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Anchorage dancers are back in the studio, but COVID-19 is pushing them to reimagine their art

Sun, 2020-08-02 12:52

Ashlinn Tuning warms up alongside classmates during the Studio Pulse Competition Team dance practice at Studio Pulse in Anchorage on July 15, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

In a typical ballet class at Alaska Dance Theatre, Associate Director Farah Zoetmulder would be dancing with her students, offering them hands-on corrections. At Studio Pulse Center for Dance, the hallway would be overflowing with parents watching their kids in class. And Underground Dance Company’s students would often hug and high-five one another to show encouragement.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, that’s no longer the reality of dance classes.

A citywide hunker down order in March ended in-person classes and canceled anniversary performances and spring showcases. Studios moved to online-only lessons and then, when capacity restrictions for Anchorage were lifted in May, cautiously re-opened for summer — with some dramatic changes.

Now students must stop multiple times during class to sanitize and wipe down the barre at Alaska Dance Theatre. Instead of moving freely throughout the room, dancers at Studio Pulse Center must stay on their X’s and in 10- by 10-foot squares. As students walk into Underground Dance Company, they are repeatedly reminded to sign in, wear a mask and wash their hands.

Cali Rybicki, right, practices alongside classmates as social distancing markers on the floor separate them at Studio Pulse in Anchorage on July 15, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

Stephanie Wonchala, the owner of Studio Pulse Center for Dance, said her priority is to keep her students safe, and she decided to face the difficulties of in-person lessons head on.

“I came to the conclusion relatively quickly that this a just a new normal,” she said. “Instead of being afraid of it, to survive I had to embrace the challenges and find a safe way to move ahead.”

As a dance educator and principal choreographer for the studio’s professional company, Wonchala said she’s discovering how to use the limitations of social distancing to her advantage.

“I just have to be a little more inventive with how I use that space,” she said. “How are we going to use all four corners? How are we going to use the diagonals? How are we going to move more under ourselves? So I think there is a lot more movement exploration happening, just trying to utilize the spaces that we’ve created.”

Stacks of fabric face masks rest at the back of the room as ballet practice takes place at Alaska Dance Theatre in Anchorage on July 20, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)
Kali Dey, center, practices during ballet class alongside classmates at Alaska Dance Theatre in Anchorage on July 20, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

Zoetmulder of Alaska Dance Theatre has even come up with her own pandemic dance terminology. She coined the term “COVID technique,” meaning adapting movements so that dancers do not travel across studio space, and “kitchen ballet,” referring to the popular home location to take virtual class. She has had to alter her teaching methods to stick to her small section of the studio and no longer physically demonstrate combinations.

“It’s still completely more verbal,” she said. “I have to keep my distance from my students while I’m teaching, so I can’t help them stretch or help them lift themselves into a more extended position.”

While attending classes in person presents its own challenges, it is nothing compared to the difficulty of doing classes or practicing performances online, said Ernie Gray, co-owner of Underground Dance Company. It’s almost impossible to tell online if dancers really know the choreography musically and physically, Gray said.

“I can say that for a competitive team, virtual learning or virtual dance instruction, it’s very difficult to clean a routine,” he said. “Somebody might have the most amazing internet connection, somebody else may have a mediocre connection.”

Gigi Bundu, center, auditions for a performance piece as Caleb Carrillo, left, and Sofia Nocelo, right, listen to the music to prepare for their audition at Underground Dance Company in Anchorage on July 23, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)
Performance Choreography Coach Toby Carrillo watches students practice at Underground Dance Company in Anchorage on July 23, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

Zoetmulder said that after being virtual for three months, she noticed a difference in her students.

“I saw a huge gain in my students for (elements like) balance, flexibility because that was what we could work on,” she said. “But we got back in the studio, and it was like cardio bad, cardio not so good at all.”

Even with online performances filling the gap, studio owners worry about the long-term impacts of not being able to perform for a live audience.

“Performing is such a huge part of dancing. We were looking at losing our big recital at the end of the season and that just seemed so, I mean honestly, depressing,” Zoetmulder said.

Dance studios, like other Anchorage businesses and organizations, have had to navigate rapidly shifting COVID-19 guidelines. On Friday, the city released a broad emergency order that — among other restrictions — requires people to limit outings and physical contact with others outside their household or “bubble,” and further limits gathering sizes for four weeks starting Monday.

As for wearing masks while dancing, it is technically not required by public health measures. In June, the city issued a mandatory mask requirement for certain public indoor settings, but individuals who are exercising are exempt if wearing a mask interferes with their breathing.

Some studios, like Studio Pulse Center for Dance, Underground Dance Company and Barbara’s School of Dance, still require their dancers to wear masks while in class.

Gabe Harvey, co-owner of Underground Dance Company, wants his students to be role models for others to wear masks whether they’re dancing or not.

“You have your mask on,” he said, clapping to punctuate each word. “You are representing not only this dance company, but you are a PSA.”

Students in Summer Group B at Underground Dance Company maintain distance as they wait to audition during their performance choreography class on July 23, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

The threat of COVID-19 weighs heavily on Wonchala. “My biggest fear is someone coming in (with the virus) and then becoming a COVID hot spot like that is such a huge fear of mine,” she said.

All studios have seen drops in enrollment, as some parents are not ready to send their kids to in-person classes. But Gray said that even if dancers are in masks and socially distanced, attending classes in person makes a world of difference.

“I really think the encouragement, the camaraderie ... there’s something to say about the energy that comes from another person,” he said.

Leia Hoggard, right, and members of the Competition Team at Studio Pulse practice in Anchorage on July 15, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

Olivia Lovrich, 14, is a dancer on the competition team at Studio Pulse Center for Dance. She said being back in the studio is worth any additional safety measures.

“I feel like it’s really a small price to pay to be able to dance with everybody again, to make it safe, to make you not feel guilty,” she said. “It’s really good to be back.”

[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.]

SpaceX capsule and NASA crew make 1st splashdown in 45 years

Sun, 2020-08-02 11:31

In this frame grab from NASA TV, the SpaceX capsule splashes down Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020 in the Gulf of Mexico. Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken spent a little over two months on the International Space Station. It will mark the first splashdown in 45 years for NASA astronauts and the first time a private company has ferried people from orbit. (NASA TV via AP) (NASA TV via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two NASA astronauts returned to Earth on Sunday in a dramatic, retro-style splashdown, their capsule parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico to close out an unprecedented test flight by Elon Musk's SpaceX company.

It was the first splashdown by U.S. astronauts in 45 years, with the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry people to and from orbit. The return clears the way for another SpaceX crew launch as early as next month and possible tourist flights next year.

Test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken rode the SpaceX Dragon capsule back to Earth less than a day after departing the International Space Station and two months after blasting off from Florida. The capsule parachuted into the calm gulf waters about 40 miles off the coast of Pensacola, hundreds of miles from Tropical Storm Isaias pounding Florida’s Atlantic coast.

“Welcome back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” said Mission Control from SpaceX headquarters.

“It was truly our honor and privilege,” replied Hurley.

The astronauts' ride home in the capsule dubbed Endeavour was fast, bumpy and hot, at least on the outside.

The spacecraft went from a screaming orbital speed of 17,500 mph (28,000 kph) to 350 mph (560 kph) during atmospheric reentry, and finally to 15 mph (24 kph) at splashdown. Peak heating during descent was 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius). The anticipated top G forces felt by the crew: four to five times the force of Earth’s gravity.

“Endeavour has you loud and clear,” Hurley radioed following a brief communication blackout caused by the heat of atmospheric entry.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken prepare to return to earth on a SpaceX capsule, Sunday Aug. 2, 2020. It will mark the first splashdown in 45 years for NASA astronauts and the first return in the gulf. Unlike Florida's Atlantic coast, already feeling the effects of Tropical Storm Isaias, the waves and wind were calm near Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle. (SpaceX via AP)

A SpaceX recovery ship with more than 40 staff, including doctors and nurses, moved in quickly following splashdown and lifted the 15-foot capsule onto its deck. Two smaller, faster boats arrived first at the capsule while it was slowly bobbing upright in the water. To keep the returning astronauts safe in the pandemic, the recovery crew quarantined for two weeks and were tested for the coronavirus.

After medical exams, the astronauts were expected to fly home to Houston for a reunion with their wives and sons.

The last time NASA astronauts returned from space to water was on July 24, 1975, in the Pacific, the scene of most splashdowns, to end a joint U.S.-Soviet mission known as Apollo-Soyuz. The Mercury and Gemini crews in the early to mid-1960s parachuted into the Atlantic, while most of the later Apollo capsules hit the Pacific. The lone Russian “splashdown” was in 1976 on a partially frozen lake amid a blizzard following an aborted mission; the harrowing recovery took hours.

SpaceX made history with this mission, which launched May 30 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. It was the first time a private company launched people into orbit and also the first launch of NASA astronauts from home turf in nearly a decade. Hurley came full circle, serving as pilot of NASA’s last space shuttle flight in 2011 and the commander of this SpaceX flight.

Musk monitored the descent and splashdown from SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California.

NASA turned to SpaceX and also Boeing to build capsules and ferry astronauts to and from the space station, following the retirement of the shuttles. Until Hurley and Behnken rocketed into orbit, NASA astronauts relied on Russian rockets. SpaceX already had experience hauling cargo to the space station, bringing those capsules back to a Pacific splashdown.

“This is the next era in human spaceflight where NASA gets to be the customer,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said from Johnson Space Center in Houston shortly before the astronauts’ return.

SpaceX needs six weeks to inspect the capsule before launching the next crew around the end of September. This next mission of four astronauts will spend a full six months aboard the space station. Hurley and Behnken’s capsule will be refurbished for another flight next spring. A Houston company run by a former NASA official, meanwhile, has partnered with SpaceX to send three customers to the space station in fall 2021.

Boeing doesn’t expect to launch its first crew until next year. The company encountered significant software problems in the debut of its Starliner capsule, with no one aboard, last year. Its capsules will touch down in the U.S. Southwest desert.

By beating Boeing, SpaceX laid claim to a small U.S. flag left at the space station by Hurley and the rest of the last shuttle crew. The flag — which also flew on the first shuttle flight — was carefully packed aboard the Dragon for the homecoming.

Also on board: a toy dinosaur named Tremor, sent into space by the astronauts’ young sons.

The boys recorded a wake-up call for their fathers Sunday morning, urging them to “rise and shine” and “we can’t wait to see you.”

“Don’t worry, you can sleep in tomorrow,” said Behnken’s 6-year-old son Theo, who was promised a puppy after the flight. “Hurry home so we can go get my dog.”

Anchorage’s housing crisis: A tale of two cities

Sun, 2020-08-02 11:06

Anchorage Assembly chair Felix Rivera walks past protesters chanting "Vote No" as he arrives for a meeting on Monday, July 27, 2020, on the city purchasing four buildings for homeless services. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

As someone who has desperately wanted to help people struggling with homelessness, I admit I am sometimes afraid to go down Third Avenue. It’s OK, you can admit it too. I’ve seen so many fights, screaming and tears walking back and forth from Bean’s Café and Brother Francis Shelter. I’ve heard terrible stories of abuse from people seeking emergency shelter. I’ve seen the bedbug bites, the broken bottles, discarded needles and feelings of betrayal on other’s faces.

Yet I myself have only been threatened with murder once. I was walking in Bayshore, a neighborhood in nearly opposite conditions as downtown. The only bottles were soft drinks and beer being consumed by happy families out on their lawns. By all typical standards, I was in a “good neighborhood.” Apparently I walked down the wrong avenue, and as I doubled back, a white woman said she would shoot me if she ever saw me on her street again. Apparently I did not “look the part” of someone supposed to be in her neighborhood. Today, I would prefer to visit the homeless shelters rather than go take a walk alone around Victor Road and 100th Avenue.

I can’t help but think of her face when I see the reaction to the ordinances AO 2020-58 and AO 2020-66. Voices from multiple Midtown neighborhoods are concerned about what is happening in their region of the city. They fear that their living conditions will be negatively affected by having people in recovery so close; that 36th Avenue will look like Third.

I get it. You don’t want the needles in your parks, the shooters on your lawns, or people lost in the throes of abuse and mental illness wandering by your house. You’re worried about how far away from the boulevard your kids can go. And you’re angry that if you don’t support the ordinances, you’ll get called a racist or classist or some related internet jargon. No judgment from me; my only hope is that because I’m trying to reach out to you, perhaps you will consider my perspective as well.

You might be surprised to hear some of the stories of those living on the street. People come from all sorts of backgrounds, from poor and rich households alike. Sometimes people end up on the street because they got dealt a bad hand. Others made choices they thought had to be made, like an acquaintance of mine who ended up houseless after using meth to keep working four different jobs. You might consider how many of them are trying to keep sober, to find housing, and to get back some control over their lives. Some might even tell you how much they also don’t like going downtown, how they’re tired of threats and harassment from violent people in the area.

The fear in our minds is the fear that our conditions will become like those on the street. We can see the excesses of abuse, addiction and debt on those panhandling or drinking on the side of the road. We fear what we don’t see directly but we know is out there. And seeing people stuck in affliction outside our doors reminds not only of what is going wrong in this city, but also of what could potentially happen to our neighbors, our friends or our families. It was the same fear in the eyes of the woman who threatened to shoot me in Bayshore; I was not homeless or struggling with drug use, but she felt an encroachment on her home nonetheless. The negative conditions are heavy upon our eyes. We can’t run away or hide when it’s happening in our neighborhoods.

Once we have recognized our concern, we are left with two options. We can tolerate the problem or we can do something about it. We can end homelessness or we can let it grow. The reality of the situation is that there are no other choices, and we cannot have both congruously. If we do nothing and allow poverty to suck more people down, there will be more tent cities, more people living in danger on the streets and more resulting social problems. If we are to do something to help, there will need to be funds, shelters, medical help and community responsibility allocated for the task.

There will be those who simply blame poor choices for homelessness. Choice is one factor in determining the direction of our lives, without a doubt. It is not the only one. We know this because simply “wanting” to get better is hardly possible without a home, employment, medical services or community support. Whatever we may believe philosophically, policy makers do not have the option of waiting until people find the right state of mind to solve the problems in Anchorage.

Many residents want to have it both ways. They turn down options to help people living in homelessness, and then feel enraged when there are more people in need of assistance. Living responsibly means accepting the consequences of your choices. One year ago, Anchorage residents were demanding an end to tent cities and illegal encampments. And yet now that the Assembly is on the verge of providing a real-world solution to those problems, we are saying “no, not like that.” We now seem to be opting for tent cities again.

Some in the argument insist that we need to provide A before B, that mental health must come before housing. Aside from the logistical problem of trying to treat people living in the woods, I imagine that allocated mental health funds would run into a similar problem. When we are talking about psychiatric care in the budget allotments next year, we will likely hear naysayers insisting we need to spend more on law enforcement instead. There never seems to be room in the budget when it involves the needs of the homeless.

I ask you: What should we be doing instead? We won’t build shelters, we won’t fund mental health, we won’t provide affordable housing and we won’t allow the homeless to camp anywhere. Real human beings are outside right now, dealing with enough life-threatening problems without being shuffled around like cargo. If we are to do something else besides purchasing housing and treatment centers, then let’s put our money where our mouths are. Don’t offer your opposition without giving serious consideration to the existing options.

We are living in two cities, Anchorage. You could probably draw a physical line to demarcate the boundaries. The dissonance is threatening to erode any sense of identity, any sense of pride we have in our communities. Now that the lines are changing, there is public recognition of the division. Don’t look away! See how your neighbors are struggling. If you are concerned, you are starting to recognize the seriousness of the situation.

Ryan Francis is a writer and cook living in Anchorage. His sister, who was struggling with homelessness, was murdered in 2016.

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) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Annual Sturgis rally expecting 250K, stirring virus concerns

Sun, 2020-08-02 10:52

FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2016 file photo, bikers ride down Main Street in downtown Sturgis, S.D., before the 76th Sturgis motorcycle rally officially begins. (Josh Morgan/Rapid City Journal via AP, File) (Josh Morgan/)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Sturgis is on. The message has been broadcast across social media as South Dakota, which has seen an uptick in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, braces to host hundreds of thousands of bikers for the 80th edition of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

More than 250,000 people are expected to rumble through western South Dakota, seeking the freedom of cruising the boundless landscapes in a state that has skipped lockdowns. The Aug. 7 to 16 event, which could be the biggest anywhere so far during the pandemic, will offer businesses that depend on the rally a chance to make up for losses caused by the coronavirus. But for many in Sturgis, a city of about 7,000, the brimming bars and bacchanalia will not be welcome during a pandemic.

Though only about half the usual number of people are expected at this year's event, residents were split as the city weighed its options. Many worried that the rally would cause an unmanageable outbreak of COVID-19.

“This is a huge, foolish mistake to make to host the rally this year,” Sturgis resident Lynelle Chapman told city counselors at a June meeting. “The government of Sturgis needs to care most for its citizens.”

In a survey of residents conducted by the city, more than 60% said the rally should be postponed. But businesses pressured the City Council to proceed.

Rallygoers have spent about $800 million in past years, according to the state Department of Tourism. Though the rally has an ignominious history of biker gangs and lawlessness, bikers of a different sort have shown up in recent years — affluent professionals who ride for recreation and come flush with cash. Though the rally still features libertine displays, it also offers charity events and tributes to the military and veterans.

The attorney for a tourism souvenir wholesaler in Rapid City wrote to the City Council reminding that a judge found the city does not solely own rights to the rally and threatening to sue if the city tried to postpone it. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Chip, which is the largest campground and concert venue that lies outside the bounds of the city, made clear that it would hold some version of the rally.

Rod Woodruff, who operates the Buffalo Chip, said he felt he had little choice but to proceed with the rally. He employs hundreds of people in August and a smaller full-time staff.

“We spend money for 355 days of the year without any return on it, hoping people show up for nine days,” he said. “We’re a nine-day business.”

Woodruff felt he could pull off a safe event, allowing people to keep their distance from one another at the outdoor concerts at his campground. He said he was emboldened by the July 3 fireworks celebration at Mount Rushmore, where 7,500 people gathered without any reported outbreaks after the event, according to health officials.

In the end, Sturgis officials realized the rally would happen whether they wanted it or not. They decided to try to scale it back, canceling city-hosted events and slashing advertising for the rally.

Jerry Cole, who directs the rally for the city, said organizers are not sure how many people will show up, but that they're expecting at least 250,000. Travel restrictions from Canada and other countries have cut out a sizeable portion of potential visitors, he said.

Others think the rally could be the biggest yet.

“It’s the biggest single event that’s going on in the United States that didn’t get canceled,” Woodruff said. “A lot of people think it’s going to be bigger than ever.”

When the rally is over, every year the city weighs all the trash generated to estimate how many people showed up. This year, they will also conduct mass coronavirus testing to see if all those people brought the pandemic to Sturgis.

As school begins amid virus, parents see few good options

Sun, 2020-08-02 10:41

John Barrett and his daughter Autumn pose for photos outside Bascomb Elementary School in Woodstock, Ga., Thursday, July 23, 2020. Barrett says he will educate his daughter virtually and keep her out of in-person classes in Cherokee County schools, even though he's worried she will fall behind on her special education plans, because of concerns about COVID-19's spread. Cherokee County, near Atlanta, is one of many districts nationwide that gave parents a choice between in-person and all-online classes this fall. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy) (Jeff Amy/)

WOODSTOCK, Ga. — John Barrett plans to keep his daughter home from elementary school this year in suburban Atlanta, but he wishes she were going. Molly Ball is sending her teenage sons to school in the same district on Monday, but not without feelings of regret.

As the academic year begins in many places across the country this week, parents are faced with the difficult choice of whether to send their children to school or keep them home for remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many are unhappy with either option.

“I definitely think it’s healthy for a child to go back to school,” said Ball, who feels her sons, William and Henry, both at River Ridge High School in Georgia’s Cherokee County district, suffered through enough instability in the spring. “At the same time, I wish they weren’t going back to school right now. It’s very scary.”

Offering parents choices eases some of the problems facing schools. If some students stay home, that creates more space in buildings and on buses.

But the number of families with a choice has dwindled as the virus's spread has prompted school districts to scrap in-person classes — at least to start the academic year — in cities including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, as well as parts of the South and Midwest where school is starting this week.

Many districts that don't begin instruction until after Labor Day are warily tracking the virus — and weighing concerns of educators and parents — as they consider plans including hybrid approaches, with in-person learning at least a few days a week.

In Cherokee County, administrators have stuck with plans to offer in-person school five days a week despite pressure from some parents and teachers. The countywide district also rejected demands to require masks inside school buildings. The families of about 23% of Cherokee County’s 43,000 students have opted for them to learn remotely from home.

Barrett said the mask decision contributed to his decision to keep Autumn, who is in a special education program, home to start third grade at Bascomb Elementary School.

“At a minimum, there ought to be a mask mandate, and maybe a staggered schedule. They’re not interested in responding to the realities of the virus as it’s happening in Georgia,” Barrett said.

Barrett works from home and his wife, who has an educational background, isn’t employed. He says that gives them “an ability to bridge the gap.” But he worries that Autumn will still fall behind, especially on her individualized education program, the plan written for each special education student.

“She gives up a lot of the ability to make progress on her IEP,” Barrett said. “It’s a big decision, and it feels like a definite loss.”

Parents are not the only ones who are struggling. Districts that offer two modes of instruction create new challenges for teachers as well, especially those in smaller districts who are being asked to educate students in person and online at the same time.

“The key is going to be the complexity, how they handle it,” said Allen Pratt, executive director of the National Rural Education Association. “Is it going to be standards-driven, what students need to move to the next grade level? Is it going to be equal to face-to-face or better than face-to-face?”

Denise Dalrymple is reluctantly sending her two sons back to first and sixth grades in Cherokee County because she says it’s impossible for her to work otherwise. Like many districts, the county says it will have increased academic expectations for online learning this fall, compared to the spring.

“You basically have to make the student’s education time a priority over your own job,” Dalrymple said.

Others are more enthusiastic about a return.

“It was automatic because my husband and I both work, because it would have upset both of our schedules,” said Jackie Taylor, who has three school-aged children and lives in nearby Canton.

She said her children have been around other kids this summer, making the transition back to school less concerning.

“We use the neighborhood pool, we do the sports,” Taylor said as she watched her son practice baseball. “Obviously they’re in close proximity in the dugouts.”

Siana Onanovic said her son Kelvin will be attending Woodstock High, also in the Cherokee district, in person as a freshman. That's in part because the special science and engineering curriculum that drew her family to the school's attendance zone isn't available online.

But, like many, she had her reservations.

“There are so many pros and cons on each side,” she said.

A weakened Tropical Storm Isaias lashes virus-hit Florida

Sun, 2020-08-02 10:39

Beach goers watch waves churned up by Tropical Storm Isaias near Jaycee Beach Park, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, in Vero Beach, Fla. Isaias weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm late Saturday afternoon, but was still expected to bring heavy rain and flooding as it barrels toward Florida. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee/)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Bands of heavy rain from Isaias lashed Florida’s east coast Sunday while officials dealing with surging cases of the coronavirus kept a close watch on the weakened tropical storm.

Isaias was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon, but was still expected to bring heavy rain and flooding as it crawled just off Florida's Atlantic coast.

“Don’t be fooled by the downgrade,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned at a news conference after the storm — pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs — spent hours roughing up the Bahamas.

Upper-level winds took much of the strength out of Isaias, said Stacy Stewart, senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm also slowed down considerably.

“We were expecting a hurricane to develop and it didn’t,” Stewart said Sunday. “It’s a tale of two storms. If you live on the west side of the storm, you didn’t get much. If you live east of the storm, there’s a lot of nasty weather there.”

Florida is on the west side of Isaias.

Authorities closed beaches, parks and virus testing sites, lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn’t blow away. DeSantis said the state is anticipating power outages and asked residents to have a week’s supply of water, food and medicine on hand. Officials wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary, while also safely social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

Isaias put another burden on communities already hit by other storms and sickness.

In Palm Beach County, about 150 people were in shelters, said emergency management spokeswoman Lisa De La Rionda. The county has a voluntary evacuation order for those living in mobile or manufactured homes, or those who feel their home can't withstand winds.

“We don’t anticipate many more evacuations,” she said, adding that the evacuees are physically distant from each other and are wearing masks, due to the virus.

In Indian River County, north of West Palm Beach, Florida, emergency shelters were clearing out Sunday after Isaias was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Officials told TCPalm newspapers that 38 people registered at three schools used as shelters. Those areas now must be cleaned to ensure no traces of the coronavirus remain as teachers and staff report Monday to prepare for the upcoming school year.

No one checked in with COVID-19 symptoms. Temperature checks were done at the door, officials said, and isolation rooms were designated in case anyone came in with symptoms.

The storm's maximum sustained winds declined steadily throughout Saturday, and were at 65 mph (100 kph) at 11 a.m. EDT Sunday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The storm's center was located about 55 miles (90 kilometers) east-southeast of Fort Pierce, Florida.

The center of the storm was forecast to travel near the state's eastern coast throughout the day, and fluctuations in strength are possible into Tuesday, forecasters said.

Heavy rain, flooding and high winds could batter much of the East Coast this week as the system is forecast to track up or just off the Atlantic seaboard.

NASA says the return of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX capsule is still on track for Sunday afternoon despite the storm. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing to make the first splashdown return in 45 years, after two months docked at the International Space Station. They are aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida Panhandle, and flight controllers kept a close watch on the storm.

Isaias already has caused destruction in the Caribbean: On Thursday, before it became a hurricane, it uprooted trees, destroyed crops and homes and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. One man died in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floods that swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday.

Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from Hallandale Beach, Florida, to South Santee River, South Carolina, and for Florida's Lake Okeechobee. A storm surge watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach, and from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to Cape Fear, North Carolina.

With coronavirus cases surging in Florida recently, the added menace of a storm ratcheted up the anxiety. State-run virus testing sites closed in areas where the storm might hit because the sites are outdoor tents, which could topple in high winds.

Natalie Betancur, stocking up at a grocery in Palm Beach Gardens, said that the storm itself doesn't cause her a great amount of concern.

“The hurricane is not that serious, but I feel that the public is really panicking because it’s a hurricane and we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” she said.

Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas opened shelters for people in Abaco island to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people in September 2019.


Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg, Cody Jackson in Palm Beach County, Florida, and Julie Walker in New York contributed.

A close look: Bears fish for salmon on the Kenai River

Sun, 2020-08-02 10:22

A sow and three yearlings fished for salmon at a bend in the Kenai River near the Russian River Ferry crossing on July 30, 2020. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

A brown bear sow and three yearlings fished for salmon on the south bank of the Kenai River on Thursday evening, watched by wary fishermen downstream and a crowd of passers-by across the water.

Jeff Selinger, a regional wildlife management coordinator for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said that brown bears, particularly females and young ones, use the area every year as salmon travel upstream.

“Generally speaking, we don’t see a lot of activity by large adult males in that area,” Selinger said. “More so, subadults or sows with offspring.”

On Thursday, the bear family focused its salmon-snatching effort on a bend in the river, about a half-mile downstream from the Russian River Ferry crossing. Fisherman attendance was relatively light in the high-usage section of the river nearby, but several fishermen could be seen about 50 to 75 yards downstream. At one point, a fisherman banged on the hull of an aluminum boat to run off a cub that passed the group of six people along the shoreline.

Two brown bear yearlings swam nearly all the way across the river before turning and heading back to a sow and another sibling bear. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
A sow and a yearling watch the water. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Rafters show excitement after spotting bears during their float on the Kenai River on July 30, 2020. From left are Sami Lucci of Richmond, Virginia, Sarah Ross and Kirsten Baker, both from Denver. Austin Klopstein of Alaska River Adventures guides the float. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Marion Glaser, Russian River Interagency Management coordinator, said about 200 bear sightings are recorded each summer near the confluence of the Russian and Kenai rivers. This year’s total has been about average so far, she said, with 107 recorded as of last week.

“It always picks up later in the summer,” Glaser said. “The second run of sockeye salmon is generally a little bit bigger than the first run, and it’s not unusual for several different bears, or groups of bears, using the river at the same time.”

“Obviously they have a short summer season to obtain enough calories to last them through the whole winter. The salmon is an extremely important food source,” said Glaser, who coordinates with Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Chugach National Forest, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Kenaitze Indian Tribe, CIRI Native Corporation and Alaska State Parks to manage the popular area.

Thursday evening, the bears mostly ignored the humans and instead focused on fishing in the blue-green river. Two of the young bears swam nearly all the way across and drifted downstream in the strong current, before they turned to head back toward the sow. Natal collars - patches of light-colored fur near the bear’s neck and shoulders - could be seen on all three young bears.

A couple times, a black bear sow and cub also emerged from the woods nearby, but never got close to the bigger bears.

On several occasions, the brown bears pulled salmon carcasses, already filleted, from the water. The carcasses were likely discarded by fishermen upstream who opted not to bring home the whole fish. That situation is one that officials try to avoid. Fish and Game asks that fishermen take their fish off-site for processing elsewhere. Those who choose to fillet fish at the river should chop up the carcass and throw the pieces into the fast-moving current. That practice keeps from creating a concentrated food source near humans.

“The current can carry it down out of that high-use angling area so we don’t end up with this buffet of carcasses that looks very attractive from a bear’s perspective,” Glaser said.

A brown bear yearling pulls an already-filleted salmon carcass from the Kenai River, something officials try to avoid. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
A brown bear yearling runs ashore with a salmon carcass. . (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
A crowd gathers along the Sterling Highway to watch brown bears fish on July 30, 2020. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

That’s not the only safety concern when bears are spotted on the Kenai. On Thursday, dozens of people stopped to watch the animals. Many did safely, but some cars stopped in the traveling lanes of the Sterling Highway to watch. Other people stood in the roadway. Some drivers reacted angrily, blaring their horns, yelling out of their windows and revving their engines.

“The Seward and Sterling Highways see a lot of traffic accidents every year, and nobody wants to contribute to those statistics,” Glaser said.

“What you don’t want to do is approach that bear, or any wildlife, in any way that could cause them to change their behavior or feel threatened. And you definitely don’t want to stop in the middle of the road or do anything that would cause you or your family to be an obstruction to the safe flow of traffic,” she said.

Upstream, Russian River Ferry operators Jack Welsh and Jacob Commer said bear sightings have been a daily occurrence lately. Welsh, a ferry captain, said he occasionally has had to delay a river crossing because a brown bear was fishing right next to its terminal on the south side.

Commer, a first-year deckhand, said the thrill of seeing the animals is gone.

“Now they’re just here,” he said.

A sow and three yearlings fished for salmon at a bend in the Kenai River near the Russian River Ferry crossing on July 30, 2020. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
A brown bear yearling ran back and forth along the south bank of the Kenai River on July 30, 2020. People fishing at the time moved away as the bear approached. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
A black bear sow and cub pair were briefly spotted near where brown bears also fished on the Kenai River on July 30, 2020. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Selinger emphasized that bears can be anywhere on the Kenai Peninsula and that people should give them plenty of space and do their part to keep wildlife from associating people with food. That includes proper fish carcass disposal, keeping stringers and belongings close, and cleaning up garbage.

“You might be fine, but you might be setting up the people who follow you into that area for something bad to occur,” Selinger said.

Read more about fishing in bear country at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.

Fisherman keep an eye on a brown bear sow and three cubs on the south bank of the Kenai River on July 30, 2020. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

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‘What choice do we have?’ As the Arctic warms, Alaska Inupiat adapt.

Sun, 2020-08-02 10:14

This coverage was supported by the Pulitzer Center’s nationwide Connected Coastlines reporting initiative.

Anagi Crew hunts a 30-foot male bowhead whale on the Bering Sea in an aluminum boat, though typically spring whalers use umiaqs, the small sealskin boats that are prized for their light weight, stealthy movement and respect for tradition. (Photo by Yves Brower)

UTQIAĠVIK — The Alaska Native Inupiat are set apart from other Indigenous peoples by their subsistence hunting of the bowhead whale. Even today, this unique, centuries-old practice determines the social structure, reflects community values and supplements the people’s nutrient-rich diet. Nearly all of Utqiaġvik’s roughly 5,000 residents, the majority of whom are Inupiat, rely on hunting to support their way of life.

Which is why Harry Brower Jr., an Inupiaq whaling captain and North Slope Borough mayor, finds it odd when outsiders try to explain things to him.

“I’m reading about this research on bowhead whales in different countries,” he told me one afternoon in February. I met Brower in a mahogany-clad office decorated with relics of his hometown: mounted walrus tusks, paintings of icebergs at sea and a portrait of Brower and Utqiaġvik’s first mayor, Eben Hopson, standing with other community members under “the Gateway to the Arctic” — two huge whale bones arranged in a dramatic arch.

“Here are two words I read about this morning,” he said, pointing to a yellow Post-it on his desk inscribed with the words “hyperboreus” and “parsimonious.” Until he Googled the term, Brower didn’t know what it meant, though he is, in fact, a hyperborean: an inhabitant of the Far North. “(Scientists) all speak a different language,” he said. “They do.”

While serving as mayor of the North Slope Borough, which encompasses eight separate communities and about 10,000 people, Brower also chaired the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. The AEWC was formed in 1977, after the federal government, worried about low bowhead whale numbers in the Bering Sea, banned the Inupiat’s subsistence hunt. In response, local whalers conducted their own census, which proved that the whales were being undercounted by the thousands when they swam underneath the ice. The Inupiats’ research resulted in an increased quota. This anecdote is a well-worn story in Utqiagvik — formerly known as Barrow — a point of pride marking a time the Inupiat bested the federal government by showing more precise knowledge of their lands and waters.

In the last two centuries, the climate has been severely altered by human forces. But it has always been changing in some form here, according to the Inupiat. Evidence of past ecosystem shifts is preserved in the great tusks of a mammoth found in the perennially frozen earth and in the oral histories repeated like mantras. The term “climate change” strikes a different tone up here.

Life below 0 degrees Fahrenheit has always been challenging, so the Inupiat story is defined by adaptation. When the mammoth became extinct, the Inupiat adapted. When Western influences crept north, the Inupiat replaced their dogsleds with snow machines, their seal oil lamps with electricity. Today, the Arctic is warming at twice the global average, necessitating a new era of adjustments in life on land and sea. The weaker sea ice endangers hunters, while melting soil threatens homes and city infrastructure. The encroaching sea is eating away at the shoreline. 

“What other choice do we have?” Kaare Sikuaq Erikson, an Inupiaq science liaison at the village corporation, said. “People assume that we’re entering this new Arctic, when in reality we have faced adversity for thousands of years. We’ve always been able to adapt and be resilient. This is no different.”

The Arctic — “ground zero for climate change” — is warming more rapidly than the rest of the planet because of a positive feedback loop called Arctic amplification. Rising global temperatures melt the reflective surfaces of snow and ice each year, exposing the darker areas they cover, and the open water and bare ground absorb sunlight, rather than reflect it. This absorbed light creates heat, melting more snow and ice.

Last year, temperatures in Utqiaġvik and the state of Alaska broke the federal government’s 120-year record. The shift has happened so quickly in the North that it has outrun the research tools used to measure it. In 2017, it changed so fast that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned scientists that the data was potentially flawed. But the data proved accurate: It was the area’s warmest recorded temperature to date. 

“Nobody disputes that things change,” Alaska climatologist Rick Thoman said. “The question is: Why are they changing now? Why aren’t there mammoths on the North Slope now? You can’t answer the question without invoking greenhouse gases. From a Western science perspective, that is the only conclusion.”

In the last four decades, the Arctic has lost 641,000 square miles of sea ice in the month of March alone — an area roughly the size of Alaska, according to National Snow and Ice Data Center records. Warmer temperatures also make for a later freeze and an earlier breakup of the ice, shrinking the time frame for spring whaling.

Whaling is the pinnacle of Inupiat culture and the subsistence lifestyle. It takes place in spring and fall, when bowhead whales migrate past Utqiaġvik. Inupiat hunters say the whales “give themselves” to worthy hunters, so preparation is year-round and meticulous. Women carefully craft sealskin boats, sewn together with caribou tendon, and whaling crews clean out their ice cellars. Community members store whale and other raw meats in traditional belowground refrigerators dug about 20 feet into permafrost. (Both climate change and urban development are now causing some cellars to thaw, spoiling the meat.)

Each spring, hunters use ice picks to build trails over frozen sea ice. Once the paths are smoothed, they drive snowmachines several miles to reach open water. At the ice’s edge, they assemble camps, then wait for a bowhead to pass. As soon as a whale is spotted, the crews slide their sealskin boats into the water, and a crewmember attempts to harpoon the animal. When a whale is struck, the captains signal other crews by VHF radio. Other hunters rally to the boat, and everyone pulls the whale onto the ice shore.

But landing a bowhead has become increasingly dangerous: Each whale weighs up to 120,000 pounds and must be pulled onto the less stable sea ice.

Utqiagvik community members join together to tow a bowhead whale to shore after three successful hunts in a single day in April. In a good year, about 10 whales are caught in spring whaling season and shared among the community for food throughout the year. (Photo by Yves Brower)

Inupiak brothers Jack and Brower Frantz, whalers on their uncle’s crew, having risen through the ranks since they were teenagers. “When we were growing up, it always seemed like the ice was a constant,” Jack said. “We always knew it was going to be good. The last five years, it just seems like it’s hit or miss.”

Brower Frantz, now 34, remembers the long snowmachine ride to the ice edge, roughly 15 miles from the shore. When he was a teenager, it took more than two hours. “I felt safe driving out there by myself, and I was just a kid,” he said. Now, the ice frequently breaks off within a quarter-mile of the shore, making the past five years the most unsafe he’s experienced.

On land, Utqiaġvik residents face a different but related instability underfoot: permafrost thaw. Last summer, Utqiaġvik endured the wettest summer on record, with twice as much rainfall as usual. Rain thawed the ground several feet deeper than normal, past the “active” layer of permafrost, which is normally frozen year-round. During freeze-up, the infrastructure built into the usually immobile permafrost — water lines, telephone poles and house pilings — all began pushing up out of the ground. Now, utility poles tilt at worrisome angles, and some homes appear to be teetering on stilts. 

Bill Tracey, a local assemblyman who represents Point Lay, a village about 200 miles southwest of Utqiaġvik, said the thaw there is so bad that once-narrow crawlspaces under the homes can now hold ATVs. 

“The biggest change is that it’s gotten so warm that the permafrost is thawing so far down that all of the pipes are moving a lot and breaking,” said Yves Brower, Harry Brower’s second cousin, who heads the water and sewer department in Utqiaġvik. He is acutely aware of the impacts of the changing climate: The week we spoke, nine different water pipes broke, spouting like geysers out of various paved roads.

Not all of Utqiaġvik’s pipes are buried in the permafrost. The majority are housed in a utilidor, a 3-mile-long tunnel of water, sewer and electrical pipes. The utilidor — which cost $800 million, funded almost entirely by oil money — is Utqiaġvik’s single most valuable asset. It helped bring the borough into the 21st century. Before it was built, in the 1980s, most residents hauled ice in for water and used “honey buckets” for sewage. 

The Anagi crew pictured amid their successful hunt in early May. Whalers attach orange buoys to their harpoons-- also accompanied by a bomb to quickly kill a whale--which helps indicate a struck whales' location as it tries to escape. Federal law dictates that only after a whale has been harpooned can it be shot with a metal whaling gun. (Photo by Yves Brower)

In the late 1960s, the largest oilfield in North America was discovered on Inupiat land, 200 miles east of Utqiaġvik. The Inupiat lobbied to form the North Slope Borough. Once they had an incorporated government, they were able to collect property taxes from oil and gas infrastructure built on their land. Ever since, that money has made up the majority of the North Slope Borough’s property tax revenue. Last year, it came to $377 million, borough financial director Sandra Stuermer said. 

Oil money not only afforded the North Slope the construction of the kind of infrastructure most of America had enjoyed for the past 100 years, it also provided the funds necessary to maintain it in harsh conditions — conditions exacerbated, ironically, by climate change. Today, the money generated from property taxes pays for all borough operations, including the state and federal bond debts for maintenance of infrastructure in all eight villages.

“Barrow has been lucky,” Yves Brower said. Like most locals, he still refers to his town by the name a British whaling officer gave it in the 1800s, rather than using its Native name, which the village voted to return to in 2016. “We’ve been really wealthy from our oil money.” 

For many here, oil money represents opportunity and autonomy. In 2018, the median household income of North Slope Borough residents was $75,431. Many are grateful for the wealth, even as the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuel use continue to warm the Arctic. Now, however, the Inupiat are facing yet another challenge: the potential shift of the global economy away from those fossil fuels. 

In December, citing climate change, Goldman Sachs announced it would stop financing new oil exploration in the Arctic. A number of other banks followed suit.  Mayor Harry Brower penned an editorial for the Wall Street Journal, condemning the investment bank for claiming stakeholder engagement as a core business principle while failing to consult the people of the North Slope. 

“The way we see it, caring about the land and wildlife should also mean caring about the Indigenous people who inhabit the land,” he wrote. “We aren’t hungry for oil, we are hungry for progress and understanding from those on the East Coast and beyond. We don’t need your protection or judgment. We need your respect. We need to be treated like fellow Americans.”

Utqiagvik community members join together to tow a bowhead whale to shore after three successful hunts in a single day in April. In a good year, about 10 whales are caught in spring whaling season and shared among the community for food throughout the year. (Photo by Yves Brower)

Today, as ice conditions worsen, whalers are finding new hunting methods, using technological improvements that help keep hunters safe in the risky work they do to feed their communities. As technology improves, the Inupiat adapt. 

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has mapped out hunters’ trails to whaling camps, for example, and this research has become an increasingly valued tool for contemporary hunters. Matthew Druckenmiller, who developed it, is now a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. In partnership with whaling crews, the borough and local whale biologist Craig George, Druckenmiller used GPS navigation to map the trails from 2008 to 2011. The project, which was inspired by an elder’s attempt to hand-draw maps years earlier, overlaid GPS trail locations with surveys of ice thickness and with satellite imagery showing the general type of ice and its extent. The resulting maps are distributed throughout the community during hunting season. Whaler Jack Frantz said the maps are regarded as helpful and educational for the younger hunters who haven’t spent years studying ice conditions.

Though Druckenmiller’s student research ended in 2011, he continues the study every year. Whalers use the map data to direct others to their camps to help drag whales onto the ice for butchering. Druckenmiller calls the information “supplemental” to whaling crews’ traditional practices. “To be resilient to the environment relies on having multiple tools at your disposal,” he said. “This is just one of them.”

Previously, hunters sometimes struggled to locate trails in the vast expanse of tundra, said Bernice Oyagak, an Inupiaq whaler. “Now, it’s cool, because (they) send us a map and they say, ‘Here’s their trail,’ " she said. The map also shows ice thickness, making it “kind of scary to know when you’re driving over a mere two feet of ice,” she said. “But I guess it’s better to know it than to not know it, because you’re hauling back so many pounds of meat. It can be dangerous out there.”

The work of adaptation never ends. Now, as increasingly tough whaling years leave freezers empty, the Inupiat hunt more caribou. With coastal erosion eating away several feet of beach each year, the borough is seeking federal and state bonds to build a $300 million seawall. When the drinking water lagoon became polluted, the city put in place infrastructure to collect snowmelt that now runs through spigots. And now that permafrost thaw and coastal erosion threaten homes, a local housing authority is building adjustable homes on sleds. The Inupiat adapt, bearing the brunt of global climate change — a harbinger of what’s to come in a world that remains stubbornly reliant on fossil fuels.

“We’re taking on all the risks because of these global and environmental changes that are occurring,” Brower said. “We’ve endured the train wreck. The train wreck is here. Everything is spilled all over the ground, and we’re just looking at it and trying to figure out: What do we do now? Who’s responsible? Now we have to deal with it.”   

Still, the Inupiat remain undaunted by an unknown future. “We have to to be a survivalist here in the Arctic,” Brower said. “We’re strong. We can survive.”   

Jenna Kunze is a freelance reporter. She previously reported for The Chilkat Valley News in Haines.

This story was originally published at High Country News on July 1, 2020 and is reprinted with permission.

Police ask for public’s help after South Anchorage shooting victim hospitalized with life-threatening injuries

Sun, 2020-08-02 08:57

Anchorage police say a man was shot and hospitalized with life-threatening injuries early Sunday, and they’re asking for anyone with information to contact them.

In an alert posted Sunday morning, police said dispatch received a report around 3:45 a.m. that a man who’d been shot was in the 100 block of West Dimond Boulevard in South Anchorage.

“Officers with the Patrol Division responded and found an adult male shot in the upper body. He was transported to a hospital with life threatening injuries,” police wrote.

No other details were immediately available.

Police were asking anyone with information, including surveillance video, to call 911, 311, or to leave an anonymous tip with call Crime Stoppers at 907-561-STOP.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Five myths about felony disenfranchisement

Sun, 2020-08-02 08:08

Early voters cast ballots at the new electronic voting machines at the Ranchito Avenue Elementary School in the Panorama City section of Los Angeles on Monday, March 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel) (Richard Vogel/)

Bozelko, a nationally syndicated columnist, was formerly incarcerated. Lo, the founder of UnLabeled Digital Media, was formerly incarcerated.

From Nevada to Colorado to Louisiana to Kentucky, thousands of people with criminal records became eligible to vote for the first time in 2019. Californians will soon decide whether to restore the franchise to parolees, and Washington, D.C., is on the verge of becoming the first U.S. jurisdiction to re-enfranchise incarcerated people. At the same time, in July, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case related to the restoration of voting rights to Floridians with criminal records, despite passage of a 2018 ballot measure that re-enfranchised them. An assortment of American laws limit voting rights for the incarcerated, but it’s less clear how they affect our democracy. Here are five myths about felony disenfranchisement.

Myth No. 1

People with felony convictions can’t vote.

In 2016, former South Carolina state treasurer and "Southern Charm" star Thomas Ravenel posted his endorsement of then-candidate Donald Trump: "I can't vote in the Presidential race because of my conviction but you can." Last year, activist April Reign lamented on Twitter that Kelley Williams-Bolar "can't vote in 2020" because she served nine days in jail for using her father's address to enroll her children in a preferred school.

It's true that in most jurisdictions, incarcerated people can't vote. But in 15 states and D.C., voting rights are restored upon release. In 21 states, voting rights are restored after the completion of parole or probation. In a handful of states, there's an additional waiting period. Maine and Vermont don't ever strip voting rights, even from those who are currently incarcerated.

[Read more Five Myths]

In 2008, Ravenel was sentenced to 10 months’ confinement plus three years’ probation on a federal drug charge. Under South Carolina law, he was automatically eligible for reinstatement of his right to vote upon completion of that sentence - at least one 2016 report found that he had already resumed voting. Williams-Bolar can vote in her home state of Ohio as long as she’s not in prison.Only one state, Iowa, bans all felons from voting for life. But Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds promised in June to re-enfranchise people who’ve come home before the Nov. 3 election.

Myth No. 2

Disenfranchisement laws are relics of Reconstruction.

Felony disenfranchisement laws are often characterized as ancient anachronisms. In a 2014 speech, then-Attorney General Eric Holder said that "well over a century has passed since post-Reconstruction states used these measures to strip African Americans of their most fundamental rights." The New York Times also described the practice as "guided by the ghosts of the post-Civil War era, when disenfranchisement laws were aimed at newly freed blacks."

But not all states adopted these policies as a reaction to the 15th Amendment. In fact, only 13 states enacted felony disenfranchisement statutes during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. Fifteen states did so after Reconstruction, and of those 15, nine were passed during the 20th century. Massachusetts passed its version less than 20 years ago.

Myth No. 3

People with felony convictions are liberals.

In a 2015 interview, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that Democrats "fight to give the right to vote to convicted felons" because they "know convicted felons tend to vote Democrat." In 2017, "Fox & Friends" co-host Brian Kilmeade reported that "Democrats have a new secret weapon to win the hotly contested Alabama Senate race" between former judge Roy Moore and former U.S. attorney Doug Jones: "convicted felons." Last year, National Review's Kevin Williamson argued that "the push to allow felons to vote is more about gaining Democratic voters than rehabilitating people."

But people with criminal records are not a monolith. According to the Atlantic, more than 6,000 inmates in Puerto Rico, about one-sixth of all ballots cast, voted in the 2016 Republican primary. A New York state parole officer told WNYC radio that some of his supervisees supported Trump in 2016. A 2018study of former inmates in Florida who had their voting rights restored under Republican Gov. Charlie Crist found that while 87% of Black voters in this group registered as Democrats, among non-Black voters, registration was 40% Republican, 34% Democratic and 26% unaffiliated. Amendment 4, the 2018 Florida constitutional amendment that re-enfranchised 1.4 million people, is under review by an appellate court. But a year after it passed, the Florida Times-Union reported, "Democrats' voter registration advantage over Republicans is slimmer than it was in 2018 or 2016, when Republicans won the state, and it's significantly slimmer than in 2012 and 2008."

Myth No. 4

Felony disenfranchisement swung the 2000 election.

Writing for the Guardian in 2012, Harry Enten estimated that if disenfranchised felons had been allowed to cast ballots, Al Gore "would have increased his margin over George W Bush by at least 500,000 votes." In 2004, in the Perspectives on Politics journal, researchers Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggenstated: "It is certain that ex-felon votes would have helped Al Gore carry [Florida] and thus the election in 2000." The title of Sasha Abramsky's book "Conned: How Millions Went to Prison, Lost the Vote, and Helped Send George W. Bush to the White House" speaks for itself.

When margins are so slim - Bush won Florida (and thus the state's electoral votes and the presidential election) by 537 votes - many factors could have caused a different result. Scholars overestimate the turnout rate among disenfranchised ex-offenders, if they were allowed to vote, and underestimate how many would have voted Republican. Manza and Uggen's study pegged the turnout rate at 35%, when some studies have found that it's closer to 10%. And in Florida, the majority of former prisoners in 2000 were white men - a group that tends to vote for the GOP. Northwestern University political scientist Traci Burch found that Gore would have needed 36% of white men with felony records to vote for him, which she deemed "implausible."

Myth No. 5

Felony disenfranchisement is voter suppression.

In a 2018survey of voter suppression efforts around the country, the Center for American Progress included a section on "Disenfranchisement of justice-involved people." One pageon the website of the organization Let America Vote is titled "Felony disenfranchisement is voter suppression. Let's fight it."

While suppressing votes may be disenfranchisement’s purpose, it’s not its effect. For felony disenfranchisement to suppress people, they have to be voters. Most people with felony records simply don’t show up at the polls, even if they’re eligible to vote, even when their rights are explicitly restored. According to researchers Marc Meredith and Michael Morse, in the six states they studied, only between 8% and 14% cast ballots in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections after having their rights restored. In Maine and Vermont, where no one loses the right to vote regardless of their carceral status, few people in prison vote.

Five Myths is a weekly opinion feature distributed by The Washington Post.

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) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

If we want kids’ sports this fall, we have to do better against COVID-19

Sun, 2020-08-02 08:06

The Juneau Midnight Suns watch the action during an Alliance Baseball League state tournament game against the West Eagles on Friday, July 24, 2020 at Mulcahy Stadium. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

With the continuation of organized youth sports threatened, we call on our political leaders and community to act now to change the trajectory of COVID-19 in Alaska.

The role of sports and recreation in the physical and mental health of Alaska youth and all Alaskans is clear. For many, identity has as much to do with the sports and recreation they pursue as with their academic achievement or profession. We have a strong community of organized youth and adult sports, as well as a culture of outdoor pursuits in our amazing backyard. One positive aspect of the pandemic has been Alaskans embracing outdoor time. Trailheads are crazy busy, which is a good thing.

Sports and recreation organizations have been proactive this summer and focused on keeping people active, while avoiding larger events and gatherings in the interest of community safety. Social distancing, encouraging wearing masks when not exerting, and good hygiene have been a part of most operating plans. While there have been few known exposures in sports and recreation they have been dealt with transparently.

The rise in COVID cases since reopening is potentially threatening our ability to have school sports this fall. Alaska School Activities Association has put out a well thought-out document that provides guidelines to restarting sports practices and events. ASAA is using the Department of Health and Human Services alert levels to guide the types of recommended activity and management of athletes and spectators. These are essentially the same alert levels Anchorage School District is using to determine in-person versus online school, or some sort of hybrid.

This is only a guidance document, but it sets a starting place for school districts to devise a plan. ASAA uses the high risk alert level — 10 new cases/100,000 people/day averaged over 14 days — as the cutoff for no sporting events and a move to outdoor conditioning only with social distancing. While there is wiggle room, it is hard to imagine that when the case rate is worsening, hospitalizations are rising, Anchorage hospital capacity is approaching critical, and contact tracing is overwhelmed that there should be a different cutoff. Teens may be less likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19, but unfortunately, they seem to have the same ability to transmit the virus as adults.

With the current trend in new cases, the likelihood of in-person school sports beyond outdoor conditioning is decreasing, not only in Anchorage but also in the Kenai Peninsula and possibly in Fairbanks. While Mat-Su, Southeast and much of rural Alaska look OK right now, that could easily change because the state is intertwined and Anchorage health care capacity directly affects all of Alaska. Rural communities are not likely to be excited about sending their teams to a place with more disease, or have large groups of visitors.

One strategy that could help is limiting or even eliminating spectators. We have learned that spectators —some of whom are a vulnerable population — sitting in close proximity for extended periods of time are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than the athletes on the field making intermittent contact.

What we are doing now is not working and has the potential to significantly affect our kids’ physical and mental health by keeping them out of school and school sports. Anything we do now will take several weeks to have an effect. School is a primary access point to sports for many young people across our entire community. Whether they are just participating or competing for a state championship, school sports are a huge contributor to our kids’ physical and mental health, and the future health of our state. We must work harder to slow COVID-19 down in Alaska.

This column was co-written by Alaska Sports and Recreation COVID-19 Advisory Council members Dr. Andy Elsberg, Dr. Marc Kornmesser, Alaska Sports Hall of Fame director Harlow Robinson, Alaska Schools Activities Association director Billy Strickland, Anchorage Youth Soccer Club director Jo Reid, Monroe Catholic High School basketball coach Frank Ostanik, South High School football coach Walter Harmon, West High School activities principal Ja Dorris and Healthy Futures event coordinator Matias Saari.

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) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Five myths about lawsuits

Sun, 2020-08-02 07:59

iStock (Getty Images/iStockphoto/)

Jay M. Feinman is a distinguished professor at Rutgers Law School and the author of “Law 101: Everything You Need to Know About American Law.”

Suing is supposedly as American as apple pie. The right to a jury trial in lawsuits is enshrined in the Seventh Amendment. And the portrayal of civil suits is central to American popular culture, from John Grisham’s novels to Judge Judy Sheindlin’s reality TV courtroom. But what people learn from civics classes, popular fiction and television melodramas doesn’t always reflect reality. Here are five myths about civil litigation.

Myth No. 1: Americans are too litigious.

Writing for Forbes in 2013, conservative commentator Carrie Lukaslamented, "Americans have so long been saddled with a litigation culture that it's hard to recognize the full weight of its effects." With the infamous McDonald's hot-coffee case as the poster child, one 2016 poll, according to the Wall Street Journal, found that 87% of voters said there are "too many lawsuits filed in America." Congressional Republicans argue that future pandemic relief bills must immunize companies and health-care providers "from frivolous lawsuits."

These notions condemn suits in which a plaintiff looks for recourse after being seriously hurt by someone else, such as a deep-pocketed corporation. But most lawsuits don't arise from personal-injury claims, like the McDonald's case. About half of the civil cases in state courts are contract disputes. Many of those are run-of-the-mill cases; one study found that 37% of contract lawsuits are simple debt collection cases and 29% are landlord-tenant disputes, neither figure suggesting a lawsuit-happy society. Another 16% of civil cases are small claims concerning sums of a few thousand dollars or less. Only 7% involve tort claims, and those mainly arise from routine automobile accidents.

And litigation rates even have declined in recent years, according to the National Center for State Courts. While that decline seems to be leveling off, between 2009 and 2015, civil caseloads dropped at an annual rate of 3.5%.

Myth No. 2: There are too many lawyers.

In "The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis," former big law firm partner Steven Harper discusses the "massive oversupply of lawyers." The late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia bemoaned that "we are devoting too many of our very best minds" to the legal profession because "lawyers, after all, don't produce anything."

But the problem isn't that there are too many lawyers; it's that legal services aren't adequately distributed to those who need them. The "justice gap," according to a 2017 report by the Legal Services Corporation, "has stretched into a gulf." According to the LSC, low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help for 86% of their civil legal problems.In New York City, according to a task force created by New York state's chief judge, 93% of parents dealing with child support matters lack legal counsel. In credit card debt collection cases, the task force found that the scales of justice were dramatically unbalanced - creditors always had lawyers; only 1% of debtors did.

Myth No. 3: Jury awards are out of control

In its latest annual report on "judicial hellholes," the American Tort Reform Foundationproclaimed that in Georgia, "outrageous nuclear verdicts have become the norm." A frequent complaint by business interests and insurance companies is that there is a litigation "lottery mentality": Not all plaintiffs win, but those who do expect to hit the jackpot, such as the $157 million a Florida jury awarded last year in a wrongful death suit against cigarette giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds.

Large jury verdicts get the most publicity, but they aren't the norm. From 2010 to 2016, the median jury award in personal-injury claims was $68,189. The civil justice system allots a key role to the jury as an arbiter of wrongful conduct, but juries aren't the final arbiter - verdicts often are limited or reversed by judges, as happened in June when the Missouri court of appealsreduced by more than half a jury's $4.69 billion award against Johnson & Johnson for selling baby powder found to cause cancer. And juries usually do their job very well. Studieshave shown that judges, who know the law and presumably are less prone to bias or passion, agree with juries' decisions at least three-fourths of the time.

Myth No. 4: You’re entitled to your day in court for a breach of contract.

Lawyer referral service LegalMatch explains that when one party breaks a contract, the other "will have a right to file a lawsuit against the breaching party." Website wikiHow says "If you have entered into a contract and fulfilled your obligations but cannot get the other party to do the same, you may want to sue for breach of contract.

But increasingly, that's not the case for contract disputes. Many businesses now put boilerplate arbitration clauses in their consumer contracts, knowing that customers are unlikely ever to read them and can't negotiate over them even if they do. These clauses bar consumers from suing and instead require them to go to arbitration, a private system of dispute resolution dictated by the companies with no judge or jury, limited discovery of facts, and limited appeal rights. Eighty-one of the Fortune 100 companies - among them Amazon, Walmart and Home Depot - include arbitration clauses, as do many financial services firms, sellers and manufacturers. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Buy something from online retailer Wayfair, and you agree that "any dispute" will be settled by arbitration, including a dispute about the scope of the arbitration itself.

Some arbitration clauses prohibit consumers from participating in class actions, so claims that are individually small but huge in the aggregate never get heard. The Supreme Court approved this approach in a case in which plaintiffs tried to sue AT&T for falsely advertising free phones.

Myth No. 5: Personal injury victims can always sue.

A staple of lawyer advertising is toutingplaintiffs’ right to “hold the negligent person or business accountable and get the compensation you deserve and need,” according to Morgan & Morgan, which lists itself as the nation’s largest personal-injury firm and is a ubiquitous TV advertiser. Legal self-help site says: “If one person involved in an accident was less careful than another, the less careful one must pay.”

But courts and legislatures have effectively immunized whole classes of wrongdoers. Suppliers of raw materials and components used in medical implants, for example, are protected from suits, as are universities and other nonprofits. The estate of a victim of the D.C. sniper was barred from using the District of Columbia's tort law against Bushmaster Firearms because Congress had prohibited most suits against gun manufacturers (the application of that federal law is being challenged by relatives of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting). Recent police killings of black men and women have drawn attention to the doctrine of qualified immunity, under which an officer can't be sued for an unlawful action unless it involves a violation of a "clearly established" right, a standard that's difficult to meet; last month the Supreme Court refused to hear cases challenging the doctrine.

And even when wrongdoers don't possess immunity, many victims have unknowingly signed waivers of liability. Gina Stelluti was injured when the handlebars of her bike dislodged during a spinning class, but the New Jersey Supreme Court held that her suit against the gym and bike manufacturer was barred because a release was among the forms she signed when she joined the gym. President Trump's campaign even had supporters sign such a waiver before his rally in Tulsa last month, which did not require masks or social distancing; to gain admittance, attendees had to agree to assume the risks of exposure to the coronavirus.

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) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Five myths about McCarthyism

Sun, 2020-08-02 07:50

In this March 9, 1950 file photo, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., gestures during a Senate subcommittee hearing on McCarthy's charges of communist infiltration of the U.S. State Department. President Donald Trump, tweeting over the weekend, invoked both McCarthyism and the Watergate scandal, two of the most-debated chapters of recent American political history. (AP Photo/Herbert K. White) (HERBERT K. WHITE/)

Larry Tye, who runs the Boston-based Health Coverage Fellowship, is the author of “Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy.”

The Trump era brings renewed interest in Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, whose Red Scare playbook the current president seems to be tapping every time he smears an enemy or contrives a grand conspiracy. McCarthy - dismissed by President Harry Truman as a “ballyhoo” artist and by President Dwight Eisenhower as a “monster” - is often remembered as a kind of caricature. But newly unveiled records help us understand how the junior senator from Wisconsin became powerful enough to intimidate both Truman and Eisenhower; they also help rebut the myths that have arisen around the senator and his “ism.”

Myth No. 1: ‘Tail Gunner Joe’ was not the war hero he claimed to be.

McCarthy anointed himself “Tail Gunner Joe” during his 1944 run for the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin - casting himself as a World War II warrior who had fended off Japanese Zeros as his crew of Leathernecks navigated the perilous skies near the Solomon Islands. But over time, journalists stopped buying it. As early as 1952, Madison’s Capital Times newspaper indicted McCarthy for “phony war heroism.” And an article published this year on asserts that “the war record that got him elected was more fiction than fact.”

Yet in this case, McCarthy was telling the truth. We know that partly from his personal diaries, compiled while he was in the service, which were donated by his wife to his alma mater, Marquette University, and made available exclusively to me. They confirm that while his official assignment was as a land-bound intelligence officer, he repeatedly volunteered for combat. At sea, that meant going on submarine patrols. When he got to the Solomons, he took to the air on combat missions anytime he could.

Convincing backup for the diary accounts comes in the form of 13 letters to McCarthy from Marines who served with him. Several testify that on many missions he was precisely the tail gunner he claimed to be. "Captain McCarthy participated in several combat dive bombing strikes against enemy held airstrips, towns, and supply and ammunition dumps, as rear seat aerial gunner for me and for other pilots," wrote Maj E.C. Willard.

Myth No. 2: McCarthyism began with its namesake.

That seems axiomatic and is accepted as such by the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which defines McCarthyism as the "name given to the period of time in American history that saw U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin produce a series of investigations and hearings during the 1950s." The First Amendment Encyclopedia agrees: "McCarthyism was a term coined to describe activities associated with Republican senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin."

Taken less literally, McCarthyism has a far longer history. While it's true that the senator's reckless accusations and guilt-by-association made him an extraordinary case, he was hardly an original. He owed much to an array of zealots and dodgers who preceded him, from Louisiana's populist governor and senator Huey Long to Michigan's Jew-bullying radio priest Charles Coughlin.

He wasn't even the originator of the narrower brand of Red-baiting that he rode to fame. Texas Democrat Martin Dies, the first chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, pioneered in the 1930s and '40s nearly all the techniques McCarthy would use a decade later. Dies helped develop the parlance of the movement by accusing New Dealers and others of being "soft" on Russia and "coddling" communists. He also loudly named names, including those of Franklin Roosevelt's top aides.

Then there was Truman, arguably a McCarthyite before McCarthy himself. He told himself that his 1947 Loyalty Order (which mandated background checks on 5 million federal employees and applicants, with FBI follow-ups on suspected subversives) would head off more draconian measures advanced by Republicans. Journalist Garry Wills saw it differently, as he explained in 1976: "It is unfortunate that McCarthyism was named teleologically, from its most perfect product, rather than genetically - which would give us Trumanism."

Myth No. 3: McCarthy helped purge the government of Soviet spies.

McCarthy's record in sniffing out communists was "not only much better than his critics allege but, given his métier, extremely good," authors L. Brent Bozell and William F. Buckley wrote in 1954. The view persists: "You are free to describe McCarthyism as a witchhunt," Jonah Goldberg of the National Review argued in 2003, "if and only if you are willing to concede that actual witches existed in our midst."

Soviet spying was real, of course, but McCarthy's bid to root it out was largely a fraud and a hoax. The best measure of how many actual spies McCarthy turned up lay buried in the 5,000 pages of decoded Soviet intelligence cables that were intercepted by the Venona Project, a supersecret U.S. counterintelligence project launched in 1943. Parsing those messages, officials uncovered evidence that hundreds of Americans were helping the Russians steal information, from atomic secrets to diplomatic strategies. Historian John Haynes carefully cross-checked the 159 people McCarthy named between 1950 and 1952 as communists, spies or other actors in the grand conspiracy. Venona files confirmed seven as having been involved in espionage. Another two, Haynes found, were named as spies in the KGB archives, and a 10th was what he called an "ambiguous case."

And even in those instances, many already were well-known to security officials; few got special grilling or follow-up from the senator. "When McCarthy was right, he was not original and was only repeating charges made years earlier by others," Haynes wrote, in an email to another scholar. "When he was original, he was wrong."

Myth No. 4: Edward R. Murrow ended McCarthy’s reign of terror.

"60 Years Ago, Edward R. Murrow Took Down Joseph McCarthy,"proclaimed a 2014 HuffPost headline, echoing the narrative immortalized in the 2005 film "Good Night, and Good Luck." The Pulitzer Center took the same line in a review of journalist Marvin Kalb's 2018 book, "Enemy of the People,"writing that Murrow's "television broadcasts turned the tide of Senator Joseph McCarthy's 'Red Scare' in the 1950s."

The truth is that while his anti-McCarthy broadcasts on CBS were damaging, Murrow himself admitted to a New York Times reporter that he was late to the battle: "My God. I didn't do anything." The real McCarthy slayers were little-remembered reporters at papers like the Capital Times, along with America's most-read journalist of the period, Andrew Russell "Drew" Pearson. Pearson saw in McCarthy a witch hunter who couldn't snare a witch - precisely the sort of faker he'd spent his career exposing. Pearson penned dozens of columns on McCarthy, all scathing, in the months after the senator charged that the State Department was riddled with subversives. His muckraking encouraged Murrow and other journalists to take on McCarthy, and it anticipated arguments that would be raised at the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings, which were the senator's undoing.

Myth No. 5: The cause bearing McCarthy’s name ended with his censure.

After the Senate condemned McCarthy in December 1954, he "was ruined - and within three years he was dead from alcohol abuse," according to an online exhibition at the University of Virginia's Miller Center. "The era of McCarthyism was over." The Encyclopaedia Britannica sounds the death knell this way: "McCarthyism proper ended with the senator's downfall."

Like many messianic campaigns in American history, however, McCarthyism the movement outlived McCarthy the man. Leading conservatives saw the censure as an assault on them and the anti-communist movement. William F. Buckley Jr. made clear that McCarthy was an inspiration for him when, in 1955, he launched National Review, which quickly became the bible for conservative Republicans. Democrats, meanwhile, felt the need to demonstrate that they weren't as soft on communism as McCarthy had claimed, which helped draw John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson into a calamitous war in Vietnam. George Wallace aped McCarthy's divisive demagoguery in mounting his racial-backlash campaigns for the White House in the 1960s and '70s, while David Duke and Patrick Buchanan did the same a generation later.

Joe McCarthy's most apt student, however, was Donald Trump (and if we named the phenomenon teleologically, it might be called Trumpism). Roy Cohn, McCarthy's protege and Trump's tutor, was the flesh-and-blood through line. An aging Cohn taught the fledgling Trump the transcendent lessons he had learned from McCarthy: how to point fingers, in lieu of devising solutions, and aim a wrecking ball at his assailants.

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) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

How the Trump campaign came to court QAnon, the online conspiracy movement identified by the FBI as a violent threat

Sun, 2020-08-02 07:10

QAnon supporters wait for a military flyover at the World War II Memorial during Fourth of July celebrations in Washington, D.C. Photo for The Washington Post by Evelyn Hockstein

Outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, Kayleigh McEnany raised a microphone to a mega-fan and asked what it felt like to be acknowledged by President Donald Trump at his February rally in Sin City.

At the time a spokeswoman for Trump's re-election campaign, McEnany nodded as the supporter said the shout-out was most meaningful because of the words on the shirt he was wearing, which he read aloud: "Where we go one, we go all," the motto of QAnon conspiracy theorists who believe Trump is battling a cabal of deep-state saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex.

McEnany, who has since become the White House press secretary, continued, asking the supporter, "If you could say one thing to the president, what would you say?"

"Who is Q?" he replied, inquiring about the mysterious online figure behind the baseless theory. McEnany smiled and said, "OK, well, I will pass all of this along."

The little-noticed exchange - captured in a video posted to YouTube - illustrates how Trump and his campaign have courted and legitimized QAnon adherents.

The viral online movement, which took root on internet message boards in the fall of 2017 with posts from a self-proclaimed government insider identified as “Q,” has triggered violent acts and occasional criminal cases. Its effects were catalogued last year in an FBI intelligence bulletin listing QAnon among the “anti-government, identity based, and fringe political conspiracy theories” that “very likely motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal, sometimes violent activity.”

As the worldview took shape online, its followers flocked to Trump rallies with QAnon apparel and placards. Recently,as the election has drawn closer, actions by the president and his associates have brought them more directly into the fold.

The Trump campaign's director of press communications, for example, went on a QAnon program and urged listeners to "sign up and attend a Trump Victory Leadership Initiative training." QAnon iconography has appeared in official campaign advertisements targeting battleground states. And the White House's director of social media and deputy chief of staff for communications, Dan Scavino, has gone from endorsing praise from QAnon accounts to posting their memes himself.

The president has repeatedly elevated its digital foot soldiers, sharing their tweets more than a dozen times on Fourth of July alone. His middle son, Eric, who is 36 and a campaign surrogate, recently posted, and then deleted, an image drumming up support for his father's Tulsa rally that included a giant "Q" and the text, "Where we go one, we go all."

David Reinert holding a Q sign waits in line with others to enter a campaign rally with President Donald Trump and U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) (Matt Rourke/)

The apparent convergence of Trump’s inner circle with an ever-widening cohort of QAnon believers is alarming to scholars of extremism and digital communications, some of whom characterize the theory’s adherents as a cult. What most troubles analysts, however, is not that McEnany and others responsible for carrying out Trump’s agenda are amplifying QAnon, which has permeated right-wing politics and inspired a cadre of congressional candidates who could soon bring the philosophy to Capitol Hill. Even more worrisome, these observers say, is that the president’s messaging is increasingly indistinguishable from some key elements of the conspiracy theory.

The erroneous ideas defining QAnon - that Trump is a messianic figure fighting the so-called deep state, that he alone can be trusted, that his opponents include both Democrats and Republicans complicit in years of wrongdoing and that his rivals are not just misguided but criminal and illegitimate - represent core tenets of the president's re-election campaign, especially as his poll numbers slump.

Meanwhile, the salvation envisioned by QAnon believers, including military takeover and mass arrests of Democrats, rhymes with the president's vow to use the armed forces to "dominate." They back his endorsement of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that has not been proved to prevent coronavirus infection, and cast skeptics, including Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading expert on infectious diseases, as a deep-state plant.

"We're seeing the Trump campaign tack closely to an almost explicitly QAnon narrative," said Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "I don't expect to hear the president talking about pedophilia or Satanism, but I expect to hear almost everything else."

McEnany did not respond to a request for comment, but White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews sent a written statement saying: "The premise of your article is ridiculous. While the Trump administration is working tirelessly for the American people, the Washington Post peddles in conspiracy theories."

The Trump campaign also did not respond to emailed questions.

The oft-mutating QAnon philosophy has captured the imagination of a new corps of pro-Trump congressional candidates, about a dozen of whom have already secured spots on the ballot in November, according to a tally by Media Matters for America, the liberal research organization. Among them is Angela Stanton-King, a Republican House candidate in Georgia who served two years in prison for her role in a car-theft ring but whose sentence was commuted by Trump in February. A month later, she posted a popular QAnon video on Instagram, writing of the president, "This would explain why they tried so hard to make us hate him." She has since posted repeatedly about the scourge of pedophilia, a fixation of the QAnon movement.

In an interview, she said, "People have a right to look into information and do their own research." Her research has led her to misguided beliefs about the coronavirus, including that the pandemic represents a "political game, to make it seem like the economy has crashed."

Similar language is employed by QAnon believers, who scrawl their accusations across social media. They rally around the hashtag #WWG1WGA - shorthand for "Where we go one, we go all" - and swarm perceived enemies. "These people are not only sick but evil too!" one combatant in the Q "army" on Facebook wrote in March, referring to the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, whom Trump has attacked as a "very weak radical left mayor."

Individuals who had posted in support of QAnon or otherwise expressed their devotion to it, according to police, have been arrested in at least 10 incidents, including two murders, a kidnapping, vandalism of a church and a heavily armed standoff near the Hoover Dam.

Twitter recently took action against the conspiracy theory, including by eliminating more than 7,000 accounts. Facebook is also weighing new action, a spokesperson confirmed, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing deliberations.

The largest Facebook groups devoted to the theory boast hundreds of thousands of members, but the size of its following is difficult to measure, experts say. Only about a quarter of American adults say they have heard of QAnon, according to polling by the Pew Research Center.

Americans may be oblivious to QAnon but still shaped by its doctrine, Zuckerman said, arguing, “It’s actually more dangerous if people don’t know what Q is but hold these beliefs.” Because of the overlap between QAnon communities and far-right circles, he said, aspects of the conspiracy theory are filtering up to conservative websites, as well as to the pro-Trump One America News and Fox News.

The coronavirus pandemic, by bringing into sharp focus anti-scientific beliefs among a broad segment of the president's supporters, offers a preview of the clashing worldviews that QAnon could portend, Zuckerman added. The November election, if Trump were to refuse to accept the legitimacy of the results because of widespread mail-in voting, would represent the clash's climax, testing the "parallel universe that he and some of his supporters live in," he said.

Such an outcome would mark the culmination of Trump's "use of conspiracy theories for the past five years," said Joseph Uscinski, a political scientist at the University of Miami and co-author of "American Conspiracy Theories."

QAnon, however, is a new frontier for Republicans, and for the party's most prominent purveyor of conspiracy theories.

Recent ads from Trump's re-election campaign have included shots of supporters with QAnon paraphernalia, including a spot in Nevada that briefly showed a woman in a crowd with a "Q" shirt. A spot in Arizona showed a still of a man in a similar shirt carrying a World War II veteran into an arena. The man posed for a photo with Donald Trump Jr. at a recent event, according to material later uploaded to Facebook. A spokesperson for Trump Jr.did not respond to a request for comment.

The inclusion of QAnon symbols in official campaign media, previously unreported, sent shock waves through the QAnon community, whose primary aim is to be noticed by Trump. The ads racked up thousands of comments on YouTube, where users with QAnon references in their accounts seized on the fleeting visuals to declare victory. “Well done,” one wrote.

Sometimes, the signaling from the campaign is less subtle. Last fall, Erin Perrine, director of press communications for Trump's re-election campaign, went on Patriots' Soapbox, a show on YouTube and other platforms devoted to QAnon coverage. Before she called in, one of the hosts - whose Twitter account features QAnon references and a photo with Brad Parscale, Trump's recently deposed campaign manager - gushed about speaking to her for an hour before a recent Trump rally. He said the segment with Perrine, which was unearthed by Media Matters, could be the "tip of the iceberg" for connections with the Trump campaign.

During the interview, Perrine was asked to "send a direct message" to the "group of very, very smart activists here," keen to be Trump's "soldiers on the ground." She encouraged them to sign up for a campaign training event and to "talk to their local GOP party, their state party, come online and ask us."

Neither Perrine nor her hosts mentioned QAnon directly during the interview, but their discussion was studded with references to the conspiracy theory, including mention of the "insurgency from within" and remarks about Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, who is central to the QAnon worldview. Emails and a call to Perrine went unanswered, as did an email to the show.

Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with a Russian diplomat in late 2016, recently recorded a video of himself repeating an oath originating on 8kun, a message board where Q, who claims high-level security clearance, posts esoteric references and half-baked ideas that followers call "bread crumbs."

"Where we go one, we go all," intoned Flynn, his right hand raised, at the end of the oath, which otherwise follows a generic script administered to new members of Congress. Flynn did not respond to a text message seeking comment. His attorney, Sidney Powell, another luminary for QAnon conspiracy theorists who has also appeared on Patriots' Soapbox, also did not respond to a request for comment. The program's other guests have included Chanel Rion, chief White House correspondent for One America News, who said the conspiracy theory's central figure is "anonymous for a reason, for a very good reason, and I think that people need to respect that." Rion did not respond to a request for comment.

Chanel Rion, chief White House correspondent for One America News, waits ahead of a coronavirus briefing at the White House on April 2. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

Praise for the anonymous figure, whose posts have been linked to multiple violent episodes, has also flowed on Fox News. During a conversation this month with Eric Trump, one of the channel’s hosts, Jesse Watters, credited Q with having “uncovered a lot of great stuff,” saying later in a statement he does not “support or believe in” the conspiracy theory. In a pitch to potential guests, shared with The Washington Post by someone who received it, Fox characterized the segment this way: “Inside Twitter’s crackdown on QAnon - How the social media giant is engaging in election interference and shutting down free speech.” A Fox spokesperson declined to comment beyond Watters’ statement.

The congressional candidates who put stock in the theory say its proximity to Trump makes it appealing. Flynn's apparent endorsement - his move to swear his allegiance to QAnon - was decisive for some who had once only flirted with the theory. Theresa Raborn, a Republican House candidate in Illinois, said she had been on the fence, unable to "definitively debunk or definitively confirm."

"But when General Flynn posted that video, he's a highly respected general and has been for decades, and he is very close to President Trump," she said. "So I don't think he would do that for a conspiracy theory, or at least logically that's where I'm at. I don't know if he has information about whether it's a conspiracy theory or whether it's real, but it seemed to give a lot of validity to people who support me who also happen to follow Q."

Raborn, who ran unopposed in her March primary and so will appear on the ballot in November, faces near-certain defeat in the heavily Democratic district in the suburbs of Chicago.

Flynn's role is just as important to the supporter interviewed by McEnany in February. He described himself as "one of the digital soldiers General Flynn talks about."

“That’s why I don’t sleep,” he told the soon-to-be White House press secretary. “That’s why all I do is share information.”

With loan money gone, restaurants are at mercy of coronvirus

Sun, 2020-08-02 06:59

In a July 2020 photo provided by Wolf's Ridge Brewing, owner Bob Szuter, employees Allison Randolph and Alicia Herrmann, sous chef Andy Zamagias, general manager Corey Schlosser and employee Andy Powell, from left, gather inside the restaurant's tap room in Columbus, Ohio. Szuter says he’s trying to figure out new ways to bring in revenue, focusing more on the brewery side of the business until it’s safe to have a full dining room. (Charlie Wilkerson/Wolf's Ridge Brewing via AP) (Charlie Wilkerson/)

The check has arrived and beleaguered restaurant owners across America are looking down on their empty wallets.

Government covronavirus loans in the spring helped eating establishments rehire laid-off employees and ride out the pandemic's initial surge and wave of shutdown orders.

But that Paycheck Protection Program money has now been spent at many restaurants, leaving them in the same precarious position they were in during outbreak's early days: Thousands of restaurants are being forced to close down again on mandates from state and local officials combating the virus's resurgence, particularly in the South and West.

And even in parts of the country where the outbreak appears contained, restaurants' revenue is far below normal because social distancing requirements — and wary diners — mean fewer tables, fewer customers and limited hours.

John Pepper used a PPP loan to pay employees and reopen four of his eight Boloco restaurants when Massachusetts lifted its shutdown order in early May. But with the money spent and business at the restaurants down as much as 70%, Pepper had to again close two locations. The staff of 125 he had before the virus outbreak is down to 50.

“A lot of this is out of our hands at this point,” Pepper says. “At this moment, I don’t see getting my full payroll back.”

Congress is debating another relief bill that potentially will have more help for small businesses, but even with more loan or grant money, restaurants will remain at the mercy of the virus that has decimated their business.

The virus’s resurgence has prompted officials in California, Texas, Florida and other states to order restaurants shut again. In the Northeast and other parts of the country where infection rates appear more stable, no one expects limits on inside dining to be lifted anytime soon.

Restaurants generally have a low profit margin, between 5% and 6%, and they achieve that only if they have a full house virtually every day, says Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for the trade group National Restaurant Association. They also tend to have only about two weeks of cash on hand, making them highly vulnerable when their sales are down.

“They aren’t designed to have an on-off switch. They’re designed to be used seven days a week, 14 to 15 hours a day at 100% of capacity,” Kennedy says.

Gerry Cea was forced to shut his Miami restaurant, Cafe Prima Pasta, from March into May when the outbreak first began. Now, he has again closed the dining room as local officials try to contain the virus; the Miami/Dade area is one of Florida’s hit hardest by the virus.

Cea is still able to serve customers outside, but the intense South Florida heat and frequent summer rains are limiting him to about 40 diners a night instead of the hundreds he served before the pandemic hit. And Cea is mindful that the peak hurricane season is still to come.

“With the PPP money we received, we were able to pay 48 employees but that has run out now, so we are left with very few alternatives” for funding, Cea says. He’s hoping for more help from the government, even if it’s a loan that must be repaid.

In the meantime, Cea says, “the only reason we are pretty much surviving is because we own the building,” he says.

The pandemic has devastated an industry that expected to have nearly $900 billion in sales this year. Before the outbreak, the Labor Department counted 12 million workers in restaurants and bars, and nearly two-thirds worked at small businesses with fewer than 500 workers. In April, employment in restaurants and bars of all sizes had been cut by nearly half as establishments across the country were closed.

Restaurants were among the small businesses the Paycheck Protection Program was intended to help, but some owners say it was of limited use.

The program so far has given about $42 billion in loans to restaurants, bars and lodging companies. But many restaurants burned through loans quickly because the original terms of the program required them to use the money within eight weeks in order to get loan forgiveness. Many establishments couldn’t reopen but paid staffers not to work anyway. Then when they reopened with revenue limited by social distancing, they couldn’t afford their full payrolls. Congress changed the spending requirement to 24 weeks in early June, but that was too late for many restaurants.

It’s not yet known what small business help will be in any upcoming relief package, although Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has mentioned the possibility that small businesses with big revenue declines could get a second PPP loan.

But restaurants need a long-term solution that addresses their particular needs, Kennedy says. For example, allowing families that get food stamp assistance to use their benefits in restaurants.

“We’re going to be limping along or shutting down altogether” without long-term help, Kennedy says.

Stephanie Williams still hasn’t fully reopened two of her Bennu Coffee shops in Austin, Texas, and continues to operate with curbside service and delivery only; a third location that opened over the weekend does have socially distanced seating. Williams has spent the PPP money she got in early May — she had recalled furloughed workers but with revenue at one store down by half and the other by nearly two-thirds, Williams had to let 20 staffers go again.

“We assumed at the end of eight weeks, this will be over. But here in Texas, things are drastically worse than when we shut down in March,” Williams says. Like other states where the virus is resurgent, Texas saw cases increase after it ended shutdown orders in early May.

Even in areas where the virus appears stable and restaurants can have inside dining, they’re struggling. Wolf’s Ridge Brewing, a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant and brewery, has had to close its dining room and return to takeout and delivery, having used its PPP money and not having enough revenue due to social distancing.

“What the PPP did was put us in a position where we brought people back before we had enough business to support them,” co-founder Bob Szuter says. He’s trying to figure out new ways to bring in revenue, focusing more on the brewery side of the business until it’s safe to have a full dining room.

Jason Brauner’s restaurant, Bourbon Bistro, exhausted its PPP loan, is operating at 50% of capacity and not making enough to cover its expenses. Brauner is worried that the virus’s resurgence will force the Louisville, Kentucky, establishment to close; he had shut completely for two weeks in March before switching to curbside service and then gradually reopened. He’s paid his full staff throughout.

Brauner is hoping to get a grant from the city and he’d welcome another PPP loan. A separate economic injury disaster loan from the SBA give him some breathing room, but also presents a dilemma. Like many restaurant owners, Brauner worries about carrying long-term debt when the future is uncertain.

“I’m almost tempted to give it back,” he says. “We just have to see how it all plays out.”

Coronavirus threat rises across U.S.: ’We just have to assume the monster is everywhere

Sat, 2020-08-01 20:37

Parker Smith and Chloe Lenox, front, stand at a distance from others outside an Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles office on June 30. The state is at risk of a new surge in cases. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Andrew Spear

The coronavirus is spreading at dangerous levels across much of the United States, and public health experts are demanding a dramatic reset in the national response, one that recognizes that the crisis is intensifying and that current piecemeal strategies aren’t working.

This is a new phase of the pandemic, one no longer built around local or regional clusters and hot spots. It comes at an unnerving moment in which the economy suffered its worst collapse since the Great Depression, schools are rapidly canceling plans for in-person instruction and Congress has failed to pass a new emergency relief package. President Donald Trump continues to promote fringe science, the daily death toll keeps climbing and the human cost of the virus in America has just passed 150,000 lives.

"Unlike many countries in the world, the United States is not currently on course to get control of this epidemic. It's time to reset," declared a report released last week by Johns Hopkins University.

Another report from the Association of American Medical Colleges offered a similarly blunt message: “If the nation does not change its course — and soon — deaths in the United States could be well into the multiple hundreds of thousands.”

The country is exhausted, but the virus is not. It has shown a consistent pattern: It spreads opportunistically wherever people let down their guard and return to more familiar patterns of mobility and socializing. When communities tighten up, by closing bars or requiring masks in public, transmission drops.

That has happened in some Sun Belt states, including Arizona, Florida and Texas, which are still dealing with a surge of hospitalizations and deaths but are finally turning around the rate of new infections.

There are signs, however, that the virus is spreading freely in much of the country. Experts are focused on upticks in the percentage of positive coronavirus tests in the upper South and Midwest. It is a sign that the virus could soon surge anew in the heartland. Infectious-disease experts also see warning signs in East Coast cities hammered in the spring.

"There are fewer and fewer places where anybody can assume the virus is not there," Gov. Mike DeWine, R, of Ohio said Wednesday. "It's in our most rural counties. It's in our smallest communities. And we just have to assume the monster is everywhere. It's everywhere."

A briefing document released Friday by the Federal Emergency Management Agency counted 453,659 new infections in the past week.

Alaska is in trouble. And Hawaii, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma. Those are the five states, as of Friday, with the highest percentage increase in the seven-day average of new cases, according to a Washington Post analysis of nationwide health data.

"The dominoes are falling now," said David Rubin, director of the PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which has produced a model showing where the virus is likely to spread over the next four weeks.

His team sees ominous trends in big cities, including Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Louisville, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Washington, with Boston and New York not far behind. And Rubin warns that the expected influx of students into college towns at the end of this month will be another epidemiological shock.

"I suspect we're going to see big outbreaks in college towns," he said.

Young people are less likely to have a severe outcome from the coronavirus, but they are adept at propelling the virus through the broader population, including among people at elevated risk. Daily coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the United States went from 36,158 on July 1 to 52,767 on July 31, according to The Post's data. FEMA reports a sharp increase in the number of patients on ventilators.

The crisis has highlighted the deep disparities in health outcomes among racial and ethnic groups, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week showed that Black, Hispanic and Native American coronavirus hospitalization rates are roughly five times that of Whites.

Thirty-seven states and Puerto Rico will probably see rising daily death tolls during the next two weeks compared with the previous two weeks, according to the latest ensemble forecast from the University of Massachusetts that combines more than 30 coronavirus models.

There are glimmers of progress. The FEMA report showed 237 U.S. counties with at least two weeks of steady declines in numbers of new coronavirus cases.

But there are more than 3,100 counties in America.

"This is not a natural disaster that happens to one or two or three communities and then you rebuild," said Beth Cameron, vice president for global biological policy and programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative and a former White House National Security Council staffer focused on pandemics. "This is a spreading disaster that moves from one place to another, and until it's suppressed and until we ultimately have a safe and effective and distributed vaccine, every community is at risk."

A national strategy, whether advanced by the federal government or by the states working in tandem, will more effectively control viral spread than the current patchwork of state and local policies, according to a study from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The coordination is necessary because one state's policies affect other states. Sometimes, that influence is at a distance, because states that are geographically far apart can have cultural and social ties, as is the case with the "peer states" of New York and Florida, the report found.

"The cost of our uncoordinated national response to covid-19, it's dramatic," said MIT economist Sinan Aral, lead author of the paper.

Some experts argue for a full six-to-eight-week national shutdown, something even more sweeping than what was instituted in the spring. There appears to be no political support for such a move.

Neil Bradley, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said fresh federal intervention is necessary in this second wave of closures. Enhanced federal unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, with no agreement on a new stimulus package in sight.

"Congress, on a bipartisan basis, was trying to create a bridge to help individuals and businesses navigate the period of a shutdown," Bradley said. "Absent an extension of that bridge, in light of a second shutdown, that bridge becomes a pier. And then that's a real problem."

With the economy in shambles, hospitals filling up and the public frustrated, anxious and angry, the challenge for national leadership is finding a plausible sea-to-sea strategy that can win widespread support and simultaneously limit sickness and death from the virus.

Many Americans may simply feel discouraged and overtaxed, unable to maintain precautions such as social distancing and mask-wearing. Others remain resistant, for cultural or ideological reasons, to public health guidance and buy into conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.

DeWine is struggling to get Ohio citizens to take seriously the need to wear masks. A sheriff in rural western Ohio told the governor Wednesday that people didn't think the virus was a big problem. DeWine informed the sheriff that the numbers in his county were higher per capita than in Toledo.

"The way I've explained to people, if we want to have Friday night football in the fall, if we want our kids back in school, what we do in the next two weeks will determine if that happens," DeWine said.

The coronavirus has always been several steps ahead of the U.S. government, the scientific community, the news media and the general public. By the time a community notices a surge in patients to hospital emergency rooms, the virus has seeded itself widely.

The virus officially known as SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted by people who are infectious but not symptomatic. The incubation period is typically about six days, according to the CDC. When symptoms flare, they can be ambiguous. A person may not seek a test right away. Then, the test results may not come back for days, a week, even longer.

That delay makes contact tracing nearly futile. It also means government data on virus transmission is invariably out of date to some degree — it’s a snapshot of what was happening a week or two weeks before. And different jurisdictions use different metrics to track the virus, further fogging the picture.

The top doctors on the White House coronavirus task force, Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, are newly focused on the early warning signs of a virus outbreak. Last week, they warned that the kind of runaway outbreaks seen in the Sun Belt could potentially happen elsewhere. Among the states of greatest concern: Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

Fauci and Birx have pointed to a critical metric: the percentage of positive test results. When that figure starts to tick upward, it is a sign of increasing community spread of the virus.

“That is kind of the predictor that if you don’t do something — namely, do something different — if you’re opening up at a certain pace, slow down, maybe even backtrack a little,” Fauci said in an interview Wednesday.

Without a vaccine, the primary tools for combating the spread of the virus remain the common-sense "non-pharmaceutical interventions," including mask-wearing, hand-washing, staying out of bars and other confined spaces, maintaining social distancing of at least six feet and avoiding crowds, Fauci said.

"Seemingly simple maneuvers have been very effective in preventing or even turning around the kind of surges we've seen," he said.

Dale Brown searches for hand sanitizer on empty shelves at Walmart in Fairfield, Calif., in February. MUST CREDIT: Photo by The Washington Post by Nick Otto

Thirty-three U.S. states have positivity rates above 5%. The World Health Organization has cited that percentage as a crucial benchmark for governments deciding whether to reopen their economy. Above 5%, stay closed. Below, open with caution.

Of states with positivity rates below 5%, nine have seen those rates rise during the last two weeks.

"You may not fully realize that when you think things are okay, you actually are seeing a subtle, insidious increase that is usually reflected in the percent of your tests that are positive," Fauci said.

Some governors immediately took the White House warnings to heart. On Monday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, D, said at a news conference that he had met with Birx the previous day and was told he was getting the same warning Texas and Florida received "weeks before the worst of the worst happened."

To prevent that outcome in his state, Beshear said, he was closing bars for two weeks and cutting seating in restaurants.

But as Beshear pleaded that "we all need to be singing from the same sheet of music," discord and confusion prevailed.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, R, said Thursday she wasn't convinced a mask mandate is effective: "No one knows particularly the best strategy."

Earlier in the week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, R, demurred on masks and bar closures even as he stood next to Birx and spoke to reporters.

"That's not a plan for us now," he said. He added emphatically, "We are not going to close the economy back down."

The virus is spreading throughout his state, and not just in the big cities. Vacationers took the virus home from the honky-tonks of Nashville and blues clubs of Memphis to where they live in more rural areas, said John Graves, a professor at Vanderbilt University studying the pandemic.

“The geographical footprint of the virus has reached all corners of the state at this point,” Graves said.

Pedestrians exercise on the Big Four walking bridge over the Ohio River in Louisville, Ky., on July 29. Kentucky's governor closed bars after being warned about the prospect of a dangerous surge in coronavirus cases. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Luke Sharrett

In Missouri, Gov. Michael Parson, R, was dismissive of New York’s imposition of a quarantine on residents from his state as a sign of a worsening pandemic. “I’m not going to put much stock in what New York says — they’re a disaster,” he said at a news conference Monday.

Missouri has no mask mandate, leaving it to local officials to act — often in the face of hostility and threats. In the town of Branson, angry opponents testified Tuesday that there was no reason for a mask order when deaths in the county have been few and far between.

"It hasn't hit us here yet, that's what I'm scared of," Branson Alderman Bill Skains said before voting with a majority in favor of the mandate. "It is coming, and it's coming like a freight train."

Democratic mayors in Missouri's two biggest cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, said that with so many people needing jobs, they are reluctant to follow Birx's recommendation to close bars.

"The whole-blanket approach to shut everybody down feels a little harsh for the people who are doing it right," said Jacob Long, spokesman for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. "We're trying to take care of some bad actors first."

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey also got a warning from Birx. On Wednesday, he said all bar drinking must move outside.

"We don't want to be heading in the direction of everybody else," said Kristen Ehresmann, director of the infectious-disease epidemiology division at the Minnesota Department of Health. She acknowledged that some options "are really pretty draconian."

The problem is that less-painful measures have proven insufficient.

"The disease transmission we're seeing is more than what would have been expected if people were following the guidance as it is laid out. It's a reflection of the fact that they're not," she said.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, D, tried to implement broad statewide measures early in the pandemic, only to have his "Safer at Home" order struck down by the state's Supreme Court.

With cases in his state rising anew, he tried again Thursday, declaring a public health emergency and issuing a statewide mask mandate.

"While our local health departments have been doing a heck of a job responding to this pandemic in our communities, the fact of the matter is, this virus doesn't care about any town, city or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track," Evers said.

Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin's chief medical officer, said he is dismayed by the failures of the national pandemic response.

"I really thought we had a chance to keep this suppressed," Westergaard said. "The model is a good one: testing, tracing, isolation, supportive quarantine. Those things work. We saw this coming. We knew we had to build robust, flexible systems to do this in all of our communities. It feels like a tremendous disappointment that we weren't able to build a system in time that could handle this."

There is one benefit to the way the virus has spread so broadly, he noted: “We no longer have to keep track of people traveling to a hot spot if hot spots are everywhere.”

Trump’s campaign in crisis as aides attempt August reset before time runs out

Sat, 2020-08-01 20:31

President Donald Trump stops to talk to reporters as he walks to board Marine One and depart from the South Lawn at the White House on July 31, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

Signs that President Donald Trump’s reelection bid is in crisis grew steadily this past week, one of the most tumultuous moments of a presidency increasingly operating with an air of desperation as it tries to avoid political disaster in November.

Campaign officials pulled television ads off the air amid a late-stage review of strategy and messaging. At the same time, Trump publicly mused about delaying the November election, airing widely debunked allegations about fraud that were roundly rejected by Republicans and Democrats.

And as the campaign aims to mount a more aggressive defense of Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the president has reverted to touting unproven miracle cures, attacking public health officials and undercutting his own government's push to encourage good health practices.

Trump briefly lamented his predicament during a taxpayer-funded event Friday in Florida that doubled as a political rally and a showcase of poor public health practices.

"We had an easy campaign, and then we got hit by the China virus," Trump said as uniformed sheriff's deputies stood behind him and a crowd of dozens of supporters huddled before him. Few people wore masks or practiced social distancing.

With the president unable to hold traditional rallies and his central economic message no longer relevant, campaign officials are scrambling to assemble a fresh case for his candidacy on the fly.

After a six-day pause in advertising, new ads targeting Democratic rival Joe Biden are set to begin airing Monday, according to campaign officials who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. It's the latest in a long-running attempt to define the former vice president in the eyes of voters before they cast their ballots.

But Trump himself is perhaps the greatest impediment to any successful campaign pivot, as the president has rejected calls from Republican allies and lawmakers to project a steady hand during what is shaping up to be another lost summer of self-inflicted setbacks.

The turbulent final week of July capped a month that may rank among the most ominous of Trump's term in office, marked by erratic behavior and flashing warning signs.

A slew of public polls showed Trump falling further behind Biden, who now leads by double digits nationally; Trump demoted his campaign manager Brad Parscale and replaced him with longtime GOP operative Bill Stepien; nearly 25,000 Americans died of the novel coronavirus, and a record 2 million were infected; Trump canceled the Republican National Convention celebrations; the economic recovery from a record contraction slipped into reverse; and 30 million Americans lost their $600 weekly federal unemployment assistance after the White House and Congress struggled to negotiate a stimulus package.

Struggling on multiple fronts, Trump's campaign launched a major shake-up that included a broader review of strategy, spending and messaging while ads came off the air, officials said.

Stepien — who officials say has impressed Trump with his command of data — is attempting to get a better sense of how the campaign has been focusing its energy and targeting its resources. Stepien told others he wanted to understand how ad decisions were made and why certain ads were being run, officials said. Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner approved the pause in ads, an official said.

Stepien is also reviewing personnel allocation to determine whether structuring the campaign they way Parscale did makes sense.

Campaign officials have denied there is any lingering tension over Parscale's demotion. But Stepien's elevation and swift embrace of new tactics amount to a tacit rebuke of the former campaign manager's tenure. The Stepien-led review of spending and strategy comes as a legal complaint this past week accused the campaign and an affiliated fundraising committee of failing to properly report nearly $170 million in campaign spending through firms run by Parscale. The Trump campaign denied any wrongdoing.

Campaign officials said that when the pause in ad spending ends Monday, new television spots will aim to brand Biden as a tool of liberal extremists. The negative ads will initially target swing states that have the earliest mail-in voting dates.

Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin are among states that begin mailing out absentee ballots to voters more than 45 days before the Nov. 3 election, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Michigan, Georgia and Texas are among states where ballots will also begin hitting mailboxes in September.

The campaign, which held an all-staff meeting at its Arlington headquarters on Wednesday that one official described as a "call to arms," is operating under a renewed sense of urgency as it becomes clearer that a large portion of the electorate will likely cast their ballots early by mail as a result of the pandemic. That gives Trump even less time to turn things around.

But even as Stepien and top campaign aides try to impress on the staff that time is limited, Trump has done little to show he plans to change tactics. Trump's allies say they realize the pandemic will likely be the central issue for voters heading into the election and have urged him to show he is in command of the crisis.

The president has instead opted to double down on divisive messaging, reverting to form after briefly appearing to embrace a more serious tone about the pandemic.

In recent days, Trump has used his massive social media platform to promote a doctor who falsely claimed Americans did not need to wear masks because the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine is a "cure" for the coronavirus.

Trump continued to express support for the doctor, Stella Immanuel, after a reporter informed him Tuesday that she had also claimed that alien DNA is used in medical treatments. When pressed, he abruptly ended the news briefing and walked away.

Earlier in the same briefing, Trump complained that health officials, including top infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci, are popular but "nobody likes me."

"Why don't I have a high approval rating?" Trump asked before answering himself: "It can only be my personality. That's all."

The president set off a fresh round of drama Thursday when he publicly mused about delaying the election, which he claimed without evidence will be marred by historic fraud.

"With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history," he wrote on Twitter. "It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

A chorus of Republicans and Democrats publicly rebuked him, noting that the president does not have the authority to delay an election.

On a strictly political level, Republicans are worried that the president's onslaught against mail-in voting could hamper their efforts to turn out the vote. Trump's attempts to draw a distinction between universal mail-in voting and individually requested absentee voting, while welcomed and encouraged by party officials, have not had the intended effect on Republican voters. GOP party officials have struggled to convince voters to request mail-in ballots.

"He has denigrated mail-in voting to the point that Democrats are dominating requests for absentee ballots," said David Wasserman, House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Like Trump's unsubtle attempts to appeal to "Suburban Housewives" and virus-wary senior citizens, his push to discredit mail-in voting underscores the sense of angst in his reelection bid as Biden settles into a comfortable lead.

One top Biden campaign official acknowledged that the Democratic campaign strategy is often to stay out of the news when Trump's behavior is particularly inflammatory. Biden's team didn't respond until Thursday evening to the president's early morning missive suggesting that the election should be delayed.

"It is absolutely a strategic decision," said a Biden official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal campaign tactics. "We don't let him pull us off of our message and we don't play his game."

But some Biden campaign allies believe that the former vice president's operation is being too selective about how it responds to Trump's attacks.

Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell said that he's been begging top campaign officials to punch back at Trump's ads that wrongly suggest that Biden supports defunding the police. The spots had been playing in high rotation in key swing states before the Trump campaign's recent pause.

"Obviously the Trump people have very few arrows in their quiver," Rendell said. But the "law and order" message could work with some voters, he said.

Trump, as he often does when he feels under pressure, is preparing to go more aggressively into attack mode. Campaign officials expect a ruthlessly negative race in the final months.

"We are doing a new ad campaign on Sleepy Joe Biden that will be out on Monday," Trump wrote Friday on Twitter. "He has been brought even further LEFT than Crazy Bernie Sanders ever thought possible."

Stepien has told allies he wants attacks going forward to focus on the liberal figures trying to influence Biden. Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont and self-described democratic socialist, has featured heavily in Trump's messaging against Biden.

But it’s not clear that the strategy is working. Several campaign aides and allies admitted that they have struggled to negatively define the former vice president in the eyes of voters — a long-standing goal for the summer that is quickly slipping out of reach. As Biden has largely remained in his Delaware home due to the pandemic, many of Trump’s attacks on his mental acuity, liberal policies and approach to public safety have not broken through.

"One thing that we have found in our focus groups is that people just don't know anything about Joe Biden," said Kelly Sadler, the communications director for America First, the official pro-Trump super PAC.

America First, which is currently running ads painting Biden as weak on crime, is conducting polling to test which messages might work best against the former vice president in the final stretch of the race.

Trump campaign ads set to run in the coming days are also aimed at turning up the pressure on Biden, who the president has tried to brand as "sleepy" before switching to more ominous descriptors such as "corrupt" and "puppet of the militant left."

As it goes on the attack in the political realm, Trump's campaign is in a defensive crouch when it comes to the electoral map. Polls show Biden leading across the battleground states and competitive in Republican strongholds such as Texas and Georgia.

Trump's campaign, which has already spent $1 billion, is using its hefty war chest to defend Republican territory, including Arizona.

America First, the super PAC, has stopped running ads in Michigan, acknowledging that its less likely than other swing states to remain in Trump's column in November, an official said. The group is currently running television spots in North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Stepien has also sought to focus the campaign on securing the most direct path to 270 electoral votes. The campaign, which has also pulled back advertising in Michigan, has gamed out scenarios where Trump loses some of the states he won in 2016 and still ends up victorious.

"We only need to win either Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania to win this thing again," Stepien told reporters on July 24.

But news that Trump's campaign had paused to reassess its messaging was welcomed by Biden's team, which viewed the move as a validation of the Democrat's more low-key strategy.

T.J. Ducklo, a spokesman for Biden's campaign, said Trump is losing because "he abandoned the American people" and lacked "any coherent strategy" to address a pandemic that has cost 150,000 lives and millions of jobs.

“There,” he said in a statement. “Message assessment complete.”

Greg Sanders takes 9-stroke lead into final round of Alaska State Amateur

Sat, 2020-08-01 19:45

Seven-time champion Greg Sanders shot his worst score of the week Saturday but nonetheless extended his lead at the Alaska State Amateur championship.

Sanders fired a 4-over-par 76 to stretch his lead to nine strokes going into the tournament’s final round at the Moose Run Creek Course.

A day after carding six birdied to shoot a tournament-best 67, Sanders made five bogeys and one birdie on Saturday. Combined with a first-round 74 on Thursday, he’s 1-over par at 217 through 54 holes.

Chasing him are three men separated by three strokes -- first-day leader Adam Baxter at 226, reigning state senior champion Benjie Sumulong at 228 and defending State Am champion Russell Marion at 229. Baxter and Marion both shot 78 Saturday, and Sumulong had an 80.

Saturday’s best round came from Aaron Roth, who shot a 1-over-par 73 to move from a share of ninth place to a share of fifth place with a total score of 231.

Sanders is gunning for his 13th state title -- his seventh State Am championship came in 2018, and last month he won his fifth Alaska match-play championship.

More than 100 golfers are playing in the tournament.

[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.]

Isaias weakens but may strengthen on path to virus-hit Florida

Sat, 2020-08-01 19:39

Daytona Beach, Fla., is crowded with beachgoers Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. Isaias is expected to regain hurricane strength before reaching Florida. Though officials do not expect to have to evacuate people, they wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary, while safely social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP) (Stephen M. Dowell/)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and churned toward the Florida coast, threatening to complicate efforts to contain the coronavirus in places were cases are surging.

Isaias weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon, but was expected to regain hurricane strength overnight as it barrels toward Florida.

“We’ll start seeing impacts tonight,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned at a news conference. “Don’t be fooled by the downgrade.”

Isaias is piling another burden on communities already hard-hit by previous storms and the pandemic.

Florida authorities closed beaches, parks and virus testing sites, lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn't blow away. The governor warned residents to expect power outages and asked to have a week's supply of water and food on hand. Officials wrestled with how to prepare shelters for people to seek refuge, if need be, while safely social distancing because of the virus.

Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was slammed last year by Hurricane Dorian. Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas opened shelters for people in Abaco island to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people.

Isaias’ maximum sustained winds dipped steadily Saturday and were near 70 mph around 11 p.m., hours after the U.S. National Hurricane Center downgraded its status. It said Isaias would regain hurricane strengthen by early Sunday.

Brett Hand controls a Marine Travelift with a hand held remote to lift boats out of the water and move them onto the grounds of Palm Beach, Fla., Yacht Center for safe keeping as Hurricane Isaias approaches the Florida coast Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and churned toward the Florida coast, where it is threatening to complicate efforts to contain the coronavirus in a hot spot. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post via AP) (Damon Higgins/)
Lake Worth, Fla., resident Juan Avila stocks up on water and paper towels at the Lantana, Fla Costco as Hurricane Isaias approaches the Florida coast Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and churned toward the Florida coast, where it is threatening to complicate efforts to contain the coronavirus in a hot spot. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post via AP) (Damon Higgins/)

By Saturday night, the storm was about 80 miles east-southeast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was moving northwest at 9 mph and expected to be near Florida’s southeast coast early Sunday, then tack near or along the state’s Atlantic coast during the day.

Isaias is expected to remain a hurricane through Monday, then slow weaken on its climb up the Atlantic seaboard. It's expected to move offshore of the coast of Georgia en route toward the mid-Atlantic states. Heavy rain, flooding and high winds could batter much of the East Coast during the week.

Despite the approaching storm, NASA says the return of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX capsule is still on track for Sunday afternoon. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing to make the first splashdown return in 45 years, after two months docked at the International Space Station. They are aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida Panhandle, and flight controllers are keeping close watch on the storm.

Isaias — pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs — has already been destructive in the Caribbean: On Thursday, before it became a hurricane, it uprooted trees, destroyed crops and homes and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. One man died in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters that swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday.

Dozens of utility trucks are lined up to be processed by Florida Power & Light at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. Thousands of electric lineman crews and other employees were processed at the site to be sent to staging centers in preparation for Hurricane Isaias. Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and weakened to a tropical storm as it churned toward the Florida coast, where it still threatened to complicate efforts to contain the coronavirus in a hot spot. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP) (Stephen M. Dowell/)

Concerns about the coronavirus and the vulnerability of people who are still recovering from Dorian were adding to storm worries.

Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis relaxed a coronavirus lockdown because of the storm, but imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. He said supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and hardware stores would be open as long as weather permitted.

The Bahamas has reported more than 570 confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 14 deaths. It recently barred travelers from the U.S. following a surge in cases after it reopened to international tourism.

As the storm moves now toward Florida, a hurricane warning is in effect from Boca Raton to the Volusia-Flagler county line, which lies about 150 miles north. A storm surge watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach.

Coronavirus cases have surged in Florida in recent weeks, and the added menace of a storm ratcheted up the anxiety. State-run virus testing sites are closing in areas where the storm might hit because the sites are outdoor tents, which could topple in high winds.

Natalie Betancur, stocking up at a grocery in Palm Beach Gardens, said that the storm itself doesn’t cause her great concern. But, she added, “I feel that the public is really panicking because it’s a hurricane and we’re in the middle of a pandemic.”

DeSantis, the governor, said Saturday that 16 counties have declared states of emergency, although no immediate evacuation orders were given. The Republican also said hospitals are not being evacuated of coronavirus or other patients.

Still, the pandemic forced officials handling disaster response to wrestle with social-distancing rules. At one of four shelters in Palm Beach County on Saturday afternoon, people had their temperatures checked before entering. Public buses transporting residents to the shelter were sanitized by work crews between stops.

Kevin Shelton, the owner of Causeway Mowers in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, said his store has been packed for two days with folks streaming in to buy generators, chain saws and other provisions. On Saturday morning, Shelton and his wife served at least 25 customers an hour, double their normal weekend business.

“We’ve been in the area almost 50 years. We keep an eye on every storm,” he said. “It could shift in this direction at any moment.”


Anderson reported from St. Petersburg, Florida. Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, and Cody Jackson in Palm Beach County, Florida, contributed.

Ruling renews fairness debate in Boston Marathon bomber case

Sat, 2020-08-01 19:34

FILE - In this April 17, 2013 photograph, flowers and signs adorn a barrier, two days after two explosions killed three and injured hundreds, at Boylston Street near the of finish line of the Boston Marathon at a makeshift memorial for victims and survivors of the bombing. A federal appeals court has overturned the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Friday, July 31, 2020, saying the judge who oversaw the case didn't adequately screen jurors for potential biases. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File) (Charles Krupa/)

“Boston Strong” remains a “vibrant” rallying cry more than seven years after the marathon bombing killed three people and injured more than 260 others, a federal appeals court noted as it threw out the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

But even as the ruling opened old wounds, it raised familiar questions about whether Tsarnaev can receive a fair hearing in the city where the bombs exploded — a community that may now be asked to relive unspeakable trauma.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Friday that jurors were not adequately screened for bias ahead of Tsarnaev’s 2015 trial, describing media attention in the case as “unrivaled in American legal history.”

The three-judge panel ordered a new penalty phase — this time with more searching questions for prospective jurors — to decide whether the 27-year-old should be executed.

Tsarnaev “will spend his remaining days locked up in prison,” the judges made clear, “with the only matter remaining being whether he will die by execution.”

[Federal appeals court overturns Boston Marathon bomber’s death sentence]

The Justice Department is expected to appeal. Legal observers predict prosecutors will turn straight to the U.S. Supreme Court without asking for a hearing before the full 1st Circuit. The U.S. government recently resumed federal executions following a 17-year pause and, under President Donald Trump, has pursued capital punishment in an increasing number of cases.

“When it comes to death penalty cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has been much more pro-prosecution than many of the circuit courts,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Should Friday's ruling stand, attention will shift to whether an impartial jury can be impaneled in a city still traumatized by the 2013 attack. Tsarnaev's defense team may renew its request to transfer the case out of Boston, where they have long contended public opinion is immutably slanted.

“Everybody in the community understands where ‘Boston Strong’ came from,” Dunham said. “The question will be whether that’s so ingrained in the community that jurors can’t set it aside and fairly determine the outcome of this case.”

Tsarnaev’s case is uniquely complicated in that an entire city — if not the whole country — considered itself the target of the bombing, said George Kendall, an attorney who filed a brief contending it was a mistake to hold the trial in Boston. Prosecutors said Tsarnaev and his brother intended the attack to punish the U.S. for wars in Muslim countries.

FILE - This file photo released April 19, 2013, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted and sentenced to death for carrying out the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing attack that killed three people and injured more than 260. On Friday, July 31, 2020, a federal appeals court overturned the Boston Marathon bomber's death sentence. (FBI via AP, File)

“This was not just a horrific crime against the individuals who were killed and hurt,” Kendall said in an interview Saturday. “This was an attack on the city of Boston and a deliberate attack on its most cherished tradition.”

Robert Bloom, a Boston College law professor who has followed the case for years, said a new penalty phase would force the community to relive the bombing.

“My hope is that the government will decide not to put the victims through this again,” Bloom said, noting Tsarnaev had been willing to plead guilty before trial had the government taken the death penalty off the table.

Tsarnaev's lawyer echoed Bloom in an email to The Associated Press following Friday's ruling.

“It is now up to the government to determine whether to put the victims and Boston through a second trial, or to allow closure to this terrible tragedy by permitting a sentence of life without the possibility of release,” David Patton wrote.

Tsarnaev's attorneys did not dispute his involvement in the attack, but argued he was less culpable than his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a gunbattle with police a few days after the bombing.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted of 30 charges — including conspiracy and use of a weapon of mass destruction — all but a few of which were upheld in the appellate ruling.

The appellate judges differed on whether the case should be moved to another jurisdiction but noted that, “given the sizable passage of time, the venue issue should look quite different the second time around.”

“Two of the three judges indicated it was not error to have the trial in Boston, so the opinion may actually help keep it in Boston in the future,” said Brian Kelly, a former assistant U.S. attorney known for his prosecution of crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger.

Marty Weinberg, a veteran defense attorney, said a second penalty phase would be “made enormously more difficult by the widespread knowledge — particularly in the Boston area — that another jury previously decided upon death.”


Mustian reported from New York and Ring from Stowe, Vermont. AP journalist Alanna Durkin Richer contributed from West Harwich, Massachusetts.