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Wall Street Journal Thursday August 19, 2021 [CCLXXVIII, US ed.]

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For personal, non-commercial use only. Do not edit, alter or reproduce. For commercial reproduction or distribution, contact Dow Jones Reprints & Licensing at (800) 843-0008 or www.djreprints.com.



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 Illumina said it completed its acquisition of Grail, despite a pending legal challenge by the FTC and separate antitrust concerns in Europe. B4  Target reported increased revenue for the second quarter as more people returned to stores and online spending moderated compared with last summer, B3

World-Wide  The Taliban used gunfire to disperse nascent protests against their rule in Afghanistan, killing two people and injuring several more, and continued to block access to Kabul’s international airport after the U.S. said the group had agreed to allow evacuations. A1, A7, A8

 The EPA is banning chlorpyrifos, a pesticide employed throughout agriculture, from use on all food, saying it is toxic to children’s brains. A3  Georgia’s State Election Board appointed a panel to probe past elections in Fulton County, taking a step toward a possible takeover of election operations in the state’s most-populous county. A6  A judge threw out federal approval of an oil project planned for Alaska, saying the government failed to properly assess the project’s impact on climate change and its potential harm to polar bears. A6 CONTENTS Arts in Review... A13 Business News. B3,5 Crossword.............. A14 Equities....................... B6 Heard on Street. B10 Markets...................... B9

Opinion.............. A15-17 Personal Journal. A11-12 Sports....................... A14 Technology............... B4 U.S. News......... A2-4,6 Weather................... A14 World News. A7-9,18


s 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved


The Taliban used gunfire to disperse nascent protests against their rule in Afghanistan, killing two people and injuring several more, and continued to block access to Kabul’s international airport after the U.S. said the group had agreed to allow evacuations.


The first major Afghan city fell on Aug. 9. The last one, Kabul, capitulated just six days later. The offensive that returned the Taliban to power 20 years after they were ousted by a U.S.-led coalition seemed dizzyingly fast. In reality, the Taliban’s road to victory winds back many years. Throughout the war, the Taliban capitalized on mistakes by the Western coalition and its Afghan partners to recruit fighters. They harnessed popular anger at human-rights abuses, civilian deaths and corruption to turn Afghans against the central government and its foreign backers. And as the insurgents expanded their territorial control,

ment. By the time the Taliban began their final offensive, morale among security forces and local officials had been so depleted that the insurgents could

they set up shadow governments in the provinces that settled local disputes, levied taxes, provided public services and built a broader base for recruit-

flip them one by one and capture the country’s major cities, often with no fighting at all. In a speech Monday, PresiPlease turn to page A9



 The Biden administration took actions to fight rising Covid-19 cases, including a call for a third shot starting this fall for adults who were fully vaccinated with the two-shot regimen. A1  The president said his administration would require nursing homes to vaccinate their staff against Covid-19 or risk losing Medicare and Medicaid funding. A4

Swift Victory Was Years in Making

Dr. Zuhal used to drive herself to work. This week, she started taking a taxi to avoid reprisals from the Taliban, who once banned women from driving. It didn’t help. On the second day of Tali-

ban rule, a Taliban gunman dragged the doctor, who didn’t want to use her full name, out of the taxi and whipped her for filming the chaos surrounding the evacuations at the Kabul airport through her window. Since seizing control of Afghanistan, the Taliban have sought to portray themselves

Data Breach At T-Mobile Affects Over 40 Million BY DREW FITZGERALD AND ROBERT MCMILLAN T-Mobile US Inc. said hackers took the Social Security numbers and other personal information of more than 40 million current and prospective customers, a brazen heist that could give criminals the digital keys to commit widespread online fraud. The cellphone carrier said the stolen data included first and last names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and driver’s license information. The victims included people who applied for credit with TMobile—regardless of whether they ended up doing business with the carrier—and about 7.8 million current subscribers with postpaid plans. Investigators said that stolen data have already been offered for sale in online forums and could eventually be used Please turn to page A2

as more moderate than when they were last in power in the 1990s, when their hard-line interpretation of Sunni Islam and treatment of women helped make them a pariah state. While the Taliban have publicly pledged to respect women’s rights within the limits of Islam, the group hasn’t


 Tencent pledged to work with Chinese regulators and industry counterparts to manage how minors use online games, as the company posted quarterly results. B1

Taliban fighters patrol the streets of the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in Kabul on Wednesday. Below, the Taliban released a photo of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center left, Anas Haqqani, center right, a Taliban delegation leader, and former Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, second from right, meeting Wednesday in Kabul.


 Robinhood’s revenue surged in the second quarter thanks to a torrent of customers trading cryptocurrency, but the firm posted a big loss due to an emergency funding deal earlier this year. B1

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 U.S. stocks dropped after the release of the Fed minutes, with the S&P 500 and Dow both shedding 1.1% and the Nasdaq losing 0.9%. B9

YEN 109.77

After promising safe passage, insurgents beat demonstrators, crack down at airport


 Fed officials last month indicated they were on track to begin reversing their easy-money policies later this year, minutes of their policy meeting show. A2


Business & Finance -Mobile said hackers took the Social Security numbers and other personal information of over 40 million current and prospective customers, a heist that could give criminals the keys to commit widespread online fraud. A1

EURO $1.1710

Taliban Violently Suppress Protests

What’s News T

HHHH $4.00


U.S. NEWS In Austin, Texas, home-buying frenzy sends sale prices soaring. A3

SPORTS A possible privateequity investment could bring rugby to new audiences. A14

You Can Still Meet the Band, Just Keep Your Distance i



The pandemic has made hugs from fans and up-close chitchat relics of a past era BY AISHA AL-MUSLIM AND RYAN NGUYEN XENIA, Ohio—Back on the road, Brad Fischetti, the last surviving member of the poprap trio LFO, drew cheers from fans of the group’s 1999 hit

single “Summer Girls” during a recent show at the Caesar Ford Park amphitheater. Mr. Fischetti joined the boy band O-Town on a tour that showcased the ups and downs of performers trying to please Please turn to page A9

elaborated on their own reading of it, or made specific promises. Interpretations of Islamic law vary widely, and the possible range of restrictions are causing many inside and outside Afghanistan to fear the worst for women’s freedoms. Already, women are retreatPlease turn to page A8

By Yaroslav Trofimov, William Mauldin and Gordon Lubold The use of violence against protesters in the eastern Afghan cities of Jalalabad, Khost and Asadabad on Wednesday clashed with the promise of inclusive governance and general amnesty the Taliban have attempted to project since seizing the Afghan capital on Sunday. A senior figure in the Islamist movement met with two former leaders of the deposed government, and Afghanistan’s deposed president, Ashraf Ghani, was welcomed by the United Arab Emirates on humanitarian grounds. His whereabouts had been unknown since he fled his country on Sunday. Afghans and Westerners stranded in Kabul trickled into the city’s U.S.-controlled airport for evacuation flights. But entry remained extremely difficult, with Taliban checkpoints pushing Afghans back and no clear system to bring people in. President Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, saying there was no way to exit without chaos. Asked about the images of Please turn to page A7

Afghanistan Crisis  Crackdown belies promises by Taliban....... A7  Group’s Illegal activities evade cash cutoff........... A8  Military fled with dozens of aircraft........................... A8

White House Plans Covid-19 Boosters Starting in the Fall The Biden administration took actions to fight rising Covid-19 cases, including a call for a third shot starting this fall for adults who were fully vaccinated with the two-shot regimen. By Stephanie Armour, Jared S. Hopkins and Andrew Restuccia The administration also said Wednesday that nursing homes risk losing Medicare and Medicaid funding if staff aren’t required to be vaccinated against Covid-19. In addition, President Biden signed a memorandum that directs the Education Department to use all available tools to ensure that students can return to the classroom safely, an effort intended in part to counter state efforts prohibiting mask requirements in schools. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona plans to use his de-

partment’s civil-rights enforcement authority to prevent states from blocking mask requirements in schools, according to department spokeswoman Rachel Thomas. “We need to make sure children are wearing masks in school,” Mr. Biden said during a speech at the White House, adding that state politicians who oppose mask mandates are “setting a dangerous tone.” Mr. Biden, a Democrat, also called on big U.S. companies to require their employees to get vaccinated. “Employers have more power today to end the pandemic than they have ever had before,” he said. In another indication that Please turn to page A4  Nursing homes are pressed on shots........................................ A4  Florida schools defy state on masks............................................. A4  Australia vaccinates teens to stop Delta.................................. A18

For personal, non-commercial use only. Do not edit, alter or reproduce. For commercial reproduction or distribution, contact Dow Jones Reprints & Licensing at (800) 843-0008 or www.djreprints.com.

A2 | Thursday, August 19, 2021

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Politics of Regulation Intrude on Powell If the Federal Reserve’s management of the economy were all that mattered, Chairman Jerome Powell would probably be cruising toward reappointment. His response to the pandemic and focus on full employment have drawn bipartisan praise. But the Fed is also a financial regulator, an inherently more political role than monetary policy. Mr. Powell’s shot at another term when this one expires in February is now threatened by progressive Democrats whose priority is a more activist Fed on regulation and other nonmonetary matters. r. Powell almost certainly has enough votes from both parties to be confirmed; the question is whether the holdouts can persuade President Biden to nominate someone else. Last week The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Biden’s economic team generally supports giving Mr. Powell a second term, but resistance

from Democrats including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) could lead to his replacement. “Over and over and over he has weakened a regulation here, he has led the Fed to ease up there, he has helped the Fed to protect the largest financial institutions,” Ms. Warren told Bloomberg television this month. There is a sort of symmetry at work here. Four years ago President Donald Trump liked the monetary policy of Fed chair Janet Yellen, appointed by former President Barack Obama. But Republicans disliked her pro-regulatory stance and pushed to replace her with Mr. Powell. Ms. Yellen is now Mr. Biden’s Treasury secretary. Back then, Republicans were motivated more by ideology than evidence that Ms. Yellen’s policies had done any harm. The same is true of progressives’ attacks on Mr. Powell, under whom banks appear to have gotten safer, not weaker. Abroad, many central banks have no regulatory du-


ties, focusing only on monetary policy. The U.S. has gone in the opposite direction. The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law and global rules governing bank capital (which absorbs losses) and liquidity (cash on hand to pay creditors and depositors) expanded the Fed’s oversight of the financial system. he Fed under Mr. Powell and Randal Quarles, vice chairman of supervision, have made some of these rules less restrictive. For example, for some banks, though not the eight largest, capital rules were relaxed and stress tests, designed to ensure capital remains sufficient in economic slumps, became less frequent, less onerous and more transparent. Banks got some relief on rules covering planning for their own liquidation, and the Volcker rule, which prohibits trading with banks’ own money. Breaking with a tradition of consensus on the Fed’s seven-member board, Lael Brainard, the board’s lone Democrat, voted against


Capital as a percentage of risk-weighted assets Global systemically important banks Next largest banks

1Q 2021 13.2%




11.5 1Q 2021 12.7%

11.0 2014




Note: Common equity; data are quarterly Source: Federal Reserve

many of these changes. They “go beyond what is required by law and weaken the safeguards at the core of the system before they have been tested through a full cycle,” she wrote in one dissent. Ms. Warren has praised those dissents, and Ms. Brainard is now seen as Mr. Biden’s preferred candidate if Mr. Powell isn’t reappointed. In some ways, though, Ms.

Warren’s portrayal of Mr. Powell’s record rings hollow. The risks she and Ms. Brainard warned of haven’t materialized. Despite the pandemic’s unprecedented economic shock, no major bank failed, none needed bailouts, and they vastly expanded lending to businesses. Bank capital as measured by common equity has gone up, not down, partly because the Fed restricted share buybacks and dividends. A December stress test found that even in a severe economic slump that inflicted more than $500 billion in loan losses, large banks’ capital would still exceed required minimums by $530 billion. es, the pandemic did expose financial fragilities—not among the banks that preoccupy Ms. Warren, but lesser-regulated moneymarket funds, corporate bond funds and Treasury bonds. Under Mr. Powell the Fed hasn’t been the avid deregulator many banks and Republicans had hoped. It didn’t go along with other Trump-ap-


Caldor Fire Spreads, Forces Evacuations A Northern California fire that began Monday has exploded in size, growing from 6,500 acres to 53,772 acres in just over a day. Fueled by high winds and dry conditions, the Caldor Fire has threatened 5,800 structures across El Dorado County, east of Sacramento. Grizzly Flats, a small mountain community, suffered significant damage as the fire spread Tuesday, according to Chris Vestal, a fire response spokesman. Photos by the Associated Press showed houses reduced to ash and scorched cars. With multiple fast-moving fires burning across the state, Cal Fire Director Thom Porter said it was a particularly difficult time for the state’s emergency services. More than 16,000 individuals in El Dorado County have now been evacuated, according to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. —Talal Ansari NEW YORK

Continued from Page One to commit fraud such as identity theft and SIM swapping—a form of identity theft in which hackers seize control of a victim’s mobile phone number. “It’s probably the biggest gift to SIM-swappers they’ve received in years,’ said Allison Nixon, chief research officer at cyber services company Unit 221B. “The typical life cycle of these databases is first they start off in the hands of the very few, but it will spread because people share data,” she said. “All of these hacked databases eventually go public.”

feel pain during the gestation period affected by the law, and that one alternative outlined by the state, the use of suction, also results in dismemberment. A majority among the 14 judges on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who heard arguments sided with Texas. The opinion said “doctors can safely perform D&Es and comply with SB8 using methods that are already in widespread use.” —Associated Press

A Texas law outlawing an abortion method commonly used to end second-trimester pregnancies was upheld Wednesday by a federal appeals court in New Orleans. The 2017 law has never been enforced. It seeks to prohibit the use of forceps to remove a fetus

OPENING STATEMENT: Attorney Nicole Blank Becker spoke during the first day of the federal trial of her client, singer R. Kelly, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Mr. Kelly is charged with leading a criminal enterprise and using his entourage to recruit women and underage girls for sex.


T-Mobile Breach Is Widespread

Court Upholds Ban On Abortion Method

from the womb—what supporters of the law call a “dismemberment abortion”—without first using an injected drug or a suction procedure to ensure the fetus is dead. Abortion-rights advocates argued that the law, known as SB8, effectively outlaws what is often the safest method of abortion for women in the second trimester of pregnancy—a procedure medically known as dilation and evacuation. They also argued that fetuses can’t



Mandate on Masks In Schools Expected New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is set to become governor next week, said the state was likely to require students to wear masks when schools reopen next month. Ms. Hochul said Wednesday that she spoke this week with representatives of teacher unions,


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school boards and administrators who all said they were looking to the state for guidance. She will become governor on Tuesday after Andrew Cuomo announced he would resign amid an impeachment inquiry and allegations of sexual harassment. “I believe there will be mask mandates for children to go back to school, and that will have to be universal. It will be statewide,” she said. —Jimmy Vielkind



In online forums and private communications hackers are selling different sets of data linked to the breach, asking between $80,000 and 6 bitcoin ($270,000 at Wednesday’s exchange rates) for access to the information, said Gene Yoo, chief executive of Resecurity Inc., a cybersecurity company. The breach is among the larger thefts of Social Security numbers, though leaks from various companies in recent years have exposed such data on tens of millions of consumers. A 2017 intrusion at Equifax Inc. exposed the personal information of 143 million people, including names, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers. T-Mobile opened an online portal with information for potential victims Wednesday and began to notify individual customers by text and email.

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The company didn’t detail the kind of information pilfered from the group of 7.8 million current subscribers, but researchers said a large amount of account records and PINs were available for sale online. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was aware of the incident. The Federal Communications Commission said it has opened an investigation into the matter. T-Mobile said the breach also exposed the names, phone numbers and account PINs, or personal identification numbers, of about 850,000 of its customers on prepaid plans, which don’t require a credit check. Subscribers using the Metro by T-Mobile, legacy Sprint and Boost Mobile brands weren’t part of that group. The company didn’t disclose the extent to which the various victim groups overlapped. Some of the 40 million people

who lost their personal credit details might have been included among the count of users with postpaid plans, which often require a Social Security number or other information to set up an account. T-Mobile disclosed the breach earlier this week in response to reports of its customer information for sale on a hacker forum. Vice’s Motherboard tech site earlier reported on the breach. The company said early Wednesday that it had reset the PIN codes of all the affected prepaid accounts and recommended that postpaid users do the same. The carrier said it would offer two years of free identityprotection services from security firm McAfee. T-Mobile said it found and closed an access point used to break into its servers. The company called the intrusion a

CORRECTIONS  AMPLIFICATIONS Operators claim that electric air taxis will make just 1% of the noise of helicopters and will cost two-thirds less to run. A Heard on the Street column on Monday about electric vertical-takeoff-andlanding vehicles incorrectly said they would be 100 times quieter and three times

Fed Looks To Reduce Bond Buys This Year



pointed regulators in changing how bank lending to lowincome communities is assessed, worried those communities would suffer. It is building a payments system to compete with one run by big banks. It turned aside pleas to ease a capital surcharge on the largest banks. Indeed, despite the circumstances of his appointment, Mr. Powell has sought to uphold the Fed’s reputation for apolitical technocratic competence. He ignored Mr. Trump’s demands for lower interest rates then joined with his administration to boost lending during the pandemic. Ultimately, though, none of this may matter to progressive Democrats. Their priority is that the Fed support their broader agenda. Indeed, they would push the Fed further into charged arenas such as the fight against climate change. If Mr. Biden follows Mr. Trump’s example and installs his own Fed chair, the central bank’s claim to be above politics may be a bit harder to sustain.

cheaper to run.

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“highly sophisticated cyberattack,” but offered few details about how it worked and when its security team discovered the lapse. A person who tweeted about the attack before it was public and claimed to know the attacker described a breach that relied on lax security measures more than insider know-how or buggy code. This person said the attacker used an unprotected network gateway to reach the company’s backup servers, which stored unencrypted details on customers going back to the mid-1990s. A sample of the stolen data set posted online included names, addresses and serial numbers that identify a user’s unique device and subscriber identity module, or SIM. Attackers could use the last data point to steal a victim’s phone number, a tactic known as a SIM swap that is often used as a launchpad for other fraud. The leaked serial numbers could be a gold mine for attackers searching for easy targets, according to Ravishankar Borgaonkar, a senior research scientist at the Norwegian research institute Sintef. “An attacker just needs to make calls to customer care with the leaked information,” he said, adding that attackers usually spend hours or days trawling several leaked databases to build profiles of their targets. “This database saves time.”


Federal Reserve officials last month indicated they were on track to begin reversing their easy-money policies later this year, despite lingering differences over when exactly to pull back support for an economy growing more rapidly than expected earlier this year. Minutes of their July 27-28 Fed meeting, released Wednesday, revealed an emerging consensus to begin scaling back their $120 billion in monthly purchases of Treasury and mortgage securities at any of their three remaining policy meetings this year. Stocks fell sharply after the minutes were released in the afternoon. “Most participants noted that, provided that the economy were to evolve broadly as they anticipated, they judged that it could be appropriate to start reducing the pace of asset purchases this year,” the minutes said. The minutes said several officials favored reducing asset purchases in the coming months in order to better position the Fed to potentially raise interest rates if the economy strengthens further next year, while others thought the Fed could wait until early next year because they want to see stronger evidence that the job market has healed. Fed officials expected a temporary burst in inflation as the economy struggles to supply enough goods and services to keep up with demand this year. But the spurt has been stronger and broader than officials expected. The Fed’s staff forecast presented at last month’s meeting maintained its earlier projection that this year’s rise in inflation would prove transitory. But they also judged that the risks of higher-than-expected inflation exceeded the risks of lower-than-expected inflation. The Fed cut interest rates to zero last year and began purchasing $80 billion a month in Treasury securities and $40 billion in mortgage securities to provide added stimulus. Officials in December said they would want to see “substantial further progress” since then toward meeting their goals of inflation that averages 2% over time and labor market conditions consistent with full employment. Many officials think the Fed has met this threshold for its inflation objective, the minutes said. At the same time, most officials don’t think the labor market has met the “substantial further progress” threshold; the meeting occurred, however, days before the Labor Department reported that the economy added 943,000 jobs in July and the unemployment rate fell to 5.4%, from 5.9% in June.  U.S. stocks slide after Fed minutes come out................... B9

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Thursday, August 19, 2021 | A3

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AUSTIN, Texas—A homebuying frenzy is gripping much of the U.S., but Austin takes the prize for the biggest increase in homes selling well above the asking price. Nearly 2,700 homes in the Texas capital have sold this year for $100,000 or more above their initial listing price, according to an analysis by Redfin Corp. that examined sales through Aug. 11. While a few other U.S. cities have had more properties sell at that premium to the asking price, none have experienced as big a percent rise in homes transacting at that lofty an increase, Redfin said. “As a consumer, it seems scary to be in a housing market where the home you’re looking at [is] priced at $400,000, then, when you go to put in an offer, you realize

buyers arriving from Manhattan or San Francisco it often looks relatively affordable, enabling these new residents to bid up home prices. Bidding wars are breaking out across Austin. Earlier this year, prospective buyers waited in lines that snaked around the corner to view popular homes. Others offered impassioned personal pleas and shared their family stories in hopes of landing a hotly contested home. In the hottest U.S. housing market in years, many sellers are transacting above their initial ask. In May, a record high of 50% of U.S. homes sold for more than their list price, Redfin said, reflecting how the pandemic and the rise of remote work has led many buyers to seek homes with more space or in cities and towns farther from their offices. Francisco Ortego and his wife paid nearly $100,000 over asking price for their fourbedroom home in a suburb north of the city in April, after their first seven offers came up empty. That month, nearly 74% of

A buyer’s agent evaluates a property in east Austin, Texas, that was listed at $690,000. Austin homes sold above their asking price, with the typical home selling for $35,000 above asking price, according to Redfin. “I don’t think it’s fair, but it’s the reality of the market,” said Mr. Ortego, who relocated his family from Boston last year for a corporate strategy job at Round Rock-based Dell Technologies Inc. “If you want to win, you have to place a su-

EPA Bans Pesticide Used on Food control or plant nurseries. Chlorpyrifos has been registered for use in the U.S. since the 1960s, and more than 5 million pounds of it were used on U.S. farm land in 2017, according to a report by the nonprofit advocacy group Earthjustice. Some countries and several states, including California, have moved in recent years to ban or limit use of chlorpyrifos. The EPA proposed ending its use in 2015, but the Trump administration later dropped the plan. “Rather than ban the pesticide or reduce the tolerances to levels that the EPA could find were reasonably certain to cause no harm, the EPA sought to evade through delay tactics its plain statutory duty,” Judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote in the Ninth Circuit’s 67page ruling in April.

Dow Chemical Co., once the primary producer of chlorpyrifos, had fought the EPA’s 2015 proposal. Since then that business became part of the agricultural company Corteva Inc., which came out of the DowDuPont breakup. A Corteva spokesperson said the company no longer produces chlorpyrifos. Corteva said that it “stands by the safety of the product and its value for the grower community, ” and that the action “effectively removes an important tool for farmers.” Chris Novak, president of CropLife America, a trade group that speaks for agrochemical companies: “Farmers need tools to fight insect pests, but the agency has taken an overly broad action that will cause significant problems for our industry’s farm customers.”




WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency is banning a farm pesticide widely used to control crop pests, which it says is toxic to children’s brains. The ban would stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food, the agency said Wednesday. The action follows a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in April that the EPA would have to ban use of the pesticide on food if it couldn’t prove that its consumption was safe. The insecticide is used throughout agriculture on crops including soybeans, almond trees, grapes, broccoli and cauliflower, and is potentially harming workers along with children, the EPA said.

“Today EPA is taking an overdue step to protect public health,” Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “Ending the use of chlorpyrifos on food will help to ensure children, farmworkers, and all people are protected from the potentially dangerous consequences of this pesticide.” The Natural Resources Defense Council in 2007 asked federal regulators in a petition to prohibit foods that contain traces of the pesticide below the current allowable level. The EPA regulates the use of pesticides on food. The new regulation, once formally published, sets a sixmonth deadline for agricultural companies to stop using chlorpyrifos. Regulators are preparing to review whether the pesticide is safe for nonfood applications, such as mosquito

Texas, because this is where they want to be,” said Emily Chenevert, chief executive of the Austin Board of Realtors. Austin Redfin agent John Dawson said he recently closed for $635,000 on a home in a southwest Austin suburb that was listed at $500,000. The sellers received 15 offers. “The market just devoured it,” Mr. Dawson said.

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per aggressive offer.” With Austin’s expanding employer base, analysts say they don’t anticipate the competition cooling. Oracle Corp. recently moved its headquarters to Austin from Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, Tesla Inc. is building a factory in the city with plans to hire at least 5,000 employees. “People are willing to pay a premium to live in Austin,



the true price is $500,000,” Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather said. The number of homes sold year-over-year for at least $100,000 over asking price has grown nearly 10-fold in Seattle, and fivefold in Oakland, according to Redfin. In Austin, that figure grew by 57 times the number for last year at this time. The jump in these sales at six figures above the listed price shows how Austin, which has attracted young professionals for years, has become an even more competitive place to buy in recent months. Startup companies have been flocking here, fueled by the city’s robust job growth, music and cultural scene and amenities such as hiking trails and water sports like kayaking. The city is attracting tech employees and other remote workers from more expensive places like the Bay Area and New York City. Austin is now higher-priced than most U.S. cities, and its cost of living has surpassed that of more cosmopolitan Houston and Dallas. Yet to


Some 2,700 dwellings this year have fetched $100,000 or more above the price listed


Austin Homes Sell At Super Premiums

Asylum seekers arrive at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center after being processed by U.S. immigration in McAllen, Texas.

Asylum-System Overhaul Proposed BY TARINI PARTI AND MICHELLE HACKMAN The Biden administration released its proposal Wednesday for overhauling the asylum system, aiming to speed up the time it takes for asylum seekers to receive decisions and to reduce a growing backlog of pending cases. The proposed rule would allow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officers to hear and decide applications for migrants. Currently, cases are assigned to immigration courts. The southern border recently saw its busiest month in 21 years, with Border Patrol making about 200,000 arrests in July, according to figures released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection last week. With the surge in migrants crossing the border, the backlog of pending cases in immigration courts has been growing. There are 1.4 million

pending cases at these courts, according to a tracking tool at Syracuse University. Quicker decisions on asylum cases would likely mean faster deportations for those whose cases are denied. It also could curb the incentive for migrants without valid claims for humanitarian protection to come, since their opportunity to live and work in the U.S. during the time it takes to wrap up their cases would be significantly reduced. “Individuals who are eligible will receive relief more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be expeditiously removed,“ Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “We are building an immigration system that is designed to ensure due process, respect human dignity, and promote equity.” Based on the proposed rule, an asylum-seeking migrant with a credible case would be

referred to an asylum officer for a hearing. If asylum is denied, the case could be reviewed by an immigration judge. The rule wouldn’t apply to unaccompanied minors. U.S. officials have said that in order for the overhauled system to work they would need to hire hundreds of additional asylum officers and receive tens of millions of dollars in funding, either through Congress or by raising fees on visas and other immigration applications. The proposed rule is expected to soon be published in the Federal Register for public comment and go through additional reviews before the Department of Homeland Security finalizes it—a process that can take months. “The asylum officer pathway is, I believe, more suited to making sensitive decisions in a fair and timely way,” said Doris Meissner, an immigra-

tion expert with the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, whose 2018 proposal was the basis for the DHS rule. “It’s not a courtroom, it’s not prosecutors and judges and the intimidating setting that creates.” Under U.S. law, immigrants can qualify for asylum, regardless of how they entered the country, if they are fleeing persecution based on their political opinion, religion, race, nationality or membership in a particular social group. The Biden administration overturned in June two cases decided by the Justice Department under the Trump administration that made immigrants fleeing domestic or gang violence in their home countries generally ineligible for asylum in the U.S. In the first half of fiscal 2021, which began in October, about 16% of asylum applicants whose cases were decided prevailed.

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A4 | Thursday, August 19, 2021
































Medicare and Medicaid funds linked to staff getting Covid-19 shot under new regulation

President Biden said his administration would require nursing homes to vaccinate their staff against Covid-19 or risk losing Medicare and Medicaid funding. In remarks from the White House on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said the step was designed to keep people safe amid rising cases across the country caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant. “With this announcement, I’m using the power of the federal government as a payer of healthcare costs to ensure we reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors,” Mr. Biden said. The administration plans to issue a new regulation through the Department of Health and Human Services that would make Medicare and Medicaid funding for nursing homes conditional on their staffs being vaccinated. The White House said the new requirements, which will



A nursing-home worker gets a vaccine at the Harlem Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New York. be drafted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, could take effect as early as next month and would affect more than 15,000 nursing homes that employ roughly 1.3 million workers. CNN earlier reported the news, which comes as the Delta variant has driven an increase in cases at nursing homes. As of Aug. 1, 82.4% of nursinghome residents per facility

were vaccinated, CMS data show. But only 60% of nursinghome workers were vaccinated. Mark Parkinson—chief executive of the American Health Care Association, which represents nursinghome owners—said vaccination mandates should apply to all healthcare settings. “Without this, nursing homes face a disastrous workforce challenge,” he said, with staffers

who don’t want to be vaccinated likely to depart for jobs in other healthcare sectors. Katie Smith Sloan—chief executive of LeadingAge, which represents nonprofit providers of aging services including nursing homes—also said vaccine mandates should extend to all healthcare workers and criticized the threat to block government reimbursement to nursing homes that

don’t comply. Nursing homes “cannot bear additional financial losses after more than a year of shouldering historic Covid-related costs,” she said. The Biden administration has taken more forceful action in recent weeks to scale up vaccinations across the country, both through new requirements for federal workers and by pushing the private sector to adopt a more assertive role in helping inoculate the U.S. population. Last month, Mr. Biden said federal employees and on-site contractors must get vaccinated or submit to regular testing and other mitigation measures. The Pentagon said this month it would make vaccinations mandatory for U.S. service members by mid-September, and HHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs have said they plan to require vaccines for their healthcare workers. Covid-19 cases are on the rise again, with CMS data showing about 4,900 new resident cases over the four weeks ended Aug. 1, up from 1,570 in the prior four weeks. Staff cases are up even more, to 8,312 in the most recent fourweek period. —Jon Kamp contributed to this article.

Doctors are increasingly turning to antibody drugs in a bid to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by a surge of Covid-19 cases, a turnabout after months in which the treatments went mostly unused. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., the primary provider of the treatments, delivered 135,023 drug doses to U.S. healthcare providers last week, a ninefold increase from a month earlier, according to data shared by the company with The Wall Street Journal. Regeneron estimates that as recently as June, less than 5% of high-risk patients were receiving treatment, before increasing recently to as much as 30%, said Chief Executive Leonard Schleifer in an inter-

view. The drugs, which have been shown to prevent hospitalizations, are paid for by the federal government, and distributed to patients free of charge. In January 2021, the federal government agreed to pay $2.63 billion for 1.25 million doses, equivalent to $2,100 per dose of Regeneron’s drug, which is a cocktail of two antibodies. The contract followed a previous agreement in July 2020 in which the U.S. paid $450 million for 300,000 doses. The uptick in demand is being driven by the surge of infections, especially in the Southern U.S., where vaccination rates are relatively low. Some states, including Florida, Texas and Mississippi, have rushed to expand antibodydrug infusion centers and, in

Daily doses of Regeneron’s antibody drug delivered to healthcare providers

ministration said it was working with states to increase access to the drugs, including helping to set up and run treatment sites in Arizona. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott received Regeneron’s drug on Tuesday after testing positive for Covid-19. Use is also climbing because of greater public awareness and a loosening of the criteria for who can receive the drugs under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency-use authorizations. Monoclonal-antibody drugs are lab-made molecules that mimic the natural antibodies produced by the immune system to fight invaders such as the new coronavirus. U.S. regulators authorized the first antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly & Co.

in November for people who were at high risk of developing serious cases. For those whose immune systems don’t naturally mount a strong antibody defense, the drugs act as a substitute and have reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 70% in clinical trials. In May, the FDA revised the criteria by which patients should be considered high-risk for severe Covid-19. The new criteria significantly lowered the threshold for when someone is considered overweight enough to be at high risk. Race or ethnicity can also now be considered a high-risk factor. As many as 75% of adults in the U.S. could qualify for treatment under the new criteria, said David Wohl, an infectious-diseases doctor at UNC Health in Chapel Hill, N.C.

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40,000 doses




0 June 2021



Source: the company

some cases, have allowed high-risk patients to receive treatment without seeing a doctor first. Last week, the Biden ad-

Extra Pfizer Shot Adds Protection, Data Show


TEL AVIV—Early data from Israel suggests a booster shot of Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine can significantly improve immunity in those aged 60 and above, as the U.S. and other countries plan additional doses to increase protection against the highly infectious Delta variant.

Israel was one of the first countries late last month to authorize a third Pfizer dose for the elderly who were fully vaccinated with the recommended two shots, after indications that vaccine protection against severe illness has waned. The booster shot reduced the risk of infection in the 60plus age group by 86% and against severe infection by





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92%, according to an observational study by Israel’s second largest healthcare provider, Maccabi Health Services, released Wednesday. Both Pfizer and Moderna Inc. have said their own studies showed a booster shot would improve protection. The Maccabi findings are based on real-world data from a relatively large group, which could

Officials Call for Boosters Continued from Page One the pandemic is far from over, the president said his administration will continue to reimburse states fully for some Covid-19 emergency response costs through Dec. 31, extending a policy that was set to expire Sept. 30. States will also be eligible for retroactive reimbursement from the federal government for costs associated with the safe reopening of schools and healthcare and child-care facilities. The recommendation for a booster shot reflects heightened concern over the highly contagious Delta variant and data showing initial immunity wanes over time. “It’s the best way to protect ourselves from new variants that could arise,” said Mr. Biden, referring to the booster shots. The announcement means that booster shots will soon be available for the more than 155 million people in the U.S. who have been fully vaccinated with messenger-RNA vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE or from Moderna Inc. The booster shot will be administered about eight months after the second dose for people ages 18 and older. The U.S. government said it is preparing to offer boosters starting

help inform other countries that are planning their own vaccine rollout strategies. Israel has fully inoculated more than 62% of its roughly nine million population. An Israeli Health Ministry study published in July found those who had two shots were just 39% protected against infection between June 20 and July 17 amid an outbreak of the

the week of Sept. 20. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the booster shots would help the country stay ahead of the virus, even though the current two-dose regimens are effective. He cited emerging evidence indicating that the vaccines lose some power over time and that the Delta variant warrants the extra boost. “Having reviewed the most current data, it is now our clinical judgment that the time to lay out a plan for Covid-19 boosters is now,” Dr. Murthy said. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is authorized for people 12 years and older, while Moderna’s is cleared for those 18 years and above. Regulators last week cleared booster shots for people with compromised immune systems. Under the expanded plan, the U.S. would start offering the extra dose after the Food and Drug Administration authorizes it. The FDA is conducting an independent review, federal health officials said. People 65 and older and individuals in chronic-care facilities are expected to get boosters first, along with health workers and anyone else who was vaccinated earliest, according to federal health officials. The third dose will be of the same vaccine from the twodose regimen, according to people familiar with the plan. The extra dose will be offered free, similar to the way previous shots were handled, health officials said. They said that the U.S. had ample supplies to meet demand, with shots to be ad-

BY ARIAN CAMPO-FLORES MIAMI—Two of Florida’s largest school districts voted Wednesday to implement mask mandates, setting up a clash with the state, which a day earlier moved to punish two other districts that passed similar orders. The board for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the largest district in the state, voted 7-1 to require masks when classes start on Monday. Minutes later, the board for Hillsborough County Public Schools, which includes Tampa and is the state’s third-largest district, voted 5-2 to put in place such a requirement. “The stakes are too high for us not to do everything that we can to ensure the safety of our children,” said Marta Pérez, a Miami-Dade County school board member, during discussion of the measure, which she backed. The decisions intensify a standoff between the state and some local school officials over whether to require masks in schools, as Covid-19 cases are surging. Days after some school districts in the state started the new school year, hundreds of students and staff have tested positive and thousands more are in quarantine because of possible exposure. Florida tallied more than 152,000 Covid-19 cases over the past week, more than any other state and accounting for nearly 1 in 5 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Tuesday, the Florida Board of Education voted unanimously to punish the school districts in Alachua County, home to Gainesville, and Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale and makes up the state’s second-largest district. The counties applied mask mandates that education board members said violated a state order. The sanctions could include withholding salaries of school leaders and removing them from office. Neither county indicated it would back down. The Alachua County school board voted Tuesday to extend its mask mandate another eight weeks. Classes began on Wednesday in Broward County with the mask order in effect. An executive order issued by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in July, along with a subsequent state rule, allowed parents to opt their children out of any school mask requirement. But the four school districts now battling the state over mask mandates allowed only limited exceptions.


Antibody Drugs Put Into Action Amid Surge

Florida Schools Defy State On Masks


Nursing Homes Pressed on Vaccines

Delta variant. Data shared later with medical experts advising Israel’s government showed that protection against severe illness for vaccinated people aged 60 and up had dropped to 81% from 97% in mid-April. Israeli health officials say it remains unclear how much of the loss of protection is due to waning immunity or the rise of the Delta variant.

What to Know About a Third Dose u The booster will be the same shot as the first two and will be available starting Sept. 20 for people who have previously received the PfizerBioNTech or Moderna vaccines. u For immunocompromised people, who already are authorized to get a third messenger RNA dose, the CDC says they should try to get the same type of vaccine as their first two shots, but can mix and match if they have to. u As with the previous shots, there will be no charge. ministered at the 80,000 pharmacies and other vaccination sites operating across the U.S. The FDA has been weighing whether adults who received Johnson & Johnson’s singledose vaccine will need another dose, according to the health officials. Data regarding J&J’s shot isn’t complete, but it is likely this population will also need a booster, the officials said. The expansion could later include people younger than 18 if the FDA authorizes boosters for that group. The agency is reviewing whether to clear the extra dose for 16- and 17-yearolds, a person familiar with the review said, but wants to assess the risk of heart-related side effects seen in rare instances in some young people

who got the two-dose regimen. Authorized vaccines appear to work well against new strains that have emerged, especially in protecting people against severe Covid-19, according to studies. Yet the shots don’t appear to be quite as effective against the Delta variant as they were against the original strain, many studies indicate. The administration’s decision marks a reversal from early July, when federal regulators responded to a plan from Pfizer to seek authorization of an additional dose of its vaccine by saying that third shots weren’t necessary and that vaccinated people were protected. Studies indicate the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna both remain highly effective six months after a second dose. Yet there is some evidence that their efficacy might diminish over longer periods and that the shots aren’t as effective against the Delta variant, prompting research into adding a third dose. Behind the change in thinking on boosters was data through the end of July and early August from several studies in the U.S. and other countries on the vaccines’ durability, federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said. So far, the vaccines are holding up well in protecting against severe disease and hospitalization, she said, but the studies indicate that the shots lose power against infection and might lose effectiveness against severe disease. —Sabrina Siddiqui contributed to this article.

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Thursday, August 19, 2021 | A5

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A6 | Thursday, August 19, 2021


* ****


Georgia Orders Inquiry, Adding To Election Feud

Votes being counted in Fulton County Jan. 6 in Atlanta for a Senate runoff election. “It is not surprising that the Republican-controlled General Assembly has targeted Fulton County, Georgia’s largest county and home to the greatest number of voters of color in the state,” the group said. “This takeover process may be just the first step in the General Assembly’s antidemocratic attempts to impose partisan control of elections in certain jurisdictions.” In November, former President Donald Trump narrowly

lost the state to Democrat Joe Biden. Then in January, Georgia’s sitting Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler lost to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Those losses gave control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats. The losses sparked consternation and infighting within the Georgia GOP, and Mr. Trump pressed state officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who oversees elections, to investigate

and overturn the results. An independent monitor said he found no illegality by Fulton County election officials but did identify sloppy processes and disorganization. Georgia election officials conducted two recounts, which confirmed that Mr. Biden won the state. County officials have defended their handling of elections and said they have been targeted with false claims of widespread election fraud.

BY CORINNE RAMEY The Manhattan district attorney’s office charged former Trump ally Ken Kurson with cybercrimes on Wednesday, making him at least the third person pardoned by former President Donald Trump to face scrutiny from New York state prosecutors. Mr. Kurson, a 52-year-old New Jersey resident, is a former editor in chief of the New York Observer, the newspaper that was published by Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-

co Fo m rp m er er s ci on al a l us , e on

Trump Ally Kurson Charged With Cybercrimes law. Mr. Kurson served as an adviser to Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign and, during Mr. Trump’s first presidential bid, advised the then-candidate on a speech to the lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee, drawing criticism because he was also working at the Observer. Prosecutors charged Mr. Kurson in New York state court with eavesdropping and computer trespass, both types of cybercrimes. They accused him of unlawfully accessing communications of his then-

wife while at the Observer offices, which were located in Midtown Manhattan. Mr. Kurson used spyware to monitor his wife’s keystrokes, obtained her passwords and accessed her Facebook and Gmail accounts, prosecutors said. “We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-ofjail-free cards for the wellconnected in New York,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat, said in a statement. Mr. Kurson faces a minimum of no jail time and a max-

imum of four years in prison. A lawyer for Mr. Kurson didn’t respond to a request for comment. In a related case in October 2020, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged Mr. Kurson with cyberstalking three people. Prosecutors said Mr. Kurson used aliases to file complaints about two of the victims with their employer and posted false negative reviews about one victim on Yelp. Mr. Kurson pleaded not guilty to those charges. This past January, while the

WASHINGTON—A federal judge on Wednesday threw out federal approval of a multibillion-dollar oil project planned for Alaska, saying the government failed to properly assess the project’s impact on climate change and its potential harm to polar bears. The ConocoPhillips Willow project in a federal oil reserve in the North Slope had been backed by both the Biden and Trump administrations, and comes with wide support from Alaskan political leaders. Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy criticized the decision Wednesday night, saying it put thousands of potential jobs at risk. U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason agreed with challengers who argued the Bureau of Land Management didn’t fully account for the greenhouse gases that would come from burning the oil Willow would produce, among other issues. The plaintiffs, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, included several environmental and Alaskan groups. “As to the errors found by the Court, they are serious,” Judge Gleason, an Obama appointee seated in Anchorage, wrote in her 110-page decision. ConocoPhillips will be reviewing the decision and evaluating its options, a spokesman said. The company declined to answer further questions. Conoco’s final investment was always dependent upon whether the company could navigate tricky and potentially lengthy court challenges at a time when oil markets aren’t particularly friendly to major spending in Alaska. Willow is planned as a 160,000-barrel-of-oil-a-day, 30-year project, drilling from on top of permafrost in the federal government’s National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.


ATLANTA—Georgia’s State Election Board appointed a panel to investigate past elections in Fulton County, taking a step toward a possible takeover of election operations in the state’s most populous county. The move comes after a highly contentious election season in which Republicans lost key races in Georgia, including the presidency. After the losses, the GOP-led legislature passed voting law changes this spring that included a provision for the state to take over a county election board if it was deemed to have chronic mismanagement or fraud problems. Democrats say the new laws are an effort to restrict Democratic votes, and the Biden administration is suing the state over the new law. At the request of Republican




state lawmakers, the State Election Board appointed a panel to investigate Fulton County’s elections. The bipartisan panel is composed of two local election officials and one official from the Georgia secretary of state’s office. The State Election Board has three Republican-nominated members and one Democratic member. State officials subsequently could move closer to removing and replacing the local elections board with an administrator of their choosing, though additional steps would have to take place before any takeover. The entire process would take at least several months. Cody Hall, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, said the governor supported the board appointing a panel to investigate Fulton County. “Fulton County has a long history of mismanagement, incompetence and a lack of transparency when it comes to running elections— including during the 2020 election,” he said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. Fair Fight Action, a Democratic voting-rights group in the state, criticized the move.


Panel will investigate Fulton County voting at the request of state Republican lawmakers

Alaska Oil Project Is Set Back By Judge

federal charges were pending, Mr. Trump pardoned Mr. Kurson as part of a flurry of pardons and commutations on his final day in office. The White House said at the time that federal prosecutors’ investigation of Mr. Kurson only began because he was nominated to a role within the Trump administration. The cyberstalking charges were related to Mr. Kurson’s 2015 divorce, according to the White House. Mr. Vance’s office began the investigation after Mr. Trump’s pardon, prosecutors said.


Member Voices


The Wall Street Journal CMO Network connects the decision-makers behind the world’s most influential brands to discuss what — and who — is driving today’s trends and chart the path forward.


When faced with a new challenge, what’s your decision-making process and where do you turn to for trusted information or advice?

Joy Falotico CMO and President Lincoln Motor Company

In partnership with our team, we typically begin with identifying what we know and what we do not know, leaning into any data and insights that we can access both internally and externally. Challenging decisions are often multifaceted, so I like to break them down into bite-sized pieces to tackle with the team and create scenarios and discuss the pros and cons of each. I have a network of trusted advisors that I like to tap for advice. Also, I have studied many different leadership styles over the years and I relect on what has worked well and, equally valuable, what hasn’t worked well when faced with big decisions. What’s in your toolbox for investing in your team — to help them stay focused, feel supported and be productive?

Membership is by invitation: [email protected]

Read the extended version: CMONetwork.wsj.com/ membervoiceslincoln

The Wall Street Journal news organization was not involved in the creation of this content.

Given the pandemic and the ensuing business challenges, caring for our teams has never been more critical. Investing in their well-being has been the priority with our new normal and work-from-home rituals. Checking in regularly to see how they are doing personally, encouraging them to take

time off to rest and recharge, and talking about managing work-life balance has taken on a new meaning as we have blurred the lines between work and home. Proactive and regular communication has been the most important thing I do as a leader to make sure the teams have what they need to be productive and feel supported. We are undergoing a lot of change as we shift our culture and company focus, and we are learning and implementing new protocols and building new muscles together. Creating a psychologically safe environment to exercise these new protocols and learnings has also been key. What does community mean for you and how do you cultivate and maintain it? Community to me is a sense of belonging, a social connection or feeling that you have with a group that has a shared commitment to each other. I have two very important communities: my work community and my neighbor/friend community. Both require engagement and genuine care to nurture and maintain, and both are invaluable to my professional and personal success and well-being. I cultivate and strive to maintain these relationships by helping out where I

can and building up credits for when I need a helping hand. In the work community, it’s all about being a team player, collaborating, inluencing, adding value and making time for others that need my help to move the business forward. With my neighbors and friends, it’s much the same, being a good friend, listening, helping, hosting and simply caring for each other and our respective families. What are you most proud of in your current role? I’m really proud of the consistency we have achieved with our brand during our transformation and the progress we’ve made with the business. We have more work to do, but we know exactly where we are going and what we need to do. Having that clarity in vision and mission for the business has really helped align the team, and I’m so proud of them and the progress we have made in both the U.S. and China. What are you most curious about? I’m spiritually curious and always wonder if there is a deeper meaning or lesson in life events that is tied to a higher order inluence. The pandemic has been one of those events that I have pondered in this regard.

© 2021 Dow Jones & Co., Inc. All rights reserved. 6DJ7945

For personal, non-commercial use only. Do not edit, alter or reproduce. For commercial reproduction or distribution, contact Dow Jones Reprints & Licensing at (800) 843-0008 or www.djreprints.com.


Thursday, August 19, 2021 | A7

* * * * *


Crackdown Belies Promises by Taliban BY SAEED SHAH AND SUNE ENGEL RASMUSSEN


would be decided by the future administration—which has yet to be established. But the Taliban’s behavior in recent months and years, as an insurgency, has left many Afghans fearing that the group will enforce its version of Islamic rule as brutally as it did in the past. So far, the Taliban have said that Afghans will enjoy the rights they are entitled to under Islam, but haven’t elaborated on what that means. Yet the Taliban this time take power in a changed Afghanistan. Social media allows documentation of abuses and instant dissemination—videos and photographs of the crackdown on protests spread


quickly online Wednesday. The group also faces a new educated and globally connected class of Afghans that has emerged in the cities over the last 20 years since the Taliban were ousted from power. Wednesday’s protests took

In a video on Facebook, Ashraf Ghani speaks from the U.A.E.

Deposed President Sheltering in U.A.E.


Continued from Page One desperate people at Kabul’s airport trying to flee, Mr. Biden said, “What I thought was, we have to gain control of this. We have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control of that airport. And we did.” The president said he was committed to getting U.S. citizens in the country out and expressed optimism that it could be done by the Aug. 31 deadline. Pushed on what he would do if there were U.S. citizens remaining after Aug. 31, he said: “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay till we get them all out.” Of Afghan allies the U.S. is looking to evacuate, Mr. Biden said: “The commitment holds to get everyone out that, in fact, we can get out and everyone who should come out.” The White House said on Tuesday that the Taliban had agreed to provide for the safe passage of civilians to the airport. But the continuing frustration voiced on Wednesday by Afghans over their treatment by the Taliban prompted new concerns in Washington. “We have seen reports that the Taliban, contrary to their public statements, and their commitments to our government, are blocking Afghans who wish to leave the country from reaching the airport,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said. White House officials said on Tuesday that obstruction by the Taliban of civilian access to the airport could result in U.S. military action. But on Wednesday, officials said they were continuing to try to negotiate with the insurgent group. Ms. Sherman emphasized the Taliban had assured the Biden administration it would allow U.S. citizens to reach the airport. She said they had honored that commitment. In the eastern cities, hundreds of locals walked through central streets and waved the black-red-and-green flags of the fallen Afghan republic to

Rahmanullah, a protester in Jalalabad, said that when several large groups of young people gathered in various places of the city to hoist the flag of the Afghan republic, the Taliban fired in the air to disperse the crowds. When the gathering continued to grow, the Taliban directed their guns at people, he said, killing two and injuring at least six. “There were some journalists who were filming this, and the Taliban also shot at them,” he said. In video footage shared on social media, two journalists working for Afghan media said the Taliban beat them with rifle butts. In Khost, it was younger members of the Taliban who cracked down on the crowd, locals said. Later, a more senior Taliban figure in the area tried to defuse the situation by putting the Afghan republic flag on his car in front of the

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Chaos Persists At Airport

Above, supporters joined remnants of forces still fighting the Taliban, in Panjshir province. Right, protesters in Jalalabad waved the flag of the fallen republic. The Taliban violently broke up the protests.


The Taliban met with gunfire the first political protests they faced after seizing power in Afghanistan, killing at least two people and injuring several others as they dispersed demonstrators who waved the flag of the fallen Afghan republic. The Taliban’s Islamic Emirate has its own white flag emblazoned with Islamic scripture—the same verse is also there in the republic flag, less prominently. The movement raised it in the Afghan cities that they conquered in the blitz offensive that culminated with Sunday’s collapse of the Afghan state and the escape of President Ashraf Ghani to the United Arab Emirates. On Wednesday, protesters gathered in several parts of the eastern cities of Jalalabad, Khost and Asadabad to take down the Emirate’s white flag and to hoist the black-redgreen banner of the Republic. Hundreds of protesters chanted “God is great” and “long live the flag.” These demonstrations erupted as the remnants of opposition to the Taliban began mobilizing for a possible armed resistance in one of the few places in the country not yet conquered by the militants, the Panjshir valley northeast of Kabul. Panjshir was one the last redoubts of resistance to the Taliban before the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. The Taliban are seeking to portray themselves as more tolerant than their harsh regime of the 1990s. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said at the group’s first news conference in Kabul on Tuesday that the movement would be inclusive in power. He said that the issue of which flag would be used

Deposed Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country as the Taliban surrounded the capital Kabul, has taken refuge in the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf state said Wednesday. The U.A.E.’s Foreign Ministry said it welcomed Mr. Ghani and his family, whose whereabouts had been unknown since Sunday, on “humanitarian grounds.” In a video Wednesday evening, 72-year-old Mr. Ghani said he had been negotiating with the Taliban on creating an “inclusive and representative” government but was forced to flee after the militants entered Kabul. —Rory Jones

chants of “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.” The Taliban dispersed these protests with gunfire, initially in the air. A witness in Jalalabad said two people were killed and several injured, including Afghan journalists who filmed the event. Anas Haqqani, a senior member of the Taliban, came to Kabul for a meeting with former President Hamid Karzai, who led Afghanistan until 2014, and with the fallen republic’s chief peace negotiator, Abdullah Abdullah. At Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, crowds of Afghans continued to gather along the perimeter, trying to flee the country. The Taliban once again repulsed these crowds with violence, beating

demonstrators, witnesses said. “People say that we are ready to lose our lives but we are determined to keep our flag,” said one eyewitness in Khost. The violence showed the problem the Taliban’s leadership may now have in controlling its lower ranks, many of whom come from the countryside and have a purely religious education. Omar Sadr, a professor of political science at Kabul’s American University of Afghanistan, said that there was a wave of criticism of the Taliban by Afghans on social media. Others had decided to carry on with their lifestyles, to be themselves, as a form of resistance. “The Taliban has not announced clear-cut do’s and don’ts. They have a policy to keep things ambiguous, to keep society in a state of fear,” he said. In Panjshir, a historical stronghold for the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and one of the few areas in the country not under Taliban control, the republic’s Vice President Amrullah Saleh was mobilizing what he called a resistance against the new Afghan rulers. Mr. Saleh said on Twitter that he was officially the country’s caretaker president, after former President Ghani fled the country on Sunday, and that he was reaching out to political leaders in the country to secure their support. Mr. Saleh didn’t respond to requests to comment. The formation of a northern resistance illustrates the potential challenge facing the Taliban of uniting sharply disparate political groups in a country that historically has been plagued by internal violence. Another leader from the north of the country, former foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani, said Tuesday that the Taliban had won only a military campaign. “They don’t have the support of the people,” said Mr. Rabbani.



Insurgents vowed to be more inclusive, but protests in three cities draw violent response

and whipping families trying to get through the checkpoints and unleashing volleys of gunfire in the air, witnesses said. Beyond the Taliban checkpoints, U.S. Marines at the gates of the airport focused mostly on keeping anyone from coming close. As a result, many of the evacuation flights continued leaving with empty seats even as tens of thousands of Afghans who worked with Western governments clamored for a way out before the Taliban track them down. “The situation is very bad at the gate,” said Lida Ahmadi, who applied for a special immigrant visa for Afghans who had helped the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. “I slept on the road last night. Now, after two nights and two days at the gate, we’ve finally got the chance to come in. I am so happy now,” she said shortly after getting through the gate. Many others haven’t made it, so far. Meanwhile, the 5,000 U.S. troops at the airport have gotten civil and military operations up and running. That has enabled the military to boost the pace of evacuation flights to 20 a day, with plans to increase the number. There are about 5,000 to 10,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan, U.S. officials have estimated. The U.S. military evacuated about 2,000 people in the last 24 hours, Ms. Sherman said. Officials will shortly invite more than 800 Afghan special immigrant visa holders to get on flights to the U.S., she added. A White House official said the U.S. military has evacuated nearly 6,000 people since Aug. 14. In the heart of Kabul, only one Western embassy—that of France—remained after all other Western missions shut or moved to the airport on Sunday. In the past three days, it has become a magnet for hundreds of Afghans and foreigners trying to get out. “The problem is that people believed in rumors of being able to go abroad without any documents or coordination,” said Hayatullah, a 47-year-old Afghan-American who spent the night outside the airport gate before being allowed inside Wednesday morning. “These people created a huge chaos.” —Catherine Lucey contributed to this article.

place in the provincial capitals of Nangarhar, Khost and Kunar. The violence was at its worst in Jalalabad, an important trade hub on the road between Kabul and the Pakistan border, and a city that fell to the Taliban just hours before Kabul.


Romantic master. Dramatic composition. Salon success. This original oil on canvas by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret depicts the famed scene from Abbé Prévost’s celebrated novel The Story of the Chevalier des Grieux and Manon Lescaut in which an anguished lover must bury his beloved. The story of Manon and des Grieux was hugely popular during DagnanBouveret’s lifetime and would inspire at least three other novels as well as numerous ballets, operas and films. The artist painted two versions of this work and exhibited one at the Paris Salon, where it won a medal; that work is now sadly lost, making this the only remaining version of the masterpiece. Superb in its execution, the composition embodies the emotional impact championed by the Romantic movement. Other works by Dagnan-Bouveret reside in prestigious museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. Signed and dated 1878. Canvas: 273/4”h x 391/2”w; Frame: 373/4”h x 497/8”w. #31-3835

622 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA • 877-677-2801 • [email protected] • msrau.com Since 1912, M.S. Rau has specialized in the world’s finest art, antiques and jewelry. Backed by our unprecedented 125% Guarantee, we stand behind each and every piece.

For personal, non-commercial use only. Do not edit, alter or reproduce. For commercial reproduction or distribution, contact Dow Jones Reprints & Licensing at (800) 843-0008 or www.djreprints.com.

A8 | Thursday, August 19, 2021

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The U.S. has largely secured the backing it needs to block the Taliban’s access to billions in reserves held at the International Monetary Fund and assistance pledged through the World Bank and other donor groups, according to people familiar with the matter. The country cannot access its reserves at the IMF or other fund resources, an official at the emergency lender told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. The administration’s diplomatic scramble to prevent the Taliban from tapping accounts established by the Afghan government has focused on ensur-

EU foreign ministers and representatives in Brussels took part in a videoconference on Afghanistan on Tuesday. Right, Afghan poppy fields. The Taliban control the world’s largest opium operation. people with disabilities, according to a United Nations report. Estimates of the Taliban’s annual combined revenues range from $300 million to upward of $1.6 billion a year, according to a June report from the U.N. Security Council, which oversees sanctions on Afghan terrorists. “The economy of Afghanistan remains overwhelmingly cash-based, with money-service providers providing the most widely used means of transferring or remitting funds both domestically and across borders,” said a U.N. report in May of last year. As evidence of the difficulties authorities face in clamping down on the Taliban’s financing, the U.N. said that, as of 2019, just $2.4 million had been frozen by international

authorities on grounds it was intended to finance terrorism. Despite its puritanical brand of Islam, the Taliban control the world’s largest opium operation, earning about $460 million a year from taxes on the sale of heroin moving through their territories alone, the U.N. says. The group also branched into methamphetamines, which have much higher margins, U.N. and U.S. officials warn. The Taliban’s sales surged after they retook a key heroin smuggling hub into Pakistan from a local Islamic State franchise, after joining in an offensive with Afghan and U.S. forces, the U.N. said in a report last year. ISIS had opposed the cultivation of poppies needed to produce the narcotic.

In 2020, the Taliban also made $464 million from the sale of onyx marble, gold, rare-earth minerals, copper, tin and zinc, the June U.N. report said. The Taliban’s territorial expansion boosted revenue from road fees and extortion campaigns against mobile telephone providers and electricity companies, the U.N. said last year. The Taliban have also been building their relationships in recent days with other nations that could help replace some lost income from foreign sources, analysts say. Besides new ties with Russia and India and bolstering their links with power brokers in Pakistan and Iran, the group also have an important new relationship with the world’s secondlargest economy, China.


By Ian Talley and Kate Davidson in Washington and Benoit Faucon in London

lishment of a governing authority, so it would be really premature to address that question.” The IMF official said the fund’s decision to block Taliban access is based on “a lack of clarity within the international community regarding recognition of a government in Afghanistan.” Other Western officials echoed the position. “No payments are going to be on the side of the development aid from the EU,” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, said after a videoconference with the bloc’s foreign ministers late Tuesday. “We will put conditions for continuing our support and we are going to use all our leverage,” he said. More than half of the country’s $5 billion annual budget is met by foreign aid. The Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, managed by the World Bank, provides roughly $3 billion a year. According to the IMF, such foreign assistance helped keep the economy from collapsing. Some U.S. officials say the Taliban’s existing income streams may prove substantial enough to partially offset those losses. The group reaps revenue from narcotics smuggling and has set up a shadow government that includes a mining ministry, a customs bureaucracy and even a department that aids


The Biden administration is set to cut off the Taliban’s access to billions of dollars in critical overseas finance, but some officials warn the terror group’s income from drug sales and other illicit activities threatens to undermine Washington’s pressure campaign.

ing the group isn’t recognized as the country’s legitimate government by foreign governments that control those accounts, the people said. Washington froze billions of dollars in Afghan assets and halted cash shipments to the country as the Taliban seized the nation’s capital over the weekend. U.S. officials say that financial leverage may be key to pressuring the Taliban into abiding by its peace agreements. U.S. officials have focused their efforts on the World Bank and the IMF, which funnel billions of dollars in aid to Afghanistan and manage some of the government’s overseas reserves. As long as a majority of the shareholders of the international financing institutions don’t officially recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government, it can’t access those funds, the people familiar with the matter say. “It is more than a matter of political recognition or diplomatic connectivity,” Ned Price, State Department spokesman, said Tuesday. “It’s an existential question.” National security adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday sidestepped questions about international recognition of the Taliban. “Right now, there is a chaotic situation in Kabul where we don’t even have the estab-

co Fo m rp m er er s ci on al a l us , e on

West cuts access to funds, but group has money-making blackmarket operations


Taliban’s Illicit Profit Evades Block on Cash

Military Fled Afghanistan With Dozens of Aircraft

Continued from Page One ing from the public sphere. Fawzia Koofi, an outspoken women’s rights defender and former parliamentarian who is in Afghanistan, said she was unable to give interviews under the current circumstances. Fatima Gailani, one of the few women who negotiated with the Taliban as part of the Afghan government, declined to comment. In Kabul, many young women have never worn a burqa, and some often appeared in public without headscarves. The wealthiest neighborhoods have come to resemble the West, with young Afghan men and women mixing freely in cafes. That is the lifestyle Fatimah Hossaini, a 28-year-old photographer, was accustomed to. Until a few days ago, she used to roam the streets of Kabul to photograph Afghan women and meet friends in cafes and

daughters abroad to university. But in some areas of Afghanistan that fell last week, the Taliban quickly imposed restrictions on women, banning them from leaving the house without a male relative and forcing them to wear burqas. Some commanders demanded families hand over unmarried women to marry their fighters. In Kabul, images of women on beauty parlors have been painted over or ripped off. In Kabul on Tuesday, a senior Taliban official was interviewed by a female broadcaster on Tolo News, Afghanistan’s leading news channel. But the next day, a female anchor employed by the state-run television network in Kabul appealed to the international community after she was denied her entry to her office building, while her male colleagues were allowed through. “I wanted to go to work and didn’t lose my courage. Unfortunately, they did not allow me,” said the journalist, Shabnam Dawran, in a video message. “If the international community hears my voice, please help us since our lives are being threatened.” Laurel Miller, a former U.S. diplomat who met with the

Taliban during the Obama and Trump administrations, said it was too early to interpret the mixed signals as the group has yet to form a government and establish the rule of law. “They unquestionably want legitimacy and money. They need access to financial resources. The question is, what will they do in exchange,” she said. She added, though, that even the most progressive Taliban government imaginable was unlikely to satisfy Western standards. Following the 2001 invasion, the U.S. and others invested heavily to promote gender equality. Girls’ schools reopened, women enrolled in universities and joined the workplace. Some were caught off guard by the Taliban takeover. A young female researcher didn’t expect Kabul to fall so quickly when she went to the office on Sunday in a short skirt. As the Taliban closed in she found herself trapped in the office, she said, too scared to venture outdoors in clothes she knew Taliban fighters would consider immodest. She considered wrapping herself in a curtain before she was escorted home in a car by a friend.


aircraft and other arms to the Afghan National Security Forces to enable them to defend the country. “We don’t have a complete picture, obviously, of where every article of defense materiel has gone, but certainly a fair amount of it has fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” Mr. Sullivan said at the White House. “And obviously, we don’t have a sense that they are going to readily hand it over to us at the airport.”

restaurants. She is now afraid of appearing in public. “What about everything we fought for in the past two decades? Today I’m afraid to show my photos. I am hiding myself,” Ms. Hossaini said. “I had my liberty; I had my freedom. We went to the gym, to restaurants. Sometimes I would not cover my hair in public. Everything has changed in a week.” In Saudi Arabia and Iran, which impose their own versions of Islamic law, limitations include dress codes for women and gender segregation in some public places. Life for women under Taliban rule in the 1990s was much more restrictive, when women were mostly confined to their homes, banned from education and forced to wear all-covering burqas in public. Young women who were born after the 2001 invasion by the U.S. said their dreams have shattered overnight. “A week ago, we were planning on how to study and work in the fall semester of university, but now everyone is scared to death,” said a female student. In his first news conference on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the group, which calls itself

Mr. Sullivan said there was no indication the Afghan forces remained intact. “The Afghan Security Forces appear to…no longer operate as a coherent entity,” he said. “They essentially have given way to Taliban physical security control over the major population centers.” Before the fall of the government, the U.S. touted the Afghan air force as one of the most lethal components of the country’s armed forces. Its in-

ventory included propellerdriven attack and reconnaissance planes and Black Hawk helicopters. Before the Afghan government’s defenses crumbled, the air force had about 160 aircraft, making the planes and helicopters now parked in Uzbekistan an equivalent to about 25% of the total inventory, said Jonathan Schroden, research program director at CNA, a nonprofit research group in Washington. “It’s a


Women Fade From Public View

substantial chunk.” Mr. Schroden said the Taliban seized some aircraft when they captured major provincial cities. He said the government kept the bulk of its air force anchored in Kabul, and that the aircraft in Uzbekistan were probably flown there shortly before the city’s fall. The Uzbek government said that one of the fleeing Afghan aircraft collided with one of Uzbekistan jet fighters, causing both to crash. Each of the

pilots ejected in the incident and parachuted to safety, Uzbek officials said. The departing aircraft mirrored a larger number of ground troops who have been fleeing across some of Afghanistan’s borders from the Taliban in recent weeks. “In the final stages of the war, the Afghan air force has been primarily a means of escape rather than a weapon for fighting,” said Ivan Safranchuk, a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. The Biden administration was in the process of bulking up the Afghan air force. Ashraf Ghani, who had served as Afghanistan’s president since 2014, had asked President Biden for additional Black Hawk helicopters and other aircraft during a visit to Washington in June, and the U.S. agreed to provide 37 of the helicopters, which would have significantly boosted the country’s fleet of Black Hawks. Many of Afghanistan’s existing Black Hawks were in the U.S. for refurbishment and others were awaiting maintenance and were grounded. Afghan aircraft mechanics relied on U.S. on-site help to keep the aircraft flying. But as U.S. forces and maintenance contractors withdrew and the Taliban offensive expanded during the spring and early summer, the Afghan air force and other military units were quickly overwhelmed, eventually collapsing.

Afghan forces fleeing Taliban fighters flew Black Hawk helicopters like this one shown in March to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.


A large portion of the Afghan air force has ended up in neighboring Uzbekistan, after hundreds of Afghan service members used U.S.-supplied planes and helicopters to flee the Taliban, U.S. officials said. At least 46 of the aircraft crossed over Afghanistan’s border into Uzbekistan since last weekend, when the Taliban seized Kabul and the government collapsed, U.S. officials said. The planes and helicopters carried a total of 585 members of Afghan forces with them, the officials said. A handful of airplanes were flown to Tajikistan, also on Afghanistan’s northern border. The U.S. embassies of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan didn’t respond to requests to comment. The migration of the aircraft comes as Washington is beginning to tally up how much of the billions of dollars in U.S.-supplied hardware has ended up with the Taliban. While U.S.-trained Afghan special forces put up stiff resistance in some places, the Taliban took most of the Afghan countryside and major cities without a fight. Taliban fighters now are patrolling Kabul and provincial capitals in U.S.-supplied Humvees and mine-resistant armored trucks, as the group consolidates its grip on the country. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday the U.S. provided the



The Taliban are forcing women in some areas to wear burqas. the Islamic Emirate, would respect women’s rights. “The Islamic Emirate is committed to the rights of women within the framework of Shariah,” or Islamic law, Mr. Mujahid said. “We would like to assure the international community that there’s not going to be any discrimination against women, but of course within the framework that we have. Our women are Muslim.” Many Afghan women remain unpersuaded by the Taliban’s pledge. “Although they say women will be allowed to go to work and get an educa-

tion, I cannot trust them because their words are ambiguous and because they caused a lot of terror,” said a 31-yearold civil servant based in Kabul who doesn’t own a burqa. “I haven’t even gone to a shop. I don’t want to see them.” The behavior of the Taliban toward women so far paints an uncertain picture. The Taliban’s rhetoric on women has softened, with the group, for instance, saying that women have a right to an education. Girls’ schools in some areas are open. Taliban leaders in Doha, Qatar, have sent their

For personal, non-commercial use only. Do not edit, alter or reproduce. For commercial reproduction or distribution, contact Dow Jones Reprints & Licensing at (800) 843-0008 or www.djreprints.com.


Thursday, August 19, 2021 | A9


Victory Was Years In Making

International ties

ists like O-Town, the VIP access passes make up more than half of their revenue. From 2016 to 2019, O-Town performed 50 concerts a year. In 2020, they did just one. The group booked 24 live shows for the second half of this year, starting last month in the Pop 2000 Tour with LFO, Ryan Cabrera, Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray and Lance Bass of *NSYNC. On top of a ticket, typically $25 to $60, O-Town offers a range of VIP packages priced from $250 to $1,000. VIP fans get into the venue early, listen to the sound check and take group photos. The more pricey packages let fans—in face masks—hang out with the band backstage and step out onstage during a song to record a video. Fist bumps are OK, but no hugs. “I would have a hard time if anybody leaned in for a hug,” O-Town member Jacob Underwood said. After shows, the band members used to take selfies holding the phones of admirers who paid $60 for a T-shirt. Now, fans have to take their own selfie, separated from the band by a wide folding table.

“The whole time we’re standing in the line practicing,” said Cortney Starks, 36, of the Denver area. “I only have one shot to get it right.” Spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant is again threatening to spoil the party. But if lockdowns return, O-Town has experience improvising. The group sold $15 tickets to three virtual concerts in February, March and April. The VIP options ranged in price from $100 to $500, including live Q&A video sessions attended by as many as 50 people. About 70 fans got a 25-minute private solo virtual meet-and-greet that came with the $500 package. Nicole McDonald, 34, of the Bronx in New York City, has been to about 40 O-Town shows since 2014. The registered nurse said she appreciated the casual vibe of the virtual meet-and-greet. On a late night in March, she chatted with the foursome from home—in pajamas, glasses and no makeup. “There wasn’t like a hustle and bustle of, ‘You need to take a picture and move on,’ ” she said. “Even though it wasn’t in person, it felt more personal.”


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touch with the population. The Taliban controlled large rural areas. They delivered services funded by international organizations or the central government, which saw the arrangement as preferable to cutting off entire swaths of the population. In Sangin in Helmand province, which until last week was the Taliban’s de facto capital in Afghanistan, a young pro-Taliban teacher said he opened a private school for boys where he taught the same subjects as government schools, using materials from public schools in Kabul and the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. People in government-held areas, he said, were afraid to send children to school because of the fighting, and the government didn’t pay teachers. In other instances, the Taliban used violence to co-opt government infrastructure. In 2017, the Taliban in Helmand kidnapped eight electricity workers and held them until the government promised not to cut power to areas under their control. As their shadow governments grew, the Taliban created an accessible system of governance and justice in the provinces. They set up local Ministries for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice to uphold Islamic law, as

Although the Taliban were internationally isolated in the 1990s, over the past two decades they have nurtured international relationships, particularly through the Haqqani network, a brutal wing of the movement that has ties to nonstate militant groups and foreign states, according to U.S. and Afghan officials. Two decades ago, the Taliban relied mostly on Pakistan for safe havens, training and arms. Now, they draw more varied support and funding, according to U.S. officials. Iran, historically an enemy of the Taliban, has nurtured ties with the movement while formally being an ally of the government in Kabul. Russia and China have both hosted Taliban leaders for peace consultations. While no country has yet recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate rulers, China said it looked forward to continuing its friendly relations with the country, and Russia said it didn’t plan to close its embassy in Kabul. Iran said it supported an inclusive government in Afghanistan. The Taliban ignited their final offensive this month, following Mr. Biden’s announcement that he would pull out all American troops unconditionally. Having spent months surrounding provincial capitals and cutting supply lines to government forces, the Taliban began picking off cities one by one, as the army and police defenses melted away, often surrendering or fleeing with little fighting. In tightknit rural communities, where Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters often knew one another, the two sides established communications channels to strike local cease-fire deals, Mr. Bahiss said. For years, Afghan soldiers complained about Kabul’s inability to pay their salaries. In recent months, troops told of Taliban fighters rewarding government soldiers who defected with $150, the equivalent of a month’s salary. In Jalalabad, the local Taliban commander gave the governor 24 hours to surrender in return for amnesty, which he did. “Our commanders fled from us without informing us in advance,” said Rafiullah Bashari, a 28-year-old soldier who served in Nangarhar until the governor gave up. “We were 25 soldiers, and we all decided we had to give up. They gave me a letter of amnesty, so I gave them my weapon.”

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, top, at a press conference Tuesday in Kabul. He said that Afghanistan wouldn’t pose a threat to the world, including the U.S. Crowds gathered, above, across from Kabul International Airport.


tect foreign diplomats and embassies, and that Afghanistan wouldn’t pose a threat to the world, including the U.S. “We will take very serious steps to improve our economy,” he said. “We have spoken to many countries that we want them to help us to improve our economy.” He said women would enjoy all the rights they are granted within the limits of Islamic law, without elaborating, and he promised amnesty to Afghans who had worked with the military. Given the Taliban’s past behavior, many Afghans suspect their rule will bring stricter limitations on women’s rights and violent enforcement of Islamic rule. In recent months, Afghans have told of Taliban fighters exacting arbitrary violence on civilians in areas they captured, forcibly marrying women with their fighters and marching women out of workplaces by gunpoint. After taking power, the Taliban have searched homes of private individuals and government workers, erected checkpoints across the city and beaten people in the streets, according to residents. The financial challenge could prove significant. Last week, the U.S. canceled bulk shipments of dollars to Afghanistan, and it is blocking Taliban access to government accounts


Continued from Page One dent Biden faulted the nation’s political leaders and its military for giving up without a fight. The failure of the coalition’s long and costly war, though, has more long-running and complicated causes. “The Taliban advance came very quickly, but it was years in the making,” said Ibraheem Bahiss, a Taliban expert with the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based conflict-resolution think tank. In Ghazni province, after pleading unsuccessfully for days with the government in Kabul to send air power and reinforcements, Gov. Dawood Laghmani surrendered last week to the Taliban. He asked the insurgents to grant him free passage out, but when he arrived in Maidan Shar near Kabul, he was arrested by government forces for deserting his duties. “Don’t arrest me,” he told Maidan Shar Gov. Lawang Faizan, according to a person who attended a meeting between the two men. “This government won’t support you. In two or three days, you will surrender, too,” which he did. Whether the Taliban will now be able to govern the country will depend partly on their ability to maintain sufficient support among the population and to unite the country’s opposing factions to prevent the kind of uprisings that have been a fixture of modern Afghan history. The first signs of resistance to Taliban rule came on Wednesday, when hundreds of residents in the eastern provinces of Jalalabad, Kunar and Khost walked through the streets waving the flag of the Afghan republic. Witnesses said the Taliban fired to disperse the crowds. When the Taliban seized Kabul in 1996, they promised Afghans they would rid the country of violent warlords and impose peace through strict Islamic rule. They make similar pledges today, but after 20 years of international aid to the nation, they face a new generation of Afghans accustomed to a different level of services, education and freedoms. Taliban leaders also will need to establish working relationships with foreign countries, something they failed to do when they ruled the country in the late 1990s. Back then, the nation was an international pariah with a collapsed economy. So far, at least, the Taliban appear to acknowledge they need a different type of government. To maintain some level of services, they allowed the Kabul mayor and the national health minister to retain their positions. For the first time in weeks, Kabul residents enjoyed nearly uninterrupted electrical service. In the past, Taliban attacks on the power grid caused frequent outages. In a Tuesday press conference, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the group had appointed security to pro-

they had in the late 1990s. One resident of a town in Logar province near Kabul, long under Taliban control, recalled last year seeing Taliban fighters punish an alleged motorcycle thief in the bazaar. After keeping him in prison for two months, he said, the Taliban dragged the thief in front of 2,000 people, where a cleric beat his back until he passed out. In areas that it ruled, the Taliban raised money through taxation in villages and on highways. It profited from Afghanistan’s drug trade through smuggling, protection rackets and taxing of farmers, and it taxed legal and illegal fuel trade with Iran.

managed by Federal Reserve and other U.S. banks. Afghanistan’s former central bank governor, Ajmal Ahmady, who left the country Sunday, said because of the nation’s large current-account deficit, it depended on weekly shipments of cash. “The accessible funds to the Taliban are perhaps 0.1% to 0.2% of Afghanistan’s total international reserves. Not much,” Mr. Ahmady said on Twitter Wednesday.

Popular discontent

For years, popular discontent with a corrupt Afghan government and provincial leaders who were sometimes involved in organized crime and drug smuggling fueled Taliban recruitment efforts. The Taliban presented themselves as more reliable, effective and pious. “The Taliban are very patient,” said Faiz Mohammad Zaland, a professor on the political-science faculty at Kabul University. “They knew how to capitalize on the local resistance.” The Taliban used Islam as a foundation for their court decisions. In many conservative parts of Afghanistan, Mr. Zaland said, Islamic guidance held more authority than the government. Mr. Zaland recalled that years ago in his remote home district in eastern Paktika prov-

ince, a local tribe was feuding with Kuchi nomads over a meadow where the nomads had settled. After the nomads traveled to the provincial capital and got government permission to use the land, a group of elders from the tribe went across the border to Pakistan to raise their case with Taliban leaders. They returned with a religious edict giving them the right to the land, which the Kuchis respected, Mr. Zaland said. The government, unable to travel to the district due to Taliban pres-

Discontent with a corrupt Afghan government fueled Taliban recruitment.

ence, didn’t intercede. The shadow governments “legitimized the Taliban’s resistance, delegitimized the Afghan government and created links to people, which helped with recruitment,” Mr. Zaland said. The Afghan central government under President Ashraf Ghani, who spent most of his adult life outside Afghanistan and took power in 2014, consisted mostly of foreign-educated young professionals, who many Afghans saw as out of

Fans Must Keep Their Distance Continued from Page One fans who want to get close. Even by the loose standards of show business, Covid-19 has made things weird. Popular groups have for years supplemented their income by selling a tiny bit of their time to fans, arranging backstage meetups that usually involve hugs, handshakes, some small talk and a selfie. Fans pay as much as $1,000 or more for the VIP treatment. “As fans have grown up and have expendable income, they are willing to pay a premium for access,” said Mr. Fischetti, 45 years old. Lockdowns wrecked everything: No live shows, no backstage chitchat, no lucrative meet-and-greets.. The Aces, an indie pop band, met remotely with fans who logged in from living rooms, bedrooms and, in one

case, a U.S. Navy ship. Fans who paid about $40 for private video chats could gush over their heartfelt connection with the music until they disappeared from the screen when a timer hit two minutes. “I don’t think anything could have really prepared us for how that was going to be,” said Katie Henderson, The Aces’ guitarist. When the number of new Covid-19 cases fell this spring, many musicians orchestrated a return to live performances and in-person VIP events. For $111, Mr. Fischetti’s LFO fans can buy the “Chinese food with Brad” package. The gimmick is that the song “Summer Girls” has the repeating lyric: New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits, Chinese food makes me sick. It turns out former lead singer Rich Cronin, now deceased, didn’t like Chinese food, but Mr. Fischetti does. The fan meal hosted by Mr. Fischetti is typically held two hours before his sound check on the day of a show. The tour required tracking down Chinese restaurants within shouting distance of venues. The Chinese restaurant in



From left, fans Liz McCauley, Margarette Wahl, Stephanie Fuller; LFO’s Brad Fischetti, Floyd McCollum and manager Mike Caputo. Xenia where VIP fans looked forward to a meal with Mr. Fischetti last month turned out to be offering only takeout food because of the pandemic. It was raining, so everybody drove to a nearby McDonald’s. That, too, was closed to indoor dining. They ended up at Wendy’s. “He was telling us some intimate stories about them, and

we were just sitting there eating french fries and chicken nuggets,” said Margarette Wahl, 48, of Massapequa, N.Y., a teacher’s aide. Ms. Wahl, a longtime fan, first saw Mr. Fischetti perform at a gig shared with O-Town in 2019, one of their final shows before the pandemic pulled the plug. For some independent art-

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A10 | Thursday, August 19, 2021






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American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE, Amgen, Cless Family Foundation, Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, Farrah Fawcett Foundation, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Laura Ziskin Family Trust, Legacy Circle, LUNGevity Foundation, Mirati Therapeutics, Pancreatic Cancer Canada, Sara Schottenstein Foundation, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, Lew, Jean, and Kari Wolff Stand Up To Cancer is a division of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

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© 2021 Dow Jones & Company. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, August 19, 2021 | A11



Pop Its have exploded in popularity over the past year, driven by a combination of pandemic stress and viral TikTok videos. Clips of Pop Its are proliferating across the platform, with #fidgettoys driving 12.5 billion views as of the middle of August, turning what their makers and sellers thought would be a fleeting trend into a social-media fueled obsession that seems to be sticking. “Nothing has ever lasted this long,” said Jamie Glassberg, a coowner of Top Trenz, a toy company based out of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., that produces a variety of such poppable fidgets called OMG! Pop Fidgety! “You would think that it would slow down but it’s not at all.” Fidget spinners trended briefly in 2017, but the current cohort of fidget toys have expanded far beyond those in shape, color and usability. “The last trend was the spinners. They were spinners and that was it,” said Rob Kracinovich, senior buyer of toys at Learning Express Toys and co-owner of a store in Westborough, Mass. “There wasn’t any TikTok back then.” (TikTok launched in the U.S. in 2017; but didn’t take off until later.) FoxMind, the original maker of Pop Its, says the idea for the toy came to its creator in a dream and started as a game where players


n a recent Saturday, 11year-old Madison O’Keefe went on a hunt. According to a TikTok video, The Learning Express and The Teaching Room, a toy store in Morristown, N.J., carried dozens of varieties of Pop Its, fidget toys that mimic the sensation of popping bubble wrap and come in strawberry, avocado and unicorn shapes. Madison already owned 145 fidget toys, which are tools often used by therapists. To grow her collection and find ones that her friends didn’t have, she dragged her mom almost 30 minutes from her home in Succasunna, N.J., to the store where displays stacked with fidgets ranged from 99 cents to $30. She bought two $5 surprise bags filled with an assortment of Pop Its and other fidget toys such as sticky elastic string called Monkey Noodles; squishy Nee Doh Balls, and squeezable Edamame Pods. “They’re really entertaining and satisfying to play with,” she said. With her new haul, she planned to create videos for her private TikTok account and then trade them with friends. “They’re really popular,” she said. Plus, she added, “it helps release stress.”

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The fidget toys that mimic popping bubble wrap exploded in popularity on TikTok in the past year


Selling a Car? What You Need to Know BY J.J. MCCORVEY



hen Erin Adams decided to leave the Portland, Ore., area and consider cheaper locations, she prepared to sell her secondhand 2005 Toyota Scion xB so she could buy something more capable of hauling her belongings. Ms. Adams, a 41-year-old technical writer for an automotive-safety agency, had seen reports of the redhot car market. Earlier this month, she posted an ad to Craigslist— “Manual transmission, 81k miles, Shiny!”—and received eight offers in her inbox within 24 hours. After the eventual buyer found out the car needed a new clutch, Ms. Adams ended up reducing her asking price from $4,000 to $2,800. “If it hadn’t been for the clutch, I would have sold it for what I bought it for 3½ years ago,” Ms. Adams says. Ms. Adams joins a rush of consumers vying to make a profit by selling their vehicles as prices for used cars and trucks have skyrocketed. Over the past 12 months, the index for used cars and trucks rose 41.7%, according to the consumerprice index. Prices for new vehicles rose 6.4%, the largest jump since the period ended January 1982. According to J.D. Power, that amounts to an average used-vehicle price increase of $5,000, creating a rare opportunity for consumers to sell their used vehicles, a notoriously depreciating asset, for perhaps as much as they originally


How Pop Its Toys Got So Cool



Madison O’Keefe, 11, shows off her fidget collection. Viral videos helped fuel a craze for Pop Its, which come in a variety of shapes and colors.

popped back and forth until no more bubbles were left unpopped. The company says that it sold more than 7 million units in North America between 2020 and 2021; it sold 700,000 units in 2019. “It was just a nuclear explo-


views of TikTok videos tagged #fidgettoys in 2021 as of mid-August

sion,” said David Capon, president of FoxMind, a private toy company based in Montreal. Shoppers from younger children to parents are picking up fidgets. “It is rare for something to work across all demographics,” says Mark Thoma, the vice president of design

you back in the office, and what will your commute look like? If you have a vehicle you are happy with, think twice about selling. It may be hard to replace it with something comparable.

Be ready to negotiate purchased them or more. There are signs that the market is plateauing—prices rose 0.2% for used vehicles in July, compared with substantial increases in recent months—but experts don’t expect a drastic drop soon. As the global computer-chip shortage limits the number of new vehicles for sale, requests for appraisals on Edmunds.com have risen nearly 40% for the past two quarters. “Everything is bonkers,” says Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics at J.D. Power. “It’s something that we’ve never seen before, and I don’t know if we ever will again.” Here is what you need to know before putting your wheels on the market:

With any auto sale, enter negotiations with as much data as possible. In addition to visiting sites such as Vroom or CarMax for an appraisal, sellers also benefit from getting multiple quotes for repairs needed.

and marketing at Buffalo Games, and a former director of merchandise buying for toys at Target. Fer De Leon, 20, and Mau De Leon, 16, a brother and sister from Houston, have amassed 3.3 million followers on a TikTok account they started in March 2020 to highlight their fidget toys and other interests. “Whatever is super trending, we add fidgets to it,” says Ms. De Leon. The siblings have made a video tossing heart-shaped Pop Its in their pool and diving for them. In another, they count them all in a box—they are up to 61. Tapping into the #fidgethunting trend, they filmed themselves shopping for Pop Its at a Learning Express in Houston, where they found extra large Pop Its and phone case versions. Fidget hunting inspires children to descend on toy stores across the country to find the best and newest versions of the toys, and has buoyed local toy shops. “It has gotten people back into the store,” said Lindsay Dodson, owner of Serendipity Kids Boutique in Van Buren, Ark. “It has been good advertising for us.” Learning Express, which has 90 toy stores across the U.S., is working to finalize its holiday catalog product selection, which is normally completed in the spring. For the first time, Mr. Kracinovich says they waited until the last moment

to select the newest fidgets so it has the freshest versions for holiday shopping. Sage Selander, who found out about fidgets from YouTube, uses her toys during school, where she is allowed to have quiet versions to play with at her desk. “I use them to help me focus,” said the 11-year-old from Chadds Ford, Pa., who lists the Simple Dimple, a silicone bubble that users pop back and forth, among her favorites. Before the pandemic, The Learning Express and The Teaching Room in Morristown saw about 100 new customers a month, according to owners Diane and Amanda Bowser. Now, they say they are averaging around triple that because of Pop Its. Liz Parsons visited the store in June when her 8-year-old daughter Lina found the store online after visiting other Learning Express stores in the area. Lina mapped it from her home in Rockaway, N.J., and convinced her mom to take her and her 10-year-old brother, Ryder. The siblings grabbed Pop Its, Pop Tubes, cherry slime and more. “She watches YouTube all the time and [one of Lina’s favorites] comes to Learning Express and does videos of all the different stuff,” she said. “She was dying to come.” They left with two full shopping bags.

fice a little bit of profit potentially, but at least you’re on a level playing field with whomever you’re speaking with.”

some form of tax credit for vehicle trade-ins, Mr. Dundas notes. So if you are looking to profit from your current vehicle by upgrading into another, look into your state’s taxcredit policies, which can vary depending on the state’s sales tax or even dealership location.

Calculate what you really stand to profit Your car’s selling price is affected by more than your quote minus repair costs. Sellers should get up-to-date on how much they owe on their loans. Depending on market conditions, the terms of the loan, and how much is left to pay off, you might

Do you need a car? The first question prospective car sellers should ask themselves is whether they will need to replace the car they are selling. “Individuals best able to take advantage of this opportunity are those that have an extra car,” Mr. Jominy says. “Doing it for profit in a situation where you need your car or both cars in your household means you’re going to have to be back on the car market,” where the average transaction for new vehicles recently surpassed $40,000, up nearly 15% from last year. Consider your situation when it comes to your household finances and transportation. For example, when will your employer require

What if I am near the end of a lease term? Mr. Drury urges consumers to check the terms of their vehicle lease before attempting to sell. Some auto financing companies have tightened rules around how long lessees have to wait before unloading their car or truck, forcing some lessees to first buy the car outright, he says. Contact the financing company and familiarize yourself with the terms. Mr. Drury advises consumers who are currently leasing and want a new vehicle to go back and do it again. “It’ll probably be the absolute cheapest way to get another ride right now,” he says. “Slide into the cheapest lease you can to hold you over until inventory right-sizes itself, and then you can go and find that blowout sale and all the stuff we’re accustomed to seeing.”

Dealer or Direct? The price for used cars has skyrocketed, prompting many people to sell. Presenting the buyer with a range of the costs might result in less money out-of-pocket for the seller to make repairs or less money that the seller will have to knock off the asking price, says Ivan Drury, an automotive analyst for Edmunds.com. “You want to be able to tell someone, I’ve got three quotes,” says Mr. Drury. “You might sacri-

find that you owe more on the car than it is worth, says Matt Dundas, director of finance at Carvana Co. Conversely, at the current rate of appreciation, you might find that you can sell your car and have more than enough left to pay off the loan, he says, “which has been kind of driving more people to consider and explore selling their car.” Additionally, most states offer

Lastly, if you decide to sell, you need to consider what offers you will get—and where. Some dealership groups might be so hungry for used-car inventory that you might find the highest offer there, Mr. Drury says. Sites like Carvana and Vroom may have competitive offers as well and will pick up your vehicle directly from your driveway. A representative from Carvana says the company bought a record number of cars from customers in the second quarter of this year.

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A12 | Thursday, August 19, 2021




Goop, wellness has evolved into the ultimate luxury item. “The White Lotus,” an HBO satire set at a Hawaiian resort whose finale aired Sunday, features a subplot that follows Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), a wealthy woman on a quest for healing who has come to Maui with her dead mother’s ashes. Tanya gets a massage from the spa manager, Belinda (Natasha Rothwell). After showing little interest when Belinda confides about the death of her own mother, she follows Belinda’s voice in a chant, buying into it even as the words turn absurd. “Every moment…I am being born into this life,” Tanya says. “I will drop the story…and feel the newness of each moment…I am my own phallic mother…I’m my own vaginal father…I fill my own cup.” She

Consumerism bathed in essential oils: A spate of TV series, podcasts and books are finding grist in the wellness industry.

Shangri-La diet, an antitaste regimen whose participants may avoid smells by using a swimmer’s nose clip at mealtimes, to pads that purport to suck out toxins via the feet. “I love when someone tells me that something has changed their life,” Ms. Novak says in the podcast’s first episode. “A drink, a beverage, a powder, a tincture,” Ms. Berlant interjects. “A practice, a mantra,” Ms. Novak continues. Justine Kay, with co-host Daniela Krasner, talks about the dangers of certain wellness messages on “Zen What?” The self-produced podcast unveiled last month examines the industry through the experiences of people of color rather than those of the white women often at its forefront. “There comes a lot of guilt when


The Wellness Industry Gets Skewered in Series, Books

you’re being told the reason you can’t get thinner is because you’re not doing intuitive eating and you live in a food desert,” Ms. Kay says, referring to trends du jour. Novels cast the wellness industry as consumerism bathed in essential oils. “How much can you trust a company that is promising to make you better when they also have a vested interest in taking your money?” asks Sheila Yasmin Marikar, whose novel, “The Goddess Effect,” about an exclusive Los Angeles fitness studio with hints of “Get Out,” sold last month to Little A, an imprint of Amazon publishing. To some, wellness is just a more elegant name for diet culture. And Instagram is its natural habitat. “We don’t talk about counting calories anymore—that’s not feminist—but we post videos of ourselves doing yoga in thong leotards, deadlifting in crop tops, relishing our vegan oat bowl,” says Leigh Stein, whose 2020 novel “Self Care” explores the dark underbelly of an online wellness community called Richual. “I see the extremes so much more often than I see the moderation—extreme thinness, extreme fitness, extreme indulgence. I think that’s a function of the internet. I don’t see moderation because it wouldn’t do well with the algorithm,” she says. Wellness bashing is an easy target these days, says Beth McGroarty, vice president of research at the Global Wellness Institute. “It is fascinating to see how wellness is represented in the cultural zeitgeist as mind control, as dystopian and positively Gothic, always focusing on the most out-there solutions and therapies that make you shriek or roll your eyes,” she says. The wellness world didn’t always grab the spotlight. “I remember in the ’80s, when wellness was someone’s mom who would be into gross health food bread or carob cake—it was very unappetizing,” says Gabrielle Moss, author of the 2016 humor book “Glop: Nontoxic, Expensive Ideas That Will Make You Look Ridiculous and Feel Pretentious.” In the book, Ms. Moss offers an antiwrinkle treatment that requires becoming mummified and lying motionless in a sarcophagus, a piña colada colonic and a workout that involves whispering athletic-sounding words to a glass of water. A disclaimer tells readers not to try this at home.



emerges euphoric and offers to help fund a spa for Belinda. Later, she backs off the idea, crushing Belinda’s dream—all in the name of her own self-care. Comedy podcast “Poog”—Goop spelled backward—launched last fall with comedians Kate Berlant and Jacqueline Novak sharing their wellness obsessions. Between them, Ms. Berlant and Ms. Novak have tried everything from the


Two New Dramas To Watch BY CHRIS KORNELIS




his week we talk to creators and stars of new streaming series. Adrien Brody explains the imperfect hero of “Chapelwaite” and Amanda Peet discusses why she made a show about women who go first. Here’s where to stream it all:

need to be captured in a depiction of the heroic character,” he says. “And more often than not, they’re not incorporated on that level. I feel like I was given quite a lot of breadth to represent all of that within Charles Boone.”

New Release: ‘The Chair’

(Netflix) Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim takes over as the head of a university’s English department, becoming the first woman to hold the role and one of the faculty’s rare persons of color.

should get in the way of an intimate one. Amanda Peet co-created and largely wrote “The Chair,” a six-part, three-hour dramatic comedy that premieres Friday on Netflix. Best known for her roles in movies like “Syriana” and “Something’s Gotta Give,” and TV shows like “Brockmire,” Ms. Peet says she was drawn to the idea of women and women of color who go first. “I was really interested in: What is it like to have to do the actual job itself, but then

New Release: ‘Chapelwaite’ (Epix, Epix Now) In this new 10part drama that premieres Sunday on Epix and the Epix Now streaming service, Adrien Brody plays Capt. Charles Boone, a recently widowed husband, a father of three and the Above, Adrian Brody stars in ‘Chapelwaite.’ inheritor of a large family home and sawmill in Preacher’s Corner, Maine, in the mid-1800s. Though the Captain and his children are new arrivals to Preacher’s Corner, their name and family home, Chapelwaite, have long been associated with darkness and have recently been blamed for a mysterious illness making its way through the town. Once they settle in and hire a governess—played by Emily Hampshire of “Schitt’s Creek”—the family develops its own suspicions about Her staff includes professors the home. The series is based on Ste- who don’t think she can lead the department and others phen King’s short story “Jeruanxious for change. salem’s Lot.” Mr. Brody says Played by Sandra Oh, Dr. that when he read the script, Kim also has to contend with he was taken by Boone’s Jay Duplass’s Bill Dobson. The complex character as a torformer chair of the departtured man and father who ment is now her subordinate, fights for his children, but and his life is in shambles. He who also isn’t a caricature of is still dining out on his early a hero. He isn’t without fear, success—and doesn’t think Mr. Brody notes. their professional relationship “All those imperfections



he wellness industry is getting some uncomfortable treatments. In “Nine Perfect Strangers,” a new Hulu series that debuted this week, desperate people arrive at a mysterious California wellness retreat in search of personal transformation. When a guest objects to the serene-looking staffers secretly rifling through his luggage, the possibly psychotic wellness guru played by Nicole Kidman looks deep into his eyes, unfazed. “But you’re mine now,” she says, “and you want to be mine.” The wellness industry is either a savior of lost souls or a force slimier than snail serum—maybe a little of both—in a new lineup of TV series, podcasts and books. The business of self-care, estimated to be a $4.5 trillion industry by nonprofit research group Global Wellness Institute, has taken the wellness lifestyle from the yeasty confines of health-food stores to glossy global brands. And to artists, it is ripe for skewering. “We’re all looking for that easy quick fix that’s going to make us all better people, happier people, and the inherent ridiculousness of that quest is very interesting and amusing to me,” says Jonathan Levine, director of “Nine Perfect Strangers,” an eight-episode series based on a Liane Moriarty novel with a cast that includes Melissa McCarthy and Michael Shannon. Mr. Levine, whose crew put a camera in a blender to capture reverent shots of smoothies, is quick to admit that he participates in the culture he’s critiquing. “I will do anything for the promise of just being a slightly better person,” says the director, calling himself a “two-time-a-week therapy person.” He was intrigued by his therapist’s recent musings on the hypothetical use of the drug MDMA, or ecstasy, to address an issue in his family history. “I was like, ‘OK, if you think that’ll help me, I’m all in,’ ” he says. Movies, TV and books have long featured scenes of gurus and spa treatments gone wrong, and wellness has been in pop culture since the 1950s era of “The Jack LaLanne Show.” But in a time of Instagram and designer lifestyle companies like Gwyneth Paltrow’s

Nicole Kidman in ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’

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Below, Sandra Oh in ‘The Chair.’ on top of that to have to navigate all of this subliminal and sometimes overt shit that’s being thrown at you?” she says.

Program Note: ‘Physical’

(Apple TV+) The series starring Rose Byrne as a 1980s housewife who becomes an aerobics pioneer has been picked up for a second season. Bobby Cannavale—a star in the new Hulu series “Nine Perfect Strangers” and Ms. Byrne’s longtime partner— says that while she was preparing for the role he never knew when she was practicing. So, he would come home from work and find her using the living room as an aerobics studio. “It was very funny to watch that progress,” he says, “because she’d be the first one to tell you, she’s not like a natural mover, let’s say. She came a long way.”

For personal, non-commercial use only. Do not edit, alter or reproduce. For commercial reproduction or distribution, contact Dow Jones Reprints & Licensing at (800) 843-0008 or www.djreprints.com.



Thursday, August 19, 2021 | A13


Under the Album’s Warm Surface



of avoiding self-reflection. “I heard that you were doing yoga / With Uma Thurman’s mother / Just outside of Woodstock” goes the opening line in “Dominoes,” a brief number in the record’s second half featuring only a plucked guitar and a soft thump of percussion. It’s about a man who uses people and then thinks he can grow as a person by following the right trends. And in the penultimate “Mood Ring” Lorde assumes the character of someone who turns to “sun salutations” and meditation— but away from the yoga mat she’s not sure how she actually feels about anything. This push-and-pull—the desire to slow down and leave behind the overload of the digital world, on the one hand, and the knowledge that such pursuits can be empty if

Lorde’s ‘Solar Power’ puts on a sunny front but is filled with tension about the modern world.



undertaken in the wrong spirit, on the other—gives the record a peculiar tension at odds with its placid surface. And the lyrics take on added importance because the arrangements are so minimal. At times, as on the songs “Big Star” and “Leader of a New Regime” late in the album, there’s just enough happening musically to hold one’s interest, which keeps it in goodnot-great territory—this is the weakest of her three LPs. But there’s much to admire in its daring quietude. “Oceanic Feeling,” the closing track, is a long exhale of a song that begins with voice and a faint keyboard drone and builds to a midtempo ballad with a trip-hop lope in the drums. The singer is noticing the beauty around her and experiencing gratitude along with a certain amount of peace, and it feels earned. Ms. YelichO’Connor arrives at this epiphany from a place of enormous privilege—there’s a lot more time to chill out and tune into what’s important when you don’t have to worry about money—but there’s enough uncertainty and selfawareness on the record to give her the benefit of the doubt. “Now the cherry-black lipstick’s gathering dust in a drawer,” she sings, alluding to the gothic look she adopted early on. “I don’t need her anymore.” We’ll see.

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teenager sings quirky, personal songs that are indie-informed but also ready for the pop mainstream: We’ve had two big records along these lines in 2021—Olivia Rodrigo’s “Sour” and Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever”—but Lorde got there first. When the album “Pure Heroine” was released in fall 2013, the New Zealand-born Ella YelichO’Connor was just 16 years old, and it was immediately obvious that she was a major talent. She sang with a cheerful smirk as she derided the indulgences of her peers—the No. 1 hit “Royals” was a commentary on the celebratory materialism found in pop and hiphop—but she didn’t spare herself from criticism. Her vocal style, much imitated in the years since, was all her own. Reality shows like “American Idol” had steered young pop stars toward technical displays, but Lorde delivered her lyrics in a half-spoken, rap-like cadence that went from a whisper to a sneer. Powered by “Royals,” which won Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance, “Pure Heroine” hit No. 3 on the charts. Lorde returned in 2017 with “Melodrama,” which inaugurated her partnership with producersongwriter Jack Antonoff, and sounded very little like its predecessor. Kicking off with the explosive single “Green Light,” the ’80sinspired LP was bright, loud and joyous, but it didn’t match the commercial success of Lorde’s debut. It’s clear now that chart success is a secondary concern for Lorde. At age 24, she returns with her third album, “Solar Power” (Universal), out Friday, another 90degree turn that’s entirely different from her previous two records. Once again working with Mr. Antonoff, Lorde has crafted a hushed, intimate collection of songs that are light on hooks and heavy on introspection. Its dispatches on the lure of fame and its ultimate emptiness sound like they were composed amid rustic domesticity. You won’t hear these tunes blasting out of cars. It’s a work made for a streaming world, not one driven by radio. These meditations don’t need to count on random encounters to win new fans— they’ll be passed around on social media by existing devotees and listened to alone on headphones. When the title track was released as a single in June, the accompanying beach-party video hinted at a different direction for the album, one where it might be the ultimate soundtrack to a carefree seaside romp. “The girls are dancing in the sand / And I throw

Lorde’s third LP, ‘Solar Power,’ is out this Friday; the album was made with producer-songwriter Jack Antonoff my cellular device in the water,” she sang, seemingly without a care in the world. With its memorable, accumulating structure and singalong chorus, the choice of “Solar Power” as the first single makes sense. But this simplistic ode to positive vibes is an outlier on its parent record. There’s a lot of tension to be found here, even when the presentation is mellow and relaxed. In these songs, Lorde turns to

alternative spirituality to cope with the anxiety of the world, like many of her generation. But, the title track aside, nothing is easy. On the opener “The Path,” she introduces herself by saying she was “born in the year of OxyContin”— Purdue Pharma patented the drug in 1996—and sings in the final verse “Now if you’re looking for a savior, well that’s not me.” She suspects healing and tranquility might be found by slowing down

and appreciating nature, but getting there is another matter. In the ballad “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” she contemplates her life while high at the titular establishment, unsure if she’s making the right choices or if she should trust her own weed-addled musings. Lorde craves the curatives offered by new-age culture, but also realizes its potential for ridiculousness and pokes fun at those who indulge in self-care as a way

Mr. Richardson is the Journal’s rock and pop music critic.





Will the Taliban Stop the Music in Afghanistan?


he world witnessed the Taliban takeover of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021. But we cannot yet imagine what this means for the people and culture of Afghanistan. Last time the Taliban ruled our land, girls could not go to school. Women could not leave home unless cloaked in burqas. Music, so central to our national identity and our human rights, was made illegal. As a consequence of the Taliban policies outlawing music, there was an exodus of musicians and performers, and total collapse of music education. For five long years, the nation was forced into silence. The rubab, our national instrument, was smashed. Already torn apart by decades of war, Afghans witnessed and experienced, and the world watched, our country’s cultural genocide. Our society faced its darkest days. After the U.S.-led coalition pushed the Taliban from power, Afghanistan slowly began to rebuild. As a music educator, I returned from Australia to see how I could contribute in my homeland. Based primarily in Kabul, I strove to bring back quality music education. With the support of the national and international community, I founded the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in 2010. From its inception, our school set out to celebrate musical and cultural diversity, offering an immersion not only in Afghanistan’s own rich musical heritage, but also in those of India, Central Asia and Europe. While Afghan girls and young women were traditionally excluded from many musical

disciplines, ANIM was glad to educate them, confident that their inclusion could only enrich our art. Committed to providing quality education to students of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, we granted scholarships to some of Afghanistan’s most disadvantaged young people. ANIM became a place for everyone. One visitor called it the happiest place in Afghanistan. Looking back, I recall many moments that would come to symbolize our country’s progress since 2001. Before ANIM’s inauguration, I told a documentary filmmaker that I could hear, as clearly as though they actually existed, the sounds of the first Afghan orchestra. At that time the school did not yet have any instruments. But through the generosity and hard work of all involved, my vision was soon to become a reality. In 2013, ANIM’s orchestra embarked on its first U.S. tour, appearing at the Kennedy Center and selling out Carnegie Hall. Members of the orchestra included a girl who not long before had sold chewing gum on the streets of Kabul. Now she performed on the same fabled New York stage as Tchaikovsky and the Beatles. ANIM went on to play at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a few years later and

Afghan music students play their instruments during a practice session at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul in March 2018, above; students in Afghanistan's first all-female orchestra, Zohra, play sitar during a practice session at ANIM in June 2019, left

toured Europe with its all-female orchestra, Zohra, under the batons of two women, then was awarded the prestigious Polar Music Prize. Together, its young students shared the beauty of our nation’s ancient musical traditions with audiences around the world. For me, though, our greatest successes were marked by the smiles of the Afghan girls and boys who came to share their private triumphs with me in my of-

fice back at home. I never felt more proud than when a young cellist passed her final exam, or a small boy joyfully played his first song on the rubab. Now the rubab’s strings have once again fallen silent in Afghanistan. There is speculation that today’s Taliban has changed. They promise respect for diversity and human rights, but we must watch and wait to see if the change is genuine and lasting, as they have not yet announced their policies toward music and other creative endeavors they banned a generation ago. It is my fervent hope that this time our fears will prove to be unfounded. When circumstances demand it, Afghans show the same unbreakable character as the mighty mountains that dominate

our landscape. We can never truly give up our music or our way of life. I cherish the optimistic belief that today’s Taliban leaders will recognize this unquenchable spirit and honor their new promises. I ask the international community to join me in my heartfelt hope that things will be different this time around. I ask for us to work together to ensure that ANIM and other Afghan musicians will have their musical rights respected and the freedom to continue to share their unique cultural heritage with music-lovers around the world. Let the strings of the rubab continue to reverberate in the land of their birth. Mr. Sarmast is the founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. He is currently in Australia.

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A14 | Thursday, August 19, 2021



The All Blacks Meet Resistance



All Blacks players perform the haka.


was partly due to the pandemic—on top of losses in 2019 and 2018. Long term, revenue has been growing about 8% a year and expenses at about 10%-11% a year. Generating more revenue, even for rugby’s top global brand, isn’t simple. Kirk, who captained the All Blacks to their first Rugby World Cup victory in 1987, said playing more games isn’t feasible because of the physical toll of a contact sport that’s most entertaining when played offensively. Kirk is also chairman of Forsyth Barr, a finan-

The strength of amateur rugby has faded, while other sports have grown in popularity.

cial-services company that developed a proposal to raise $135 million via the listing of a 5% stake in All Blacks’ commercial rights on New Zealand’s stock market. New Zealand Rugby’s Robinson said several capital raising models were considered. He believes Silver Lake, which in 2019 invested in the owner of Manchester City soccer club, has technology expertise and global connections to grow revenue—which New Zealand Rugby can’t afford to create by itself. Market research suggests there


NO COUNTRY HAS WON more rugby world cups than New Zealand. No brand is bigger in the global game than its All Blacks. Beneath that aura of success, however, lies a growing vulnerability for rugby in New Zealand: a patchwork of cash-strapped grassroots clubs and unions, dwindling numbers of volunteers, and an aspiration to promote women’s rugby that lacks sufficient funds. These challenges have led New Zealand Rugby, the governing body locally, to seek investment in a sport that lacks the profile of soccer and basketball in major markets such as the U.S. and China. But it has also unleashed a debate over whether the best way to accomplish that is by bringing in a deep-pocketed outside investor. New Zealand Rugby in early 2021 agreed to sell U.S. private-equity firm Silver Lake a 12.5% stake in a company that would control and develop All Blacks commercial rights. In return, Silver Lake would invest about 387 million New Zealand dollars ($273 million) into the game locally and its global development via the All Blacks. The deal was unanimously backed by more than two dozen regional associations and the Māori Rugby Board. But it still needs approval from the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association. It values the All Blacks at $2.2 billion—similar to



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