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Historians question Trump’s ‘heroes,’ plans for national garden monument

Sun, 2020-07-05 07:47

President Donald Trump speaks during a "Salute to America" event on the South Lawn of the White House, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky/)

Among the combative and unusual ways President Donald Trump chose to celebrate Independence Day, some historians were particularly puzzled Saturday by his announcement for a new monument called the “National Garden of American Heroes” populated by a grab bag of historical figures chosen by his administration.

The garden, Trump explained in a Friday night speech at Mount Rushmore, was part of his response to the movement to remove Confederate statues and racially charged iconography across the country.

"Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities," Trump said. "This attack on our liberty, our magnificent liberty, must be stopped."

In response, Trump said he plans to build "a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live." Among the statues to be erected in the garden - spelled out in an executive order - are evangelical leader Billy Graham, 19th century politician Henry Clay, frontiersman Davy Crockett, first lady Dolley Madison and conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.

"The choices vary from odd to probably inappropriate to provocative," said James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association.

"It's just so random. It's like they threw a bunch of stuff on the wall and just went with whatever stuck," said Karen Cox, a history professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, after struggling for several minutes to describe the order outlining the proposed monument. "Nothing about this suggests it's thoughtful."

Perhaps worse than the scattershot nature of the selected heroes is the apparent political motivations behind the monument, said Cox, who is writing a book on Confederate monuments. "It doesn't address the reality on the ground, the real debate and turmoil going on in this country," she said, including the anger and ongoing protests about systemic racism and inequality.

In his executive order, Trump rails against those who have pulled down or vandalized some statues as well as localities that have removed others. Several cities and states have decided not to honor the Confederate leaders who fought against the United States to preserve slavery.

"My administration will not abide an assault on our collective national memory," Trump says in the order that stipulates that the garden should include "historically significant Americans." Among them would be presidents, Founding Fathers, religious leaders and "opponents of national socialism or international socialism."

"It seems like a pretty naked attempt to seize on a cultural conflict to distract from other issues," said Grossman. He noted Trump's executive order establishes a task force and gives it 60 days to submit a report detailing locations and options for building the new garden monument.

"There's no rush here. The only real emergency is that there's an election coming up," Grossman said.

To hurry such work defeats the whole purpose of erecting statues, he said. Monuments are exercises in reflection, he said, a chance to plumb our collective memory and reflect on who we are as a country, what we value most and want to honor and pass down to future generations.

"For starters, you might want to consult different communities about who their heroes are and not just choose your own," Grossman said. "You might also want to consult professionals, like actual historians."

Trump's list of "heroes" includes five African Americans, but no Latino and Hispanic figures such as labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez.

While Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson - well represented by existing monuments - and Republican heroes Ronald Reagan and Scalia made the cut, the list doesn't include a single Democratic president such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson.

Adam Domby, a historian at the College of Charleston, noted the lack of any Native Americans on Trump's list, even noncontroversial ones such as Sitting Bull or Sacagawea. The oversight is particularly galling, Domby said, given Trump announced it at Mount Rushmore - a monument that sits on land considered sacred to Native Americans and found by the Supreme Court to have been taken illegally from them.

One hero who made it onto Trump's hero list, however, was frontiersman Daniel Boone, who fought Native Americans in wars and skirmishes throughout his life.

"This list they put together, it raises so many odd historical questions," Domby said. "Why did they choose Gen. [George S.] Patton but not [Dwight D.] Eisenhower - because of the movie 'Patton'? They include some African Americans, but only ones that might be considered 'safe' or 'comfortable' like Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr. Where's W.E.B. Dubois? Where's Malcolm X?"

One of the more puzzling selections is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Union officer in the Civil War. Domby suspects Chamberlain was included because his character appears in the 1993 movie "Gettysburg," or maybe perhaps because Chamberlain ordered his Union soldiers to come to attention and show respect to Confederate soldiers as they surrendered.

Other figures named in the executive order include: John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Douglas MacArthur, James Madison, Christa McAuliffe, Audie Murphy, Betsy Ross, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and Orville and Wilbur Wright.

The proposed monument drew derision from critics, who saw it as an attempt to capitalize politically on the divisive cultural debate over Confederate monuments.

"Trump, your Garden of Heroes is sleight of hand. You want to focus on monuments, but your policies have undermined voting rights, health care, immigrant justice & protections for the American people, esp poor & low wealth," William Barber, a reverend and co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, said in a tweet.

If Trump believes so strongly in history, "how about a national monument to opponents of southern secession? And to abolitionists?" Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Douglas Blackmon said on Twitter. "There are no Asian American heroes. Like Sadao Munemori who attacked two machine gun emplacements in Italy, then gave his life diving on a grenade to save his unit. He's not a hero? Wrong color?"

"The tragedy is an undertaking like this could actually be a good idea if serious," said Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton University. "You could engage artists who are hurting for work right now. You could be innovative and really rethink the idea of what it means to memorialize things and how we do that. You could even break out of the whole classical/neoclassical forms we've been stuck in when it come statues. But I don't think that's what Trump has in mind."

In the executive order, Trump says all statues will be lifelike or realistic, "not abstract or modernist representations."

The order calls such statues "silent teachers in solid form of stone and metal."

But that misunderstands the nature and function of such statues, said Cox, the historian in North Carolina. “Monuments are much more a reflection of those who put them up. They aren’t so much about the past as they are a reflection of our values and ideals in the present,” she said. “That’s why they’re often so problematic.”

1 of 2 protesters hit by driver on Seattle freeway dies

Sun, 2020-07-05 07:32

Emergency workers tend to an injured person on the ground after a driver sped through a protest-related closure on the Interstate 5 freeway in Seattle, authorities said early Saturday, July 4, 2020. Dawit Kelete, 27, has been arrested and booked on two counts of vehicular assault. (James Anderson via AP) (James Anderson/)

SEATTLE — One of two people hit by a man who drove his car onto a closed Seattle freeway and into a crowd protesting police brutality has died.

Summer Taylor, 24, of Seattle died Saturday evening at Harborview Medical Center, spokesperson Susan Gregg said.

Taylor and Diaz Love, 32, of Portland, Oregon, were hit by the car that barreled through a panicked crowd of protesters on Interstate 5 early Saturday morning, officials said.

Dawit Kelete of Seattle drove the car around vehicles that were blocking I-5 and sped into the crowd about 1:40 a.m., according to a police report released by the Washington State Patrol. Video taken at the scene by protesters showed people shouting “Car! Car!” before fleeing the roadway.

Love is in serious condition in the intensive care unit, Harborview, Gregg said.

Love was filming the protest in a nearly two-hour-long Facebook livestream captioned “Black Femme March takes I-5” when the video ended abruptly; with about 15 seconds left, shouts of “Car!” can be heard as the camera starts to shake before screeching tires and the sound of impact are heard.

A graphic video posted on social media showed the white Jaguar racing toward a group of protesters who are standing behind several parked cars, set up for protection. The car swerves around the other vehicles and slams into the two protesters, sending them flying into the air.

The driver, who was alone, fled the scene after hitting the protesters, Trooper Chase Van Cleave told The Associated Press. One of the other protesters got in a car and chased the driver for about a mile. He was able to stop him by pulling his car in front of the Jaguar, Van Cleave said.

Troopers arrived, and the driver was put in custody, Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead said.

Kelete was described by officers as reserved and sullen when he was arrested, according to court documents. He also asked if the pedestrians were OK, the documents say.

Kelete was booked into the King County Correctional Facility on Saturday morning on two counts of vehicular assault. Bail was denied.

A judge found probable cause to hold Kelete on an investigation of vehicular assault. He faces a second court hearing on Monday at which the judge will determine if he can be released on bail, according to court documents.

It was not immediately clear if Kelete had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Officials were trying to determine the motive as well as where he got onto the interstate, which had been closed by the state patrol for more than an hour before the protesters were hit. Mead said they suspect Kelete drove the wrong way on a ramp. Trooper Rick Johnson said the driver went through a barrier that closed the freeway.

Troopers did not know whether it was a targeted attack, but impairment was not considered a factor, Mead said.

Kelete has a Seattle address. He is listed in public records as a student who attended Washington State University between 2011 and 2017 majoring in business and commerce. His enrollment status could not be confirmed because the university was closed Saturday.

The Washington State Patrol said Saturday evening that going forward it won’t allow protesters to enter I-5 and would arrest pedestrians on the freeway.

Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests. Dozens of people were arrested this past week in connection with protests as demonstrations continue after authorities cleared the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone Wednesday morning.

Protesters had shut down the interstate for 19 days in a row, Mead said at a press conference.

Facebook groups pivot to attacks on Black Lives Matter

Sun, 2020-07-05 07:29

FILE - In this June 19, 2020, file photo, protesters wear protective masks as they march after a Juneteenth rally outside the Brooklyn Museum, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. A loose network of Facebook groups that took root across the country in April to organize protests over coronavirus stay-at-home orders has become a hub of misinformation and conspiracies theories that have pivoted to a variety of new targets. Their latest: Black Lives Matter and the nationwide protests against racial injustice. (AP Photo/John Minchillo (John Minchillo/)

CHICAGO — A loose network of Facebook groups that took root across the country in April to organize protests over coronavirus stay-at-home orders has become a hub of misinformation and conspiracy theories that have pivoted to a variety of new targets. Their latest: Black Lives Matter and the nationwide protests of racial injustice.

These groups, which now boast a collective audience of more than 1 million members, are still thriving after most states started lifting virus restrictions.

And many have expanded their focus.

One group transformed itself last month from “Reopen California” to “California Patriots Pro Law & Order,” with recent posts mocking Black Lives Matter or changing the slogan to “White Lives Matter.” Members have used profane slurs to refer to Black people and protesters, calling them “animals,” “racist” and “thugs”— a direct violation of Facebook’s hate speech standards.

Others have become gathering grounds for promoting conspiracy theories about the protests, suggesting protesters were paid to go to demonstrations and that even the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police, was staged.

An Associated Press review of the most recent posts in 40 of these Facebook groups — most of which were launched by conservative groups or pro-gun activists — found the conversations largely shifted last month to attacking the nationwide protests over the killing of Black men and women after Floyd’s death.

Facebook users in some of these groups post hundreds of times a day in threads often seen by members only and shielded from public view.

“Unless Facebook is actively looking for disinformation in those spaces, they will go unnoticed for a long time and they will grow,” said Joan Donovan, the research director at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy. “Over time, people will drag other people into them and they will continue to organize.”

Facebook said it is aware of the collection of reopen groups, and is using technology as well as relying on users to identify problematic posts. The company has vowed in the past to look for material that violates its rules in private groups as well as in public places on its site. But the platform has not always been able to deliver on that promise.

Shortly after the groups were formed, they were rife with coronavirus misinformation and conspiracy theories, including assertions that masks are “useless,” the U.S. government intends to forcibly vaccinate people and that COVID-19 is a hoax intended to hurt President Donald Trump’s re-election chances this fall.

Posts in these private groups are less likely to be scrutinized by Facebook or its independent fact-checkers, said Donovan. Facebook enlists media outlets around the world, including The Associated Press, to fact check claims on its site. Members in these private groups have created an echo chamber and tend to agree with the posts, so are therefore less likely to flag them for Facebook or fact-checkers to review, Donovan added.

At least one Facebook group, ReOpen PA, asked its 105,000 members to keep the conversation focused on reopening businesses and schools in Pennsylvania, and implemented rules to forbid posts about the racial justice protests as well as conspiracy theories about the efficacy of masks.

But most others have not moderated their pages as closely.

For example, some groups in New Jersey, Texas and Ohio have labeled systemic racism a hoax. A member of the California Facebook group posted a widely debunked flyer that says “White men, women and children, you are the enemy,” which was falsely attributed to Black Lives Matter. Another falsely claimed that a Black man was brandishing a gun outside the St. Louis mansion where a white couple confronted protesters with firearms. Dozens of users in several of the groups have pushed an unsubstantiated theory that liberal billionaire George Soros is paying crowds to attend racial justice protests.

Facebook members in two groups — Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine and Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine — also regularly refer to protesters as “animals,” “thugs,” or “paid” looters.

In the Ohio group, one user wrote on May 31: “The focus is shifted from the voice of free people rising up against tyranny ... to lawless thugs from a well known racist group causing violence and upheaval of lives.”

Those two pages are part of a network of groups in Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania created by conservative activist Ben Dorr, who has for years raised money to lobby on hot-button conservative issues like abortion or gun rights. Their latest cause — pushing for governors to reopen their states — has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers in the private Facebook groups they launched.

Private groups that balloon to that size, with little oversight, are like “creepy basements” where extremist views and misinformation can lurk, said disinformation researcher Nina Jankowicz, a fellow at the nonpartisan Wilson Center, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

“It’s sort of a way that the platforms are enabling some of the worst actors to stay on it,” said Jankowicz. “Rather than being de-platformed — they can organize.”

America on its 244th birthday: Dark skies, canceled parades, but also new hope

Sat, 2020-07-04 16:54

Hassan Elhadi, 16, sells American flags near the Washington Monument on Saturday in Washington, D.C. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post

As statues tumble and a frightening virus spreads through the land, far fewer splashes of color will burst onto the night skies across America on the Fourth of July. Instead of parades and picnics, the nation’s 244th birthday was a muted celebration by people who are frustrated and strained, yet intriguingly, persistently hopeful about the future.

A triple whammy of deadly disease, wholesale economic paralysis and a searing reckoning with racial inequality largely canceled the nation's birthday bash. But despite Depression-level unemployment and pervasive sadness, polling and interviews across the country reveal an enduring - even renewed - reservoir of optimism, a sense that despite the coronavirus and perhaps as a result of protests in big cities and small towns alike, the United States can still right itself.

Months of quarantine and the continuing anxiety of life under the threat of an uncontained virus has shrunk social circles, leaving many people lonely or bored. In Clear Lake, Iowa, where there would normally be a parade, a carnival and a grand fireworks display over the water, Rachel Wumkes instead spent the day in her in-laws' pontoon with her husband and their five children.

"I feel discombobulated right now because we should be doing everything and instead we're just kind of doing nothing," said Wumkes, who works for the town's chamber of commerce. "There's so many scary things right now. We're all kind of melancholy this year, trying to put a smile on our faces."

Americans' pride in their country has dropped this year, especially among Republicans, according to the Gallup Poll. National pride declined to its lowest point in two decades of polling, as the portion of Americans saying they are "extremely" or "very proud" of their country fell from 92 percent in 2002, months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to 63 percent last month. The number was far lower for nonwhites: 24 percent.

On the Fourth, Chris Chappelear left Omaha, where the big parades and fireworks displays had been canceled, and headed over to Arlington, Neb., his grandparents' tiny hometown 35 miles away, where the rocket's red glare gave proof through the night that the flag was still there.

Despite all the country has gone through this year, he believes there remains something to celebrate.

"Everything feels really strained right now," said Chappelear, who recently completed a term as chairman of the Nebraska Federation of Young Republicans. "But people are trying to make it work, and I think there will be meaningful change. I like the national conversation that the protests started. With social media, too many people only see what their own people think. But as a millennial, I think changing the guard, with new, fresh blood in leadership, would go a long way toward cooling down tempers."

[On Independence Day, Trump slams the enemies within]

In the wake of nationwide protests against police violence, Americans have become somewhat more optimistic about the country's future, though a plurality still say life will be worse for people in the next generations, according to a new Pew Research poll. Though 71 percent of Americans said they feel angry about the state of the country - and 66 percent said they are fearful - the survey found an uptick in optimism since last fall.

Overall, 25 percent of those polled said life will get better for Americans; among whites, that number held steady at 22 percent, but among blacks, the optimism number jumped from 17 percent last fall to 33 percent this month.


Crowds dance and enjoy live music on 16th Street amidst a joyous atmosphere during DC's Chocolate City Experience around Black Lives Matter Plaza, June 27, 2020, in Washington. (Photo for The Washington Post by Evelyn Hockstein)

On most Fourths, Greg Carr makes his way to Independence Hall in Philadelphia to hear the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence. He always carries with him the text of Frederick Douglass's 1852 speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"

There was no mass gathering this year, but Carr, chairman of the Afro-American studies department at Howard University in the District of Columbia, nonetheless read the speech, which affirms Douglass's admiration for the Founding Fathers' "great principles of political freedom and of natural justice" but concludes that "This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn."

This year, Carr feels an unaccustomed "optimism coming from black folks who see the terms of the American myth being renegotiated in the streets." He said the coronavirus epidemic "has laid bare the structural inequalities in this country, and the deaths from the virus triggered this general strike."

The protests, Carr said, have been expressions not only of anger and frustration, but also of joy: "There's dancing, there's celebration - they're celebrating victories that are about America and about human rights and the feeling that 'I feel better outside than I did being stuck inside the house.' "

Carr spent the day reading the speech and attending Zoom conferences critiquing the Fourth of July. His is not a celebration of America - "This is still the white man's country," he said - but rather a celebration that Americans are asserting their rights.

"What black people want is to be left alone," Carr said. "Let us live."

Figuring out exactly what the Fourth celebrates has been the work of nearly 2½ centuries, and especially in traumatic times, that effort can seem anything but unified.

In 1968, the Fourth arrived in a moment of deep national division. Riots burned through American cities, the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy remained fresh wounds to the national psyche, and 36 percent of Americans - including 48 percent of blacks - told pollsters that the United States was a "sick society."

In that traumatic year, the Fourth featured demonstrations on the Mall in Washington highlighting "the plight of the poor," and in Philadelphia, protesters opposing the U.S. involvement in Vietnam chanted, "End the war now!"

But in most American towns, the Fourth unfolded as it always had, a cheerful mélange of parades and fireworks, baseball games, fried chicken dinners and flags aflutter in a humid breeze. A Gallup Poll that summer found that most Americans did not consider their country "sick," arguing that a small number of people were responsible for violence on the streets and that the country was no worse off than it had been in other eras.

That debate has ebbed and flowed for half a century.

"This year's conflicts are the clash of two different, incompatible visions of America," said John Fonte, a historian who is director of the Center for American Common Culture at the conservative Hudson Institute. "It's systemic justice against systemic racism, the America of the American Revolution and the Constitution - the idea that we've had an advance of rights for more than two centuries - against the view that America was flawed from the beginning by slavery.

"We are reaching the climax of that debate, and it appears this year that we are moving away from the vision of an American legacy that needs to be transmitted, toward that vision of America as a country that needs to be radically transformed."

Fonte has watched as statues have fallen and protests have blossomed, not only against Confederate generals and soldiers who were traitors to their country, but also against George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant.

The historian has little expectation that Americans will reach any consensus on who we are and what we stand for. Fonte called the rejection of some of the nation's most honored figures "overreach."

"Most people in most countries want to love their country," Fonte said. "They don't want to think this is a terrible nation that has done terrible things for hundreds of years. But we're going to have to choose. Something has to give."


Black Lives Matter protesters gather around the Robert Lee statue in Richmond, July 1, 2020. Work crews removed the statue of confederate general Stonewall Jackson in Richmond just hours earlier. (Photo for The Washington Post by Astrid Riecken)

This year, many Americans seem to be leaning toward the protesters' arguments, with large majorities of whites and nonwhites alike concluding that the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody reflected broad problems in how police treat black Americans, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll conducted in June.

That consensus gives Chappelear, the Nebraska Young Republican, hope that "we'll come through this crisis - battered and bruised and bloody, but we'll come through it. The country is still divided, but I look at my generation and the attitudes are different: I like the idea of Black Lives Matter, even if not the organization that runs it. With climate change and gay rights, there's a much larger acceptance among young conservatives, even here in Nebraska, than there is for older generations."

But deep divisions remain, and the painful and largely unsuccessful struggle to limit the spread of the coronavirus has reflected rifts that stretch back generations. The debate over whether governments should require people to wear masks, for example, is a classic American faceoff between individual liberty and common good.

"It's just a punch in the gut to see people around the world responding to the virus and we're sitting here not doing what we know we could do," said Spence Spencer, who has run the Fourth of July parade in the District's Palisades neighborhood since 2002. This year's parade was scrapped, replaced with a virtual parade online.

"We are broken but unbowed," said Spencer, a former State Department official who runs a nonprofit organization that focuses on enhancing the rule of law in Iraq and other conflict zones. "Our country has taken so much on the chin this year, on so many levels."

Spencer sees this spring's protests as "a cause for hope, a reassertion that the American tradition of getting people to act on a matter of social justice is alive and well." But the country's handling of the virus is a less hopeful story, he said: "Right now, that's a major failing. But I know we can turn a corner. That's a core belief."


Protesters holding an American flag upside-down march in front of Minnesota Governor's Residence on Monday, June 1, 2020, in Saint Paul, Minn. (Washington Post photo by Salwan Georges)

Many Americans blame themselves, or at least each other, for the failure to restrain the spread of the virus as some other countries have.

More than twice as many people say the American public is doing a "bad job" dealing with the outbreak as say the public is doing a good job, according to a Monmouth University poll. Americans give their fellow citizens a worse grade than they give President Trump; 59 percent said the public is doing a "bad job" battling the virus, whereas 54 percent said Trump is handling the outbreak poorly.

Wumkes, the Iowa civic booster, compared the country's predicament to a trying chapter of her own life. Three years ago, she lost her husband to cancer. She despaired about her future, alone with two small children. Now, remarried and in a blended family with her new husband's three kids, her children ask, "Why can't we go to the movies?" and "Why are we always at home?" But Wumkes sees a light she'd have found hard to imagine a few years ago.

"Life is not all rainbows and unicorns," she said. "I pulled through that time, and we as a country can pull through, too. Maybe that's a small-town Iowa fantasy, but I'm hopeful we can persevere."

Despite the nationwide surge of worry and stress since the epidemic hit hard in March, more than 7 in 10 Americans told the Gallup Poll in mid-June that they experienced happiness and enjoyment through much of their day, a bump up in positive feelings since late March.

There's good feeling aplenty in Medora, in North Dakota's Badlands, this weekend. The parade was on. The fireworks, too. More than 128,000 Americans have died of covid-19, and 2.7 million nationwide have been diagnosed with the virus that causes the disease, but in this rural town, the 128 residents, augmented in summer by thousands of tourists visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park, felt distant enough from the brunt of the virus to charge ahead with their celebrations.

Some people wore masks, and Douglas Ellison keeps hand sanitizer on the counter at the bookstore and inn he runs. Whether people use it is up to them. "I see it as an individual choice," he said.

His Fourth was an optimistic one. His inn is mostly full of visitors, and his vision of America remains mostly unblemished by this year's troubles.

"Out here, the tensions are not as strong as what we see on television," said Ellison, who also is a former mayor of Medora. "From what I watch, I see almost a mass hysteria, with people pulling down statues left and right, sometimes without even knowing who the person really is. It's great to have a national conversation, and there's an underlying benefit to the unrest, so we can be more aware of people who have not had all the benefits of our country. But unfortunately, it often devolves into shouting and recriminations."

Still, Ellison said, "the country will come together. My bookstore is history-oriented, and history teaches us that we will always continue to evolve. Every generation thinks their time is the worst it's ever been. No, it's been worse. All of this has been brewing since long before the president even ran for office. But the boil will simmer down. Time settles emotions. Things have a way of balancing and righting themselves. They always have."

- - -

The Washington Post’s Scott Clement and Emily Guskin contributed to this report.

I’m still living with my ex during the pandemic. It was great — until she heard about my Tinder profile.

Sat, 2020-07-04 16:39

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

I have a COVID-induced relationship problem. My girlfriend and I dated for over a year and lived together for most of it — basically I was in between apartments, and when she and I got together, it just made sense to move in. We’ve been having problems, probably made worse by quarantining, and we broke up about a month ago. It was very mutual and actually a very mellow conversation — no drama. She even said I could still stay with her while I looked for a place, and that because of COVID, I didn’t need to rush.

Now she’s pulling a 180 because her friend saw my profile on Tinder. She’s furious that I’m trying to meet someone. I think she’s crazy for being furious. We broke up and we both agreed it was for the best. She said not only does it seem too fast, but it’s irresponsible to try to meet people during a pandemic. I think she still has feelings for me and is using COVID as an excuse to keep me from moving on. I told her that, and she admitted that since breaking up, we’ve been getting along better and it did make her miss me. The other night we were up late having drinks and she asked if we had any chance of reconciling and I said there’s always a chance, which is true, I mean, who knows what the future holds?

But now I don’t know what to do. I feel like if I’m staying, I’m leading her on in a way, but I do want to meet new people and I do think breaking up was the right thing. She said I could stay as long as I needed to and I really have no money saved and no prospects on a new place. I feel it’s unfair for her to be mad at me for trying to date though. Any advice how to navigate this?

Wanda says:

Wow, where to start. First of all, if you’re broken up, definitely don’t stay up late drinking together, and if you are up late drinking together, definitely don’t talk about your failed relationship — and if you are still somehow conducting a late-night drunken postmortem, definitely don’t tell this poor woman that she has a chance of getting you back.

Yes, she’s clearly still attached to you — evidenced by her allowing you to stay, reacting angrily to your Tinder time, confessing to feeling nostalgic for romantic days of the past, and admittedly pondering whether a reunion was possible. You could argue that she holds the power because she’s the one thing saving you from couch surfing, which sounds downright dangerous in these days of social distancing.

Really, you’re the one in the driver’s seat here. From where I see it, you’re stringing this lady along and capitalizing on her lingering feelings for you as you lounge around her residence taking your sweet time looking for places to live, which you can’t afford anyway, and that’s when you’re not busy swiping left and right.

Do you and your ex a favor and truly move on, which means moving out of her house.

Wayne says:

You sure are doing a good job of convincing yourself — and a not-so-good job of trying to convince everyone else, i.e., your “ex,” Wanda and I — that you’re moving on. You aren’t even budging much less moving. If you’re serious and honest about the breakup, it’s time to stop talking and start proving it.

I echo the wise Wanda: stop stringing your ex along and stop milking the living situation. And I’ll add: stop throwing yourself out on dating/hook-up sites and stop using COVID or anything else as an excuse.

Get your priorities and your act together. Yes, things are weird and more difficult than usual right now. But many people are still managing to responsibly save money. People are still moving into new apartments, and getting Wi-Fi and groceries for those new apartments. People are still being honest and thoughtful with their fellow human beings, especially people they care about.

I hope that clears up any confusion on how to navigate this situation. If not, point yourself in a direction that leads you in the shortest distance out of her apartment and her life and moves you to a place of independence.

[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]

Stories of cultural resilience in the art of Northwest coastal and Alaska Native people seen in new book

Sat, 2020-07-04 16:29

Northwest Coast and Alaska Native Art

By Christopher Patrello. University of Oklahoma Press. 100 pages 2020, $10.95


"Northwest Coast and Alaska Native Art" by Christopher Patrello

As a child growing up near Seattle, few things about my regional surroundings were as enchanting to me as the art of Northwest coastal Natives. It adorned buildings, filled museums, rested in parks and cluttered the shelves and walls of those wonderfully disorganized tourist shops found on the piers that line Seattle’s waterfront. The distinctive painting and carving styles are shared among tribes ranging from Puget Sound to the northern terminus of Alaska’s Inside Passage, and exhibit a connection to the sea and the land that is unlike anything found elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. It seemed to me as a child to be as much an organic and timeless part of the damp temperate climate as the trees and fish themselves.

The Denver Art Museum has an extensive collection of Indigenous art from the Northwest coast and Alaska, and has recently reopened galleries exhibiting it. In conjunction with this, the guidebook “Northwest Coast and Alaska Native Art” authored by Christopher Patrello, a postdoctoral fellow at the museum, has just been published. For those unfamiliar with the styles and diversity of this art, as well as for anyone drawn to it, it’s a handy introduction that provides cultural contexts and makes room for the voices of contemporary practitioners to discuss the art from both historic and present day perspectives.

“Although each culture in this region has its own origin story and traditions,” Patrello writes, explaining how the regional artistic styles developed, “similarities among cultures have developed over time through trade, intermarriage, and the forced consolidation of communities by colonial authorities.”

The artwork of the Northwest coast is reflective of cultures with expansive cosmologies and complex social structures. Photographs in this book show a broad range of items, from the utilitarian to the symbolic, all of them infused with imagery that offers not just adornment, but ideas. Baskets, knives, and clothing serve practical purposes, while puppets, masks and the iconic poles tell stories. Hats and headdresses convey rank, clan, and moiety. The examples of all these items seen here contain sometimes dizzying details.

As Patrello explains, “Artists encode their work with cultural knowledge. In addition to the technical skills required to make artworks, artists incorporate their knowledge of clan histories, the supernatural origins of the cosmos, and intimate knowledge of the ecosystem into their art.”

Totem poles are the most universally recognized symbol of the region, but here they are incorporated into a much broader examination. Sometimes their meanings are not immediately obvious to an outside observer. A wooden welcome figure carved in 1914 bears a strong resemblance to South Pacific island carvings and seems friendly. But its meaning refers to the theft of lands from the Kwakwaka’wakw by the Canadian government, and to the then-forced suppression of cultural practices, especially the potlatch.

Kwakwaka’wakw artist Marianne Nicolson further explains: “it is not a gesture of supplication to colonial encroachment but an assertion against it. The original pole held an image of Johnny Scow’s broken copper in its raised arms. The breaking of a copper represents dispute resolution and the placement on the pole on contested lands is relevant to the testimony of Sisaxolas against the illegal annexation that had taken place there.”

The breaking of ceremonial copper is an act that was recently revived. Historically, high-ranking chiefs would break off a piece of copper and give it to a rival, with the expectation that the gesture would be returned. In February 2013, we learn, artist, activist and hereditary chief Beau Dick broke copper on the steps of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings to protest commercial fishing operations in areas used by First Nations peoples for subsistence.

The brief essays by contemporary practitioners contribute significantly to this book, helping readers understand both the historic significance of things they might merely consider works of art, and also to view contemporary Native art not as a break from supposed tradition, but as a continuation of what has been.

Sonya Kelliher-Combs, raised in Nome, explains this point, telling us, “I personally don’t believe in a line between contemporary and traditional. Who defines what is “traditional”? It is a Western construct to label others, to stereotype and put them in a box. The cultures I come from, Inupiaq and Athabascan, and all cultures, are living and dynamic, growing and evolving through generations.”

Thus when Preston Singletary, a Tlingit artist, takes designs for hats, rattles, boxes and more and recreates them with blown glass, he isn’t breaking with cultural tradition, he’s extending it.

In the pieces shown on these pages, one can see the impact of contact with Europeans. Textiles including cotton and wool were adopted. Silver coins were beaten into bracelets. On the Bering Sea coast, which is given its own section toward the end of this book, basketry appears to have only arisen with the arrival of Russians, yet it became an expression and tool for Inuit and Yup’ik peoples. George Aden “Twok” Ahgupuk, an Inupiaq artist of the early 20th century, took up drawing to support his family after suffering a leg injury. His depictions of everyday life on Alaska’s far western coast show Western influence, but were created on animal hides bleached with a procedure he kept to himself.

The impacts of colonialism and the suppression of cultural practices and languages inflicted by American and Canadian authorities are topics of frequent discussion in this book, but so too are the ways these practices have been revived. Contemporary Northwest and Alaska Native artists are drawing from the past and developing these skills for the future. The art that drew me so strongly as a child is merely a snapshot of a larger universe of creativity that continues to thrive.

As Haida artist Gwaai Edenshaw states, “We are all the recipients of the knowledge collected and stored in the great works of our people that came before us. They are some of our greatest teachers. It is a gift that we need to recognize and acknowledge.”

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On Independence Day, Trump slams the enemies within

Sat, 2020-07-04 16:25

President Donald Trump speaks during a "Salute to America" event on the South Lawn of the White House, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky/)

WASHINGTON — On a day meant for unity and celebration, President Donald Trump vowed to “safeguard our values” from enemies within — leftists, looters, agitators, he said — in a Fourth of July speech packed with all the grievances and combativeness of his political rallies.

Trump watched paratroopers float to the ground in a tribute to America, greeted his audience of front-line medical workers and others central in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and opened up on those who “slander” him and disrespect the country’s past.

“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing,” he said. “We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children.

“And we will protect and preserve American way of life, which began in 1492 when Columbus discovered America.”

He did not mention the dead from the pandemic. Nearly 130,000 are known to have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.

Even as officials across the country pleaded with Americans to curb their enthusiasm for large Fourth of July crowds, Trump enticed the masses with a “special evening” of tribute and fireworks staged with new U.S. coronavirus infections on the rise.

But the crowds wandering the National Mall for the night's air show and fireworks were strikingly thinner those the gathering for last year's jammed celebration on the Mall.

Many who showed up wore masks, unlike those seated close together for Trump's South Lawn event, and distancing was easy to do for those scattered across the sprawling space.

Trump did not hesitate to use the country's birthday as an occasion to assail segments of the country that do not support him.

Carrying on a theme he pounded on a day earlier against the backdrop of the Mount Rushmore monuments, he went after those who have torn down statues or think some of them, particularly those of Confederate figures, should be removed. Support has been growing among Republicans to remove Confederate memorials.

“Our past is not a burden to be cast away,” Trump said.

Outside the event but as close to it as they could get, Pat Lee of Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania, gathered with two friends, one of them a nurse from Fredericksburg, Virginia, whose only head gear was a MAGA hat.

“POTUS said it would go away,” Lee said of the pandemic, using an acronym for president of the United States. “Masks, I think, are like a hoax.” But she said she wore one inside the Trump International Hotel, where she stayed.


President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump watch as the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team descend during a "Salute to America" event on the South Lawn of the White House, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Alex Brandon/)
Guests wait for a "Salute to America" event to start and President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump on the South Lawn of the White House, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky/)

By the World War II Memorial, the National Park Service handed out packets of five white cloth masks to all who wanted them. People were not required to wear them.

Another nurse, Zippy Watt from Riverside, California, came to see the air show and fireworks with her husband and their two daughters, one of whom lived in Washington. They wore matching American flag face masks even when seated together on a park bench.

“We chose to wear a mask to protect ourselves and others,” Watt said. She said her family was divided on Trump but she is “more of a Trump supporter. Being from southern California I see socialist tendencies. I’m tired of paying taxes so others can stay home.”

Trump’s guests were doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers and military members as well as officials from the administration, said Judd Deere, deputy White House press secretary. He said the event was a tribute to the “tremendous courage and spirit” of front-line workers and the public in the pandemic.

In many parts of the country, authorities discouraged mass gatherings for the holiday after days that have seen COVID-19 cases grow at a rate not experienced even during the deadliest phase of the pandemic in the spring.


Sullivan County residents brave the heat to watch the Blountville Fourth of July parade Saturday afternoon, July 4, 2020, in Blountville, Tenn. (Andre Teague/Bristol Herald Courier via AP) (Andre Teague/)
Marvin Turcios puts out American flags at Ocean's 10 restaurant on Miami Beach, Florida's famed Ocean Drive on South Beach, July 4, 2020. The Fourth of July holiday weekend began Saturday with some sobering numbers in the Sunshine State: Florida logged a record number of people testing positive for the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee/)

In New York, once the epicenter, people were urged to avoid crowds and Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest happened at an undisclosed location without spectators on hand, in advance of the evening’s televised fireworks spectacular over the Empire State Building.

In Philadelphia, mask- and glove-wearing descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence participated in a virtual tapping of the famed Liberty Bell on Independence Mall and people were asked to join from afar by clinking glasses, tapping pots or ringing bells.

Yet Trump continued to crave big crowds when it came to his events.

He opened the holiday weekend by traveling to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for a fireworks display Friday night near the mountain carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. In stark words, he accused protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.”

Even as he pushed ahead with celebrations, the shadow of the coronavirus loomed closer to him. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraiser for the president and girlfriend of his eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., tested positive for the virus, Trump’s campaign said late Friday. Guilfoyle tweeted Saturday that she was looking forward to “a speedy recovery.”

In a presidential message Saturday morning on the 244th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Trump acknowledged that “over the past months, the American spirit has undoubtedly been tested by many challenges.”

His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, said in a statement that the U.S. “never lived up” to its founding principle that “all men are created equal,” but today “we have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.‘'

Trump's endorsement of big gatherings at the National Mall and at Mount Rushmore came as many communities decided to scrap fireworks, parades and other holiday traditions in hopes of avoiding yet more surges in infection.

Confirmed cases were climbing in 40 states, and the U.S. set another record Friday with 52,300 newly reported infections, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.


Brittani Scott watches her son, Cooper Scott, 2, play with bubbles while waiting to see a display of fireworks at Nathan Benderson Park, on Friday, July 3, 2020, in Sarasota, Florida. (Ivy Ceballo/Tampa Bay Times via AP) (Ivy Ceballo/)
Revelers enjoy the beach at Coney Island, Saturday, July 4, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (John Minchillo/)

Trump did not dwell on the pandemic in his remarks Saturday evening. Instead, he declared that “our country is in great shape.”

Trump has been aching to see the nation return to normalcy, and has been willing to push the envelope farther than many states and big city mayors are willing to go.

For Trump and the country, it was yet another holiday clouded by a pandemic that the U.S. has failed to bring under control.

In late March, a little more than a week after he bowed to the need to shut down much of the country, Trump spoke of reopening with “packed” churches by Easter Sunday. He relented on that push as his medical advisers warned that it was far too ambitious. Then he spent chunks of his Memorial Day weekend fuming about critics who he said were ignoring falling cases and deaths at the time.

With the Independence Day holiday, he told Americans that the nation is “getting close to fighting our way” back. His rosy outlook was out of sync with officials in swaths of the South and West pulling back on reopening because of a surge of cases in their communities.

“A lot of things are happening that people don’t quite see yet, but you’ll see over the next couple of months,” Trump said in a video message on Twitter.

___

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington, Michelle Liu in Columbia, South Carolina, and Sara Burnett in Chicago contributed to this report.

Classic cars parade through Anchorage in a socially distant July Fourth celebration

Sat, 2020-07-04 16:19

Carl Godsoe drives a 1931 Ford Model A pickup and carries the US flag as drivers from the Antique Auto Mushers of Alaska head east on Fourth Avenue on July 4, 2020. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Drivers of classic cars gathered in Anchorage for a makeshift parade around the city on Independence Day. Organizer David Jensen, president of the Antique Auto Mushers of Alaska, said the event grew from the cancellation of the traditional Fourth of July parade in Anchorage and the reduced opportunities for people to gather due to COVID-19-related concerns this year. A pop-up parade, he hoped, would bring some joy to people they pass while keeping participants safely distanced from one another, Jensen said.

“It brings smiles to everyone’s faces when you share a car that’s been restored,” Jensen said.

About 25 vehicles — a Hudson Commodore, a Cadillac Eldorado, a Chevy Bel Air, a Ford Mustang and many more —gathered at the Midtown Mall for the ride. Together, they passed through parts of West Anchorage, Fairview, downtown, Airport Heights and Eagle River. That included passing through the driveway of the Anchorage Pioneer Home. There, a few residents watched and waved from the front entrance and from the windows above.

“We let them know ahead of time so some of the residents can look out the windows and enjoy some of the cars that they probably were all driving at some point when they were much younger,” Jensen said. “That always brings smiles to folks because it brings back memories.”

The Antique Auto Mushers were joined by drivers from the British Sports Cars Alaska group and the Midnight Sun Street Rod Association.


Antique Auto Mushers of Alaska president David Jensen waves as he passes in a 1956 Ford Thunderbird. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Sara Stoops checks the oil on a 1958 Chevy Bel Air at the start of the Antique Auto Mushers of Alaska event. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Drivers from the Antique Auto Mushers pass the Anchorage Pioneer Home on July 4, 2020. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Classic cars pass people at the Anchorage Pioneer Home. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Drivers from the Antique Auto Mushers of Alaska, British Sports Cars Alaska and Midnight Sun Street Rod Association head west on Northern Lights Boulevard. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
The dashboard of a Hudson Commodore. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Drivers and passengers from the Antique Auto Mushers of Alaska gather at the Midtown Mall parking lot. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Sara Stoops greets people at the Anchorage Pioneer Home. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Drivers from the Antique Auto Mushers of Alaska head east on Fourth Avenue. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]

US states reveal little about success in contact tracing

Sat, 2020-07-04 15:08

Michael Spatz, left, a volunteer with the Alexandria Medical Reserve Corps, helps AshaLetia Henderson through her first positive-case call as a coronavirus contact tracer in Alexandria, Va., in late June. (Washington Post photo by Jahi Chikwendiu) (Jahi Chikwendiu/)

Someone - let’s call her Person A - catches the coronavirus. It’s a Monday. She goes about life, unaware her body is incubating a killer. By perhaps Thursday, she’s contagious. Only that weekend does she come down with a fever and get tested.

What happens next is critical. Public health workers have a small window of time to track down everyone Person A had close contact with over the last few days. Because by the coming Monday or Tuesday, some of those people - though they don't yet have symptoms - could also be spreading the virus.

Welcome to the sprint known as contact tracing, the process of reaching potentially exposed people as fast as possible and persuading them to quarantine.

The race is key to controlling the pandemic ahead of a vaccine, experts say. But most places across the United States aren't making public how fast or well they're running it, leaving Americans in the dark about how their governments are mitigating the risk.

An exception is the District of Columbia, which recently added metrics on contact tracing to its online dashboard. A few weeks ago, the District was still too overwhelmed to try to ask all of those who tested positive about their contacts. Now, after building a staff of several hundred contact tracers, District officials say they're making that attempt within 24 hours of a positive test report in about 98 percent of cases.

For months, every U.S. state has posted daily numbers on coronavirus testing - along with charts of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths. So far, only one state, Oregon, posts similar data about contact tracing. Officials in New York say they plan to begin publishing such metrics in coming weeks.

Recent case spikes in Texas, Arizona, Nevada, South Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia and California will frustrate contact tracing efforts there. But even states seeing declines are finding it hard to measure their success in contact tracing, in part because the effort is often spearheaded by local and county health departments.

[Influx of virus cases pushes Anchorage’s contact tracing capacity to its limit]

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced the launch in May of a digital platform for contact tracing that would allow officials to view detailed performance metrics. More than a month later, state health department spokesman Charles Gischlar declined to release the numbers "because the data is under review."

In Georgia and Colorado, health department officials say they are developing platforms for tracing data but can't yet pull out numbers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted guidance in April that included various recommended contact-tracing metrics - none of which are being publicly reported by most states.

"Contact tracing is how you prevent cases from becoming clusters, clusters from becoming outbreaks," said former CDC director Tom Frieden, now with the global health initiative Resolve to Save Lives.

As jurisdictions scale up their tracing operations, he said, transparency is important. "The more openly any of it is shared, the faster progress is made."

- - -

Contact tracing is not new to public health agencies, which have long used it to curb diseases like tuberculosis, meningitis and measles. But the scale of the coronavirus pandemic presents new problems. While some places are experimenting with phone apps to aid efforts, they depend on people downloading the apps and have raised privacy concerns.

Each positive test result calls for a case investigation, usually a phone call from a health worker that can last an hour or more. The goal is to help the person recall those with whom they've been in close contact - generally within six feet of someone for 15 minutes. Contract tracers try to reach each of them.

"We've had people that have more than 60 known contacts, because they were very busy, they were very socially active," said Stephen Haering, director of the Alexandria, Va., health department, which in May was averaging several dozen new positive cases a day.

"That's a lot of phone calls," Haering said.

The city temporarily diverted staffers out of family planning centers, immunization clinics and other specialty areas to work in contact tracing.

Thanks to a prolonged shutdown and slow reopening, Alexandria is now averaging under a dozen new positive cases a day. Haering has maintained a tracing staff of more than 40 people, many of them newly hired through a state contract, who attempt to reach people within hours of a positive test report.

"If we get it in the afternoon, we're making [the call] that day," said Haering, who is prepared to add more tracers if case numbers spike. "We're not operating 24 hours, but we are operating seven days a week, including holidays."

Many places didn't attempt full contact tracing or abandoned efforts during the heights of their epidemics, when testing was more limited and health departments were short of tracers.

[As Alaska cases of COVID-19 go up, so does demand for contact tracing]

Even in the nation's capital, health workers could focus only on priority cases, such as those in nursing homes, until staffing increases last month.

"Now that we're able to focus on every positive case and get these comprehensive lists of contacts, we're able to start making connections between places of exposure and types of exposure that individuals have," said LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. health department.

Experts say the United States will need legions of contact tracers to help contain the virus - perhaps more than 100,000.

"While this figure may be stunning," an April report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said, it's fewer than half the number per capita that were employed in Wuhan, China, where the virus originated.

State and local officials have since announced the hiring of thousands of contact tracers across the country. But in places seeing big case spikes, even those expanded operations are becoming overwhelmed.

Texas, for example, has fewer than 3,000 contact tracers statewide, according to the Texas Tribune. The state reported more than 8,200 new cases Saturday.

- - -

The coronavirus isn't just fast, it's stealthy, and that creates another major challenge. Researchers aren't sure what percentage of transmissions - maybe 15 percent, maybe 30 percent, maybe more - come from people who don't yet feel symptoms.

But some people do appear to spread the disease before they develop symptoms that could alert them to consider isolating themselves.

Often, case investigators, who make initial calls to new positive cases, start out behind because test results typically take days. The pharmacy chain CVS says customers should expect to wait about three days for results, and sometimes more than that. District health officials say results from city testing sites have recently taken as long as seven days but now take three to five.

If Person A's test result takes four days, then by the time a contact tracer reaches Person B, she is likely to be feeling symptoms. By that point, she may have decided to self-isolate, but only after spending a day or two spreading the virus.

"Just the nature of this virus means you have a really small window to catch that next round of infection events before they, in turn, go on to infect other people," said Adam Kucharski, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who wrote The Rules of Contagion, a book scheduled for release this week.

In a modeling study recently published in the journal Lancet, Kucharski and his co-authors concluded contact tracing alone will not likely contain the virus.

"We found that, even with quite rapid detection of cases, even with quite extensive tracing, it's likely that you'd need some additional measures alongside that," Kucharski said, including social distancing and restrictions on gatherings.

Still, the better a community manages contact tracing, the fewer restrictions on gatherings and economic activity it may need.

Health officials in North Dakota, which is seeing only a few dozen positive cases per day, say they reach out to people within an hour of when they are notified by their health care provider of the test result. Officials in Maine, which is experiencing similar case numbers, say they begin investigating within hours.

Contact tracers in New Mexico, which has been seeing between 100 and 200 new cases per day, are reaching those people and their contacts a median of 48 hours after test results, short of the state's target of 36 hours, officials said at a news conference in late June.

Officials in Massachusetts, which has seen between 100 and 300 new cases per day recently, say they contact cases and contacts within 24 to 48 hours. Colorado, with similar numbers testing positive, set a goal of reaching the close contacts of patients within 72 hours of test results, officials say, but won't have the capability to draw metrics from the data until later this month.

One sign of success for a contact-tracing program comes when a new positive case is someone tracers have already spoken with, and persuaded to quarantine, after identifying them as another infected person's close contact.

The proportion of new cases arising among quarantined contacts is a key metric recommended by the CDC and other experts. Frieden calls it "the fundamental outcome indicator of a contact tracing program."

Frieden said some states aren't tracking the metric, while others may not want to disclose it. He said he heard one public health leader comment recently, "If we reported those, it would be zero every day."

[Previously: How epidemiology detectives are tracing each Alaska coronavirus case]

The District has created a spot for the metric on its online dashboard with the tag: "Coming soon."

Conversely, new cases that cannot even in hindsight be traced to a known source - known as "unlinked" cases - demonstrate where contact tracing operations need to improve. Though countries with effective tracing programs, including Iceland and New Zealand, track this metric closely, Frieden said it is rarely reported in the United States.

An exception is Oregon. The state aims to keep its average rate of unlinked cases below 30 percent and did so for much of May and June. But as the state has reopened and new cases have climbed, so has the portion that are unlinked.

"It's really a good indicator of how effective our whole statewide approach at suppression is," said Tom Jeanne, Oregon's deputy health officer and deputy epidemiologist. "The more that is rising above 30 percent, the more we are saying, 'Well, there's just broad community spread of this happening, and we're not keeping up with it.' "

Arkansas, where cases have been climbing recently, doesn't post the unlinked metric online. But a health department spokesman told The Washington Post that 25 percent of the state's recent cases have been unlinked.

- - -

Sporadic reports of contact-tracing success rates vary widely from place to place. While District investigators make a first contact attempt within 24 hours in nearly every case, only 60 percent of people pick up the phone. Those who don't answer receive a text message and several more attempts over three days.

New York City began an ambitious contact-tracing program last month, but fewer than half of those who tested positive gave information about their close contacts, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio told the New York Times.

In Fairfax County, Va., the health department seeks contacts only from high-risk cases. Those deemed lower risk are asked to reach out to contacts themselves and encourage them to quarantine.

"This is a system that we had developed several months ago as the pandemic was much hotter in this area," Benjamin Schwartz, Fairfax's director of epidemiology and population health. "We are currently in the process of hiring additional contact tracers, so they will be able to do the full contact tracing for every case that's identified."

Schwartz said case investigators have managed to reach 91 percent of probable and lab-confirmed positive cases. He said that number is encouraging, "particularly given that many of the cases occurring in the county are among the more disadvantaged population, who one might expect would be a little bit harder to reach."

After schools closed in March, officials in Anne Arundel County, Md., enlisted school nurses to become contact tracers, launching far ahead of state efforts.

Lately new cases in the largely suburban county on the Chesapeake Bay have averaged a few dozen per day. The county's case investigators typically reach out to them in far less than 24 hours.

"If it comes in at 10 o'clock in the morning, we're calling them in about three or four hours," said County Health Officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman. "Twenty-four hours is the maximum time between results and calling them. We're pretty much at 100 percent on that."

About 20 percent of the cases and contacts need help with food, housing or transportation to isolate and quarantine, Kalyanaraman said. Addressing those needs quickly, he added, is "probably the most important piece to get right."

Contact tracing alone won’t stamp out the virus in places like Anne Arundel, research suggests. But it may help keep Person B from passing it on, and it will save others from becoming Person D - or Person Z.

One was 0-for-43 and the other was a rookie. Both won Alaska match play golf championships.

Sat, 2020-07-04 14:36

Abigail Ante, 15, plays golf at Anchorage Golf Course four days after winning the women’s title at the Alaska match play championships. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Alaska recently crowned its match-play golf champions, and it’s hard to match these fairy-tale endings:

An Anchorage teenager captured a championship in her state-tournament debut.

And an Anchorage man claimed his first state title after more than 40 years of trying.

Abigail Ante is the 15-year-old who claimed the women’s title a week ago at the Palmer Golf Course despite zero experience in a state tournament.

Mark McMahan is the 59-year-old who captured the senior men’s championship 43 years after he made his state amateur debut as a 16-year-old from Fairbanks.

McMahan ended a title quest that lasted nearly half a century by beating Gregg Frost in the championship match.

He joked that he came into the tournament with “the record for the longest attempt without winning.”

“It puts something to rest,” he added. “It’s not something I’m still missing.”

McMahan is no hacker. He started playing with his dad as a kid in Fairbanks and kept playing when he moved to Anchorage to work at the American Tire Warehouse, the family business. He brought a 2 handicap into the four-day match play tournament, he won the state Publinx tournament in 1987, and he has come close to winning a state championship a couple of times in the 43 years he has been chasing one.

He had a particularly strong season in 2018, when he finished second in the senior men’s match play championship and seventh in the championship flight of the Alaska state amateur.

His resume also includes a couple of match-play victories over Anchorage’s Greg Sanders, one of the winningest golfers in Alaska history. Sanders added to his long list of state championships last week in Palmer by winning the men’s title and raising his number of state championships to 12 — five match play titles and seven state amateur victories.

McMahan’s championship — which he celebrated with takeout pizza — came in the senior division. He shot 76 in the qualifying round to tie for the third-best score among seniors, making him the top seed in his four-man playoff pod.

He won all three matches, beating Eric Jensen 5 and 4, Brad Wilson 7 and 6 and Rick Boyles 1-up, to advance to the semifinals, where he defeated top-seeded Bill Arnold 5 and 4.

McMahan dispatched Frost 4 and 3 in the finals. He took an early lead to put the pressure on his opponent, but as he came closer and closer to winning that elusive state title, McMahan dealt with pressure too.

“I was a little bit (nervous), but I kept telling myself to be patient, don’t get ahead of yourself — as long as I play steady, he has to come and get me,” he said.

McMahan said he likes match play golf because one disastrous hole doesn’t doom an entire round. If you have the bad fortune to open with a 10 while your opponent shoots a 3, you trail by one hole, not seven strokes.

“If you have a bad hole, it’s eliminated,” McMahan said. On the other hand, if you get down a couple of holes, “you start thinking about it,” he said. “You start to press.”


Abigail Ante hits a ball at the Anchorage Golf Course driving range. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Ante is new to the pressures of tournament golf. Though she has played in a couple of small events with her dad, she had never before entered a state tournament.

She was the surprise of the championships. She shot an 89 in qualifying to earn the No. 4 seed going into the top bracket for round-robin play, where she defeated top-seeded Teresa Fisher 3 and 2, lost to second-seeded Tonnette Jackson 2-up and beat third-seeded Toyoko Hawkins 4-and-3.

Ante’s win over Hawkins gave her a 2-1 record and clinched the championship. Fisher and Jackson both finished with 1-1-1 records and Hawkins finished 1-2.

Ante, who will be a sophomore at South High, started playing eight years ago when her dad signed her up for a lesson.

“I was not good, but I guess the people I was taking the lesson from kept me with it,” she said.

She has a fuzzy purple unicorn for a club head cover and a pink stripe running through her hair, but Ante is all business on the golf course.

A couple of days after winning her state title, she played a round at Anchorage Golf Course with three men. On the par-4 first hole, Ante outdrove two of them with a tee shot that went right up the middle of the fairway. Her second shot put her on the green, about 15 feet from the cup. She missed a birdie putt by one or two inches and tapped in for par.

“The driving is just fun for me,” Ante said. “The putting is super nerve-wracking."

She’s a lefty, which makes her a big Bubba Watson fan but makes life as a young golfer a bit challenging.

“It’s hard to find clubs that fit me,” she said, “and most of my teachers are right-handed.”

Ante makes daily visits to the driving range, practices chip shots by hitting balls into a bucket and tries to play 18 holes every day. She’ll test herself again in a few days at the July 11-12 women’s state amateur at Anchorage Golf Course.


Abigail Ante, 15, putts toward the first hold at Anchorage Golf Course on July 1. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

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The pandemic is driving down airfares, but be prepared for flight cancellations

Sat, 2020-07-04 14:25

The good news for air travelers is that fares are really low.

But the COVID-19 crisis continues to turn the world on its head — and travel arrangements are not spared this fate.

In the midst of the pandemic, flights are getting canceled.

All of the airlines are canceling flights. Remember Alaska Airlines’ popular Anchorage-L.A. nonstop? It’s not operating until Aug. 1. But starting Aug. 5, Alaska is offering tickets to L.A. for as little as $94 one-way.

What about San Francisco? Alaska was supposed to start its new Anchorage-San Francisco flight on April 21. The launch has been pushed back multiple times. Right now the published start date is Sept. 1. Since they plan to stop it for the winter on Sept. 8, my bet is it’s not going to fly at all this year. And United canceled its nonstop last month.

Alaska Airlines is selling tickets on the Anchorage-San Francisco route for as little as $137 one-way. There are cheaper tickets on American Airlines ($114 one-way), if you don’t mind flying via Chicago or Dallas.

United also canceled its Anchorage-Houston nonstop, as well as the new Anchorage-Los Angeles flights. There’s only one flight scheduled for the Anchorage-Newark nonstop: Sept. 8. Even flights to United’s hub in Chicago have been pushed back to start on Sept. 9. Anybody who buys a ticket hoping to fly nonstop to Chicago should be prepared for a layover in Denver.

The cheapest tickets from Anchorage to Chicago are on nonstops from American or Alaska Airlines, for $109 one-way.

Delta’s canceling flights, too. The carrier scrapped its Anchorage-Salt Lake City nonstop. Its Anchorage-Atlanta nonstop runs three days a week during July. Delta finally started flying nonstop from Anchorage-Minneapolis last week. Usually the flight operates year-round.

Once flights are canceled, the passengers need to be rebooked. This has put additional pressure on airlines trying to keep middle seats empty. That strategy worked for a while, when fewer people are flying. Now, as demand slowly increases, most airlines have gone back to filling the middle seats. That includes Alaska Airlines, United and American. On its website, Alaska no longer mentions blocking middle seats. Rather, it says “we’re limiting the number of guests on our flights and blocking select seats.”

Delta Airlines says it’s limiting sales to 60% of capacity in coach and blocking middle seats through Sept. 30.

Southwest Airlines and JetBlue also are blocking the middle seats.

In addition to limiting the number of seats sold, airlines are doubling down on cleaning aircraft and are mandating that customers wear masks on board. Last week, Alaska Airlines came up with a yellow card to hand to noncompliant travelers. Alaska Airlines could then ban the “carded” travelers from flying with them for a period of time.

[Alaska Airlines says it may deny future travel to passengers who refuse to wear a mask]

Really, though, the fares are great, even if the whole flying experience is completely different now.

Alaska Airlines rolled out some low fares around the state as part of its PFD-in-July sale. Between Anchorage and Kodiak, the fare is $109 one-way. It’s $97 one-way to Juneau and $87 one-way to Fairbanks.

But it was American Airlines that really started hustling the cheap seats last week. At the top of the list is the airline’s nonstop flight from Anchorage to Dallas. The cost is just $219 round-trip for travel between Sept. 9 and Oct. 6. Sharing top billing is the carrier’s nonstop flight to Chicago (mentioned above, for $109 one-way).

American didn’t stop there. The airline is using the two nonstop flights to offer connections around the country for cheap. It was American Airlines that prompted Alaska Airlines to offer the cheap rate to L.A. for $94 one-way. Last week, American started the war with $99 one-way tickets, via Chicago or Dallas.

Most destinations in California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona now are available for $114 one-way. American’s schedule is via Chicago or Dallas. But Alaska Airlines and Delta now have jumped in to match the fare with more dates and better schedules, starting Aug. 5. Destinations include San Diego, Burbank, Palm Springs, San Luis Obispo, San Jose, Sacramento, Reno, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson and Albuquerque.

From Anchorage to New York, American dropped the fare to $144 one-way. Then Alaska and Delta matched the rate. So American dropped the rate again — this time to $114 one-way to Newark. Keep in mind that frequent flyers can earn Alaska Airlines miles on American flights. From Anchorage to Newark, travelers can earn 3,557 miles each way. Find the cheap fares for travel between Aug. 12 and Oct. 6.

From Anchorage to Boston, American Airlines dropped the fare to $144 one-way for travel between Aug. 6 and Oct. 6. Alaska Airlines and Delta have matched the fare.

Other East Coast destinations include Washington, D.C.; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; New Orleans; Memphis; Nashville; Detroit; St. Louis; Kansas City; and others.

From Texas all the way north to North Dakota, American Airlines picked select cities and dropped the fares to $114 one-way. Destinations include Houston; Omaha; Denver, Colorado Springs, Durango and Grand Junction in Colorado; and Rapid City, South Dakota. Alaska and Delta did not immediately match these rates across the board to all destinations, but that could change overnight. It probably will.

If you want to take advantage of these prices, you need to purchase your tickets by July 6. Will that change? Probably. Will the prices change between now and then? Yes. Will some of these flights be canceled, requiring you to book new flights? I think so.

So bring your seat to the upright, locked position. Put your tray table up, buckle your seat belt and enjoy your trip. And put that mask on, or your Alaska Airlines flight attendant could give you a dreaded yellow card.

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Shareholder fined $1K over comments about Alaska financial regulator

Sat, 2020-07-04 14:10

JUNEAU — Financial regulators have fined a shareholder of an urban Alaska Native company $1,000 over comments made on social media about inaction by the state agency responsible for financial oversight.

Goldbelt Inc. shareholder Ray Austin complained to the Alaska Division of Banking & Securities in 2018 that board members were violating regulations by not filing financial disclosures, but he said the agency did nothing.

Austin then complained about that and a separate filed complaint in a Facebook forum in 2019, while running for a seat on the board, revealing information not known to other shareholders, CoastAlaska reported.

"I will not only speak up, but I will take action on behalf of the shareholders. If I am elected to serve as your board member, I will work to support integrity, enforcement of all ethics, reduce costs and increase revenue," Austin said in the post.

Austin was fined for not filing disclosures of his own with the agency before publicly seeking election campaign support and for getting a date wrong in his post, that regulators classified as "material misrepresentation."

Normally board members are not allowed to work for corporations that they oversee, but he was an exception.

State financial regulators are empowered to regulate any public statement that could influence a board election in a Native corporation, which they argued Austin's post seeking support from shareholders was.

The rule was designed to block misleading information that could affect projects and investors, but some have argued the rule silences shareholders of regional, urban and village Native corporations.

"Freedom of speech is important. I think, shareholders or anyone should have the right for freedom of speech," Austin said, "and it appears that we don't."

Alaska's Banking & Securities Division Chief of Enforcement Leif Haugen disagreed, saying every complaint is treated equally. He declined comment on the allegations since investigative files are confidential.

This comes as the Alaska Supreme Court is reviewing the state's regulations over shareholder speech.

The court has already heard arguments from the American Civil Liberties Union, challenging the state's power to regulate any speech in print or online that could influence the governance of Native corporations.

“Any person, theoretically, who gets involved in soliciting proxies could become a respondent in an Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act complaint,” Haugen said. “I can tell you that I haven’t seen that in my time here. But I guess it’s theoretically possible.”

Alaska reports 16th death tied to COVID-19 and 55 more resident and nonresident cases

Sat, 2020-07-04 13:45

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As Alaskans commemorated Independence Day, the state reported another death tied to COVID-19 and 55 more cases among residents and nonresidents.

The 16th reported death of an Alaskan with COVID-19 involved an Anchorage man in his 70s with underlying health conditions, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services spokesman Clinton Bennett said Saturday. The man died in state, though Bennett was not immediately able to clarify when his death occurred.

The state on Friday reported a 15th resident death involving an Anchorage man in his 80s who died in early June. In that case, the virus “was listed as a contributing cause of death,” the state health department said in a statement.

“We are thinking of the loved ones of the person who died,” the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said in statement Friday. “We are concerned about Alaska’s sharp rise in cases and hope everyone takes this as a warning call to limit contacts this weekend, stay six feet apart from non-household members, wear a face mask and wash your hands often.

“If you are sick, even with mild COVID-19 symptoms, please isolate yourself and seek testing. We need all Alaskans working together to break infection chains.”

Forty-eight residents and seven non-Alaskans newly tested positive for the illness caused by the coronavirus as of Saturday, according to the state health department’s COVID-19 dashboard. Since the start of the pandemic, 1,111 Alaskans and 230 nonresidents have tested positive. Of those, 551 resident cases and 174 nonresident cases are active, meaning they are not considered to be recovered from COVID-19.

Three more Alaskans confirmed to be infected with the virus required hospitalization, bringing that total to 72 since the coronavirus was first detected in the state. There were 23 people with suspected or confirmed cases of the illness currently in the hospital, according to state data Saturday, which is down two from the previous day.

Fourth of July celebrations were canceled across the state, prompting Alaskans to celebrate on a smaller scale this weekend and organize their own festivities. Ahead of the holiday, state officials — including Gov. Mike Dunleavy — urged Alaskans to wear face coverings and maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from other people to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

In the state’s largest city, emergency management officials urged Anchorage residents to celebrate Independence Day while actively taking steps to curb the spread of the virus, describing the holiday weekend as “a critical point in our community’s fight against COVID-19.”

Southcentral Alaska saw the bulk of new cases reported by the state Saturday. The new cases involve 32 residents of Anchorage, where the city health department confirmed COVID-19 exposure at more than a dozen establishments on specific dates in June. Health officials urged anyone who visited those businesses at the specified times to monitor themselves for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested.

[Anchorage releases list of bars with COVID-19 exposure, urges monitoring and testing]

[For high-risk Alaskans navigating pandemic, there’s no return to normal life in sight]

Elsewhere in Southcentral, four residents of Wasilla, one in Palmer, two in Willow and one in Soldotna also were confirmed to have COVID-19.

No new cases were confirmed out of Seward. Officials in the Kenai Peninsula community this week limited gathering sizes, required masks in indoor public spaces and restricted capacity at businesses in an effort to contain an outbreak involving a couple dozen people.

The state on Saturday also reported four cases among residents of Fairbanks, one in Petersburg and one each in smaller communities in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Bethel Census Area and Bristol Bay plus Lake and Peninsula boroughs. The state doesn’t report the name of communities smaller than 1,000 people as a means of privacy protection.

The Bristol Bay Area Health Corp. said in a statement that a Bristol Bay-area resident who developed symptoms of COVID-19 after traveling to Anchorage tested positive Friday. That person is self-isolating, and several close contacts of theirs were “instructed to remain in strict quarantine,” the health corporation said, adding that “the City of Dillingham and the affected village have also been notified of this new index case.”

New nonresident cases include a seafood industry worker and another person in Anchorage, two seafood industry workers in Valdez, two people in Fairbanks and one individual in Juneau.

On Friday, 2,524 tests were run, out of 122,732 since the start of the pandemic. Testing data reflects individual tests that were processed, and not necessarily the number of individuals who have been tested.

The state reports new virus cases daily based on test results returned the previous day.

Alaska health officials continue to urge Alaskans to maintain a distance of 6 feet from non-household members; frequently wash their hands; wear a mask in places where physical distancing is difficult to maintain; wipe down and sanitize frequently touched surfaces; stay home if they feel sick; and get a COVID-19 test if they’re experiencing symptoms of the illness.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Anchorage Daily News reporter Morgan Krakow contributed.

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An examination of animals that travel thousands of miles each year, in Alaska and beyond

Sat, 2020-07-04 13:11

Caribou cross the Kobuk River in northwestern Alaska. (Photo by Kyle Joly)

A scientist recently wondered which animal travels farthest across the landscape in one year. In doing his research, he found a few Alaska creatures near the top of the list.

Kyle Joly is a biologist with the National Park Service in Fairbanks. He works for both Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, mostly on the large mammals that roam free there. He had done most of his recent work on the Western Arctic Caribou Herd.

Joly is also the author of “Outside in the Interior,” a comprehensive guidebook to human-powered trips in the Fairbanks area and beyond. The book is a wonderful COVID companion for those of us in middle Alaska.

A few years ago, Joly wondered if he could quantify an often-heard hypothesis that caribou were the animals that traveled farthest across the surface of Earth. As a boy, he had watched a television show on wildebeests in Africa that inspired him and later made him curious about which animal moves the most in a calendar year.

He was not interested just because he loves to explore and admires animals that undertake long-distance migrations. As a biologist, he thought it would be useful to define the space an animal needs to exist. Knowing that, people might be able to set aside swaths of country for other life forms, rather than transforming forest and tundra into roads, gravel pads and buildings.

His thought experiment soon turned into a worldwide search for long-distance travelers. His colleagues introduced him to people on the other side of the globe studying khulans — also known as Mongolian wild asses, handsome creatures stalked by wolves in Asia — and white-eared kobs, antelopes roaming the grasslands of Africa.

Gathering information from GPS collars biologists have fitted to the necks of wild creatures all over the world, Joly found the following:

A male gray wolf from Mongolia traveled 4,503 miles in one year. That’s like walking from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in the spring, and walking back in the fall.


An Alaska wolf, one of which traveled more than 3,500 miles in one year. (Photo by Kyle Joly)

A female Alaska wolf collared in Denali National Park trotted over tundra and mountains for 3,500 miles one year. If she had headed south in a straight line for those 365 days, she would have ended up in San Diego — but would have encountered fewer caribou.

Khulans wandered as much as 3,800 miles through the high grasslands of Mongolia in a one-year period.

Caribou in Alaska and Canada click along the tundra as much as 3,000 miles each year. Much of that landscape passes beneath their hooves during migration to and from spring calving grounds on breezy northern tundra.

Joly found that predators like wolves and brown bears traveled farther than the caribou and moose they eat. Why? Because the leaves of willows, a moose’s favored food, are available all over the landscape. Moose calves, a significant source of protein and fat for bears and wolves, are harder to find.

Joly also found caribou in the Western Arctic Herd traveled about 900 miles round-trip on annual migrations when there were half a million animals in the group, around 2003. Now, with about half as many caribou, the herd travels only about 775 miles each year.

Notable about all the long-distance travelers in Joly’s study is that each of those creatures lives far from any bright spots on the nighttime map of the world. Why?

“Far-ranging terrestrial mammals need lots of space away from people and development to undertake these long-distance movements,” Joly said. “All the greatest annual movement distances were associated with very low human density.”

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We must keep moving forward

Sat, 2020-07-04 11:46

Friday night's protest drew a large crowd to the Martin Luther King memorial on the Delaney Park Strip. Protesters of police brutality rallied on the Delaney Park Strip and marched through the streets of downtown Anchorage on Friday evening, June 5, 2020. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

On July 5, the Alaska Black Caucus will host a community conversation introducing our local Black-owned businesses to the community as a whole. It’s an opportunity to meet the owners and learn about their products and/or services. And on July 7, we invite you to join us for #BlackOutDay2020Alaska, an opportunity to stand in solidarity with Black people as we work to eradicate racism by using our economic power. We’re asking everyone to not spend even a penny on July 7 unless it is with a Black-owned business. This is an opportunity to make a statement in support of Black-owned businesses and Black lives. 

More than 50 years ago, Dr. King stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Malcolm X’s forecast was even more, in that he stated, “chickens are coming home to roost.” The reference was to America’s history of injustice against targeted groups of people and the responding actions in support of justice, which would grow nationally and internationally. These statements made during the 1960s by Dr. King and Malcolm X still ring true today. 

Also issued more than 50 years ago, the findings of the Kerner Commission continue to ring true. This commission, established by President Lyndon Johnson’s executive order in late July 1967, examined causes of the 150 civil disorder events (riots) that took place from 1965-1967. Among the findings issued in early 1968 was an indictment of the media. “The press has too long basked in a white world, looking if at all, with white men’s eyes, a white perspective.” The 26-page Kerner report fully documents how the blight of inadequate housing, inadequate education funding and a host of social issues was the root cause as to why America was growing apart with separate and unequal societies, one white and one Black. Though the Kerner report specifically examined the divide between white and Black America, this divide also perpetuated injustice against other people of color, including Indigenous people, who were also engaged in a movement for positive change. 

Unfortunately, the issues raised in the 1968 Kerner Report have not gone away. If anything, during the intervening 52 years, the problems have grown worse due to the advent of cable and satellite news. To address their need to fill 24 hours a day and seven days a week with news, this industry has bombarded us (the public) with biased points of view. And now, more than 50 years later, we are further divided. 

The latest edition of the publication “Statistical Abstract of the United States” provides stark data reinforcing the grave fact that conditions continue to worsen. The numbers in this statistical report portend the potential for major civil disorders to erupt along economic, religious and racial lines that could result in the 1960s seeming like the good old days.

The multiple crises America is presently facing clearly support the observation that a tranquil nation as stated in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution is no longer a certainty. I note the crises of health, economic depression, a national debt in excess of 26 trillion dollars, and the recent attempts to establish a police state, as an irrational response to lawful protests. These crises all shake the very foundation on which America is built.

America has rested upon the foundational block of systemic racism for far too long. I am hopeful this block will be shaken loose and replaced with the rock-solid perception of equal opportunity for all of America’s citizens.

Necessary first steps would be to heed the dire warnings contained in the Kerner report.

“To pursue our present course will involve the continuing polarization of the American community and ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.”

“It is now time to turn with all the purpose at our command to the major unfinished business of this nation.”

Further, the report outlined three basic principles:

1. Mount programs on a scale equal to the dimensions of the problems.

2. Aim these programs high in the immediate future in order to close the gap between promise and performance.

3. Undertake new initiatives and experiments that can change the system. 

While these findings did not result in meaningful changes in the last century, they must do so in this third decade of the third millennium. Change must come to America, and it must be now!

I will conclude with one of my favorite sayings, which I have also found to be true. “Sorry looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.” Let’s move forward into a future that actively dismantles the foundation of racism on which too much of our country was built. Let’s look up. 

Celeste Hodge Growden serves as president and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Independence Day reminds us debates about America have always been patriotic

Sat, 2020-07-04 10:15

Supporters of the family of Bijan Ghaisar listen to his father, James Ghaisar, speak inside the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, the two-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of his son. (Washington Post photo by Tom Jackman)

Independence Day weekend in 2020 greets us in the midst of a worsening pandemic, deep economic turmoil and deep political divides over fundamental issues. Some have responded to this state of affairs by making dire pronouncements about the state of our country. But the truth of America is that it was founded in the tradition of loud, messy, difficult, essential discourse — a tradition that continues to this day. That’s something we should celebrate, not decry.

The very document we celebrate on July 4, our Declaration of Independence from the British empire, was itself the product of a divided citizenry. A substantial fraction of Americans were Loyalists in 1776, faithful to the British crown despite the revolutionary fervor of the Patriots. By historian Robert Calhoon’s estimation, “The patriots received active support from perhaps 40% to 45% of the white populace, and at most no more than a bare majority.”

It was not despite but because of looming differences among Americans that the Declaration and, later, the Constitution, were as well-crafted as we find them today. The drafters of the Declaration knew that it was key to making the argument for independence in a way that appealed to the many Americans who were either undecided or opposed to the revolutionary cause. What emerged was a beautiful, succinct statement of principles that the U.S. still strives to live up to today: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Eighty-seven years later, the union based on those principles was in the midst of its hardest test, as the northern states fought against the South in the Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg raged from July 1-3, 1863, and when the smoke cleared on July 4, Union troops had repelled the Confederate army’s attempt to capture northern territory, setting in motion the events that would result in victory for the United States. That victory came at great cost, with more than 7,000 soldiers dead and 33,000 wounded.

That fall, President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address at the consecration of a cemetery there, reflecting on the war and why it was being fought — the notion that all men are created equal, given greater credence by the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation less than a year prior. Crucially, Lincoln also noted that the work of creating a more perfect union is never done: “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

The genius of those founding documents written centuries ago is that they outline foundational principles that can be applied to the situation of any era. They are as relevant today as they were when they were conceived. More than 150 years later, it’s as clear as ever that much work remains to make our country better at living up to its ideals. That work can be slow; it’s frequently disorganized, imperfect and acrimonious.

We see it on the streets as protesters decry institutional racism that has led to the deaths of people of color. We see it in the debates over what emergency measures are prudent or necessary to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

And here at home, we see it in the columns and letters shared on these opinion pages, by hundreds of people on scores of issues. As Alaskans debate our own big questions, such as the proper role and size of state government, the future of the Permanent Fund dividend and our relationship with the oil industry, we’d be well served to remember those foundational principles of freedom and liberty. The grand experiment of democracy continues. It’s a never-ending, evolving conversation that can be difficult and even ugly at times, but it carries on, making painstaking progress toward that more perfect union.

It is too easy these days, as our country and our state face challenges that seem insurmountable, to declare that America or Alaska is broken. Rather, the opposite is true. It’s only in a free society, one that values individual liberty, that these questions can be debated openly. 

Perhaps the best sign that progress is being made, however slowly, is the democratization of that debate: Those participating in rallies for justice today are the descendants of people who were owned as property by some of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Because of the hard, painful and even bloody work done over the nearly 250 years since our nation’s founding, we’re all closer to a society where people are treated as equals. As we reflect on Independence Day and what it means this year, that’s worth celebrating — as we redouble our efforts to continue that work.

Alaska’s small businesses need liability protection now

Sat, 2020-07-04 09:47

The lack of summer tourists is noticeable along 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Eric Forrer’s most recent lawsuit to delay state small business grants highlights the difficulties of getting state aid to struggling small business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Again, financial assistance is delayed at a time when small business is struggling survive. State small business grants were on the way to small businesses that either did not apply for federal Paycheck Protection Program loans or accepted less than a paltry $5,000 of assistance. This criterion picks winners and losers. Only a handful of businesses qualify for this lifeline, as Alaska’s economy is tossed by an ever-escalating storm of economic uncertainty. 

Beleaguered government loans and grants are just part of the solution to bridge the gap created by the economic shutdown and devastation wrought by health mandates. Now that Alaska’s economy is working to re-open responsibly, broad-based, equitable solutions are needed to maximize economic recovery and minimize risk to responsible businesses owners. One of the principle and most worrisome impediments to economic recovery is the threat posed to small businesses from frivolous lawsuits asserting liability for the transmission of COVID-19.

State and federal disaster declarations and necessary health mandates have combined to confuse the legal landscape. We hear from businesses owners across the state who want to open their doors but are afraid to because it is unclear what they will be liable for if a customer or employee contracts COVID-19. Small business owners carry all types of insurance to mitigate liability, but they do not maintain separate legal defense funds or design profit and loss models to incorporate costs of litigation. Many Alaskan businesses are choosing to delay their re-open or modify their operations out of fear of insurance gaps and going bankrupt defending themselves from a spurious claim involving COVID-19. 

Large employers, non-profits and some public sector employers are also expressing concerns about litigation emanating from harm caused by COVID-19. Alaska’s leaders have done a good job working together to address health and public safety concerns by issuing health mandates that have the force of law. Small and large businesses and Alaskans as a whole are doing their part to inform themselves so they can comply with government orders.

Government loans and assistance have and will continue to bridge the gaps in economic recovery. However, loans and grants are only temporary measures that are not sustainable in the long run. Economic recovery requires measured, responsible re-opening of the economy.

Now is the time to update Alaska statute and provide liability exemption for all employers who are following government health mandates. Alaska small business owners need peace of mind as they file COVID-19 mitigation plans and invest in necessary equipment and protocols to comply with government orders. NFIB hereby calls upon the state legislature and governor to enact broad based, equitable liability exemptions for injury caused by COVID-19 if the entity is complying with current government health mandates. Let small business owners focus on what they do best: keeping Alaska’s economy running.

Thor Stacey is the State Director of the Alaska chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Across Sun Belt, hopes for economy give way to renewed fears

Sat, 2020-07-04 09:24

Danielle Savin, co-owner of a bar called Bob's Your Uncle, poses for a photo, Tuesday, June 30, 2020, at the bar in Miami Beach, Fla. Savin owns two bars that were forced to shut down for months in both New York and Miami Beach. When the pandemic first hit and New York was the country's epicenter she feared for that business, but months later the two states have flip-flopped. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee/)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — At the beginning of March, Joey Conicella and Alex Marin were riding high. Their new Orlando restaurant, Hungry Pants, had drawn rave reviews. With revenue rising, they planned to hire more servers. Sunday brunch service was coming soon.

That was just before the coronavirus struck suddenly, forcing them to close. But in May, as authorities eased safety and social-distancing rules, Hungry Pants reopened at smaller capacity, fueled by hope, hand sanitizer and a government loan.

Now, a spike in confirmed viral cases is making Conicella and Marin anxious about the future — for their business and for the region — even as they keep their restaurant open.

“It’s been a roller-coaster ride,” Conicella said glumly.

For residents across America's Sun Belt — business owners and workers, consumers and home buyers — the past three months have delivered about the scariest ride in memory. With confirmed viral cases surging through the region, it's far from clear whether the stops, starts and bumps in the economy have ended. Or are they the new normal? Will the Sun Belt remain gripped by doubt and uncertainty for months or years?

What is clear is that no one feels able to relax and assume the best.

“I’m very nervous,” said Danielle Judge, owner of Rowdy’s Pet Resort in Apollo Beach. “I’ve put my life’s work into this business, and it’s really hanging on a thread.”

Judge had thought the worst was over after she had managed to reopen in May and her loan from the government's Paycheck Protection Program had gone through. Now, her business is stalling once again as reported viral infections have accelerated. Again, she's worried.

“I didn’t fathom that a whole country could stay shut down and affect people’s businesses and people’s livelihoods for the duration of time that it has,” Judge said.

That unease stems from a disturbing truth about the pandemic: No one, not even the top experts, can say when a vaccine or an effective treatment might be in sight.

“We don’t know when this Covid-19 is going to end,” said Aakash Patel of Tampa, who runs Elevate, a consulting firm involved in public relations and marketing for businesses.

Patel had thought things would return to “normal” by perhaps September. Now, he’s thinking January. And he’s trying to stay upbeat.

“We all fell together,” he said. “We’re all going to rise together.”

It isn't just business owners in the region who fear for the future. It's consumers, too.

In Scottsdale, Arizona, Jim and Bobbi Moss had been banking on what looked like a promising economic rebound, only to lose some hope and retreat into a strict limit on their discretionary spending. They now make all their meals at home, and online shopping, Bobbi Moss said, is limited to items that “sustain daily living.”

“We’re not spending online, saying, ‘Gee, it might be nice to have this or do that,’ “she said. “We’re not doing any of that.”

The couple, who run a tax consulting and financial services business, say many of their clients — from couples in their 30s to retirees in their 80s — feel whip-lashed by an economic stall-out after the brief rebound a few weeks ago. Clients are rethinking investments, Jim Moss said, or delaying home purchases. Some are considering reverse mortgages because they worry about their cash flow.

“Three weeks ago, people were cautiously hopeful,” Bobbi Moss said. “Now, it’s frustration.”

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered bars, nightclubs and water parks to close again for at least a month. Those businesses had been allowed to reopen when a previous stay-at-home order expired in mid-May.

In Texas, too, Gov. Greg Abbott in May had green-lighted one of the country’s earliest and most aggressive re-openings. But by the end of June, the state’s daily rates of newly confirmed cases and hospitalizations had quadrupled.

So last week, the governor reversed course. He shuttered bars, restricting restaurant dining and barred elective surgeries in eight counties. On Thursday, he went further: He issued a mandatory face-mask order for most of the state.

Florida officials have also shut down bars for a second time. Yet the state's approach has been defined by a patchwork of varying rules, with officials in South Florida, where viral cases have spiked, being the most stringent. In Central Florida, by contrast, some theme parks have reopened. Disney's Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are set to reopen July 11, Epcot and Hollywood Studios four days later.

Danielle Savin has been a personal witness to the wildly uneven ways in which states have responded to the virus.

Savin owns two bars — one in New York, one in Miami — that were forced to close for months. When the pandemic first hit and New York was the country’s epicenter, she feared most for her business there. No longer. Now, it’s the Miami location she worries most about. She’s required to close it at midnight because confirmed cases in Florida have soared.

“Being in Florida right now with COVID is like trying to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey at a 5-year-old’s birthday,” said Savin, co-owner of Bob’s Your Uncle, a bar with a neighborhood vibe that had been open a year when the virus struck.

The business model had to be swiftly changed, with more focus on food, more kitchen staff and a staggering of shifts to comply with restrictions. Sales have declined, though. Savin and her co-owner have been working with their landlord to help with rent payments. Still, she started a GoFundMe page that has raised about $3,000 to help struggling employees.

“It did feel when we reopened again that we had to open a restaurant from scratch,” she said.

It is a sentiment felt, too, by Joe Ables, who owns Saxon Pub, a live-music venue in Austin, Texas. Ables had closed his doors in March. He didn’t reopen even when Texas allowed it at up to 50 percent customer capacity.

“I lose less money by staying closed,” Ables said.

He sought and received federal aid to support his six full-time employees. But given that Texas has now shuttered its bars twice, he’s settling in for what he fears will be a long dark period for businesses like his. Ables thinks the state will be cautious and likely slow about reopening them again.

In Austin, which bills itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Ables has watched some clubs close for good and musicians and production workers leave the city. The state’s second shutdown of bars could inflict further damage.

“I’m worried about the club scene,” he said. “There is permanent damage.”

Even so, Ables said he holds out hope for an eventual rebound, perhaps in 2021.

“I think we all have to believe,” he said, “regardless of whether it’s war or famine, that we’re going to come through it.” ___

Vertuno contributed from Austin, Texas. Kelli Kennedy also contributed to this report from Fort Lauderdale.

Police: 2 women hit by car on Seattle highway amid protests

Sat, 2020-07-04 09:20

This early Saturday, July 4, 2020 photo provided by the Washington State Patrol shows the vehicle of Dawit Kelete who is suspected of driving into a protest on Interstate 5 in Seattle. Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Washington State Patrol via AP)

SEATTLE — A 27-year-old man drove a white Jaguar onto a closed freeway in Seattle early Saturday and barreled through a panicked crowd of protesters, critically injuring two women, officials said.

Dawit Kelete of Seattle drove the car around vehicles that were blocking Interstate 5 and sped into the crowd at about 1:40 a.m., according to a police report released by the Washington State Patrol. Video taken at the scene by protesters showed people shouting “Car! Car!” before fleeing the roadway.

Summer Taylor, 24, of Seattle and Diaz Love, 32, of Bellingham were in critical condition with multiple injuries, according to Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg.

Love was filming the protest in a nearly two-hour-long Facebook livestream captioned “Black Femme March takes I-5” when the video ended abruptly; with about 15 seconds left, shouts of “Car!” can be heard as the camera starts to shake before screeching tires and the sound of impact are heard.

Video on social media showed the car striking two people.

The driver was in custody, Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead said. Kelete was booked into the King County Correctional Facility at 7:24 a.m. Saturday on two counts of vehicular assault. Bail was denied. It was not immediately clear if Kelete had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Officials were trying to determine the motive as well as point of entry onto the interstate. Mead said Kelete was suspected to have driven the wrong way on a ramp. Troopers did not know whether it was a targeted attack, but impairment was not considered a factor, Mead said.

Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests. Dozens of people were arrested this past week in connection with protests as demonstrations continue after authorities cleared the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone Wednesday morning.

Protesters had shut down the interstate for 19 days in a row, Mead said at a press conference.

The State Patrol responded by closing sections of the interstate to keep drivers and protesters safe.

“In a time that requires care and flexibility, we are exercising the safest means possible to avoid injuries or worse to motorists, protesters, WSDOT personnel and our troopers by closing the roadway and separating protesters from vehicular traffic,” Chief John Batiste said in a statement on June 27, responding to complaints about the road closures.

Mead emphasized that the freeway is “simply not a safe place” for pedestrians, and said he hoped protesters would cease what he termed “unlawful behavior” in blocking the interstate.

“My hope is, as a result of this tragedy, protesters will reconsider their desire to be on the interstate because I cannot guarantee their safety, plain and simple,” Mead said.

Protesters were on the freeway for more than an hour before the car drove around the blockade around 1:36 a.m., Mead said.

The state patrol tweeted out two pictures of the driver’s car with significant damage to its bumper and windshield.

Seattle police tweeted that they were assisting with the scene, as southbound lanes of the freeway remained closed for investigation.

Analysis: Trump’s push to amplify racism unnerves Republicans who have long enabled him

Sat, 2020-07-04 09:19

President Donald Trump on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump’s unyielding push to preserve Confederate symbols and the legacy of white domination, crystallized by his harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement Friday night at Mount Rushmore, has unnerved Republicans who have long enabled him but now fear losing power and forever associating their party with his racial animus.

Although amplifying racism and stoking culture wars have been mainstays of Trump's public identity for decades, they have been particularly pronounced this summer as the presidenthas reacted to the national reckoning over systemic discrimination by seeking to weaponize the anger and resentment of some white Americans for his own political gain.

Trump has left little doubt through his utterances the past few weeks that he sees himself not only as the Republican standard-bearer, but as leader of a modern grievance movement animated by civic strife and marked by calls for "white power," the phrase chanted by one of his supporters in a video the president shared last weekend on Twitter. He later deleted the video but did not disavow its message.

Trump put his strategy to resuscitate his troubled reelection campaign by galvanizing white supporters on display Friday night under the chiseled granite gaze of four past presidents memorialized in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He celebrated Independence Day with a dystopian speech in which he excoriated racial justice protesters as "evil" representatives of a "new far-left fascism" whose ultimate goal is "the end of America."

"Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children," Trump said to boos from a packed crowd of supporters. "Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities."

Over the years, some Republicans have struggled to navigate Trump's race baiting and, at times, outright racism, while others have rallied behind him. Bursts of indignation and frustration come and go, but have never resulted in a complete GOP break with the president. Trump's recent moves are again putting Republican officeholders onto risky political terrain.

On Friday night at Mount Rushmore, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., a member of the party's leadership, and other top Republicans were seen applauding as Trump spoke.

Trump's repeated championing of monuments, memorials and military bases honoring Confederate leaders has run up against the tide of modernity and a weary electorate that polls show overwhelmingly support the Black Lives Matter movement - a slogan that Trump said would be "a symbol of hate" if painted on Fifth Avenue in New York.

In Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy, a massive statue of Stonewall Jackson was dismantled to the cheers of onlookers and the ringing of church bells this week, and even inMississippi, the state legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag.

On Capitol Hill, some Republicans fret - mostly privately to avoid his wrath - that Trump's fixation on racial and other cultural issues leaves their party running against the currents of change. Coupled with the coronavirus pandemic and related economic crisis, these Republicans fear he is not only seriously impairing his reelection chances, but also jeopardizing the GOP Senate majority and its strength in the House.

"The Senate incumbent candidates are not taking the bait and are staying as far away from this as they can," said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican operative and chief strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has invested heavily in keeping GOP control of the Senate. "The problem is this is no longer just Trump's Twitter feed. It's expanded to the podium, and that makes it more and more difficult for these campaigns.

Trump has all but ignored the outcry and remains convinced that following his own instincts on race and channeling the grievances of his core base of white voters will carry him to victory against former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to a White House official and an outside Trump adviser who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

"It's the 2016 campaign all over again, when we had the Muslim ban and the wall, just add Confederate statues," the outside adviser said.

Trump allies say insist president's words and actions are not racist, but rather attentive to his core voters.

"President Trump has been more exposed to black people, black leaders and black culture than most previous presidents," said Armstrong Williams, a longtime adviser to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. "He doesn't see the implications of his tweets in the way that his critics do. He just loves his supporters."

Williams added, "This is someone who spoke at length on the phone to Don King on election night - I was with Trump when he took the call. This is someone who welcomed Kanye West at the White House. That's who Trump is."

Jason Miller, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said "the mainstream media is never going to give the president the credit he deserves, in terms of his optimism and his belief in the American spirit."

He added, "There is a backlash against this counterculture, this cancel culture, and Americans are proud we're a beacon for freedom."


The statue of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson is loaded onto a flat bed trailer after a crane lifted the statue off its base in Richmond on Wednesday. Washington Post photo by John McDonnell

Racial animus and toxicity were woven throughout Trump’s 2016 campaign. Patrick Gaspard, a former Obama White House political director who is now president of the Open Society Foundations, credited Trump with understanding “that there is a constituency - a deep constituency, a solid constituency, a resolute constituency - in the electorate for these views.”

The difference now, four years later, Gaspard argued, is that the sentiments of many Americans about justice and disparity appear to have evolved.

"The Republican Party under Donald Trump has become a party wandering aimlessly in the street talking to itself and responding to itself, and all the rest of us have become the pedestrians trying to avoid that guy," Gaspard said.

Trump's commentary of late has been dizzying and visceral. He has referred to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which originated in China, as the "kung flu." He has called racial justice demonstrators "thugs." He has attacked efforts to take down Confederate statues as an assault on "our heritage." And in an ominous hypothetical scenario, he described a "very tough hombre" breaking into a young woman's home while her husband was away.

Trump's Twitter feed, meanwhile, has become something of a crime blotter, with posts of grainy photos of suspected vandals the president labels anarchists and demands for lengthy prison sentences.

Former Ohio governor John Kasich, a Republican who ran against Trump in 2016, said the GOP's muted and scattered response to the president on race this week underscores how the party is "in decline" and has become a vessel for Trumpism - even as polls show Trump losing ground among seniors and white evangelicals and trailing Biden in every key battleground state.

"They coddled this guy the whole time and now it's like some rats are jumping off of the sinking ship. It's just a little late," Kasich said. "It's left this nation with a crescendo of hate not only between politicians but between citizens . . . It started with Charlottesville and people remained silent then, and we find ourselves in this position now."

Kasich added, "I'm glad to see some of these Republicans moving the other way but it reminds me of Vichy France where they said, 'Well, I never had anything to do with that,'" a reference to the French government that continued during Nazi occupation in the 1940s.

Racist symbols and ideas have long plagued U.S. politics, but Trump has tested the tolerance of Americans of a leader who shouts rather than whispers them. More than a strategy, this has been an expression of Trump's character and his dominance of a Republican base in which older white voters remain the key demographic.

As president, Trump has banned travel from seven Muslim-majority countries; equivocated over the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville; questioned the intelligence of basketball star LeBron James and numerous other African American figures; attacked the national anthem protests of black football players; and demanded that four Democratic congresswomen of color "go back" to the "crime infested places from which they came," among other actions and episodes.

Trump claimed last month that he had done more for black Americans than any president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, who freed slaves and ended the Civil War - but added to Fox News Channel anchor Harris Faulkner that Lincoln "did good, although it's always questionable."

Trump and his aides, in rebuking critics, often cite the passage of criminal justice reform as well as the pre-pandemic decline in the unemployment rate for blacks and other minority groups.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews rejected the suggestion that the president has amplified racism.

"Whether the media decides to acknowledge it or not, President Trump has repeatedly condemned hatred and bigotry and encouraged all of us to come together," Matthews said in an email. "At the same time, the President stands against Democrats' radical calls to defund our brave police officers, cave to mob rule, and promote cancel culture which seeks to erase our history."

Leah Wright Rigueur, a professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government who has studied civil rights and written about the history of black Republicans, said there is a clear pattern in Trump's behavior and rhetoric.

"Trump is pretty predictable with his racism and his racialized take on things," Wright Rigueur said. "Every once in a while the Trump administration and campaign have flashes of what look like sincere outreach efforts to various racial communities . . . But that's the part that's insincere, and he always circles back to his core, and it renders all of this other stuff around the economy and criminal justice reform completely invalid because there's no way of ignoring the central component of his campaign."


Supporters cheer as President Donald Trump departs the stage at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., during a "Make America Great Again" rally June 20. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

Dianne Pinderhughes, a professor at the University of Notre Dame who focuses on race and politics, said Trump’s latest outbursts are the culmination of his nearly decade-long effort to remake the GOP in his own image, going back to his racist “birther” attacks on Obama’s credentials and love of country.

Trump's racism, she said, "is not subtle at all. Every step he takes, every comment about human beings, murders or killings, he can't hold back. Even as Mississippi and other parts of the country remove Confederate symbols, he goes in the opposite direction as hard as he can."

Some senators and their advisers believe they must expand their vote share beyond Trump's base to win reelection.

"The president's base is locked in. They love him, they're going to turn out and they're going to vote for him," GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. "The problem is that the base is not enough to win. You can make a case that protecting Confederate monuments is very popular among at least a portion of his base, but it does nothing to expand the coalition, and that's the imperative at the moment and will be going forward if the party hopes to govern."

Trump has not made it easy for embattled Republicans to duck him. He reaffirmed Tuesday that he would veto this year's proposed $740 billion annual defense bill if an amendment is included that would require the Pentagon to change the names of bases named for Confederate military leaders - an amendment that has bipartisan support.

At times, some Republicans have been moved to speak out more forcefully on race, but when they have done so it has often been about lower-profile Republicans, such as Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who in June was defeated in a primary election, or various GOP candidates out in the country who pop up in the news for making racist statements - far easier targets than a sitting president with zero tolerance for dissent.

Trump's approach has deep roots in Republican politics. Beginning with the violent opposition among some white voters to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Richard Nixon and other Republican politicians appealed to white voters - especially in the South - with calls for "law and order" and vows to defend states' rights as the federal government enforced the new laws.

The presidency of George W. Bush ushered in a period when the national party sought to grow its support among blacks and Hispanics. And following Mitt Romney's 2012 loss to Obama, the GOP produced a so-called autopsy report arguing that the party would need to make serious inroads among minority voters to survive changing demographics.

At the same time, however, Trump's "birther" campaign against Obama was gaining traction on the right, and he rode to victory in part on white grievance.

Most congressional Republicans in challenging races this year have long been mute on Trump's racist comments, or they have cast them as unhelpful or combative but not racist - a method that has largely helped them avoid Trump's anger.

When asked two summers ago about Trump calling Omarosa Manigault, the president's former highest-ranking black adviser in the White House, a "dog," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, gave a typical GOP response: "I know you have to ask these questions but I'm not going to talk about that. I just think that's an endless little wild goose chase and I'm not going there."

Senate Republicans looking to hold onto the party's 53-seat majority are trying to balance their political alliance with Trump with their attempt to win over more moderate voters amid the reckoning over race. For instance, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., recently co-sponsored a bill with Cornyn - both are up for reelection in November - and others to make Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery, a federal holiday.

Still, Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster who has done extensive research on racial divisions, argued that Trump is likely to continue to play to "white resentment politics" because it is the only strategy that could stave off further erosion of his support.

"Without white resentment, there is no rationale for Donald Trump," Belcher said. "Without that, what reason do his supporters you have to be with Donald Trump if he's not going to be your tribal strong man? He started there and will end there."

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The Washington Post’s Jose A. Del Real and Ashley Parker contributed.

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