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Friday, October 17, 2014

Nigeria Says Boko Haram Cease-Fire May Lead to Release of Kidnapped Girls

Nigeria Says Boko Haram Cease-Fire May Lead to Release of Kidnapped Girls


Nigeria Says Boko Haram Cease-Fire May Lead to Release of Kidnapped Girls

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 10:44 AM PDT

A top military official in Nigeria was reported Friday to have announced a cease-fire between the government and the military group Boko Haram, igniting both skepticism and hopes that more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped in April would be released.

The truce was said to be announced by Air Marshall Alex Badeh, Nigeria’s chief of defense, the Associated Press reports. The release of the girls is still being negotiated, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade added, but the cease-fire would begin immediately and could take take several days to reach the groups of militants.

“Already, the terrorists have announced a cease-fire in furtherance of their desire for peace. In this regard, the government of Nigeria has, in similar vein, declared a cease-fire,” said Mike Omeri, a government spokesman on Boko Haram, at a news conference. The AP adds that Omeri confirmed negotiations about the girls’ potential release were held throughout the week.

Reports of the deal were met with hesitation by those who have followed the saga since the girls were abducted from their school in Chibok on April 14. There was neither an official statement quickly released by the government, nor an announcement made by the insurgent group, the New York Times reports.

Boko Haram, which released a video in May that claimed responsibility for the girls’ abductions and vowed to “sell them on the market, by Allah,” has previously demanded the release of rebel prisoners in exchange for their freedom. But Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who has faced intense global pressure to free the students, said that’s a trade he will not make. The Nigerian government has in the past misled the public about the girls’ status; its fight against Boko Haram has been fraught with challenges since the militant group rose up in 2009, from inefficiency and corruption in the military to lax local support in the northern communities that are threatened most.

In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that American surveillance planes spotted groups that appeared to be the missing girls, suggesting that not all of them had been sold into marriage or slavery — as feared — and that some were perhaps being kept as a bargaining tactic.

Sixpence None The Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’ Sounds Even Better In Klingon

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 10:41 AM PDT

Space may be the final frontier, but this Klingon cover of Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” makes getting to first base in your dad’s barley field sound out of this world .

Back in 1998, Texas Christian pop band Sixpence None the Richer hit the mainstream with their sweetly schmaltzy track. Last year, the song was (finally!) translated into Klingon. Of course, “kiss me” isn’t a phrase that is particularly common in the Klingon tongue, so they substituted something equally romantic for a Klingon — Dah Hlchop, or bite me.

While the moving musical tribute came out last year, it’s one trip down memory lane you’ll want to walk down again and again. Luckily, it’s Flashback Friday, so you can spend the day watching this video over and over again and if anyone dares complain, tell them Dah Hlchop.

Why Airlines and the CDC Oppose Ebola Flight Bans

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 10:20 AM PDT

The debate surrounding travel bans as a way to curb the spread of Ebola has intensified after Thursday’s congressional hearing, unleashing a flurry of impassioned arguments on both sides.

The stakes are high: those for a flight ban believe it’s a necessary protection against a deadly epidemic that has already reached American soil, but those against it say a ban would make the U.S. even more vulnerable to the virus.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who ran the hearing, wants to prohibit all non-essential commercial travel from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as institute a mandatory 21-day quarantine order for any American who has traveled to the stricken African nations. This quarantine would include a ban on domestic travel.

Murphy explained his position at the opening of Thursday’s hearing: “A determined, infected traveler can evade the screening by masking the fever with ibuprofen… Further, it is nearly impossible to perform contact tracing of all people on multiple international flights across the globe, when contact tracing and treatment just within the United States will strain public health resources.” Murphy is not alone; other lawmakers such as House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) agree.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, maintains that these congressmen have it backwards. While they think a travel ban would secure the U.S. border from Ebola and shrink the potential spheres of contact, CDC director Tom Frieden says instituting a flight ban would forfeit what little control we currently have over the virus.

“Right now we know who’s coming in,” Frieden said at the hearing. “If we try to eliminate travel… we won’t be able to check them for fever when they leave, we won’t be able to check them for fever when they arrive, we won’t be able—as we do currently—to see a detailed history to see if they’ve been exposed.” The White House has sided with Frieden. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that a travel ban is “not something we’re considering.”


Even if Republican lawmakers are correct that a travel ban could curb the spread of Ebola in the U.S., it would also curb the movement of American health workers to the West African countries that are already desperate for more aid.

“If we do things that unintentionally make it harder to get that response in, to get supplies in, that make it harder for those governments to manage, to get everything from economic activity to travel going, it’s going to become much harder to stop the outbreak at the source,” Frieden said this week. “If that were to happen, it would spread for more months and potentially to other countries, and that would increase rather than decrease the risk to Americans.”

There’s also a practical concern surrounding the bans. Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States and who later died from the disease, took three flights and flew on two airlines on his trip from Monrovia, Liberia to Dallas, TX, stopping in Belgium on the way. Prohibiting travel from West Africa to the United States quickly falls down the rabbit hole of connecting flights in Europe, especially since there currently aren’t any direct flights between the U.S. and the primary Ebola hot zones.

A spokesperson for Airlines for America, the industry trade organization for leading U.S. airlines, told TIME, “We agree with the White House that discussions of flight bans are not necessary and actually impede efforts to stop the disease in its tracks in West Africa.”

And if domestic or international travel bans were to be instituted, others familiar with the airline industry warn of unintended consequences. Greg Winton, founder of The Aviation Law Firm outside Washington, D.C., told TIME that mass flight restrictions “will have a huge impact financially, certainly on the whole economy, not just the aviation sector.”

But at this point Winton says anything is possible, citing the Federal Aviation Administration’s shut down of air travel following 9/11 as an extreme precedent. “As far as FAA aviation law, none of that really takes precedence over disease control at this point,” he said.

 

Syrian Women Know How To Defeat ISIS

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 10:12 AM PDT

To the Islamic State, Syrian women are slaves. To much of the rest of the world, they are victims.

It’s time we expose their real identity: an untapped resource for creating lasting peace. Listening to and implementing the ideas of women still living in Syria is key to weakening ISIS and stabilizing the region at large because, in many ways, they have a better track record laying the foundations for peace and democracy than any other group.

Over the last two years, we’ve worked side-by-side with Syrian women leaders as they propose concrete steps to end the war. Most recently, we brought several women representing large civil society networks to Washington, D.C., where they cautioned against the current approach of the international community – and proposed a very different blueprint for the region’s future.

More arms and more bombs, they said, are not the answer.

They insisted that the only way to fight this extremist threat is to return to the negotiating table and hash out a peaceful political transition to heal the divisions ripping Syria apart.

“Oppression is the incubator of terrorism,” one woman told us as the group prepped for meetings with high-level officials in D.C. and New York. Her participation in peaceful protests during the early days of the revolution led to her two-month imprisonment in a four square meter room shared with 30 other women—yet she was adamant: “We cannot fight ISIS except through a political approach.”

That women who’ve been hunted and tortured for their nonviolent activism still say “no more bombs” is remarkable. That their solutions are forward-looking and inclusive is unsurprising; we’ve seen similar approaches from women in conflicts all over the world. In Colombia, Northern Ireland, Uganda, and dozens of other places, women have been catalysts for sustainable, inclusive peace.

During three-plus years of war, Syrian women have consistently led efforts to end the violence and mitigate suffering. They’ve worked under the direst circumstances: dodging sniper bullets, evading arrest, surviving without adequate food or medicine. They’ve retained hope and determination in ways that most of us would find impossible.

That’s precisely why we must listen to them.

So what do they recommend? To create stability (which is kryptonite to extremists), Syrian women say three things must happen.

First, humanitarian aid must get to the millions in grave need. Almost three million people are registered as refugees in neighboring countries and over six million are displaced inside Syria. That’s in a country with a pre-war population of just under 18 million. Approximately half of the remaining inhabitants live in extreme poverty.

In response to this disaster, the UN made an urgent appeal for $2.28 billion just to meet the critical requirements of the internally displaced. So far, Member States have committed only $864 million—a little over one-third of the total. Last month, the UN was forced to cut the delivery of food aid by 40 percent.

Violent extremism thrives in areas where social services have all but disappeared. A woman who serves on the local council of an opposition-held town told us that she fears more of her neighbors may become radicalized because there’s no work, no education, and no other opportunities.

Women have been deeply involved in distributing and monitoring humanitarian aid in communities across Syria. Typically perceived as less of a threat, they’re able to smuggle supplies through checkpoints without being searched. This affords them first-hand witness of the different needs of zones under government, opposition, Islamic State, or other control. They’ve seen, for instance, that food baskets can’t get into areas blockaded by the regime; in these circumstances, cash transfers are more effective. To reach the greatest number of people, relief agencies should coordinate with civil society and devise humanitarian strategies that reflect these differences.

Second, international actors must encourage local pockets of stability. Beyond funding, a key barrier to humanitarian access is the ongoing violence. Besieged areas are the hardest to reach and most in need.

Here too, women have a solution. Though missing from most news reports, a number of local ceasefire arrangements have proliferated throughout the country, often negotiated by civil society actors. In the Damascus suburbs, a women’s group brokered a ceasefire between regime and opposition forces. For 40 days before fighting resumed, they were able to get essential supplies into the city.

Syrian women are now calling on the UN to not only track these local arrangements, but assign international monitors to ensure parties stick to them. Beyond opening channels for the passage of humanitarian aid, this may also help the parties come closer to an agreement to cease hostilities on the national level. This will require accountability, as these negotiations are all too often used as a tool of political manipulation.

Which brings us to the third, and potentially most important, step: The parties must return to internationally-mediated negotiations and agree on a political solution to the conflict. The last round of talks in Geneva failed, it’s true. But this is still the best solution to the burgeoning civil war and the opportunistic extremism that has followed it. Only a unified Syria can beat back the ISIS threat.

Convincing both parties to come back to the table won’t be easy. But Syrian women have identified concrete ideas that could help unite disparate factions by encouraging them to cooperate on mutually beneficial activities. For instance, the regime and opposition could coordinate the safe passage of university students between government- and nongovernment-controlled areas to allow them to resume their studies. The women also call on parties to prioritize construction of temporary housing for those displaced by the conflict on both sides. These actions could help cultivate trust between the regime and opposition and encourage popular support on all sides for renewed negotiations.

As important is the construction of an inclusive peace process. One that engages women, but also others who have thus far been missing from the conversation: the Kurds, Druze, youth, independent civil society networks, tribal leaders, and, yes, more radical elements like Jabhat al-Nusra, who can otherwise spoil the talks from the outside. Without this, no agreement stands a chance.

These three priorities—humanitarian relief, support for local ceasefires, and resumption of negotiations—are not the result of idealistic or wishful thinking. This is not an abstract call by Syrian women to “give peace a chance.” It’s a plea for policy approaches that are grounded in the lived experiences and long-term goals of the vast majority of the Syrian people.

Regional and global stability depend on the international community getting this right. Luckily for us, Syrian women—and civil society more broadly—know exactly what it will take to rebuild their country and undermine the ambitions of the Islamic State. Will we listen?

Kristin Williams is Senior Writer and Program Officer at The Institute for Inclusive Security, where she calls attention to the most powerful, untapped resource for peace: women.

Michelle Barsa is Senior Manager for Policy at Inclusive Security Action, where she focuses on expanding the role for women in peace and security processes, particularly in Afghanistan and Syria.

This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

The CDC Has Less Power Than You Think, and Likes it That Way

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 10:12 AM PDT

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden has come under fire in recent days for what some charge is the agency’s stumbling response to the appearance of Ebola in America. This week, reporters and lawmakers alike grilled Frieden over how two nurses in Texas contracted the virus and how one of them was able to board an airplane even after she reported a raised temperature.

Breakdowns in good practice notwithstanding, it’s important to remember that Ebola in the U.S. is largely contained and very unlikely to lead to any kind of significant outbreak. Still, the charges leveled against Frieden raise a question that leads to a surprisingly complicated answer: just what, exactly, can—and should—the CDC do?

Since time immemorial, public health officials’ main weapon against the outbreak of a disease as been to restrict the ability of people to interact with one another, also known as a quarantine. The term comes from the Latin “quadraginta,” meaning 40, and is derived from the 40-day period ships traveling from plague-stricken regions were kept at bay before being allowed to dock in medieval European ports.

Imposing a quarantine—effectively stripping innocent people of the most basic right to move freely in the world—is one of the most serious actions a government can take against its own citizenry. Partly for this reason, in the American federal system (designed from the outset to check the power of the national government) the power to quarantine resides largely with state and local authorities. Should Texas, or any other state, someday face the threat of a true epidemic, the states have broad authority to restrict the movement of people within their own borders. Public health codes granting the state power to impose quarantine orders vary from state to state, of course. Violating a quarantine order in Louisiana is punishable by a fine of up to $100 and up to a year in prison; in Mississippi the same infraction could cost a violator up to $5000 and up to five years in prison.

The federal government does have its own powers. The CDC, as the U.S.’s primary agency for taking action to stop the spread of disease, has broad authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to restrict travel into the country and between states of an infected person or a person who has come in contact with an infected person, according to Laura Donohue, director of the Center on National Security and the Law at Georgetown Law School. Federal quarantine can be imposed, too, on federal property, like a military base or National Forest land. And as the preeminent employer of experts on public health crises, the CDC is always likely to get involved within any affected state in the event of a looming pandemic.

But its power to act is extremely restricted. The agency traditionally acts in an advisory role and can only take control from local authorities under two circumstances: if local authorities invite them to do so or under the authority outlined in the Insurrection Act in the event of a total breakdown of law and order.

And here the picture becomes murkier yet because authority does not always beget power.

“It’s not a massive regulatory agency,” said Wendy Parmet, a professor in public health law at Northeastern University in Boston. “They don’t have ground troops. They don’t have tons of regulators. They’re scientists. Even if the states asked them to do it it’s not clear how they would do it.

Even in the highly unlikely event that the CDC were called to respond to a—let’s reiterate: extremely-unlikely-to-occur—pandemic, quarantine and isolation would be imposed not by bespeckled CDC scientists but by local or federal law enforcement or troops. Most importantly, the CDC is extremely reluctant to be seen as a coercive government agency because it depends as much as any agency on the good will and acquiescence of citizens in order to respond effectively to a public health emergency. When the bright lights of the Ebola crisis are not on it, the CDC will still need people to get vaccinated, to go to the doctor when they get sick, and to call the authorities if they see trouble.

“Our public health system is built on voluntary compliance,” Donohue tells TIME. “If the CDC starts to become the enemy holding a gun to [someone’s] head and keeping them in their house, they lose insight.”

Scandal Teaches You How to Handle It When Your Kid Makes a Sex Tape

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 10:07 AM PDT

This post includes spoilers for Thursday night’s episode of Scandal.

With all the nude selfies getting leaked on the Internet and hacks of the supposedly self-destructing pictures and videos on Snapchat, parents have a reason to be worried about what their teens are recording and sharing. Our private lives aren’t so private anymore. That’s even true for the President’s kids — or, well, a fictional president’s kids.

Last night on Scandal the president’s daughter Karen filmed what D.C. fixer protagonist Olivia Pope called “the dirtiest sex tape I’ve ever seen in my life.” I know, it sounds like a problem you’ll never have to deal with in your life. But if a teen can slip her secret service detail to attend a party and “Eiffel Tower” with some guys (look up at your own risk), then parents should be in full-blown panic mode about what their non-guarded kids are doing.

Olivia’s job is to manage crises, and Karen’s dad Fitz is the damn president of the United States. Surely we can learn a little something from them about what to do if your kid makes a sex tape. Here’s the step-by-step list:

1. Be outraged

The mean parent, in Scandal‘s case President Fitz, should yell things like, “Start talking, now,” to get a clear idea of how bad the situation is. You may uncover information like that your daughter hitched a ride on “someone’s father’s jet” to get to the party in question. (N.B. Apparently if your kid does not attend the most expensive boarding school in the country, you’re already ahead of the game.)

2. Flirt with the “fixer” handling your child’s case

Oh, you didn’t hire Olivia Pope to handle this? Good luck.

3. Lie to other parent about why child is home

Because there’s no way she’s going to find out about this eventually, right?

4. Use hyper-advanced computer software to locate the other people in the sex tape

Apparently typing in a lot of code with the words “tattoo” and “arm” can determine whether a guy in a blurry party pictures tagged #swaggapalooza has a tattoo or not, give you all his information and thus help you track down the tape. Sure.

5. Be forced to admit that there’s a sex tape to your spouse because she thinks you’re having an affair with the fixer who is suddenly hanging around the house all the time (which you are…but whatever)

In defense of yourself, you should probably accuse your spouse of being a bad mother and thus being ultimately responsible for the sex tape. When tempers are high, it’s always best to blame someone else. Expect a response from your spouse like, “She takes after her daddy, then, doesn’t she?”

6. Have one of the fixer’s assistants intimidate the guy in the sex tape

May I suggest saying things like, “I know who you are, Bobby,” and then listing off a bunch of personal factoids about the person in a fast, staccato voice. That tends to scare to crap out of people. Oh, grabbing them by the throat and threatening to destroy their lives works, too.

7. Once that person has coughed up the name of the third person in the sex tape who actually has the video (scandalous, right?), bring in that teen’s parents for a negotiation

These parents will probably blackmail you for a lot of money because people are the worst.

8. Kiss the fixer

This will take your mind off of the whole blackmail thing.

9. Deal with the parents

When the parents ask for another $500,000 (again, people are the worst), photograph them with the check and say that you will send it to the tabloids, who will write that they are child pornographers. See, this is why you hire a fixer.

10. Talk to your kid

Actually, the best parenting advice comes from a surprising source in this episode: First Lady Mellie Grant.

Mellie doesn’t slut-shame her daughter. She tells her that if she felt empowered and happy by her sex act she would “have a tiny seizure inside,” but still be supportive of Karen and happy for her. “But I don’t think that’s why you did it,” Mellie says. And the two talk about how Karen has been depressed since her brother died in front of her, “which means you get one free pass. This was it. You do not get another.”

Mellie also teaches Karen the life lesson that the world sucks: “It’s definitely sexist. If you were a boy, they’d be giving you high fives.” Well played, Mellie.

So there you have it: hire a fixer if you can, turn the tables on anyone who tries to blackmail you and don’t slut-shame your kid. As Olivia Pope would say: “It’s handled.”

 

 

 

#AskTIME Subscriber Q and A: Michael Scherer

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 10:00 AM PDT

Welcome to TIME Subscriber Q&A, with Time Washington bureau chief, Michael Scherer. He wrote this week’s cover story on the most interesting man in politics, Rand Paul.

To read the full post, you need to be a subscriber. It's not too late to sign up.

DonQuixotic asks, Michael, assuming by some long shot that Rand Paul gets the party nomination to be on the ticket for 2016, do you think he'll look for a more level-headed Republican as his running mate or perhaps someone more divergent from the party line like himself? The past two VP picks - Palin and Ryan - seemed to both be reactionary to circumstances surrounding the Democrats. Do you think Paul would do the same?

Saturday Will Be the Best Day Ever if You Love Pizza (But Only if You Live in Chicago)

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 09:59 AM PDT

Great news: on Saturday, you can get a whole lot of Domino’s pizza for super-duper cheap. Sadly, though, this comes with a few caveats. First, this only applies if you will be in the Chicago area, and second, the deal only lasts from noon to 1:40 p.m.

The chain is offering one-topping medium pies for $1 to celebrate the grand opening of its 100th Chicago location, the Chicago Tribune reports. (That means each pizza costs 100 cents and the deal is available for just 100 minutes. Get it?) Oh, another caveat: there’s a limit of five per customer, but that feels pretty reasonable.

Nurse Infected With Ebola in Dallas Now Being Treated in Maryland

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 09:46 AM PDT

Nina Pham, the first person to be infected with Ebola in the U.S., arrived at the National Institutes of Health Special Clinical Studies Unit in Maryland just before midnight Thursday evening, the NIH said Friday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and Dr. Rick Davey, deputy director of NIAID’s division of clinical research, said Pham was in fair condition and resting comfortably. Davey will be the physician overseeing Pham’s care.

Fauci said that from the time when Liberian Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan became the first person diagnosed with the disease in the U.S., “we made very clear that we could make the highly specialized facility available if called upon. We were called upon to accept Nina and we did.”

The seven-bed NIAID unit in Rockville, Maryland was created in 2011 as part of the U.S.’s bio-terror preparedness efforts. It’s designed and equipped to care for patients with the most dangerous infectious diseases. The unit has a dedicated staff of 50 to 60 personnel who are specially trained in infection control for biohazards, and, said Fauci, retained continuously to keep their education up to date. The unit’s isolation unit has a separate ventilation system that directs air into specialized filters, and the unit has a dedicated system for removing patient waste and other biohazardous materials.

The center is not just a hospital, but also a research facility. Every patient treated there is also a research subject, and Pham will be no exception. Dr. H. Clifford Lane, clinical director of NIAID, said that Pham’s virus and her immune system’s response to it will be studied extensively. The researchers at the unit are also part of vaccine studies and are working on ways to intervene earlier in the disease’s course with better treatments. Such treatments may help not just Pham, but also the thousands in West Africa currently battling Ebola.

As far as what therapies Pham will receive, Fauci would only reveal that Pham has so far received, while in Dallas, plasma donated from Dr. Kent Brantly, the first American patient successfully treated for Ebola — Brantly was diagnosed while in Liberia before being flown to the U.S. for treatment. Pham is at all times being cared for by four to five nurses working 12 hour shifts; two of these nurses are allowed into her room at one time, with the remaining nurses serving support duties. One full-time infectious disease doctor and one critical care intensive care physician is also assigned to her care in rotating shifts.

The Last Days of WD~50

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 09:46 AM PDT

“I’m just gonna go downstairs and put on my prom dress,” Wylie Dufrense says one afternoon in September at his restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side. He’s wearing a hoodie and he’s changing into a chef’s jacket. Nothing fancy, but there is an air of ceremony in the kitchen. After 11 years of service, wd~50 will close in November, ending an era for modern cuisine.

Over the last decade, Dufresne made a reputation for himself as the mad scientist of New York’s kitchens, putting out brain-teasing dishes like shrimp noodles (that’s noodles made from shrimp), cylindrical quail, fried hollandaise cubes and edible eggshells. Such inventions left some scratching their heads—why fix an egg that ain’t broken? But others embraced his creativity, and over time, his reputation congealed.

Tasting those shrimp noodles never came all that cheap. Today, the restaurant offers two tasting menus: 12 courses for $155, or five courses “from the vault” (a sort of greatest-hits selection) for $90.

And like so many New York stories, price is what has brought this institution to an end: a new building is being developed on the site. This development is driving Dufresne out of the address that gave his restaurant a name: 50 Clinton Street.

Dufresne was on the American avant-garde in using many of the chemical and mechanical innovations (see that WD-40 joke) that define “modernist cuisine” or “molecular gastronomy”—immersion circulators, sous vide precision cooking, foams and the rest. Such methods are often associated with the name Ferran Adrià, the chef behind the now-closed elBulli in Spain, which Dufresne says “blew the doors open” for imaginative cooking.

Dufresne’s enthusiasm for chemicals and high-tech gadgets came as many American chefs ran in the opposite direction, embracing the farm-to-table ethos of whole foods prepared simply. The laboratory of culinary magic tricks at wd~50 couldn’t have seemed more different.

When Dufresne perfected his condiment-frying technique, he thought it would be his big break: “You know, I can fry hollandaise, I can fry ketchup, I can fry mustard,” he says, “I thought, ‘This is gonna be my meal ticket.’ I bought a red and yellow phone because I thought McDonald’s would call, and it was just going to ring. And they were going to say, ‘Please come to us. Show us how we can fry our condiments. We’ll give you the key to the city, and Ronald McDonald will be at every one of your kids’ birthdays until they’re 28.’ Of course that didn’t happen.”

It is hard to think of any other top-tier chef who would get so excited at the prospect of partnering with the Golden Arches. But Dufresne has no qualms about mixing fancy thinking with mass production. He’s explored the idea of patenting some of his inventions. And he says he takes inspiration from the supermarket aisles. “Whether it be cereal technology or candy technology or snack technology, puff snacks,” he says, “I’m always curious to know how those things are made and how we can take that technology, those ingredients, and apply it to a stand-alone restaurant.”

As much as he seizes these methods himself, Dufresne does wish they didn’t have such a bad rap. He wants people to know that his selection of chemical ingredients is just as discriminating as his selection of the meat or fish he serves based on their source. He wishes scientists had done better PR for themselves in developing the new ingredients he uses.

And as much fun as these tricks are, Dufresne maintains that he owes much more to his mentor, culinary superpower Jean-Georges Vongerichten (who is a co-owner of wd~50), than anyone else. He praises Vongerichten’s dedication to lightening and simplifying traditional French cuisine. “For me,” he says, “it begins and ends with the French.”

For all Dufresne’s flash, he does stay true to this ethos. While his dishes are surprising, they’re seldom overwhelming. Take a hanger steak tartare he recently served accompanied by Asian pear, an amaro sauce and a scoop of Béarnaise ice cream. That last ingredient had the intrigue of invention: it didn’t even hint at melting until it was eaten. But the flavors were subtle, complicated only by the bitter sauce smeared on the plate. As Dufresne likes, there was nowhere to hide any imperfection.

Dufresne has flourished in this intersection of old and new. “Clarence Birdseye knew more about frozen foods in 1920 than you and I do today,” he says. That overlooked trust of the past shows in his kitchen’s enthusiasm for trying new techniques with ancient roots. On a recent visit, one line cook was stomping on plastic bags of dough with clean sneakers, a method for making udon noodles easier to form that Dufresne says Japanese housewives were doing centuries ago (sans the plastic or sneakers).

Most of the wd~50 has agreed to stay on until the restaurant closes in November. Malcolm Livingston II, the pastry chef, has a job lined up at Noma in Copenhagen, voted the world’s best restaurant. Dufresne says that he’s on the lookout for a new space and would be open to trying a new neighborhood, but nothing has stuck yet. In 2013, he opened Alder, which offers a more affordable but similarly playful menu, not far from the restaurant he’s now closing.

Dufresne has a lot of history on the Lower East Side, and especially at 50 Clinton Street. He met his wife, Food Network Magazine editor-in-chief Maile Carpenter, in the restaurant when she came to interview him about its opening when she was a food editor for Time Out New York.

Dufresne is a cookbook obsessive (he estimates he has about 1,400 or 1,500 at home) and he’s working on adding his own to the canon. It will be the story of wd~50, co-written with Lucky Peach editor Peter Meehan. “We’re trying to figure out how to capture 11 years, and we have a lot of dishes to choose from,” he says. “Some people might not have enough recipes for a book. We probably have too many.”

For now, though, Dufresne says he’s focused on the restaurant that bears his initials: “We’re gonna try and really make it very special to the very end, because it’s still special to us.”

Vongerichten, for his part, said he’ll mourn the passing of his student’s restaurant. “For those who have been lucky enough to eat there, [it] will never be forgotten.”

At 44, Dufresne is too young for his legacy to be complete. But the legacy of wd~50 will be its invitation to young chefs to think different, to ask why certain standards are followed and dare to break them.

“Our hope is that when it’s all said and done, we have left the industry a little bit better off,” he says. “Not that we found it in disrepair or anything like that, but that we’ve contributed to the body of knowledge…That we’re helping people understand things a little bit better, and that we’re making ourselves smarter, we’re making cooks smarter, we’re making diners smarter.”

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