So Long, Starbucks. Hello, Campaign Trail?: DealBook Briefing


Will anyone else follow? Moguls like Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban and the Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger have been floated as potential 2020 candidates. But the presidential historian Douglas Brinkley says that “the history of business leaders in the White House has not been good.”

Bob Dylan’s take: “One more cup of coffee for the road / One more cup of coffee ’fore I go / To the valley below.”

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Ed Gillespie

Credit
Alex Brandon/Associated Press

China can’t build its own chips fast enough

The nation is rushing to build semiconductor factories. But reports claiming that the Chinese government is probing chip makers over price-fixing demonstrate that it’s not there yet.

Reuters, citing an anonymous source, reported that Beijing is investigating Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and Micron Technology over allegations that they may have been trying to keep the prices of DRAM memory chips high. The three companies control that market.

It’s not the first time that the trio has been the subject of such accusations. Why? The price of DRAM memory is over twice what it was two years ago.

But the news that China is investigating such claims underlines the fact that the country — which has poured billions of dollars into its own chip manufacturing industries, with an early focus on memory chips — still lacks the means to make enough of its own semiconductors.

Reuters notes that, according to Trendforce, China accounts for 20 percent of all global DRAM memory sales. For now, those purchases must be made almost entirely from Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron, at what the Chinese government appears to believe may be inflated prices.

China’s own production plants — and carefully controlled pricing — clearly can’t come soon enough.

— Jamie Condliffe

Can a political veteran help Sard Verbinnen flourish in Washington?

The financial communications firm has turned to Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and lobbyist who ran for Virginia’s governorship last year, as chairman of its public affairs division, which focuses on how businesses interact with lawmakers and regulators.

The hire shows Washington is becoming more intertwined with corporate America, as the state intervenes in M.&A. and other business dealings. George Sard, the firm’s C.E.O., told Michael de la Merced that the government “is pretty central to everything we’re doing.”

The big question: Sard Verbinnen is entering a crowded field in Washington. Will Mr. Gillespie help the Manhattan-based firm stand out?

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David Koch, left, and Charles Koch.

Credit
Associated Press, left; Bo Rader/The Witchita Eagle, via Associated Press

The Kochs open their wallets to defend free trade

Charles and David Koch are opposing President Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on imported goods, exposing a rift between Republican donors and the party’s base. Among the aims of the Koch political network’s initiative: modernizing Nafta and having the U.S. rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

More from Jim Tankersley of the NYT:

James Davis, the executive vice president of Freedom Partners, said the campaign was “a demonstration of our long-term commitment to advance common-sense trade policies that will ensure America’s brightest days are ahead, and to directly confront the protectionist ideas that would hold us back.”

Elsewhere in trade: China is working around U.S. steel tariffs by buying factories abroad. Meanwhile, American broadband companies are pushing back on a rule against spending federal money on telecom equipment from Huawei and ZTE. And Mexico will reportedly impose a 20 percent tariff on U.S. pork.

The political flyaround

• In spite of a blockade, Qatar is thriving — and other Gulf nations should end their feud with the emirate, Qatar’s minister of foreign affairs writes in an NYT Op-Ed. (NYT)

• California’s primaries are today. They could determine whether Democrats regain control of the House. (The Hill)

• Prosecutors accused Paul Manafort of trying to tamper with witnesses. (NYT)

• Scott Pruitt told an aide at the E.P.A. to buy a used mattress from the Trump International hotel, among other assignments. (NYT)

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Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, demonstrating a feature limiting screen time.

Credit
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

What to know about all the Apple news

Some highlights from Apple’s annual developer conference yesterday:

• More privacy features, partly to further distance the company from Facebook and Google

• Smartphone addiction cures, to ease criticism about Apple’s role in keeping us glued to our screens

• A big focus on augmented reality, to push adoption of the technology

• A less-is-more vibe, suggesting that Apple is sweating details to avoid more high-profile bugs

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Credit
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Microsoft has a balancing act ahead with GitHub

The $7.5 billion acquisition of the online code repository makes sense for Microsoft. Less so for the other tech companies that use the platform.

For Microsoft, the deal continues its break with the past. It made its name by selling proprietary software, while GitHub is one of the most popular platforms on which to develop free-to-use open-source software. But under the leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft is transforming itself into a cloud provider for businesses — and even adopting open-source technology. GitHub fits that vision neatly.

But the prospect of Microsoft in control of GitHub has already provoked a backlash among developers. More from Martin Giles of MIT Technology Review:

Unless Microsoft treads carefully, some could flee to rival repositories like BitBucket or GitLab, which has seen a big spike in traffic since news of the deal broke.

Photo


Credit
Aleksandar Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

The tech flyaround

• Facebook and Google are facing a volley of legal challenges. Washington state is suing both over election ads. Federal lawmakers are pressing Facebook for details about how it shared user data with hardware makers. And some Democrats want a new antitrust inquiry into Google.

• China is reportedly investigating Samsung and others over allegations of memory chip price-fixing. (Reuters)

• Netflix and Twitter joined key S.&P. indexes, as tech stocks enjoy another run amid questions over the global economy.

• Snap burned through $1.1 billion over the past five quarters. Selling a stake to a bigger tech company might help. (The Information)

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Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The deals flyaround

• The U.K. government sold a $3.3 billion stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland. (Bloomberg)

• Alibaba and Tencent have told investment bankers to choose sides in their rivalry. (FT)

• The owner of Saks has sold Gilt Groupe, the online retailer, to Rue La La after less than two years. (New York Post)

• Ocean Outdoor, an advertising company whose backers include the merchant bank LionTree, is buying a rival, Forrest Media. (Ocean Outdoor)

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Akbar Al Baker, the C.E.O. of Qatar Airways.

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Jason Redmond/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The C.E.O. of Qatar Airways needs a primer on equality

At a news conference in Sydney today, Akbar Al Baker, the C.E.O. of Qatar Airways, claimed that his job was beyond the wit of any woman:

“Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position.”

He clearly hasn’t read that gender equality can be a competitive advantage.

Revolving door

Steve Fraidin, a veteran deal maker, has joined the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft as a partner. (Cadwalader)

Blair Fleming, the head of RBC Capital Markets in the U.S., has reportedly left the firm. (Business Insider)

Shahira Knight, who was a top lieutenant to President Trump’s former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, is leaving the White House to join the Clearing House, a banking lobbying group. (Politico)

Valerie Szczepanik has been named as the S.E.C.’s senior adviser for digital assets and innovation — that is, its point person on cryptocurrency. (Coindesk)

The speed read

• Rupert Murdoch is reportedly clashing with his son Lachlan over key decisions at 21st Century Fox. (Vanity Fair)

• Mars plans to spend $1 billion on improving its sustainability. (Bloomberg)

• Legg Mason will pay $64 million to settle bribery charges involving Libyan officials. (FT)

• Hedge funds are falling out of love with oil. (FT)

• Fighting climate change may be up to consumers. (Wired)

We’d love your feedback. Please email thoughts and suggestions to bizday@nytimes.com.

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Can Training Eliminate Biases? Starbucks Will Test the Thesis


Academics who study unconscious bias say that training can help alleviate it. In one study involving five California middle schools, math teachers were asked to read up on the reasons students might misbehave, and urged to make students feel heard and respected. They were then asked to write down how to employ these concepts in practice, a technique that tends to helps people internalize material.

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After the arrests, Howard Schultz, the executive chairman of Starbucks, wanted to provide anti-bias training for his work force.

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Jason Redmond/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The researchers found that suspension rates at those schools plummeted for groups of students traditionally suspended at very high rates, and who may have been victims of bias.

“It allows people to just think in a more mindful way when interacting with other people,” said Jason Okonofua, a social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was the lead researcher. “It’s putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, seeing humanity in that person.’’

Some workers have seen the benefits of these exercises. Darion Robinson, a volunteer and community engagement coordinator at City Garden Montessori School in St. Louis, said he took a three-day anti-bias training course when he started in July and felt that it helped build a sense of community.

“I think it’s pushed people to be open and have real conversations about things that are going on,” he said.

Other academics and experts on bias caution that anti-bias training is a sensitive exercise that can be ineffective or even backfire if handled incorrectly. Any training that involves explicitly telling people to set aside their biases is especially likely to fail, said Seth Gershenson, an economist at American University who has also studied anti-bias training, because it requires so much mental energy it can exhaust people.

Even with training, some said, it is exceedingly easy to revert to the original biases. “In the moment of stress, we tend to forget our training,” said Mark Atkinson, the chief executive of Mursion, which provides a simulation platform for training workers in skills like interpersonal interactions.

Mr. Atkinson said Mursion attempts to solve this problem using highly lifelike avatars to simulate real-life interactions. “You want to give people reps around stressful circumstances,” Mr. Atkinson said.

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Demonstrators on Monday gathered at the Starbucks in Philadelphia that has become the center of protests.

Credit
Jacqueline Larma/Associated Press

Some experts argue that the most effective way to eliminate unconscious bias is to limit the extent to which people engage in automatic, reflexive thinking. One solution is to try to nudge workers toward more thoughtful and deliberative decision-making.

In a study involving the Seattle Police Department, researchers randomly selected a group of officers to meet with their sergeants and have an open-ended, 20-minute conversation about a recent encounter with a citizen. The encounters frequently involved minor issues like loitering — a situation analogous to the Philadelphia Starbucks incident. Over a six-week period, the officers selected to have those conversations were about 12 percent less likely to resolve an incident with an arrest.

“We were getting the police officers to slow down their thinking,” said Emily Owens, an economist at the University of California, Irvine, who was one of the researchers. Although the study didn’t look explicitly at arrest rates by race, Ms. Owens argued that, “when you’re not automating, and you’re thinking slowly, bias is less likely to influence your behavior.” (Ms. Owens stressed that the study was only suggestive and that overall the evidence on the effectiveness of bias training for police is very thin.)

Still, Joelle Emerson, chief executive of Paradigm, which advises companies on strategies for increasing diversity, argued that limiting employees’ discretion altogether can be a far more effective way of reducing bias than trying to alter their thinking.

Well-understood policies that leave less room for discretion can often save employees from having to make decisions that reflect bias, said Ms. Emerson, whose company advises several retailers. For example, rather than generally urging employees to keep an eye out for suspicious-looking customers in order to cut down on shoplifting, which can prompt sales associates to follow customers of certain races at disproportionate rates, stores concerned about theft might want to adopt a clear, uniformly applied security protocols.

“The whole challenge of implicit bias is that we’re not the best judges of when it’s impacting us,” she said.

Ms. Emerson pointed to hiring, another area that is often rife with unconscious bias. Many companies, including some of her clients, like Pinterest, have moved toward a more structured hiring process. For example, in an effort to remove subjectivity from interviews, her firm often encourages managers to come armed with examples of better or worse responses to questions.

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Florida’s Governor, Eyeing Senate Run, Offers Hope to an Unsteady G.O.P.


Mr. Scott, a multimillionaire former health care executive whose style is more suited to the boardroom than the stump, is not frequently sought to campaign for fellow Republicans. But if the governor operates as he has in the past, he will likely spend big and early on television ads that could benefit other Republicans unable to purchase much airtime in Florida’s expensive broadcast markets. His campaign team, unencumbered by a serious primary challenge, will be able to focus on mobilizing voters for the November general election.

In Mr. Scott, Mr. Nelson will face his toughest opponent since his election to the Senate in 2000; Democrats are expected to invest tens of millions of dollars to defend his seat. But Mr. Scott, too, will have to answer for Mr. Trump. He led a “super PAC” raising money for the president during the 2016 election, and has been a frequent guest at the White House and Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Palm Beach estate.

In the past year, as he has prepared for the Senate race, Mr. Scott has broken with the president several times. He pressed the White House to let 32,500 Haitians, living in Florida under temporary protected status, remain in the country. He opposed the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has protected many immigrants brought into the country illegally as children from deportation. He pushed against allowing oil drilling off Florida’s shores. And he made repeated trips to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, trying to establish a response to the catastrophic storm that was more proactive than the federal government’s.

Most important, perhaps, Mr. Scott signed off on new restrictions on firearm purchases after the Parkland shooting in defiance of the National Rifle Association, neutralizing some of the opposition he would have otherwise faced from vocal students and their families. That has not stopped Democrats from accusing the governor of acting only when it was politically convenient, especially given the lack of state action after a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016.

“On this issue, you know what, he pandered,” Mr. Shimkus said outside the meeting in Coral Springs. He said he plans to vote for Mr. Nelson.

A few steps away, a yelling match broke out between people leaving the event and five protesters holding signs in support of gun rights. “You’re indoctrinated!” one of the protesters shouted at a woman at the end of a fiery discussion. “You want to protect metal, I want to protect life!” a female high school student screamed at the protesters moments later.

As a statewide candidate, Mr. Scott will have some room to both embrace Mr. Trump on issues that are crucial to rural, conservative voters and reject him on matters important to urban liberals. That will be more difficult for Republicans running in congressional districts, especially in suburbs that have been trending lately in Democrats’ favor.

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Senator Bill Nelson of Florida on Capitol Hill in March. In Mr. Scott, Mr. Nelson will face his toughest opponent since getting elected to the Senate in 2000.

Credit
Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Across the state, Republicans are trying to open narrow bits of daylight between themselves and the White House — and some have even shown a willingness to embrace moderate gun control measures. Representative Brian Mast of Palm City, on Florida’s Treasure Coast, has endorsed a ban on assault weapons, for example. Representative Carlos Curbelo of Miami helped introduce legislation that would raise the minimum age for purchasing any kind of firearm from 18 to 21.

On other issues, Mr. Curbelo has also warned that the tariffs Mr. Trump is imposing on steel are so broad that they might raise prices for residents of the Florida Keys who are trying to replace their metal roofs after Hurricane Irma. Representative Vern Buchanan of Sarasota has teamed up with Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman, to work on a moratorium on offshore oil drilling around Florida.

“You’re going to see more and more campaigns — even more so than normal — localize and focus on the local issues that matter,” said Max Goodman, a spokesman for Mr. Buchanan.

Mr. Buchanan aired the first of an eight-week, $130,000 television ad campaign last week as an election-year precaution, Mr. Goodman said. The congressman’s son, James, unexpectedly lost a special election for a local, Republican-leaning state House district in February.

“It’s an offensive move, given this current climate,” Mr. Goodman said. “I don’t know if we’re nervous as much as we feel that we’re realists. It feels a little more like 2006 than 2010.”

In 2006, riding a wave of discontent over President George W. Bush and the unpopular war in Iraq, Florida Democrats picked up two congressional seats, helping their party take control of the House of Representatives. But they failed to win the governor’s mansion that year and lost two of three elected state cabinet positions. That has encouraged Republicans running for governor to keep the playbook that has worked for them even when the national political environment has favored Democrats.

Republicans have found midterm success in nominating candidates who appeal to the conservative base, said Brad Herold, a campaign adviser for Representative Ron DeSantis of Palm Coast, in northeast Florida, who is running for governor. “We’ve got the presidential endorsement. We’re not going to shy away from that,” Mr. Herold said, referring to a December post on Twitter by Mr. Trump backing Mr. DeSantis, before the congressman had even formally entered the race. Mr. Trump is expected to appear with Mr. DeSantis at a Florida event soon.

Mr. Trump’s declared support for Mr. DeSantis has not stopped the congressman’s Republican primary rivals from continuing to praise the president and his policies. Richard Corcoran, the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and a still-undeclared candidate for governor, released an explosive commercial in January — on the same day Mr. DeSantis entered the race — opposing so-called sanctuary states, which Mr. Trump has railed against. Mr. Corcoran’s graphic ad showed a hooded man firing a gun at a young woman.

Adam Putnam, the state agriculture commissioner and the first major Republican to announce his candidacy for governor, grew up in his family’s citrus farming and cattle ranching business. He has touted Mr. Trump’s hard line on trade, even though it may result in retributive tariffs from China on Florida citrus and other crops.

“Nobody has ever gone to bat for Florida farmers and fought against illegal trade practices like President Trump,” Mr. Putnam said last week at a breakfast with Republican activists at a Cuban restaurant in Miami.

While Republicans hope to win their primaries by sticking close to Mr. Trump, Democrats appear split on how much to make their own campaigns for governor about the president. Philip Levine, the wealthy former mayor of Miami Beach, has already spent millions of dollars on television ads, though none of them are aimed specificallyat Mr. Trump’s character.

“I don’t run against anybody,” Mr. Levine told a Jacksonville television station this week. “I run with my own message.”

His chief rival, Gwen Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, has taken the opposite approach. In her first digital ad, released this week, she mentions the president by name four times.

“Donald Trump is an embarrassment,” she says.

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Florida’s Governor, Eyeing Senate Run, Offers Hope to an Unsteady G.O.P.


Mr. Scott, a multimillionaire former health care executive whose style is more suited to the boardroom than the stump, is not frequently sought to campaign for fellow Republicans. But if the governor operates as he has in the past, he will likely spend big and early on television ads that could benefit other Republicans unable to purchase much airtime in Florida’s expensive broadcast markets. His campaign team, unencumbered by a serious primary challenge, will be able to focus on mobilizing voters for the November general election.

In Mr. Scott, Mr. Nelson will face his toughest opponent since his election to the Senate in 2000; Democrats are expected to invest tens of millions of dollars to defend his seat. But Mr. Scott, too, will have to answer for Mr. Trump. He led a “super PAC” raising money for the president during the 2016 election, and has been a frequent guest at the White House and Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Palm Beach estate.

In the past year, as he has prepared for the Senate race, Mr. Scott has broken with the president several times. He pressed the White House to let 32,500 Haitians, living in Florida under temporary protected status, remain in the country. He opposed the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has protected many immigrants brought into the country illegally as children from deportation. He pushed against allowing oil drilling off Florida’s shores. And he made repeated trips to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, trying to establish a response to the catastrophic storm that was more proactive than the federal government’s.

Most important, perhaps, Mr. Scott signed off on new restrictions on firearm purchases after the Parkland shooting in defiance of the National Rifle Association, neutralizing some of the opposition he would have otherwise faced from vocal students and their families. That has not stopped Democrats from accusing the governor of acting only when it was politically convenient, especially given the lack of state action after a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016.

“On this issue, you know what, he pandered,” Mr. Shimkus said outside the meeting in Coral Springs. He said he plans to vote for Mr. Nelson.

A few steps away, a yelling match broke out between people leaving the event and five protesters holding signs in support of gun rights. “You’re indoctrinated!” one of the protesters shouted at a woman at the end of a fiery discussion. “You want to protect metal, I want to protect life!” a female high school student screamed at the protesters moments later.

As a statewide candidate, Mr. Scott will have some room to both embrace Mr. Trump on issues that are crucial to rural, conservative voters and reject him on matters important to urban liberals. That will be more difficult for Republicans running in congressional districts, especially in suburbs that have been trending lately in Democrats’ favor.

Photo

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida on Capitol Hill in March. In Mr. Scott, Mr. Nelson will face his toughest opponent since getting elected to the Senate in 2000.

Credit
Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Across the state, Republicans are trying to open narrow bits of daylight between themselves and the White House — and some have even shown a willingness to embrace moderate gun control measures. Representative Brian Mast of Palm City, on Florida’s Treasure Coast, has endorsed a ban on assault weapons, for example. Representative Carlos Curbelo of Miami helped introduce legislation that would raise the minimum age for purchasing any kind of firearm from 18 to 21.

On other issues, Mr. Curbelo has also warned that the tariffs Mr. Trump is imposing on steel are so broad that they might raise prices for residents of the Florida Keys who are trying to replace their metal roofs after Hurricane Irma. Representative Vern Buchanan of Sarasota has teamed up with Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman, to work on a moratorium on offshore oil drilling around Florida.

“You’re going to see more and more campaigns — even more so than normal — localize and focus on the local issues that matter,” said Max Goodman, a spokesman for Mr. Buchanan.

Mr. Buchanan aired the first of an eight-week, $130,000 television ad campaign last week as an election-year precaution, Mr. Goodman said. The congressman’s son, James, unexpectedly lost a special election for a local, Republican-leaning state House district in February.

“It’s an offensive move, given this current climate,” Mr. Goodman said. “I don’t know if we’re nervous as much as we feel that we’re realists. It feels a little more like 2006 than 2010.”

In 2006, riding a wave of discontent over President George W. Bush and the unpopular war in Iraq, Florida Democrats picked up two congressional seats, helping their party take control of the House of Representatives. But they failed to win the governor’s mansion that year and lost two of three elected state cabinet positions. That has encouraged Republicans running for governor to keep the playbook that has worked for them even when the national political environment has favored Democrats.

Republicans have found midterm success in nominating candidates who appeal to the conservative base, said Brad Herold, a campaign adviser for Representative Ron DeSantis of Palm Coast, in northeast Florida, who is running for governor. “We’ve got the presidential endorsement. We’re not going to shy away from that,” Mr. Herold said, referring to a December post on Twitter by Mr. Trump backing Mr. DeSantis, before the congressman had even formally entered the race. Mr. Trump is expected to appear with Mr. DeSantis at a Florida event soon.

Mr. Trump’s declared support for Mr. DeSantis has not stopped the congressman’s Republican primary rivals from continuing to praise the president and his policies. Richard Corcoran, the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and a still-undeclared candidate for governor, released an explosive commercial in January — on the same day Mr. DeSantis entered the race — opposing so-called sanctuary states, which Mr. Trump has railed against. Mr. Corcoran’s graphic ad showed a hooded man firing a gun at a young woman.

Adam Putnam, the state agriculture commissioner and the first major Republican to announce his candidacy for governor, grew up in his family’s citrus farming and cattle ranching business. He has touted Mr. Trump’s hard line on trade, even though it may result in retributive tariffs from China on Florida citrus and other crops.

“Nobody has ever gone to bat for Florida farmers and fought against illegal trade practices like President Trump,” Mr. Putnam said last week at a breakfast with Republican activists at a Cuban restaurant in Miami.

While Republicans hope to win their primaries by sticking close to Mr. Trump, Democrats appear split on how much to make their own campaigns for governor about the president. Philip Levine, the wealthy former mayor of Miami Beach, has already spent millions of dollars on television ads, though none of them are aimed specificallyat Mr. Trump’s character.

“I don’t run against anybody,” Mr. Levine told a Jacksonville television station this week. “I run with my own message.”

His chief rival, Gwen Graham, a former congresswoman from Tallahassee, has taken the opposite approach. In her first digital ad, released this week, she mentions the president by name four times.

“Donald Trump is an embarrassment,” she says.

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Critic’s Notebook: Women (and Men, Too) Pushed to the Edge at New Play Festival


If one theme emerged from Humana’s 42nd edition, it is that living in the United States is a rather complicated proposition nowadays — especially if you happen to be a woman. Even a comedy like the ace Jaclyn Backhaus playlet “The National Foosball Championship” (part of an omnibus of short works) revolved around a battle of the sexes.

While everybody in Mark Schultz’s “Evocation to Visible Appearance” is despondent, the two female characters feel powerless. Chatty Samantha (Suzy Weller) is dumped by her boyfriend (Lincoln Clauss) after informing him she’s pregnant — which she may or may not be. Her sister, the sharp-tongued but depressive Natalie (Ronete Levenson), is in a mental institution.

Mr. Schultz (“The Gingerbread House”) and the director Les Waters lay on the gloom a bit thick, but then the play is less about plot than about atmosphere, in this case dread fueled by dead-end jobs, illness and general misery.

A sudden act of violence at a fast-food outlet does not feel earned, and comes across as gratuitous provocation, but the play is almost redeemed by a bizarre conclusion that left the audience as mystified as any I’ve ever seen: In a kind of dark-arts séance, a deafeningly loud doom-metal song is performed live while Samantha attempts to conjure her possibly imaginary unborn child and her father (Bruce McKenzie) dances like a pained cartoon bear. The house lights abruptly come back. There is no curtain call.

This was quite the mic drop from Mr. Waters — who, incidentally, is departing as the artistic head of Actors Theater, which runs the festival.

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Rinabeth Apostol and Rebecca S’manga Frank in “we, the invisibles,” a play by Susan Soon He Stanton based on the incident involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn and a New York hotel worker.

Credit
Bill Brymer

The workplace violence in Susan Soon He Stanton’s “we, the invisibles” is more muted, but the threat is always there. Ms. Stanton’s starting point was the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, when he was accused of assaulting Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel housekeeper. At the time, in 2011, Ms. Stanton was herself working at a high-end Manhattan hotel, and the play is her attempt to give the “invisibles” who form the hospitality industry’s backbone their due.

Ms. Stanton likes to have fun with storytelling. (Last year’s “Today Is My Birthday” was narrated through phone calls and voice messages.) Here the myriad quick-take scenes are well handled by the director Dámaso Rodríguez and the excellent ensemble cast, which captures the hotel’s staff as well as Susan (Rinabeth Apostol), the playwright’s stand-in, usually seen interviewing former co-workers, and Ms. Diallo herself (Rebecca S’Manga Frank).

While it has an appealing documentary quality, “we, the invisibles” also feels directionless. Susan initially says she wants to leave “D.S.K.” out of her story, for instance, but he has a way of popping in. Re-enactments of Abel Ferrara’s film “Welcome to New York” and the “Law & Order: SVU” episode based on the incident are hilarious, but keep taking us back to the criminal case Susan claims not to be interested in.

Another workplace-focused drama is “Marginal Loss” by Deborah Stein (“The Wholehearted”), which unfurls over the days immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks. The action is set in the New Jersey warehouse from which a Manhattan financial firm is temporarily operating, trying to get back to business.

The four-character play, directed by Meredith McDonough, is professional, but to what end? No matter how much they suffered or how many friends and colleagues they lost, the characters don’t seem to live beyond the page. Ultimately “Marginal Loss” lacks a strong point of view on what these finance workers are trying so hard to accomplish: to make a ton of money again.

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Jay Patterson, Satomi Blair, Emma Kikue and Ako in “God Said This” by Leah Nanako Winkler.

Credit
Jonathan Roberts

Leah Nanako Winkler’s “God Said This,” the festival’s highest-profile production — it recently received the Yale Drama Series Prize and will be presented in New York at Primary Stages next season — is a relatively traditional drama in which a Japanese-American family from Lexington, Ky., deals with the mother’s cancer.

Masako (Ako) is getting chemotherapy in a hospital, attended by her daughters: the good-girl, born-again Sophie (Emma Kikue) and the pot-smoking, rebellious Hiro (Satomi Blair), who has flown in from New York. Masako’s husband, James (Jay Patterson), is not aging well, having turned into a bit of a hoarder. Fights, reconciliations, tears — events follow a conventional route.

The lived-in acting is a highlight of the show, directed by Morgan Gould. This may have to do with Ako, Ms. Blair and Mr. Patterson playing the same characters at Ensemble Studio Theater two years ago in Ms. Winkler’s “Kentucky.” It’s unclear whether Ms. Winkler is planning a large-scale cycle, but her plays may work better in aggregate.

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