Crowdsourcing the Commute

Talk to Leigh Weaver, who commutes by bus from Livingston, N.J., to Midtown Manhattan, about what getting to work used to be like, and you’ll hear the all-too-familiar grievances about grinding traffic, suffocating crowds and cranky drivers.

But then, in September 2016 she learned about OurBus, a new company willing to start a bus route in her area if enough people signed up.

“I was willing to do whatever I had to do to make this happen,” said Ms. Weaver, 43, a senior program manager for Google.

The bus and van commuter services rely on apps that are similar to those of Uber or Lyft.Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

But some transit advocates are skeptical. A poorly selected route or a half-empty vehicle could exacerbate congestion, said Jon Orcutt, the director of communications and advocacy at TransitCenter, a research organization. “Eventually they’re going to get stuck in the same traffic as the taxis,” he said. And while tech-savvy riders can swipe a request for a new route, neighborhoods with residents that are less tapped into social media and the latest apps might get overlooked, said Ms. Simons.

Establishing a new commuter bus route takes more planning than requesting a car share. Riders have to rely on dozens of other passengers agreeing to sign on, and the company has to establish a route, a bureaucratic process that can take months.

Ms. Weaver, who commutes from Livingston, contacted OurBus after years spent riding Community Coach, a bus line owned by Coach USA. “I begged them to consider us,” she said of the first email she sent to OurBus in September 2016. Community Coach buses were often late, she said, broke down and were so crowded that they would sometimes pass her by, leaving her waiting on a cold suburban street corner with no idea when another one might arrive.

Scott Sprengel, a vice president at Coach USA, said that the company is aware of the issues. “We are proactively meeting with our customers to meet their demands,” he said. To address the crowds and the delayed service (not to mention the competition), Coach began testing online ticketing with a small group of riders on last week. If the pilot program is a success, the company plans to expand online ticketing to all commuters, said Sean Hughes, a Coach spokesman. (Currently passengers must buy paper tickets from a clerk at Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York.)

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Pence Doesn’t Rule Out Meeting North Koreans at Olympics

HONG KONG — Vice President Mike Pence on Monday did not rule out contact with North Korean officials when he attends the Winter Olympics in South Korea this week, saying, “I have not requested a meeting, but we’ll see what happens.”

The comments came as North Korean athletes, artists and officials were descending on South Korea for the Games in Pyeongchang. Among them is Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Presidium of North Korea’s Parliament, who serves as a nominal head of state and will lead a 22-member delegation of its officials making a rare visit to the South.

Speaking to reporters in Alaska during a stopover on his way to Japan and South Korea, Mr. Pence reiterated the administration’s stance that “all options are on the table” in confronting North Korea about its nuclear weapons and missile programs. He said part of the purpose of his visit was to tell “the truth about North Korea at every stop.”

“We’re traveling to the Olympics to make sure that North Korea doesn’t use the powerful symbolism and the backdrop of the Winter Olympics to paper over the truth about their regime,” he said, calling it “a regime that oppresses its own people, a regime that threatens nations around the world, a regime that continues its headlong rush to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.”

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Wheels on the Bus

Dear Diary:

I was on my way home on the M86 with my exhausted 2-year-old after an all-day street fair, trying unsuccessfully to amuse her. She had missed her nap and was tired, crying and inconsolable.

Suddenly, I heard a very familiar song: “The wheels on the bus go round and round … ”

It was coming over the bus’s speaker, and the bus driver was doing the singing.

When she got to “The wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish,” she turned on the wipers even though there wasn’t a drop of rain in the sky. And she honked her horn along with “The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep.” I’m guessing she surprised more than a few of the pedestrians and other drivers we passed.

Many of the bus’s passengers joined in the singing. And soon, my happy daughter did as well. She may not remember it in years to come, but I certainly will.

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Jerome Lefkowitz, a Force in New York Labor Law, Dies at 86

Jerome Lefkowitz, a labor lawyer and mediator who helped draft the Taylor Law, which grants New York public employees collective bargaining rights but forbids them from striking, died on Dec. 21 at his home in Albany. He was 86.

The cause was complications of an infection, his son Jay said.

Mr. Lefkowitz oversaw the Taylor Law’s enforcement as well. He was hired in 1967 as the first employee of the state’s Public Employment Relations Board, which was created to carry out the new bargaining regulations. He became its deputy chairman and served in that post for 20 years, drafting many of its rulings.

The law, officially the New York State Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act, covers state and local governments and school districts and went into effect in 1967.

The commission that drafted the legislation was formed by Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1966 in the wake of a crippling New York City transit strike. Its chairman was George W. Taylor, an industrial relations professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a former chairman of the National War Labor Board.

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Cuomo Says Budget Will Defend New York Against Trump’s ‘Economic Missile’

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday unveiled a $168 billion spending plan that he said held echoes of the darkest days of the recession, necessitating a raft of ideas to raise revenue and counter a new federal tax plan that he warned could devastate some taxpayers.

“Washington hit a button and launched an economic missile and it says ‘New York’ on it, and it’s headed our way,” Mr. Cuomo said. “You know what my recommendation is? Get out of the way.”

Central to that escape plan is a proposal to create a statewide payroll tax on employers that could effectively eliminate the state income tax on wages for many employees, one of several ways in which the governor hoped to circumvent the sharp reduction in deductibility of state and local taxes in the plan pushed through Congress in December, and signed by President Trump.

The governor also suggested that localities establish funds for things like education and public health, which would conceivably allow residents to donate to such causes and then deduct most of those donations from their federal taxes.

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As Afghan Attacks Intensify, So Does Anger at Country’s Leaders

KABUL, Afghanistan — In the cold Kabul morning on Monday, as snow slowly covered the ground, a father sat beside a roadside food stand and for hours kept his eyes on the security cordon for news of his son.

Before daybreak, militants had attacked an army unit attached to Afghanistan’s main military academy, where the son was studying to be an officer. In what has become a routine for many Afghan parents, with attacks in Kabul killing more than 130 people in 10 days, the father, Abuld Majid Nayel, left home in Parwan Province and drove an hour to the academy gates.

“They told us he is fine, but I have not talked to him,” Mr. Nayel said. “I will wait here until I know my son is fine.”

The attack, by five militants who appeared to have used a ladder to invade the compound in the predawn darkness, lasted nearly five hours before four were killed and the survivor was arrested. At least 11 Afghan soldiers were killed, and 16 were wounded.

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Opinion | P.C. Language Saved My Life

There appears to be a common sentiment in America that things have become too politically correct, that people have grown far too sensitive. I hear this complaint most often in conjunction with the proliferation of language — new pronouns, new labels — surrounding gender. What those who complain about an epidemic of political correctness don’t understand is that for some of us, that language can be a lifeline.

Before I gained enough language, I believed that I was transgender. I’d never felt like a boy. I had friends who had begun transitioning and this was the language that they used, and so I followed. From the ages of 15 to 21 I dressed with a femme presentation. I wore wigs, a weave and makeup, and believed that after high school I would begin officially transitioning. I didn’t feel at home in my body or this language — but it was all I had.

I attended high school in West Baltimore, in an incredibly depleted and violent neighborhood, in a criminally underfunded school. I was ostracized constantly, but I managed to build a small group of friends who served as a wall around me. This wall made me feel beautiful, it made me feel loved — but it couldn’t teach me the words I needed to properly identify myself. The world I grew up in gave me no examples of fluctuation or variation.

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Review: ‘Returning to Reims’ and Those European Working-Class Blues

“It’s not theater.”

So says the director to the actress. Spoken with jokey reassurance, this disclaimer is delivered in the opening moments of “Returning to Reims,” an all-too timely rumination on working-class disaffection and nationalist politics from the German director Thomas Ostermeier, which opened on Sunday at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.

What Paul (Bush Moukarzel), the director, means is that the performer, Katy (Nina Hoss), needn’t worry about fluffing lines. After all, they’re in a studio where she’ll be recording the voice-over for a film by Paul, and mistakes can be erased with the flick of a dial.

But audiences familiar with the work of Mr. Ostermeier, and his Schaubühne Berlin company, may hear a different, more confrontational meaning in Paul’s words. Mr. Ostermeier, whose productions of classics like “Richard III” (seen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last fall) seemed not so much to push envelopes as to rip them apart, is celebrated for redefining how theater should behave.

But even his longtime fans are unlikely to be prepared for the seeming noneventfulness of the first half of “Returning to Reims,” adapted from a 2009 memoir by the French philosopher Didier Eribon. Most of what happens during that hour seems to be willfully, even numbingly anti-dramatic.

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Standing for 6 Hours Burns an Extra 54 Calories

Researchers calculate that standing instead of sitting for six hours would use an extra 54 calories a day.

That calorie expenditure would theoretically translate to a weight loss of five and a half pounds in a year, assuming you didn’t find other ways to make up for the calorie deficit. But studies suggest we often stealthily do make up for those lost calories, either by eating more or moving less.

For the study, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers pooled data from 46 studies involving 1,184 people. Ten of the studies were randomized trials. The average age of participants was 33, and 60 percent were men.

All the studies calculated energy expenditure by measuring quantities of oxygen and carbon dioxide as they are breathed in and out. The mean difference between sitting and standing was 0.15 calories a minute, and it was larger in men than in women, probably because of men’s greater muscle mass.

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Laurie Tisch, Collecting the Giants, of New York and Modern Art

Laurie M. Tisch’s apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan has spectacular views of Central Park. Reflecting her passions and role as a trustee at the Whitney Museum of American Art, it is filled with classic paintings by the country’s renowned modernists, including Edward Hopper, Milton Avery, Jacob Lawrence, Thomas Hart Benton and Georgia O’Keeffe (with a radiant new acquisition of her “Blue Morning Glories”).

Yet what often captures the attention of visitors, Ms. Tisch said with amusement, as she gave a recent tour of her home, are her trophies from the New York Giants’ Super Bowl XLII and XLVI victories.

“Those were two very close games against the Patriots, where New York basically had no business winning,” said Ms. Tisch, whose father, Preston Robert Tisch, bought half the team in 1991. Now Ms. Tisch has inherited his stake in the Giants, together with her brothers, since the passing of their mother, Joan Tisch, at age 90 in November.

“I grew up with six boys — two brothers and four male cousins — not the easiest thing being the only female,” said Ms. Tisch, as she pointed to Jenny Holzer’s marble bench in the foyer, carved with the artist’s “truism”: “Men don’t protect you anymore.” While some of those Tisch men now run Loews Corporation, passed on from her father and uncle, who started in business by buying and revamping hotels, Ms. Tisch has followed in her parents’ philanthropic footsteps with the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

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