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Updated: 40 min 56 sec ago

Gig workers face shifting roles, competition in pandemic

49 min 35 sec ago

Alexandra Lopez-Djurovic checks her shopping list as she shops for a client in an Acme supermarket, Wednesday, July 1, 2020, in Bronxville, N.Y. Lopez-Djurovic was working full time as a nanny until her hours were cut substantially due to the coronavirus pandemic, so she started her own grocery delivery service that made up for some of her lost wages, but not all. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) (Kathy Willens/)

NEW YORK — There were the two-hour, unpaid waits outside supermarkets when San Francisco first started to lock down, on top of the heavy shopping bags that had to be lugged up countless flights of stairs.

And yet even after signing up for several apps, 39-year-old Saori Okawa still wasn't making as much money delivering meals and groceries as she did driving for ride-hailing giant Uber before the pandemic struck.

"I started to juggle three apps to make ends meet," said Okawa, who recently reduced her work hours after receiving unemployment benefits. "It was really hard, because at that time, I could not afford to stay home because I had to pay rent."

Okawa is one of an estimated 1.5 million so-called gig workers who make a living driving people to airports, picking out produce at grocery stores or providing childcare for working parents. Theirs had already been a precarious situation, largely without safeguards such as minimum wage, unemployment insurance, workers compensation and health and safety protections.

But with the pandemic pummeling the global economy and U.S. unemployment reaching heights not seen since the Great Depression, gig workers are clamoring for jobs that often pay less while facing stiff competition from a crush of newly unemployed workers also attempting to patch together a livelihood - all while trying to avoid contracting the coronavirus themselves.

U.S. unemployment fell to 11.1% in June, a Depression-era level that, while lower than last month, could worsen after a surge in coronavirus cases has led states to close restaurants and bars.

Marisa Martin, a law school student in California, turned to Instacart when a state government summer job as paralegal fell through after a hiring freeze. She said she enjoys the flexibility of choosing her own hours but hopes not to have to turn to gig work in the future. The pay is too volatile — with tips varying wildly and work sometimes slow — to be worth the risk of exposure to the virus.

"We are not getting paid nearly enough when we're on the front lines interacting with multiple people daily," said Martin, 24, who moved in with her parents temporarily to save money.

Alexandra Lopez-Djurovic, 26, was a full-time nanny in a New York City suburb when one of the parents she works for lost her job while the other saw his hours cut.

"All of a sudden, as much as they want me to stay, they can't afford to pay me," she said. Her own hours were reduced to about eight per week.

To make up lost wages, Lopez-Djurovic placed an ad offering grocery delivery on a local Facebook group. Overnight, she got 50 responses.

Lopez-Djurovic charges $30 an hour and coordinates shopping lists over email, offering perks the app companies don't such as checking the milk's expiration date before choosing which size to buy. Still, it doesn't replace the salary she lost.

"One week I might have seven, eight, 10 families I was shopping for," Lopez-Djurovic said. "I had a week when I had no money. That's definitely a challenge."

Upwork, a website that connects skilled freelance workers with jobs, has seen a 50% increase in signups by both workers and employers since the pandemic began, including spikes in jobs related to ecommerce and customer service, said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork.

"When you need to make big changes fast, a flexible workforce helps you," he said.

Maya Pinto, a researcher at the National Employment Law Project, said temporary and contract work grew during Great Recession and she expects that many workers will seek such jobs again amid the current crisis.

But increased reliance on temporary and contract work will have negative implications on job quality and security because it "is a way of saving costs and shifting risk onto the worker," Pinto said.

It's difficult to assess the overall picture of the gig economy during the pandemic since some parts are expanding while others are contracting. Grocery delivery giant Instacart, for instance, has brought on 300,000 new contracted shoppers since March, more than doubling its workforce to 500,000. Meanwhile, Uber's business fell 80% in April compared with last year while Lyft's tumbled 75% in the same period.

For food delivery apps, it's been a mixed bag. Although they are getting a bump from restaurants offering more takeout options, those gains are being offset by the restaurant industry's overall decline during the pandemic.

Gig workers are also jockeying for those jobs from all fronts. DoorDash launched an initiative to help out-of-work restaurant workers sign up for delivery work. Uber's food delivery service, Uber Eats, grew 53% in the first quarter and around 200,000 people have signed up for the app per month since March — about 50% more than usual.

"Drivers are definitely exploring other options, but the issue is that there's 20 or 30 million people looking for work right now," said Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy. "Sometimes I joke all you need is a pulse and a car to get approved. But what that means is it's easy for other people to get approved too, so you have to compete for shifts."

Delivery jobs typically pay less than ride-hailing jobs. Single mom Luz Laguna used to earn about $25 in a half-hour driving passengers to Los Angeles International Airport. When those trips evaporated, Laguna began delivering meals through Uber Eats, working longer hours but making less cash. The base pay is around $6 per delivery, and most people tip around $2, she said. To avoid shelling out more for childcare, she sometimes brings her 3-year-old son along on deliveries.

"This is our only way out right now," Laguna said. "It's hard managing, but that's the only job that I can be able to perform as a single mother."

Other drivers find it makes more sense to stay home and collect unemployment — a benefit they and other gig workers hadn't qualified for before the pandemic. They are also eligible to receive an additional $600 weekly check from the federal government, a benefit that became available to workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic. Taken together, that's more than what many ride-hailing drivers were making before the pandemic, Campbell said.

But that $600 benefit will expire at the end of July, and the $2 trillion government relief package that extended unemployment benefits to gig workers expires at the end of the year.

“So many drivers are going to have to sit down and decide, do I want to put myself at risk and my family at risk once I’m not getting the government assistance?” Campbell said.

7-year-old among 13 killed in weekend shootings in Chicago

1 hour 1 min ago

Chicago police officers investigate the scene of a deadly shooting where a 7-year-old girl and a man were fatally shot in Chicago on Sunday, July 5, 2020. At least a dozen people were killed in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend, police said. Scores of people were shot and wounded. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune via AP) (Armando L. Sanchez/)

CHICAGO — At least 13 people, including a 7-year-old girl at a family party and a teenage boy, were killed in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend, police said. At least 59 others were shot and wounded.

In one shooting, just before midnight Saturday, four males opened fire on a large gathering in the street in the Englewood neighborhood, police spokesman Tom Ahern said. Two males died at the scene and two more, including a 14-year-old boy, died at a hospital, Ahern said.

Four others were injured; one was in critical condition and the other three were in fair condition, Ahern said. The four attackers fled the scene. No one was arrested.

The 7-year-old girl was fatally shot in the head while standing on the sidewalk at her grandmother's house during a Fourth of July party around 7 p.m. in the Austin neighborhood, police said.

Suspects got out of a car and began shooting, police said. No one has been arrested.

"Tonight, a 7-year-old girl in Austin joined a list of teenagers and children whose hopes and dreams were ended by the barrel of a gun," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Twitter late Saturday.

The mayor added: "As a city, we must wrap our arms around our youth so they understand there's a future for them that isn't wrapped up in gun violence."

A 32-year-old man was injured in the shooting and was in fair condition.

The Chicago Sun-Times, citing police, said that seven of those injured in shootings were minors.

The shootings this weekend that killed young people followed tragedy the weekend before when victims included a 1-year-old boy riding in a car with his mother and a 10-year-old girl who was inside her home when a bullet fired a block away pierced a window and struck her in the head as she sat on a couch.

In response to violence that has occurred since Memorial Day weekend, police said they would have 1,200 extra officers on the streets for this holiday weekend.

Frederick Douglass statue vandalized in Rochester, New York, park

1 hour 5 min ago

This photo provided by WROC-TV shows the remnants of a Frederick Douglass statue ripped from its base at a park in Rochester, N.Y., Sunday, July 5, 2020. The statue of abolitionist Douglass was ripped on the anniversary of one of his most famous speeches, delivered in that city in 1852. (Ben Densieski/WROC-TV via AP) (Ben Densieski/)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass was ripped from its base in Rochester on the anniversary of one of his most famous speeches, delivered in that city in 1852.

Police said the statue of Douglass was taken on Sunday from Maplewood Park, a site along the Underground Railroad where Douglas and Harriet Tubman helped shuttle slaves to freedom.

The statue was found at the brink of the Genesee River gorge about 50 feet from its pedestal, police said. There was damage to the base and a finger.

In Rochester on July 5, 1852, Douglass gave the speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July," in which he called the celebration of liberty a sham in a nation that enslaves and oppresses its Black citizens.

To a slave, Douglass said, Independence Day is "a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim."

Carvin Eison, a leader of the project that brought the Douglass statue to the park, told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle another statue will take its place because the damage is too significant.

“Is this some type of retaliation because of the national fever over confederate monuments right now? Very disappointing, it’s beyond disappointing,” Eison told WROC.

Seem hazy lately? Smoke from wildfires in Siberia might be what you’re noticing

2 hours 25 min ago

Wildfires raging in Siberia during the last week have carried smoke to Southcentral Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, according to the National Weather Service.

Strong winds pushed the smoky air into the region starting in the middle of last week, although Patrick Doll of the weather service said cloud cover began shifting into the area on Sunday, which may make it harder to tell if the air is smoky or just cloudy.

Fires were burning across more than 3.4 million acres of Siberia last week, according to NASA. The region saw heavy wildfires last year, also, and some of the fires this year have reignited from hotspots that did not extinguish fully over the winter. Siberia is also facing record-breaking temperatures this year, reaching 100.4 degrees for the first time, NASA reported.

[Related: The Arctic is on fire: Siberian heat wave alarms scientists]

Doll said it’s not unusual for smoke to drift into Alaska from other parts of the world and he said that wildfires in Siberia last year carried over some smoke, although Alaska already had hazy skies from wildfires burning within the state.

It’s not possible to tell how much longer skies here could be hazy, Doll said, because it’s dependent on firefighting efforts in Siberia. He said temperatures throughout Southcentral Alaska are expected to cool down throughout the week.

Smoke has been reported in western Oregon and in Canada, also.

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‘It’s not somewhere else. It’s everywhere’: Anchorage businessowner turns needles littering his property into art piece about drug use

3 hours 48 min ago

The "Karluk Cruci-fix" June 4, 2020 at The Raven on Fourth Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Jenada Johnson)

Darl Schaaff often picks up broken bottles and trash thrown over his property’s fence on the corner of Karluk Street and East Third Avenue. He cleans the grounds of his business multiple times a year, but Schaaff said this spring was the worst he’s ever seen it.

“When I walked up this year, in the spring after the snow melted, I literally cried,” he said. “I’ve never seen it so horrible.”

Schaaff found 54 used syringes amid the broken vodka bottles, discarded clothes and other debris. Looking at the needles piled in the collection container, he saw an opportunity to make a statement about what has been happening in the neighborhood.

“Literally in the middle of the night ... I woke up with this vision in my head to combine two things: One that is both comforting and compelling, which is the crucifix, the cross, and the other is to mix it with things that are so offensive and abrasive like used syringes,” Schaaff said, who created the piece “Karluk Cruci-fix” in May with the help of fellow artist Jenada Johnson.

Schaaff’s event planning business, Art Services North, is located across the street from Bean’s Café and kitty-corner from Brother Francis — Anchorage’s two largest homeless shelters. The stretch of Third Avenue has struggled with illegal homeless camps and open substance use for years.

Schaaff wants the sculpture to draw attention to the issue of open drug use that has become common near his block of Karluk Street.

“I want people to understand that this is a problem, and that throwing money at it, throwing religion at it, throwing all those things at it, hasn’t solved that problem,” he said.

In the ‘Karluk Cruci-fix,” used syringes, some still with blood visible in them, are encased in resin and surrounded by a wooden shadow box. The needles are arranged on top of an embellished silver cross and radiate out toward the edge of the clean, white frame.

The "Karluk Cruci-fix" during the creation process May 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Darl Schaaff)

Schaaff said he realized the issue is not limited to Karluk Street. So he added 12 syringes going through the white frame, pointed toward the viewer, to evoke both the holy aura often found in religious artwork and represent how the problem permeates the community.

“I wanted them to pierce that outside veil so that people understood that it’s not contained. It’s not pristine,” he said. “It’s not somewhere else. It’s everywhere.”

Schaaff asked Johnson, a longtime friend and collaborator, to help construct the piece, particularly the process of encasing the needles in resin. This is not the first work Schaaff and Johnson have made together using debris from his property. The two previously collaborated on “The Stones From My Garden,” a piece made of broken liquor bottles, pipes and other drug paraphernalia Schaaff found last fall.

"The Stones From My Garden" June 4, 2020 at The Raven on Fourth Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Jenada Johnson)

While putting the crucifix together, Johnson said there was blood still moving in a couple of the syringes. She said turning what can be disgusting into something beautiful was both challenging and rewarding.

“Transforming the paraphernalia into art kind of gives me hope that the people using the paraphernalia can be transformed in a positive way also,” she said.

“Karluk Cruci-fix” is not on display yet, but Schaaff hopes to donate it for public viewing when he finds the right place for it. Those who have seen it have had mixed emotional reactions, Schaaff said.

“They’re both drawn to it and offended by it at the same time, and then sort of saddened by what it really represents,” he said. “And that’s really what art is about. Art is about making you think.”

Many Anchorage residents may not notice drug use in their neighborhoods, Schaaff said, but the issue shouldn’t be ignored.

“They should know that it exists and be aware that they probably need to be doing something,” he said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but the system has been the same for years and it needs to change.”

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32 new COVID-19 cases announced Sunday, many in Anchorage

4 hours 29 min ago

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The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services reported 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19 Sunday, with 27 cases in Alaskans and five cases in nonresidents.

Twenty-three of the new cases announced Sunday were in Anchorage. There were three cases in Fairbanks, two in Seward and one case each in Palmer, Valdez, Petersburg and the Bristol Bay area. Twenty-two of the cases in Anchorage were in residents.

In total, there have been 1,373 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alaska. Nonresidents account for 235 of the confirmed cases and the other 1,138 cases were confirmed in Alaskans. On Sunday there were 753 active cases statewide. There have been 604 people that have recovered from the virus in Alaska.

Sixteen Alaskans have died of the virus and 72 people have been hospitalized. The state did not report any additional deaths or hospitalizations Sunday.

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

Sunday’s case announcements follow a week of record-breaking COVID-19 numbers in Alaska. There were several days last week that included case counts higher than 50.

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Whether cursing, joking or telling stories, Alaskans have always had a lot to say about our ‘state bird’: the mosquito

4 hours 36 min ago

Part of a continuing weekly series on local history by local historian David Reamer. Have a question about Anchorage history or an idea for a future article? Go to the form at the bottom of this story.

Every proper authority on the subject will tell you that the willow ptarmigan is the official state bird of Alaska. But as the ancient Alaskan joke goes, the real state bird is actually the mosquito, the common and evil skeeter that haunts Alaska in hordes and leaves a plague of itchy bites in its wake. While many Lower 48 states make similar jokes — especially New Jersey and Florida — the mosquito is an enduring cornerstone of Alaska lore.

Nora and Richard Dauenhauer offered two origin stories for mosquitoes in their 1988 collection of Tlingit oral narratives, “Haa Shuka.” In the first story, a giant descended from the mountains and attacked a fishing camp, eating some of the inhabitants. The Tlingits fought back, but their weapons could not pierce its skin. Afterward, the survivors hunted the monster and finally discovered his home, distinct by the red smoke billowing from its smoke hole.

This Tlingit mosquito mask, made prior to 1843 , is in the collection of the The Metropolitan Museum of Art (public domain image via

The Tlingit hunters set a trap, a deep pit around the home lined with netting. They covered the pit with sticks and yelled for the giant to come out. The behometh succumbed to the bait, left the home, fell into the pit, and became enmeshed in the net. The hunters lit him on fire, but the monster could not die. The giant swore to consume the Tlingit people, even if burnt to cinders. And as the fire burned down, the Tlingit poked at the ashes with a long pole. Sparks flew up and transformed into mosquitoes, which immediately set up the hunters.

In the other version, a human cannibal killed and ate two of three Tlingit brothers. The survivor, the youngest brother, vowed revenge and eventually beat the cannibal to death. “I know I killed this cannibal,” said the surviving brother, “but it did a painful thing to me. What more can I do to make it feel more pain?” He burnt the corpse, and when there were only ashes left, he stabbed at them with a stick, still unsatisfied with his revenge. Sparks rose into the air and became mosquitoes.

In 1869, C. P. Raymond of the U.S. Army Engineer Corps led the first official American reconnaissance of Alaska after its 1867 purchase from Russia. Raymond described massive swarms of mosquitoes and gnats, larger individually and collectively from those Outside. He wrote, “we were obliged to wear face nets and gloves; and on occasion an attempt to make sextant observations failed completely.” In other words, they were so surrounded by mosquitoes that they could not see, let alone make the measurements necessary to document their journey.

In 1880, Ivan Petrof, an admittedly unreliable narrator, described mosquitoes as the “most terrible and poignant infliction” in Alaska. “The clouds of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, accompanied by a vindictive ally in the shape of a small poisonous black fly, under the stress of whose persecution the strongest man with the firmest will may either feel depressed of succumb to low fever.” Petrof continued, “The traveler who exposes his bare eyes or face here loses his natural appearance; his eyelids swell up and close, and his face becomes one mass of lumps and fiery pimples.”

During World War II, the Army engineers shipped in to build the Alaska-Canadian (Alcan) Highway were not initially equipped with netting or any form of repellent, even though troops sent to Europe and Asia were provided netting and repellants. Alaskans had even warned the Army of the mosquitoes. Former Governor Thomas Riggs wrote, “Please do not underestimate the mosquito plague. I have had horses killed by mosquitoes in the country into which you must go.”

Mosquito postcard (From the collection of David Reamer)

Under-equipped, the soldiers responded as soldiers have always responded to poor conditions; they cursed and joked about their lot in life. Historian John Virtue recounted one such joke by the Alcan builders. One of soldiers was awakened by two mosquitoes discussing where to eat him. Said the first mosquito, “Shall we eat him here, or shall we take him down to the river.” The second replied, “No, we’d better eat him here, or the big ones down there will take him away from us.”

A Canadian report from this time offered: “The legend still persists . . . that at least half the planes serviced at airports during the early days were really mosquitoes in disguise. It was alleged by hard bitten soldiers that government planes were painted bright red, not to make them easier to find if forced down, but to distinguish them from mosquitoes.” In this way, longtime Alaska storyteller Ruben Gaines defined the mosquito as “a light fast Alaskan bomber.”

1981 Anchorage Times ad for mosquito state bird plush toy.

Gaines also described the mosquitoes as the devil’s “northern relatives.” “The thing to remember is all mosquitoes seem to have the same soul,” he noted in one of his radio broadcasts. “That is, you can kill one, and billions of others carry on for him.”

The most original sourdough mosquito wisdom is the methodology for measuring a skeeter year. Mosquito hordes differ from year to year. Some years are better; some are worse. To obtain a skeeter grade for a given year, you walk out into the wild, wait for a swarm to find you, and clap your hands. You open them and count how many dead mosquitoes you have on your hands. According to one source, a mere two to three bloodsucking corpses is worth a thankful prayer. Around seven would be average. And upwards of fifteen vampiric insects in your hands means you are in for one hell of a skeeter year.

Key sources:

Collins, Julie. “Skeeters.” Field & Stream, July 1984, 24.

Dauenhauer, Nora Marks, and Richard Dauenhauer. Haa Shuka, Our Ancestors: Tlingit Oral Narratives. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988.

Gaines, Ruben. “The Mosquito.” Conversation Unlimited radio broadcast, n.d., University of Alaska Anchorage Archives and Special Collections,

Gjullin, C.M., R.I. Sailer, Alan Stone, and B.V. Travis. The Mosquitoes of Alaska, Agriculture Handbook No. 182. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture, 1961.

Virtue, John. The Black Soldiers Who Built the Alaska Highway: A History of Four U.S. Army Regiments in the North, 1942-1943. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2013.

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Iran confirms damaged nuclear site was centrifuge facility

7 hours 44 min ago

This photo released Thursday, July 2, 2020, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows a building after it was damaged by a fire at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iran on Sunday confirmed that a damaged building at the underground Natanz nuclear site was a new centrifuge assembly center, the official IRNA news agency reported. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File)

ITEHRAN, Iran — Iran on Sunday confirmed that a damaged building at the underground Natanz nuclear site was a new centrifuge assembly center, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Iranian officials had previously sought to downplay the fire, which erupted early on Thursday, calling it only an "incident" that affected an "industrial shed." However, a released photo and video of the site broadcast by Iranian state television showed a two-story brick building with scorch marks and its roof apparently destroyed.

A spokesman for Iran's nuclear agency, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said Sunday that work had begun on the center in 2013 and it was inaugurated in 2018.

"More advanced centrifuge machines were intended to be built there," he said, adding that the damage would "possibly cause a delay in development and production of advanced centrifuge machines in the medium term."

He said that the fire had damaged "precision and measuring instruments," and that the center had not been operating at full capacity due to restrictions imposed by Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Iran began experimenting with advanced centrifuge models in the wake of the U.S. unilaterally withdrawing from the deal two years ago.

Iran has long maintained its atomic program is for peaceful purposes.

An online video and messages purportedly claiming responsibility for the fire were released Friday. The multiple, different claims by a self-described group called the "Cheetahs of the Homeland," as well as the fact that Iran experts have never heard of the group before, raised questions about whether Natanz again had faced sabotage by a foreign nation, as it had during the Stuxnet computer virus outbreak believed to have been engineered by the U.S. and Israel.

The Natanz fire also came less than a week after an explosion in an area east of Tehran that analysts believe hides an underground tunnel system and missile production sites.

This Friday, July 3, 2020 satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. that has been annotated by experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies shows a damaged building after a fire and explosion at Iran's Natanz nuclear site. An online video and messages purportedly claiming responsibility for a fire that analysts say damaged a centrifuge assembly plant at Iran's underground Natanz nuclear site deepened the mystery Friday around the incident — even as Tehran insisted it knew the cause but would not make it public due to "security reasons." (Planet Labs Inc., James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies via AP)

Two U.S.-based analysts who spoke to The Associated Press on Friday, relying on released pictures and satellite images, identified the affected building as Natanz's new Iran Centrifuge Assembly Center. A satellite image on Friday by Planet Labs Inc., annotated by experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, shows what appears to be damage done to half of the building.

Destroying a centrifuge assembly facility could greatly impact Iran's ability to more-quickly enrich greater amounts of uranium, which would be a goal for either Israel or the U.S.

Natanz today hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. In its long underground halls, centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium. Currently, the IAEA says Iran enriches uranium to about 4.5% purity — above the terms of the nuclear deal but far below weapons-grade levels of 90%. Workers there also have conducted tests on advanced centrifuges, according to the IAEA.

Newtok, the canine sentinel of South Addition, brings grace amid turmoil

10 hours 14 min ago

Tonio Nguyen's dog Newtok stands on the sidewalk outside his home Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in South Addition. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

A dying, 40-pound furry Buddha of a dog adopted from a Bering Sea coast village 10 years ago is bringing unconditional love to Anchorage’s South Addition neighborhood.

Newtok sits, listens and shows empathy.

He’s attracted legions of fans who end up connecting with the dog but also with one another.

The time to visit is growing short. Newtok was diagnosed with terminal cancer in May.

Tonio Nguyen pets his dog Newtok on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in South Addition. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

People have always been drawn to the dog in the yard with thick fur and understanding eyes, said his owner, Tonio Nguyen, who found Newtok alone and wandering the tundra on a work trip to his namesake village.

Newtok looks like a miniature, compact wolf. He’s been compared to a cross between a husky and a koala bear. He’s irresistibly cute.

But now, with national racial unrest and a pandemic unsettling daily lives, the visits seem different, crucial in a way they didn’t before.

People seem to need Newtok now.

Linda Klinkhart sits with her neighbor Tonio Nguyen's dog Newtok on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in South Addition. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
Tonio Nguyen's dog Newtok sits in his yard Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in South Addition. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

Nguyen says his dog has a compassionate and calming presence that draws people close and calms them. People come to pet Newtok or even talk to him. Kids brush him. Many visitors just come and sit quietly at his side.

“There’s one nurse, she is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Every day right after work, she swings by. She still has her scrubs on,” he said in an interview late last month. “I think people are kind of seeking some — just comfort, I guess.”

In May, a friend found a lump on the side of Newtok’s face. The vet diagnosed stage 4 melanoma that had spread into the dog’s bones, glands and body.

“They told us he had three weeks to live,” Nguyen said in late June. “That was six weeks ago.”

He and his partner, Derek Hert, posted a sign addressed to “FRIENDS OF NEWTOK” on the fence outside with the sad news and a leash hanging nearby: “We invite you into the yard anytime to take him for a walk, sit with him, or give him a scratch or hug. I know he means a lot to many people and has a deep connection to many of you. As a stray, Newtok came to us from the Western Alaska village of Newtok. We view this as his ‘return’ home.”

Newtok’s local fame began as soon as he arrived in the big city a decade ago. He was still a wild dog, Nguyen said, and ran off. Photographer and neighbor Clark James Mishler photographed Newtok while he was missing and posted the portrait on social media to find the dog’s owner.

Nguyen said he asked friends if they’d seen his missing dog. Sure, they said. He’s on Facebook. Mishler asked to do another photo shoot with Newtok the next day.

Stephanie Rhoades, Russ Webb, and their dog Chance stop by Tonio Nguyen's home to greet Nguyen's dog Newtok on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in South Addition. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

Hundreds of people have come by to visit in the years since.

Tracy Briggs and her husband moved from Kosovo to the house next door last fall.

“Newtok is one of those dogs who immediately makes you love him just from his sheer happiness, sweetness and love of life,” Briggs wrote in an email. “Everyone in the neighborhood and beyond instantly falls in love with him including friends we had who visited us in late March of this year from Britain, Canada and Slovakia enough to wish that they could take him home with them.”

The sign that appeared after Newtok’s cancer diagnosis prompted a remarkable stream of new visitors, some who didn’t know Nguyen or live in the neighborhood, Briggs said. One young girl is particularly in love with Newtok.

“I know that this gives her much love and strength during this crazy and isolating time,” she said.

Madeleine McCauley, 9, stops by to pet Newtok during a bike ride with her mother on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in South Addition. Most days McCauley will stop by a few times to see Newtok, and sometimes will borrow him, taking him to her house to play with her and her friends. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

In one 30-minute period on a mid-June day, Newtok received six visitors: a neighbor who likes to sit with him on a bench installed for that purpose; Chance, the dog; two people who came by to say hi; a neighbor who takes Newtok for a walk and some ice cream at Side Street Espresso; and a 9-year-old, probably the girl Briggs described, who visits several times a day and borrows Newtok to play with him.

Nguyen this week said Newtok’s tumor has grown quite large, but his energy and spirits remain high.

He still waits out there in the yard, a furry little sentinel.

“What’s so interesting is he doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t do tricks. He just sits and listens. And he has this presence and he’s nonjudgmental,” Nguyen said. “I think that’s what we all are looking for, is just someone to be present for us.”

Neighbor Racheali Feller pulls over on her way home to pet Newtok on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in South Addition. Feller and her husband sometimes borrow Newtok, taking him for walks to Side Street Espresso, where he gets a treat. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
Newtok gets pets from neighbor Racheali Feller and owner Tonio Nguyen on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in South Addition. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

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It’s time to to enact the Equal Rights Amendment

11 hours 8 min ago

An Equal Rights Amendment supporters yell encouragement to two legislators as they walk down a hallway inside the state Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. A House committee approved a resolution Tuesday, to ratify the state's Equal Rights Amendment, which advocates hope will become the next amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 13-9 vote split along party lines, with all Democrats supporting it and all Republicans opposing it.(Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP) (BOB BROWN/)

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. 

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. 

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

This is the entire text of the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA was originally introduced by suffragists Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman in 1923. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Basically, what it says is that women — Black women, women of color, Indigenous women and white women — all have the same rights as men. It says that women are not second-class citizens. And yet, here we are in the year 2020, almost 100 years later, and we still don’t have the Equal Rights Amendment as part of the Constitution. How did this happen? Or rather, how did this not happen?

With the support of the League of Women Voters, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972 and Alaska was the 10th state to ratify the ERA, on April 5, 1972. At the time, I imagined that the rest of the states would follow our lead. How naïve I was! The amendment required 38 states to ratify before becoming the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.

Although I was confident of a positive outcome, I also recognized that some fundraising was necessary to speed the ratification. Along with my friends, I organized a dinner at the old McPhetres Hall at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Juneau. We made enormous pots of soup, baked crusty brown loaves of bread and oversized cookies and invited the community to come. We covered every table with butcher paper and crayons for the kids and scattered copies of the ERA on every table for everyone to read. Musicians brought their guitars and sang and the kids, of course, raced around, unaware that their futures were being discussed in Juneau and all over the nation. We were thrilled to raise $1,000 and sent a check by mail the next day. It was a very satisfying feeling to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.

Fast forward from that community dinner 48 years ago to January 2020, when Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA. Problem solved, right? No. The deadline for ratification was June 1982. 

Consequently, in November 2019, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) sponsored a bipartisan resolution to eliminate the deadline. As Senator Murkowski said, “Everyone should be treated equally under the law, but the U.S. Constitution does not currently guarantee women the same rights and protections as men.” Naturally, the League of Women Voters supports the removal of the deadline.

Another attempt to derail the ERA becoming law is that five states (Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee and South Dakota) have voted to revoke their earlier ratifications. They may assume Congress is the one to recognize those actions; however, the National Archivist is the one who certifies the ratification documents. And that certification is “final and conclusive,” according to the National Archives. So once the National Archivist has formally certified a state’s ratification action, the state cannot rescind it.

“Women were intentionally left out of the Constitution when it was written,” said Jessica Neuwirth, founder and co-president of the ERA Coalition and Fund for Women’s Equality. “The Equal Rights Amendment is long overdue.” 

It is not just the League of Women Voters who support the ERA. According to the Guardian, a new poll shows that “about 3 in 4 Americans support the Equal Rights Amendment.” If that majority were truly represented in Congress, we would have the ERA as the 28th Amendment now. For all of my life, I’ve lived in a country without equal rights for women. Forty-eight years ago, I thought that our country had finally matured. I was wrong. The time for redress of pay inequity, domestic violence, workplace harassment, and sexual assault is past due for black women, women of color, indigenous women, and white women — we are all demanding equal protection and opportunities under the law. We all deserve it.

Bridget Smith has lived in Alaska since 1968, and is a member of the League of Women Voters, an organization of women and men that grew out of the suffrage movement. LWV works for voting rights, fair elections and an educated citizenry. LWV has four affiliates in Alaska.

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.

Anchorage police questioning suspect after man fatally shot on Fourth of July

11 hours 35 min ago

A man was fatally shot in the Mountain View neighborhood on the Fourth of July, Anchorage police said. A woman was identified as the suspect and was detained for questioning Saturday night.

Officers were called to the 130 block of Klevin Street at 7:14 p.m., police wrote in an online statement. A man was found on the ground near the sidewalk with gunshot wounds to his upper body, police said. The man was brought to the hospital, where police said he died from the injuries.

Investigators believe a woman contacted the man outside and fired multiple shots at him before fleeing the scene.

It was not immediately clear what motivated the shooting or how the man and woman knew each other, but police said the investigation is ongoing.

The woman was taken into custody and officers made contact with all persons of interest, the statement said.

This is the fifth homicide to happen in Anchorage this year, not including one fatal officer-involved shooting.

[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.]

Love thy neighbor, wear the mask

11 hours 39 min ago

Barber Frank Queliz cuts five-year-old Masen Lauano's hair on Friday, June 26, 2020 at Hair Doctors in east Anchorage. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz on Friday issued an emergency order requiring people in the city to wear masks in certain indoor settings starting Monday at 8 a.m., although masks have already been required in hair salons and barbershops since they re-opened in late April. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is the Golden Rule, a guiding ethic found not only in every major religion and in atheistic moral systems as well. It is the most basic and easily-applied rule we have; a foundation of common ground, upon which our shared ethic can be built.

And right now, we all have the opportunity to live out the Golden Rule in an essential and lifesaving way: By wearing masks in public. The worldwide scientific community is unambiguous in its statements that wearing masks works: According to some estimates, more than 30,000 deaths could be avoided by Oct. 1 if 95% of people wore masks in public. Attempts to muddy the clear water of the efficacy of masks are based in ideological deception, not data. 

This is a clear and irrefutable fact. We cannot choose to make it false simply because we want it to be. The only thing that we can choose is our response to this fact. Hopefully, this choice will be guided by the Golden Rule. 

It’s important to note that the Golden Rule is not simply the absence of wrongdoing. It’s not enough to say “do not do to others as you would not have them do to you.” This passive ethic may seem attractive to those who prioritize individualism, but it is an insufficient approach to a community-based problem like the pandemic. We must take action in order to truly live ethically in community. We must do unto others.

And fortunately, there is precedent for this. We have in our shared national mythos the ideal that when faced with seemingly insurmountable crises, we pull together. Following the attack at Pearl Harbor, Americans didn’t passively wait, they lined up in droves to volunteer for service. Following the attacks on September 11, nations didn’t passively wait, they came together to voice support for and solidarity with the United States. And following major natural disasters, people around the world don’t passively wait, we pull together to provide food, shelter and emergency assistance to the affected people. This is in our blood. This is in our ethical code. We answer history’s call to do unto others.

With COVID-19 cases again on the rise, history again demands we respond, and the call to action is clear. We can ‘do unto others’ and save lives simply by wearing one small piece of cloth for a fraction of the day. But we have to do it together. Not as republicans and democrats, but as Americans who protect each other. Not as people of one faith or another, but as humans who love one another. This is both our patriotic duty and our moral imperative. 

And until this mandate can be enforced, it is our duty to make it the societal norm. We can do so by refusing to patronize businesses that are lax in requiring masks. We can speak up to those who are not wearing the masks in public, to make it clear that it is selfish behavior. And we can be stringent about wearing the masks ourselves. In the absence of this leadership from the state and federal levels, both in policy and by example, the onus falls on us to set the ethical example. Because those who choose not to wear the mask are not only violating the law, they are violating humanity’s most basic shared ethic: the Golden Rule. 

Rev. Matt Schultz, an Anchorage pastor, is on the steering committee for Christians for Equality.

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.

Militias flocked to Gettysburg to foil a supposed antifa flag burning, an apparent hoax created on social media

14 hours 5 min ago

Part of the right-wing response Saturday to a rumored flag burning to be carried out at Gettysburg National Military Park by antifa leftists. Armed right-wing groups turned out to defend the flag. Photo by Andrew Mangum for The Washington Post

GETTYSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK, PA. - For weeks, a mysterious figure on social media talked up plans for antifa protesters to converge on this historical site on Independence Day to burn American flags, an event that seemed at times to border on the farcical.

"Let's get together and burn flags in protest of thugs and animals in blue," the anonymous person behind a Facebook page called Left Behind USA wrote in mid-June. There would be antifa face paint, the person wrote, and organizers would "be giving away free small flags to children to safely throw into the fire."

As word spread, self-proclaimed militias, bikers, skinheads and far-right groups from outside the state issued a call to action, pledging in online videos and posts to come to Gettysburg to protect the Civil War monuments and the nation's flag from desecration. Some said they would bring firearms and use force if necessary.

On Saturday afternoon, in the hours before the flag burning was to start, they flooded in by the hundreds - heavily armed and unaware, it seemed, that the mysterious Internet poster was not who the person claimed to be.

Biographical details - some from the person's Facebook page and others provided to The Washington Post in a series of messages - did not match official records. An image the person once posted on a profile page was a picture of a man taken by a German photographer for a stock photo service.

The episode at Gettysburg is a stark illustration of how shadowy figures on social media have stoked fears about the protests against racial injustice and excessive police force that have swept across the nation since the death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25.

Armed vigilantes lined the streets of small Idaho towns last month after false claims circulated online about antifa, a loose collection of activists who oppose fascism and have sometimes embraced property damage and violent protest in recent years. Similar hoaxes have befallen towns in New Jersey, South Dakota and Michigan in recent weeks.

It is not always clear who has made these false claims and why, whether they seek to advance a political agenda, antagonize people with whom they disagree or achieve some other goal.

Social media companies have in recent weeks shut down a handful of fake accounts created by white supremacist groups posing as antifa operatives in a bid to undermine peaceful protests.

Members of a Department of Homeland Security police force stand guard at the North Carolina monument in the Gettysburg National Military Park Saturday, July 4, 2020, in Gettysburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster/)
An online threat from the supposed leader of antifa called for the burning of American flags on the grounds of the Gettysburg National Military Park where militias and other white nationalists assembled to protect the historic grounds. Photo by Andrew Mangum for The Washington Post

In response to messages from The Post, the person managing the Left Behind USA account identified himself as 39-year-old Alan Jeffs, a lifelong Democrat-turned-anarchist from Pittsburgh who now lives in Des Moines.

The Post examined real estate, court and voter records, as well as other public documents, but could find no such person.

Officials at Facebook and Twitter shut down the Left Behind USA pages last week after The Post inquired about the accounts, saying the person behind them had manipulated the platform by creating multiple accounts with overlapping content in an effort to amplify their messaging. The officials declined to identify the other accounts.

An official at Facebook said the person appeared to be operating the accounts from inside the United States. After the accounts were shut down, The Post was no longer able to contact the person who was claiming to be Jeffs.

But fears of the antifa-sponsored protest had already taken root.

Macky Marker, a member of a Delaware militia called First State Pathfinders, posted a YouTube video calling on militiamen to go to Gettysburg. "If you plan on coming, I would plan on coming full battle-rattle . . . to be fully, 100 percent prepared to defend yourself and whoever you come with," Marker said in the video.

Left Behind USA popped up on Twitter in February, advancing far-left ideas in a torrent of crude memes and graphics that decried capitalism, called for an end to police and advocated a moratorium on rent. The account attacked Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden as a "rapist" and accused him of supporting racist criminal justice laws.

The anonymous person controlling the account described himself in various posts as a laid-off graphic designer, a former Uber driver and a disc jockey. He wrote that he was living off food stamps and sleeping on a friend's couch.

In May, the person sent out an urgent request for gas money on Left Behind USA's Twitter account. He was stranded, the person wrote, with his roommate's car while returning from a trip to Ohio to attend his grandfather's funeral. He said his grandfather, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who had worked in Youngstown, died on May 28 at age 96.

Jim Burgham, the business manager of the IBEW Local 64 of Youngstown, told The Post that the union, which tracks deaths of current and former members, knew of no such person.

"That member you described doesn't exist," Burgham said.

In early April, a person using the name Alan Jeffs created a petition on the website It included a video first posted on a twitter account controlled by the Alan Jeffs persona who runs Left Behind USA. The petition called for the governor of Wisconsin to postpone the Democratic primary because of the health risks of the novel coronavirus.

It included a photo of a smiling, bearded man, purportedly Jeffs, and said he was in Beaver Falls, Pa. Using a reverse image search, The Post found that the photo came from the stock photo website

The Left Behind USA Facebook page was created June 2. When The Post initially sought an interview in mid-June, the person controlling the Facebook page responded in a message: "I don't prefer to talk to conservative media sources."

The person later identified himself as 39-year-old Jeffs and provided several details about his background. "I have been politically active since I was old enough to vote and have voted Democratic in every presidential and midterm election that I've been able to," the person wrote in a private Facebook message to The Post.

Election officials in Iowa's Polk County told The Post that no one by the name Alan Jeffs has ever been registered to vote in the state, according to a database search. Officials in Pennsylvania said there was no one by that name on that state's active or inactive voter rolls, either.

Two media publications quoted Alan Jeffs this spring, citing another of his Twitter accounts that supported former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The Christian Science Monitor found in an analysis of social media data that Jeffs's Twitter account, @Bernieorelse, stood out for its frequent and aggressive posts against former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg.

"Twitter is the real world now, even more than it was four years ago," the Christian Science Monitor quoted Jeffs as saying in March.

In April, a student-run news website at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism quoted Jeffs in a story about the Democratic presidential nomination. Jeffs said he lived just outside Pittsburgh.

"I'm fed up with the Democrats forcing centrist candidates upon us," he said.

That same month, his social media account @Bernieorelse was suspended by Twitter. A spokesman told The Post the account violated the platform's rules but declined to elaborate.

On June 11, Left Behind USA posted an image on its Facebook page that seemed designed to agitate.

Around an illustration of a U.S. flag aflame, it announced: "Antifa presents: 4th of July Flag Burning To Peacefully Protest For Abolishing Police Nationwide."

"No Bikers, Militias Or Other So-Called Patriots," it said. "Children Welcome - Antifa Face-Painting"

A Facebook page called Central PA Antifa quickly denounced the event as fake, likening it to a hoax in Gettysburg three years ago.

In 2017, rumors of an antifa event at the national park prompted a large group of armed militia members to show up. They encountered no one from antifa, but one of the armed militia members accidentally shot himself in the leg with a revolver.

Still, news of this year's supposed event spread quickly in conservative circles.

On June 22, the far-right website Gateway Pundit published a story claiming that "Antifa domestic terrorists are planning to desecrate the Gettysburg National Cemetery and set the American Flag ablaze on Independence Day."

Local newspapers also picked up the story.

This town of fewer than 8,000 people grew alarmed. Residents flooded authorities with calls. Local officials pledged to mobilize the town's entire 20-person police department and bring in others from bordering towns to protect homes, businesses and statues.

Soon, militia groups were vowing to protect the town as well.

"Multiple local residents in Gettysburg PA have contacted us with HEAVY concerns about the terrorist organization ANTIFA holding a flag burning event in their town," a group that calls itself the Pennsylvania State Militia posted on its Facebook page June 23. The group said it would mobilize its "county response team" as "a deterrent against the enemy forces."

Other Facebook groups called Patriots Against Treason, Defend Our Flag and Nation, Protect Our Flag and Battlefield from Being Destroyed quickly formed and announced they also would mobilize people to Gettysburg.

Bill Wolfe, a Gettysburg resident and member of a private Facebook group called III% United Patriots of Pennsylvania, said in an interview that the flag-burning event represented an "ongoing attack on American heritage and culture."

Antifa's activities, he said, were part of a decades-long campaign by the Communist Party to take over the country.

Last week, the person who identified himself as Jeffs told The Post in a private message sent through Twitter that he expected "500 to 600" people to attend the flag-burning event. "We have mobilized groups from all over the area," he wrote.

"We believe in open carry and plan to do so at this event," he added, a reference to the practice of openly carrying firearms in public.

Twitter suspended the account two days later.

But even more outlandish rumors about the protest were circulating.

A separate Facebook post that circulated widely warned that antifa protesters were planning on "MURDERING White people and BURNING DOWN Suburbs" after the Gettysburg flag burning event. It cited a "controlled unclassified law enforcement bulletin."

In the final days of June, local police publicly said that the post was false.

On Saturday, hours before the planned flag-burning protest, hundreds of bikers, militia members and self-described patriots began gathering outside the Gettysburg Cemetery and at nearby sites with Confederate memorials. Some waved Confederate flags. Many gripped assault rifles slung from their shoulders. One carried a baseball bat.

Steve Eicholtz, a 59-year-old from Biglerville, Pa., said he had seen enough of images of looting and rioting. It wasn't going to happen here, he said.

"These people are acting like savages," he was telling his fellow patriots, while holding an AR-15 rifle.

"We've been letting them get by with it for too long, but that changes now," said Don Kretzer, 52, of Chambersburg, Pa.

Less than a mile away, at the Virginia Monument, hundreds of bikers and armed men gathered around a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Christopher Blakeman, 45, of Falling Waters, W.Va., said he felt compelled to join a group of about 50 bikers, mostly from Maryland, to protect the monument from rumored antifa protesters.

"It doesn't matter if it's a hoax or not," he said. "They made a threat, and if we don't make our voices heard, it'll make it seem like it's OK."

As the 3 p.m. start time for the planned flag burning approached, there was no sign of Alan Jeffs or of busloads of antifa members.

Suddenly, by the statue of Lee, a biker shouted that he had gotten an alarming call. Someone was preparing to burn a flag, after all, he said. Scores of people jumped on their bikes and roared toward the cemetery.

There, they learned it was not the threat they imagined.

A man had entered the cemetery wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. The man, Trent Somes, later told The Post he was visiting the grave of an ancestor, not protesting. A seminarian and associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Hanover, Pa., Somes said a crowd of about 50 people surrounded him and aggressively questioned him about his shirt.

"I didn't do anything to them," he said.

Police arrived and encouraged Somes to leave.

"For his own safety, federal law enforcement made the decision to remove him, and he was escorted out of the cemetery," Jason Martz, acting public affairs officer for Gettysburg National Military Park, later said.

- - -

The Washington Post’s Alice Crites contributed to this report.

Scientists say WHO ignores the risk that coronavirus floats in air as aerosol

14 hours 13 min ago

People gather on Santa Monica beach amid the COVID-19 pandemic on July 2, 2020 in Santa Monica, California. Beginning July 3, Los Angeles County beaches and piers will be closed through the July 4th holiday weekend amid some reinstated restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Mario Tama/Getty Images/TNS) (Mario Tama/)

SEATTLE — Six months into a pandemic that has killed more than half a million people, more than 200 scientists from around the world are challenging the official view of how the coronavirus spreads.

The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that you have to worry about only two types of transmission: inhaling respiratory droplets from an infected person in your immediate vicinity or — less commontouching a contaminated surface and then your eyes, nose or mouth.

But other experts contend that the guidance ignores growing evidence that a third pathway also plays a significant role in contagion.

They say multiple studies demonstrate that particles known as aerosolsmicroscopic versions of standard respiratory droplets — can hang in the air for long periods and float dozens of feet, making poorly ventilated rooms, buses and other confined spaces dangerous, even when people stay six feet from one another.

“We are 100% sure about this,” said Lidia Morawska, a professor of atmospheric sciences and environmental engineering at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

She makes the case in an open letter to the WHO accusing the United Nations agency of failing to issue appropriate warnings about the risk. A total of 239 researchers from 32 countries signed the letter, which is set to be published next week in a scientific journal.

In interviews, experts said that aerosol transmission appears to be the only way to explain several "super-spreading" events, including the infection of diners at a restaurant in China who sat at separate tables and of choir members in Washington state who took precautions during a rehearsal.

WHO officials have acknowledged that the virus can be transmitted through aerosols but say that occurs only during medical procedures such as intubation that can spew large quantities of the microscopic particles. CDC officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, a top WHO expert on infection prevention and control, said in responses to questions from The Times that Morawska and her group presented theories based on laboratory experiments rather than evidence from the field.

"We value and respect their opinions and contributions to this debate," Allegranzi wrote in an email. But in weekly teleconferences, a large majority of a group of more than 30 international experts advising the WHO has "not judged the existing evidence sufficiently convincing to consider airborne transmission as having an important role in COVID-19 spread."

She added that such transmission "would have resulted in many more cases and even more rapid spread of the virus."

Since the coronavirus was first detected in China in December, understanding of how it spreads has evolved considerably, resulting in shifting guidelines regarding the use of masks.

At first, the WHO and CDC said masks were overkill for ordinary people and should be conserved for health workers. Later, the CDC recommended masks only for people with COVID-19 symptoms.

Then in April, after it became clear that people without symptoms could also spread the virus, the CDC suggested masks for everybody when physical distancing was difficult, a position the WHO eventually adopted.

Now as outbreaks proliferate and governors order a new round of closures, nearly all U.S. states have made face coverings mandatory or recommended them, primarily to prevent wearers from spreading the disease.

The proponents of aerosol transmission said masks worn correctly would help prevent the escape of exhaled aerosols as well as inhalation of the microscopic particles. But they said the spread could also be reduced by improving ventilation and zapping indoor air with ultraviolet light in ceiling units.

Jose Jimenez, a University of Colorado chemist who signed the letter, said the idea of aerosol transmission should not frighten people. "It's not like the virus has changed," he said. "We think the virus has been transmitted this way all along, and knowing about it helps protect us."

He and other scientists cited several studies supporting the idea that aerosol transmission is a serious threat.

As early as mid-March, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that when the virus was suspended in mist under laboratory conditions it remained "viable and infectious" for three hours, which researchers said equated to as much as half an hour in real-world conditions.

It had already been established that some people, known as "super spreaders," happen to be especially good at exhaling fine material, producing 1,000 times more than others.

A recent study found coronavirus RNA in hallways near hospital rooms of COVID-19 patients. Another raised concerns that aerosols laden with the virus were shed by floor-cleaning equipment and by health workers removing personal protective gear.

Researchers in China found evidence of aerosols containing the coronavirus in two Wuhan hospitals.

It was the outbreak among choir members in Mount Vernon, Washington — and a report about the incident in the Los Angeles Times — that first piqued the interest of several of the aerosol proponents. Of 61 singers at a March 10 rehearsal, all but eight became sick, despite the members using hand sanitizer and avoiding hugging or shaking hands. Two people died.

A team led by Shelly Miller, a University of Colorado professor of mechanical engineering, dug into church-hall blueprints, furnace specifications, locations of choir members and hours of attendance. The researchers diagrammed movements of the singer who was identified as the person who unwittingly brought the virus to practice.

Inhalation of aerosols "most likely dominated infection transmission during this event," the researchers wrote in a paper undergoing peer review, concluding that the ill person, who had symptoms similar to a common cold, was unlikely to have spent time within 6 feet of many singers or to have touched surfaces in common with them.

"We believe it likely that shared air in the fellowship hall, combined with high emissions of respiratory aerosol from singing, were important contributing factors," the paper said.

Eventually researchers from a broad spectrum of disciplines, including several who have studied the role of aerosols in the spread of the flu, SARS and other infectious diseases, joined forces to campaign for greater recognition of aerosol transmission.

They said that the coronavirus is less contagious through the air than measles but that the risk of transmission goes up the longer air remains stagnant and the longer people continue to breathe it.

In interviews, they said WHO officials had unfairly set a higher bar for showing aerosol spread than was required for acceptance of the other two pathways. "For them, droplets and touch are so obvious that they're proven, but airborne is so outlandish that it needs a very high level of evidence," Jimenez said.

Proof would require exposing large numbers of healthy people to aerosols emitted by COVID-19 patients, a study that scientists said would be unethical.

Donald Milton, a University of Maryland environmental health professor and an expert on aerosols who co-wrote the letter, said the average person breathes 10,000 liters of air each day.

“You only need one infectious dose of the coronavirus in 10,000 liters, and it can be very hard to find it and prove that it’s there, which is one of the problems we’ve had,” he said.

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

14 hours 25 min ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 of 2 protesters hit by driver on Seattle freeway dies

14 hours 40 min ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook groups pivot to attacks on Black Lives Matter

14 hours 42 min ago

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

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

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

And many have expanded their focus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But most others have not moderated their pages as closely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sat, 07/04/2020 - 16:54

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[On Independence Day, Trump slams the enemies within]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That debate has ebbed and flowed for half a century.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- - -

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

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

Sat, 07/04/2020 - 16:39

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

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

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

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

Wanda says:

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

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

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

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

Wayne says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sat, 07/04/2020 - 16:29

Northwest Coast and Alaska Native Art

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

"Northwest Coast and Alaska Native Art" by Christopher Patrello

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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