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A car bomb killed Orlando Letelier 40 years ago; a mural by his son marks the tragedy and the progress it inspired

By David Montgomery
A car bomb killed Orlando Letelier 40 years ago; a mural by his son marks the tragedy and the progress it inspired
Artist Francisco Letelier, right, directs work on the

WASHINGTON - Francisco Letelier gazes up at the bigger-than-life portrait he has just painted of his late father, Orlando, who, in turn, is depicted also gazing up, searchingly, toward something unseen. What is the man in the mural yearning for? The defeat of the dictator? Justice for the torturers? Mercy for the disappeared?

Three days after a then-17-year-old Francisco took the original Polaroid snapshot upon which this new portrait is based, Orlando was dead - assassinated, blown up by a remote-control bomb planted in his Chevrolet. It exploded on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 1976, in Sheridan Circle, on Washington's Embassy Row, as the exiled former Chilean ambassador was driving to work at the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank. He was giving a lift to his American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, who also was killed. Moffitt's husband, Michael Moffitt, survived the blast.

It was a shocking case of foreign state-sponsored terrorism on U.S. soil. In the two decades that followed, members of the Chilean secret police and military and their hired hit men were prosecuted in the United States and Chile. More recently, declassified documents suggested that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet personally ordered the murder of Letelier. Pinochet, who died in 2006, was never prosecuted for the killings.

The portrait of Orlando Letelier is part of a five-panel mural, 10 feet by 40 feet, that was recently unveiled in the sculpture garden of the American University Museum. Now, as the artist contemplates his work, it's clear that his ambition is broader than simply invoking the memory of two martyrs frozen forever in the prime of life. The mural, titled "Todas las Manos" - "All the Hands" - is Francisco Letelier's way of seeking to redeem the tragedy by telling the story of the idealism it has inspired in the decades since.

"We're commemorating not just the tragic events that happened on the 21st of September 1976," he says. "This project celebrates the way that tragedy was turned into a legacy of activism, of landmark cases in global justice, of continuing to build a world in which justice and international cooperation are real and felt. ... Many campaigns toward a better world ... spring from difficult moments, and it's up to us to overcome those moments and to make them have meaning."

The creation of the mural is one of a series of activities marking the 40th anniversary of the deaths of Letelier and Moffitt. Later this month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is scheduled to attend a memorial service at the monument to the two in Sheridan Circle Park.

Francisco Letelier, a professional artist based in Los Angeles, designed the mural and executed it with the help of students from the Latin American Youth Center in Washington. It will be on display through Oct. 23 before traveling to other locations.

"I only painted him once before in my life, and that was probably 30 years ago," says the artist, who, at 57, is 13 years older than his father lived to be.

That long-ago day when he got out his Polaroid camera and asked his father to pose, the Letelier family - Orlando and Isabel and their four sons - was throwing a party on Chilean Independence Day - Sept. 18, 1976 - in the back yard of their home in Bethesda, Maryland. Francisco had all but forgotten about the photo until he came across it recently as he was looking for inspiration and material for the mural project. It was just a head shot of his father gazing into the distance. As a model for the rest of his father's body in the mural, Francisco used a photograph of himself.

"It's emotional, but you know, I'm an emotional painter," Francisco says. "This is a project I've done with great passion, tenacity and planning."

The mural includes a portrait of Moffitt holding an American Beauty rose and looking serenely at the viewer. At the time of her death, she was 25 and recently married. In addition to her work at the think tank, she ran a "music carryout" to provide instruments to people who had none.

The mural project brings Francisco Letelier full circle. He was in the 11th grade at Walt Whitman High School when his father was killed. On the first anniversary of the bombing, he joined other artists in creating a mural in Rock Creek Park. He also co-founded the Orlando Letelier Brigade with José Letelier, an older brother, and René Castro, an exiled Chilean artist. The brigade created murals across the United States and in other countries. Francisco Letelier went on to a career as a muralist and creator of public art projects. Castro's son, Carmelo, 21, is a student at George Washington University, and when he heard about the project he came out to help.

Francisco Letelier says he believes in the phrase attributed to Chilean poet Pablo Neruda that "murals are the people's blackboard." "This is still one of the most powerful forms of expression there is," he says.

The portraits of Letelier and Moffitt occupy scarcely a third of the mural as the artist uses the rest of the space to locate their lives and deaths within a hemispheric struggle for human rights that began before they were born and continues today.

Boldly painted images from nature - mountains, a dandelion, hummingbirds, fireflies, doves and flowers - allude to the diaspora of peoples and to a particular Chilean fable of reconciliation and forgiveness. Against that backdrop, copies of declassified documents, nespaper clippings and ephemera from advocacy campaigns form collages that speak urgently of the efforts of lawyers and activists to penetrate layers of official secrets in Santiago and Washington.

Here is a memo that Secretary of State George P. Shultz wrote to President Ronald Reagan in 1987. Shultz reports being "particularly struck by a recent report prepared by the CIA analyzing the events surrounding the assassination by car-bombing in Washington in 1976 of Orlando Letelier ... and Ronni Moffitt. ... The CIA concludes that its review provides 'what we regard as convincing evidence that President Pinochet personally ordered his intelligence chief to carry out the murders.'"

That memo wasn't released to the public until last year.

Some of the documents pasted onto the mural contain words and phrases that were blacked out before the papers were released. The remaining uncensored words communicate in a kind of spooky haiku - which inspired Francisco Letelier to doctor one redacted cable into an original poem:

"Orlando Letelier

"Ronni Karpen Moffitt

"Sing tell thunder and strut

"Let them know that we support them now and later

"Use all available assets to create a major reaction

"Cannot be stopped


Among the found documents that find their way into the mural are a copy of the Maryland driver's license that was in Orlando Letelier's pocket; a picture of Orlando and Isabel Letelier dancing on that same night of the Independence Day party; an image of Joan Baez performing for mourners; and a program from the memorial service.

The mural also recalls Latin American memory walls on which families post photos of disappeared loved ones. Francisco Letelier universalizes the form by including not just images of disappeared people from the Pinochet era, but also more recent victims, such as Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres, who was shot dead this year, along with other categories of heroes and martyrs, such as Simón Bolívar, Harriet Tubman and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

After Pinochet toppled Salvador Allende in a 1973 coup, Washington became a magnet for Chilean exiles, activists and artists. Pinochet's violent post-coup campaign against Allende's supporters, including Letelier, also galvanized a generation of American-born activists in Washington interested in international human rights. Many of those activists and investigators were on hand at the museum for the opening of the mural, including Joseph Eldridge, chaplain at American University and co-founder of the Washington Office on Latin America; Peter Kornbluh, director of the Chile Documentation Project at the National Security Archive; filmmaker Aviva Kempner; John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies; and Lori Kaplan, president and CEO of the Latin American Youth Center. Each year, the policy studies think tank gives human rights awards named for Letelier and Moffitt.

The mural also tells the story of those in Washington becoming involved. The third-largest portrait, after Orlando Letelier's and Moffitt's, shows Rodrigo Rojas de Negri. Rojas was a young Chilean exile whose mother had been tortured by Pinochet's forces. He studied at Wilson High School and was involved with the Latin American Youth Center. At 19, in 1986, he traveled to Chile to reconnect with his country and to take pictures of demonstrations against Pinochet. Soldiers detained him, doused him with gasoline and burned him to death.

In the mural, Rojas' image is depicted as if it were posted on a memory wall, and the artist has painted the figure of a boy on a ladder reaching up as if to touch him - the next generation visualized.

"People who were motivated by the events in Chile moved on to have a huge impact in Washington, D.C.," Francisco Letelier says. "One of the legacies is that through the investigation into Orlando, uncovering all of the other things Pinochet did ... we've made great inroads into global justice."

Efforts continue. This year, legal proceedings in the United States and Chile continued against members of Pinochet's regime who were implicated in atrocities. The Obama administration is preparing to present Bachelet with more secret documents regarding the Letelier case.

"The idea of justice is a wily and slippery thing," Francisco Letelier says. "Remember, if Augusto Pinochet had stood trial after he was arrested in London (in 1998), we would have put an 83-year-old man inside a cell. And if anyone thinks that that creates justice and closure, they should revisit the situation and think about it. Prisons are the awkward and clumsy vehicle that we have. What's more important for me is to dismantle the myth of Pinochet and to clarify the history. ... It has been a long, long arc towards justice over many years."

For the opening of the mural in the sculpture garden, the artist hung an unofficial sixth panel next to the painted five panels. It was a large flag of Chile that happened to be about the same size as the mural panels. Orlando Letelier could not be buried in his country while Pinochet remained in power. But in 1992, his remains were brought home. This was the flag that draped the coffin upon the exile's return.

UN plan sends thousands of refugees back into a war zone in Somalia

By Ty McCormick
UN plan sends thousands of refugees back into a war zone in Somalia
Katra Abii says the Kenyan government forced her to leave Dadaab. Now in Kismayo, she and her eight children often go hungry because vendors here hike up the prices of basic food items when they see her World Food Programme-issued ration card. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Ty McCormick-Foreign Policy

KISMAYO, Somalia - For years, Katra Abii dreamed of moving her family back to Somalia. All eight of her children were born in neighboring Kenya, in the world's largest refugee camp, but she hoped one day they would be able to marry and start families of their own in their home country.

As long as al-Shabab insurgents continued to maim and kill in their quest to topple the weak Somali government, however, she and her children planned to stay put.

Then, in May, Kenya announced its intention to shutter Dadaab, a desolate swath of desert that was home to more than 300,000 refugees, Abii and her children among them, because it claimed al-Shabab had made inroads there. Under pressure from the Kenyan government, which reluctantly hosts the seventh-largest refugee population in the world, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) agreed to accelerate the repatriation of those Somalis who were willing to return home.

Soon, it was sending as many as 1,000 people back to Somalia every day.

But Abii says there is nothing voluntary about UNHCR's "voluntary" repatriation program, which is partially funded by U.S. government. She agreed to relocate to Somalia in August only because she had been led to believe that the Kenyan government would eventually evict everyone by force. She knew if the army began rounding up refugees and sending them back to Somalia, as it did after a string of terrorist attacks in 2014, there would be no time to take advantage of the limited financial assistance UNHCR was offering to returnees.

So Abii decided to take her children back to Kismayo, even though she knew it wouldn't be a happy homecoming. Once there, she found that even the bare-bones support they had been promised - schools, health care, a meager cash allowance for food - was insufficient or didn't exist at all. She and her children ended up in a camp with internally displaced Somalis - people uprooted by the war who hadn't made it across the border into Kenya. Their new home, one of hundreds of flimsy huts huddled together on a trash-strewn beach, was similar to the one they had left behind in Dadaab. Except it was less secure and there were fewer aid agencies working to keep them alive.

"I was poor in Dadaab, but I am destitute here," said Abii, whose angular features were framed by a flowing blue headscarf tucked tightly beneath her chin. "The Kenyans told us it's time to return to your home country. They told us we don't have a choice."

Since December 2014, UNHCR has facilitated the return of more than 24,000 refugees to Somalia, all of whom it says went willingly. But as the agency has accelerated the repatriation process to keep pace with Kenyan efforts to close Dadaab, the line between voluntary and involuntary seems to have collapsed. UNHCR now appears to be managing a process that violates the cardinal rule of refugee protection: that refugees and asylum-seekers shall not be returned against their will to any country where they face a threat of persecution.

The principle of non-refoulement, as it is known, is enshrined within the 2013 "tripartite" agreement between UNHCR and the Kenyan and Somali governments that governs the current repatriation process, as well as the 1969 African refugee convention, to which Kenya is a signatory. Evidence that Kenya is subverting these agreements - and that UNHCR is enabling it to do so - has mounted in recent months as rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have documented incidents of intimidation in Dadaab. But interviews conducted by Foreign Policy in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo offer the first concrete evidence that refugees have been sent back against their will, confirming that a campaign of forced repatriation is underway.

This month, more than a dozen returnees from Dadaab told FP in separate interviews that they were intimidated by Kenyan authorities and ultimately felt forced to leave Kenya. The returnees, as well as multiple aid workers and Somali government officials, described a UNHCR-facilitated repatriation process that is not only coercive but haphazardly executed and unsupported by any long-term plan to prevent returnees from becoming de facto refugees in their own country.

"These people are being dumped here with no international support and no plan for how they will be cared for. They have no shelter, no food, no health, and no schools," said Ibrahim Mohamed Yusuf, the mayor of Kismayo. "We are a small nation reeling from civil war. People are already dying because of a lack of health care. How can we be expected to care for more people?"

Somalia is still at war. A 22,000-strong African Union force has expelled al-Shabab from most urban areas, but the al Qaida-linked group continues to strike at will virtually anywhere in the southern and central portions of the country. It has attacked a landmark hotel less than a block from the presidential palace in Mogadishu three times in the last two years, most recently killing 22 people with a truck bomb on Aug. 30. FP previously documented how this violence has affected returnees from Dadaab, some of whom have already fled back to Kenya a second time.

Even before it began accepting returnees from Kenyan refugee camps, the country housed more than a million displaced Somalis within its borders because of conflict and drought. Most live in crowded camps at the margins of cities, paying so-called "gatekeepers" to avoid being targeted by bandits and militiamen. The few hospitals and schools that are still standing after a quarter century of civil war are mostly private - and prohibitively expensive for all but the richest Somalis. Nationwide, four in 10 people don't have enough to eat, according to the United Nations.

UNHCR has nonetheless certified certain parts of the country as safe for return, including Kismayo. But even its own analysts acknowledge that this is mostly wishful thinking. "Civilians continue to be severely affected by the conflict, with reports of civilians being killed and injured in conflict-related violence, widespread sexual and gender-based violence against women and children, forced recruitment of children, and large-scale displacement," UNHCR noted in a May security assessment for southern and central Somalia.

Without adequate job prospects or social services, Somali officials say male returnees are at risk for recruitment by al-Shabab. "I wouldn't rule out that some would join the extremists," said Ahmed Nur, the head of Somalia's national commission for refugees and internally displaced people, who estimates that around 10 percent of returnees to the Mogadishu area are already living in displacement camps.

In Kismayo, U.N. and other aid workers estimate that the figure for people who end up homeless is closer to 15 percent. Hundreds of returnees from Dadaab have streamed into displacement camps, 86 of which are scattered around the city, according to the regional government. At one called Tawfiq, or "Unity," dozens of makeshift dwellings, rigged up with empty grain sacks and whatever else residents could get their hands on, are arrayed across yellow sand dunes that descend into the ocean. Of the 200 families who eke out a living here, 60 are returnees from Dadaab.

"It is worse than Dadaab. There is no water, no sanitation," said Ahmed Mohamed Abubakar, who fled fighting in Kismayo with his family in 2009 but returned this year with the assistance of UNHCR. "This is my country, but there is nothing for me here. I am homeless, wandering."

Returnees described multiple pressures that forced them to leave Dadaab. Intimidation by Kenyan security forces, whom returnees blame for whipping up rumors of forced evictions, left many convinced they could face physical violence if they remained. Many said their community leaders in the camp had told them unambiguously that Kenyan authorities were saying it was time to leave. The appointment of army generals to the government committee tasked with closing Dadaab registered as a clear warning: Stay after Nov. 30, the government's deadline for closure, and risk being caught up in a military operation to clear the camp.

"We were afraid they would come with trucks, with soldiers," said Abii, who spoke quickly and animatedly, orange nail polish glinting in the sun.

Unable to answer the question of what would happen after the government's deadline, aid agencies did little to assuage people's fears. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme's 2015 decision to cut food rations by 30 percent began to look in retrospect to some residents like a covert plan to starve them out.

"The only option was to take the little money UNHCR was giving if you left," Abubakar said. "People were going hungry in Dadaab."

Mark Yarnell, a senior advocate focusing on Somalia at the lobbying group Refugees International, said the repatriation process amounted to a clear violation of international humanitarian law. "It's a sham to call it voluntary return when you have the Kenyans waging an effective information campaign to instill fear, and then you have UNHCR providing inducements for people to return to a place that's unstable and unsafe," he said.

The Kenyan Interior Ministry did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but in the past it has denied that the repatriations are anything but voluntary and humane. However, officials have repeatedly skirted the issue of what will happen to those refugees who wish to remain. In July, Haro Kamau, the deputy commissioner of Garissa County who oversees Dadaab, told FP that it "would be very unkind for any refugee to refuse to go home."

The U.S. government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to support refugees in Dadaab over the years. It has also called on the Kenyan government to back off its plan to close the camp by Nov. 30. At the same time, however, it supports UNHCR's repatriation efforts. On a visit to Nairobi last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged an additional $29 million specifically to help facilitate the return of refugees to Somalia.

"We are very concerned by reports that refugee returns from the Dadaab camps in Kenya to Somalia are not truly voluntary," State Department spokesman John Kirby told FP in a written statement. "In consultations with both UNHCR and the Government of Kenya, we have stressed the imperative that those individuals enlisting in the voluntary return program are doing so with full knowledge of what they can likely expect in Somalia."

UNHCR continues to defend the repatriation process as consistent with its mandate to ensure that all returns are voluntary, safe, and dignified. It has acknowledged unspecified "concerns" raised by human rights advocates but says it is working closely with the Kenyan government to guarantee that refugees' rights are respected.

"UNHCR is not promoting returns to Somalia but facilitating the movements of those who make an informed and therefore voluntary decision to return, by providing travel assistance, cash grants and an in-kind assistance package," Catherine Hamon Sharpe, UNHCR's assistant representative in Kenya, said in a written statement to FP. "The fact that the Government of Kenya has set 30 November as a deadline for the closure of the camp and that no alternative has been provided, obviously creates anxiety among refugees, as a voluntary process cannot be time-bound. It is noted however, that the Government has repeatedly stated that there will be no forced returns."

UNHCR's insistence that a voluntary process cannot be time-bound but that this particular time-bound process is entirely voluntary succinctly demonstrates the corner the agency has backed itself into. In private, current and former UNHCR officials say they were faced with an impossible choice when the Kenyan government made clear that it was serious about closing the camp: If they recused themselves from the process, the Kenyan government might have started its own mass deportations that could have precipitated a humanitarian disaster. But a "humanitarian disaster" is precisely what the regional government in Kismayo - the Jubaland administration - has called the U.N.'s existing repatriation program.

"There was this sense that we were preventing the worst-case scenario, which maybe we are," said a UNHCR official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But you could also argue that we are approaching a worst-case scenario anyway."

Whether or not it's making the best of a bad situation, UNHCR's actions provide political cover to a Kenyan government that has long viewed this refugee population as a nuisance. And as the campaign of intimidation has intensified, the agency has found itself on the wrong side of international agreements and norms that it's duty-bound to uphold.

"The approach that's been taken up until now has been characterized by a lack of honesty," said Jeff Crisp, a former head of policy development and evaluation at UNHCR who is now affiliated with the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University. "If UNHCR feels obliged, for one reason or another, good or bad, to get involved in an operation that doesn't meet its own standards, which it's put up in public, then it's got to explain what it's doing and why it's doing it. But my sense over the last few weeks is that they're trying to fudge this."

But it's not just that UNHCR has obscured the apparently involuntary nature of the repatriations; it has downplayed the abysmal and often unsafe conditions that await returnees, as well as its extremely limited ability to support them. Abubakar and other former residents of Dadaab complained bitterly that they had been abandoned by the aid agencies, which they believed would do much more to ease the transition to their shattered home country.

"UNHCR promised they would give us shelter and schools for our children," said Abubakar, who once manned a small shop in town but is now unable to find work. "But we came here and got nothing. The promises, they were false."

Some returnees said they had been given false information about the safety of their home regions, arriving in Kismayo only to discover that their ancestral villages were still controlled by al-Shabab. Virtually everyone said they were going hungry and that the financial support they received from international organizations - an initial lump sum from UNHCR of a few hundred dollars per household, plus a $200 monthly lifeline for the first six months, redeemable with a World Food Programme (WFP) ration card - wasn't nearly enough. Local vendors are said to regularly hike prices for anyone who tries to pay using the ration cards.

Challiss McDonough, a spokeswoman for WFP, said the organization is currently investigating reports of price fixing in Kismayo and that retailers have been warned against this behavior. "Anywhere we do cash-based transfers, we have robust monitoring of the retailers to avoid price gouging, for example including spot checks," she said in a statement to FP.

Yet returnees say they continue to go hungry as unscrupulous vendors cash in on the aid that was supposed to sustain them. "They know we are vulnerable," Abii said. "They see the WFP card, and the price is suddenly double."

Conditions have gotten so bad for returnees that the Jubaland administration suspended all return convoys from Dadaab last month. It says it won't accept any more until UNHCR and other aid agencies can ensure a minimum level of support.

"Jubaland has requested a halt of returns until we get solutions. Before they start again, we need basic services in place: water, sanitation, housing," said Yusuf, the mayor of Kismayo, who joked that he didn't want the U.S. taxpayers funding the UNHCR-led repatriation process to "feel let down."

Yusuf says his administration has set aside land for the returnees but that aid agencies have not made good on their promises to build housing and sanitation. Negotiations are ongoing among the Jubaland administration, the Kenyan government, and UNHCR to resume repatriations to Kismayo.

In the meantime, flights from Dadaab to Mogadishu continue to land several times per week. Passengers leave behind a hard life in the camp, but one with a semblance of a safety net provided by aid agencies. They begin a new one with fewer lifelines, in a place that is less forgiving. Often, it appears, they do so against their will and in violation of international humanitarian law.

Jann Wenner to sell 49% of Rolling Stone to Singapore's BandLab

By Yoolim Lee
Jann Wenner to sell 49% of Rolling Stone to Singapore's BandLab
After a five-decade run full of interviews with pop stars and presidents, the founder of Rolling Stone is selling 49 percent of the iconic magazine to an Asian billionaire's son. MUST CREDIT: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

There comes a time when even Jann Wenner needs a little help from his friends.

After a five-decade run full of interviews with pop stars and presidents, the founder of Rolling Stone is selling 49 percent of the iconic magazine to an Asian billionaire's son. It's the first time Wenner has admitted an outside investor, a deal that encapsulates the plight of an industry fighting to stay relevant in an online age. Wenner Media LLC also owns Us Weekly and Men's Journal.

Founded in 1967, Rolling Stone became a fixture of American pop culture, helping launch the careers of writers and creative artists over almost 50 years. But like many of its peers, the magazine has steadily lost advertising and readership to nimbler online alternatives. In 2014, Wenner tasked his son Gus with devising a digital strategy. Now Wenner, who started Rolling Stone from a San Francisco warehouse, plans to relinquish as much of his magazine as possible without ceding control.

"It's a big moment,'' Gus Wenner, the company's head of digital, said in a phone interview. "There is a great opportunity to take that brand and apply it into new and different areas and markets."

The new investor is Singapore-based BandLab Technologies, a budding digital music concern founded by the 28-year-old scion of one of Asia's richest families. Kuok Meng Ru, the third son of Singapore-based agribusiness tycoon Kuok Khoon Hong, graduated from Cambridge University with a mathematics degree and launched BandLab last year as a social network for musicians and fans. The startup is funded by private investors, including Kuok's father and JamHub Corp., a maker of audio mixers.

"Our growth in digital has been fantastic, but long term, my dad and myself recognize that in order to truly grow and truly transform the business -- and we have this incredible brand in Rolling Stone that means so much," they needed a partner in Asia, Wenner said.

BandLab will have no involvement in the editorial side of the magazine. Rather, it will oversee a new Rolling Stone International subsidiary, which will develop live events, merchandising and hospitality.

Kuok said the two sides have been in discussions for about 15 months. "What has happened last 49 years has already shown that Rolling Stone is more than a brand to people," Kuok told Bloomberg News. "It is now our shared responsibility to take it into the future."

Rolling Stone currently reaches a global audience of 65 million people, according to the company. That includes 22 million domestic digital monthly users, almost 18 million social fans and followers, and nearly 12 million readers of the U.S. print publication. The average monthly unique visitors to its website rose almost 40 percent in the first half of this year from a year earlier. It publishes 12 international editions in countries including Australia, Indonesia and Japan.

"Our strategic partnership is focused on brand extensions into new areas we haven't quite fully been in the past, such as merchandising, live events, hospitality - they are areas we have dabbled in but never really seriously gone after," said Wenner. "Meng and his team bring a great deal of understanding, infrastructure, know-how and act in that extraordinarily exciting market of Asia and beyond."

The magazine made its mark in the 1970s and 80s with cutting-edge music and political coverage. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote for Wenner for decades, including publishing first in its pages 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,' which later became a book and movie. Its stable of star writers included P.J. O'Rourke, Cameron Crowe and Lester Bangs. And it published in-depth exposes, including the 11,000-word, 1974 story of how heiress Patty Hearst went from kidnapping victim to radicalized guerrilla.

Even past its prime it could break through to the mainstream. A 2010 profile of General Stanley McChrystal that included remarks critical of the Obama administration led to the general's resignation. In 2013, the magazine put on its cover the Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prompting outrage over what some saw as the glamorization of terrorism.

Last year, Rolling Stone came under fire for its editorial standards. The magazine published an article about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. The story turned out to be substantially false and prompted the magazine to request an independent investigation from the Columbia University journalism school.

For Kuok, Rolling Stone marks the latest of his acquisitions of music assets and brands, underscoring his efforts to build a global music empire. BandLab, his flagship business, is a cloud-based online community that allows artists to create, collaborate and share their music. In 2012, Kuok acquired Swee Lee, a sleepy 70-year-old distributor of guitars in Singapore. Since then, he has turned the company into a modern enterprise, selling merchandise online and offering music lessons. It's now the biggest distributor of instruments and audio equipment in Southeast Asia.

Other recent acquisitions include Composr, a European iOS and web music-making service, and MONO Creators Inc., the San Francisco-based design studio that creates high-end instrument cases, straps and accessories for musicians.

"We are focused on the consumer and the supply chain of music, and innovative business models around music that exist today," he said. "We see a lot of synergies. At the end of the day, the end consumer is the same. BandLab's goal is to be a global music business."

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

A man of distinctions

By gene weingarten
A man of distinctions

EDITOR’S NOTE: If possible, the line at the end of graf 14 -- “Gauntlet, n. medieval glove.” (Syn. Gantlet) -- should be rendered as subscript type.

WASHINGTON -- Behold: A new installment of Small But Important Distinctions in Life.

(BEG BOLD)[The n-word] vs. “the n-word”(END BOLD)

The word suggested by the bracketed phrase is a racial slur, whereas the phrase in quotes is what people say when they want to reference the racial slur without causing offense. It doesn’t work.

“The n-word” tries to defang [the n-word], whereas, in fact, it just dresses it up to make it seem presentable. It may be well-intentioned, but it comes off as grotesque and mannered -- people congratulating themselves on their own sensitivity.

It’s like dressing in a full-body stocking on which you have drawn perfect replicas of genitalia and nipples and a bellybutton, and glued on hair in places people have hair, and so forth. You are still forcing something obscene into everyone’s head, only you are doing it with a nudge and a wink.

[The n-word] exists. It is tied to a disgraceful history. It is powerful. There is probably some intelligent way of dealing with it, but we haven’t figured it out yet.

Corollary: Many white people disingenuously claim to be mystified that some black people are comfortable using [the n-word] among themselves but object when white people use it. This is a crock. It would be like my pretending not to understand why ladies think it’s OK that other ladies are allowed in their dressing rooms, but not men.

(BEG BOLD)Cake vs. pie(END BOLD)

Specifically, is cheesecake really cheese pie?

This is very much like the nerdy question about whether a tomato is a vegetable or a fruit. Everyone calls it a vegetable, but that is only because, in general, everyone is an idiot. A tomato plant has flowers and its edible part has seeds inside; ergo, it is a fruit. More shockingly, so are cucumbers. Squash! Olives! Eggplants!

Definitions define. What defines a cake as opposed to a pie is the presence of flour in the filling. Cheesecakes have little or no flour. Cheesecake is really cheese pie.

What makes this so surprising, of course, is that cheesecake brazenly declares itself a cake but just plain isn’t. Like the way the toilet in a 7-Eleven calls itself a “bathroom.”

(BEG BOLD)Gauntlet vs. gantlet(END BOLD)

A gauntlet is a medieval, stab-resistant, chain-mail glove. If you “threw down the gauntlet” -- literally, cast your glove at the feet of another -- it meant you were challenging him to a fight. Still does, metaphorically. A gantlet, also from the Middle Ages, is a kind of frat-boy hazing ritual where you had to run through two flanks of men who whacked you with cudgels. Metaphorically, running the gantlet refers to any such hostile ordeal. Possibly because both of these expressions involve Dumb Things Men Do, people have used them interchangeably forever, putting dictionaries in a bind. Some define each word correctly and then, in tiny type, as though out of shame, give in to the ignoramuses, as in:

“Gauntlet, n. medieval glove.” (Syn. Gantlet)

(BEG BOLD)Slovakia vs. Slovenia(END BOLD)

Even though these young Eastern European countries are very different and are not even neighbors, they are so often confused for each other that their embassy staffs are said to meet regularly to exchange misaddressed correspondence. Since both countries were born in the early 1990s, you would think they’d have at least chosen different flags, wouldn’t you?

Slovakia’s is three horizontal stripes (white, blue and red, top to bottom) and a shield-shaped coat of arms featuring a stylized version of what appear to be mountains. Slovenia’s is three horizontal stripes (white, blue and red, top to bottom) and a shield-shaped coat of arms featuring a stylized version of what appear to be mountains.

My point is, this is a self-inflicted wound. I urge you to send letters of complaint to their embassies. For Slovakia, write to “Embassy, Republic of Slovenia, 2410 California St. NW, Washington, DC 20008.” For Slovenia, write to “Embassy, Republic of Slovakia, 3523 International Ct. NW, Washington, DC 20008.”

Gene Weingarten can be reached at Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesday, Sept. 27, at noon Eastern at

(c) 2016, The Washington Post Writers Group

In the High Plains, a Republican worth voting for

By george f. will
In the High Plains, a Republican worth voting for

AURORA, Colo. -- Here on the High Plains, where the deer and the antelope once played, Denver’s suburbs roam toward the Rockies’ front range and the nature of today’s polyglot politics is written in the local congressman’s campaign schedule. One day last week, Republican Mike Coffman went from a Hispanic charter school in a strip mall, to another strip mall for lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant with leaders of the Ethiopian-American community, then to a meeting with the editor of the largest of two Korean-language newspapers serving more than 3,000 Korean-Americans in the metropolitan area.

Coffman was elected to Congress in 2008 with 61 percent of the vote, replacing Tom Tancredo, a firebrand who that year ineffectually ran for president as a scourge of illegal immigrants. Coffman’s thinking was somewhat congruent with Tancredo’s. Then, however, the political market -- aka democracy -- began to work, with an assist from Democrats, who inadvertently made Coffman a better politician and person.

After he was re-elected with 66 percent in 2010, his district was gerrymandered to make it more Democratic -- 20 percent Hispanic, with a generous salting of other minorities. He won in 2012 with just 48 percent of the vote. In 2014, national Democrats recruited a formidable opponent, a Yale graduate who had taught, in Spanish, in Central American schools. So, Coffman learned Spanish well enough to do an entire debate in the language, and today banters in Spanish with the children at Roca Fuerte Academy.

The pastor who founded it in 2008 says this charter school is anathema to, and underfunded by, the local school district, which is obedient to the teachers union, which dislikes charters that are not obedient to it. The district’s schools have just a 61 percent graduation rate. Roca Fuerte Academy does better.

Some of the academy’s pupils in their school uniforms are antecedents of the pronoun in Donald Trump’s four-word immigration policy: “They have to go.” They were brought here by illegal immigrants. Trump wants to send them “home” to countries they do not remember. Coffman has co-authored legislation that would provide legal status and a path to lawful permanent resident status to those who came before age 16, have lived here five consecutive years, and who have been accepted to a college or vocational school or have demonstrated an intent to enlist in the military, or have a valid work authorization.

At the Nile restaurant, Coffman’s cowboy boots go beneath a table groaning under the weight of trays laden with Ethiopian food that is eaten without utensils, scooped up with bits torn from rolls of bread as thin and flexible as fabric. Coffman sits next to an Orthodox bishop who is wearing a cassock and a glittering pectoral cross. As guests arrive, several kiss a crucifix he holds. He speaks scant English but draws 1,500 to Sunday services. Many of those around the table have been in America for at least a decade and are citizens and small-business entrepreneurs. Ethiopians are Colorado’s second-largest immigrant community and are grateful for Coffman’s attempts to pressure Ethiopia’s authoritarian government to stop using violence against protesters. Coffman attends the annual “Taste of Ethiopia” festival here in America’s Mountain West and “Ethiopians for Coffman” might matter in November. As might the Korean-American community, which continues to honor those Americans who, like Coffman’s father, fought in the Korean War.

Coffman, 61, enlisted in the Army before receiving his high school diploma, which he earned while serving. After leaving the Army and graduating from the University of Colorado, he went to Marine Corps officer training. When he left the Corps he became a state legislator until called back into uniform in 1991 for the Gulf War. In 2005, he resigned as state treasurer to serve a tour of duty with the Marines in Iraq. There he helped organize elections in a place where diversity is rather more problematic than in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.

His opponent this year, who dislikes charter schools and school choice, does not speak fluent Spanish and, unlike almost all candidates challenging incumbents, does not seem to want many debates -- she even declined the Denver Post’s. Coffman thinks she does not want anything to distract from her theme, which is: Trump is a Republican and so is Coffman.

In early August, however, Coffman acted pre-emptively with a television ad that began: “People ask me, ‘What do you think about Trump?’ Honestly, I don’t care for him much.” Spoken like a Marine who does 10 sets of 50 pushups daily.

George Will’s email address is

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Given the soaring costs, is long-term care insurance still worth it?

By michelle singletary
Given the soaring costs, is long-term care insurance still worth it?

WASHINGTON -- I wasn’t sure what to tell them -- any of them.

A Silver Spring, Maryland, couple -- the husband is 84 and the wife about to turn 79 -- were distraught. They had received notice that their long-term care insurance premiums, purchased on the private market, are rising to a point they can no longer afford. Their policies were first taken out in 1999 and had a combined yearly premium of about $4,000. With these latest increases, they would be paying close to $8,000 a year.

The couple could downsize their current policy, reducing the length of coverage and/or eliminating an inflation rider, but they don’t like that option. It’s not what they signed up for. They are now on a fixed income and don’t have room to save to cover any reductions in benefits should they need long-term care.

“We thought we were doing the right thing,” the husband said. “They’ve made the premiums so cost-prohibitive we may have no alternative than to let the policy lapse.”

Karen and Tom Davis from St. Petersburg, Florida -- she’s 57 and he’s 75 -- also reached out to me. They bought long-term care insurance 14 years ago while both were still working for the federal government. They too are facing a steep premium increase in the federal program.

Federal employees and retirees who participate in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) have until Sept. 30 to decide whether to accept higher premiums that on average will be 83 percent or $111 more per month.

“The thinking was that we would not expect extended family members to care for us in our senior years if we required long-term care, so three to five years of nursing home care sounded smart,” Karen Davis wrote. “Given the statistics and our age difference, I could potentially be vulnerable as a possible surviving spouse. We find that we have now invested over $20,000 (him) and $18,000 (me) in this plan. Would it be more reasonable to plan to self-fund long-term care, drop the insurance and cut our losses? There is always a possibility that the plan will increase again.”

Another reader wrote, “I am one of the many retired feds who is wondering what to do with the FLTCIP. Given the premium increases versus lowered payout, what’s a retiree to do? I wonder if my considerable lifetime pension (through the Civil Service Retirement System) will carry me through any care needs, plus what I’ve got in the Thrift Savings Program, plus other savings. I hate to keep throwing good money after bad.”

I’m writing a series of columns on long-term care insurance and wanted to start with the voices of people angry and stunned by the steep increases.

In my next column -- shortly before the Sept. 30 deadline -- I’ll pass along advice from financial planners for those who are facing premium increases and have yet to make a decision. The choices come down to: accepting the increase and keeping the same coverage, or taking less coverage at the same price. There’s another option that allows people to convert to “paid-up coverage,” which means the enrollee’s new maximum lifetime benefit would be reduced to the total amount of premiums paid for coverage or 30 times the person’s daily benefit amount, whichever is greater.

Long-term care insurance can cover the cost of nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and in-home care. In most cases, insurance will cover expenses for those who need help with daily activities such as eating, dressing and bathing, or who have a severe cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Medicaid covers long-term care, but to qualify for the benefit, you have to be pretty poor. Medicare -- except in very limited situations -- does not cover long-term care.

The premium increases have people wondering if long-term care insurance is worth it anymore because the companies got the pricing horribly wrong. The initial premiums they charged weren’t enough to cover claims.

So now you have folks who bought and held on to policies -- sometimes for decades -- asking should they go or should they stay. Many are now retired and living on a fixed income. They don’t have the savings to make up the difference in the cost of their long-term care that they had planned to be covered under their insurance policies.

And there are some who won’t be able to pay for policies even if they accept reduced benefits. But if they end up letting their insurance lapse, they risk losing money they might have just saved.

Insurance is all about hedging against risk. The question I hope to help you answer is whether you can risk going without some long-term care insurance.

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Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook ( Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

More bigotry from the Trump brigade

By dana milbank
More bigotry from the Trump brigade

WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump supporters may be passionate, but they’re a bit irony-challenged.

In the days since I wrote that Hillary Clinton wasn’t necessarily wrong to say that half of Trump’s supporters are racists and other “deplorables,” the response has been, well, deplorable. A sampling of the thousands of emails and social media replies:

“Please do not tell me you think we whites are just as violent, nasty, and/or Godless as the other races.”

“You call it racism, I call it concern that in time ‘foreign’ folks will have the voting power to make the USA another Muslim state.”

Another writer informed me that “blacks are the most violent population in America,” that “blacks work the least of any race in America” and that “black women have the lowest moral standards of all women in America,” concluding: “The biggest problem for blacks is blacks.”

Many others suggested I perform an impossible sex act on myself and another sex act on male genitals, called me a “scumbag” and far worse, and suggested I eat feces. Some took the opportunity to inform me that I and my fellow Jews are “the most racist people on the Earth,” that I worship Satan, and that my children and I will be boiled in oil.

Then this simple note was sent to me: “I hope you outlive your children.”

I reprint this small sample of the nastygrams not to ruin your next meal but because the half of Trump supporters who aren’t motivated by prejudice, and the few voters who remain genuinely undecided, should be aware of the bigotry that Trump has brought into the open -- and that those who vote for Trump are condoning.

This week, police shootings of African-Americans in Tulsa and Charlotte provoked more racial strife -- and Trump apparently couldn’t help but stir the pot. He said he was “troubled” by the shooting of the unarmed motorist in Tulsa, and he delivered a speech that was, in the prepared text, balanced: “We all have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

But even as he tried to pull back from the flagrant and well-documented bigotry that has characterized his campaign -- coziness with white supremacists, scapegoating of Latinos and Muslims, anti-Semitic imagery -- Trump couldn’t resist going off script and announcing, without proof, that “if you’re not aware, drugs are a very, very big factor” in the Charlotte protests. He told a questioner in Cleveland that he would reduce violence in black communities with the “stop-and-frisk” policy that has produced discriminatory treatment of African Americans; he later said he would do that only in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign chair in Mahoning County in eastern Ohio resigned after she told the Guardian in a video interview that there wasn’t “any racism until Obama got elected.”

“If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault,” the official, Kathy Miller, said. “When do they take responsibility for how they live? I think it’s due time, and I think it’s good that Mr. Trump is pointing that out.”

And in Charlotte, Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), an enthusiastic Trump backer who claimed he had Trump’s support in his primary, told the BBC that the Charlotte protesters “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.” He apologized.

Are Pittenger and Miller and those who send vile emails representative of Trump supporters? Or are they more like the way Donald Trump Jr. describes refugees: a few bad ones in a bowl of Skittles?

That’s what I tried to answer in my column analyzing Clinton’s claim that half of Trump supporters are racist, Islamophobic and the like. I cited data from the American National Election Studies, the gold standard of public opinion research for seven decades. It showed a big recent jump in prejudicial sentiment, to the point where 62 percent of white people believe black people are either lazier or less intelligent than white people, or both. The study further finds that such people disproportionately favor Republicans. Extrapolating, you can calculate that a solid majority of Mitt Romney’s voters in 2012 were white people who thought black people lazier and/or less intelligent than white people. The proportion will likely grow for Trump.

This doesn’t mean most Trump supporters are running around wearing sheets and burning crosses. But it does indicate racist sentiment is more widespread than commonly thought. What’s truly deplorable is that Trump -- unlike Romney and others who carried the Republican banner before -- is encouraging the sentiment.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

When will millennials start liking Hillary Clinton?

By catherine rampell
When will millennials start liking Hillary Clinton?

Millennials are souring on Hillary Clinton. Again.

Not that they were ever so sweet on her to begin with, at least relative to how they swooned over other Democrats. Both Bernie Sanders in the recent primary campaign, and Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 general elections, received far more love from young voters. But in any case, Clinton’s already weak millennial support has gotten much weaker in the past month.

Still, there’s good reason to believe they’ll come around, even if they do so grudgingly.

First, the data. Several new polls suggest young voters -- a low-turnout but nonetheless key component of the Democratic coalition -- are abandoning Clinton in droves.

Quinnipiac, for example, found last month that Clinton had a big fat 24-point lead over Donald Trump among 18-to-34-year-old voters (48 percent to 24?percent). Now that margin has shriveled to just five percentage points (with Clinton at 31 percent, Trump at 26?percent).

Nationwide Fox News polls of registered voters also found that Clinton’s lead has narrowed to nine points, from 27 points in late July and early August. And a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times national poll has Clinton’s August lead not only disappearing but reversing, with Trump now ahead among millennials by six points. There were outliers, but the trend was clear.

Polls in battleground states have likewise shown Clinton’s lead among millennial voters shrinking. In Michigan, for example, Clinton’s 24-point August lead among young voters has shriveled to just seven points. Clinton has just 31?percent of the youth vote there, compared with Trump’s 24 percent.

In most of these polls, the young supporters ditching Clinton seem to be shifting not to Trump but to third-party candidates, particularly Libertarian Gary Johnson. The Michigan poll has Johnson tied with Trump; the national Quinnipiac poll actually has Johnson slightly (BEG ITAL)ahead (END ITAL) of Trump among under-35 voters.

These trends have been met with liberal teeth-gnashing and garment-rending, plus a lot of sanctimonious scolding of Kids These Days. How dare these ungrateful young hooligans turn their backs on the only serious candidate who actually cares about their issues! Are they really too young to remember the horrors that resulted when Ralph Nader played the spoiler in 2000? Quoth one columnist, “I know you’re young, but grow up!”

The Clinton campaign seems to have gone into emergency millennial mollification mode, too.

That means a flurry of college visits, including from progressive heartthrobs such as Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Michelle Obama. The Clinton campaign explicitly advertised these events as an appeal to prodigal young voters.

The surrogate speeches haven’t always gone according to plan, though. Obama’s speech at George Mason University was at one point met with chants of “four more years”; her stumping apparently got the crowd pumped for the wrong politician.

The Clinton campaign has thus also been desperately seeking coverage in millennial-tailored media. She whipped up an inane essay for Mic titled “Hillary Clinton: Here’s What Millennials Have Taught Me.” (The tl;dr lesson: Millennials are totes awesome.) And she sat for an awkward, if amusing, interview on “Between Two Ferns” with actor Zach Galifianakis.

In my view, all the kvetching, cajoling and clowning around in the world are unlikely to move young voters. But you know what might? Numbers.

Several recent polls, anyway, suggest that younger voters are much more likely to see a Clinton presidency as a fait accompli. Per Quinnipiac, 71 percent of voters younger than 35 believe Clinton will win in November; just 49 percent of voters older than 65 believe the same. YouGov also finds that 58 percent of voters under 30 expect a Clinton victory, versus 47 percent of those over 65.

If you believe a Clinton presidency is inevitable, then casting a ballot for a third-party candidate probably doesn’t feel like it has much consequence. It’s a mere protest vote, a victimless expressive gesture, like angrily tweeting into the void, kneeling during the national anthem or, I don’t know, sending unhinged hate mail to unsuspecting columnists.

But a tighter race -- one, ironically, made tighter largely because of millennial defections from the Clinton camp -- changes the calculus. It’s riskier to “throw away” your vote, either by supporting someone who has no chance of winning or by abstaining from the polls altogether.

See, millennials may not adore Clinton, but they really, really hate Trump. Six in 10 young voters view him “strongly” unfavorably, and the same share describe him as “racist.” Don’t be surprised if their third-party crushes start to fade as the prospect of President Trump begins to feel all too terrifyingly real.

Catherine Rampell’s email address is Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

The wrong immigration debate

By robert j. samuelson
The wrong immigration debate

WASHINGTON -- The conversation -- or argument -- we’ve been having on immigration has been remarkably skewed. It’s been all about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, otherwise known as the “undocumented.” Actually, what counts far more are the estimated 31 million immigrants who are here legally and the roughly 1 million who gain legal entry every year.

Of course, the question of illegal immigrants is important. As a society, it’s intolerable to have so many people living in a legal twilight zone, often despite years of responsible and law-abiding behavior (two-thirds of illegal immigrants have been in the United States for 10 years or more, reports the Pew Research Center). Still, one powerful reason for settling this issue -- to legalize most of those already here and to suppress new illegal flows, even with a wall -- is to move onto larger subjects.

We need an immigration system that gives priority to skilled over unskilled workers, rather than today’s policy that favors family preferences for green cards. This sort of system would promote assimilation (because skilled workers have an easier time integrating into the workforce and society), increase economic growth (because skilled workers have higher “value added” than unskilled labor) and reduce poverty (because many unskilled immigrants have incomes below the government’s poverty line).

Although we can’t easily quantify these benefits, they would promote the greater good for an aging society with a sputtering economy. Anyone who doubts immigration’s pervasive influence should examine a massive report issued last week by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. It’s titled “The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration.” Here are some highlights.

-- Immigration is no longer a side issue. From 1995 to 2014, immigrants increased from 24.5 million (9 percent of the population) to 42.3 million (13 percent). When the children of immigrants are added to the total, nearly one in four Americans is of immigrant stock. Immigrants are increasingly shifting from traditional “gateway” states (California, New York, Florida) into nontraditional states (North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Nevada).

-- The number of illegal immigrants has stabilized at about 11 million since 2009. The number of Mexicans illegally in the United States declined from 6.4 million in 2009 to 5.8 million in 2014. Others have taken their place. All these figures represent “net changes” -- illegal immigrants entering the United States minus those leaving. Although these flows now roughly balance, they’re still huge, averaging about 300,000 to 400,000 annually.

-- Poor immigrants -- heavily from Latin America -- have increased U.S. poverty. In 2011, the poverty rate (the share of the people below the government’s poverty line) was 35 percent for Mexican immigrants and their children and 22 percent for El Salvadoran immigrants; by contrast, the poverty rate was 11.1 percent for Korean immigrants and their children and 6.2 percent for Indian immigrants. The poverty rate for all native-born Americans was 13.5 percent.

-- Immigrants and their children impose costs on government, mainly for local schooling, which the Supreme Court has decreed must be provided for all immigrants. By contrast, Congress has barred even legal immigrants from receiving some federal benefits. In 2013, the study estimated, immigrants’ costs to government exceeded their taxes by $388 billion, slightly more than 2 percent of gross domestic product.

What justifies immigration if it generates more in government costs than in taxes? The answer is that the benefits of immigration can -- and, in this case, do -- go beyond taxes. By one estimate, immigrants (including their entrepreneurial activity) have increased the size of the U.S. economy by 11 percent, about $2 trillion. With baby boomers retiring, all the projected growth in the U.S. labor force from 2020 to 2030 stems from immigrants and their children, the study reported.

The gains from immigration would be magnified if we emphasize high-skilled workers. Productivity would be higher, poverty lower. Interestingly, this also would help low-skilled Americans, both natives and recent immigrants. They wouldn’t have to compete against new low-skilled immigrants, who will vie for their jobs and depress wages.

Whether we have the political competence and courage to face these issues candidly is an open question. The study deliberately steered away from policy prescriptions; it was mainly a fact-finding exercise, reflecting (presumably) the subject’s controversial nature.

The presidential campaign offers little ground for optimism. Donald Trump has used immigration as a wedge issue and shows little understanding of the underlying substance. Hillary Clinton seems intent on placating her Hispanic supporters, many of whom surely support family preferences for immigrating legally to the United States.

But the underlying realities will not retreat no matter how much we wish they would. If we cannot maneuver immigration to our advantage, it will almost certainly work to our disadvantage.

(c) 2016, The Washington Post Writers Group

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