New York, May 17 (AP/UNB) — I.M. Pei (PAY), the versatile, globe-trotting architect who revived the Louvre with a giant glass pyramid and captured the spirit of rebellion at the multi-shaped Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has died at age 102.
Pei's death was confirmed Thursday by Marc Diamond, a spokesman for the architect's New York firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. One of Pei's sons, Li Chung Pei, told The New York Times his father had died overnight.
Pei's works ranged from the trapezoidal addition to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the chiseled towers of the National Center of Atmospheric Research that blend in with the reddish mountains in Boulder, Colorado.
His buildings added elegance to landscapes worldwide with their powerful geometric shapes and grand spaces. Among them are the striking steel and glass Bank of China skyscraper in Hong Kong and the Fragrant Hill Hotel near Beijing.
His work spanned decades, starting in the late 1940s and continuing through the new millennium. Two of his last major projects, the Museum of Islamic Art, located on an artificial island just off the waterfront in Doha, Qatar, and the Macau Science Center, in China, opened in 2008 and 2009.
Pei painstakingly researched each project, studying its use and relating it to the environment. But he also was interested in architecture as art — and the effect he could create.
"At one level my goal is simply to give people pleasure in being in a space and walking around it," he said. "But I also think architecture can reach a level where it influences people to want to do something more with their lives. That is the challenge that I find most interesting."
Pei, who as a schoolboy in Shanghai was inspired by its building boom in the 1930s, immigrated to the United States and studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. He advanced from his early work of designing office buildings, low-income housing and mixed-used complexes to a worldwide collection of museums, municipal buildings and hotels.
He fell into a modernist style blending elegance and technology, creating crisp, precise buildings.
His big break was in 1964, when he was chosen over many prestigious architects, such as Louis Kahn and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, to design the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library in Boston.
At the time, Jacqueline Kennedy said all the candidates were excellent, "But Pei! He loves things to be beautiful." The two became friends.
A slight, unpretentious man, Pei developed a reputation as a skilled diplomat, persuading clients to spend the money for his grand-scale projects and working with a cast of engineers and developers.
Some of his designs were met with much controversy, such as the 71-foot (22-meter) faceted glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre museum in Paris. French President Francois Mitterrand, who personally selected Pei to oversee the decaying, overcrowded museum's renovation, endured a barrage of criticism when he unveiled the plan in 1984.
Many of the French vehemently opposed such a change to their symbol of their culture, once a medieval fortress and then a national palace. Some resented that Pei, a foreigner, was in charge.
But Mitterrand and his supporters prevailed and the pyramid was finished in 1989. It serves as the Louvre's entrance, and a staircase leads visitors down to a vast, light-drenched lobby featuring ticket windows, shops, restaurants, an auditorium and escalators to other parts of the vast museum.
"All through the centuries, the Louvre has undergone violent change," Pei said. "The time had to be right. I was confident because this was the right time."
Another building designed by Pei's firm — the John Hancock Tower in Boston — had a questionable future in the early 1970s when dozens of windows cracked and popped out, sending glass crashing to the sidewalks, during the time the building was under construction.
A flurry of lawsuits followed among the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., the glass manufacturer, and Pei's firm. A settlement was reached in 1981.
No challenge seemed to be too great for Pei, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which sits on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Pei, who admitted he was just catching up with the Beatles, researched the roots of rock 'n' roll and came up with an array of contrasting shapes for the museum. He topped it off with a transparent tent-like structure, which was "open — like the music," he said.
In 1988, President Reagan honored him with a National Medal of Arts. He also won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, 1983, and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, 1979. President George H.W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.
Pei officially retired in 1990 but continued to work on projects. Two of his sons, Li Chung Pei and Chien Chung Pei, former members of their father's firm, formed Pei Partnership Architects in 1992. Their father's firm, previously I.M. Pei and Partners, was renamed Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.
The museum in Qatar that opened in 2008 was inspired by Islamic architectural history, especially the 9th century mosque of Ahmed ibn Tulun in the Egyptian capital of Cairo. It was established by the tiny, oil-rich nation to compete with rival Persian Gulf countries for international attention and investment.
Ieoh Ming Pei (YEE-oh ming) was born April 26, 1917, in Canton, China, the son of a banker. He later said, "I did not know what architecture really was in China. At that time, there was no difference between an architect, a construction man, or an engineer."
Pei came to the United States in 1935 with plans to study architecture, then return to practice in China. However, World War II and the revolution in China prevented him from coming back.
During the war, Pei worked for the National Defense Research Committee. As an "expert" in Japanese construction, his job was to determine the best way to burn down Japanese towns. "It was awful," he later said.
In 1948, New York City real estate developer William Zeckendorf hired Pei as his director of architecture. During this period, Pei worked on many large urban projects and gained experience in areas of building development, economics and construction.
Some of his early successes included the Mile High Center office building in Denver, the Kips Bay Plaza Apartments in Manhattan, and the Society Hill apartment complex in Philadelphia.
Pei established his own architectural firm in 1955, a year after he became a U.S. citizen. He remained based in New York City. Among the firm's accomplishments are the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Pei's wife, Eileen, who he married in 1942, died in 2014. A son, T'ing Chung, died in 2003. Besides sons Chien Chung Pei and Li Chung Pei, he is survived by a daughter, Liane.
Dubai, May 17 (AP/UNB) — Saudi Arabia accused Tehran of being behind a drone strike that shut down a key oil pipeline in the kingdom, and a newspaper close to the palace called for Washington to launch "surgical" strikes on Iran, raising the specter of escalating tensions as the U.S. boosts its military presence in the Persian Gulf.
Concerns about possible conflict have flared after the U.S. dispatched warships and bombers to the region to counter an alleged but unspecified threat from Iran. There also have been allegations that four oil tankers were sabotaged Sunday off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, and Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack on the Saudi pipeline.
Fears have grown out of President Donald Trump's decision last year to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose wide-reaching sanctions — the latest levied as recently as last week — that have crippled Iran's economy. But Trump took a soft tone Thursday, a day after tweeting that he expected Iran to look for talks. Asked if the U.S. might be on a path to war with the Iranians, the president answered, "I hope not."
Saudi Prince Khalid bin Salman, who is King Salman's son and the country's deputy defense minister, tweeted that the drone attack on two Saudi Aramco pumping stations running along the East-West pipeline were "ordered by the regime in Tehran, and carried out by the Houthis" — a reference to the Yemeni rebel group.
A state-aligned Saudi newspaper went further, running an editorial calling for "surgical" U.S. strikes on Iran in retaliation. Iran has been accused by the U.S. and the U.N. of supplying ballistic missile technology and arms to the Houthis, which Tehran denies.
The front-page editorial in the Arab News, published in English, said it's "clear that (U.S.) sanctions are not sending the right message" and that "they must be hit hard," without elaborating on specific targets. It said the Trump administration had already set a precedent with airstrikes in Syria, when the government there was suspected of using chemical weapons.
Ali Shihabi, who runs the Saudi-leaning Arabia Foundation in Washington, said there's a sense that if the Iranians can get away with targeting Saudi oil infrastructure, then "the whole security infrastructure in the Gulf will be called into question and security premiums on oil will rise."
He said it would seem that Riyadh would like to coordinate with Washington how it responds to Iran, but "eventually what may happen is that just Saudi Arabia and the UAE may have to do something."
"Nobody is going to start a war with them (Iran), but I think they should be defanged and, you know, things like their naval capabilities, things like their missile capabilities should be downgraded at least to make their capacity to inflict such dangerous activity more painful, more costly," Shihabi said.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who also is defense minister and controls major levers of power in the Sunni kingdom, has not commented publicly on this week's incidents. In a Saudi TV interview in 2017, he said the kingdom knows it is a main target of Shiite Iran and there is no room for dialogue with Tehran.
A top Emirati diplomat said late Wednesday the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen would "retaliate hard" for attacks on civilian targets, without elaborating.
However, Anwar Gargash also said the UAE is "very committed to de-escalation" after the alleged sabotage of the tankers off the country's coast. He declined to blame Iran directly, although he repeatedly criticized Tehran.
In response to the oil pipeline attack, the coalition said it launched airstrikes on Houthi targets in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, killing at least six people, including four children. At least 40 other people were wounded, according to Yemen's Health Ministry.
Residents of Sanaa scrambled to pull wounded people from the rubble of a building hit by the airstrikes. Fawaz Ahmed told The Associated Press he saw three bodies — a man, a woman and a child, all buried together.
The coalition, which includes the UAE, has been at war with the Houthis since 2015, carrying out near-daily airstrikes. The pipeline attack marked one of the rebels' deepest and most significant drone strikes inside Saudi territory since the conflict began.
Washington already has warned shipping companies that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf region and said it deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers there to counter the threat.
Last week, U.S. officials said they had detected signs of Iranian preparations for potential attacks on U.S. forces and interests in the Middle East but did not provide any evidence to back up the claims.
The U.S. State Department has ordered all nonessential government staff to leave its embassy and consulate in Iraq. Germany and the Netherlands both suspended their military assistance programs in the country in the latest sign of tensions.
Iraq is home to powerful pro-Iranian militias, while also hosting more than 5,000 U.S. troops. The U.S. military's Central Command said its troops were on high alert, without elaborating.
European nations have urged the U.S. and Iran to show restraint. Also, a senior British officer in the U.S.-backed coalition fighting the Islamic State group, Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, said earlier this week that there had been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. His comments exposed international skepticism over the U.S. military buildup.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during a visit to Tokyo that Iran has the right to respond to the "unacceptable" U.S. sanctions, but has exercised "maximum restraint."
Speaking about Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, Zarif was quoted as also saying: "A multilateral deal cannot be treated unilaterally."
Iran recently said it would resume enriching uranium at higher levels if a new nuclear deal is not reached by July 7. That would potentially bring it closer to being able to develop a nuclear weapon, something Iran insists it has never sought.
Chicago, May 17 (AP/UNB) — Columbia University Libraries in New York will produce the official oral history of Barack Obama's presidency.
Obama Foundation officials announced Thursday that the project at The Columbia Center for Oral History Research will provide a record of the decisions, actions and effects of Obama's presidency. The former president is a graduate of Columbia University, which also is home to the oral history of Dwight Eisenhower's presidency. The Obama project also will include former first lady Michelle Obama's legacy.
The University of Hawaii and the University of Chicago will partner on the effort, focusing respectively on Obama's early years in Hawaii and the Obamas' lives in Chicago.
Columbia University officials say the Obamas' histories are expected to be publicly available online no later than 2026.
Washington, May 17 (AP/UNB) — Unveiling a new immigration plan, President Donald Trump said Thursday he wanted to provide a sharp contrast with Democrats, and he did — aiming to upend decades of family-based immigration policy with a new approach that favors younger, "totally brilliant," high-skilled workers he says won't compete for American jobs.
Trump's sweeping immigration plan is more a campaign document than anything else. It's a White House attempt to stretch beyond the "build-the-wall" rhetoric that swept the president to office but may not be enough to deliver him a second term. As Trump heads into reelection season, his campaign sees the plan as a way to help him look more reasonable on a signature issue than he often seems — and to cast Democrats as blocking him.
"We want immigrants coming in. We cherish the open door," Trump said in a Rose Garden speech as Cabinet members and Republican lawmakers filled the front rows.
Trump said his new system, with points given for those with advanced degrees, job offers and other attributes, will make it exactly "clear what standards we ask you to achieve."
Nowadays, "we discriminate against genius," he said, using a softer tone than his usual fiery campaign rallies. "We discriminate against brilliance. We won't anymore once we get this passed."
Even before the speech, Democrats, whose votes would be needed for any bill to be approved by the divided Congress, panned the effort and questioned the Republican Party's commitment to families.
"Are they saying family is without merit?" asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Are they saying most of the people who've come to the United States in the history of our country are without merit because they don't have an engineering degree?"
Pelosi continued: "Certainly we want to attract the best to our country." But she said "merit" is a "condescending" word that means "merit in the eyes of Donald Trump."
Trump's new plan has been months in the making, a project of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has been meeting privately with business groups, religious leaders and conservatives to find common ground among Republicans on an issue that has long divided the party.
Kushner has long complained that many advocates on the immigration issue are very clear about what they're against, but have much more trouble articulating what they're "for." Kushner set out to create a proposal that Republicans might be able to rally around, his mission to give the president and his party a clear platform heading into the 2020 elections.
Trump didn't mention his son-in-law's work during the address but noted that the proposal wasn't written by politicians. Instead, the president said it had input from law enforcement personnel. It also had echoes of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, who wants to push down the country's immigration levels and has driven much of the administration's policy.
With a humanitarian crisis at the border — officials said this week that a fourth child, a 2-year-old Guatemalan migrant, died in U.S. custody — Trump promised to halt illegal border crossings with the "most complete and effective border security package ever assembled." He did not mention the child's death.
As part of the plan, officials want to shore up ports of entry to ensure all vehicles and people are screened and to create a self-sustaining fund, paid for with increased fees, to modernize ports of entry.
The plan also calls for building border wall in targeted locations and continues to push for an overhaul to the U.S. asylum system, with the goal of processing fewer applications and more quickly removing people who don't qualify.
In addition, the plan includes a proposal to allow public donations to pay for the president's long-promised border wall.
The plan does not address what to do about the millions of immigrants already living in the country illegally, including hundreds of thousands of young "Dreamers" brought to the U.S. as children — a top priority for Democrats. Nor does it reduce overall rates of immigration, as Miller and many conservative Republicans would like.
Republicans in Congress who were briefed on the plan by Kushner and Miller earlier this week welcomed, but did not fully embrace, the approach. Some of those up for reelection, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, objected to its failure to account for the young Dreamers. In Colorado, a Democrat running against GOP Sen. Cory Gardner blasted it as part of Trump's "hateful" immigration agenda that would do nothing but "build Trump's wall and keep families apart."
"It's obviously just a start," said Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn, who will be among those running for reelection in 2020. "It's a clear statement of what our immigration policy should be. ... We're not eliminating family connections, it's just adding an emphasis on merit."
At its core, the proposal would fundamentally overhaul how the country for decades has approached immigration. The country has long placed a preference on providing green cards to family members of immigrants.
Under the Trump plan, the country would award the same number of green card as it now does, about 1 million annually. But far more would go to exceptional students, professionals and people with high-level and vocational degrees. Factors such as age, English language ability and employment offers would also be considered.
Far fewer green cards would be given to people with relatives already in the U.S. They would be reserved just for immediate family members — Trump mentioned spouses and children — rather than parents and adult siblings. Fifty-seven percent would be awarded on merit as opposed to the current 12%.
While Trump is seeking to put a softer facade on the top issue from his first campaign, he also is making a direct appeal to his supporters. He says his plan means fewer low-skilled immigrants will compete for low-paying American jobs.
"Our plan is pro-American, pro-immigrant and pro-worker," Trump said, saying it contrasts with what he called Democrats' support of "chaos."
Efforts to overhaul the immigration system have gone nowhere for three decades, and prospects for an agreement seem especially bleak as the 2020 elections approach.
Lisa Koop, director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, called Trump's plan "a political stunt intended to posture rather than problem-solve."
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration rates, welcomed a "very positive effort" that was "undermined by the embrace of the current very high level of immigration."
Mexico City, May 16 (AP/UNB) — Mexico's education ministry cancelled schools in the capital and surrounding areas for Thursday due to a siege of air pollution.
Weather conditions at the end of Mexico's dry season combined with dozens of brushfires burning in and around the city have produced a blanket of smoky haze.
The federal Environment Department said Wednesday that 3,800 firefighters are combatting an average of about 100 fires a day in brush, scrub, agricultural and forest land throughout the country. Fire risk is highest in the spring for much of Mexico because the summer rainy season has not yet started.
Officials have warned that it could be harmful to at-risk people, especially due to high levels of tiny particles in the air. It triggered a pollution alert this week in Mexico City.
City environmental officials announced the closure Thursday of a park and zoo on the south side of the city as well as children's playgrounds in the sprawling Chapultepec Park.
The conditions also led to the postponement of professional soccer and baseball games in Mexico City this week as well as the imposition of driving limits due to high ozone levels.
On Wednesday, the soccer league announced that a semifinal match between America and Leon that had already been postponed due to air quality would be moved out of the city and played in Queretaro on Thursday.
The league said its original backup plan was to play the game in Toluca, capital of neighboring Mexico state, but air quality there also is too poor.
The National Autonomous University of Mexico also announced it would suspend all activities at its facilities in the metropolitan area Thursday.
Some 20 million people live in the Mexico City metropolitan area.
Mexico is facing an extremely heavy season of brush and forest fires, with 4,425 blazes recorded so far this year. About 378,000 acres (152,952 hectares) have been burned, officials say.
On Monday, NASA's Discover the Earth Observing System Data and Information System featured images showing smoke plumes over southern Mexico in its #NASAWorldview Twitter feed.