian situation,” with more than 47,000 unaccompanied children that have been detained crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since October 2013.

This is how Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) decided to respond to the flood of children fleeing their poverty-ridden and violence-laden countries in Central and South America.

And Perry, holding an automatic weapon to “protect our borders,” isn’t even the half of it. In early July, misinformed protesters — demonstrating against so-called illegals who threaten their jobs and apparently spread diseases — blocked three busloads of the detained children from going to detention centers in Murrieta, Calif.

Image Credit: ABC-10 News

It doesn’t have to be this way. In Bloomberg Businessweek, Harold Silkin outlines how a more nuanced approach to immigration reform could end up being a tremendous boon to the U.S. economy:

Filling America’s workplace needs is a huge challenge. On one end, U.S. agriculture and the food and hospitality industries seem to have an insatiable need for unskilled labor—mostly to do jobs Americans don’t want to do. This should not panic anyone. Unskilled laborers with inadequate (or nonexistent) English-language skills are not infiltrating U.S. factories, taking skilled manufacturing jobs away from American workers. Claims to the contrary are a fiction.

At the other end of the labor market are the thousands of computer, science, engineering, and other high-skill jobs U.S. employers also are having difficulty filling. This is not a new problem. It’s one of the reasons we have the H-1B visa program, which authorizes the annual hiring of up to 85,000 highly skilled (mostly technology) workers per year from overseas. In a country of 310 million, that does not an invasion make.


Final tally:
Germany’s immigration system bodes well for the country’s economy. If Germany were to tutor the U.S., they would likely point to their own policies that embrace foreigners and produce a skilled workforce that propels the economy forward. They would also highlight anti-immigrant fanaticism that consistently paralyzes immigration reform.

In late 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “Germany today is a country that is indeed very open to immigration.” With so much success under their belts, Germany is the best model right now for immigration. The U.S. better start scheduling those tutoring sessions … we have a lot to catch up on.”

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One of the Most Brilliant AIDS Researchers in the World Died on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

One of the Most Brilliant AIDS Researchers in the World Died on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

I hurt deeply when I think of all the thoughtless violence that is happening around the world in Syria, in Russia, in Ukraine, in Israel, in Gaza, in Nigeria, in Afghanistan, in China, in North Korea, and even in the United States. All these deaths were people who could’ve made a difference in the world, who would’ve innovated and created and grown beyond their immediate surroundings. My heart goes out to the world.

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Study: Muslims hate terrorism, too

Study: Muslims hate terrorism, too

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American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World

Josh Haner/The New York Times

“I feel like I’m in a used-car lot.” Renée Martin, who, with her husband, is paying for her maternity care out of pocket.

By  | Published: June 30, 2013

“Throughout this article, readers have shared their experiences by responding to questions about their perspective on pregnancy care. Comments are now closed, but you may explore the responses received.

Elisabeth Rosenthal, reporter

LACONIA, N.H. — Seven months pregnant, at a time when most expectant couples are stockpiling diapers and choosing car seats, Renée Martin was struggling with bigger purchases.

At a prenatal class in March, she was told about epiduralanesthesia and was given the option of using a birthing tub during labor. To each offer, she had one gnawing question: “How much is that going to cost?”

Though Ms. Martin, 31, and her husband, Mark Willett, are both professionals with health insurance, her current policy does not cover maternity care. So the couple had to approach the nine months that led to the birth of their daughter in May like an extended shopping trip though the American health care bazaar, sorting through an array of maternity services that most often have no clear price and — with no insurer to haggle on their behalf — trying to negotiate discounts from hospitals and doctors.

When she became pregnant, Ms. Martin called her local hospital inquiring about the price of maternity care; the finance office at first said it did not know, and then gave her a range of $4,000 to $45,000. “It was unreal,” Ms. Martin said. “I was like, How could you not know this? You’re a hospital.”

Midway through her pregnancy, she fought for a deep discount on a $935 bill for anultrasound, arguing that she had already paid a radiologist $256 to read the scan, which took only 20 minutes of a technician’s time using a machine that had been bought years ago. She ended up paying $655. “I feel like I’m in a used-car lot,” said Ms. Martin, a former art gallery manager who is starting graduate school in the fall.

Like Ms. Martin, plenty of other pregnant women are getting sticker shock in the United States, where charges for delivery have about tripled since 1996, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by Truven Health Analytics. Childbirth in the United States is uniquely expensive, and maternity and newborn care constitute thesingle biggest category of hospital payouts for most commercial insurers and state Medicaid programs. The cumulative costs of approximately four million annual births is well over $50 billion.

And though maternity care costs far less in other developed countries than it does in the United States, studies show that their citizens do not have less access to care or to high-tech care during pregnancy than Americans.

“It’s not primarily that we get a different bundle of services when we have a baby,” said Gerard Anderson, an economist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who studies international health costs. “It’s that we pay individually for each service and pay more for the services we receive.”

Those payment incentives for providers also mean that American women with normal pregnancies tend to get more of everything, necessary or not, from blood tests to ultrasound scans, said Katy Kozhimannil, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health who studies the cost of women’s health care.

Financially, they suffer the consequences. In 2011, 62 percent of women in the United States covered by private plans that were not obtained through an employer lacked maternity coverage, like Ms. Martin. But even many women with coverage are feeling the pinch as insurers demand higher co-payments and deductibles and exclude many pregnancy-related services.

From 2004 to 2010, the prices that insurers paid for childbirth — one of the most universal medical encounters — rose 49 percent for vaginal births and 41 percent for Caesarean sections in the United States, with average out-of-pocket costs rising fourfold, according to a recent report by Truven that was commissioned by three health care groups. The average total price charged for pregnancy and newborn care was about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery and $50,000 for a C-section, with commercial insurers paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866, the report found.

Women with insurance pay out of pocket an average of $3,400, according to a survey by Childbirth Connection, one of the groups behind the maternity costs report. Two decades ago, women typically paid nothing other than a small fee if they opted for a private hospital room or television.

Only in America

In most other developed countries, comprehensive maternity care is free or cheap for all, considered vital to ensuring the health of future generations.

Ireland, for example, guarantees free maternity care at public hospitals, though women can opt for private deliveries for a fee. The average price spent on a normal vaginal delivery tops out at about $4,000 in Switzerland, France and the Netherlands, where charges are limited through a combination of regulation and price setting; mothers pay little of that cost.

The chasm in price is true even though new mothers in France and elsewhere often remain in the hospital for nearly a week to heal and learn to breast-feed, while American women tend to be discharged a day or two after birth, since insurers do not pay costs for anything that is not considered medically necessary.

Only in the United States is pregnancy generally billed item by item, a practice that has spiraled in the past decade, doctors say. No item is too small. Charges that 20 years ago were lumped together and covered under the general hospital fee are now broken out, leading to more bills and inflated costs. There are separate fees for the delivery room, the birthing tub and each night in a semiprivate hospital room, typically thousands of dollars. Even removing the placenta can be coded as a separate charge.

Each new test is a new source of revenue, from the hundreds of dollars billed for the simple blood typing required before each delivery to the $20 or so for the splash of gentian violet used as a disinfectant on the umbilical cord (Walgreens’ price per bottle: $2.59). Obstetricians, who used to do routine tests like ultrasounds in their office as part of their flat fee, now charge for the service or farm out such testing to radiologists, whose rates are far higher.

Add up the bills, and the total is startling. “We’ve created incentives that encourage more expensive care, rather than care that is good for the mother,” said Maureen Corry, the executive director of Childbirth Connection.

In almost all other developed countries, hospitals and doctors receive a flat fee for the care of an expectant mother, and while there are guidelines, women have a broad array of choices. “There are no bills, and a hospital doesn’t get paid for doing specific things,” said Charlotte Overgaard, an assistant professor of public health at Aalborg University in Denmark. “If a woman wants acupuncture, an epidural or birth in water, that’s what she’ll get.”

Despite its lavish spending, the United States has one of the highest rates of both infant and maternal death among industrialized nations, although the fact that poor and uninsured women and those whose insurance does not cover childbirth have trouble getting or paying for prenatal care contributes to those figures.

Some social factors drive up the expenses. Mothers are now older than ever before, and therefore more likely to require or request more expensive prenatal testing. And obstetricians face the highest malpractice risks among physicians and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for insurance, fostering a “more is safer” attitude.

But less than 25 percent of America’s high payments for pregnancy typically go to obstetricians, and they often charge a flat fee for their nine months of care, no matter how many visits are needed, said Dr. Robert Palmer, the chairman of the committee for health economics and coding at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. That fee can range from a high of more than $8,000 for a vaginal delivery in Manhattan to under $4,000 in Denver, according to Fair Health, which collects health care data.

Rather it is the piecemeal way Americans pay for this life event that encourages overtreatment and overspending, said Dr. Kozhimannil, the Minnesota professor. Recent studies have found that more than 30 percent of American women have Caesarean sections or have labor induced with drugs — far higher numbers than those of other developed countries and far above rates that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists considers necessary.

During the course of her relatively uneventful pregnancy, Ms. Martin was charged one by one for lab tests, scans and emergency room visits that were not included in the doctor’s or the hospital’s fee. During her seventh month, she described one week’s experience: “I have high glucose, and I tried to take a three-hour test yesterday and threw up all over the lab. So I’m probably going to get charged for that. And my platelets are low, so I’m going to have to see a hematologist. So I’m going to get charged for that.”

She sighed and put her head in her hands. “Welcome to my world,” she said.

Extras Add Up

Though Ms. Martin has yet to receive her final bills, other couples describe being blindsided by enormous expenses. After discovering that their insurance did not cover pregnancy when the first ultrasound bill was denied last year, Chris Sullivan and his wife, both freelance translators in Pennsylvania, bought a $4,000 pregnancy package from Delaware County Memorial Hospital; a few hospitals around the country are starting to offer such packages to those patients paying themselves.

The couple knew that price did not cover extras like amniocentesis, a test for genetic defects, or an epidural during labor. So when the obstetrician suggested an additional fetal heart scan to check for abnormalities, they were careful to ask about price and got an estimate of $265. Performed by a specialist from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it took 30 minutes and showed no problems — but generated a bill of $2,775.

“All of a sudden I have a bill that’s as much as I make in a month, and is more than 10 times what I’d been quoted,” Mr. Sullivan said. “I don’t know how I could have been a better consumer, I asked for a quote. Then I get this six-part bill.” After months of disputing the large discrepancy between the estimate and the bill, the hospital honored the estimate.

Christopher Gregory/The New York Times

“Most insurance companies wouldn’t blink at my bill, but it was absurd.” Dr. Marguerite Duane, who questioned line items on her hospital bill.

Mr. Sullivan noted that the couple ended up paying $750 for an epidural, a procedure that has a list price of about $100 in his wife’s native Germany.

Even women with the best insurance can still encounter high prices. After her daughter was born five years ago, Dr. Marguerite Duane, 42, was flabbergasted by the line items on the bills, many for blood tests she said were unnecessary and medicines she never received. She and her husband, Dr. Kenneth Lin, both associate professors of family medicine at Georgetown Medical School, had delivered babies in their early years of practice.

So when she became pregnant again in 2011, she decided to be more assertive about holding down costs. After a routine ultrasound scan at 20 weeks showed a healthy baby, she refused to go back for weekly follow-up scans that the radiologist suggested during the last months of her pregnancy even though medical guidelines do not recommend them. When in the hospital for the delivery of her son Ellis in February, she kept a list of every medicine and every item she received.

Though she delivered Ellis with a midwife 12 minutes after arriving at the hospital and was home the next day, the hospital bill alone was more than $6,000, and her insurance co-payment was about $1,500. Her first two pregnancies, both more than five years ago, were fully covered by federal government insurance because her husband worked for the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.

“Most insurance companies wouldn’t blink at my bill, but it was absurd — it was the least medical delivery in history,” said Dr. Duane, who is taking a break from practice to stay home with her children. “There were no meds. I had no anesthesia. He was never in the nursery. I even brought my own heating pad. I tried to get an explanation, but there were items like ‘maternity supplies.’ What was that? A diaper?”

Ms. Martin is similarly well positioned to be an expert consumer of health care. She administered the health plan for a large art gallery she managed in Los Angeles before marrying and moving to Vermont in 2011 to enroll in a year of pre-med classes at the University of Vermont. She has a scholarship this fall for a master’s degree program at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Medicine, Health and Society, and then she plans to go on to medical school. Her father-in-law is a pediatrician.

RENÉE MARTIN’S PREGNANCY COSTS

prenatal

She and her husband, who works for a small music licensing company that does not provide insurance, hoped to start their family during the year they were covered by university insurance in Vermont, she said, but “nature didn’t cooperate.”

Then they moved to the New Hampshire summer resort of Laconia, her husband’s hometown, for a year before she started the grind of medical training. But in New Hampshire, they discovered, health insurance they could buy on the individual market did not cover maternity care without the purchase of an additional “pregnancy rider” for $800 a month. With their limited finances and unsuccessful efforts at conceiving, it seemed an unwise, if not impossible, investment.

Soon after buying insurance coverage without the rider for $450 a month, Ms. Martin discovered she was pregnant. Her elation was quickly undercut by worry.

“We’re not poor. We pay our bills. We have medical insurance. We’re not looking for a handout,” Ms. Martin said, noting that her husband makes too much money for her to qualify for Medicaid or other subsidized programs for low-income women. “The hospital is doing what it can. Our doctors are taking wonderful care of us. But the economics of this system are a mess.”

Not knowing whether the pregnancy would fall at the $4,000 or $45,000 end of the range the hospital cited, the couple had a hard time budgeting their finances or imagining their future. The hospital promised a 30 percent discount on its final bill. “I’m trying not to be stressed, but it’s really stressful,” Ms. Martin said as her due date approached.

Package Deals

With costs spiraling, some hospitals are starting to offer all-inclusive rates for pregnancy. Maricopa Medical Center, a public hospital in Phoenix, began offering uninsured patients a comprehensive package two years ago. “Making women choose during labor whether you want to pay $1,000 for an epidural, that didn’t seem right,” said Dr. Dean Coonrod, the hospital’s chief of obstetrics and gynecology.

The hospital charges $3,850 for a vaginal delivery, with or without an epidural, and $5,600 for a planned C-section — prices that include standard hospital, doctors’ and testing fees. To set the price, the hospital — which breaks even on maternity care and whose doctors are on salaries — calculated the average payment it gets from all insurers. While Dr. Coonrod said the hospital might lose a bit of money, he saw other benefits in a market where everyone will have insurance in just a few years: mothers tend to feel allegiance to the place they give birth to their babies and might seek other care at Maricopa in the future.

Laura Segall for The New York Times

“Making women choose during labor whether you want to pay $1,000 for an epidural, that didn’t seem right.” Dr. Dean Coonrod, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix

The Catalyst for Payment Reform, a California policy group, has proposed that all hospitals should offer such bundled prices and that rates should be the same, no matter the type of delivery. It suggests that $8,000 might be a reasonable starting point. But that may be hard to imagine in markets like New York City, where $8,000 is less than many private doctors charge for their fees alone.

One factor that has helped keep costs down in other developed countries is the extensive use of midwives, who perform the bulk of prenatal examinations and even simple deliveries; obstetricians are regarded as specialists who step in only when there is risk or need. Sixty-eight percent of births are attended by a midwife in Britain and 45 percent in the Netherlands, compared with 8 percent in the United States. In Germany, midwives were paid less than $325 for an 11-hour delivery and about $30 for an office visit in 2011.

Dr. Palmer of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists acknowledged the preference for what he called “medicalized” deliveries in the United States, with IVs, anesthesia and a proliferation of costly ultrasounds. He said the organization was working to define standards for the scans.

To control costs in the United States, patients may also have to alter their expectations, including the presence of an obstetrician at every prenatal visit and delivery. “It’s amazing how much patients buy into our tendency to do a lot of tests,” said Eugene Declercq, a professor at Boston University who studies international variations in pregnancy. “We’ve met the problem, and it’s us.”

Starting next year, insurance policies will be required under the Affordable Care Act to include maternity coverage, so no woman should be left paying entirely on her own, like Ms. Martin. But the law is not explicit about what services must be included in that coverage. “Exactly what that means is the crux of the issue,” Dr. Kozhimannil said.

If the high costs of maternity care are not reined in, it could break the bank for many states, which bear the brunt of Medicaid payouts. Medicaid, the federal-state government health insurance program for the poor, pays for more than 40 percent of all births nationally, including more than half of those in Louisiana and Texas. But even Medicaid, whose payments are regarded as so low that many doctors refuse to take patients covered under the program, paid an average of $9,131 for vaginal births and $13,590 for Caesarean deliveries in 2011.

Insured women are still getting the recommended prenatal care, despite rising out-of-pocket costs, according to a recent study. But that does not mean they are not feeling the strain, said Dr. Kozhimannil, the study’s lead author. The average amount of savings among pregnant women in the study was $3,000 to $5,000. “People will find ways to scrape by for medical care for their new baby, but are young mothers taking care of themselves? And what happens when they need to start buying diapers?” she asked. “Something’s got to give.”

Ms. Martin, who busied herself making toys as her due date neared, could not stop fretting about the potential cost of a complicated delivery. “I know that a C-section could ruin us financially,” she said.

On May 25, she had a healthy daughter, Isla Daisy, born by vaginal delivery. Mother and daughter went home two days later.

She and her husband are both overjoyed and tired. And, she said, they are “dreading” the bills, which she estimates will be over $32,000 before negotiations begin. Her labor was induced, which required intense monitoring, and she also had an epidural.

“We’re bracing for it,” she said.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 2, 2013

An article on Monday about the high cost of maternity and newborn care in the United States misstated the number of years ago that Dr. Marguerite Duane’s daughter was born. It was five years ago, not seven. The article also misidentified which of Dr. Duane’s sons was born in February. He is Ellis — not Isaac, who is her older son.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 1, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World.”

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July 11, 2013 · 3:20 pm

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2013/06/201361742432736655.html

http://aje.me/18Q0hMZ

18 Jun 2013 05:32

“Turkey has said it may bring in the army to help end nearly three weeks of nationwide anti-government protests.

The warning came as two major union federations went on strike on Monday over police violence against demonstrators.

The government raised the threat of putting soldiers on the streets after a weekend of violent clashes prompted by the eviction of campers occupying Istanbul’s Gezi Park, the epicentre of the protest movement.

Police “will use all their powers” to end the unrest, Bulent Arinc, deputy prime minister, said in a televised interview.

“If this is not enough, we can even utilise the Turkish armed forces in cities.”

The deployment of the military, the self-described guardian of the secular state, would mark an escalation of a crisis posing the biggest challenge yet to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government.

But after losing their focal protest site, with Gezi Park and the adjoining Taksim Square still guarded by police on Monday, the demonstrations appeared to lose some of their intensity.

The more subdued mood was in stark contrast to the weekend, when riot police fired volleys of tear gas and jets of water in hours-long running battles with thousands of protesters.

Groups of hundreds of striking workers from the KESK and DISK union federations took to the streets in Istanbul, Ankara and the western city of Izmir calling for the police violence against protesters to end immediately and chanting “Erdogan, resign!”.

Their progress was at times blocked by officers backed by water-cannon vehicles but there were no reports of fresh clashes.

Smaller turnout

The unions’ turnout was smaller than when they marched in support of the demonstrators on June 5.

The labour rallies had a more structured feel than the counterculture-style sit-in at Gezi Park’s tent city, and the work stoppage involved many professionals who make up a liberal, urban class that mostly backs the anti-Erdogan protesters.

But labour strikes often have little visible impact on daily life in Turkey and Monday’s rallies were no different.

TV images showed crowds of government supporters in Istanbul facing down some protesters and chanting “the hands targeting the police should be broken”.

On Twitter, a trending topic urged protesters to stay home – some expressing concern that pro-government mobs might attack them.

But overnight, for hours, a lone man stood silently on Taksim Square, eventually joined by about 20 other people who did likewise before police escorted them away.

The group put up no resistance. Pockets of unrest erupted elsewhere in Istanbul, with police resorting to water cannon and tear gas at times.

Turkey’s crisis began when a sit-in to save Gezi’s 600 trees from being razed in a redevelopment project prompted a brutal police response on May 31, escalating into countrywide demonstrations against Erdogan, seen as increasingly authoritarian.

So far four people have been killed and nearly 7,500 people injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association (TBB).

At a rally of more than 100,000 supporters of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Sunday, Erdogan defended his response to the demonstrations, saying it was his “duty as prime minister” to order police to storm Gezi Park after protesters defied his warnings to clear out.

He also threatened to go after those who had offered assistance to the protesters, alluding to the luxury hotels who opened their doors to people fleeing the clouds of tear gas and jets of water during the park’s evacuation on Saturday.

“We know the ones who sheltered in their hotels those who cooperated with terror. They will be held accountable,” Erdogan said.

Opponents accuse him of forcing Islamic conservative reforms on the mainly Muslim but staunchly secular nation of 76 million, and of pushing big urban development projects at the expense of local residents.

But Erdogan, 59, has been in power since 2002 and remains popular. His AKP has won three elections in a row, taking nearly half the vote in 2011 after presiding over strong economic growth.

A survey by Metropoll, published in the Zaman daily, found that the AKP would still come first if elections were held now, with 35.3 percent of the vote.

International criticism

The US and other Western allies have widely criticised Erdogan’s handling of the crisis, undermining Turkey’s image as a model of Islamic democracy.

Some Turkish leaders, including Erdogan, have suggested that outside forces are behind the demonstrations in a bid to destabilise the country.

The US on Monday denied any role in the recent unrest.

“We absolutely reject the accusations that US groups or individuals are responsible for or have elevated, or escalated, I should actually say, the protests in Turkey,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her part, urged Turkey to respect democratic freedoms and said the police response to the protesters “was much too harsh”.

“I am in any case shocked,” she told RTL television on Monday.”

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

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June 18, 2013 · 5:54 pm

The Professor, the Bikini Model and the Suitcase Full of Trouble

By MAXINE SWANN

Published: March 8, 2013

“In November 2011, Paul Frampton, a theoretical particle physicist, met Denise Milani, a Czech bikini model, on the online dating site Mate1.com. She was gorgeous — dark-haired and dark-eyed, with a supposedly natural DDD breast size. In some photos, she looked tauntingly steamy; in others, she offered a warm smile. Soon, Frampton and Milani were chatting online nearly every day. Frampton would return home from campus — he’d been a professor in the physics and astronomy department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 30 years — and his computer would buzz. “Are you there, honey?” They’d chat on Yahoo Messenger for a while, and then he’d go into the other room to take care of something. A half-hour later, there was the familiar buzz. It was always Milani. “What are you doing now?”

Frampton had been very lonely since his divorce three years earlier; now it seemed those days were over. Milani told him she was longing to change her life. She was tired, she said, of being a “glamour model,” of posing in her bikini on the beach while men ogled her. She wanted to settle down, have children. But she worried what he thought of her. “Do you think you could ever be proud of someone like me?” Of course he could, he assured her.

Frampton tried to get Milani to talk on the phone, but she always demurred. When she finally agreed to meet him in person, she asked him to come to La Paz, Bolivia, where she was doing a photo shoot. On Jan. 7, 2012, Frampton set out for Bolivia via Toronto and Santiago, Chile. At 68, he dreamed of finding a wife to bear him children — and what a wife. He pictured introducing her to his colleagues. One thing worried him, though. She had told him that men hit on her all the time. How did that acclaim affect her? Did it go to her head? But he remembered how comforting it felt to be chatting with her, like having a companion in the next room. And he knew she loved him. She’d said so many times.

Frampton didn’t plan on a long trip. He needed to be back to teach. So he left his car at the airport. Soon, he hoped, he’d be returning with Milani on his arm. The first thing that went wrong was that the e-ticket Milani sent Frampton for the Toronto-Santiago leg of his journey turned out to be invalid, leaving him stranded in the Toronto airport for a full day. Frampton finally arrived in La Paz four days after he set out. He hoped to meet Milani the next morning, but by then she had been called away to another photo shoot in Brussels. She promised to send him a ticket to join her there, so Frampton, who had checked into the Eva Palace Hotel, worked on a physics paper while he waited for it to arrive. He and Milani kept in regular contact. A ticket to Buenos Aires eventually came, with the promise that another ticket to Brussels was on the way. All Milani asked was that Frampton do her a favor: bring her a bag that she had left in La Paz.

While in Bolivia, Frampton corresponded with an old friend, John Dixon, a physicist and lawyer who lives in Ontario. When Frampton explained what he was up to, Dixon became alarmed. His warnings to Frampton were unequivocal, Dixon told me not long ago, still clearly upset: “I said: ‘Well, inside that suitcase sewn into the lining will be cocaine. You’re in big trouble.’ Paul said, ‘I’ll be careful, I’ll make sure there isn’t cocaine in there and if there is, I’ll ask them to remove it.’ I thought they were probably going to kidnap him and torture him to get his money. I didn’t know he didn’t have money. I said, ‘Well, you’re going to be killed, Paul, so whom should I contact when you disappear?’ And he said, ‘You can contact my brother and my former wife.’ ” Frampton later told me that he shrugged off Dixon’s warnings about drugs as melodramatic, adding that he rarely pays attention to the opinions of others.

On the evening of Jan. 20, nine days after he arrived in Bolivia, a man Frampton describes as Hispanic but whom he didn’t get a good look at handed him a bag out on the dark street in front of his hotel. Frampton was expecting to be given an Hermès or a Louis Vuitton, but the bag was an utterly commonplace black cloth suitcase with wheels. Once he was back in his room, he opened it. It was empty. He wrote to Milani, asking why this particular suitcase was so important. She told him it had “sentimental value.” The next morning, he filled it with his dirty laundry and headed to the airport.

Frampton flew from La Paz to Buenos Aires, crossing the border without incident. He says that he spent the next 40 hours in Ezeiza airport, without sleeping, mainly “doing physics” and checking his e-mail regularly in hopes that an e-ticket to Brussels would arrive. But by the time the ticket materialized, Frampton had gotten a friend to send him a ticket to Raleigh. He had been gone for 15 days and was ready to go home. Because there was always the chance that Milani would come to North Carolina and want her bag, he checked two bags, his and hers, and went to the gate. Soon he heard his name called over the loudspeaker. He thought it must be for an upgrade to first class, but when he arrived at the airline counter, he was greeted by several policemen. Asked to identify his luggage — “That’s my bag,” he said, “the other one’s not my bag, but I checked it in” — he waited while the police tested the contents of a package found in the “Milani” suitcase. Within hours, he was under arrest.

 

Illustration by Wesley Allsbrook for The New York Times

Illustration by Wesley Allsbrook

Frampton was arrested at the Buenos Aires airport and 
spent time in jail in Argentina awaiting trial.

 

 

I first met Frampton this past fall in the prison warden’s office in Devoto, one of the few remaining old-style jails in Buenos Aires, so dilapidated that its windows stick open and rain leaks through the roof. It was September, the beginning of spring in the Southern Hemisphere, but there was still a chill in the air, and the prison heating system was down as usual.

“Hey Professor, have you won the Nobel yet?” a guard shouted as Frampton walked by. He was wearing a red Adidas tracksuit (“Adidas seems to have a franchise in Devoto,” he said), running shoes and a tattered Barbour coat to keep warm. “This is the coat the royal family wears, it’s for hunting,” Frampton, who grew up in Britain, pointed out. “See, it has this pocket in the back where you can put a dead bird.” Frampton had been in Devoto for eight months, awaiting trial on charges of transporting two kilos of cocaine into the country. He was housed not in a single cell but in a group pavilion with 80 men accused of drug dealing or smuggling, most of them from other Latin American countries. Frampton had had almost no experience with drugs in his life, apart from the occasional drink and a nicotine addiction (he’d given up smoking two years before). Now he was living with people who were not only well versed in the intricacies of the drug trade but regular users of marijuana and cocaine. The pavilion was often illuminated at night by little flames held under spoons, as inmates cooked paco, a cocaine paste similar to crack that is often made with kerosene and sulfuric acid. But there were good things about not being in a private cell, too. A number of the prisoners on the pavilion had their own TVs. On Sunday mornings, Frampton would turn on the classical-music station, Arpeggio, so he could listen for a few hours before others got up and switched the channel back to music videos. Whenever his case was reported on local news channels, pictures of Denise Milani would flash across the TV screen, eliciting catcalls and applause from the other prisoners.

“I’m a bit of a celebrity in here,” Frampton said. From the moment of his arrest he had maintained that he was the victim of a scam — even if it didn’t occur to him right away that the Milani with whom he was corresponding was not the real Milani — and he projected a sense that all that had happened to him was a mistake that would soon be resolved. Perfectly congenial, he kept punctuating my questions about his present predicament with “And after this, we’ll get to physics, right?”

Finally, eyes burning with schoolboy enthusiasm, interrupted now and then by a spasmodic cough — he has a lung condition, which the smoke-filled prison air worsened — he talked me through what he called his “14 groundbreaking discoveries,” which he had written out for me on a piece of notepaper. Frampton closed our interview half-seriously, half-impishly, with another kind of calculation: “I’ve co-authored with three Nobel laureates. Only 11 theoretical physicists have done that. Six out of those 11 have wonNobel Prizes themselves. Following this logic, I have a 55 percent chance of getting the Nobel.”

 

Illustration by Wesley Allsbrook for The New York Times

Illustration by Wesley Allsbrook

 

 

 

How Frampton, who holds an endowed chair at the University of North Carolinaand has been an adviser to the Department of Energy, ended up in Devoto appears at first to be a classic tale: a brilliant man of science gets into trouble as soon as he tries to navigate the real world. Since his arrest, he has certainly cultivated this notion, burnishing his wacky-scientist profile with lines like “That’s my naïveté” and “My mind works in a strange way.”

Those who know him well also portray him as a kind of idiot savant, someone who could have been easily duped by whoever was posing as Milani. “Women came later in Paul’s life,” says Richard Czerniawski, a chemist who was a student with Frampton at Oxford University and now lives in Buenos Aires. Frampton was married for the first time at age 50, to Anne-Marie Frampton, then 52, a Frenchwoman living in the United States, who calls herself a physics groupie: “I couldn’t completely follow everything Paul said, because of the mathematics, of course, but either I could understand the words, or I could just listen to the music, the music of physics.” The pair divorced in 2008 but are still on good terms. Anne-Marie describes her ex-husband as a very good scientist with the emotional age of a 3-year-old. “I was flabbergasted, flabbergasted but not surprised,” she said, referring to the call she received from Frampton from Devoto prison. “Paul is a very experienced traveler, but that sentence, ‘Don’t take any luggage that doesn’t belong to you,’ he doesn’t even hear that. He’s in another world, an alternate universe.”

One story about his search for a new wife certainly bolstered this view. Shortly after his divorce, Frampton, then 64, expressed concern about finding a wife between the ages of 18 and 35, which Frampton understood to be the period when women are most fertile. One particularly promising candidate was a young Chinese woman. After an extended e-mail correspond­ence, Frampton arranged to see her during a trip to China to visit another eminent scientist, but they met for only an hour, and “it didn’t go anywhere.” The next important contender appears to have been Milani. “He told me to look her up on the Internet,” Dixon recalled. “I thought he was out of his mind, and I told him that. ‘You’re not talking to the real girl. Why would a young woman like that be interested in an old guy like you?’ But he really believed that he had a pretty young woman who wanted to marry him.” When I later asked Frampton what made him think that Milani was interested, he replied, “Well, I have been accused of having a huge ego.”

Over the course of three and a half months, Frampton called my house 42 times from jail. He’d call to report the latest news. A “brilliant” op-ed he published in a Raleigh newspaperabout the U.N.C. provost’s “illegal” action — cutting off his salary without any due process — had succeeded in getting the provost fired. (The provost had granted Frampton 60 days of paid leave, then suspended his salary until he could resume his duties as a faculty member. Frampton sued the university, unsuccessfully, for his wages.) He was particularly pleased about the provost’s dismissal, because the severance of his salary had had real repercussions. Apparently without savings, he was unable to afford a private lawyer and had to rely on an overburdened Argentine public defender. He’d given up his health insurance and risked losing his car and apartment in Chapel Hill. In Argentina, he scrambled to get the money he needed to buy himself decent food in prison and telephone cards, of which he might have as many as 30 in his pocket.

It turned out that the provost was stepping down voluntarily in June 2013 and would remain as a faculty member. Frampton didn’t seem sheepish about having linked the provost’s fate to his own. He was excited about something else now. The president of Harvard, he’d heard, had been given a memo about his case in hopes that she’d mention it to Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, during Kirchner’s visit to the university. “I think I’ve never been discussed by two such important people in my life,” Frampton reflected. (Harvard’s president never received any memo about Frampton, and she and Kirchner never did discuss his case.) Or he’d report, ever hopefully, that he’d be out on house arrest any day. (His Argentine public attorney, Ignacio Anitua, had requested that his client be placed on house arrest, given his age and his pulmonary ailment, but the request was still wending its way through official channels.) He asked me to bring him Gruyère, blue cheese, curry powder, chili pepper, notebooks, reading glasses and telephone cards, and he expressed frustration about the slow progress of his case. He was especially exasperated that the text messages on his confiscated cellphone from Jan. 20, the day of the bag exchange, had still not been handed over to his defense lawyer by the police, despite repeated requests. “It’s clear from those messages that it was not my bag,” he said. “That should be sufficient to exonerate me.” (His public defender told me that the text messages were actually in his file but would never be enough to prove his innocence.)

One Monday, Frampton called three times. The first time was at 3 p.m. He was animated and talked at length about the “volatile situation” at the university, which had yet to reinstate his salary, despite letters of support from the Nobel laureate Sheldon Lee Glashow and from John C. Taylor, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Cambridge, among others. “Research institutions throughout the country are in jeopardy if a tenured professor of 30 years has his salary suddenly revoked without any due process,” Frampton said. “This means that the jobs of tens of thousands of tenured professors are at risk.”

Second call, 6 p.m.: Frampton reported that he was a month into his prison stay before his fellow prisoners managed to convince him that the woman he thought he’d been in touch with all this time had probably been a man impersonating her. The real Denise Milani was never accused of having a role in the drug smuggling and has no connection to Frampton. “The only real connection we have is through the international media,” Frampton admitted. Milani, who was interviewed for The Daily Mail, expressed alarm about having her name associated with drug smugglers, fear for herself, her 12-year-old son and “sympathy” for the professor. “I feel sympathy for her, too,” Frampton said. (Despite repeated attempts, Milani could not be reached for comment.)

Third call, 8 p.m.: “There could be retribution. I could be assassinated.” He spoke about how he had overheard the dealers and smugglers he was now living with talking about what happens to drug mules who lose the stash. He said people had told him someone must have been watching him move around at the airport, so they knew what he looked like. “These thoughts keep me up at night.”

Frampton is prone to seeing himself as the center of the action whatever the milieu. When he was growing up in Worcestershire, England, in what he describes as a “lower-middle-class family,” his mother encouraged him to report his stellar grades to all the neighbors, a practice that may have led the young Frampton to confuse worldly laurels with love. At 18, he enrolled at Brasenose College, Oxford, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1968. He received a number of offers for postdocs, including one at Princeton and another at the University of Chicago. His advisers suggested he go to Chicago to work with the Japanese physicist Yoichiro Nambu. Nambu was an intellectual giant in the field, but Frampton’s advisers may have had other reasons for steering Frampton his way. Nambu, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in 2008, has, Frampton told me, “astonishingly no ego.”

As Frampton tells it, his life is one unbroken line of impressive grades, advanced degrees and innumerable citations of his work in cosmology and physics. There is certainly much truth to this. “He has always been very inventive in thinking of new ideas extending and going beyond the standard model of particle physics,” says Prof. Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. But then there is Frampton’s tendency to transfer his professional accomplishments to his personal life. In what a fellow physicist described as a “very vain, very inappropriate” talk delivered on the 80th birthday of Murray Gell-Mann, a Nobel laureate in physics, Frampton veered into autobiography, recounting how his ability to multiply numbers in his head at 4 led him to see himself as “cleverer than Newton.” This line became a refrain throughout the talk. Interspersed with the calculations and hypotheses were his Oxford grades, which, he said, showed that he, like Newton, was in the top 1 percentile for intelligence. Frampton insists that he was merely joking and that his sense of humor was misinterpreted as self-regard. Yet in many of my conversations with him, he seemed to cling to the idea of his own exceptionalism. During our first meeting, when I asked him what attracted him to Milani, he said, “Not to offend present company,” referring to me and the representative from the penitentiary service, “but, to start with, she’s in the top 1 percentile of how women look.” And in an e-mail to Milani — or, rather, the fake Milani — Frampton wrote, “As these days tick by, and I think about it a lot, the more I realize that we are the perfect couple in all respects.”

The strategy of Frampton’s defense team was to present Frampton as a brilliant man out of touch with day-to-day life. They called in a psychologist, who pronounced him unusually gullible without, however, diagnosing a mental illness. The judges sent their own doctor, who declared Frampton normal. A total of three psychological evaluations were presented at the trial, and two agreed that he had the traits of a narcissistic personality — an overblown and unrealistic image of himself. One concluded that it did not constitute a pathology, while the other suggested that there were pathological aspects to his narcissism that led to gaps in his understanding of reality.

Fidel Schaposnik, a physics professor at the National University of La Plata, which, along with the University of Buenos Aires, had offered Frampton a visiting professorship to help get him released from Devoto while he awaited trial, said of Frampton: “He’s a typical person trained at Oxford. He knows he’s part of an elite and can’t imagine such things would happen to him.” Indeed, Frampton sees academia’s denizens as creative misfits who deserve special protection. “People who are socially inept can nevertheless be the most creative people,” he told me one afternoon on the telephone. “It’s very important that they can’t be fired. This is the genius of tenure.”

There had been a case similar to Frampton’s in the past year, that of a New Zealander named Sharon Armstrong. Like Frampton, Armstrong, a former executive at the Maori Language Commission, said she met her lover on an Internet dating site and, after months of online contact, made a plan to meet him abroad, passing through Buenos Aires on her way to London to pick up some important paper contracts for him. She was caught carrying a bag with five kilos of cocaine. After the two were mentioned together in a number of articles, Armstrong contacted Frampton. The judges in her case — she received a sentence of 4 years 10 months — were also going to be the judges in his.

According to Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, if Frampton and Armstrong were unaware of their involvement, they would be the exception. He had never heard of a case in which a virtual “honey trap” had been used to dupe someone into being an unwitting drug mule. “When it comes to drug trafficking, we rarely see someone duped or used as part of a ruse,” he said. “It is very typical for those arrested to claim no knowledge or involvement.” The prosecutor in Frampton’s case, Mario Villar — 80 percent of his cases involve drug smuggling — concurred. It is highly improbable, he said, that a person is unaware that he or she is carrying drugs. Frampton acknowledged that this was undoubtedly true — most of the time. Of the other 79 prisoners on his pavilion, he thought none were innocent. “Some people will say they’re innocent, but when I talk to them further, it becomes clear that they were somehow involved. I think people like me are less than 1 percent.”

Three weeks before his trial, Frampton hired private lawyers. When I asked how he was able to afford them, he first said he’d rather not tell me, then claimed that friends in Argentina were footing the bill. The new lawyers picked up where his public defenders left off, yet at a significantly accelerated pace. On Oct. 30, I spoke to Frampton as he was driving away from Devoto, accompanied by his friend, Czerniawski, who had agreed to take Frampton in on house arrest. Giddily, he said that the first thing he wanted to do was to sleep in, impossible in prison because every morning at 7:30 they do the roll call.

The following day at midday, I met Frampton at the Czerniawskis’ three-bedroom apartment, just blocks away from the Argentine Parliament. Dressed in a dark blue pinstriped suit and a tie covered with tiny red-beaked penguins, Frampton was finishing lunch with Czerniawski’s wife, Silvia, and their two daughters. “See,” he said, “I’m Paul Frampton again.” Czerniawski was at work. When I asked Frampton if he had slept in, he said he spent half the night on the Internet, reading through all the latest discoveries in his field, checking to see what his “competitors” had been working on, and beginning to answer the thousands of e-mails he received. He reported that he had more citations than ever. The conversation turned to his long-awaited release to house arrest. How had the new lawyers achieved so quickly what his public attorney had been requesting for more than four months? “They say they drink maté with the judges,” Frampton answered cryptically. Later he added, “A little bird told me that if I get off, I’ll never know why.”

He showed me his latest calculations, pages of beautifully rendered symbols with not a word in sight except for “Nestor Kirchner,” the former president and deceased husband of current president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, written in the margin. “I’m trying to connect the God particle, the Higgs boson, with dark energy — you know, the thing that makes the universe accelerate. This sounds a bit egomaniacal, but to understand dark energy, I think we have to be open-minded about Einstein’s general relativity.”

This time, he was the one who brought the conversation back around to drug smuggling, showing palpable anxiety about the outcome of his trial. He told me uneasily that his lawyers had reported that nearly all drug-smuggling cases that came to trial ended in guilty verdicts.

As I was leaving, he stepped out with me into the hallway. “Can I do this?” he asked, wondering if he was violating his house arrest. He got into the elevator, a wrought-iron cage that offered a view of the stairs as it descended, and repeated, “Can I do this?” He accompanied me down another long hall to the entrance and gave me a kiss on the cheek goodbye, peering out at the street as the door closed.

Two weeks later, on Nov. 12, Frampton’s trial began in a small wood-paneled courtroom, where he sat before three judges. On exhibit in front of the judges was a collapsed black cloth suitcase with wheels wrapped in yellow cellophane.

Frampton’s long-held defense — that he was duped because he had a childlike understanding of the ways of the world — began to unravel. The prosecutor opened his cross-examination of Frampton by citing a text message retrieved from Frampton’s confiscated cellphone. “On Jan. 22 at 9:46 a.m.,” he said, “you wrote from Ezeiza airport to the person you understood to be Denise Milani: ‘Was worried only about sniffer dogs but more.’ ” As his interrogation of Frampton continued, he read other text messages sent from Frampton’s phone. One at 9:52 a.m.: “Need to know if your loyalty is with the bad guy-agent & bolivian friends — or good guy, your husband?” And another at 9:56 a.m.: “SIRU” — the Hotel Siru, where they were planning to meet in Brussels — “IS AMBUSH.” 10:14 a.m.: “Your naivety is bad for me, us. This is millions. NO SIRU, OK?” At 11:19 a.m., Frampton sent Milani an e-mail: “This stuff is worth nothing in Bolivia, but $Ms in Europe. You meet me at the airport and we do not go near the hotel the ‘agent’ suggested. Stay at another hotel.” At 11:47 a.m., there was another text message: “Monday arrival changed. You must not tell the coca-goons.” At 12:16 p.m., he wrote: “WHY ARE YOU IGNORING ME? AT THIS LAST MOMENT. WE DID NOT DECIDE HOW TO MEET TOMORROW IN BRUSSELS AND KEEP COCA & LIVES. AT SIRU WE MAY LOSE BOTH!!” At 1:06: “We may do cool 1,000,000.”

Frampton explained to the judges that these messages were jokes. He’d made them up because of Dixon’s earlier warnings about drugs. “I was trying to keep Denise amused. I had already decided to fly back to North Carolina.” But even taking Frampton’s peculiar brand of humor into account, it was hard to understand why he would have taken the joke so far. He sent 30 messages like this, with specific details that made it seem as if he were referring to a real situation, a considered plan, not fabricating a story on the spot. Or did he think that whoever was behind the man who came to the hotel with the suitcase might hurt Milani if he didn’t agree to take the bag? While for much of his life Frampton seems to have had little interest in money, he may well have seen his actions as a strategy to prove to Milani once and for all that he was indeed the husband of her dreams — a knight slaying dragons.

The defense worked to show that far from hatching some elaborate plot, Frampton was unconcerned about the contents of the bag. Footage from airport security cameras showed him getting up from a cafe table and wandering off, leaving his open laptop and his two bags — his own white one and Milani’s black one — unattended for up to 25 minutes at a time, gazing in shop windows, talking to security personnel, standing at an airline counter, returning to his abandoned luggage and then, an hour or so later, repeating the operation. Would anyone, even a wacky scientist, behave this way if he knew he was transporting two kilos of cocaine?

And if Frampton’s behavior was innocent, it still called for an explanation. Who leaves his bags unattended in an airport? Frampton, apparently. “I’ve seen him in airports,” his ex-wife said, “He leaves all his bags and goes for half an hour somewhere else.”

The prosecution continued to press its case, producing a piece of paper on which Frampton had written:

“1 gram 200 dollars

2,000 grams 400,000 dollars.”

The amount of cocaine found in the bag Frampton was carrying was 1,980 grams. When asked why he’d been making this calculation, Frampton said: “My mind works in a strange way.” That evening, Frampton told me on the telephone, “I made those calculations in the airport office after having been arrested,” a fact that his defense team stressed the following day, noting Frampton’s tendency to make random calculations. They asked him to explain another notation on the same piece of paper that read “5 standard deviations 99.99994%.” “The criterion for the discovery of the Higgs boson had to be 5 standard deviations, which means it’s extremely unlikely to be a statistical fluctuation,” Frampton explained. He was “calculating the probability that Denise Milani would become my second wife, which was almost a certainty.” Pursuing this line of questioning, his lawyer asked whether Frampton was also calculating the weight of one of the judges.

“I’m embarrassed to admit it, but yes,” Frampton answered. “I calculated that he must weigh 100 kilos.”

“You calculated badly, as badly as you did about your second marriage,” the judge responded. “I’m 124 kilos.”

On the third and last day of the trial, the defense exhibited love letters Frampton had written to Denise Milani that they recovered from his Gmail account. They were full of tenderness, vividly imagining their life together in Chapel Hill. She wouldn’t need to work at first; she could accompany him to the office, make friends at the gym, the cafeteria and the supermarket; they’d take walks on the beach, and soon their little baby would arrive. Eventually she could get a contract with Victoria’s Secret. A response from Milani exhibited matching tenderness: “You’re the best thing that’s happened in my cursed life.” But the judges were apparently unmoved by these declarations of love. As Frampton’s former defense lawyer said, “The only thing that matters as far as the law is concerned is whether Frampton knew there were drugs in the bag. Whether he did it for money or a woman doesn’t matter.”

On Nov. 19, Frampton was sentenced to 4 years 8 months for drug smuggling.

After the trial, Frampton said his lawyers had forbidden him to speak to me, fearing that he might say something “stupid.” But three weeks later, this injunction was lifted, and I went to visit him again at the Czerniawskis’, where he remains under house arrest. With credit for the time he has already spent in custody, Frampton is expected to be released in May 2014. (Under Argentine law, a foreigner must serve half his sentence but can then be expelled from the country, and the penalty is then considered discharged.) It was a hot summer day, and he was dressed casually this time, in a light blue polo shirt, white shorts, black socks and black sneakers. He was still insisting on his innocence, but a new wariness had crept into his manner. He asked me several questions about myself, as if trying to gauge with each word which version of Paul Frampton I believed. He reported that U.N.C. would not make any decisions about his position on the faculty until it heard the results of his appeal, which could be months away. (U.N.C. confirmed that Frampton still has his position but that his current salary is $0.) His lawyers were using the same strategy they had previously, but introducing further evidence, like the complete record of his Yahoo Messenger chats with Milani, which he felt sure would exonerate him. “It shows unambiguously,” he said later, “that the only reason I went to South America was to meet Denise Milani.” For his part, Frampton had been working on two papers simultaneously. “So I can rest assured that I’m not like Oscar Wilde,” he said. While in Devoto, he checked out a copy of Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray,” destined for English-language learners, from the prison library. He read in the preface that after Wilde’s stay in prison, he gave up writing. “That really affected me. He lost his confidence.”

The night before, Frampton told me, he watched the Nobel Prize ceremony live in Stockholm. He described to me how the king of Sweden presented the prizes in a concert hall, adding that he had been there once himself. His greatest dream was “to have a prediction verified by experimentation.” This, he explained, was how you win the Nobel as a theoretical particle physicist. “That would bring an enormous sense of fulfillment, quite apart from the Nobel Prize,” he said. “ ‘I predicted a particle that’s actually in the universe.’ Wouldn’t that be a rush? Much better than other ways of getting a lot of dopamine.” Later in the conversation, he reflected: “I’ve written 450 papers, an absurd number. A typical professor writes 100 in his career. I don’t regret my work in physics, but I have made sacrifices.” When asked what kind of sacrifices, he responded as if the answer were obvious, “Well, I don’t have a family.”

One of Frampton’s last e-mails to Denise Milani was written on a pirated cellphone a month into his stay inside Devoto prison: “I only think of cuddling all day and having sex all night with Denise Milani. How can you prove that you are Denise Milani?”

<nyt_author_id>

Maxine Swann is the author of the novels ‘‘The Foreigners’’ and ‘‘Flower Children.’’

swannmaxine10@gmail.com

Editor: Sheila Glaser

sfglaser@nytimes.com

<nyt_correction_bottom>

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 8, 2013

 

An earlier version of this article misidentified the location of the Institute for Advanced Study, a theoretical research center. It is a private, independent academic institute located in Princeton, N.J. It is not part of Princeton University. The article also misstated part of the name of the federal agency for which Rusty Payne works as a spokesman. It is the Drug Enforcement Administration, not the Drug Enforcement Agency.”

1 Comment

March 11, 2013 · 6:35 pm

Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 16 January 2013 05.14 EST
 
Bolivian woman harvesting Quinoa

“A Bolivian woman harvesting quinoa negro. ‘Well-intentioned health and ethics-led consumers here [are] unwittingly driving poverty there.’ Photograph: George Steinmetz/Corbis

Not long ago, quinoa was just an obscure Peruvian grain you could only buy in wholefood shops. We struggled to pronounce it (it’s keen-wa, not qui-no-a), yet it was feted by food lovers as a novel addition to the familiar ranks of couscous and rice. Dieticians clucked over quinoa approvingly because it ticked the low-fat box and fitted in with government healthy eating advice to “base your meals on starchy foods”.

Adventurous eaters liked its slightly bitter taste and the little white curls that formed around the grains. Vegans embraced quinoa as a credibly nutritious substitute for meat. Unusual among grains, quinoa has a high protein content (between 14%-18%), and it contains all those pesky, yet essential, amino acids needed for good health that can prove so elusive to vegetarians who prefer not to pop food supplements.

Sales took off. Quinoa was, in marketing speak, the “miracle grain of the Andes”, a healthy, right-on, ethical addition to the meat avoider’s larder (no dead animals, just a crop that doesn’t feel pain). Consequently, the price shot up – it has tripled since 2006 – with more rarified black, red and “royal” types commanding particularly handsome premiums.

But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grainhas pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture.

In fact, the quinoa trade is yet another troubling example of a damaging north-south exchange, with well-intentioned health and ethics-led consumers here unwittingly driving poverty there. It’s beginning to look like a cautionary tale of how a focus on exporting premium foods can damage the producer country’s food security. Feeding our apparently insatiable 365-day-a-year hunger for this luxury vegetable, Peru has also cornered the world market in asparagus. Result? In the arid Ica region where Peruvian asparagus production is concentrated, this thirsty export vegetable has depleted the water resources on which local people depend. NGOs report that asparagus labourers toil in sub-standard conditions and cannot afford to feed their children while fat cat exporters and foreign supermarkets cream off the profits. That’s the pedigree of all those bunches of pricy spears on supermarket shelves.

Soya, a foodstuff beloved of the vegan lobby as an alternative to dairy products, is another problematic import, one that drives environmental destruction [see footnote]. Embarrassingly, for those who portray it as a progressive alternative to planet-destroying meat, soya production is now one of the two main causes of deforestation in South America, along with cattle ranching, where vast expanses of forest and grassland have been felled to make way for huge plantations.

Three years ago, the pioneering Fife Diet, Europe’s biggest local food-eating project, sowed an experimental crop of quinoa. It failed, and the experiment has not been repeated. But the attempt at least recognised the need to strengthen our own food security by lessening our reliance on imported foods, and looking first and foremost to what can be grown, or reared, on our doorstep.

In this respect, omnivores have it easy. Britain excels in producing meat and dairy foods for them to enjoy. However, a rummage through the shopping baskets of vegetarians and vegans swiftly clocks up the food miles, a consequence of their higher dependency on products imported from faraway places. From tofu and tamari to carob and chickpeas, the axis of the vegetarian shopping list is heavily skewed to global.

There are promising initiatives: one enterprising Norfolk company, for instance, has just started marketing UK-grown fava beans (the sort used to make falafel) as a protein-rich alternative to meat. But in the case of quinoa, there’s a ghastly irony when the Andean peasant’s staple grain becomes too expensive at home because it has acquired hero product status among affluent foreigners preoccupied with personal health, animal welfare and reducing their carbon “foodprint”. Viewed through a lens of food security, our current enthusiasm for quinoa looks increasingly misplaced.

• This footnote was appended on 17 January 2013. To clarify: while soya is found in a variety of health products, the majority of production – 97% according to the UN report of 2006 – is used for animal feed.”

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January 19, 2013 · 10:43 pm