A Journey Into Iraqi Kurdistan

A Journey Into Iraqi Kurdistan

The Mar Mattai monastery clings to the side of a steep mountain, and on a clear day a visitor can stand against its fortresslike walls and discern far below the winsome farmlands of Upper Mesopotamia. Here, in the cradle of civilization, the building is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. The ensuing fight, the Battle of Gaugamela, saw Darius’s far greater force suffer such horrific losses that soon the Macedon kingdom would stretch from Greece to Pakistan. We pressed on toward Duhok, a city tucked between the Shandukha and Spi mountains, just as rain began to fall. We stopped to take a short hike to see carvings of Assyrian kings left in a hillside and grabbed a lunch of nesik, a lentil soup, and sawer, a bulgur dish served with pickled squash. Of all the people that ISIS fought, the militants were particularly vicious toward the Yazidi, one of Iraq’s most mysterious religious minorities, who were massacred by the thousands. The Yazidi allow no outsiders to convert to Yazidism and the contents of their holy text, the Meshef Resh or Black Book, are only for other Yazidi. In the most general of terms, they believe in one god and that the angel cast from heaven in Christian faiths is now the reconciled leader of all angels, and takes the form of a peacock. Some Yazidi don’t wear blue.The faith holds that every Yazidi should take a pilgrimage to the center of their world, or Lalish, a lovely mountain village about 30 miles southeast of Duhok. The Yazidi believe that Noah’s Ark came to rest here after a snake used its body to plug a hole in the boat, thus saving all of creation.Yazidi kids gathered around us as we walked toward temples tucked against scruffy hillsides. But then the airstrikes began and the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi Army turned the tide on the ground. Shoes aren’t allowed in Lalish.“Where you from?” asked a boy in sunglasses.Another, a teen with immaculate hair, wanted to take a selfie with us. Soon everyone wanted a selfie with us. They followed us toward a shrine with a conical roof. Sheik Adi, a man as holy to the Yazidi as Jesus is to Christians, was buried inside. “Step through the door!” a boy told me, meaning I shouldn’t step on the threshold. One went to heaven, the other to hell, but no one would tell me which was which.That seemed to be a fitting image for the rest of the trip, which oscillated between breathtaking beauty and heartbreaking anguish. We visited the spectacular town of Amadiya, perched on a butte, perhaps home to the three wise men, and toured refugee centers where children had posted notes for dead parents. We danced in shin-deep water at the Ali Begg waterfall with giggling Arab Iraqi men, then visited Halabja where Saddam murdered thousands of Kurds in chemical gas attacks. I gazed over endless peaks that stretched toward Turkey, while standing in the blown-up husk of one of Saddam’s once-lavish palaces. Never once did I feel unsafe.Even so: “I don’t know what the future is,” Mr. Zrar told me. “It’s not wise to be hopeful.”And yet all across the Middle East you get the sense that something deep is afoot and that adventure travel stands at the center. Near the end of the trip we met Rekan Rasool, 25, who started a hiking and kayaking club for Kurds. It was now May 2017 and most of the artifacts had been returned to the monastery. Standing along the Lesser Zab River, he told me how he dreams of opening an outdoor shop in Erbil, of hiking across Kurdistan through the mountains, of getting more women involved in the outdoors. Like Mr. Schute and Mr. Layton, he sees something in Kurdistan that would be obvious were it not for the news.“When there is no war in my country, Kurdistan is the best place,” he said. Then he drove down a road that arced out of sight.If You GoThe Kurds voted in September to declare independence from Iraq, a move that triggered Baghdad into placing a punitive ban on international flights into the region. To do that you would fly to Sirnak or Diyarbakir, both in southeastern Turkey, then cross into Iraqi Kurdistan via the Habur-Ibrahim Khalil border crossing. To do that, you’ll need an Iraqi visa.Visa rules for Kurdistan may change as Kurd and Iraqi authorities negotiate the results of the independence vote. For now, passport holders from the United States, Britain, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Japan can get a free 30-day Kurdistan visa at the border crossing and, presumably, upon arrival at the Erbil airport in Kurdistan once flights resume. As of press time the K.R.G.’s Department of Foreign Relations website had removed its webpage related to Kurdish visas.For these reasons, it’s recommended that would-be travelers find a reputable company to organize their trips and to keep them up-to-date on visa requirements. Prices are all-inclusive (without flights) and vary depending on the group size, hotels and the exact itinerary. Kurdistan Iraq Tours works with outfitters based in Britain and the United States, such as Steppes Travel, Native Eye Travel, Undiscovered Destinations, Young Pioneer Tours and Spiekermann Travel. Today Mr. Schute believes that Kurdistan could be one of the world’s great travel destinations if people would only stop confusing it with the Iraq they see in the news. Wild Frontiers Travel may add it again in the future.The State Department strongly advises against traveling to Iraq and it didn’t support the Kurdish referendum. It’s also a good idea for United States citizens to register with the State Department through its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program before going. Kurdistan Iraq Tour’s high-level contacts within the Kurdish government allow for a more nuanced and real-time understanding of what’s safe and what isn’t. A version of this article appears in print on February 4, 2018, on Page TR1 of the New York edition with the headline: Haunted by War. To be sure, Kurdistan is nothing like the Iraq of Mosul but a Middle Eastern Montana with ruins: a cooler, welcoming tableau of crisp mountain streams and scrappy peaks. A traveler can ski at a new resort serviced by gondolas or wander through the sun-roasted walls of the deepest canyon in the Middle East. You can drink city water from the taps and stroll around Erbil, the regional capital, concerned with only how to decline, politely, invitations to drink tea.“Hello, my friend, have some bread.”“Come, sit.”“Please, mister, enjoy my country.”For now, the war with ISIS was still winding down. From this peaceful perch, it is difficult to imagine the horror.One hazy morning last spring, Harry Schute, a retired Army colonel in his 50s with a Cheshire grin, walked through the monastery’s heavy doors and along its shaded arcades. Soon we would watch a 500-pound coalition bomb erupt over the militants’ last stronghold in Mosul and send a huge mushroom cloud curling over the city. Here at the monastery, though, on this pleasant spring day, birdsong ricocheted off the cliffs and the only thing to explode were the poppies. As a West Point history major with a soft spot for heavy metal, Mr. Schute had been a state trooper in New Jersey before being called to Iraq in April 2003 to command a United States Army Reserve civil affairs battalion. “Those are the guys who help get people and things out of the way so the Army can come in and break stuff,” he said. Soon he became something of a celebrity as the senior American officer in Kurdistan; to this day, the Kurds — who view Americans as their liberators for ousting Saddam Hussein — recognize him on the street and ask for photographs with him. As his tour drew to a close, Mr. Schute began to feel anxious.“It was like there was a hole in me,” he said. “I felt I was in the middle of contributing worthwhile things and I wanted to continue to contribute. He ran his hands along the ramparts of forgotten fortresses and felt the dampness in the crypt-like passages of mystical shrines. A boy played with a soccer ball in the courtyard, the boom of each kick cracking off the stone walls. In 2003 at a Kurdish investment seminar in Erbil, Mr. Schute met Douglas Layton, an American who came to Kurdistan in 1992. Mr. Layton, whose round spectacles and woolen cap lend him the air of a paperback spy, had survived a $1 million bounty on his head, courtesy of Saddam Hussein. After the dictator’s capture and execution, Mr. Layton journeyed to Hussein’s palace in Baghdad, where he found his outlandish throne and sat in it. “You’re gone,” Mr. Layton whispered to Saddam’s ghost, “and I’m still here.”Mr. Schute and Mr. Layton, who had been working for the Meridian Health Foundation, both knew of Kurdistan’s cultural riches and friendly people, so they joined forces to create what eventually became Kurdistan Iraq Tours, the only inbound tourism operator in Kurdistan. The idea seemed absurd.“Everyone said no one will come to Iraq, and I said but they’ll come to ‘the other Iraq!’” Mr. Layton recalled. “I believed, and I still believe, that tourism is the future.”For their main local guide, they hired and trained Balin Zrar, a charismatic, chain-smoking Kurd. Mr. Zrar had spent seven years running an Italian restaurant in London after he smuggled himself to Europe — an epic tale that involved time in an Iranian prison camp and riding for days curled atop a spare tire under a tractor-trailer. After the London bombings, Mr. Zrar returned to Kurdistan to dabble in real estate. For the guide-position interview, Mr. Layton asked him if he liked history. “I hate history,” replied Mr. Zrar, now in his early 40s, and the candor landed him the job. At its peak in the 9th century, the monastery housed as many as 7,000 monks. By 2011 The New York Times put Iraqi Kurdistan on its annual list of places to go. National Geographic Traveler did the same. “Top Gear,” the British television show, filmed a special there. Today it has five, a bishop, this boy and his family — all survivors of the Islamic State.We were on the western fringes of Kurdistan, a Netherlands-size, semiautonomous region in the north of Iraq that is home to 5.2 million of the world’s estimated 30 million Kurds, a stateless people who populate the border regions between Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. But all through those awful years the men worked behind the scenes, speaking to lawmakers and publishing a gorgeous, comprehensive guidebook to the region. Outside the air was hazy and cool.Our contingent of five North Americans had pretty much spent a lifetime traveling. The fact that the monastery still stood; that this Christian boy and his family were still alive; that a small group of North Americans now felt safe enough to travel here — all of it seemed like a miracle.Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, sat 20 miles southwest. A Canadian expat living in Hong Kong and a photographer from Los Angeles who had been to North Korea 10 times rounded out our group.We piled into a mini bus and rolled into the city. Rows of half-finished skyscrapers rose from the earth like the picked-over rib cage of a great steely beast. The plan was to spend a week traveling in a clockwise loop that started and ended in Erbil, taking in cities like Duhok and Sulaymaniyah along the way. We’d hike in the Zagros Mountains, paddle kayaks on Lake Dukan, and eat kebabs and flatbread. In June 2014, ISIS overran it and the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, stood inside its Great Mosque of al-Nuri and named himself caliph of the terrifying regime. Mr. Schute also serves as a senior security adviser to the Kurdish interior ministry and works closely with the Peshmerga, which means “those who face death.” More than 100,000 of these Kurdish soldiers — our allies against Saddam Hussein and ISIS — manned a nearly impenetrable front riddled with tank ditches and checkpoints that has kept Kurdistan an enclave of comparative security while much of the rest of Iraq remains too dangerous for tourists. The Peshmerga, coalition forces and the Iraqis had cornered the last of ISIS’s fighters in Mosul’s old city along the Tigris. In the distance you could see a dome that the South Koreans had built for a gym and several squat metal buildings. Guards led us into a room with a long table set with bananas and apricots and cold cans of Pepsi. Darin E. Huss, the center’s director, and Iraqi and Kurdish generals, came in to answer our questions about the fight. “In 10 days it will be finished, inshallah,” Staff Major Gen. We strolled around Erbil’s citadel, a fortress on a mound, that dates to 6000 B.C., and mingled with Arab Iraqis from the south who seemed overjoyed to friend an American on Facebook. I stuck my nose in sacks of za’atar and sumac in the city’s frenetic bazaar and watched two teen lovebirds — she in a hijab, he in jeans — kiss behind a tree in a park where no one could see but God. Khdir Darish, a former messenger for the Peshmerga, outside a teahouse in Rawanduz, in the eastern part of Iraqi Kurdistan. Under the cover of night, the monastery’s manager, a priest named Yousif Ibrahim, whose brother had already been murdered by the militants, spirited away scores of ancient documents, the last of the monastery’s once magnificent library, and even a discolored hand bone fragment believed to have belonged to St. Matthew the Hermit, who founded the monastery in 363 A.D. We slipped past wheat fields, gas stations with knockoff names like “Shall” and “Nobil,” and a refinery — a reminder of Kurdistan’s agricultural economy and the fact that Iraq controls some of the richest oil fields in the world, a quarter of which lie in Kurdistan. Kids played on the banks of the Greater Zab River where earthen bunkers once shielded Iraqi tanks during the 2003 invasion. This was the Green Line, the point behind which Saddam withdrew his forces after the creation of a no-fly zone over Kurdistan following his defeat in the 1991 Gulf War.The air turned hair-dryer hot as we wrapped up our time at the monastery. It was a tell, or a man-made hill formed when ancient villages are built and rebuilt atop one another over thousands of years until they’re abandoned and the grass reclaims them.Kurdistan is littered with these. Very few of them have been excavated, Hashim Hama Abdullah, the director of the Slemani Museum in Sulaymaniyah, would tell me later after I’d spent a morning studying the museum’s ancient stelae, tablets and other artifacts. “No excavating happened at all under Saddam,” he said. “Now teams are coming in.”Kurdistan has no real budget for tourism projects, which means few attractions have basic things like interpretive signs. This field, which also has never been excavated, would be just a field without Mr. Schute to explain it. In 331 B.C. the Persian king Darius III picked this now peaceful place to face Alexander the Great of Macedonia once and for all.

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The Top 4 High-Growth Industries for Entrepreneurs in 2018 (Infographic)

The Top 4 High-Growth Industries for Entrepreneurs in 2018 (Infographic)

Want to start a business but not sure what it should be? For starters, take a look at what’s trending in 2018.Related: How to Start a Business With (Almost) No MoneyData analyzed by online graphic design marketplace 99designs uncovered the top four hottest emerging industries to watch in 2018 and unsurprisingly, cryptocurrency ranked in first. With a number of states beginning to legalize medical and recreational use, people are jumping at the opportunity to build a business in the pot industry. Unsurprisingly, some of the top cities cannabis customers flock to are Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco.Related: The Complete, 12-Step Guide to Starting a BusinessA third trend to look out for is “non-traditional travel” businesses such as boutique hotels, camper van rentals and “voluntourism.” Nowadays, people are turning away from mainstream hotels and opting for more niche lodging and experiences. And if you’re interested in launching a VR-related business, look into cities including London, Santa Monica, San Francisco and New York, which have the most VR business customers.To learn more, check out the infographic below.

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Spirit of the Entrepreneur: Ella’s Top Corral

Spirit of the Entrepreneur: Ella’s Top Corral

Jason A. Smith | The Valdosta Daily TimesElla McGhee, owner of Ella’s Top Corral, and her grandson, Nicholas Perry, work together at the restaurant.  VALDOSTA — Being an entrepreneur isn’t always easy and everyone does it a little differently. Regardless of the type, entrepreneurs help drive the local economy.Ella McGhee, owner of Ella’s Top Corral, started out as an employee and now owns and operates her own restaurant.Top Corral was opened by the Moore family in 1976. It was in 1977 when McGhee walked in and filled out an application after looking for a job all day.The manager called McGhee the next day and offered her the job.“I needed a job,” she said. “It was in March of ‘77.”A little more than a decade later, McGhee was made the manager of the restaurant. In 2006, after Gay Moore passed away, McGhee took over the restaurant but it wasn’t until 2013 when McGhee actually bought the restaurant and became the official owner of Ella’s Top Corral. Prior to working at Top Corral, McGhee had worked at restaurants throughout her life.“I started working at restaurants when I was in high school in the 10th grade,” she said. “Restaurants are what I like to do.”Because of her experience in restaurants, McGhee had a dream to own a restaurant one day, she said.

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Comcast says it’s starting to ramp up medium, enterprise customer business opportunities

Comcast says it’s starting to ramp up medium, enterprise customer business opportunities

Being the fastest growing service provider business service segment for services like Ethernet and cloud, the service provider’s ongoing build-out of fiber and expanding DOCSIS 3.1 data services make it a viable threat to large telcos like AT&T and Verizon. By rolling out DOCSIS 3.1-based 1 Gbps services across its northeastern and mid-Atlantic service footprints, Comcast sees an opportunity to more effectively compete against Verizon and other telcos for businesses that desire higher speeds but don't need a fiber connection. The cable MSO plans to roll out the DOCSIS 3.1-based service throughout its national network footprint. The cable MSO is offering SD-WAN in conjunction with its 1 Gbps DOCSIS 3.1 broadband service and fiber services for businesses.   What’s significant for Comcast’s new SD-WAN offering is it is the first service that will be delivered on the Comcast Business ActiveCore SDN platform, which the cable MSO is touting as one of the first cable-delivered, gigabit-ready SDN platforms. Roberts added that “what’s particularly exciting in business services is the room for growth ahead as we have the opportunity to take more share in each of our customer segments.” Business services revenue rose 12.2% in the fourth quarter to $1.68 billion. The cable MSO said the revenue jump was related to increases in the number of customers receiving its small and medium-sized business services offerings.  During the fourth quarter, Comcast added 33,000 new business customer relationships, and for the year ended Dec. Michael Cavanagh “Business services continued to be a top driver in our cable results,” said Michael Cavanagh, CFO of Comcast. “We delivered another strong quarter of double digit growth primarily driven by customer growth.” Cavanagh added that “all business service segments, including small, medium-sized and now enterprise are focused on connectivity and have substantial room for future growth.” A key element in business services growth is, no surprise, high speed internet services and new services like SD-WAN and extending its DOCSIS 3.1-based 1 Gbps services.

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Polish Team Rescues French Climber on Pakistan’s ‘Killer Mountain’

Polish Team Rescues French Climber on Pakistan’s ‘Killer Mountain’

A French woman was rescued alive from the treacherous northern Himalayan peak known as “Killer Mountain,” but rescuers were not able to locate her Polish climbing companion. Tomasz Mackiewicz from Poland, and Elisabeth Revol of France, were attempting to scale the 8,126-meter (26,660-feet) Nanga Parbat. The Polish government pledged to provide financial guarantees and support for the rescue operation. Pakistan rivals Nepal for the number of peaks over 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) and is considered a climbers’ paradise, but fatalities are also common. But, they became stuck at the 7,400-meter mark and used a satellite phone to call for help, organizers of the expedition said. An elite Polish climbing team attempting the first winter ascent of nearby K2, dropped their efforts on that mountain so that they could attempt to rescue the two stranded climbers. The Pakistan military airlifted a four-member Polish team to Nanga Parbat: Russian climber Denis Urubko, who has dual Polish citizenship, together with Polish climbers Adam Bielecki, Jaroslaw Botor and Piotrek Tomala. She was evacuated by helicopter and will be taken to Skardu and then Islamabad for treatment, according to Ludovic Giambiasi, one of Revol’s friends. “The rescue for Tomasz is unfortunately not possible — because of the weather and altitude it would put the life of rescuers in extreme danger,” Giambiasi wrote. “It’s a terrible and painful decision. … All our thoughts go out to Tomek’s family and friends.

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Gwadar all set to host first-ever Global Trade Expo 2018 on Monday

Gwadar all set to host first-ever Global Trade Expo 2018 on Monday

ISLAMABAD: Gwadar is all set to make a historic breakthrough in the annals of history with the holding of first-ever Global Trade Expo 2018, which will be held on Monday, where manufacturing companies from China, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and other countries would showcase their products. “This expo would also provide the first of its kind opportunity for the manufacturers, investors, entrepreneurs and government officials from countries of the region on one stage. Jiang Han said that the expo would provide an opportunity to reach a large pool of industry stalwarts besides providing a vital platform for interaction between local and foreign business entrepreneurs. Jiang Han also briefed about the significance of the under-construction Gwadar Airport, Gwadar East-Bay expressway and a lot of other socio-economic activities in the area. Gwadar port is the flagship project of the CPEC and will play an important role in the economic development of Pakistan and the region as well, he added. Counselor Jiang said that Chinese companies had undertaken exemplary steps for the well-being of the local inhabitants of Gwadar under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. He said the inauguration of free economic zones was good news for investors, which would be a tax-free zone, and thereby attracting future investments from across the globe. “Investments are a key node of the CPEC. He said China Red Crescent had also launched emergency services in Gwadar, while 12 top-notch doctors from China were serving at the Chinese hospital there. “These senior doctors would serve for two years, and, upon termination of their term, 12 new doctors from China would replace them, so as the best medical treatment for the local population may continue,” he added. Counselor Jiang said that China had also launched poverty alleviation programme in Gwadar, adding that Gwadar Development Authority (GDA), along with the local management, would identify the poor families of the town, who would become beneficiaries of the project. “These families would also be sent to China under a people-to-people exchange programme. Jiang Han said that PM Abbasi would also inaugurate the first phase of Gwadar Free Economic Zone, where over 200 companies from across various industrial sectors from both Pakistan and China will be participating. “Though we have 150 booths for the expo, we have received over 5,000 applications. Hence, it is a promising sign how the world businessmen look at the Gwadar Expo,” he said. “Moreover, we would also provide 18 booths at the expo to local companies of Balochistan for free.” Around 5,000 visitors are allowed to attend the event, while over 10,000 applications had been received. The two-day event would be first mega event in the history of Balochistan, which would not only highlight the significance of Gwadar but also promote its port and free zone. “The expo will be a regular annual feature and it will be a big advertisement of Gwadar.

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Huntsville biz startups ‘co-working’ not competing

Huntsville biz startups ‘co-working’ not competing

Since taking the helm at Huntsville's Urban Engine last year, Executive Director Toni Eberhart said the entrepreneurial ecosystem has evolved in a way she never imagined. In addition to Angels of North Alabama and Innovate Huntsville, Lewis said BizTech is supporting the Launch 2035 initiative, an effort to bring key stakeholders from Madison, Limestone, and Morgan counties together to plan the area's future in land use, workforce development and entrepreneurism. "We applaud the work that has been done to recruit new industries and companies to the region," he said. "It provides growth and job opportunities for people in our communities. Urban Engine, a nonprofit formerly known as New Leaf Digital, supports budding entrepreneurs by providing a consistent platform for founders, creative professionals, and supporting businesses to meet and collaborate. In 2017 alone, Urban Engine contributed to the launch and growth of more than 31 startups by hosting 82 events connecting individuals to resources they need to take the next step in their entrepreneurial journey. Rigved Joshi was hired in 2017 as director of the I2C after working in venture capital, private equity, startup incubation and intellectual property monetization throughout his career. "We have achieved this through the process of self-evaluating to understand the unique value propositions each organization in the ecosystem offers entrepreneurs in our community and then discussing how we can work collaboratively to support them," she said. The I2C, which has a slated opening date of late 2018 or early 2019, will serve as resource for emerging tech companies in the 15-county north Alabama and southcentral Tennessee region. Entrepreneur Brandon Kruse, frustrated by the lack of cheap startup space, purchased the West Huntsville Elementary building to create a cost-effective atmosphere for like-minded entrepreneurs to connect and collaborate. Huntsville West has been open since 2015 and offers a variety of services for independent professionals and remote workers, budding startups and established businesses. "Many of the startup cities have this — a group of people, likely with the aid of the state and city government, that invest very early stage," he said. "And as part of that investment, require companies to stay. Some initiatives get "siloed" and fail to take action, Kruse said, and that needs to change to continue fostering an atmosphere of innovation. "We have one of the leading biotech institutes in the country," he said. "A top human genome sequencing center right in our backyard. Harrison Diamond, the city of Huntsville's business relations officer, said one of the best things about Huntsville right now is its ability to offer a continuum of services for emerging companies. "There are so many excellent resources here and so many dedicated groups ready to lend a hand," he said. "We are fortunate."Can there ever be too many resources in a city the size of Huntsville? When BizTech launched Innovate Huntsville two years ago, Lewis said it was the first time many local entrepreneurial leaders sat down to talk to each other.

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Andrew Ng unveils the AI Fund, with $175 million to back new startups

Andrew Ng unveils the AI Fund, with $175 million to back new startups

AI superstar Andrew Ng has spent the past year launching a handful of new initiatives, and now he’s at it again with the AI Fund, a startup incubator that will back small teams of experts looking to solve key problems using machine learning. Ng sees this as the right time time for something like the AI Fund, since there are plenty of investors trying to hitch their financial wagons to the intelligent future of computing. What’s more, he thinks the teams the fund will be backing have a shot against larger players in the market because of the expertise needed to effectively deploy AI in production. The Fund will be focused on providing funding at the seed and series A stages of a company’s lifecycle, and startups that emerge from its incubation will also have the benefit of accessing Ng’s professional network when it comes to raising money in the future. Ng will serve as the incubator’s general partner and lead the AI Fund’s direction. Ng didn’t disclose how many teams there are or the areas they’re working in, but privacy is one of the proposed benefits of the fund. Rather than asking teams to spend time showing their products to investors and other members of the public, the incubator enables them to work in relative stealth until they’re ready.

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Mass. ranks near bottom for supporting female entrepreneurs, report finds

Mass. ranks near bottom for supporting female entrepreneurs, report finds

Why is Massachusetts such a tough place for female entrepreneurs?That’s one question arising from a recent report that ranks the state 46 out of 50 in supporting women who start businesses, trailed only by New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, and Nebraska.The top five states in the study by educational content website FitSmallBusiness were Georgia, Florida, Maryland, California, and Colorado, with rankings derived from factors including the number of businesses run by women in each state and the percentage of state revenue that comes from those businesses. “I unfortunately prove some of the rule,” George said. “My husband owns my property, he owns the building that my business is in. For me that created a lot of security.”The entrepreneurship report goes on to explain that Boston entrepreneurs tend to be older and more educated than in other metropolitan areas. When it comes to starting a business, every woman’s experience is different — it’s just that Massachusetts adds its own set of obstacles to an already uphill battle. It’s no secret that women are at a disadvantage when it comes to breaking into the still male-dominated business world. Women are listed as the majority owners of 31 percent of the more than 27 million businesses in the United States, according to the 2016 US report in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. One of the factors that accounts for Massachusetts’ low ranking is that the percentage of female entrepreneurs is lower than the national average. That drives down the percentage of state revenue coming from businesses owned by women, making Massachusetts appear inhospitable as a result. Susan Duffy, executive director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson, said the reason may be that entrepreneurship in this state is driven more by opportunity than necessity.“Massachusetts’ efforts in wage equality are moving further along than other states, which creates opportunities for women to pursue careers in existing companies where they can be compensated fairly, so they’re not necessarily jumping ship to create their own businesses,” Duffy said.For those who do choose to pursue opportunity-driven business, one of the biggest hurdles is finding space to lease.

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The Plot Against America – The Atlantic

The Plot Against America – The Atlantic

Manafort would swim naked with his boss outside his banya, play tennis with him at his palace (“Of course, I let him win,” Manafort made it known), and generally serve as an arbiter of power in a vast country. In the week leading up to the 1979 Young Republicans convention, Manafort and Stone set out to destroy Acker’s candidacy. In a bravura projection of power that no one in the Reagan campaign could miss, Manafort swung the vote sharply against Acker, 465 to 180. “It was one of the great fuck jobs,” a Manafort whip told me recently.Not long after that, Stone and Manafort won the crucial positions in the Reagan operation that they’d coveted. Stone directed the campaign in the Northeast, Manafort in the South. The campaign had its share of infighting; both men survived factional schisms and purges. “They were known as the Young Republican whizzes,” Jeff Bell told me. Their performance positioned them for inner-sanctum jobs in the Reagan administration, but they had even grander plans.III. Men such as Abe Fortas, Clark Clifford, Bryce Harlow, and Thomas Corcoran were known not as grubby mercenaries but as elegant avatars of a permanent establishment, lauded as “wise men.” Lobbying hardly carried a stigma, because there was so little of it. When the legendary lawyer Tommy Boggs registered himself as a lobbyist, in 1967, his name was only 64th on the active list. Three leading political scientists had studied the profession in 1963 and concluded: “When we look at the typical lobby, we find its opportunities to maneuver are sharply limited, its staff mediocre, and its typical problem not the influencing of Congressional votes but finding the clients and contributors to enable it to survive at all.”On the cusp of the Reagan era, Republican lobbyists were particularly enfeebled. One of his deputies, Rick Gates, once boasted to a group of Washington lobbyists, “You have to understand, we’ve been working in Ukraine a long time, and Paul has a whole separate shadow government structure … In every ministry, he has a guy.” Only a small handful of Americans—oil executives, Cold War spymasters—could claim to have ever amassed such influence in a foreign regime. The scant tribe of Republican lobbyists working the cloakrooms included alumni of the Nixon and Ford administrations; operating under the shame-inducing cloud of Watergate, they were disinclined toward either ambition or aggression.This was the world that brash novices like Manafort and Stone quickly came to dominate. After the long expansion of the regulatory state, business finally had a political partner eager to dismantle it—which generated unprecedented demand for lobbyists. During its transition to power, he had run the Office of Personnel Management, which meant that he’d stacked the incoming government with his people. Along with Stone and Charlie Black, another veteran of the Young Republican wars, he set up a firm, Black, Manafort and Stone, which soon compiled an imposing client list: Bethlehem Steel, the Tobacco Institute, Johnson & Johnson, Trans World Airlines.Whereas other firms had operated in specialized niches—lobbying, consulting, public relations—Black, Manafort and Stone bundled all those services under one roof, a deceptively simple move that would eventually help transform Washington. Time magazine deemed the operation “the ultimate supermarket of influence peddling.” Fred Wertheimer, a good-government advocate, described this expansive approach as “institutionalized conflict of interest.”The linkage of lobbying to political consulting—the creation of what’s now known as a double-breasted operation—was the real breakthrough. Manafort’s was the first lobbying firm to also house political consultants. (Legally, the two practices were divided into different companies, but they shared the same founding partners and the same office space.) One venture would run campaigns; the other would turn around and lobby the politicians whom their colleagues had helped elect. The power had helped fill Manafort’s bank accounts; according to his recent indictment, he had tens of millions of dollars stashed in havens like Cyprus and the Grenadines.Manafort had profited from the sort of excesses that make a country ripe for revolution. Just as imagined, the firm’s political clients (Jesse Helms, Phil Gramm, Arlen Specter) became reliable warhorses when the firm needed them to promote the agendas of its corporate clients. With this evolution of the profession, the effectiveness and influence of lobbying grew in tandem.In 1984, the firm reached across the aisle. It made a partner of Peter Kelly, a former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who had earned the loyalty of lawmakers by raising millions for their campaigns. Some members of the firm worked for Democratic Senate candidates in Louisiana, Vermont, and Florida, even as operatives down the hall worked for their Republican foes. “People said, ‘It’s un-American,’ ” Kelly told me. “ ‘They can’t lose. Newsweek pronounced the firm “the hottest shop in town.”Manafort’s lobbying firm exuded the decadent spirit of the ’80s. “Excess Is Best” was the theme of one annual gathering.Demand for its services rose to such heights that the firm engineered a virtual lock on the 1988 Republican primary. And in the early months of 2014, protesters gathered on the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, and swept his patron from power. In response to a questionnaire in The Washington Times, he declared Machiavelli the person he would most like to meet.Despite his young age, Manafort projected the sort of confidence that inspires others to have confidence, a demeanor often likened to that of a news anchor. “He is authoritative, and you never see a chink in the armor,” one of his longtime deputies, Philip Griffin, told me. Manafort wrote well, especially in proposals to prospective clients, and excelled at thinking strategically. He “hung up the phone, looked at his watch, and said, ‘Okay, we have 20 minutes until the next one,’ ” Andrea wrote to her then-fiancé.The firm exuded the decadent spirit of the 1980s. Each year, it hosted a golf outing called Boodles, after the gin brand. “It would have to move almost every year, because we weren’t invited back,” John Donaldson, an old friend of Manafort’s who worked at the firm, says. “A couple of women in the firm complained that they weren’t ever invited. I told them they didn’t want to be.” As the head of the firm’s “social committee,” Manafort would supply a theme for the annual gatherings. His masterwork was a three-year progression: “Excess,” followed by “Exceed Excess,” capped by “Excess Is Best.”Partners at the firm let it be known to The Washington Post that they each intended to take home at least $450,000 in 1986 (a little more than $1 million today). “All of a sudden they came into a lot of money, and I don’t think any of them were used to earning the money that we were earning,” Kelly said. Manafort would fly the Concorde to Europe and back as if it were the Acela to New York. “I must confess,” Atwater swooned to The Washington Post, “after four years on a government payroll, I’m delighted with my new life style.”Manafort with the Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole at the 1996 GOP convention, which Manafort managed (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / Getty)The firm hired kids straight out of college—“wheel men” in the office vernacular—to drive the partners around town. When Roger Stone’s old hero, Richard Nixon, came to Washington, the wheel men would shuttle him about.Many of these young associates would eventually climb the firm’s ladder, and were often dispatched to manage campaigns on the firm’s behalf. Climbing the ladder, however, in most cases required passing what came to be known as Manafort’s “loyalty tests”—challenging tasks that strayed outside the boundaries of standard professional commitment and demonstrated the control that Manafort expected to exert over the associates’ lives. At the last minute, he might ask a staffer to entertain his visiting law-school buddies, never mind that the staffer had never met them before. For one Saint Patrick’s Day party, he gave two junior staffers 24 hours to track down a plausible impersonator of Billy Barty, the 3-foot-9-inch actor who made movies with Mickey Rooney and Chevy Chase—which they did. “This was in the days before the internet,” one of them told me. “Can you imagine how hard that was?”By the 1990s, the double-digit list of registered lobbyists that Tommy Boggs had joined back in 1967 had swelled to more than 10,000. Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly had greatly abetted that transformation, and stood to profit from the rising flood of corporate money into the capital. But by then, domestic politics had begun to feel a little small, a bit too unexotic, for Paul Manafort, whom Charlie Black described to me as a self-styled “adventurer.”Manafort had long befriended ambitious young diplomats at the trailhead to power, including Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, then the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Manafort arranged for Bandar to arrive at the presidential entrance, then had him whisked to seats in the vice-presidential box.Foreign lobbying had certainly existed before the ’80s, but it was limited in scale and operated under a penumbra of suspicion. Just before World War II, Congress had passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act, largely in response to the campaigns orchestrated by Ivy Lee, an American publicist hired by the German Dye Trust to soften the image of the Third Reich. Congress hadn’t outlawed influence peddling on behalf of foreign interests, but the practice sat on the far fringes of K Street.Paul Manafort helped change that. The Reagan administration had remade the contours of the Cold War, stepping up the fight against communism worldwide by funding and training guerrilla armies and right-wing military forces, such as the Nicaraguan contras and the Afghan mujahideen. This strategy of military outsourcing—the Reagan Doctrine—aimed to overload the Soviet Union with confrontations that it couldn’t sustain.All of the money Congress began spending on anti-communist proxies represented a vast opportunity. Back home, it would help regimes acquire the whiff of democratic legitimacy that would bolster their standing in Washington.The firm won clients because it adeptly marketed its ties to the Reagan administration, and then the George H. W. Bush administration after that. In one proposal, reported in The New York Times in 1988, the firm advertised its “personal relationships” with officials and promised to “upgrade” back channels “in the economic and foreign policy spheres.” No doubt it helped to have a friend in James Baker, especially after he became the secretary of state under Bush. “Baker would send the firm clients,” Kelly remembered. “He wanted us to help lead these guys in a better direction.”But moral improvement never really figured into Manafort’s calculus. “Generally speaking, I would focus on how to bring the client in sync with western European or American values,” Kelly told me. “Paul took the opposite approach.” (Kelly and Manafort have not spoken in recent years; the former supported Hillary Clinton in the last presidential campaign.) In her memoir, Riva Levinson, a managing director at the firm from 1985 to 1995, wrote that when she protested to her boss that she needed to believe in what she was doing, Manafort told her that it would “be my downfall in this business.” The firm’s client base grew to include dictatorial governments in Nigeria, Kenya, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, among others. Manafort’s firm was a primary subject of scorn in a 1992 report issued by the Center for Public Integrity called “The Torturers’ Lobby.”The firm’s international business accelerated when the Philippines became a client, in 1985. But in his Kiev office, he’d left behind a safe filled with papers that he would not have wanted to fall into public view or the wrong hands.Money, which had always flowed freely to Manafort and which he’d spent more freely still, soon became a problem. Marcos hired Manafort to lift his image; his wife, Imelda, personally delivered an initial payment of $60,000 to the firm while on a trip to the States. When Marcos called a snap election to prove his democratic bona fides in 1986, Manafort told Time, “What we’ve tried to do is make it more of a Chicago-style election and not Mexico’s.” The quip was honest, if unintentionally so. In the American political lexicon, Chicago-style elections were generally synonymous with mass voter fraud. The late pollster Warren Mitofsky traveled to the Philippines with CBS News to set up and conduct an exit poll for the election. When he returned, he told the political scientist Sam Popkin the story of how a representative of Manafort’s firm had asked him, “What sort of margin might make a Marcos victory legitimate?” The implication was clear, Popkin told me: “How do we rig this thing and still satisfy the Americans?”The firm’s most successful right-wing makeover was of the Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi, a Maoist turned anti-communist insurgent, whose army committed atrocities against children and conscripted women into sexual slavery. During the general’s 1986 trip to New York and Washington, Manafort and his associates created what one magazine called “Savimbi Chic.” Dressed in a Nehru suit, Savimbi was driven around in a stretch limousine and housed in the Waldorf-Astoria and the Grand Hotel, projecting an image of refinement. According to The Washington Post, “He was meticulously coached on everything from how to answer his critics to how to compliment his patrons.” Savimbi emerged from his tour as a much-championed “freedom fighter.” When the neoconservative icon Jeane Kirkpatrick introduced Savimbi at the American Enterprise Institute, she declared that he was a “linguist, philosopher, poet, politician, warrior … one of the few authentic heroes of our time.”This was a racket—Savimbi paid the firm $600,000 in 1985 alone—that Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly did its best to keep alive; the firm’s own business was tied to Savimbi’s continued rebellion against Angola’s leftist regime. As the country stood on the brink of peace talks in the late ’80s, after nearly 15 years of bloody civil war, the firm helped secure fresh batches of arms for its client, emboldening Savimbi to push forward with his military campaign. Former Senator Bill Bradley wrote in his memoir, “When Gorbachev pulled the plug on Soviet aid to the Angolan government, we had absolutely no reason to persist in aiding Savimbi. After the revolution, Manafort cadged some business from former minions of the ousted president, the ones who hadn’t needed to run for their lives. He descends from a different kind of political lineage, and in his formative experience one can see the makings of his worldview.Back in the ’60s, Manafort’s hometown, New Britain, Connecticut, was known as Hardware City. Nancy Johnson, who served New Britain in Congress, told me that when she arrived in the city during those years, she couldn’t believe how little it interacted with the outside world. “It was a small city and very ingrown. When my kids were in high school, the number of their classmates who hadn’t been to Hartford was stunning.” Hartford, the state capital, is a 15-minute drive from New Britain.In 1919, not long after the Manaforts emigrated from Naples, the family founded a demolition company, New Britain House Wrecking, which eventually became Manafort Brothers, a force in local construction. Paul Carver, a former New Britain City Council member and a protégé of the old man, told me, “It was like going to the bar with your grandfather. He knew almost everybody in town.” Paul Jr., known as P.J. to his friends, idolized his dad, plunging himself into the campaign, whose success he would decades later describe as “magic.” Over the years, he would remain a devoted son. All the partners in his firm came to know his father, running into him at parties that P.J. hosted in his Mount Vernon, Virginia, home. “He was dedicated to him,” Nancy Johnson told me.The elder Manafort’s outsize capacity for charm made him the sort of figure whose blemishes tend to be wiped from public memory. New Britain police had been accused of casting a blind eye toward illegal gambling in the city—and of tampering with evidence to protect Joseph “Pippi” Guerriero, a member of the DeCavalcante crime family.Several investigations into the tampering drilled through New Britain’s rotten government. In his findings, he pointed a finger straight at Manafort Sr., calling him the person “most at fault.” According to the testimony of a whistle-blower, Manafort had flatly announced that he wanted to hire someone “flexible” to manage his personnel office, a place that would “not [be] 100 percent by the rules.” The whistle-blower also testified that he had delivered an envelope to Manafort’s home containing the answers to the exam that aspiring police officers had to pass—and that Manafort had given it to two candidates via a relative. Manafort never denied receiving the envelope but insisted that he’d merely asked for “boning-up materials.”A statute of limitations precluded prosecutors from filing charges against Manafort for the alleged crime of test-fixing—and ultimately he was never convicted of perjury. But his arrest caused the Hartford Courant to compile a list of dealings that reflected badly on him: “Throughout his more than twenty years in public life, he has been the focus of controversy, and several accusations of wrongdoing.” The litany includes a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development accusing him of steering contracts to Manafort Brothers, whose stock he still owned while mayor. When investors from Florida built a jai alai arena in Bridgeport—using the Teamsters’ pension fund to finance the project—Manafort had “improperly” finagled its environmental permit. His family business had then inflated the fees for its work on the arena so that cash could be kicked back to the Teamsters. (The business admitted to inflating its fees, but a grand jury declined to issue an indictment.) Even before this scandal broke, a former mayor of New Britain blasted Manafort for behavior that “violates the very essence of morality.”Conventional wisdom suggests that the temptations of Washington, D.C., corrupt all the idealists, naïfs, and ingenues who settle there. When Paul Manafort Jr. broke the rules, when he operated outside of a moral code, he was really following the example he knew best. As he later said of his work with his father in an interview with a local Connecticut paper, “Some of the skills that I learned there I still use today … That’s where I cut my teeth.”VI. He was, for a time, the brother-in-law of the Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, the middleman used in the arms-for-hostages scheme that became the Iran-Contra scandal. For her “wedding weekend kick off” party, he suggested scaling back the menu to hot dogs and eliminated a line item for ice.He seemed unwilling, or perhaps unable, to access his offshore accounts; an FBI investigation scrutinizing his work in Ukraine had begun not long after Yanukovych’s fall. At the height of his wealth, Khashoggi spent $250,000 a day to maintain his lifestyle—which reportedly included a dozen houses, 1,000 suits, a $70 million yacht, and a customized airplane, which has been described as a “flying Las Vegas discotheque.”Al Assir was the Khashoggi empire’s representative in Spain and a broker of big weapons sales to African armies. He’d ensconced himself among the rich and famous, the set that skied in Gstaad, Switzerland, and summered in the south of France. The London-based Arabic-language magazine Sourakia wrote, “The miracle of Al Assir is that he will have lunch with Don Juan Carlos [the king of Spain], dinner with Hassan II [the king of Morocco], and breakfast the next day with Felipe González [the prime minister of Spain].”Manafort suggested to his partners that Al Assir might help connect the firm to clients around the world. Manafort’s exploration of the outermost moral frontiers of the influence business had already exposed him to kleptocrats, thugs, and other dubious characters. One of the more noteworthy was an arms sale they helped broker between France and Pakistan, lubricated by bribes and kickbacks involving high-level officials in both countries, that eventually led to murder allegations.The arms dealer Al Assir introduced Manafort to an aristocratic world that exceeded anything he had ever known.It all arguably began with a 1993 dinner hosted by Manafort in his Virginia home and attended by Pakistan’s prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. She knew of him as a skilled manipulator of public opinion, and throughout the meal, Manafort displayed his most strategic, most charming self. Meanwhile, a Russian oligarch named Oleg Deripaska had been after Manafort to explain what had happened to an $18.9 million investment in a Ukrainian company that Manafort had claimed to have made on his behalf.Manafort had been dodging Deripaska. Spooks in Islamabad had observed the international rush to hire Washington lobbyists, and they had been clamoring for one of their own.At about that same time, Pakistan was looking to upgrade its submarine fleet, and European arms contractors raced to hawk their wares. Years later, in 2002, a car bomb went off in Karachi, killing 11 French naval engineers in transit to the shipyard where the submarines were being assembled, along with three Pakistanis. One theory, fervently supported by some of the engineers’ families, holds that the bombing was orchestrated by Pakistani officials who were disgruntled that the bribes promised to them as part of the deal had never arrived.Manafort was not a central figure in this scandal, and was never charged with any wrongdoing. But as the former Pakistani official told me, “He was an introducer—and he received a fee for his part.” Documents show that Manafort earned at least $272,000 as a consultant to the Balladur campaign, although, as Manafort later conceded to French investigators, it was Al Assir who actually paid him. (Balladur has denied any wrongdoing and doesn’t recall Manafort working for him. Al Assir introduced Manafort to an aristocratic world that exceeded anything he had ever known. “There’s money, and there’s really big money,” a friend of Manafort’s told me. “Paul became aware of the difference between making $300,000 and $5 million. Al Assir would show him how to live that life.”Colleagues at Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly noticed changes that accompanied the flowering of the friendship. In the firm’s early years, Manafort had been a fixture of the office, a general presiding over his headquarters. But now he frequently flew off to France or Spain, collaborating with Al Assir on projects that remained a mystery to his subordinates, and even to his partners. “Paul went off on different foreign things that none of us knew about,” Peter Kelly told me.Manafort’s lifestyle came to feature opulent touches that stood out amid the relative fustiness of Washington. Deripaska had won his fortune by prevailing in the so-called aluminum wars of the 1990s, a corpse-filled struggle, one of the most violent of all the competitions for dominance in a post-Soviet industry. John Donaldson, Manafort’s friend, recalls, “He was competing with the Al Assirs of the world—and he wanted to live in that lifestyle.”Manafort’s Hamptons estate includes a putting green and a basketball court. He believed only “suckers stay out of debt,” a former colleague says. (Google Maps)There were always suspicions among Manafort’s colleagues in the firm that he was making money for himself without regard for his partners. According to reporting by the Portuguese newspaper Observador, Manafort was the lead American investor in the company; his involvement helped justify the bank’s investment, despite evidence of the company’s faulty products and lax accounting. Al Assir is alleged to have extracted bloated commissions from the deal and to have pocketed some of the bank’s loans. In the summer of 2016, Politico’s Kenneth Vogel, now with The New York Times, wrote a rigorous exegesis of a long-standing rumor: Manafort was said to have walked away with $10 million in cash from Ferdinand Marcos, money he promised he would deliver to Ronald Reagan’s reelection campaign (which itself would have been illegal). In the book, Rollins recounted a dinner-party conversation with a member of the Filipino congress who claimed to have personally given a suitcase of cash to a “well-known Washington power lobbyist” involved in the Marcos campaign. Rollins would neither confirm nor deny that the lobbyist was Manafort, though his description doesn’t leave much uncertainty, and he conceded in an email that “it’s a pretty good guess.” Rollins admits in his book to being “stunned” by what he heard—“not in a state of total disbelief, though, because I knew the lobbyist well and I had no doubt the money was now in some offshore bank.” This irked Rollins greatly: “I ran the [Reagan] campaign for $75,000 a year, and this guy got $10 million in cash.”Manafort has always denied Rollins’s insinuation—“old stuff that never had any legs,” he told Vogel. Still, Vogel found a raft of circumstantial evidence that suggested the plausibility of the tale. Even though John Donaldson doubts the veracity of the tale, he told me that it persists because it reflects Manafort’s ethics. “I know how Paul would view it. Paul would sit there and say, ‘These guys can’t get access to Reagan. After the election of George H. W. Bush, Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly agreed to help organize the inauguration festivities. The firm commissioned a company from Rhode Island to sell memorabilia on the parade route—T-shirts, buttons, and the like. After crews had taken down the reviewing stand and swept up the debris, the alumnus recalled, a vendor showed up in the office with a bag full of cash. To the disbelief of his colleague, Manafort had arranged to take his own cut. “It was a Paul tax,” the former employee told me. “I guess he needed a new deck. But this was classic: Somebody else does the work, and he walks away with the bag of cash.”Having spent so much time in the company of oligarchs, Manafort decided to become one himself.Colleagues suspected the worst about Manafort because they had observed his growing mania for accumulating property, how he’d bought second, third, and fourth homes. “He would buy a house without ever seeing it,” one former colleague told me. His Hamptons estate came with a putting green, a basketball court, a pool, and gardens. “He believed that suckers stay out of debt,” the colleague told me. His unrestrained spending and pile of debt required a perpetual search for bigger paydays and riskier ventures.In 1991, Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly was purchased by the mega public-affairs firm Burson-Marsteller, the second-largest agency in the world. It was a moment of consolidation in the industry, where the biggest players came to understand how much money could be made from the model that Manafort had created. But nearly as soon as Burson acquired the firm, Tom Bell, the head of its Washington office, began to notice the ways in which Manafort hadn’t played by the rules. Taking a handful of colleagues with him, he started a new firm—Davis, Manafort and Freedman—and a new chapter, one that would see him enter the sphere of the Kremlin.VII. The Master of KievDuring the 1980s and ’90s, an arms dealer had stood at the pinnacle of global wealth. His new firm found its way to a fresh set of titans, with the help of an heir to an ancient fortune.In 2003, Rick Davis, a partner in Manafort’s new firm, was invited to the office of a hedge fund in Midtown Manhattan. When Davis arrived, he found himself pumping the hand of the Honorable Nathaniel Philip Victor James Rothschild, the British-born financier known as Nat. As Deripaska’s lawyers informed a court in 2014 while attempting to claw back their client’s money, “It appears that Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have simply disappeared.”Nine months after the Ukrainian revolution, Manafort’s family life also went into crisis. For his 40th birthday, he threw himself a legendary party in the Balkan state of Montenegro, which reportedly cost well over $1 million—a three-day festival of hedonism, with palm trees imported from Uruguay.Russian oligarchs were drawn to Rothschild, whose name connoted power—and he to them. “He likes this wild world,” Anders Åslund, a friend of Rothschild’s, told me. Rothschild invested heavily in post-communist economies and became a primary adviser (and a friend) to the young Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.Rothschild and Deripaska fed off each other’s grand ambitions. In 2004, Rothschild hired Manafort’s new firm to resurrect the influence of an exiled Georgian politician, a former KGB operative and friend of Deripaska’s then living in Moscow. This made for a heavy lift because the operative had recently been accused in court as a central plotter in a conspiracy to assassinate the country’s president, Eduard Shevardnadze. (He denied involvement.) The rehabilitation scheme never fully developed, but a few years later, Rick Davis triumphantly managed a referendum campaign that resulted in the independence of Montenegro—an effort that Deripaska funded with the hope of capturing the country’s aluminum industry.Deripaska’s interests were not only financial. An August 2007 email sent by Lauren Goodrich, an analyst for the global intelligence firm Stratfor, and subsequently posted on WikiLeaks, described Deripaska boasting to her about how he had set himself up “to be indispensable to Putin and the Kremlin.” This made good business sense, since he had witnessed the Kremlin expropriate the vast empires of oligarchs such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky who’d dared to challenge Putin. When the United States denied Deripaska a visa, the Russians handed him a diplomatic passport, which permitted him to make his way to Washington and New York.Manafort understood how highly Deripaska valued his symbiotic relationship with the Kremlin. The nature of his home life can be observed in detail because Andrea’s text messages were obtained last year by a “hacktivist collective”—most likely Ukrainians furious with Manafort’s meddling in their country—which posted the purloined material on the dark web. According to the Associated Press, he pitched a contract in 2005, proposing that Deripaska finance an effort to “influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet Republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government.” (Deripaska says he never took Manafort up on this proposal.)The Kremlin’s grip on its old Soviet sphere was especially precarious in the early aughts. The grandiloquent American rhetoric posed an existential threat to entrenched rulers of the region who were friendly to Russia, and who had become rich by plundering state resources. Suddenly, the threat of democratic revolution no longer felt theoretical.The risks of popular uprising were very much on Rothschild’s and Deripaska’s minds during the last months of 2004, when they handed Manafort a specific task. They sent Manafort to Kiev to understand how they might minimize the dangers.Of all Paul Manafort’s foreign adventures, Ukraine most sustained his attention, ultimately to the exclusion of his other business. He worked on behalf of a clique of former gangsters from the country’s east, oligarchs who felt linguistic and cultural affinity to Russia, and who wanted political control of the entire nation. When Manafort arrived, the candidate of this clique, Viktor Yanukovych, was facing allegations that he had tried to rig the 2004 presidential election with fraud and intimidation, and possibly by poisoning his opponent with dioxin. After that humiliating defeat, Yanukovych and the oligarchs who’d supported him were desperate for a new guru.Ferdinand Marcos (left), Viktor Yanukovych (center), and Jonas Savimbi (right) are among the many strongmen whom Manafort has advised and assisted. (AP; Dmitry Azarov / Kommersant Photo; Selwyn Tait / Getty)By the time Manafort first entertained the possibility of working with Yanukovych, the defeated candidate had just returned to Kiev following a brief self-imposed exile at a Czech resort. They met at an old movie palace that had been converted into the headquarters for his political organization, the Party of Regions. When Manafort entered the grandiose building, the place was a mausoleum and Yanukovych a pariah. “People avoided him,” Philip Griffin said. “He was radioactive.”Manafort groomed Yanukovych to resemble, well, himself. Åslund, who had advised the Ukrainian government on economic policy, told me, “Yanukovych and Manafort are almost exactly the same size. He got Yanukovych to wear the same suits as he did and to comb the hair backwards as he does.” Yanukovych had been wooden in public and in private, but “Manafort taught him how to smile and how to do small talk.” And he did it all quietly, “from a back seat. Ambassador John Herbst to his office, placed a binder containing Manafort’s strategy in front of him, and announced, “I’m going with Washington.”Manafort often justified his work in Ukraine by arguing that he hoped to guide the country toward Europe and the West. But his polling data suggested that Yanukovych should accentuate cultural divisions in the country, playing to the sense of victimization felt by Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine. When a U.S. diplomat discovered a rabidly anti-American speech on the Party of Regions’ website, Manafort told him, “But it isn’t on the English version.”Yanukovych’s party succeeded in the parliamentary elections beyond all expectations, and the oligarchs who’d funded it came to regard Manafort with immense respect. An associate of Manafort’s described the system this way: “Paul would ask for a big sum,” Yanukovych would approve it, and then his chief of staff “would go to the other oligarchs and ask them to kick in. ‘Hey, you need to pay a million.’ They would complain, but Yanukovych asked, so they would give.”When Yanukovych won the presidency in 2010, he gave Manafort “walk in” privileges, allowing him to stroll into the inner sanctum of the presidential offices at any time. Oleg Voloshyn, a former spokesman in the foreign-affairs ministry, told me that his own boss, the foreign minister, eventually turned to Manafort to carry messages and make arguments regarding foreign-policy priorities on his behalf. “Yanukovych would listen to him,” Voloshyn told me, “when our arguments were ignored.”VIII. A Reversal of FortuneBefore everything exploded in Ukraine, Manafort saw the country as his golden land, the greatest of his opportunities. Rick Davis declared their firm to be mostly “in the deal business,” according to James Harding’s 2008 book, Alpha Dogs: The Americans Who Turned Political Spin Into a Global Business. “The thing I love,” Davis said, “is that the political elites and the economic elites in every other country but the United States of America are the same.” The elected officials and the people “running the elections are the richest people in the country, who own all the assets.”In 2006, Rick Gates, who’d begun as a wheel man at the old firm, arrived in Kiev. (Gates did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this article.) Manafort placed him at the helm of a new private-equity firm he’d created called Pericles. He intended to raise $200 million to bankroll investments in Ukraine and Russia. “It was a virgin market in virtually any industry you wanted to pick up,” Philip Griffin told me.Manafort had always intended to rely on financing from Oleg Deripaska to fund Pericles. In 2007, Manafort persuaded him to commit $100 million to the project, a sum that would have hardly made a dent in the oligarch’s fortune. On the eve of the 2008 global financial crisis, he was worth $28 billion.Deripaska handed his money to Paul Manafort because he trusted him. Manafort repeatedly traveled to the oligarch’s Moscow office, where they would sit for hours and tour the business and political horizon of the former Eastern Bloc. In 2001, before Manafort and Deripaska met, the World Economic Forum in Davos had withdrawn its invitation to the oligarch, as a court examined his alleged misdeeds in the course of erecting his empire. (The case was eventually dismissed.) Five years after the Davos rejection, Rick Davis shepherded Deripaska around the elite confab, taking him to a party brimming with U.S. senators, including John McCain.For Pericles’s first deal, Manafort used Deripaska’s money to buy a telecommunications firm in Odessa called Chorne More (“Black Seas,” in English) at a cost of $18.9 million. He also charged a staggering $7.35 million in management fees for overseeing the venture.But months after the Chorne More purchase, the 2008 financial crisis hit, gutting Deripaska’s net worth. The loan included an interest payment in the form of abject humiliation: Putin traveled to one of Deripaska’s factories and berated him on television.As Deripaska’s world came crashing down, his representatives asked Manafort to liquidate Pericles and give him back his fair share. They wanted the authority to track down more information on the deal, even though the initial papers for it had been filed in the Cayman Islands. The lawyers had already managed to get their hands on some of the documentation surrounding the deal, and they had extracted a belated explanation of what had happened from Gates. According to a spokeswoman for Deripaska, Gates said that Chorne More had defaulted on a $1 million loan that it had taken out to pay for capital expenditures, allegedly forfeiting the partnership’s entire investment in the process. Deripaska began to publicly doubt whether Manafort had even bought the telecommunications company in the first place. “At present it seems that the Partnership never acquired any of the Chorne More entities,” his lawyers argued.All of the papers for the initial deal had included Rick Davis’s name. Because Davis’s connections to Manafort and Deripaska had caused him a public-relations headache at the outset of the campaign, he’d kept a healthy distance from both men. Upon returning from the campaign, and witnessing the extent to which Manafort had abused his trust, Davis left the firm they had created together.Mark Peterson / ReduxDeripaska’s attorneys had leveled a serious allegation—and true to his pattern, Manafort never filed a response. Those who have known Manafort the longest suggest that this reflects his tendency to run away from personal crises: “He’ll get on a jet and fly off to Hawaii—and will come back when everything blows over,” an old colleague told me, recalling Manafort’s response to a scandal in the late ’80s. Though no longer the ninth-richest man in the world, he was still extremely powerful.The fact is that by then, Manafort’s options were tightly limited: Despite all the riches he had collected in Ukraine, it is unlikely that he could have paid Deripaska back. For years, according to his indictment, Manafort had found clever ways to transfer money that he’d stashed in foreign havens to the U.S. He’d used it to buy real estate, antique rugs, and fancy suits—all relatively safe vehicles for repatriating cash without paying taxes or declaring the manner in which it had been earned.But in the summer of 2014, in the wake of the revolution that deposed Viktor Yanukovych, the FBI began scrutinizing the strongman’s finances. Manafort had stuck with Yanukovych as the president had initiated criminal investigations of his political opponents, opened the government’s coffers to his cronies, and turned his country away from Europe and toward Russia. He’d stuck with him to the gruesome end, amid growing popular unrest—right up to the slaughter of more than 100 protesters by government forces on the Maidan. The previous November, as the cache of texts shows, his daughters had caught him in an affair with a woman more than 30 years his junior. Perhaps living so long in moral gray zones had eroded Manafort’s capacity to appreciate the kind of ruler Yanukovych was, or the lines he had crossed. (He is now being tried in absentia in Ukraine for high treason, although he has denied any culpability from his perch in Moscow.) The previous December, as protesters had gathered on the Maidan, Manafort had texted his daughter Andrea, “Obama’s approval ratings are lower than [Yanukovych’s] and you don’t see him being ousted.”The FBI investigation into Yanukovych’s finances came to cover Manafort’s own dealings. But according to the indictment, some of Manafort’s loans were made on the basis of false information supplied to the bank in order to inflate the sums available to him, suggesting the severity of his cash-flow problems. The Prize“I really need to get to” Trump, Manafort told an old friend, the real-estate magnate Tom Barrack, in the early months of 2016. Despite his reticence about his private life, he’d spent his days in group therapy—and he claimed that it had changed him. “I have a real self awareness of why I broke down,” he texted her.Still, most of the proximate causes of his breakdown remained in place. Because of his biggest bust of all, Deripaska was looking for him. “He has too many skeletons,” Andrea had written her sister soon after he had entered the clinic, noting that his work in Ukraine was legally dubious. “Don’t fool yourself,” she had texted Jessica a few months before. “That money we have is blood money.”She had not forgiven him for his affair. She complained to a cousin about her father’s treatment of her mother. “We keep showing up and eating the lobster,” she wrote. “Nothing changes.” But Manafort’s ability to provide lavishly for his family—a role he had always played, whatever his other failings—had in fact changed. According to the text messages, Manafort had rented his mistress a $9,000-a-month apartment in Manhattan and a house in the Hamptons, not far from his own. The millions he’d invested in Jessica’s films were gone; so, too, were the millions he’d blown on her then-husband’s real-estate ventures.With the arrival of Donald Trump, Manafort smelled an opportunity to regain his losses, and to return to relevance. It was, in some ways, perfect: The campaign was a shambolic masterpiece of improvisation that required an infusion of technical knowledge and establishment credibility.Barrack forwarded to Trump’s team a memo Manafort had written about why he was the ideal match for the ascendant candidate. He told Trump that he had “avoided the political establishment in Washington since 2005,” and described himself as a lifelong enemy of Karl Rove, who represented the entrenched party chieftains conspiring to dynamite Trump’s nomination. In other words, to get back on the inside, Manafort presented himself as the ultimate outsider—a strained case that would strike Trump, and perhaps only Trump, as compelling.Manafort reached out to Deripaska almost immediately upon securing a post with the Trump campaign.Manafort could write such a calibrated pitch because he had observed Trump over the decades. Back in the ’80s, his firm had represented Trump when the mogul wanted to reroute planes flying over Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach. When Manafort offered Trump his services, he resisted his tendency to slap a big price tag on them; he would provide his counsel, he said, free of charge. To his family, Manafort described this decision as a matter of strategy: If Trump viewed him as wealthy, then he would treat him as a near-equal, not as a campaign parasite.But Manafort must have also believed that money would eventually come, just as it always had, from the influence he would wield in the campaign, and exponentially more so if Trump won. Through one of his old deputies, a Ukrainian named Konstantin Kilimnik, he sent along press clippings that highlighted his new job. “How do we use to get whole,” Manafort emailed Kilimnik. “Has OVD operation seen?” Manafort’s spokesman has acknowledged that the initials refer to Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska. In the course of the exchanges, Kilimnik expressed optimism that “we will get back to the original relationship” with the oligarch.All of Manafort’s hopes, of course, proved to be pure fantasy. An ever-growing pile of circumstantial evidence suggests that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian efforts to turn the 2016 presidential election in its favor. Given Manafort’s long relationship with close Kremlin allies including Yanukovych and Deripaska, and in particular his indebtedness to the latter, it is hard to imagine him as either a naive or passive actor in such a scheme—although Deripaska denies knowledge of any plan by Manafort to get back into his good graces. Manafort was in the room with Donald Trump Jr. when a Russian lawyer and lobbyist descended on Trump Tower in the summer of 2016, promising incriminating material on Hillary Clinton. That same summer, the Trump campaign, with Manafort as its manager, successfully changed the GOP’s platform, watering down support for Ukraine’s pro-Western, post-Yanukovych government, a change welcomed by Russia and previously anathema to Republicans. When the Department of Justice indicted Paul Manafort in October—for failing to register as a foreign agent, for hiding money abroad—its portrait of the man depicted both avarice and desperation, someone who traffics in dark money

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