Hearing Amazon’s Footsteps, the Health Care Industry Shudders

An Amazon spokeswoman, Lori Torgerson, refused to comment on “rumors or speculation” about Amazon entering the pharmacy business, but she shared a statement that suggested other motivations for the paperwork. “Wholesale licenses are required for Amazon Business to sell professional-use only medical devices in certain states,” she said.

There is little doubt, though, that Amazon is interested in at least some aspects of the pharmacy business. Brittain Ladd, a supply chain consultant who worked at Amazon until earlier this year on groceries and other initiatives, said he participated in discussions about how Amazon could enter the category, including through acquisitions.

“The pharmacy business was always a topic of interest when I was with Amazon, and there was a sincere desire on the part of Amazon to create a better customer experience across pharmacy and health care as a whole,” he said.

While Mr. Ladd said he isn’t privy to the company’s current strategy, he believes existing pharmacy companies are right to be worried. “My advice is that executives at pharmaceutical companies should crush all assumptions when it comes to Amazon and their ability to enter, innovate and reimagine the pharmacy business and health care,” he said.

If Amazon decides to enter the market, it could take a variety of avenues, analysts said.

The easiest way in would be to set up a mail-order pharmacy that focused on price-sensitive customers without health insurance or who have high-deductible plans that require them to pay for some drug costs upfront. To do this, Amazon would need retail pharmacy licenses in every state — a hurdle, certainly, but not an insurmountable one, the analysts said.

The company’s $13.4 billion deal for Whole Foods is the latest signal of Amazon’s ambitions to have a hold on nearly every facet our lives — like the computer servers that power our favorite websites and the food we eat.

“They can at least dip their toe in the water with the cash-pay customers, and learn the business,” said Ana Gupte, an analyst for Leerink Partners.

She said cash-paying customers account for 5 percent to 10 percent of the $560 billion prescription drug business.

The idea could prove attractive to customers who already go to Amazon for a wide range of shopping items, from shoes to electronics to diapers. Retailers like Target and Walmart have added pharmacies to bring in extra business for a similar reason. Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods could also provide a physical location for pharmacies.

“A large part of the infrastructure is already there,” said David Maris, an analyst for Wells Fargo.

In a call with analysts this week, Timothy C. Wentworth, the chief executive of the pharmacy-benefit manager Express Scripts, indicated a willingness to work with Amazon to reach these cash-paying customers. “We certainly see that as something where if they wanted to move into a space, we could be a very natural collaborator,” he said.

If Amazon wanted to go bigger, Ms. Gupte and others said, it could sell to insured customers and even serve as a pharmacy-benefit manager, overseeing drug coverage for people on behalf of insurers and large employers.

This would be far more complex. It would likely require Amazon to either acquire a pharmacy-benefit manager or enter into a partnership with an existing one. Expanding the pharmacy business without the aid of a major pharmacy-benefit manager would be tough, because the benefit managers serve as gatekeepers to insured patients, deciding which pharmacies they can and cannot use. The benefit managers also operate their own mail-order pharmacies, which might make them less willing to accommodate Amazon.

Some said they expect that if Amazon chooses to enter the health care business, it would do so in a big way. The company could attempt to provide comprehensive services to patients, doctors and others, far beyond selling drugs.

Nadina J. Rosier, the health and group benefits pharmacy practice leader at Willis Towers Watson, said other areas the company could explore include offering virtual doctor consults, or using the Amazon Echo, its voice-controlled smart device, for health care applications.

No matter the short-term steps Amazon is taking, Ms. Rosier said, her research has demonstrated that it is “clearly looking to revolutionize how health care is delivered in some way.”

But while Amazon has a track record for upending major industries, from books to groceries, she said health care is complicated and there would be intense pressure to get it right. “It is just a sensitive topic,” she said. “We don’t have as much scrutiny of how much you paid for your jeans, or your shoes.”

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Welcome to the New World

Two brothers, Jamil and Ammar, fled Syria in 2012, with their wives and children. After four years waiting in Jordan, they finally received a visa and traveled to the United States as refugees. They arrived on Nov. 8, 2016, which happened to be Election Day. It was, of course, a loaded moment. In effect, the brothers and their families landed in one country and woke up the next morning in another.

Since then, I have been reporting their stories and creating a “true comic” about their lives in America. I went to their mosques, schools and job-training programs. I was also there when Ammar’s family received a frightening death threat, which ultimately forced them to flee their town. Today the illustrator, Michael Sloan, and I bring you the final installment in their story. — Jake Halpern

part 1

Landing In America

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Part 2

A Refugee Family’s First Days

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part 3

They’re Safe in America. Now What?

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part 4

Where Are All the Other Muslims?

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part 5

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

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part 6

People Will Stare. We Can’t Possibly Fit In.

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Part 7

First Day of School. Try Not to Stand Out.

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Part 8

Most Kids Don’t Know Where Syria Is

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Part 9

You Don’t Need English To Wash Dishes, Right?

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Part 10

A Caller Threatens To Kill Ammar’s Family

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Part 11

After a Threat, the F.B.I. Comes to Call

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Part 12

America Doesn’t Feel Safe Anymore

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Part 13

How Many Dishes Can There Be To Wash?

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Part 14

My Time Is Past. It’s Your Chance Now.

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Part 15

House Hunting with No Credit, No Job History

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Part 16

Trump’s Travel Ban Means Hope for Ammar’s Family

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Part 17

Three Muslim Refugees at a Jewish Day Camp

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Part 18

A Driving Lesson. An Art Show. A Start.

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Part 19

Do Americans Want Everything Vegan?

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Part 20

The Keys to Our Home

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Square, the Twitter Boss’s Other Company, Could Pass It in Value

Both of Mr. Dorsey’s children, as he is known to refer to the companies, bear the imprint of their creator and his careful, trimmed-down aesthetic.

But Mr. Dorsey’s eye for simple solutions has not been enough to turn around Twitter since he returned in 2015 to lead the company he helped found in 2006. He has failed to rein in the use and abuse of the service by trolls and political actors, and he has not found a convincing way to make money despite its ardent user base.

At Square, Mr. Dorsey has led one of Silicon Valley’s more understated success stories, built from the little plastic white square that allowed small businesses to accept credit card payments via their iPhones. Square has grown into a much broader financial services company, despite some hiccups, like a much-heralded partnership with Starbucks that flamed out.

Although Twitter’s overall revenue shrank 5 percent in the second quarter from the year before, expanding the company’s losses, at Square, revenue grew 26 percent, moving the company closer to profitability.

The divergent fate of Mr. Dorsey’s two companies can be understood simply as a matter of timing and control. When he began his second stint as Twitter’s chief executive in 2015, the company was already struggling and had a series of internal problems that were hard to change, including executive turnover and competing strategic visions.

At Square, on the other hand, Mr. Dorsey was able to build the whole company from the ground up, with knowledge from Twitter of how things can go wrong.

“Square wasn’t Jack’s first rodeo,” said Randy Reddig, who was on the founding team at Square in 2009. “It was obvious early on at the company that he took lessons learned from his time at Twitter and applied them at Square.”

Mr. Reddig said that Mr. Dorsey’s education from Twitter’s fractious early years was particularly apparent in the control that Mr. Dorsey kept over hiring and compensation decisions at Square, with a focus on creating a loyal team.

Through Twitter and Square, Mr. Dorsey declined to comment for this article.

Mr. Dorsey’s success at Square and his trouble at Twitter also tell a broader story about Silicon Valley, where the boring, back-end businesses often end up generating more money than the flashy social networks and consumer services that capture the public’s eye.

Mr. Dorsey trained Square’s sights on a mostly invisible business — electronic payments — that has momentum as more and more commerce moves online.

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The Square credit card reader. Credit Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Capgemini recently estimated that electronic payments should grow 10.9 percent a year between 2015 and 2020. It is no coincidence that the most successful American financial start-up of the last decade, aside from Square, is Stripe, which helps online businesses take payments.

Beyond just payments, though, Square has taken aim at the much larger goal of providing a tech-savvy alternative to the big banks, expanding out from payments to lending and online deposits.

This summer, Square applied for a bank charter in Utah, one of just three so-called fintech firms to take such a bold step (the others are Social Finance and Varo).

Square is most visibly positioned to use a bank license with its business customers, but the company has also been building more banklike services for consumers, most notably with its app Square Cash.

Square Cash is often described as a competitor and imitator of Venmo, the popular app owned by PayPal that makes it possible for friends to send one another payments by smartphone.

In recent months, though, Square Cash has quietly bypassed Venmo to become the most frequently downloaded financial app of any kind on both Apple and Android phones, according to Apptopia. At various points over the past week, Square Cash was ahead of Venmo and Twitter on the charts of the most downloaded iPhone apps.

The big banks had aimed to challenge Venmo with their own service, Zelle, but that has not posed a credible challenge to either Venmo or Square Cash so far, the rankings show.

Mr. Dorsey and his team made several early design choices with Square Cash that helped make it different from Venmo. As would be expected from Mr. Dorsey, Square’s app has a clean, green interface, compared with Venmo’s busy blue dashboard.

Square also made an apparently boring technical decision, to use the debit card networks rather than bank transfers, to move money around. That has made it easier for Square Cash to put money instantly into the bank accounts of its users, and to collect a fee for the service.

These differences appear to have made Square Cash more popular with lower-income customers who more often need instant access to their money and who don’t have as wide a variety of credit cards and other financial options.

“We are reaching an audience that may not have a bank account or may not have a full suite of services from a bank,” Mr. Dorsey told analysts last quarter.

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Mr. Dorsey has not found a convincing way for Twitter to make money despite its ardent user base. But at Square, he has led one of Silicon Valley’s more understated success stories. Credit Max Morse/Getty Images

The shift in people using Square Cash as something more like a bank account has been an important one for Square’s bottom line. While Square and PayPal generally don’t make money when customers send money to one another, they can take a cut when customers start using the service to make payments at stores.

This all looks like a similar playbook to the one Square used with its original credit card dongle, starting with a simple service for an underserved audience and then building from there.

Keith Rabois, who was the chief operating officer at Square until 2013, said that the Cash app reflects Mr. Dorsey’s ability to make deceptively simple products that answer a complicated need.

Even though the revenue from Cash is small compared with the money that Square pulls in from businesses, Mr. Rabois said that “it may be the most important thing Square is working on.”

During Mr. Rabois’s tenure at Square, the future did not always look so bright. The company’s first attempt at a consumer application, Square Wallet, never took off and was discontinued, bringing down the Starbucks partnership with it.

Many analysts also expected that Square would have to reduce the price it charged businesses to process credit card transactions as it began working with larger businesses that had more options.

Over time, though, Square has been able to keep its prices stable by offering its business customers other services, such as payroll and scheduling.

A KeyBanc analyst recently polled 20 businesses that use Square and found that most of them had been offered lower card transaction fees by other companies but passed them up because of the add-ons that Square offers.

One of the most profitable such services is Square Capital, which offers small loans to businesses. The revenue from these loans has been increasing faster than the overall growth of the company and has Square looking more like a bank every day.

These days, one of the biggest concerns that analysts voice about Square is the time that Mr. Dorsey has to spend on Twitter, with all its problems.

During a talk at Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum in August, Mr. Dorsey said he thought he had proved that he didn’t need to make a choice between the two.

“They both have different needs and are in different phases,” he said. “Focusing on one thing doesn’t mean you completely lose sight of something else.”

Correction: October 25, 2017

An earlier version of this article misidentified the firm where Ron Shevlin is the director of research. It is Cornerstone Advisors, not Capstone Advisors. The article also misstated how Jack Dorsey divides his workday. He typically works at Square in the afternoon and Twitter in the morning, not the other way around.

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Tech Fix: How Google’s Physical Keys Will Protect Your Password

The physical keys are an evolution of two-factor authentication, an extra security layer to ensure that your password is being entered by you. Google was one of the first companies to start offering two-factor authentication back in 2010, not long after it learned that it had been hacked by state-sponsored Chinese hackers.

After the attack, Google’s security team came up with a motto: “Never again.” The company later rolled out two-factor authentication for Google customers’ Gmail accounts. It involved text messaging a unique code to your phone that you must type in after entering your password in order to log in.

Unfortunately, those text messages can be hijacked. Last month, security researchers at Positive Technologies, a security firm, demonstrated how they could use vulnerabilities in the cellular network to intercept text messages for a set period of time.

The idea of Google’s Advanced Protection Program is to provide people with a physical device that is much harder to steal than a text message. Google is marketing the program as a tool for a tiny set of people who are at high risk of online attacks, like victims of stalking, dissidents inside authoritarian countries or journalists who need to protect their sources.

But why should extra-tough security benefit such a small group? Everyone should be able to enjoy stronger security.

So we tested Google’s Advanced Protection Program and vetted it with security researchers to see if the program could be used by the masses. The verdict: Many people should consider signing up for the security system and buying a pair of keys. But if you are married to some non-Google apps that are not yet compatible with the keys, you should wait and see if the program matures.

Setting Up Advanced Protection

Anyone with a Google account can sign up for the security program on Google’s Advanced Protection webpage. To get started, you will have to buy two physical keys for about $20 each. Google recommends buying one from Feitian and another from Yubico.

The keys, which look like thumb drives and can fit on your key chain, contain digital signatures that prove you are you. To set one up, you plug the key into a computer USB port, tap a button and name it. (The Feitian key wirelessly communicates with your smartphone to authenticate the login.) This process takes a few minutes.

On a computer and a smartphone, you need to log in with the key only once, and Google will remember the devices for future logins. That is more convenient than traditional two-factor authentication, which requires entering a unique code each time you log in.

But there are trade-offs. Google’s Advanced Protection cuts off all third-party access by default, allowing only applications that support its security keys. For the time being, that means only Google’s Gmail mail app, Google’s Backup and Sync app, and Google’s Chrome browser.

On an iPhone, for example, you will have to use Google’s Gmail or Inbox apps for email, and on a computer, you can use only the Chrome browser when signing in with a browser. So if you rely on Apple Mail to gain access to your Gmail on an iPhone, or if you use Microsoft Outlook for getting into Gmail on a PC, you’re out of luck. Google says its goal is to eventually allow third-party apps to work with the program, but it is also up to other companies to update their apps to support the keys.

Testing the Security

Despite the drawbacks, security researchers agree that the Advanced Protection Program is a solid piece of security and relatively painless to use, even for everyday use for people outside high-security jobs.

Mr. Sabin, the former N.S.A. hacker, who is now a director of network security at GRA Quantum, a security consulting firm, said the physical keys had pros and cons. On one hand, if you lose a key, a hacker would have a hard time figuring out which account it was associated with.

On the other hand, if you lose the keys or don’t have the keys around when you need to log in to a new device, it takes longer to regain access to your account. Google has put in place more elaborate recovery steps for Advanced Protection users, including additional reviews and requests for details about why users have lost access to their account. In our test, we answered security questions to try to recover an account, and Google said it would review the recovery request and respond within a few days.

Runa Sandvik, the director of information security at The New York Times, said the keys were not much of a hassle. She said Google’s requirement of using two keys meant you essentially had a spare: If you lose one key, you can get into your account with the remaining key.

But she noted that the keys could get annoying if you used many devices and constantly needed to carry the keys around to log in to your account. That may be an issue for people who work in the technology industry, but most people probably use only one computer and one phone.

Ms. Sandvik, who has been testing Google’s program to assess whether to recommend it to the newsroom, said she had not yet discovered vulnerabilities in the security key system outside of the slim possibility that a hacker gained possession of both your password and your key.

“It’s something that is relatively easy to set up once you have both keys,” Ms. Sandvik said. “I don’t see a reason you shouldn’t turn this on.”

The Bottom Line

While the security keys are easy to set up and provide tough security, they may be disruptive to your productivity if you rely on apps that are incompatible with the keys.

It took a few minutes for us to migrate to Google’s apps from Apple’s and integrate them into our newsroom workflow, which already relies on Google’s mail, messaging and cloud storage services. But using the keys required sacrificing an important feature — Apple’s V.I.P. alerts, which notify you when people you deem important email you. Google’s iOS apps for Gmail and Inbox lack a similar feature. For people with flooded inboxes, lacking V.I.P. alerts makes sifting through emails time-consuming.

Another example of how the keys can stifle productivity: Many employers still require using the Microsoft Outlook app for email, which won’t work with the keys.

If using Google’s security program would disrupt your work, you may want to wait for more companies to update their apps to support the keys, which rely on a standard called FIDO, for Fast Identity Online. Mr. Sabin predicts that many apps will follow Google’s lead.

If you decide to wait, don’t procrastinate on turning on traditional two-factor authentication that relies on text messages. While it is hackable, it is still much safer than relying on a password alone to protect you.

The question is how long it will take security researchers to find a way to hack the physical keys as well. When asked if he had already circumvented physical multifactor authentication devices like Google’s keys, Mr. Sabin would offer only: “No comment.”

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Twitter Plans to Open Ad Data to Users

The announcement is part of a major shift in the industry to lift the veil over how its secretive advertising businesses — its cash centers — work, as lawmakers put more pressure on social media companies about the role their sites played in Russia’s attempt to influence the election. Twitter, Facebook and Google are scheduled to appear for hearings before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on Nov. 1.

Lawmakers like Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have expressed frustration about Twitter. In late September, he said Twitter’s response was “inadequate” when it was asked to provide evidence of Russian-linked advertising and accounts that spread misinformation or were used to favor a presidential candidate.

At the time, Twitter said it had discovered about 200 accounts linked to Russian efforts to influence the election. But that figure was significantly less than the number uncovered a month earlier by researchers from the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan initiative of the German Marshall Fund, the public policy research group in Washington. The researchers tracked 600 Twitter accounts — both human and suspected automated “bots” — that they linked to Russian attempts to influence the election.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, said that the company’s announcement did not go far enough and that online companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google needed rules that the government could enforce.

Last week, Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Warner and Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, introduced a bill that would require digital platforms to report who bought political ads on their sites in the same way that TV broadcast stations must maintain databases with those disclosures. The bill was a response to concern that fake accounts linked to Russia on Facebook and other sites were able to fly past monitors on the sites and easily buy thousands of ads promoting racial and other hot-button issues to sow chaos before the election and to influence the result.

“I welcome this transparency,” Ms. Klobuchar said, “but we need a law in place for two major reasons: Not every company will do this, and you need rules for the road.” She added that the companies should not be left to police themselves.

The announcement from Twitter followed a public relations blitz this month by Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, to announce similar voluntary efforts to tighten standards for ad buyers. Lawmakers are still skeptical, saying there are many unanswered questions about whether the social media sites can prevent the mistakes of the 2016 election on their own.

The changes also raise new issues for politicians. For one, advertising agencies often consider their digital strategy part of their “secret sauce” when trying to sell their services to politicians and campaign strategists. Shining a light on the types of ads, the amount spent on them and how often they change could give valuable information to competing candidates.

It is also unclear whether Twitter will be able to keep up with campaigns’ ever-changing digital targeting, budgets and goals, and the company did not mention how it plans to tackle large-scale misinformation spread by bots.

Many of those automated accounts, along with Twitter users with suspected ties to the Russian government, bombarded the platform without buying advertising. Researchers at the cybersecurity firm FireEye discovered that hundreds or thousands of fake accounts regularly sent out messages criticizing Hillary Clinton — sometimes with identical tweets dispatched seconds apart.

Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said transparency in advertising alone “is not a solution to the deployment of bots that amplify fake or misleading content or to the successful efforts of online trolls to promote divisive messages.”

Twitter said it would try to tighten standards for issues-based ads that wouldn’t fall under its new electioneering rules, such as an environmental group’s push for clean-air policies or an energy company’s promotion of environmental deregulation. But the company admitted that the industry had not agreed on definitions for issues ads.

“We will work with our peer companies, other industry leaders, policymakers and ad partners to clearly define them quickly and integrate them into the new approach mentioned above,” Twitter said in its blog post.

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Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries for Scarce A.I. Talent

The cutting edge of artificial intelligence research is based on a set of mathematical techniques called deep neural networks. These networks are mathematical algorithms that can learn tasks on their own by analyzing data. By looking for patterns in millions of dog photos, for example, a neural network can learn to recognize a dog. This mathematical idea dates back to the 1950s, but it remained on the fringes of academia and industry until about five years ago.

By 2013, Google, Facebook and a few other companies started to recruit the relatively few researchers who specialized in these techniques. Neural networks now help recognize faces in photos posted to Facebook, identify commands spoken into living-room digital assistants like the Amazon Echo and instantly translate foreign languages on Microsoft’s Skype phone service.

Using the same mathematical techniques, researchers are improving self-driving cars and developing hospital services that can identify illness and disease in medical scans, digital assistants that can not only recognize spoken words but understand them, automated stock-trading systems and robots that pick up objects they’ve never seen before.

With so few A.I. specialists available, big tech companies are also hiring the best and brightest of academia. In the process, they are limiting the number of professors who can teach the technology.

Uber hired 40 people from Carnegie Mellon’s groundbreaking A.I. program in 2015 to work on its self-driving-car project. Over the last several years, four of the best-known A.I. researchers in academia have left or taken leave from their professorships at Stanford University. At the University of Washington, six of 20 artificial intelligence professors are now on leave or partial leave and working for outside companies.

“There is a giant sucking sound of academics going into industry,” said Oren Etzioni, who is on leave from his position as a professor at the University of Washington to oversee the nonprofit Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Some professors are finding a way to compromise. Luke Zettlemoyer of the University of Washington turned down a position at a Google-run Seattle laboratory that he said would have paid him more than three times his current salary (about $180,000, according to public records). Instead, he chose a post at the Allen Institute that allowed him to continue teaching.

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Artificial intelligence fueled a computer’s victory over Lee Se-dol, a world champion in the game of Go, in the Google DeepMind Challenge Match last year. Credit Jung Yeon-Je/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“There are plenty of faculty that do this, splitting their time in various percentages between industry and academia,” Mr. Zettlemoyer said. “The salaries are so much higher in industry, people only do this because they really care about being an academian.”

To bring in new A.I. engineers, companies like Google and Facebook are running classes that aim to teach “deep learning” and related techniques to existing employees. And nonprofits like Fast.ai and companies like Deeplearning.ai, founded by a former Stanford professor who helped create the Google Brain lab, offer online courses.

The basic concepts of deep learning are not hard to grasp, requiring little more than high-school-level math. But real expertise requires more significant math and an intuitive talent that some call “a dark art.” Specific knowledge is needed for fields like self-driving cars, robotics and health care.

In order to keep pace, smaller companies are looking for talent in unusual places. Some are hiring physicists and astronomers who have the necessary math skills. Other start-ups from the United States are looking for workers in Asia, Eastern Europe and other locations where wages are lower.

“I can’t compete with Google, and I don’t want to,” said Chris Nicholson, the chief executive and a co-founder of Skymind, a start-up in San Francisco that has hired engineers in eight countries. “So I offer very attractive salaries in countries that undervalue engineering talent.”

But the industry’s giants are doing much the same. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others have opened A.I. labs in Toronto and Montreal, where much of this research outside the United States is being done. Google also is hiring in China, where Microsoft has long had a strong presence.

Not surprisingly, many think the talent shortage won’t be alleviated for years.

“Of course demand outweighs supply. And things are not getting better any time soon,” Yoshua Bengio, a professor at the University of Montreal and a prominent A.I. researcher, said. “It takes many years to train a Ph.D.”

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Op-Ed Columnist: The Bush Twins Want to Set the Record Straight

Those missives included memes: a cartoon bunny that blew kisses before the words “I Love You” exploded like a Roman candle; a snippet of Jason Alexander as George Costanza in “Seinfeld.” There were long, silly strings of colorful, silly icons. From George W. Bush, who had always worked so hard on that Texas swagger?

“He has gone deep into the emojis,” Barbara said. In her contacts he’s identified as Popsicle. In Jenna’s he’s Jefe, which is Spanish for “boss.”

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George W. Bush with the newborn Barbara and Jenna in 1981, in Dallas. Credit Getty Images

We only think we know the people who wind up, intentionally or not, in the spotlight. We categorize them. Trivialize them. That’s maybe the main plaint and preoccupation of a joint memoir, “Sisters First,” in which Jenna and Barbara each present reminiscences that alternate with the other’s. It will be published on Tuesday.

“What we wanted to write about in the book was the nuance of people that we love,” Barbara said, and they’ve done just that, charting the distance between public image and private reality. The stories that they tell are often self-serving, and they skim over the failures and wages of their father’s presidency. But they do make you question the caricatures that we blithely traffic in, the assumptions that we breezily make and our reluctance to allow for how much the objects of our curiosity can change.

Their father’s late-blooming obsession with painting: Even they didn’t see that one coming. He skipped the trips to art museums that their mother, Laura, took them on when they were kids.

But after his presidency ended in 2009, he got an iPhone, Barbara said, and “discovered this little drawing app and would do little sketches and send them to us.”

Jenna added: “We would say, ‘Hey, Dad, Happy Sunday, what are you up to?’ And he would stick-figure a little airplane.”

“With his little face waving out of it,” Barbara chimed in. That meant that he was flying somewhere.

The book is stippled with insider anecdotes, my favorite of which recounts a meal that Barbara and her mother shared with Silvio Berlusconi in 2006, when he was Italy’s prime minister and Barbara was 24. (She and Jenna are now 35.) Berlusconi complimented her on her blue eyes, told her that she should mate with his son and, for good measure, announced: “If I was younger, I’d have children with you.” Barbara’s loss, obviously, but she has somehow soldiered on.

I told her that when I read that part, I immediately thought of Trump, and of his various comments over the years about the hotness — in Daddy’s eyes — of Ivanka. She didn’t take the bait.

They’re careful, she and Jenna. They have made clear over the years that they’re not perfect political overlaps with the rest of their family, which is the Republican Party’s great modern dynasty. Barbara, for example, appeared in a video endorsing same-sex marriage back in 2011.

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Barbara, left, and Jenna in Kennebunkport, Me., in 1991. Credit George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

But that’s not the kind of attention they usually court, and during our hours together at Café Altro Paradiso, where Jenna had ricotta dumplings and Barbara swordfish, they repeatedly registered their disgust with the divisiveness of our national conversation. They don’t want to add to the ugliness, which pains Jenna all the more, she said, because she has two daughters, Mila, 4, and Poppy, 2.

“This moment, as a mother, feels a little frightening, because I’m nervous to have the TV on to hear some of the rhetoric that is coming from the highest position,” Jenna said, conspicuously not uttering the syllable “Trump” itself. “The way I speak about elections and the way I speak about everything has changed, because I’m now a role model to two little humans who I want to teach about love and empathy and compassion.”

She and Barbara, who is single, woke up together in Jenna’s bed on the morning after election night, because Jenna’s husband, Henry Hager, was away, and Barbara had come over to watch the returns, which were still being counted into the wee hours. Jenna wouldn’t say if those results disappointed her, but she and Barbara both expressed a fierce wish to see a female president soon.

“One hundred percent,” Jenna said, and again mentioned her girls. “Mila, the other day in the car, goes, ‘Mommy, Poppy rules the world,’ about her baby sister. And I go: ‘Well, Poppy could rule the world. Maybe one day she could be president.’ And Mila goes, ‘But, Mom, presidents are men.’ She said that.”

From mid-1999 to late-2001 I covered their father’s campaign and the start of his presidency, and I remember seeing them on the fringes of events. I also remember the media’s sometimes cheap fascination with them when they went off to college — Jenna to the University of Texas, Barbara to Yale — and were repeatedly caught consuming alcohol before they were legally old enough to.

“Jenna and Tonic” was a headline in The New York Post. People magazine went with “Double Trouble,” while Newsweek opted for “Busted Again in Margaritaville.” They were embarrassed, yes, but also frustrated by what they insist were exaggerations in many accounts.

Back then I was never formally introduced to either of them. But perhaps five years ago, Barbara visited me at The Times to discuss the Global Health Corps, a public-health analogue to the Peace Corps and Teach for America that sends more than 100 recent college graduates annually into the most impoverished areas of the world. She founded it, raised money for it, is its chief executive and spends plenty of time in those places herself.

Partly because of her focus on health but largely to stir up trouble, I asked her and Jenna, whom I was meeting for the first time, about Trump’s move to make it easier for employers to deny coverage of birth control. He’d announced that just hours before our lunch.

“It does feel like we’re going backwards in some ways,” Jenna said, “and that’s probably as much as I can say.”

Is she pro-choice?

“I can’t say,” she answered. “I’d be in trouble at work.”

Barbara?

“I am very for women having everything they need to live healthy, dignified lives,” she told me.

“Is that a yes?” I asked.

“I think women should be able to make the right decision that would allow them to live — truly allow them to live,” she said.

Jenna shook her head: “He might have wanted a yes or no.” Indeed he might have.

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The Bush twins with with their parents, Laura and George W., on Mr. Bush’s second Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2005. Credit J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Their father opposed abortion rights but their mother stayed mum, vaguely identifying herself as pro-choice only after the couple left the White House. That approximated the trajectory of her mother-in-law, the former first lady Barbara Bush, who pops up frequently in “Sisters First” and, like the rest of the clan, isn’t exactly who you expect.

Regal? Entitled? Not according to the account of the twins’ visit to the White House shortly after the first President Bush’s election, when they were 7. They discovered the bowling lane in the basement and, using the phone there, asked a staffer to bring them peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

“We were like Eloise in our Plaza!” Jenna writes. “When the door opened, it was not our sandwiches, but our Ganny, who appeared and told us in no uncertain terms that we were not in a hotel, but temporary guests in a historic home, and we were never to do that again.”

Laura Bush is “quiet and bookish,” Barbara writes, but then again not: “Beneath her flats and cardigans, my mom is in fact our closet hippie and Rastafarian.” She dragged Barbara, then a teenager, to a reggae concert in Austin, Tex.

Barbara also writes that while her father can be “loud and unthoughtful,” he “outreads us all.” After Barbara went through her first devastating romantic breakup a few years ago, he called or texted her daily, “just to check in, just to share the burden with me.”

The twins portray him as surprisingly self-effacing.

During his presidency, they spotted an anti-Bush bumper sticker with a withering put-down, and they not only told him about it but turned it into a running family joke. “Now,” Barbara writes, “this line comes up regularly when we want to rib our former-leader-of-the-free-world father: ‘Well, somewhere in Texas a village is missing its idiot.’ ”

After Jenna, covering the Golden Globes for NBC, conflated two movies about African-Americans by referring to “Hidden Fences,” he quickly texted her to remind her that where verbal pratfalls were concerned, he’d been there, done that and survived. She would, too.

Jenna and Barbara told me that for as long as they can remember, he has brought their mother coffee in bed every morning, including when he was in the White House, because he’s always up first. He brings them coffee in bed when they visit.

They seemed to me a long, long way from Margaritaville. They’re not the Manhattan party fixtures they could easily be. They show considerable restraint. They also show generosity.

Back in January, as Malia and Sasha Obama prepared to move out of the White House, Jenna and Barbara wrote them a letter that acknowledged the challenges that they’d already faced and that they would continue to confront, including “harsh criticism of your parents by people who had never even met them.”

“Your precious parents,” the Bush twins wrote, “were reduced to headlines.”

So were their parents. Their grandparents. Their low-energy uncle, Jeb. It goes with the territory. But it’s also part of what makes that ground so forbidding, and scares many good people away.

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Veterans dismayed by Trump’s urge to ‘punch back’ in feud

President Donald Trump’s controversial response to the deaths of four US soldiers has evolved into a politicized war of words with a Democratic congresswoman and — by extension, the widow of a fallen service member — sparking concerns that the US civilian-military divide may be at a crisis point.

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State of the Art: How the Frightful Five Put Start-Ups in a Lose-Lose Situation

Because today’s giants are nimbler and more paranoid about upstart competition than the tech behemoths of yore, they have cleverly created an ecosystem that enriches themselves even when they don’t think of the best ideas first. The Five run server clouds, app stores, ad networks and venture firms, altars to which the smaller guys must pay a sizable tax just for existing. For the Five, the start-up economy has turned into a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition — they love start-ups, but in the same way that orcas love baby seals.

There is perhaps no better example of this dynamic than what has happened to Snap, the company that makes the disappearing messaging app Snapchat. Although it is one of the most innovative consumer-focused internet companies — Snap created a whole new paradigm in social networking, and pioneered the idea that the camera is the future of human communication — it has been battered by the giants.

After failing to buy Snap several years ago, Facebook repeatedly tried to copy its key innovations. This year, when Facebook lifted Snapchat’s Stories feature for Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook’s main app, it seemed to deliver a death blow.

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Joey Levin, the chief executive of IAC, an internet and media company that looks for opportunities above, beneath and between the giants. Credit Audrey C. Tiernan

But Facebook isn’t the only behemoth trying to feed off Snap’s carcass. In January, Snap signed a cloud hosting deal with Google. It agreed to pay Google $400 million a year for the next five years. Note that Snap booked only about $330 million in ad revenue in the first half of this year. In other words, it’s paying more than half of its revenue to Google.

Oh, and do you know who its largest competitors in the internet ad market are? Surprise! Facebook and Google.

The small guys won’t concede any this, of course. Unbridled optimism fuels start-up world, and many investors and start-up executives I talked to in recent weeks argued that with the insane amounts of money pouring into start-ups, the Five don’t have the whole game won.

They said the Five’s platforms had made starting companies cheaper and easier, and pointed to several successful start-ups that managed to elude the Five’s clutches in the last few years: Netflix, Uber and Airbnb. And when you look at business-focused companies that aren’t household names, you come up with dozens more, from Slack to Stripe to Square.

“In a lot of ways I’d say it hasn’t changed,” said Joey Levin, the chief executive of IAC, an internet and media company based in New York. “I’ve been around the internet long enough, and the first thing we used to ask in every meeting when I started was, ‘Why won’t Microsoft do your business?’ Then six years later it was, ‘Why doesn’t Google do it?’ Now it’s a combination of why can’t Facebook, Google, Apple or Amazon do this?”

Mr. Levin’s position is interesting. Even if you may not have heard of it, IAC has been battling giants online for a long time. The company grew out of the media tycoon Barry Diller’s television holdings of the 1990s; over the last two decades, IAC created a string of digital brands that tried to find some foothold outside the fiefs of the giants. Among them are Expedia, Match.com, Tinder, Ask.com and Vimeo.

Some of these companies became the biggest brands in their categories, while others were also-rans that came up short against the day’s tech giants. In many cases, though, IAC made money by shrewdly navigating the giants. Sometimes it worked with the behemoths, other times it competed with them, and always it looked for opportunities above and beneath and between the giants, like a clever pigeon picking up crumbs around a picnic table.

IAC’s latest gambit is Angi Homeservices, a company that combines two big brands aimed at home repair and refurbishing, Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor. That company competes directly with some of the Five — both Google and Amazon have services meant to help you find people to install things your house.

Chris Terrill, the chief executive, told me that Angi Homeservices had a dedicated team working on providing a service that’s superior to anything the giants can build. But he also said his company was eager to team up with one of the big guys — for instance, on one of their voice-assistant platforms — because working with one of the Five could ease its path into the big leagues.

“We think that a smart voice provider will say, ‘If I want to win at all costs, we’ll go get the very best partner’ — and that’s us,” Mr. Terrill said.

In some ways, IAC could be a model for the internet company of tomorrow. It clearly aims big and isn’t going for second place. But it has also internalized a kind of working method that recognizes the Five as more-or-less permanent fixtures of the internet. It’s not betting on their demise; rather, it’s betting on their continued success. If Angi is to win, so will one or more of the Five.

IAC’s executives recognize the danger of a digital marketplace that is so heavily dependent on big guys. “I think the opportunities are still there, but I do worry that some of the biggest players are going to stifle that competition by trying to do and own too much themselves,” Mr. Terrill said.

I asked another IAC veteran, Dara Khosrowshahi — who until recently was the chief executive of Expedia — whether he believed the internet was still an open field for innovation, or whether the Five were closing it off.

“I’m mixed as it relates to that,” he said. “I fundamentally think innovative ideas can still survive and thrive, but the Googles and Facebooks of the world have so much more intelligence as to mass consumer behavior that they probably have an unfair advantage in identifying these early fast movers — and are willing to pay prices that are extraordinary for them.”

In August, Mr. Khosrowshahi was appointed chief executive of Uber, where he will have to deal with the giants more directly. Though his company is the most highly valued start-up of our age, its success seems far from assured. Many of its problems are of its own making, and Mr. Khosrowshahi is determined to fix them.

But like Snap, Uber is at the mercy of the Five. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is an investor in Uber. But Alphabet’s autonomous-car company, Waymo, is also a competitor to Uber. On top of that, Waymo has sued Uber, alleging theft of trade secrets.

The future of Uber, of ride-hailing and of autonomous vehicles in America is hazy. But here’s one thing that seems a sure bet: Whether Uber wins or loses, Google will end up doing just fine.

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Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded

A female doctor proceeded to use a cauterizing device to sear a two-inch-square symbol below each woman’s hip, a procedure that took 20 to 30 minutes. For hours, muffled screams and the smell of burning tissue filled the room.

“I wept the whole time,” Ms. Edmondson recalled. “I disassociated out of my body.”

Since the late 1990s, an estimated 16,000 people have enrolled in courses offered by Nxivm (pronounced Nex-e-um), which it says are designed to bring about greater self-fulfillment by eliminating psychological and emotional barriers. Most participants take some workshops, like the group’s “Executive Success Programs,” and resume their lives. But other people have become drawn more deeply into Nxivm, giving up careers, friends and families to become followers of its leader, Keith Raniere, who is known within the group as “Vanguard.”

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Keith Raniere, founder of Nxivm, in 2009. Credit Patrick Dodson

Both Nxivm and Mr. Raniere, 57, have long attracted controversy. Former members have depicted him as a man who manipulated his adherents, had sex with them and urged women to follow near-starvation diets to achieve the type of physique he found appealing.

Now, as talk about the secret sisterhood and branding has circulated within Nxivm, scores of members are leaving. Interviews with a dozen of them portray a group spinning more deeply into disturbing practices. Many members said they feared that confessions about indiscretions would be used to blackmail them.

Mark Vicente, a filmmaker and former top Nxivm official, said that after hearing about the secret society, he confronted Mr. Raniere.

“I said, ‘Whatever you are doing, you are heading for a blowup,’” Mr. Vicente said.

Several former members have asked state authorities to investigate the group’s practices, but officials have declined to pursue action.

In July, Ms. Edmondson filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Health against Danielle Roberts, a licensed osteopath and follower of Mr. Raniere, who performed the branding, according to Ms. Edmondson and another woman. In a letter, the agency said it would not look into Dr. Roberts because she was not acting as Ms. Edmondson’s doctor when the branding is said to have happened.

Separately, a state police investigator told Ms. Edmondson and two other women that officials would not pursue their criminal complaint against Nxivm because their actions had been consensual, a text message shows.

State medical regulators also declined to act on a complaint filed against another Nxivm-affilated physician, Brandon Porter. Dr. Porter, as part of an “experiment,” showed women graphically violent film clips while a brain-wave machine and video camera recorded their reactions, according to two women who took part.

The women said they were not warned that some of the clips were violent, including footage of four women being murdered and dismembered.

“Please look into this ASAP,” a former Nxivm member, Jennifer Kobelt, stated in her complaint. “This man needs to be stopped.”

In September, regulators told Ms. Kobelt they concluded that the allegations against Dr. Porter did not meet the agency’s definition of “medical misconduct,” their letter shows.

Mr. Raniere and other top Nxivm officials, including Lauren Salzman, did not respond to repeated emails, letters or text messages seeking comment. Dr. Roberts and Dr. Porter also did not respond to inquiries.

Former members said that, inside Nxivm, they are being portrayed as defectors who want to destroy the group.

It is not clear how many women were branded or which Nxivm officials were aware of the practice.

A copy of a text message Mr. Raniere sent to a female follower indicates that he knew women were being branded and that the symbol’s design incorporated his initials.

“Not initially intended as my initials but they rearranged it slightly for tribute,” Mr. Raniere wrote, (“if it were abraham lincolns or bill gates initials no one would care.)”

From the Message

Below is an excerpt of a text message Mr. Raniere sent to a female follower, which suggested that he knew women were being branded and that the symbol’s design incorporated his initials.

“… Not intended initially as my initials but they rearranged it slightly for tribute (if it were abraham lincolns or bill gates initials no one would care). The primary meaning and design of the brand symbol has nothing to do with my initials …”

Joining the Sisterhood

Ms. Edmondson, who lives in Vancouver and helped start Nxivm’s chapter there, was thrilled when Lauren Salzman arrived in January to teach workshops.

The women, both in their early 40s, were close and Ms. Edmondson regarded Ms. Salzman as a confidante and mentor.

“Lauren was someone I really looked up to as a rock star within the company,” said Ms. Edmondson, an actress who joined Nxivm about a decade ago.

During her visit, Ms. Salzman said she had something “really amazing” she wanted to share. “It is kind of strange and top secret and in order for me to tell you about it you need to give me something as collateral to make sure you don’t speak about it,” Ms. Edmondson recalled her saying.

The proposition seemed like a test of trust. After Ms. Edmondson wrote a letter detailing past indiscretions, Ms. Salzman told her about the secret sorority.

She said it had been formed as a force for good, one that could grow into a network that could influence events like elections. To become effective, members had to overcome weaknesses that Mr. Raniere taught were common to women — an overemotional nature, a failure to keep promises and an embrace of the role of victim, according to Ms. Edmondson and other members.

Submission and obedience would be used as tools to achieve those goals, several women said. The sisterhood would comprise circles, each led by a “master” who would recruit six “slaves,” according to two women. In time, they would recruit slaves of their own.

“She made it sound like a bad-ass bitch boot camp,” Ms. Edmondson said.

Ms. Edmondson and others said that during training, the women were required to send their master texts that read “Morning M” and “Night M.” During drills, a master texted her slaves “?” and they had 60 seconds to reply “Ready M.”

Trainees who failed had to pay penalties, including fasting, or could face physical punishments, two women said.

In March, Ms. Edmondson arrived for an initiation ceremony at Ms. Salzman’s home in Clifton Park, N.Y., a town about 20 miles north of Albany where Mr. Raniere and some followers live. After undressing, she was led to a candlelit ceremony, where she removed a blindfold and saw Ms. Salzman’s other slaves for the first time. The women were then driven to a nearby house, where the branding took place.

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Sarah Edmondson showed her brand. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

In the spring, the sorority grew as women joined different circles. Slaves added compromising collateral every month to Dropbox accounts, and a Google Document was used to list a timetable for recruiting new slaves, several women said.

Around the same time, an actress, Catherine Oxenberg, said she learned her daughter had been initiated into the sorority.

“I felt sick to my stomach,” said Ms. Oxenberg, who starred in the 1980s television series “Dynasty.”

Ms. Oxenberg had become increasingly concerned about her 26-year-old daughter, India, who looked emaciated from dieting. She told her mother that she had not had a menstrual period for a year and that her hair was falling out.

Ms. Oxenberg said she invited her daughter home in late May to try to get her away from the group.

When Ms. Oxenberg confronted her about the sorority, her daughter defended its practices.

“She said it was a character-building experience,” Ms. Oxenberg said.

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Catherine Oxenberg was informed that her daughter, India, had become part of Nxivm’s secret sorority. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

‘Humans Can Be Noble’

By the time the secret group was taking shape, Mark Vicente, the filmmaker, had been a faithful follower of Mr. Raniere for more than a decade.

Mr. Vicente said he had been contacted by Ms. Salzman’s mother, Nancy, a co-founder of Nxivm who is known as “Prefect,” after the 2004 release of a documentary he co-directed that explored spirituality and physics.

Soon, Mr. Vicente was taking courses that he said helped him expose his fears and learn strategies that made him feel more resolute.

He also made a documentary called “Encender el Corazón,” or “Ignite the Heart,” which lionized Mr. Raniere’s work in Mexico.

“Keith Raniere is an activist, scientist, philosopher and, above all, humanitarian,” Mr. Vicente says in the film.

Mr. Raniere has used those words to describe himself. On his website, he said he spoke in full sentences by age 1, mastered high school mathematics by 12 and taught himself to play “concert level” piano. At 16, he entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

Before Nxivm, he helped run a company called Consumers’ Buyline Inc., which offered discounts to members on groceries and other products.

In the mid-1990s, several state attorneys general investigated it as a suspected pyramid scheme; Mr. Raniere and his associates agreed to shut it down.

Through Nxivm, Mr. Raniere transformed himself into a New Age teacher with long hair and a guru-like manner of speaking.

“Humans can be noble,” he says on his website. “The question is: will we put forth what is necessary?”

By many accounts, Mr. Raniere sleeps during the day and goes out at night to play volleyball or take female followers for long walks. Several women described him as warm, funny and eager to talk about subjects that interested them.

Others saw a different side. Nxivm sued several former members, accusing them of stealing its trade secrets, among other things.

Mr. Vicente said he was aware of the negative publicity, including a 2012 series by The Albany Times-Union that described alleged abuses inside Nxivm.

Mr. Vicente’s views began to change this year after his wife was ostracized when she left Nxivm and he heard rumors about the secret sorority.

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Mark Vicente and his wife, Bonnie Piesse, both former members of Nxivm. Mr. Vicente confronted Keith Raniere about the secret society within the group. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Mr. Vicente said he got evasive answers when he asked Mr. Raniere about the group. Mr. Raniere acknowledged giving “five women permission to do something,” but did not elaborate, other than to say he would investigate, Mr. Vicente said.

Mr. Vicente said he suspected Mr. Raniere was lying to him and might have done so before. Suddenly, self-awareness techniques he had learned felt like tools that had been used to control him.

“No one goes in looking to have their personality stripped away,” he said. “You just don’t realize what is happening.”

Followers Start to Flee

In May, Sarah Edmondson began to recoil from her embrace of the secret society.

Her husband, Anthony Ames, who was also a Nxivm member, learned about her branding and the couple both wanted out.

Before quitting, Mr. Ames went to Nxivm’s offices in Albany to collect money he said the group owed him.

He had his cellphone in his pocket and turned on its recorder.

On the recording, Mr. Ames tells another member that Ms. Edmondson was branded and that other women told him about handing over collateral. “This is criminal,” Mr. Ames says.

The voice of a woman — who Mr. Ames said is Lauren Salzman — is heard trying to calm him. “I don’t think you are open to having a conversation,” she said.

“You are absolutely right, I’m not open to having a conversation,” he replied. “My wife got branded.”

A few days later, many of Mr. Raniere’s followers learned of the secret society from a website run by a Buffalo-area businessman, Frank R. Parlato Jr. Mr. Parlato had been locked in a long legal battle with two sisters, Sara and Clare Bronfman, who are members of Nxivm and the daughters of Edgar Bronfman, the deceased chairman of Seagram Company.

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Nxivm’s Executive Success Programs offices in Albany. The organization has chapters across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Credit Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

In 2011, the Bronfman sisters sued Mr. Parlato, whom they had hired as a consultant, alleging he had defrauded them of $1 million.

Four years later, in 2015, the Justice Department indicted him on charges of fraud and other crimes arising from alleged activities, including defrauding the Bronfmans. Mr. Parlato has denied the claims and the case is pending.

Mr. Parlato started a website, The Frank Report, which he uses to lambaste prosecutors, Mr. Raniere and the Bronfmans. In early June, Mr. Parlato published the first in a torrent of salacious posts under the headline, “Branded Slaves and Master Raniere.”

A Nxivm follower, Soukaina Mehdaoui, said she reached out to Mr. Raniere after reading the post. Ms. Mehdaoui, 25, was a newcomer to Nxivm, but the two had grown close.

She said Mr. Raniere told her the secret sorority began after three women offered damaging collateral to seal lifetime vows of obedience to him.

While Ms. Mehdaoui had joined the sorority, the women in her circle were not branded. She was appalled.

“There are things I didn’t know that I didn’t sign up for, and I’m not even hearing about it from you,” she texted Mr. Raniere.

Mr. Raniere texted back about his initials and the brand.

By then, panic was spreading inside Nxivm. Slaves were ordered to delete encrypted messages between them and erase Google documents, two women said. To those considering breaking away, it was not clear whom they could trust and who were Nxivm loyalists.

Late one night, Ms. Mehdaoui met secretly with another Nxivm member. They took out their cellphones to show they were not recording the conversation.

Both decided to leave Nxivm, despite concerns that the group would retaliate by releasing their “collateral” or suing them.

Ms. Mehdaoui said that when she went to say goodbye to Mr. Raniere, he urged her to stay.

“Do you think, I’m bad, I don’t agree with abuses,” she recalled him saying. He said the group “gives women tools to be powerful, to regain their power for the sake of building love.”

Nxivm recently filed criminal complaints with the Vancouver police against Ms. Edmondson and two other women accusing them of mischief and other crimes in connection with the firm’s now-closed center there, according to Ms. Edmondson. The women have denied the allegations. A spokesman for the Vancouver police declined to comment.

Ms. Edmondson and other former followers of Mr. Raniere said they were focusing on recovering.

“There is no playbook for leaving a cult,” she said.

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