programs intended to speed $25 billion for emergency housing relief passed last year.

Watchdog groups are wary that speed could sacrifice accountability.

Under Mr. Trump, the Office of Management and Budget, which is responsible for setting policy in federal agencies, refused to comply with all the reporting requirements in the 2020 stimulus that called for it to collect and release data about businesses that borrowed money under the small-business lending programs.

To some observers, Mr. Biden’s budget office has not moved quickly enough to reverse the Trump-era policy. Instead, Mr. Sterling’s team is working on a complex set of benchmarks — tailored to individual programs included in the $1.9 trillion relief bill — which will be released one by one in the coming months.

stymied by disagreements about a program to prop up struggling state and local governments.

Its legally mandated report to Congress was delayed for weeks, and a member of the panel, Bharat Ramamurti, accused his Republican colleagues of stalling the group’s work. Mr. Ramamurti has since left to work for the Biden administration, and the five-person panel now has three commissioners and no chair. Its latest report was only 19 pages.

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Helmut Jahn, ‘Convention-Busting’ Architect, Dies at 81

Helmut Jahn, a German-born architect who designed buildings around the world but was most influential in his adopted hometown, Chicago, where he conceived of an extravagant downtown home to state government and the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare International Airport, died on Saturday in a traffic accident near the horse farm where he lived, in St. Charles, Ill. He was 81.

His wife, Deborah (Lampe) Jahn, confirmed the death. He had been riding his bicycle in suburban Campton Hills when he was struck by two cars that were heading in opposite directions. A news release from the local police department said that Mr. Jahn failed to brake at a stop sign.

A modernist who began a long flirtation with postmodernism in the 1970s, Mr. Jahn (pronounced “yahn”) designed the Xerox Center, an elegant 45-story office tower with a glass and aluminum curtain wall, a rounded corner and a two-story streetfront that undulates inward that opened in 1980 in Chicago’s Loop.

Philip Johnson called Mr. Jahn “a genuine genius” and “a comet flashing in the sky,” although he added, “I don’t know about him yet.”

At the time, construction of Mr. Jahn’s futuristic design of the State of Illinois Center — a government and retail complex — was nearly complete in the middle of the Loop. The facade is a mix of reflective bluish-turquoise glass; inside, the circular atrium has a mix of salmon-colored and blue metal panels. Multicolored granite lines the base.

In his 1985 review in The New York Times, the architecture critic Paul Goldberger said that the complex’s “squat form, which swoops around one corner in a 16-story-high curve, is one part Pompidou Center, one part Piranesi and one part kitsch 1950s revival. He added, “It is not surprising that it has left even this relatively sophisticated city breathless.”

Reaction to Mr. Jahn’s buildings in Chicago ranged from “dazzling” to the critical observation that it was “unrelated to anything else in the whole of Western civilization.”

Eero Saarinen’s early-1960s designs for Dulles International Airport in Washington and the T.W.A. Flight Center at Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Helmut Jahn was born on Jan. 4, 1940, in Nuremberg, Germany, and grew up in a nearby suburb. His father, Wilhelm, was a special-education teacher. His mother, Lena (Werth) Jahn, was a homemaker.

As a boy, Helmut loved drawing and painting, but he aspired to be an airline pilot. “But he wasn’t very good at languages, which disqualified him to be a pilot for Lufthansa,” his wife said, “so he chose architecture because it involved a lot of drawing.”

After graduating from the Technische Hochschule in Munich, he earned a master’s degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture. After he graduated in 1967, he was hired by Gene Summers, formerly the right-hand man to the modernist giant Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, at the venerable Chicago architectural firm C.F. Murphy Associates.

But five years later the roof collapsed in a rainstorm.

The failure was found to have been caused by the fracture of high strength bolts that helped suspend the roof.

In 1981, Murphy Associates became Murphy/Jahn; Mr. Jahn became the firm’s president a year later and acquired it in 1983. It was renamed Jahn in 2012.

After designing the State of Illinois Center (which would be renamed the James R. Thompson Center, for the Illinois Republican governor who backed it), Mr. Jahn worked with Donald J. Trump to design a 150-floor tower that would have been the centerpiece of a megacomplex on the West Side of Manhattan called Television City.

That plan never came to fruition, and the site later became a pared-down development called Riverside South.

Mr. Jahn’s other projects in Manhattan included the 70-story CitySpire in Midtown, behind City Center, and 425 Lexington Avenue, which the architecture critic Carter Horsley dismissed in The City Review in 1987 for its “Roto-Rooterized top,” which he said looked like a “squished foil to the irrepressible upward thrust of the Chrysler Building just across 43rd Street.”

Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago (2011), with an elliptical, 40-foot-high dome that covers a 180-seat reading room and an underground automated storage and retrieval system.

Writing in The Chicago Tribune, the critic Blair Kamin called the library a “convention-busting marvel” that “students seem to love because it lets natural air pour inside, liberating them from the university’s dimly lit reading rooms.”

Mr. Jahn was working on designs until the end of his life.

“He was so possessed with getting his work done,” Mrs. Jahn said by phone. “He was just a one-man show. He had so many ideas in his head.”

In addition to his wife, whom he met when she was the interior designer for McCormick Place, Mr. Jahn is survived by his son, Evan, a partner in the firm; two granddaughters; and a brother, Otmar.

Earlier this month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration accelerated the process, sending developers a request for proposals to sell the building, whose upkeep has been deemed too costly.

Last year, Mr. Jahn offered a proposal to save the building by adapting it to create new offices, a hotel and apartments, and building an office tower on the southwest corner of West Randolph and North LaSalle Streets. He also proposed removing the building’s front doors and turning the enormous atrium into a covered outdoor space.

“A demolition and replacement would not only take a long time but seeks high density without considering public benefits,” he wrote in his proposal. We need not more bigger buildings, but buildings which improve the public space.”

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Operating Rooms Go Under the Knife

Ceilings are not overlooked. Freeing up valuable floor space, monitors are often affixed to ceiling-mounted booms, which can have several arms and may also serve as a conduit for gases needed for anesthesia. Ultraviolet cleaning systems, which eliminate bacteria and viruses, can be anchored in the ceilings, to assist with disinfection. And the space above the ceiling is often larger to house a range of cables and other electronic equipment, in addition to ductwork with sophisticated air filtration systems.

Access to the space above the ceiling, as well as behind the walls, has become important, so that any technical problems can be investigated and remedied within hours, rather than shutting a room down for lengthy repairs. Some hospitals, for example, are now considering stainless steel prefabricated wall systems for their surgical suites because they are both easier to clean and easier to take out if the electronics hidden behind break, Ms. Saba said.

Other important factors are lighting and noise. When it comes to increasingly common laparoscopic surgery, monitors that guide surgeons are lit but overhead lights may be turned off to reduce glare, Dr. Hawn said.

That “can be somewhat dangerous because it can be quite dark and people run into things or trip over things,” she added. “We now have green lighting, which allows us to be able to see a sharp image on the monitors without the glare that you get from the white light.”

Noise is distracting at best, but with physical repercussions, like hypertension, especially for staff exposed for long periods. High decibel levels are “associated with increased difficulty in communication, which is the largest source of preventable errors in the hospital environment,” John Medina, an affiliate associate professor at the University of Washington department of bioengineering, said in an email.

At the Loma Linda University Medical Center in California, which is expected to open a new hospital on its campus this year, the operating room walls are built to mitigate outside noise as well as vibrations, and air duct silencers are being used as well, said Allison Ong, the head of campus transformation.

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‘A Land Grab’ for a Piece of New York’s Marijuana Business

It has been only five weeks since New York State legalized the use of recreational marijuana. The board that will oversee the rollout has yet to be appointed, let alone rules set for how licenses will be issued to cannabis businesses. The sale of legal pot in the state is still a year away. And, of course, marijuana remains illegal on the federal level.

But already the rush is on to get a piece of what could be a $4.2 billion industry in the Empire State.

Brokers are talking to landlords about leasing storefronts to dispensaries. Representatives of out-of-state cannabis businesses are flying in to scope out properties. And suppliers of medical marijuana are expanding in the hope that they will be able to branch into recreational sales.

Agricultural land upstate is now marketed as being “in the green zone” for hemp farming or the construction of grow houses for cultivating marijuana.

may soon change.

heated discussions among local officials, some of whom “can’t fathom the idea of the devil’s lettuce businesses within their borders,” said Neil M. Willner, co-chair of the cannabis practice at Royer Cooper Cohen Braunfeld, a New York City law firm.

But the pandemic may have softened the stance of some officials, given the jobs and tax revenue that cannabis businesses can generate after the protracted health crisis has decimated both. The state estimates that the new industry could bring it $350 million in annual revenue and create 30,000 to 60,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, funding is pouring into the industry in anticipation of possible federal legalization, some lenders will now do business with cannabis companies, and real estate investment trusts have sprung up to serve marijuana interests.

an increase in purchasing over leasing in the past year.

“Going forward, when banking becomes more normalized for us — when we have the opportunity to get real estate debt in the way traditional industries do — we would have a preference for owning real estate,” said Barrington Rutherford, senior vice president of real estate and community integration at Cresco Labs, a cannabis company with operations in several states.

law firms, consultants, insurance agents and accountants specializes in helping clients jump through regulatory hoops. A listing service that is the industry’s answer to Zillow offers a wide range of real estate, from $65,000 lots in an industrial park in Lexington, Okla., to a $109 million, 45,000-square-foot grow house in San Bernardino, Calif.

The brick-and-mortar side of cannabis real estate has also evolved.

As cultivation of marijuana has become more sophisticated, grow houses have expanded — they can be 150,000 square feet or more, with high ceilings, heavy-duty ventilation, lighting and security. Processing typically occurs in separate buildings with high-tech machinery.

dispensaries are increasingly stylish, offering a rarefied retail experience. Accomplished architecture and design firms have gotten into the act. There are even companies that specialize in kitting out dispensaries and other cannabis real estate.

And as marijuana gains broader public acceptance — and some celebrity glamour, with Jay-Z’s Monogram and Seth Rogen’s Houseplant — stores are opening in prominent locations near traditional retailers.

“We’re next to Starbucks in downtown Chicago,” Mr. Rutherford said. “In Philadelphia, the store we’re opening is a half block from Shake Shack and down the block from Macy’s.”

“We are building a portfolio of sites that would be enviable by any retail organization,” he added.

The New York State law also provides for licenses for “consumption sites,” and this is expected to give rise to clublike lounges and cannabis cafes. The prospect of such convivial settings has led to predictions that New York City may become the next Amsterdam.

These new storefront uses would appear to be a godsend for New York’s retail real estate market, where availability has increased and rents have fallen.

“A few years ago, when the market was stronger, it was harder to find landlords willing to play ball,” said Benjamin S. Birnbaum, a broker at the real estate services firm Newmark. “What’s changed, because of the pandemic, is that every landlord is willing to talk about it.”

in a recent CNBC interview.

Regardless of size, opening a dispensary can be complicated and expensive, in part because states have required that would-be retailers have control of a site, through a lease or option to lease, before they can apply for a license. But the number of licenses in some states is limited, with no guarantee a business will get one.

In Oregon, some applicants had to wait so long — one or two years, said Andrew DeWeese, a lawyer with Green Light Law Group in Portland — they eventually gave up and essentially sold their place in line.

“It’s a Catch-22,” said Kristin Jordan, a cannabis lawyer in New York City. “You want to secure real estate, but you don’t want to jump the gun.”

Still, the prospect of operating in New York, a state with more than 19 million residents and a major tourist destination, is so enticing that cannabis companies are getting their ducks in row.

Companies that have medical dispensaries, which have been operating since 2016, are in an enviable position because it is believed they will have an advantage in securing additional licenses.

Cresco Labs has four medical dispensaries in New York, including one in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. It is unclear whether the state will allow recreational marijuana to be sold at those locations, but Mr. Rutherford is hedging his bets, adding parking and in some cases expanding by leasing a storefront next door to an existing space.

“We are making sure those stores are ready for the future adult use market,” he said.

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The Googleplex of the Future Has Privacy Robots, Meeting Tents and Your Very Own Balloon Wall

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google’s first office was a cluttered Silicon Valley garage crammed with desks resting on sawhorses.

In 2003, five years after its founding, the company moved into a sprawling campus called the Googleplex. The airy, open offices and whimsical common spaces set a standard for what an innovative workplace was supposed to look like. Over the years, the amenities piled up. The food was free, and so were buses to and from work: Getting to the office, and staying there all day, was easy.

Now, the company that once redefined how an employer treats its workers is trying to redefine the office itself. Google is creating a post-pandemic workplace that will accommodate employees who got used to working from home over the past year and don’t want to be in the office all the time anymore.

The company will encourage — but not mandate — that employees be vaccinated when they start returning to the office, probably in September. At first, the interior of Google’s buildings may not appear all that different. But over the next year or so, Google will try out new office designs in millions of square feet of space, or about 10 percent of its global work spaces.

Reuters conference in December that the company was committed to making hybrid work possible, because there was an opportunity for “tremendous improvement” in productivity and the ability to pull in more people to the work force.

“No company at our scale has ever created a fully hybrid work force model,” Mr. Pichai wrote in an email a few weeks later announcing the flexible workweek. “It will be interesting to try.”

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SpaceX Wins NASA $2.9 Billion Contract to Build Moon Lander

Elon Musk’s private space company is developing a giant rocket called Starship to one day take people to Mars.

But first, it will drop off NASA astronauts at the moon.

NASA announced on Friday that it had awarded a contract to SpaceX for $2.9 billion to use Starship to take astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface of the moon.

The contract extends NASA’s trend of relying on private companies to ferry people, cargo and robotic explorers to space. But it also represents something of a triumph for Mr. Musk in the battle of space billionaires. One of the competitors for the NASA lunar contract was Blue Origin, created by Jeffrey P. Bezos of Amazon.

SpaceX now outshines Blue Origin and other rocket builders, emphasizing how it has become the highest-profile partner of NASA in its human spaceflight program.

The Washington Post.

NASA last year awarded contracts to three companies for initial design work on landers that could carry humans to the lunar surface. In addition to SpaceX, NASA selected proposals from Dynetics, a defense contractor in Huntsville, Ala., and Mr. Bezos’ Blue Origin, which had joined in what it called the National Team with several traditional aerospace companies: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.

The award is only for the first crewed landing, and SpaceX must first perform an uncrewed landing. “NASA is requiring a test flight to fully check out all systems with a landing on the lunar surface prior to our formal demonstration mission,” Ms. Watson-Morgan said.

NASA officials said Blue Origin, Dynetics and other companies would be able to bid for future moon landing missions.

Mr. Trump pledged a return by 2024, the schedule was not considered realistic after Congress did not provide requested financing, and NASA is now re-evaluating the schedule.

The NASA Artemis program is expected to launch its first uncrewed trip either later this year or early next year, using a powerful rocket called the Space Launch System to propel the Orion capsule, where future astronauts will be sitting, on a trip to the moon and back. The booster stage of the rocket passed an important ground test last month.

For the spacecraft that would land astronauts on the moon, NASA had been expected to choose two of the three companies to move forward and build their landers, mirroring the approach the space agency has used for hiring companies to take cargo and now astronauts to the International Space Station. Two options provide competition that helps keep costs down, and provides a backup in case one of the systems encounters a setback.

why NASA needs the Space Launch System rocket at all.

Each launch of the Space Launch System is expected to cost more than $1 billion. Because Starship is designed to be fully reusable, its costs will be far cheaper.

The Artemis plans currently call for the astronauts to launch into orbit on top of a Space Launch System rocket. The upper stage of the rocket is to then propel the Orion capsule, where the astronauts will be sitting, toward the moon.

Unlike NASA’s Apollo moon missions in the 1960s and 1970s, the lander spacecraft is to be sent separately to lunar orbit. Orion is to dock with the lander, which will then head to the surface.

But Starship will dwarf Orion in size, making the architecture similar to sailing a yacht across the Atlantic Ocean and then switching to a cruise ship for the short ride into port.

Yusaku Maezawa, has bought an around-the-moon flight on Starship. That trip, which could occur as soon as 2023, would only pass by the moon and not land.

SpaceX has been launching a series of high-altitude tests of Starship prototypes at its site at the southern tip of Texas, not far outside Brownsville, to perfect how the spacecraft would return to Earth. SpaceX has made great progress with the maneuver of belly-flopping to slow its fall, but the tests so far have all ended explosively.

Mr. Musk recently pledged that the spacecraft would be ready to fly people to space by 2023, although he has a track record of overpromising and underdelivering on rocket development schedules.

Nevertheless, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has become the workhorse of American and international spaceflight with its reusable booster stage. The company has twice carried astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA, and it is scheduled to loft a third crew there on Thursday.

Numerous private satellite operators have relied on the company to carry their payloads to orbit. And another company, Astrobotic, announced this week that it had picked a larger SpaceX rocket, Falcon Heavy, to carry a NASA rover called VIPER to the moon’s south pole to prospect for ice in the coming years.

On Friday, the Biden administration also announced the nomination of Pamela Melroy, a former astronaut, to become NASA’s deputy administrator. Last month, Bill Nelson, a former Florida senator, was nominated to be administrator.

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Shawn G. Kennedy, Times Reporter in a Vanguard, Dies at 73

Back in the 1970s, as The New York Times lagged behind other papers in hiring reporters and editors of color, Paul Delaney, the first Black reporter hired in the newspaper’s Washington bureau, was among those helping to recruit nonwhite journalists.

He was on assignment in New Orleans in 1973 when he ran into a Black television reporter, who told him that her twin sister, who worked as a fact checker for Playboy magazine in Chicago, was eager to move to a daily paper. The next time Mr. Delaney was in Chicago, he looked her up.

And that was how Shawn G. Kennedy came to work at The Times, taking a route as random as any in that era, before organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists were formed to help organize the recruitment of journalists.

Ms. Kennedy, who worked at The Times for 23 years, died on April 5 at the home of her sister, Royal Kennedy Rodgers, in San Francisco. She was 73 and lived in New Orleans. Ms. Rodgers said the cause was breast cancer.

Lt. Col. James Vincent Kennedy, was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-Black corps of elite pilots; he completed his training too late to see combat in World War II but became a career Air Force officer and flew missions in Korea and Vietnam. He received degrees in electrical engineering and worked on the Apollo space program.

Shirley (Graves) Kennedy, went back to school after her children had grown and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in African-American studies and her doctorate in political science. She then taught Black studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

With Mr. Kennedy in the military, the family lived on air bases around the world. The parents were intensely interested in current events and liked to read, and their children adopted the same habits. Royal Rodgers said that while living in Tokyo and having no television there, she and Shawn “devoured” American magazines. Shawn went to Ohio University in Athens but left for Playboy before graduating.

She married Harold Brown, an investment manager, in 1997 and left The Times shortly thereafter. They moved to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., before settling in New Orleans.

“New Orleans was her big second act,” her sister said. Ms. Kennedy and Mr. Brown were already involved in economic development there before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, and afterward they devoted themselves even more to rebuilding the city. After Mr. Brown died in 2013, Ms. Kennedy continued many of his projects.

One project of which Ms. Kennedy was especially proud was overseeing the conversion of the historic St. Rosa de Lima church into a center for a Waldorf school, a performance space and a business incubator.

In addition to her sister, she is survived by two brothers, Kevin and Colin; a stepson, David Brown; and one step-grandson.

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John Williamson, 83, Dies; Economist Defined the ‘Washington Consensus’

Mr. Williamson attended the London School of Economics, graduating with a degree in economics in 1951. After completing two years of compulsory military service, he entered graduate school at Princeton, where he received his Ph.D. in 1963.

Though he had frequent offers from Oxford and Cambridge, especially later in his career, Mr. Williamson was drawn to the sort of creative research being done at some of the newly established, so-called plate-glass universities, after their modernist architecture.

He joined the University of York in 1963, the year it was founded, and later taught at the University of Warwick, founded in 1965. But he was increasingly drawn to policymaking. In 1968 he took a job as an adviser to the British Treasury, where he worked on economic relations with the European Economic Community, and later moved to Washington to work at the International Monetary Fund.

While at the I.M.F. he met Denise Rausch, a Brazilian economist. They married in 1974.

Along with his daughter and wife, Mr. Williamson is survived by two sons, Andre and Daniel; two sisters, Chris Evans and Wyn Jones; and seven grandchildren.

The Williamsons spent the late 1970s in Brazil, where she worked for a research institution and he taught at a Catholic university. Ms. Williamson taught her husband Portuguese, something he considered his greatest achievement, having struggled with foreign languages in school.

They returned to Washington in 1981, when the economist C. Fred Bergsten hired Mr. Williamson to be the first employee of the newly founded Institute for International Economics, later renamed the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He remained there until he retired in 2012. (In 1996 he took a leave from the institute to join the World Bank, where his wife worked, though he left after just three years, frustrated with the bank’s bureaucracy.)

Until he coined the Washington Consensus, Mr. Williamson was best known for his work on exchange rates. He was a passionate advocate for a middle ground between the rigidity of fixed rates — especially for developing economies — and the chaos of floating rates, which he believed put even developed economies at the mercy of global financial markets.

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Drought and Abundance in the Mesopotamian Marshes

On my most recent visit to the Mesopotamian marshes, in March, I arrived at Sayeed Hitham’s for breakfast. The pandemic had kept me away for more than a year.

The sun was just rising, the sky pink and golden. Hana, Hitham’s wife, stood smiling near the door to their reed house. “Tea is ready, bread is ready,” she said. “Come on in.”

We sat on the worn-out carpet around a glowing kerosene heater, sipping tea and dipping the flat naan Hana had just baked into hot buffalo milk. “What took you so long, Emi?” Sayeed asked with a tone of reproach. “We haven’t seen you in forever.”

battle for Mosul was raging, I took the opposite path and headed south. I was in search of another view of the country, something different from the war I’d been covering for the previous year and a half.

It was a moment of real discovery for me — one of those few times when you connect with a place, with a people.

The Mesopotamian marshes, a series of wetlands that sit near Iraq’s southeast border, feel like an oasis in the middle of the desert — which they are. The ruins of the ancient Sumerian cities of Ur, Uruk and Eridu are close at hand. The broader region, known as the cradle of civilization, saw early developments in writing, architecture and complex society.

The marshes are home to a people called the Ma’dan, also known as the Marsh Arabs, who live deep in the wetlands, mostly as buffalo breeders in isolated settlements, a majority of which are reachable only by boat. Others live in small cities on the banks of the Tigris or Euphrates rivers, which feed the marshes.

Many of the Ma’dan left decades ago, when the marshes were ravaged by war, famine and repression.

During the Iran-Iraq war, waged between 1980 and 1988, the wetland’s proximity to the Iranian border turned the area into a conflict zone, a theater for bloody battles. Later, in the early 1990s, in the aftermath of a Shiite uprising against his Baath Party, Saddam Hussein intentionally drained the region — where many of the Shiite rebels had fled — as a punishment and a way to stifle the insurrection.

The marshes turned into a desert for more than a decade, until the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

By then, damage had already been done. By the early 2000s, less than 10 percent of the area’s original wetland existed as a functioning marshland.

Today, after being re-flooded and partially restored, the marshes are once again endangered — by climate change, lack of ecological awareness on a local level and, perhaps most dramatically, by the construction of dams in Turkey and Syria and upriver in Iraq.

In 2018, an extremely hot summer followed by a lack of rain caused a serious drought. In some areas, the water level fell by more than three feet.

“That’s it,” I remember thinking, as the small boat crossed the marsh where corpses of young buffaloes floated in the water. Buffalo breeders like Sayeed Hitham lost about a third of their livestock, and many had to leave when areas turned into a desert. They migrated to neighboring cities — or farther still, to the poor suburbs of Karbala, Basra or Baghdad.

But then, a few months later, the water began to rise. People returned. I photographed the renewal, just as I’d photographed drought the year before. But it felt then — it still feels now — like a sword of Damocles hung over the region.

The stakes are high, both ecologically and for the people who live here. If the already-depleted marshes dry up again, the Ma’dan may have no choice but to leave, to cast away from a peaceful enclave into a troubled land.

Still, I’ve kept coming back. Over the years, I’ve seen drought and abundance, freezing winters and burning summers. I’ve seen children born, and watched them grow up. I’ve followed Sayeed Hitham and his family as they moved around the marsh, the location of their new home dependent on the water level — and each time built out of reeds.

I’ve even gotten used to the huge water buffaloes, known locally as jamous, which represent the main source of income for most of the Ma’dan.

The buffaloes scared me at the beginning. But I’ve learned to walk through a herd of horns, to let them smell me, to pet the fluffy, friendly calves — the ones that try to lick my hand like oversized dogs.

When I outlined my progress to Sayeed, as we wrapped up breakfast, he burst into his wonderful, exuberant laughter. “You still know nothing, Emi,” he said. “You can’t even tell the mean jamous in the herd.”

Then, serious, and still smiling, he said: “It’s OK. You have time to learn.”

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The Church, an Arts Center in Sag Harbor, Is Opening

The Church, a nonprofit arts center in Sag Harbor, N.Y., founded by the artists Eric Fischl and April Gornik, will begin to welcome visitors on April 15. Two tours of the center, a former Methodist church built in 1832, will be offered daily, Thursday through Monday.

“This opening is the culmination of the vision of a lifetime,” Fischl, a longtime resident of the area, said in a statement. “We want the Church to stand as a beacon of hope and renewal through continual exploration and reinterpretation, which is the domain of the arts.”

The center’s first guests will have the opportunity to view art by Kerry James Marshall and Awol Erizku as they become acquainted with the 10,048-square-foot space. The two pieces, “Untitled” (2008) by Marshall and “Teen Venus” (2012) by Erizku, have been arranged by Fischl and Sara Cochran, the Church’s executive director and chief curator, as an installation meant to stimulate “dialogue about nature, beauty, history and race.”

A collection of portraits by Fischl, of 20 cultural luminaries who had strong connections to Sag Harbor, which is on Long Island’s East End, will also be on view — on the building’s windows. Subjects include Betty Friedan, Langston Hughes and Herman Melville. “This is a way of celebrating an ongoing tradition and the heritage of Sag Harbor,” Cochran said. “Eric calls them our saints — I like to think of them as our rogues gallery.”

The tours are the first in a series of events planned for the coming months that will celebrate the Church’s renovation (led by the architect Lee Skolnick) and the official beginning of the building’s life as an exhibition venue, artist residency site and community resource.

In February, the center inaugurated its residency programming by welcoming the Martha Graham Dance Company for a two-week stay. The painter Jim Gingerich is currently in residence in the building’s studio space.

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