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The Perils of Allying With the Far Right
The far right in Germany may be confined to the opposition benches, but they are proving just how disruptive they can be.Earlier this month, in the country’s eastern state of Thuringia, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) joined Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling center-right Christian Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats to elect the latter party’s candidate for state governor. That a regional leader was elected with far-right support prompted a national uproar. Within days, Merkel condemned the result as “unforgivable,” the winning candidate stepped down, and the Christian Democrats’ leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer—thought to be Merkel’s anointed successor when the chancellor steps aside next year—resigned.This saga demonstrated just how much of a disruptive force the far right in Germany has become, but the lessons from the episode ought to be heeded by mainstream parties elsewhere in Europe too. As politics becomes more fragmented, and as established parties lose votes to emerging smaller ones, mainstream groupings can no longer count on ruling alongside like-minded allies, let alone by themselves. They must begin to form broad coalitions with opposition parties elsewhere on the political spectrum to avoid being forced into alliances with the far right.Although far-right parties have surged across Europe, the response to their gains has varied widely. In several countries, including France, Denmark, and Sweden, mainstream center-right and center-left parties attempted to curb the far right’s ascent by adopting some of their language and policies—particularly on potent issues such as immigration—with the hope of attracting voters back from the fringes. In others, the mantra of “if you can’t beat them, join them” won out, resulting in the emergence of far-right parties in coalition governments in countries including Austria and Italy. (Though it’s worth noting that few of these coalitions have survived full terms.)In Germany, however, the tactic has always been a simple one: complete exclusion. The reason for this is primarily historical. As a country deeply conscious of its Nazi past, the mere thought of allowing a far-right party like the AfD into government “would be a historical minefield,” Sudha David-Wilp, the deputy director of the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, told me. This is the reason that the country’s mainstream parties have mostly ruled out working with the AfD, and it also helps explain why the events in Thuringia reverberated in the way that they did. Though the candidate for governor wasn’t himself a member of the AfD, fears abound that the emergence of the far right as kingmakers, even at the local level, could put the party on a path to national dominance. After all, it was in Thuringia that the first Nazi politicians assumed office in the waning days of the Weimar Republic—then, too, with the support of conservative parties—before ultimately advancing to the national stage.Not all of these strategies have been effective, though. Across Europe, mainstream parties’ tactic of imitating their far-right counterparts in a bid to undermine them hasn’t been proved to work: Not only do these parties fail to attract enough far-right voters (as France’s former far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen put it, “Voters always prefer the original to the copy”), but they also risk alienating their more traditional supporters in the process.“There is no evidence that shifting to the right diminishes the electoral support for the radical right,” Werner Krause, a research fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, told me. By copying their positions, he added, mainstream parties risk “legitimizing and normalizing” them instead.Nor is there evidence to suggest that far-right parties, once in power, necessarily lose support (the theory being that inviting them into government would dull their extremism, or otherwise reveal that extremism to the wider public). In Italy, for example, Matteo Salvini’s League maintained its strength while in government, momentum it has kept since being booted from the governing coalition last year. Even in Austria, although the scandal-ridden Freedom Party has fallen in the polls, its core base of supporters remains intact.In maintaining its cordon sanitaire against the far right, Germany has sought to avoid either scenario. But this hasn’t proved easy. Across Europe, political dealignment has made the formation of viable governing coalitions incredibly challenging—a lesson Germany knows all too well. Following the country’s last general election in 2017, it took four months for the Christian Democrats to begrudgingly resume their “grand coalition” with the center-left Social Democrats after talks with other smaller parties broke down. As far-right parties continue to gain electorally, shutting them out will prove all the more difficult. And once that cordon sanitaire has been broken, it’s nearly impossible to rebuild. (One could make the case that the damage has already been done: Though the AfD didn’t succeed in getting one of its own candidates into office in Thuringia, the party can point to the events there as proof of its outsize role in influencing the outcome.)The only meaningful way that mainstream parties can continue to exclude the far right from government is to accept two new realities: First, they must abandon the hopes of governing exclusively in like-minded coalitions. For Germany’s mainstream parties, this means accepting that “there is no power option … for a right-of-center government,” Krause said. “This option, at least if we exclude the AfD, does not exist in the future.”Second, and relatedly, they must be open to the formation of broader partnerships—even with parties they may not necessarily see as traditional allies. For center-right parties, in particular, this means looking further afield to groups on the left such as the Greens, which have enjoyed their own surge in popularity across the continent in recent years. After all, as climate change becomes a greater priority to voters, the shift won’t necessarily be a difficult one for mainstream parties to make. This creative approach is already being put to the test: In Austria, the ruling People’s Party (which was previously allied with the far-right Freedom Party) is now in coalition with the Greens. It was an arrangement that required compromise on both sides: carbon neutrality commitments to satisfy the Greens, and stricter controls on migration to placate the center-right.The challenges of excluding the far right are only likely to get harder. Indeed, a recent poll found that nearly half of Germans expect the AfD to be in national government within the next decade. Absent a change in strategy by mainstream parties, they may find themselves proved right.
Coronavirus Is Devastating Chinese Tourism
YANGON—Last month, on January 19, Myanmar’s state-run newspaper left no question as to what was the biggest story of the day. The paper carried page after page of dry reports documenting the movements and meetings of visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping. Inside were photos of Xi and Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, sitting in gilded chairs behind a table draped in red, yellow, and green fabric, the colors of Myanmar’s flag. A parade of officials had taken turns posing in front of them, clutching red folios that each contained one of the dozens of freshly signed agreements between the two countries. The visit marked the start of the “Myanmar-China Bilateral Cultural and Tourism Year.”Buried inside the same edition of the paper was a single article, plucked from the AFP newswire, detailing alarm by medical experts in London over the spread of a “mysterious SARS-like virus in China” and warning that the scale of the outbreak was “likely far bigger than officially reported.” Of the two stories, this is the one proving to be more important to Myanmar, Southeast Asia, and the world.The illness, now officially labeled COVID-19, has raced across the globe, infecting tens of thousands of people and killing more than 2,000, predominantly in China. Countries have closed their borders to Chinese travelers; airlines have slashed flights and limited routes. Points of transit across Asia—train stations, bus depots, airports—have seen traffic plummet, and some are nearly deserted. Leaders in Beijing are undertaking a sprawling lockdown and quarantine on a scale that is difficult to comprehend. The impact on the global economy is still yet to be fully understood.[Read: Coronavirus is a data time bomb]Powered by a middle class expanding in both wealth and size, the Chinese tourism market has seen staggering growth over the past two decades. Travel departures from China, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, increased from 4.5 million in 2000 to 150 million in 2018. These travelers have become their own economic force, spending $277 billion, and many countries have rushed to embrace them. Yet if Western countries have experienced the growing number of Chinese tourists as simply a boon for the economy, around Asia the influx of visitors has been even more transformative. All of the top 10 destinations for Chinese visitors last year were in Asia, according to the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, and the results are evident to any traveler in the region: signs at travel hubs that include directions in Chinese, tourism staff who speak at least a smattering of the language, shops that accept mobile payments from Chinese apps. (At the same time, stories of Chinese tourists behaving badly and complaints of “zero dollar” tourism, whereby locals see little money from inbound visitors, have also risen.)But now, as COVID-19 sharply curtails travel across the region, analysts and governments of countries that have become heavily reliant on Chinese visitors—some overly so—are dampening their forecasts. More than 40,000 hotel bookings on the Indonesian island of Bali have been canceled, according to officials there, and the outbreak could shave up to 0.3 percentage points off the country’s GDP growth. Billions of dollars in tourism spending are projected to be lost by Vietnam. Tourists from China are the largest group of visitors to Thailand, but the government expects the annual number of Chinese travelers to fall by at least 2 million. A hotel manager in the Thai city of Chiang Mai told me the situation was a “total mess,” as travel agents and hotels scrambled to reschedule and collect payments from canceled tour groups. Immigration figures for the city’s airport show an near total collapse in the number of arrivals from China starting in late January. Casinos in Macau, the world’s gambling capital, normally teeming with players from the mainland, are shuttered. Lisa Wan, a professor at City University of Hong Kong’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management, was blunt in her assessment: “The global tourism industry is expected to suffer massively during the outbreak,” she told me.Few places illustrate this economic relationship with China—capitalizing on an incredible growth in tourism and trade, thereby building a dependence that creates a vulnerability—like Myanmar. The country’s tourism sector has rapidly expanded since the government undertook political and economic reforms in 2011, but in 2018, arrivals from the United States and Europe dropped 50 percent in part because of a military campaign carried out near Myanmar’s western border. Looking to rebound, the government aggressively courted the Asian market, rolling out visa exemptions and new flight connections to numerous Chinese cities, including Chongqing, Haikou, and Wuhan, the center of the latest virus outbreak—the international airport in Mandalay now almost exclusively services China. Arrivals from there rose from 20 percent of the overall figure in 2018 to 38 percent in 2019, according to the World Bank. May Myat Mon Win, a vice chair of the Myanmar Tourism Federation, told me tour organizers from China had in recent years taken to booking all the rooms in some budget hotels for every night of the year, sometimes for two years at a time—unlike tourists from elsewhere, Chinese visitors traveled year-round.Thant Zin Tun, a hotel owner with properties across Myanmar managed by international brands, began to cater to the new guests, hiring Chinese speakers and expanding menu options. The first offerings of the day needed adapting, for example, because Chinese tourists “don’t really fancy the European, Western breakfast,” he said he had learned. But since the COVID-19 outbreak, he said he had seen an 85 percent drop in business at his hotels in Mandalay and Bagan, an area covered with ancient temples, both places where Chinese tourists have flocked to in recent years.And at Yangon’s Bogyoke Market on a recent Saturday, tourists, particularly those from China, were largely missing. Saleswomen with no customers to entertain chatted among themselves and tapped on their phones behind glass cases displaying bracelets, pendants, and jade ornaments in shades varying from milky white to deep emerald. Sitting under one of the market’s covered walkways, Zin Min Tun, who has run half a dozen pearl and gem shops since 1996, estimated that the number of Chinese tourists over the previous month had dropped roughly 70 percent drop compared with last year. His fingers wrapped in thick ruby and agate rings, Zin Min Tun said Chinese tourists were the biggest buyers of jade, mined in Myanmar’s north, and the country’s pearls, which have a champagne-colored sheen. “The whole world depends on China,” he said. “Now they have money; they can spend around the world, not just Myanmar.”The concerns Thant Zin Tun and other spoke of were reflected by analysts at Fitch Solutions, who last week said they were lowering their forecast for Myanmar’s GDP growth, noting that tourism would be “subdued over the coming months due to lower Chinese visitors from China’s ban on travel agent bookings, and also risk aversion from tourists of other nationalities due to Myanmar’s weak patient tracking capability.” (Upon my flight’s arrival into Yangon airport, workers in hazmat suits armed with thermometers entered the plane and took our temperatures.)While Thant Zin Tun bemoaned the lost business, May Myat Mon Win, the tourism federation vice chair, was quick to remind me that Myanmar was hardly the only country feeling the downturn and that others were even more reliant on Chinese visitors. “China is a giant, the dragon,” she told me. “If the dragon is hit harder than this I think there is going to be more consequences for the global economy and of course tourism.”[Read: The new coronavirus is a truly modern epidemic]One such area is Macau, the former Portuguese colony, which welcomed nearly 28 million visitors from mainland China last year, about 70 percent of all arrivals. (Macau is now a special administrative region that is part of Chinabut, like Hong Kong, has a separate legal system, judiciary, and immigration regime.) Though Macau’s economy is almost wholly dependent on gaming, after a string of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the government forced all 41 casinos to halt operations for a 15-day period starting on February 5. Numerous hotels have temporarily shuttered as a result, and residents are largely abiding by the government’s recommendation to stay home. The gondolas used to ferry tourists through the artificial canals at the Venetian Hotel sat empty on the mouthwash-blue water, opera music echoing off the faux-Italian-building fronts. One security guard standing in front of a stopped escalator at the Parisian Hotel said that without any visitors, things had gotten “very boring.” A sales attendant in a luxury boutique busied himself by styling a mannequin, removing and replacing a pair of sunglasses and tweaking a bucket hat before settling on a final look, then starting again.The steps leading to the ruins of St. Paul’s, where throngs of tourists normally gather to snap selfies, were largely empty, the drop-off in visitors not helped by a late afternoon rain shower. Near the base of the steps, an automated message booming out from a loudspeaker reminded visitors that if caught early, the virus could be cured. A video board showed a guide to proper hand-washing. The cobbled street leading up to the steps, lined with colorful historic buildings whose ground floors house snack shops and pharmacies serving mainland visitors, was also almost completely vacant. A saleswoman keen for a customer stepped outside her shop, to tout not souvenirs, but a more in-demand item. “Masks here! Masks here!” she shouted as I walked past.Cape Diamond contributed reporting.
$10 Billion? In This Climate??
Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon and the world’s richest man, announced yesterday that he would give $10 billion to fight climate change.He didn’t say much else. It’s not clear where the money will go, or how fast Bezos will spend it. He didn’t lay out a theory of change. In a 127-word Instagram post that doubled as a press release, he said only that a new entity, the Bezos Earth Fund, would support “scientists, activists, [and] NGOs—any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.”This gift is undeniably important. It could, by some estimates, virtually double the amount spent on climate change by American philanthropists today. And it will likely reveal something counterintuitive about the state of global climate action. Even if you believe, as Bezos does, that climate change is “the greatest threat facing our planet,” spending $10 billion to fight it is still pretty difficult.Why? The first issue is organizational. “Dropping a big, fat check into the water is not necessarily going to make the sharks all swim in the same direction. It’s going to be either a feeding frenzy or a total mess until things get sorted out, and unfortunately we don’t have time to waste,” Daniel Firger, the managing director of Great Circle Capital Advisors, a climate-finance consulting firm, told me. (Until last year, Firger worked for the climate philanthropy of Michael Bloomberg, the Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City mayor.)[Read: How climate change could trigger the next global financial crisis]But the deeper challenge has to do with scale and imagination. There are only so many nonprofits and experts working on climate change. If a successful group has an annual budget of $10 million, then giving it $50 million will not necessarily make it five times as effective. Many helpful projects are probably too small for Bezos. “Across the entire landscape, there are not enough people and projects that can take the kind of capital we need,” Firger said.Bezos has pledged a titanic amount of money. If he spends it evenly across 10 years, he would immediately be the country’s biggest climate philanthropist. The Hewlett Foundation, which holds that title today, spends $120 million per year on climate projects. At roughly $1 billion a year, Bezos would more than octuple that amount. It is a testament to Bezos’s wealth that he could single-handedly devote $400 million a year to new-energy R&D, exceeding what the federal government spends on ARPA-E, the Department of Energy’s advanced-research incubator—and still have $600 million a year left over for everything else.At the same time, $10 billion is not nearly enough to save the world. Consider the Gateway Tunnel, one of America’s largest pending public-works projects. When completed, the 11-mile tunnel will double the number of trains that can pass between New York and New Jersey at rush hour. If the United States hopes to flush carbon pollution out of its economy, it will have to complete many projects at the Gateway Tunnel’s size and scale. But the tunnel is projected to cost about $9.5 billion, or roughly $860 million per mile. Bezos’s magnanimous gift of $10 billion can buy one Gateway Tunnel.Of course, this is a slightly facetious comparison—it’s not like Bezos was planning to invest in tristate-area infrastructure. But any similar build-out would present challenges. Jenny Chase, a solar-energy analyst for BloombergNEF, told me in an email that $10 billion would not do much good supporting large-scale solar projects: There is already a surfeit of capital chasing them.[Read: Investment bankers are now waging the war on coal]Where could $10 billion go the furthest? It just may be politics. In 2016, the network of conservative groups run by the industrialists Charles and David Koch promised to spend about $900 million on the presidential election. Two years later, it pledged about $400 million to the 2018 congressional midterms. Both of those amounts, widely covered as unprecedented interventions in the political system, represented not only the personal donations of the Kochs but the pooled contributions of hundreds of like-minded donors.But with his $10 billion, Bezos could single-handedly spend comparable amounts on every presidential and midterm election from now to 2050—supporting climate-friendly members of Congress, governors, and presidents. Once in office, those politicians could then shake loose far more than $10 billion for tunnels, new rail projects, and everything else.And unlike other donors, Bezos—an accomplished blogger—is free to spend generously in politics. Because he pledged the $10 billion as a personal commitment, and not as an outlay from a preexisting foundation, Bezos is legally allowed to give it political causes, as well as to candidates, parties, and super PACs. Wealthy foundations with dead benefactors cannot participate in the political system to the same degree.Of course, politics isn’t the only place he could spend. He could also endow prizes for people who built certain climate-friendly moonshot technologies, such as electric planes or cheaper batteries. Jenny Chase, the solar analyst, suggested in her email that Bezos build out zero-carbon power infrastructure in countries that would otherwise turn to fossil fuels: Perhaps he could add solar panels to every school roof in Indonesia, she mused. The climate scientist and policy guru Joseph Majkut dreamed on Twitter that Bezos could decarbonize a single U.S. state to demonstrate that it can be done: “Pour [money] into the state university, vocational schooling, community grants. Grease every wheel. All the human capital you buil[d] will diffuse to other jurisdictions,” he said.Bezos isn’t the only newcomer to the climate fight. In the past six months, investment banks and private-equity firms have pledged hundreds of billions of dollars to climate solutions. (Goldman Sachs committed $750 billion late last year.) What those bankers are discovering is that there are not enough projects to sop up the deluge. “I think it’s as much a failure of imagination as much as it’s a failure of the market,” Firger said.The success of those investments may turn on the same question as Bezos’s gift: Will climate solutions, long a tiny sector of the economy, scale up quickly enough to (1) guzzle the new flood of cash and (2) prevent the unthinkable? It’s going to be one of the most fascinating stories of the coming year—and one of the most important of the coming century.
Photos: Life in the Time of Coronavirus
The ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 (formerly called the 2019 novel coronavirus) in China and some neighboring countries has led to unprecedented efforts to isolate, control, and halt the spread of the virus that has now infected more than 73,400 people, and caused at least 1,875 deaths since December of 2019. Across much of China, travel is restricted and residents remain in their homes, and the economy is taking a big hit at local, national, and global levels. Gathered here are images from Wuhan, Beijing, Shanghai, and other locations in China over the past two weeks, as residents continue to cope with COVID-19.
Regular Democrats Just Aren’t Worried About Bernie
Judging by media coverage and the comments of party luminaries, you might think Democrats are bitterly polarized over Bernie Sanders’s presidential bid. Last month, Hillary Clinton declared that “nobody likes” the Vermont senator. Last week, James Carville, who ran Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, said he was “scared to death” of the Sanders campaign, which he likened to “a cult.” Since the beginning of the year, news organization after news organization has speculated that Sanders’s success may set off a Democratic “civil war.” But polls of Democratic voters show nothing of the sort. Among ordinary Democrats, Sanders is strikingly popular, even with voters who favor his rivals. He sparks less opposition—in some cases far less—than his major competitors. On paper, he appears well positioned to unify the party should he win its presidential nomination.So why all the talk of civil war? Because Sanders is far more divisive among Democratic elites—who prize institutional loyalty and ideological moderation—than Democratic voters. The danger is that by projecting their own anxieties onto rank-and-file Democrats, party insiders are exaggerating the risk of a schism if Sanders wins the nomination, and overlooking the greater risk that the party could fracture if they engineer his defeat. [David A. Graham: It’s Bernie vs. Mike now]Strange as it sounds, Sanders may be the least polarizing candidate in the presidential field, at least according to surveys of ordinary Democrats. A Monmouth University poll last week found not only that Sanders’s favorability rating among Democrats nationally—71 percent—was higher than his five top rivals’, but also that his unfavorability rating—19 percent—was tied for second lowest. Sanders’s net favorability rating was six points higher than Elizabeth Warren’s, 16 points higher than Joe Biden’s, 18 points higher than Pete Buttigieg’s, 23 points higher than Amy Klobuchar’s, and a whopping 40 points higher than that of Michael Bloomberg, whom more than a third of Democratic voters viewed unfavorably. (By contrast, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn—whom Sanders’s critics often cite as a cautionary tale—enjoyed the support of only 56 percent of his own party members in the months leading up to December’s British election.)A Quinnipiac poll earlier this month found similarly favorable results for Sanders. Among Democrats nationally, only Warren enjoyed higher net favorability ratings; on that measure, Sanders outpaced Biden, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg. (The pollsters didn’t ask about Klobuchar.) And according to a recent USA Today/IPSOS survey, Sanders is the candidate who Democrats say best shares their values.Although political handicappers sometimes presume that centrist Democrats are hostile to Sanders, the Quinnipiac poll suggests that Sanders enjoys widespread affection even outside his ideological lane. Among self-described moderate or conservative Democrats, Sanders boasts a net favorability rating of 43 points—far higher than Biden or Bloomberg fares among the “very liberal” Democrats who compose Sanders’s ideological base. Ninety-eight percent of Warren supporters, 97 percent of Buttigieg supporters and 92 percent of Biden supporters say they would back Sanders against Donald Trump. Only among Bloomberg supporters does that number dip to 83 percent. Overall, Sanders voters are significantly more likely to say that they won’t back one of his rivals in the general election than the other way around. Sanders’s critics within the party may resent his supporters for threatening to stay home in November. But most Democratic voters, including most centrist ones, have little problem with Sanders himself.None of this means Sanders would necessarily beat Trump. His ultra-progressive policies and socialist self-identification could energize Trump’s base and alienate the independents and Republican moderates who backed Democratic candidates in 2018. But the evidence does suggest that, if Democratic elites let him, he’s capable of unifying his party’s rank and file behind his campaign. He’s far better positioned than Trump was at this point in 2016, when his net favorability rating among Republicans was almost 20 points lower than Sanders’s is among Democrats today.[Read: The night socialism went mainstream]But many Democratic insiders remain deeply skeptical. Sanders’s support among party elites dramatically lags his support among Democratic voters. According to FiveThirtyEight’s Endorsement Tracker, which awards candidates points when party officials endorse them, Sanders ranks fourth in endorsement points, behind Bloomberg and Warren and far behind Biden. While ordinary voters don’t exhibit much hostility toward Sanders, party leaders do. When Seth Masket of the University of Denver interviewed Democratic activists in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and Washington, D.C., this month, he found that almost two-thirds said they feared a Sanders nomination. The only candidate who elicited a more negative response was Tulsi Gabbard, the representative from Hawaii who some Democrats fear will run a spoiler third-party campaign against the eventual nominee.This animosity seeps into the mainstream media, where Democratic strategists often express their opinions, and inform the opinions of journalists who cover the presidential race. According to an In These Times study of MSNBC’s prime-time coverage, in August and September of last year, Sanders received less coverage than Biden and Warren, and the coverage he did receive was more negative. “The media keep falling in love,” the Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan noted last week, “with anybody but Bernie Sanders.”Democratic insiders tend to be institutionalists. They are more likely than ordinary voters to care about the fact that Sanders hasn’t always been a registered Democrat, that he often criticizes party officials, and that he didn’t do more to help Clinton in 2016. Masket told me that many of the party bigwigs he interviewed resented Sanders for “being a spoiler for 2016” by supposedly undermining Clinton, and for “sticking his finger in the eye of the Democratic establishment.”The other reason Democratic insiders disproportionately oppose Sanders is that party elites and the journalists with whom they interact tend to distrust radicals of any stripe. “A quarter-century covering national politics has convinced me that the more pervasive force shaping coverage of Washington and elections is what might be thought of as centrist bias, flowing from reporters and sources alike,” the former Politico editor John Harris recently observed. “This bias is marked by an instinctual suspicion of anything suggesting ideological zealotry, an admiration for difference-splitting.” Pundits may not always express this fear of extremism as openly as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews did earlier this month, when his discussion of Sanders’s candidacy morphed into a broader indictment of socialism and of unspecified people who, Matthews said, would have cheered on “executions in Central Park” had “the Reds had won the Cold War.” But the centrist bias that Harris describes skews elite perceptions of public opinion. It keeps party and media insiders from recognizing that Bloomberg, a former Republican now running as a centrist, is a far more divisive figure among ordinary Democrats than the putatively radical Sanders.The greatest danger to Democratic unity is that, once primary voting is done, Sanders receives only a plurality of delegates—an outcome that the forecasters at FiveThirtyEight view as a strong possibility—yet party elites try to steer the nomination to Bloomberg or another moderate. They could do so through the roughly 770 superdelegates, politicians and party officials who, although now barred from voting on the first ballot at the convention, could vote on the second ballot if no candidate receives an initial majority. According to the Monmouth poll, Bloomberg enjoys a net favorability rating among Democrats of only 14 points. If he polarizes Democrats now, imagine how polarizing he’ll be if he wins the nomination because party insiders subvert the will of Democratic voters and pick him over Sanders. Across the ideological spectrum, ordinary Democrats like Bernie Sanders. That doesn’t mean he’ll beat Donald Trump. But his nomination won’t tear the party apart. Denying him the nomination just might.
The Coronavirus Outbreak Could Bring Out the Worst in Trump
When a senior White House aide would brief President Donald Trump in 2018 about an Ebola-virus outbreak in central Africa, it was plainly evident that hardships roiling a far-flung part of the world didn’t command his attention. He was zoning out. “It was like talking to a wall,” a person familiar with the matter told me.Now a new coronavirus that originated in China is confronting him with a potential pandemic, a problem that Trump seems ill-prepared to meet. A crisis that is heading into its third month could draw out every personal and managerial failing that the president has shown to this point. Much of what he’s said publicly about the virus has been wrong, a consequence of downplaying any troubles on his watch. He has long stoked fears that foreigners entering the United States bring disease. Now he may double down on xenophobic suspicions. He has hollowed out federal agencies and belittled expertise, prioritizing instead his own intuition and the demands of his political base. But he’ll need to rely on a bureaucracy he’s maligned to stop the virus’s spread.“We have a president who doesn’t particularly care about competent administration, and who created a culture in which bad news is shut down,” says Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, whose state is home to one of multiple airports screening passengers for the coronavirus. “And when you’re dealing with a potential pandemic, you need to know all the bad news. If this disease ends up not overwhelming us, that would be a blessing. But it would not be because the Trump administration was ready. They were not.”From the first, Trump has offered false reassurance. In a CNBC interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month, Trump maintained that the coronavirus was “totally under control” and that he wasn’t concerned about the risk of a pandemic. “It’s going to be just fine,” he said.Except that it wasn’t under control—it still isn’t—and no one knows just how bad it will be. “Even a middle schooler wouldn’t have said that,” Michael Mina, an epidemiology professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, told me. “Everyone is using caution in how we’re framing what the risk is, primarily because we don’t understand what the risk is at this moment. The last thing anyone would say is, ‘We’re not concerned.’ Everyone is concerned.”[Read: The new coronavirus is a truly modern epidemic]Since Trump’s first upbeat assessment, the number of people sickened by the virus has spiraled. At the time of the CNBC interview, 17 people in China had died from the virus and about 540 were infected. Today, the death toll is about 1,900 and the number of infections tops 73,000. At least 15 cases have been reported in the U.S., and an additional 14 Americans infected with the virus arrived yesterday following their evacuation from a cruise ship in Japan.Much about the virus is still unknown, but you wouldn’t know that listening to Trump. Speaking to the nation’s governors at a conference last week, the president said it would dissipate when the weather turns warm. “Typically, that will go away in April,” Trump said. In fact, no one knows when the outbreak will subside, and what experts have said conflicts with Trump’s Panglossian assurances. Last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said the virus could linger into next year and eventually establish a “foothold” in the U.S.Guiding Trump’s response is a hardheaded nationalism. On January 31, the administration announced strict travel bans: Most foreign nationals who’d recently been to China were barred from entering the U.S., and Americans were warned to stay clear of the country. These measures—which career public-health officials argued were needed to delay the virus’s spread—broke with guidance from the World Health Organization, which did not recommend curbs on travel or trade. The restrictions did, however, reflect the alarm coming from Trump’s base.Inside the administration, some officials maintain that China has not shown needed cooperation or transparency as the virus has spread. “This has been a signal failure of the Communist Chinese Party in handling the crisis,” Peter Navarro, a senior Trump trade adviser who is part of the administration’s effort to combat the outbreak, told me. “The CCP suppressed information early to both the U.S. and Chinese people. This delay allowed the virus to proliferate much faster than it otherwise would and reach other countries that it might otherwise have not.”But critics from WHO and elsewhere have said the bans are unnecessary and could generate a racist backlash against Chinese people. One Chinese foreign official asked of the U.S.: “Where is its empathy?”Empathy may be a casualty of Trump’s own phobias: He is squeamish about contagion. A body man traveling with him would make sure that two implements were always in his possession: a Sharpie for autographs and hand sanitizer for germs, said a former White House official, who like others I talked with for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity. Aides would try to suppress coughs in his presence. If they couldn’t stifle repeated sneezes, Trump might order them to leave his presence. “He never said, ‘Go home.’ He just didn’t want them anywhere near him,” the ex-official told me.When an Ebola epidemic struck in 2014, Trump was unnerved. For months, he sent dire messages with a common theme: Keep the virus out of the U.S. at all costs. He faulted then-President Barack Obama for sending troops to Africa to combat it, and chided him for playing golf amid the outbreak. (A couple of weeks ago, with the number of coronavirus infections piling up, Trump didn’t hesitate to release a picture of himself teeing off at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida.)So determined was he to keep Ebola from coming into the U.S., Trump wanted to keep Americans out. A doctor named Kent Brantly had gone to Liberia to treat Ebola patients and became infected. His life in jeopardy, he was airlifted to a hospital in Atlanta. Trump was watching; he didn’t believe that Brantly should be allowed back home for treatment. “The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great—but must suffer the consequences!” he tweeted.Brantly ultimately recovered. I contacted him recently and asked him about Trump’s hard-line stance. In an email, he didn’t mention the president, but wrote that “we MUST choose compassion over fear. We must choose to respond to people (even in deadly outbreaks of infectious diseases) with actions and words and attitudes that convey compassion and uphold the dignity of our fellow human beings.”Before long, Trump was running for president on an anti-immigrant platform. One message he pushed was that immigrants carry contagion. In 2015, he put out a statement warning that “tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border,” a claim unsupported by fact.[Read: Are we ready for Trump 2.0?]Should the coronavirus outbreak spread in the U.S., it could pose the biggest test yet of Trump’s managerial competence, given his habit of elevating his own judgment over expert opinion, as I’ve described before.He has said he knows more about terrorists than the generals, more about social media than Facebook, more about the economy than the Federal Reserve. In 2014, he suggested that he understands disease better than epidemiologists, saying that “Ebola is much easier to transmit than the CDC and government representatives are admitting.”Amid the outbreak that year, Obama tapped a so-called czar, Ron Klain, to coordinate the work of a slew of federal agencies. Trump has chosen a different model, setting up a 12-member task force headed by a Cabinet member, Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services. The task force has proved balky, say Schatz and his colleague Senator Mazie Hirono, who is also a Hawaii Democrat: Without a single point person in command, there’s a pass-the-buck mentality that has made getting answers difficult. Hirono says that she gets “conflicting information” about how people will be quarantined and who will foot the bill. “When we call [Azar’s] office, they usually have to refer us to other agencies,” she told me. “One of the ways we can change this lack of communication is to have one person in charge. We have a model for that: the Ebola epidemic in 2014.”For his part, Navarro said the administration’s response has been effective. “The U.S. effort is going to be a model effort in fighting an infectious disease like this,” he told me.At times, Trump has seemed at odds with his own team. That may have something to do with diverging priorities. He has sought to preserve a relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping as the two spar over trade issues. Throughout the crisis, he’s heaped praise on Xi, but what he hasn’t mentioned is a profound source of frustration for his own coronavirus task force: Chinese leaders have been slow in letting the U.S. in to help.Here, it might be helpful if Trump had maintained a strong diplomatic corps to smooth negotiations. But morale at the State Department has suffered in the “America first” era, with the president attempting to cut the department’s budget and leaving key positions unfilled. William Burns, a former deputy secretary of state who spent more than 30 years as a diplomat and who retired in 2014, told me: “The sidelining of career expertise over the last three years puts you at a disadvantage in dealing with crises and big challenges like this one.”Trump insists on being the protagonist in every drama. He wants to promote the idea that everything on his watch is improving. Virology isn’t politics, though. Tweets don’t beget vaccines. Following his instincts in the face of an outbreak that has left the world on edge risks making things worse.
A Photographer Has Spent 20 Years Documenting Stillbirths
Since 1997, Todd Hochberg has been going to hospitals to photograph families after the death of a baby. These requests come at all times of day and night—more often at night, it seems, when it is a stillbirth. If he can, Hochberg will be there for the birth itself, and then in the emotional hours after as parents see and hold and even bathe their dead child while saying goodbye.For parents, these photographs document one of the worst days of their life. But they also represent the few cherished memories they will ever have of their child. Hospitals used to whisk stillborn babies away from their parents, but they now recognize the importance of memories in grieving. Many offer photography, along with mementos such as footprints and locks of hair. Organizations such as Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep also have a network of volunteer photographers around the country.Stillbirth affects about one in 100 pregnancies in the United States, which means that about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the U.S. every year. The cause is often unknown. Hochberg has photographed 500 to 600 families, including those whose infant died shortly after birth as well as those who lost an older child. He presents each family with an album with dozens of photos, sometimes as many as 130.In the early 2000s, Hochberg left a corporate photography job to pursue what he calls “bereavement photography” full-time. He doesn’t charge the families. Some of the hospitals he works with have found grants to fund his work. Otherwise, he relies on donations. “It’s nowhere near what I made as a corporate photographer,” he says. “It’s certainly my life’s work at this point. I don’t see myself doing anything else.”A transcript of our conversation follows. It has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.Sarah Zhang: There’s a lot of discomfort around death and dead bodies in our culture. You’ve been photographing families with their dead children for more than 20 years now. Has it changed how you feel about death?Todd Hochberg: For certain. My first experience with a stillbirth, I was there in the room when Mom delivered. It was like the first time I had witnessed an open surgery with a lot of blood—the odors of the chemicals as well as the blood and wound. This very small and very premature baby had somewhat translucent skin. And it was a bit disarming, but I caught myself. I took some breaths and I went with it. My fear and my anxiety vanished when I saw that baby in Mom’s arms, as she cuddled and was connecting with this baby outside the womb.A hospital chaplain visits as Roslyn cradles Anya. Two-and-a-half-year-old sister, Kira, and
dad, Matt, sit beside them. Roslyn experienced a placental abruption after a car accident. (Courtesy of Todd Hochberg)Zhang: How did you get into bereavement photography?Hochberg: I had been working in health care as a medical photographer and corporate photographer for a large health-care system in Chicago. The hospital needed pictures of surgical procedures as well as for evidentiary purposes. And I was looking for something a little more meaningful in my work. I made a friend who was a chaplain who worked with these families whose babies died at birth or shortly thereafter. And I had been a collector of antique Victorian photographs, these memorial images in Victorian times with children. I’d go to flea markets and antique shows and they spoke to me somehow.Zhang: I’ve seen these Victorian photographs periodically go viral on social media, and they’re usually described as “creepy” and “unsettling.” What spoke to you in these photographs?Hochberg: The grief was very present for me. They were largely portraits of parents holding their babies. My intention, when I thought of doing this work, was to do a portrait. What I discovered was something very different: I wanted to tell the story of these babies and their parents and their experience.[Read: Why American babies die] Zhang: When I’ve talked with parents who have had a stillbirth, they talk about how they just have so few memories. The blanket, the hat their child wore—these small things really come to mean a lot. Do you see your photographs as helping these families document the few memories they do have?Hochberg: They have so little. The photographs are one more thing to help them bond and grieve more completely. They affirm their baby’s life, validate the feelings they’ve had. There could be many years of hopes and dreams for this baby’s existence, and to not have evidence—I use the term touchstones. The photographs become touchstones for a family’s own experience and their own feelings.I’ve been in touch with families from upwards of 20 years hence. When they have an anniversary, they’ll send me an email telling me how much these pictures are still helpful to them. And the siblings of these babies are upwards of 20 years old or 15 years old. They still look at them.Cody and Ethan hold Avery skin to skin, moments after his birth in the delivery room. (Courtesy of Todd Hochberg)Zhang: How do you approach photographing these babies, especially cases when they are very premature?Hochberg: I don’t shy away from the reality of what’s there. And I don’t retouch anything, meaning take away scar tissue or what have you. But I will photograph in such a way, for some of the pictures at least, that is kinder to the anomalies or the difficult presentation. I photograph in black-and-white. That makes softer the discoloration that often happens. There could be skin peeling or maceration. But I’ll photograph in such a manner to be kinder. I’m there to photograph the story and the family’s connection.I have a particular photograph that speaks to that, where the mother is holding this baby in the palm of her hand. Very young. It had spina bifida. I’m photographing at an angle below her. I’m on my knees, which I often do because I’m interested in seeing parents’ faces. There’s more intimacy in that. She holds this baby very close to her face, and she’s examining and tentatively looking over this baby. Her love and her grief are so present. I always try to photograph the babies in the context of being held, as opposed to lying in the bed or the warmer.Zhang: Is there a particular photograph or family that has stuck with you?Hochberg: I remember parents who had twins and one was stillborn. They knew he wasn’t going to survive delivery. It was a twin-to-twin transfusion. The other twin was in the NICU and Mom was in recovery. Dad decided he’s going to carry this stillborn baby to visit his twin in the NICU. He wanted his two sons together.A nurse caregiver looks on as Cody holds Avery to her chest. (Courtesy of Todd Hochberg)Zhang: What do parents usually do with your photographs? Do they keep them private or share them?Hochberg: It varies. I’ve been in people’s homes a few months later, and I’ve seen some of my images hanging on the wall and on the mantle. I have families, proud moms who post on their Facebook pages. Some will keep them very private and just share between themselves. Parents might want to have them in their home but might not want to look at them for a couple years, a month. In one case, it was two years, and I got a call or an email from a mom that said she’s finally ready to see them.[Read: What good is thinking about death?]Zhang: On your website, you write that “these photographs may be difficult for some people to view.” Have you had people who were angry or upset by your photographs? Why did you feel it was necessary to say this to viewers?Hochberg: I was aware early on, it wasn’t very present in the culture. Everywhere I went, if I talked about it to people and friends, there is this aghastness. Their faces turn red. And then they listen to me and I describe the benefits to parents. It’s not a voyeuristic thing. There isn’t one person I’ve talked to who hasn’t said, “Oh, yeah, my mother had that baby” or “my cousin’s uncle” or “My best friend’s sister had a stillbirth.” There’s all these stories that come out when people start talking.Dana and her daughters, Chloe and Kate, hold Henry. Henry died of a rare condition called bilateral renal agenesis, in which he was born without kidneys. (Courtesy of Todd Hochberg)Zhang: It sounds like the photographs have two different purposes. One is for the parents themselves. But as parents have shared them and your work has gained more attention, they have also opened up a conversation about stillbirth. Was the second purpose always on your mind, or was it something that you noticed later?Hochberg: I noticed it the second year I was doing the work. The chaplain I mentioned was a mentor to me, along with a nurse bereavement coordinator at the same hospital. They felt like, Other caregivers need to see what you’re doing. It wasn’t my idea. My intent then became, yes, help these parents first, but then also indirectly, through making these pictures for parents, by them showing their pictures to their friends and their neighbors and family members. It helped to change things a little bit …Do you want to hear a quote from a parent?Zhang: What is the quote?Hochberg: This is one of the families I’ve photographed:
You have brought our son Jeremiah to life, giving him personality and a role of his own. In each record of our brief time together, you’ve captured the beauty of our son, his thick hair, his soft face and hands, his cuddly body. You’ve captured every nuance of emotion we experienced, things we didn’t even realize we were feeling. You have allowed us to experience it all again, every twist of the gut, every heartache, every proud moment, and especially the love. We value each feeling. You have validated our role in the experience by enabling us to share with our family and friends an important part of ourselves, a tale which could not be told adequately with words or even tears. You’ve captured the transformation that took place in our lives and hearts that night. We are not the same people we were before we met Jeremiah.
Imagine If a Democrat Behaved Like Bill Barr
On November 15 of last year, Attorney General Bill Barr gave a speech before the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, in which he addressed, among other things, respect for norms in our polarized times. “One of the ironies of today is that those who oppose this president constantly accuse this administration of ‘shredding’ constitutional norms and waging a war on the rule of law,” he said. “When I ask my friends on the other side, what exactly are you referring to? I get vacuous stares, followed by sputtering about the travel ban or some such thing.”“The fact of the matter,” Barr went on, “is that, in waging a scorched-earth, no-holds-barred war of ‘resistance’ against this administration, it is the left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.”From this observation, Barr extrapolated a more general theory across time of the confrontation between the children of light and the children of darkness, a theory that pits the zeal of the Jacobins against the restraint of the Burkeans. “In any age,” he argued, “the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion … Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursuing a deific end. They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end.” Compare this, said Barr, to conservatives, who “do not seek an earthly paradise” and are instead more circumspect in their approach to politics, asking instead, “Would it be good for society over the long haul if [a given action] was done in all like circumstances?” Barr’s conclusion? “For these reasons, conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means. And this is as it should be, but there is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy war, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.”[David Frum: With liberty and justice for some]Perhaps the notion that it is the other side that is “shredding norms” is comforting to Barr as he manages the Justice Department in a fashion distinctly devoid of scruple over his political tactics, unconcerned about either the collateral consequences or the systemic implications of his behavior, and uninterested in whether the actions he is taking can be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides.That projection lies somewhere close to the heart of Trumpism is not a new observation. But Barr’s Federalist Society speech is a particularly astonishing read after the past week, during which news broke that Barr had pushed Justice Department attorneys prosecuting Trump’s associate Roger Stone to reduce their recommendation for Stone’s prison time in the aftermath of a presidential tweet; that he had earlier intervened in the case of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to reduce the department’s sentencing recommendation for Flynn; that he had tasked a U.S. attorney with “reviewing” the Flynn case; and that he had set up a process by which the Justice Department would examine information provided by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.Indeed, it is hard to fathom that, faced with a progressive attorney general behaving as he has been behaving, Barr would see no trampled norms, that he would regard such a person as circumspect and showing the kind of scruples that risk putting his or her side at a disadvantage in a long-running struggle.But let’s try.Imagine, for a moment, that it is February of 2022. Bernie Sanders has been president for just over a year, and his attorney general—say, Elizabeth Warren—has been in office for that time as well, having been confirmed by a narrow Senate majority after a bruising confirmation fight. Let’s imagine Barr, as a private citizen, watching with equanimity as President Sanders publicly announces who should be prosecuted and for what crimes, which investigations are legitimate and what their results should be, and which investigations that he is personally invested in are, by contrast, “WITCH HUNTS!” Let’s imagine him playing golf and sipping a martini while explaining to conservative friends that President Sanders has a perfect right to do these things, and that the problem only arises if Attorney General Warren follows his instructions. Let us imagine him explaining to those friends that Warren and Sanders are not violating any norms; it is those who are objecting to their conduct who are shredding norms.More particularly, let’s picture the scenario in which Warren personally intervenes to overturn the sentencing recommendation that career prosecutors had advanced to a court in the case of a friend and associate of Sanders—a case Sanders had discussed publicly countless times. Imagine that four prosecutors withdrew from the case in response. And imagine one of them resigned from the Justice Department entirely. One can just see Barr watching without concern, knowing that he had established general rules of conduct that it was fair for both sides to play under.Indeed, picture Attorney General Warren setting up a special intake “process” to receive disparaging information from Sanders’s personal attorney about the business activities abroad of Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump. Imagine, too, that she did so in the midst of campaigns for national political office launched by both Trump children. Imagine that she also publicly leveled unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about “spying” by law-enforcement officials under the Trump administration on Sanders’s campaign. And imagine that she refused to accept the results of an inspector general’s investigation as to how a major federal probe involving that campaign began, personally sought assistance from foreign intelligence partners to substantiate her own theories, and tasked U.S. attorneys around the country with reviewing the prosecutions of various Sanders campaign aides charged during the course of that federal probe.[Franklin Foer: Now we know what kind of authoritarian Trump aspires to be]Presumably, in the comfort of his retirement, Barr would watch Warren do these things, satisfied with the precedents he had set on these matters too. After all, as Barr said concerning the special intake process for information about Democratic presidential candidate Biden and his family, the Justice Department has an “obligation to have an open door to anybody who wishes to provide us information that they think is relevant.” And as he told the Senate, “spying” is a “good English word” with no negative connotations. And, as Barr announced when dismissing the Justice Department inspector general’s failure to discover any political motive behind the investigation into Russian election interference in coordination with Trump’s campaign, “Nothing is more important than the credibility and integrity of the FBI and the Department of Justice.” Presumably these, too, are neutral principles.And, of course, Barr would presumably see no evil if Attorney General Warren gave a blisteringly partisan speech describing a Manichaean confrontation between progressives and conservatives and outlined the disadvantage progressives face in that struggle, hampered as they are by scruples while the conservatives wage a crusade that knows no time or space.Barr’s aggressive interventions in normal Justice Department proceedings in favor of the president constitute “constitutional hardball”—an idea coined by the legal scholar Mark Tushnet in 2004 to denote political action that is “within the bounds of existing constitutional doctrine and practice but … nonetheless in some tension with existing pre-constitutional understandings.” According to Joseph Fishkin and David Pozen, hardball is characterized by behavior that pushes the constitutional limits in a particularly partisan or self-serving way. Trump likes to say that he has the “absolute right” to interfere in the business of the Justice Department and to encourage his attorney general to do so for him—but that doesn’t mean such actions are in keeping with the way we have commonly understood acceptable presidential behavior.It is a feature of constitutional hardball that both sides in a fast-polarizing political environment see themselves as playing defense. As Fishkin and Pozen write, “The more illegitimate the other side’s constitutional usurpations, the more legitimate are the measures taken to counter them.” Each side can see its own escalations in the struggle as merely responsive to those of the other side—or even preemptive of what the other side would do if it had the chance.Sometimes, these points are even correct. Both major political parties, for example, played significant roles in escalating the battles over judicial confirmations throughout a decades-long tit-for-tat cycle of retaliation, in which both sides also insisted they had a minimal role in making things worse.Yet that is not what is happening here. Here the hardball is wholly asymmetric. Yes, there were incidents during the Obama and Bush and Clinton administrations that gave rise to concerns about the politicization of the Justice Department. Some of them were even serious. But there was no cycle of escalation. The rules were pretty well understood and generally pretty well observed.No post-Watergate administration until Trump’s has seen a sustained effort by the president to publicly demand specific investigative outcomes—specific indictments, leniency for favored individuals, investigations of others—from the Justice Department. And no prior administration has seen an attorney general publicly defend such statements and (at least appear to) implement aspects of them internally. Barr may genuinely believe he is acting defensively, that the progressive forces arrayed against the administration are so without scruple, and that he and his tribe are so restrained and careful, that whatever they are doing must reflect that reality. But he’s wrong. Objectively, he is on the most aggressive form of offense.[Adam Serwer: The dangerous ideas of Bill Barr]And there will be consequences. Already, Trump is normalizing the campaign promise to prosecute political enemies. Kamala Harris, when she was still in the race, promised that her Justice Department would bring criminal charges against Trump for obstruction of justice. And more recently, Warren herself has proposed an independent Justice Department “task force to investigate crimes by Trump administration officials.” These ideas are a long way from Trump’s campaign-trail chants of “Lock her up!” or his demands that former FBI Director Andrew McCabe be prosecuted for lying to investigators; Harris was speaking on the basis of a record established by the Mueller report, and Warren’s plan calls for investigations generally, rather than into any specific individual on a specific charge. But they are nevertheless incursions on Justice Department independence that would have obviously crossed the line of political interference in a pre-Trump era. The fact that many Democratic politicians and voters see nothing wrong with these ideas is itself a sign that Barr has started an escalating cycle of hardball.Barr can tell himself, as he did in his Federalist Society speech, that it is those on the other side who “never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides.” But it is a delusion. Barr is the enabler who is making acceptable presidential and Justice Department behavior that virtually nobody accepted only a few years ago—and that he is most unlikely to accept in his actual retirement if a Democratic administration behaves remotely similarly.
The Pros and Cons of a Lunar Pit Stop
Last week, NASA put out a call for applications for its next class of astronauts. In recent years, when the agency has asked for résumés, the job was shuttling back and forth between Earth and the International Space Station (ISS). But for the first time in nearly 50 years, some of the aspiring space travelers might be training for a mission to the moon.President Donald Trump wants NASA to fly American astronauts to the lunar surface and beyond. Congress, the president said during his recent State of the Union address, should fund his administration’s new program “to ensure that the next man and the first woman on the moon will be American astronauts.” This effort, he said, would serve as “a launching pad to ensure that America is the first nation to plant its flag on Mars.” But what if NASA didn’t stop at the moon first? What if, instead of pouring time, effort, and money into reaching the lunar surface again, the space agency embarked on an unprecedented journey straight to the red planet?The moon-versus-Mars question is older than the Trump administration’s space ambitions. It has been debated since the last men departed from the moon in the 1970s, when NASA, having achieved a seemingly impossible feat, started pondering what to try next. The conditions that fueled the space program half a century ago—when less than a decade passed between John F. Kennedy’s vow to send a man to the moon and the Apollo moon landing—no longer exist (and unless you wanted to risk war, it wouldn’t be wise to replicate them). Neither does the budget that made it happen. So the country’s next chapter in exploring other worlds may be more open-ended than ever.Scientists have their own arguments for the most compelling celestial destinations and what humankind could learn from them. These arguments are, of course, subject to the whims of presidents, who have their own ideas about the nation’s space policy, a circumstance that has ended up swinging NASA priorities from one part of the solar system to another every eight years. In the most recent administrations, George W. Bush wanted to go back to the moon, Barack Obama didn’t, and Trump very much does. Presidents’ dreams are limited by others’ whims, too: Congress ultimately decides how much money NASA gets and for what.When Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, talks about the agency’s Artemis program for lunar exploration—named for Apollo’s sister in Greek mythology—he describes the moon as a “proving ground” for Mars. If something went wrong there, astronauts could make it home in a matter of days instead of months. And while NASA’s newest moon rocket is currently behind schedule and over budget, at least the space agency knows how to build one already.“We need to crawl before we walk, much less run,” says James Rice, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute who spent 15 years working on Mars rover missions. “Say you’ve got a bunch of new camping equipment. If you’re smart, you’re going to learn how to use that in your backyard. You’re not going to go, say, out to Mount Everest and try to figure out how to work this stuff.”Supporters of a Mars-direct mission argue that, in fact, the moon is terrible practice for Mars. On the moon, astronauts don’t have to worry about surviving a plunge through an atmosphere; on Mars, they will. The tug of gravity is weaker on the lunar surface than on Mars. The moon is extremely cold, and a single day there lasts nearly an Earth month. By contrast, a Mars day is nearly equal in length to an Earth day, and a summer day on the red planet, near the equator, could feel as pleasant as a spring day on our own.[Read: When a Mars simulation goes wrong]Even the dust on the two planets is different. Lunar dust is a fine powder of tiny particles with jagged edges, and, as the Apollo astronauts learned, nearly impossible to brush off spacesuits and equipment. Martian dust is more like that found on Earth, and less likely to shred human lungs if it’s accidentally breathed in. “If we had done lunar sample return prior to sending Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface, I’m convinced it would have been decades before we sent people to the moon,” says John Grunsfeld, a retired NASA astronaut and a former associate administrator of the agency’s science division. “The medical community would have gotten those samples back, looked at them in the microscope, and gone, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s broken glass at the micron scale. The astronauts will inhale it, hemorrhage, and die on the moon.’”One of the most promising discoveries on both Mars and the moon is water, but how that water is situated varies between the two. Spacecraft and samples from the Apollo missions have shown that the moon has potentially massive amounts of water frozen as hard as granite in deposits deep at its poles, which future astronauts could mine for their life-support systems. But the icy water on Mars may be more evenly distributed just beneath the surface. The technology that future astronauts would use to extract water from ice on the moon could be overkill on the red planet.After half a dozen landings that supplied hundreds of pounds of lunar samples that have been carefully studied for decades, the moon may feel pretty familiar to us. But it still has its mysteries, and scientists are eager to probe them. Mars has its mysteries, too, including one that might answer one of humankind’s most existential questions. While the moon is generally understood to be lifeless, on Mars “you can actually go look for signs of existing life on the surface,” says Briony Horgan, a planetary-science professor at Purdue University who works on NASA’s Mars missions, including a rover that is scheduled to launch toward the planet in July. “We can do that with robots, but it’s hard.” (Take it from the little Mars spacecraft that landed last year, ready to drill into the soil to measure seismic activity, and became stuck almost immediately.)Grunsfeld, the former astronaut, believes that NASA has already shown it doesn’t need the moon to go to Mars. The agency has proved it can keep astronauts healthy for long stretches in space; Christina Koch just came home after nearly a year on the International Space Station, a record for a woman. A journey to Mars would expose astronauts to more cosmic radiation than they experience on the ISS, though, which could increase their lifetime risk of getting cancer. When I asked Grunsfeld about that, he launched into a list of dangers so harrowing, it would be difficult to fault aspiring astronauts for quietly rescinding their applications: “How does that compare to the risk of blowing up on the launchpad or on ascent; getting hit by a meteor, asteroid, debris, some kind of space junk on the way there; burning up in the Mars atmosphere; burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere on the way back; or missing the Earth? You add up all those risks, and the [risk of radiation exposure] is kind of just another one.”Even Apollo astronauts think it’s time to shoot for Mars. Michael Collins has said that he sees “more moon missions as delaying Mars, which is a much more interesting place to go.” Buzz Aldrin has been writing op-eds for a decade urging the nation to focus on Mars. Outside NASA, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is currently developing a spaceship and rocket powerful enough to head right to Mars. The pro-Mars camp has even included, at least for a time, Trump himself, when, in an uncomfortable rebuke of his own administration’s policy, he tweeted last summer, “For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon. We did that 50 years ago.”[Read: Why SpaceX wants a tiny Texas neighborhood so badly]Money, however, is decidedly one of the limiting factors. “If we went all in—if we had an Apollo-like budget—we could probably get to Mars without going to the moon within 10 years,” says Chris Carberry, the CEO of Explore Mars, an industry group that advocates for sending people to Mars by the 2030s. (With that kind of budget, Carberry says, NASA might not even have to choose between the two worlds.)A Mars journey would still be difficult, of course. There are some engineering problems that money alone can’t solve. NASA has a better success rate of landing on Mars than any other space agency in the world, but the missions that have touched down were small rovers, not spaceships full of astronauts. And no agency has ever launched anything back off Mars, an important detail if you want any of those astronauts to come home.While Carberry believes that NASA technically could mount a Mars-direct mission, a pit stop on the moon would help. But it would have to be short: An extended stay on the lunar surface, or even outpost-construction projects, could leave less room (and cash) for a journey to Mars, he says.For now, the Trump administration is moving ahead with its goal to land the next man and the first woman at the lunar south pole in 2024. Last week, the White House presented Congress with its budget request for NASA for the next fiscal year, which seeks a 12 percent increase over current funding. NASA’s Mars goal remains the same as it has been for the past decade: Astronauts would make a few orbits around the planet and back in 2033, followed by a second mission that would touch down.NASA has presented these journeys as inevitable, but they grow more nebulous with time. For some perspective: The world is now closer to 2033 than it is to Y2K. And if Musk gets to Mars first, the federal government might have trouble convincing the public that it needs taxpayer money to fund something a rich guy is already doing on his company’s dime. And how, in the coming years, might the government convince Americans that exploring another planet is worth it as climate change transforms their own?Rice, the moon fan, says that if and when NASA goes to Mars, whether or not it stops on the moon along the way, astronauts should land rather than just loop around. Otherwise, he says, the trip would be infuriatingly anticlimactic: “It’s akin to flying across the Atlantic, going to Paris, pressing your nose up against a French bakery, looking at the pastry, and then coming home.”
The Real Progressive-Centrist Divide on Foreign Policy
The Democratic Party is clearly split along progressive-centrist lines on domestic politics, but the story is more complicated on foreign policy. Throughout the course of the primary campaign, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have pitched a distinctive progressive foreign policy that cuts the defense budget, ends military interventions, reforms the global economy, and confronts authoritarianism and networks of corruption around the world. Advisers to both campaigns are trying to clarify the progressive worldview and hope to transform Democratic foreign policy, much like neoconservatives in the 1980s and ’90s did for the Republican Party, albeit in the opposite direction.For those of us trying to figure out where the United States goes after Donald Trump leaves office, the unfolding Democratic primary poses several questions. Is the country on the cusp of a new foreign-policy revolution? Will a progressive president break with the post–Cold War consensus? And if the next president is a Democratic centrist, like Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, or Amy Klobuchar, will there be an intra-party struggle about the direction of American strategy?One answer is becoming clear: Sanders, in particular, may dramatically change U.S. foreign policy, but his shift will have very little to do with the substantive ideas in his formal writings and remarks and everything to do with his own instincts and beliefs.On paper, Warren’s and Sanders’s outlook, despite what they say on the campaign trail, is remarkably consistent with those of the centrists. If you took the names off the foreign-policy articles written by any of the candidates, aside from a couple of flourishes, the differences would be difficult to detect. All of them want to see a foreign policy driven by values. They want the United States to play a leadership role in world affairs, they are committed to U.S. alliances, and they have placed the fight against corruption at the center of their campaigns. The progressives are as tough rhetorically on Russia and China as the centrists are, if not more so. And yes, progressives want to end the forever wars and pull back from the Middle East, but centrists would go along with much of that rhetoric too.Most of the differences in progressive and centrist foreign policy appear to be attitudinal rather than substantive. Progressives explicitly call for new ideas and new thinking but, besides the implications for the Middle East, what this directive means is still unknown. A few progressive think-tank experts, generally affiliated with the new Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, advocate for a massive reduction in U.S. military capabilities and a global retrenchment, but neither Sanders nor Warren has said anything of the sort and both are committed, at least in principle, to NATO and to maintaining America’s alliances in Asia.[Uri Friedman: The Sanders Doctrine]Progressives are likely to identify climate change as the nation’s top national-security priority. Centrists are more likely to say the issue is one of the top three. Does the ranking really matter? Both camps intend to work on the environment, and neither wants to make geopolitical concessions to China in exchange for its cooperation.Progressives appear to be more skeptical of trade and global markets, but as Obama-administration officials Jennifer Harris and Jake Sullivan point out in a recent piece, centrists are also thinking hard about pivoting from a neoliberal foreign economic policy to an approach that sees a much greater role for the state in investment and industrial policy.However, the progressive and centrist schools of thought would produce quite different policies in a few areas.Progressives want to cut the defense budget by approximately 12 percent immediately. About a quarter of these savings can come from ending military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. They hope to find the rest by taking on what they see as a corrupt military industrial complex. Progressives acknowledge that these cuts may result in less capability abroad, but they argue that the United States should seek military sufficiency rather than military primacy. Achieving substantial defense-budget savings is likely to be an early priority of a progressive administration, not least because the funds are required for an ambitious domestic program. If the wealth tax and other revenue-raising measures fail in Congress or are struck down by a conservative Supreme Court, those outcomes will increase pressure on the defense budget.Centrists also hope to make cuts to the defense budget, but from a different perspective, by first asking whether the right kind of military is in place. They believe that modernization and reform may result in savings if done correctly. Faced with a trade-off between cost and effectiveness, centrists will choose effectiveness every time. They find the concept of military sufficiency fuzzy and inadequate, especially when considering competition from China in new technologies. The United States, they say, must always seek and maintain a significant edge over its rivals. Don’t be surprised if centrists maintain defense spending at Obama-era levels or even a little bit higher.Centrists are much more likely to keep a modest troop presence in parts of Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS. They are also more accepting of the need for drone strikes against terrorist networks. And they are willing to use the threat of force in negotiations with Iran or North Korea, just as President Barack Obama did.Progressives argue that the United States must end the shadow war against terrorist networks and treat fighting these groups more as a matter of law enforcement with deep and structured cooperation with allies. If rare strikes are required, the president should consult with Congress and treat the decision as the exception rather than the rule. Sanders would take the threat of force off the negotiation table; Warren would keep it as a last resort. The final substantive area of difference is geopolitics. Progressives have generally avoided discussing security competition with Russia and China, preferring to focus on economic and political domains, including fighting disinformation, corruption, and the erosion of liberal norms. Centrists agree with all that but would place a greater emphasis on maintaining a favorable balance of power in Asia and Europe, including deepening security cooperation with allies such as France, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia. Centrists also have a higher tolerance for risk in deterring Chinese expansionism at sea, whereas progressives are more likely to be risk averse.All of these foreign-policy differences are important to note, but they do not add up to a fundamental clash of worldviews. One could easily imagine a centrist president accommodating progressive voices by adopting some of their priorities, particularly on fighting corruption. Similarly, a progressive president could take a pragmatic approach to the use of force against terrorists and may even champion a new use-of-force authorization through Congress.So, then, will candidates pursue similar policies? Not so fast.The reason the foreign-policy platforms are so alike is because the candidates’ advisers have deliberately sought to make them so. How much the candidates truly believe what they have written and said in set-piece speeches is unknown. Interviews like the one The New York Times recently conducted are helpful, but the campaigns carefully craft responses to avoid political controversy.One crucial element to keep in mind: The impulses, temperament, background, and outlook of the person who holds the presidency matter. Each individual is different. Obama’s foreign policy diverged from what Hillary Clinton’s would have been. To some extent, any American president will operate within certain parameters, but the variance within those boundaries is incredibly important. To assume otherwise—that the institutional system or structural forces will be constraining, as some did with Trump—is an analytical error. So the candidates’ individual beliefs can be revealing.If Sanders is elected, he is unlikely to proactively seek to upend America’s global role, but his instincts, and those of his closest advisers, will shape how he responds to the various problems he faces as commander in chief. In recent weeks, Sanders and members of his campaign have made a number of comments that suggest his foreign policy may deviate from that of the other candidates, and from his earlier positions. For example, he would likely not issue military threats unless a country directly threatened the United States. He would surely change U.S. policy toward Central and South America. He would probably have a hard time with U.S. allies that have right-leaning governments, including with the U.K. over Brexit, Australia over climate change and counterterrorism, and Japan over regional-security competition with China.[Amy Zegart: The race for big ideas is on]Sanders has called China a dictatorship, but he is also very publicly torn about how to reconcile this assertion with the need to work with Beijing on climate change. In the New Hampshire debate, he mused, “Instead of spending $1.8 trillion a year collectively on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change.” Imagining that he would publicly raise concerns about Chinese behavior domestically and internationally but prioritize cooperation over competition in his actions is quite easy.Many foreign-policy experts had understood Sanders’s position to be that the United States should withdraw from the Middle East but maintain its presence in Europe and Asia. My Atlantic colleague Uri Friedman recently asked Matt Duss, Sanders’s foreign-policy adviser, about U.S. troops in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Duss’s answer revealed a change in that thinking: “There are real questions about the cost of maintaining these huge military presences in some of these places, so we’re definitely interested in thinking hard about whether we can reduce the number of troops in these places and still meet these [security] commitments we’ve made to these partners. Economically, it’s not really sustainable in the long term.”Duss’s remark suggests Sanders may move closer toward the retrenchment argument advanced by Quincy Institute scholars and may rely on nonmilitary tools to compete with China and Russia. The stance will raise eyebrows in Washington and allied capitals. The United States hardly has a huge military presence in these three countries—less than 150,000 troops in total—and many of the costs are covered by the host countries. The arrangement has been economically sustainable for decades.The worldviews of other candidates are also beginning to come into focus. Michael Bloomberg has been largely silent on foreign policy during the course of the campaign, but his comments as a businessman and mayor throughout the past 20 years suggest that he would be much more predisposed to cooperation with authoritarian regimes like China and less interested in pulling back from the Middle East. Buttigieg has consistently taken a tougher line on China on the campaign trail than the other candidates, suggesting that China’s internal repression will materially affect the relationship with the United States.The serious part of the campaign is beginning. As the candidates take center stage, the carefully constructed formal debate about how progressive foreign policy departs from centrism is receding in importance. Now is the time to listen for how the candidates’ individual beliefs and background might shape the details of those policies. The differences then may suddenly seem wider than before.
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Analysis: Donald Trump and his pardon triangle
President Donald Trump on Tuesday picked a handful of corrupt former officials and corrupt wealthy influence peddlers and granted them clemency, just days after his administration's latest controversy: accusations that he was tipping the scales of justice in favor of his friend Roger Stone (which he keeps saying he has every right to do, but denies doing).
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Last night, the Brit Awards -- the UK music industry's biggest night -- took over London's O2 arena to celebrate some of the world's most famous artists and emerging acts. It was an evening that saw lots of great black British talent, a few politically charged speeches and, disappointingly (but by now in no way surprising), too few women recognized for their work.
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A short sentence for Stone wouldn't be a Trump victory
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These people could make Trump's life miserable
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Latest news, sports, weather from Denver and Colorado | The Denver Post
Michael Bennet talks presidential run, upcoming election in Littleton town hall
On Tuesday evening, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet fielded concerns about the upcoming election during a town hall to a crowd of around 120 at the Peak Community and Wellness Center in Littleton.
“Everyone has to understand what’s at stake here,” Bennet said. “The rule of law is getting shattered.”
The Colorado senator, who dropped out of the presidential race last week after the New Hampshire primary, discussed his campaign in his opening remarks. Bennet attributed his lack of success in his presidential run to his late start, which he said prevented him from qualifying for debates and fundraising.
“I hope that whatever national profile I was able to develop will benefit Colorado and my service in that state going forward,” Bennet said after the town hall. “I’ve learned that Colorado is the sweet spot, I think, of where American politics is.”
Attendees were eager to hear whether Bennet would endorse one of the Democratic candidates, but the senator said he has not yet made up his mind.
“As soon as I have an idea about that and think it would be useful to say that, I will,” he said.
Bennet said that he plans to see how the race develops over the next couple of weeks. He said that there’s not a nominee in the Democratic race that he wouldn’t support because of the threats President Donald Trump poses.
“We have to restore integrity to our government,” Bennet said. “We’re at a moment in our political life as a nation where we have to have an honest conversation about where we’re headed.”
Many constituents expressed fears of Trump’s potential for re-election. Carole Keller, an internet marketing consultant from Littleton, discussed how many people she talks to feel worn out by the current political system and unmotivated to vote. The 67-year-old asked Bennet what Democrats are doing to ensure that everyone gets out to vote without feeling so defeated.
“I understand how tired people are from the chaos every day,” Bennet said. “But it’s not allowable for us to feel beaten down before the election even gets here.”
Gabe Nelson, a junior at Columbine High School, asked Bennet how he plans to get young people out to vote. The senator stressed that though many difficult issues have been unfairly dealt to the next generation, including debt and climate change, voting is the vehicle to improvement.
“The only way to turn around our political system is to participate in it,” Bennet said. “And I hope that we can figure out ways of inspiring you based on that obligation we each have to our democracy.”
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Democratic presidential candidates turn their attention to Colorado
Bennet discussed the challenges Coloradans face trying to afford health care, housing and higher education. Jo Douglas, a 60-year-old from Littleton, asked Bennet about getting health insurance plans that are more accustomed to the needs of Coloradans.
“We have a broken health care market,” Bennet said. “Part of the problem we have, especially in rural areas, is there aren’t enough people in certain parts Colorado to have a real market to get people insured in a way that’s predictable and affordable.”
Bennet said that his proposal, called Medicare-X, which offers a public option, could provide universal health care.
He will hold two more town halls later this week in the state, in Grand Junction on Thursday and in Steamboat Springs on Friday.
Senate committee hearing on RTD oversight bill shines a light on services for disabled riders
Legislation that would tighten state oversight of the troubled Regional Transportation District got its first hearing in front of lawmakers Tuesday, and the focus was squarely on how well the metro area’s disabled community is being served by transit.
Julie Reiskin, executive director of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, characterized Senate Bill 151 as a “pro-RTD bill.” She was one of nearly a dozen members of the disabled community who attended the proceedings in front of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee.
“Without RTD, we don’t have jobs or the ability to live independently,” Reiskin told lawmakers.
That is why it’s so important that the bill, which Reiskin said would provide necessary additional protections for disabled passengers, needs to become law.
The Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, which is chaired by Democratic Sen. Faith Winter, will take another day of testimony on March 3 before voting on whether to move the bill through.
Andrew Montoya, an attorney with the coalition, said that if disabled riders could bring complaints against RTD in state court, rather than just in federal court per the Americans with Disabilities Act, faster and more effective outcomes could be achieved.
He said federal disability cases are “extremely expensive and time-consuming,” citing one lawsuit his organization filed against RTD that dragged out for three years.
But RTD fired back, saying that SB 151 could potentially burden the transit agency with an avalanche of litigation as the agency tries to comply with a “legal standard that seems impossible to meet,” said RTD attorney Jenifer Ross-Amato.
“Broadening liability will invite litigation and the threat of litigation,” she testified. “The bill creates new protected classes not identified in federal law.”
Zamy Silva, senior manager of RTD’s civil rights division, was adamant that the agency is fully compliant with ADA requirements and said RTD’s “complaint procedure is very, very robust.”
“It’s embedded in our mission and core values,” she said.
SB 151 was introduced in late January and contains several elements that have gotten pushback from RTD. Spearheaded by Republican Sen. Jack Tate, the measure would expand RTD’s elected 15-member board of directors by two new members, both of whom would be appointed by the governor. The new at-large directors would be tasked with advocating for disadvantaged communities in the district and riders with disabilities.
There would also be two non-voting members — the state treasurer and the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation — who would provide increased fiscal oversight and transportation planning coordination.
Heather McKillop, who is heading up RTD until newly hired Interim General Manager Paul Ballard starts in his position next week, said more bodies on the dais may not be a wise move.
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“We do have concerns that adding four additional members would make the board somewhat unwieldy,” she told lawmakers.
She also noted that RTD is already heavily audited by no fewer than 13 external agencies.
SB 151 would call for a higher level of transparency at RTD, including placing directors under the constraints of Amendment 41 and giving whistle-blower protection to employees filing complaints. Amendment 41, passed by voters 13 years ago, requires all elected officials to disclose any benefit or gift they receive valued at more than $59, with some exceptions.
RTD has been in the spotlight of late, besieged with the twin evils of falling ridership and a driver shortage. Late last year, the agency said it would have to consider making significant cuts to bus and train service to better align its service with the workers it has to operate its fleet.
On Wednesday, RTD will launch the first of more than a dozen community meetings throughout the metro area — to be held over the next two weeks — to get public feedback on its proposed service cuts. The RTD board will make a final decision on any curtailments in March. Any changes would go into effect in May.
Tulsi Gabbard is holding 2 Colorado events, joining other presidential candidates flocking to state
Democrat Tulsi Gabbard is joining the top 2020 presidential candidates in visiting Colorado this week, with stops planned in Colorado Springs on Wednesday and Boulder on Thursday.
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It’s the first campaign visit to the state for Gabbard, a representative from Hawaii who is polling in single digits.
“Go beyond the mainstream media bias and smears and meet the genuine freedom fighter!” her website says.
The Wednesday event will be at 6 p.m. at Beckett Event Center in Colorado Springs, and the Thursday event will be at 11:30 a.m. at the Avalon Ballroom in Boulder. Those who wish to attend either can RSVP on her website.
Also Thursday, President Donald Trump will hold a rally in Colorado Springs and Amy Klobuchar is holding one in Denver. Bernie Sanders held a rally Sunday, Joe Biden was here for a fundraiser Monday, and Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are holding events in the Denver area this weekend.
Driver crashes vehicle while eluding officers in northwest Denver, police say
A man wanted on a parole violation, driving in northwest Denver, failed to stop for officers on Tuesday evening and crashed a short time later, police said.
The driver who failed to stop, and the driver of a secondary vehicle that was part of a two-vehicle collision, were both taken to a local hospital with minor injuries, said Doug Schepman, a police spokesman.
The driver who allegedly eluded officers will be arrested when he is discharged from the hospital. Beyond eluding, he’ll face a possession of a weapon by a previous felon charge, Schepman said.
Another man in the vehicle driven by the alleged parole violator was wanted on a warrant and he was taken into custody. A woman in the same vehicle was also held by police.
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The incident happened at about 6 p.m. in the area of West 41st Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard, police said.
Southbound lanes of Sheridan were shutdown from 40th to 42nd avenues by the incident.
Rob Manfred apologizes for calling WS trophy a “piece of metal”
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred apologized Tuesday for what he called a disrespectful reference to the World Series trophy as a “piece of metal.”
Even before being asked about it, Manfred said he made a mistake with those comments when trying to deliver a rhetorical point in an interview two days earlier.
“I referred to the World Series trophy in a disrespectful way, and I want to apologize for it,” Manfred said. “There’s no excuse for it. … It was a mistake to say what I said.”
MLB players, already upset with Manfred’s handling of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal and some of his comments in trying to explain it, became further infuriated by his “piece of metal” comment during a lengthy interview with ESPN on Sunday, the same day he spoke in Florida.
Even NBA superstar LeBron James joined the anti-Astros chorus, voicing his anger on social media Tuesday.
While speaking at the Cactus League media day in the Arizona desert, Manfred also pledged Tuesday to protect Oakland right-hander Mike Fiers, the ex-Astros pitcher who became the whistleblower when he went public in November to The Athletic.
“We will take every possible step to protect Mike Fiers wherever he’s playing, whether it’s in Houston or somewhere else,” Manfred said. “Mike did the industry a service.”
The Astros play their first road game of the regular season March 30 at the A’s, who won 97 games each of the past two years to finish second to Houston in the AL West both times.
Cubs lefty Jon Lester, a three-time World Series champion — with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 and 2013, and Chicago in 2016 — had some choice words for the commissioner earlier Tuesday.
“That’s somebody that has never played our game. You play for a reason, you play for that piece of metal. I’m very proud of the three that I have,” Lester said from the Cubs camp in Mesa, Arizona. “If that’s the way he feels, then he needs to take his name off the trophy.”
Lester said the first thing he shows visitors at his house are the displayed trophies he has won.
“I’m proud of them. That’s a lot of years, a lot of hard work. You can’t just bring it down like that,” the five-time All-Star said.
Manfred, after meeting with the general managers and managers of teams who train in Arizona, said he has taken great pleasure in presenting the past five World Series championship trophies since he became the commissioner.
James sent a two-part tweet Tuesday imploring Manfred to listen to the upset players. The three-time NBA champion said he knows that he would be irate and uncontrollable if he found out he had been cheated out of a championship, punctuating his comment with an asterisk-filled expletive, and adding the hashtag #JustMyThoughtsComingFromASportsJunkieRegardlessMyOwnSportIPlay.
“Listen here baseball commissioner listen to your…..players speaking today about how disgusted, mad, hurt, broken, etc etc about this,” James wrote in part, adding, “you need to fix this for the sake of Sports!”
Former Colorado Springs mayoral candidate tried to enlist ex-boyfriend in baby-snatching scheme, affidavit says
The former Colorado Springs mayoral candidate who was arrested Friday and accused of trying to steal another woman’s baby talked about kidnapping a child and raising the infant as her own in messages she exchanged with her ex-boyfriend on Facebook, according to an arrest affidavit filed by investigators in Washington state.
In the messages, which began before Thanksgiving, Juliette Parker told her ex-boyfriend that she would “marry him on the spot if he found her a baby girl in the next five weeks,” according to the affidavit, which was released to The Denver Post by the Pierce County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday.
Parker discussed taking a baby from a homeless person and said kidnapping a child would be “a last resort,” according to the affidavit. She asked her ex-boyfriend if he could get her some gamma-hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, a depressant often called a “date rape drug” because of its ability to inhibit those who take it, according to the affidavit.
Authorities believe Parker tried to act on that “last resort” plan in early February, when she went to another woman’s house in Spanaway, Wash. — posing as an infant photographer — and drugged the woman with a tainted cupcake.
The woman who ate the cupcake became sick, drifted in and out of consciousness, and vomited, according to the affidavit. Hospital personnel later told her she exhibited symptoms associated with GHB.
When the woman became sick, she kicked Parker out of her house and called 911.
Both Parker and her 16-year-old daughter were charged in connection with the Feb. 5 incident. Parker’s daughter, who is accused of giving the cupcake to the infant’s mother, said in Facebook messages that Parker “wants a baby girl more than anything, one that she can call her own” and also discussed a kidnapping, according to the affidavit.
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Parker may have drugged more than one new mother, according to the affidavit, which said several people on Facebook told the victim in this case that they’d felt hazy after Parker visited their homes to take photos of their babies, and said items were missing from their houses after the visits.
Parker advertised free photo shoots on Facebook for women who were at least 37 weeks pregnant or with an infant no more than a week old, according to the affidavit.
Parker ran for mayor of Colorado Springs in 2019 and lost to incumbent Mayor John Suthers.
Pistons and guard Reggie Jackson agree on contract buyout
DETROIT — The Detroit Pistons and Reggie Jackson have agreed on a contract buyout, paving the way for the veteran guard to sign with another team.
Detroit announced the agreement Tuesday.
Jackson is in the final season of his five-year, $80 million deal he signed in 2015 with the Pistons, who acquired him earlier that year in a trade with Oklahoma City.
The 29-year-old Jackson is averaging 14.9 points and 5.1 assists this season, but he has been limited to just 14 games this season due to a back injury.
The Thunder drafted the former Boston College star with the 24th pick overall in 2011 and he has averaged 12.9 points and 4.4 assists over his career.
Rockies GM Jeff Bridich “working to right the ship” regarding Nolan Arenado rift
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — General manager Jeff Bridich attempted to calm the Rockies’ choppy waters Tuesday.
Speaking at Cactus League media day, Bridich addressed the Nolan Arenado situation for the first time since the all-star third baseman made it clear that he was disappointed with the current path of the franchise and said he felt personally “disrespected” by Bridich.
Although some currents of anger and miscommunication certainly remain, and while Bridich declined to go into detail about how he might mend his relationship with Arenado, the GM said it was time to move on.
“(The) really important point is to just move forward into the season and start focusing on baseball,” he said. ” Sometimes there are just natural disagreements and miscommunication over time, and so you continue to work to right the ship.”
RELATED: Jeff Bridich gets snippy when asked about Nolan Arenado rift
Bridich also issued an apology to Rockies fans.
“I’m sorry that our fans, if they’ve been … I’m sorry that it went this way … if it’s caused them angst,” he said. “They’re our best supporters of Nolan. They’re the best supporters of the organization.
“Certainly, you don’t want there to be turmoil or crises or anything like that. Sometimes there are professional disagreements in a business. But, apart from that, we’ve never handled things internally publicly. A lot of that is about out of respect. It’s out of respect to the organization. It’s out of respect to the players in the organization.
“I think it’s appropriate that a lot of inner team business is kept as such. That’s a big reason why I haven’t been out making statements. It’s keeping with that policy, that best practices policy, for us.”
It was less than a year ago that Arenado signed an eight-year, $260 million contract. But then came the Rockies’ 91-loss season, persistent trade rumors and Arenado’s comments about his relationship with Bridich. The GM declined to comment on the situation last week, but he did so Tuesday.
Although sources have said that a trade for Arenado could still happen this season if the Rockies play poorly, Bridich indicated that trade discussions are not part of Colorado’s current agenda. Arenado has an opt-out in his contract after the 2021 season, and indications are that he’ll leave Colorado and become a free agent unless the Rockies become a more competitive team.
“We are focused on the season here,” Bridich said when asked if there was a moratorium on an Arenado trade. “We are focused on the reason we come together every spring training. We are focused on being the best team that we can become. That’s where are at right now.”
Bridich said he and Arenado have not had a face-to-face meeting at spring training yet but said a meeting will probably happen.
“Today was Day 2, yesterday was Day 1 with him in camp,” Bridich said. “We have seen each other, but we haven’t sat down yet. But I trust that we will. Like all of the other players, we will find time to sit down and interact with myself and (manager) Buddy (Black).”
Asked how he will go about repairing his relationship with the seven-time Gold Glove third basemen, Bridich answered: “Just like I was saying, through communication. The players over the last couple of days have been asked similar questions, and I think it just comes down to communicating and just being honest. It’s about moving forward, focusing on the task at hand. We are all here to do the same thing, and that’s to put together a winning team.”
According to Arenado, the relationship between the two men soured this offseason, but Bridich sidestepped that issue — or how their relationship might be repaired.
“Look, I’m not going to (talk about that),” he said. “I am not going to speak publicly about what we would or would not talk about. That will be among us when it happens.”
Arenado, as well as his teammates, have said that the offseason discord won’t affect Arenado’s performance on the field or his tenor in the clubhouse. Bridich agreed with that sentiment.
“You think back to less than a year ago, when we were on the dais, talking about the extension, and all those things that we said publicly in terms of the elite level of talent … the elite-level work, work ethic and his own expectation to play well, to be one of the best players in the game,” Bridich said. “All of that still rings true right now. There’s absolutely no wavering in our mind whatsoever.”
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What’s the Rockies’ outlook for 2020? Not great, according to oddsmakers.
Yankees’ Judge says Astros should be stripped of 2017 title
TAMPA, Fla. — New York Yankees star Aaron Judge feels the Houston Astros should be stripped of their 2017 World Series championship.
“You cheated and you didn’t earn it,” Judge said Tuesday after the Yankees’ first full-squad workout. “That’s how I feel. It wasn’t earned. It wasn’t earned the way of playing the game right and fighting to the end and knowing that we’re competing, we’re competitors. The biggest thing about competition is laying it all out on the line, and whoever is the better player, better person comes out on top. To know that another team had an advantage that, nothing you can really guard against, I just don’t feel like that’s earned.”
Major League Baseball concluded the Astros used a video camera to steal catcher’s signs in 2017, including during the postseason, and in 2018. Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season each, then were fired by the team. Houston was fined $5 million and stripped of its next two first- and second-round draft picks.
“It affected a lot of games, no matter what anybody says,” Judge said. “It affected the game big time. People lost jobs, people lost money, people lost a lot of things important to them.”
No players were punished by MLB.
“I wasn’t a fan of the punishment, I thought that was a little weak for a player-driven scheme,” Judge said, “that no players involved got any punishments.”
Houston beat the Yankees in a seven-game AL Championship Series in 2017, winning all four home games, and defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seven-game World Series.
“To hear that you got cheated out of that opportunity, that’s tough to kind of let go,” Judge said.
Judge finished second to the Astros’ José Altuve in that year’s voting for AL MVP.
Judge backed the position of Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish, who felt the penalties imposed by baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred were insufficient.
“I think Darvish was the one that said, if you’re playing in the Olympics and win a gold medal and find that you cheated, you don’t get to keep that medal,” Judge said.
He agreed with teammate Gleyber Torres, who said Monday that he thought the Astros also broke rules in 2019 when the Yankees lost the AL Championship Series in six games.
“To think that they cheated and won it all in ’17, to think that they just clear-cut stopped ’19 or ’18, it’s tough for me to say that,” Judge said. But we’ll never really now, to be honest.”
Manfred said Sunday he wasn’t 100% sure the Astros didn’t violate rules in 2019 but it was his best judgment that they didn’t.
Judge said the whole Yankees team is “driven” this year after the Astros scandal and falling just short of a pennant twice in three years.
“There’s a different level of focus,” Judge said. “These boys are ready. We got to go out there and finish it this year.”
The sign stealing will remain on Judge’s mind.
“It’s always going to be in the back of your head a little bit,” Judge said. “You’re always going to have that bad taste in your mouth, thinking about it and hearing about it, but at some point we’re going to move on and we’re going to move forward and continue growing this game. That’s what I care about is growing this game.”
Judge did not hit or throw because of what the team said was a minor right shoulder issue.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the problem is not considered serious and Judge could start to ramp up activities in a couple days. Judge is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.
“Just dealing with some crankiness, a little soreness in his shoulder,” Boone said. “I feel like it’s a pretty minor thing. Just something we wanted to try and get ahead of while we’re at this point at this point in the calendar.”
Judge had a number of tests, including an MRI, and did conditioning.
“I just felt a little soreness in the shoulder,” Judge said. “Nothing alarming.”
The outfielder hit .272 with 27 homers with 55 RBIs in 102 games last season. He was on the injured list from April 21 to June 21 with a left oblique strain.
CF Brett Gardner said he has some pretty strong feelings and opinions about the Astros but that he was going to keep mostly to himself.
“Definitely something that’s bad for the game of baseball, bad for the fans,” Gardner said. “Hope that moving forward. we’ll continue to all work collectively as players, all 30 teams in Major League Baseball, to continue to have as even of a playing field as possible. Definitely I’m disappointed and frustrated by what went on.”
Ryan Newman Daytona 500 crash shows racing never truly safe
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Dale Earnhardt’s death on the final lap of the Daytona 500 may have saved Ryan Newman’s life.
Earnhardt died 19 years ago Tuesday, the same day Roush Fenway Racing said Newman was awake and talking to doctors and family following his own harrowing accident on the last lap of the biggest race of the year.
Earnhardt died instantly when he hit the wall at Daytona International Speedway in what is considered the darkest day in NASCAR history. It triggered a chain reaction of safety improvements as the sanctioning body put a massive emphasis on protecting its drivers.
So it was jarring when Newman went airborne on the final lap of Monday night’s rain-rescheduled Daytona 500 — a grim reminder that racing cars at 200 mph inches away from other drivers will never be safe.
Newman had just taken the lead when fellow Ford driver Ryan Blaney received a huge push from Denny Hamlin that put Blaney on Newman’s bumper. At that point, Blaney said his only goal was to push Newman across the finish line so a Ford driver would beat Hamlin in a Toyota. Instead, their bumpers never locked correctly and the shove Blaney gave Newman caused him to turn right and hit a wall. His car flipped, went airborne, and was drilled again in the door by another driver. That second hit sent the car further into the air before it finally landed on its hood and slid toward the finish line at Daytona International Speedway.
His spotter pleaded with Newman on the in-car radio “Talk to me when you can, buddy,” but no words came from the driver.
An industry so accustomed over the last two decades to seeing drivers climb from crumpled cars with hardly a scratch held its breath as it took nearly 20 minutes for the 42-year-old to be removed from the car. It was another two hours before NASCAR said Newman was in serious condition at a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Roush Fenway Racing said Tuesday that Newman “is awake and speaking with family and doctors. Ryan and his family have expressed their appreciation for the concern and heartfelt messages from across the country. They are grateful for the unwavering support of the NASCAR community and beyond.”
No information was given on specific injuries.
This was a scare NASCAR has dodged for 19 years. Carl Edwards sailed into a fence at Talladega in 2009, climbed from the burning wreckage and then jogged across the finish line to complete the race. Kyle Larson in a 2009 Xfinity Series race flew into the Daytona fencing and walked away unscathed even though the front half of his car had been completely torn away.
Kyle Busch crashed into a concrete wall at Daytona the day before the 500 in 2015. He broke both his legs and still was able to get himself out of the car. Five months later, Austin Dillon ripped out a section of Daytona fencing, landed upside down in a destroyed race car, and after he was pulled to safety by team members, he flapped both hands in the air for the crowd in a tribute to the signature celebration of the late bull-rider Lane Frost.
Perhaps it has created a false sense of security in today’s cars because so many drivers have walked away from so many accidents.
“The number one thing that NASCAR always does is put safety before competition, you’ve got to have a car that’s safe,” said Hamlin, who went on to win his third Daytona 500 in the last five years. “You’ve got to have all your equipment that’s safe, and the sport has been very fortunate to not have anything freak or weird happen for many, many years. But a lot of that is because of the development and the constant strive to make things better and safer.
“I thank my lucky stars every day that I came in the sport when I did.”
Just five years before Hamlin arrived on the scene, Earnhardt was the fourth driver to die of a basilar skull fracture in an eight-month span. Adam Petty was killed in a 2000 crash at New Hampshire, a mere hundred or so yards from where Kenny Irwin had a fatal impact two months later. Tony Roper was killed in October in a crash at Texas.
But Earnhardt’s death shook the sport to its core. The seven-time champion was the toughest man anyone knew and no crash was going to claim The Intimidator.
Only Earnhardt was an old-school racer still using his preferred routines. He wore customized open-faced helmets, sat low in his seat in a position that almost looked as if he was reclined, and, allegedly adjusted his seatbelts from the recommended installation settings to a position that suited his comfort level.
NASCAR acted quickly and speculation over Earnhardt’s seat belts led teams to move from traditional five to six-point safety harnesses.
NASCAR also encouraged its drivers to begin wearing a head-and-neck restraint system, and by August of that year 41 of the 43 drivers in the field at Michigan were using them. The device was not made mandatory until 2001, after Blaise Alexander was killed in an ARCA race at Charlotte. Tony Stewart resisted the device because he argued it made him feel claustrophobic in the car, but NASCAR refused to let him on track until he put on the restraint.
The HANS device is now mandatory in nearly every professional racing series, from Formula One to IndyCar and even dirt racing.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway had already been developing softer walls, and NASCAR finally got on board with the process after Earnhardt’s death. Although the SAFER Barriers are credited to IndyCar’s development, NASCAR contributed to the research costs and began installation in the corners at its tracks. The softer walls slowly evolved to more areas of tracks following hard hits by Jeff Gordon, Elliott Sadler, and other top stars. After Busch broke his legs at Daytona by hitting a part of the wall not protected with energy-absorbing foam, NASCAR increased installation of the safety measure across the entire series.
NASCAR also began requiring containment seats – more of an amusement park ride-style setup than a traditional car seat. Development was done to improve helmets, restraint systems and cockpit safety.
Then came in 2006 the Car of Tomorrow, built specifically as the safest stock car ever run in NASCAR. The car had energy-absorbing foam in the doors and tougher crush zones. The car was a tank, designed to keep drivers alive.
The car was replaced by the “Gen 6” in 2014 with a new chassis aesthetic changes, and it will be replaced next year by the “Next-Gen” car designed to cut costs, improve competition and give manufacturers wider access to personalized identification. It will be as safe as NASCAR can build it, but no innovation can guarantee the safety of any driver.
“We know the risks,” Juan Pablo Montoya told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Montoya in 2012 slammed into a jet dryer at Daytona in a collision that caused an immediate fireball and had the tough Colombian gingerly walking away from the scene.
But Montoya did walk away, as did Corey LaJoie on Monday night after hitting Newman’s flying car directly on the driver’s side. LaJoie’s car caught fire but he was able to get out onto the track, where he dropped to his knees and waited for medical personnel.
That’s what everyone waited for with Newman, too, but the length of time it was taking the safety crew to attend to his overturned car and his silence on the radio was ominous. Hamlin’s team was widely criticized for celebrating the victory, but team owner Joe Gibbs insisted they had no idea Newman’s situation was serious.
“If you think about all the wrecks that we’ve had over the last, I don’t know, how many number of years, and some of them looked real serious, we’ve been so fortunate,” Gibbs said. “Participating in sports and being in things where there’s some risk … in a way, that’s what (drivers) get excited about. We know what can happen. You just don’t dream that it would happen.”
Newman appears to be improving, a welcome relief the day after NASCAR’s showcase event ended in horror. Newman was lucky; Justin Wilson was not in a fatal 2015 IndyCar fluke when a broken part from the leader bounced on the track and hit him in the head nearly 18 positions back in traffic.
Newman’s accident is part of the thrill that draws fans to the sport, and an adrenaline rush that fuels the drivers. That he survived is because of nonstop work on safety for nearly two decades. That work will never end.
Editors' Picks and Don't Miss stories | The Denver Post
T.J. Ward’s home is for sale. And the former Broncos safety’s “swag and style” are everywhere.
T.J. Ward is selling his custom home in Lone Tree.
The 6,745-square-foot interior was designed by the former Broncos safety and is listed at $2.24 million.
Ward was a veteran of the Broncos secondary for three seasons and a driving force in the team’s Super Bowl 50 run. But what led him to construct a home from scratch came from an aspect of his life outside the white lines.
“I was inspired by my sense of fashion,” Ward said. “It was my first home and I wanted my home decor to represent me and my personality as much as possible. I have a lot of space so I could create different aspects of my life into each room.”
The interior features vaulted ceilings, a gourmet kitchen and automation throughout that controls the lights and audio/video.
Two places, in particular, hit home most for Ward.
“I was most adamant about my bedroom and the finished basement,” he said. “I spend most of my time in those places.”
Ward’s master suite pairs with a luxury bathroom housing a steam shower. The space also has a custom sitting room and wet bar. There are five bedrooms, three full bathrooms and a half bath in all. The basement has a bar, and media and exercise rooms, and walks out to an enclosed fireplace courtyard that’s surrounded by a large backyard.
“He wanted to make (the house) unique and modern and picking things that other people didn’t pick,” said Gwenivere Snyder, a luxury property specialist with Christie’s International Real Estate and Ward’s realtor. Snyder worked with Ward from the home’s inception to its completion in early 2017.
For $2.9 million, this Telluride penthouse could be yours
Snyder said Ward’s home at 9697 Vista Hill Drive is on one of the biggest lots in a gated community that also houses Ward’s former Broncos teammate, defensive lineman Derek Wolfe.
“This location was perfect for me because I could get to Dove Valley, where we practice, quickly and also be near lots of retail,” Ward said.
Although Ward was the only resident of the home, he certainly had space for some familiar faces.
“Family first is everything to T.J.,” Ward’s mother, LaNeita Ward, said. “Throughout the process of building this home he had his family in mind. Every family member has their own bedroom. T.J.’s style and swag is present everywhere in the home. He brought me in at every phase of the process, from selecting the tile in the kitchen to choosing custom pieces of furniture. I truly loved and appreciate sharing his experience with him and was pleasantly surprised that we had the same taste and style.”
This Colorado log home has a 750-foot zipline and its own stocked fishing lake
Imagine zipping down a 750-foot zipline over your private lake, then taking in the beautiful Colorado views from the comfort of the expansive front porch of your log home.
It doesn’t get much more “Colorado” than this.
This idyllic Rocky Mountain dream could become a reality for a homebuyer with $2.5 million to plop down on 568 Woodside Drive in Pine, a picturesque 4-bedroom, 5-bath log home situated on seven acres of land in the mountains of Colorado.
The 5,703-square-foot home, which was built in 2003 by Roger and Lorna Nichols, is constructed of kiln-dried, hand-hued Colorado-grown logs and 400 tons of moss rock. Roger Nichols, who is an excavating contractor by trade, said the logs are 16 inches to 24 inches in diameter and were all brought in from Steamboat Springs.
“A log home is the most expensive home you can build per square foot,” Roger Nichols told The Denver Post. He said many people dream of building a log home but often they will scale back and use other materials when they find out how expensive they can be to construct.
“It’s just special,” Nichols said of the home. “It’s just homey. Everybody who sees it wants it.”
When the Nichols family first set out to build the log home at 568 Woodside Drive, the lot looked a lot different.
“I thought, if I could put a lake in here, I’d like it,” Nichols said. So he went about getting permits and excavating the land to put in a lake that covers about an acre of the property, is about 4 feet to 9 feet deep and is now stocked with trout.
At the edge of the lake is a log archway from which hangs an old chairlift from the Breckenridge ski area. Nichols said the archway originally was erected for his daughter’s wedding and was later converted to have the chairlift bench added.
Inside the home, buyers will find 10-foot-tall ceilings throughout, with some areas where the ceilings soar to 28 feet.
“One of the things that’s great about this property is it can come fully furnished if the buyer would like,” said Jackie Garcia, the listing agent with RE/MAX Luxury Homes.
The home’s furnishings currently include several taxidermied animals that give it the feel of a Colorado lodge — and Nichols said they don’t really fit with their new home in the Florida Keys.
The kitchen has a large island, Brazilian marble countertops, double refrigerators, double freezers, a restaurant-quality cooktop and custom stainless steel hood.
“My wife’s like Martha Stewart,” Nichols said.
The home also has a workshop with plenty of space for parking ATVs or a recreational vehicle. And there’s more for the kids, too, with a playground and a playhouse.
For $2.9 million, this Telluride penthouse could be yours
T.J. Ward’s home is for sale. And the former Broncos safety’s “swag and style” are everywhere.
“The playhouse has electricity so the kids can play their video games in it,” Nichols said.
The home is located about 35 minutes from Denver and 45 minutes to Breckenridge, depending on traffic, and has access to nearby trails and amazing views, especially from the front porch and the balconies, Nichols said.
“We just loved it up there,” Nichols said. “You see deer and elk in your yard every day. It’s just nice.”
This is Denver’s most expensive home listing. And it has a gym, yoga studio and koi pond.
If you’re a fitness junkie with a cool $14 million to spend on a home in Denver, it’s hard to beat 460 Saint Paul Street.
The 5-bed, 8-bath mansion in Denver’s Cherry Creek neighborhood has a two-floor gym with a weight room, fitness machines, a yoga studio, massage room and a juice bar lounge.
“The location is super strong,” listing agent Gina Lorenzen said. “It’s steps away from the best boutiques in Denver.”
Priced at $13,995,000, the home is currently the most expensive listing on the market inside Denver city limits.
When you first walk in, you are sure to be impressed.
“It’s just the elegance of the design, the openness, and all the natural sunlight,” Lorenzen said. She added that the home, which was constructed by Paul Kobey in 2000, was built with the highest caliber materials. The gym was added six years later.
The 11,832-square-foot home sits on a 13,300-square-foot lot and was designed by architect Michael Knorr.
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“He’s a very well-known, well-respected architect who specializes in a contemporary style,” Lorenzen said, adding that the design of this home is very unique.
The home has mountain views from the master bedroom and also a private upper deck, Lorenzen said. The home also features a koi pond.
The high-end Poggenpohl kitchen was recently upgraded and has limestone countertops and a glass backsplash.
It also has plenty of parking. In addition to a five-car garage, the home also have five additional parking spots deeded to it.
Buyers can “name their price” for this multimillion-dollar Telluride home
There’s a home in Telluride that would make Flo from Progressive proud.
Potential buyers can name their price on this 5,400-square-foot house at 220 Cortina Drive, which hit the market Aug. 12. But don’t expect to toss a “Price is Right” bid — the window for offers is $3.75 to $4.195 million.
“220 Cortina Drive was originally listed for $4.995 million and wasn’t receiving any offers, so we decided to take a different approach,” said Mike Russo, founder and developer of SparkOffer, a transaction platform that aims at a more transparent way to connect sellers with buyers. “Based on my 20 years of industry experience in the global luxury residential sector, I know that every property has a low end of the range which will motivate buyers on an accelerated time frame.
“I’ve also noticed that when buyers see a set asking price that isn’t within their budget, they won’t even bother to make an offer. From that understanding, we developed our methodology of listing homes with a range vs. one price, to spark offers. Our goal is to increase sales activity within a 45-60 day time frame for 220 Cortina Drive.”
The property’s clean lines and symmetrical design mirror mid-20th-century architecture constructed of steel, stone and glass. Inside features include a custom-built staircase with a 16-foot chandelier. All three levels house a bar and kitchenette and the master bedroom, fittingly, has a master balcony.
Sean Hakes, managing member of Monroe Cardinal, an advisory and asset management platform, highlighted his favorite aspects of the interior: “We built two living rooms on top of each other, both with tremendous entertainment systems. You could have an extended family in both rooms and simultaneously have different experiences. Additionally, the tongue-and-groove cedar ceiling on the main floor and in the master suite lends great context and warmth to the home.”
A hallmark is the house’s “green energy” ventless fireplaces found in multiple living spaces.
For $2.9 million, this Telluride penthouse could be yours
T.J. Ward’s home is for sale. And the former Broncos safety’s “swag and style” are everywhere.
“I’m also very proud of our energy rating. If the new owner wanted to have the house LEED certified it would qualify. San Miguel County was very complimentary about our energy efficiency, and our ongoing utility bills are almost nonexistent.”
This ski-in, ski-out residence occupies 0.21 acres within Cortina Mountain Village along Sundance Trail, dotted with tall Aspen trees.
“I love the overwhelming feeling of how nature surrounds you and how the home belongs among the Aspen trees,” Hakes said. “It makes me feel like I am living in a luxury treehouse.”
Information provided by a news release from Quinn PR.
In-N-Out Burger planning to open near Lone Tree’s Park Meadows mall next year
Colorado Springs is the beachhead. But it’s always been clear In-N-Out Burger planned to feed its fanatical following along the Front Range by building more than just the one restaurant coming to that city in 2020.
Company officials have been tight-lipped about their plans for the state, but based on a site plan document available through the city of Lone Tree’s website, it appears location No. 2 is headed for the Park Meadows mall area.
The document, dated Aug. 1, lists 9171 E. Westview Road as the address for the proposed new restaurant. The one-and-a-half acre patch of land is located just to the northeast of the mall along East County Line Road. It is occupied today by the Suds Factory Car Wash & Auto Detailing Center.
RELATED: Double-Double wait: In-N-Out Burger still 2 years away from opening first Colorado location
The site plan outlines a six-month construction process expected to wrap up in time for a late 2020 opening. The red-and-white-tiled restaurant would employ between 45 and 90 people. Its parking lot would have room for 47 cars as well as a drive-through lane with room for 26 cars. The place will be open late, from 10 a.m through 1 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, per the site plan.
The document also gets into one of the key details of In-N-Out’s approach that has helped turn the California-based chain into a phenomenon with a devoted following: freshness.
“In-N-Out cooks all of its burgers and fries to order — nothing is pre-cooked and there are no cooked food holding bins. This restaurant will be equipped with three burger grills. Two grills will operate at all times, and activation of the third grill will be done in response to high dine-in or, more typically, high drive-through demand … ” it reads.
The site plan was first unearthed by the Lone Tree Voice newspaper on Thursday. According to the Voice’s reporting, the plan must first be approved by city staff before going on to the planning commission. The Lone Tree City Council will have the final say on whether or not the 3,867-square-foot restaurant gets built.
The city of Lone Tree issued a statement on the plans Friday afternoon. The growing north Douglas County community is “excited about the potential of being one of the first In-N-Out Burger locations in Colorado.”
“We pride ourselves in being a business-friendly municipality and always look forward to welcoming new businesses into our community,” the statement says. “Plus, we know that In-N-Out Burger will be one that many people in our community, and beyond, will be thrilled to see.”
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Colorado will get In-N-Out and already has Trader Joe’s and Ikea. What more could we possibly want?
In-N-Out laid out plans in December for its first Colorado restaurant, set to open in the middle of next year in northeast Colorado Springs. A large In-N-Out office building and a 100,000-square-foot distribution facility are also coming to that city’s Victory Ridge development. Those projects will feed the company’s operations across the state. The distribution facility is expected to have the capacity to support up to 50 restaurants.
In-N-Out was founded in 1948 and now operates more than 340 locations spread across California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Utah.
The sought-after fast-food brand has a dedicated real estate website, innoutrealestate.com. It is represented in Colorado by the Denver office of international brokerage SRS Real Estate Partners, according to that site. A voicemail seeking comment on the Lone Tree location left for a broker in that office was not returned Friday.
The real estate site offers some clues as to where In-N-Out’s iconic red and yellow arrow sign might pop up next in the Centennial State. It lists “minimum standards” for all sites where the company would put a store. Sites must be near a roadway that carries at least 50,000 cars trips daily and must be in a “trade area” of at least 60,000 people. The area median income has to be north of $45,000 per household.
The company also prefers to buy its sites. If it’s going to sign a lease it wants an option to buy, according to its standards.
Updated 11:10 a.m. Aug. 16, 2019 This story has been updated to correctly identify the news organization that first reported In-N-Out’s Lone Tree plans.
What parts of Colorado see the most lightning?
A recent study outlined Colorado’s most lightning-struck corridors, and it highlights much of the Denver metropolitan area as the most vulnerable part of Colorado to lightning.
The April study, conducted by scientists from the National Weather Service in Pueblo and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, outlines Denver’s southern and western suburbs as part of the lightning capital of Colorado. The San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado typically see the most lightning in the western half of the state, while Colorado’s plains are also fairly active, particularly during the spring months.
Here’s a detailed look at the areas of highest lightning in Colorado, with red indicating the areas of highest average annual lightning, and blue indicating the least. The data is based on lightning strikes between 1996 and 2016.
You may have heard about the unfortunate incident last weekend, where lightning killed a hiker near Boulder. Colorado receives a lot of lightning strikes, and this fascinating map from a study led by @NWSPueblo shows where they happen. (1/2) #cowx pic.twitter.com/pf5LLCq7jg
— ColoClimateCenter (@ColoradoClimate) July 16, 2019
The most susceptible parts of the Denver metro area to lightning are the foothills west of the city, and the Palmer Divide to the south of it. In detail, the most lightning-hit areas include: Douglas, western Jefferson and parts of Arapahoe Counties in the Denver metro area. Additionally, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Teller, western and central El Paso, western Elbert and eastern Park Counties are all in the corridor of most lightning-prone areas in the Centennial State.
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One of the main reasons parts of the Denver area are particularly susceptible to lightning is because of the so-called Denver Convergence Vorticity Zone (DCVZ). The DCVZ is a term frequently used by local meteorologists to explain a natural area of spin that often takes place in and around Denver due to eastern Colorado’s topography. That can lead to increased stormy weather for parts of the Front Range.
Provided by National Weather ServiceThe animated image shows lightning strikes by time of day in Colorado from 1996-2016.
The DCVZ creates a mini area of low pressure in the Denver area as air is sandwiched between the Divide to the south, the Rockies to the west and the Cheyenne Ridge to the north. In essence, the immediate Denver area becomes a funnel for converging winds, leading to some of Denver’s hyper-local and crazy weather — that often can be difficult to predict.
On the contrary, that same rising motion along the Divide can create a sinking motion further north, and you can probably note a lack of lightning from Longmont up to around Fort Collins and Greeley. This area also is known for having lower snow amounts during winter storms.
“(The DCVZ) enhances the activity over the southern Front Range Mountains/Pikes Peak/Palmer Divide region,” the study hypothesizes. “While decreasing lightning activity over the northern Front Range Mountains/Cheyenne Ridge region and over the area of the plains just east of the Front Range Mountains, generally north of Denver.”
In light of the July 14 lightning fatality in Boulder County, it’s worth noting that the foothills west of Denver and the Palmer Divide are both especially vulnerable to lightning. Hikers, bikers and anybody enjoying the outdoors in these areas should try and get activities done earlier in the day, particularly in the lightning-heavy months of July and August.
Based on analysis from the study, other parts of Colorado that are prone to lightning include the San Juans (mainly due to monsoonal moisture in July and August), the state’s eastern plains (storms that roll off the mountains and run into more low-level moisture as they move east), and far southern Colorado (monsoon).
The study appeared in the June edition of the National Weather Association Journal of Operational Meteorology.
Chris Bianchi is a meteorologist for WeatherNation TV.
Golfer Greg Norman’s Colorado ranch — featuring seven lakes, a dance hall and 11,600 acres — can be yours for $50 million
Golfer Greg Norman’s Colorado ranch has just about everything a sportsman could want.
There’s seven lakes, the pristine fly-fishing waters of the White River, miles of horseback riding and hiking trails, a sporting clays course, a long range rifle course, and 8,350 acres of private elk and deer hunting.
And all you need is $50 million to call it home.
Surrounded by the White River National Forest, the 11,600-acre Seven Lakes Ranch located in the Meeker Valley is on the market three years after his wife, Kirsten, an interior designer, helped update the main lodge in 2016.
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First constructed in 1993, the nine-bedroom lodge was originally used as a rental for company retreats prior to Norman’s purchase, according to Tatiana Ceresa of Compass.
For $2.9 million, this Telluride penthouse could be yours
T.J. Ward’s home is for sale. And the former Broncos safety’s “swag and style” are everywhere.
In addition to the newly renovated main lodge, the property features six “Nippe” guest cabins (smaller and without heating) as well as an executive cabin (three bedrooms), a four-bedroom hunting house, four staff housing cabins (one to three bedrooms) and a sportsmen’s lodge with a half bath.
There’s also a maintenance barn, fitness center, horse barn and ranch office, and water treatment plant.
The property is remote. But don’t worry, it’s no more than a half-hour helicopter ride to Vail, Aspen and Steamboat. (No, there is no helipad on site, but when you’ve got 11,600 acres to play with, who needs one?)
Find out more about Seven Lakes Ranch at sevenlakesranch.com.
This iconic Cherry Hills Village home listed at $7.75 million after major renovations
An exquisite estate in Cherry Hills Village that finished as a finalist for the 2019 Home of the Year in Colorado Homes & Lifestyles Magazine was recently listed for sale at $7.75 million.
The immaculate single-family house was originally designed in 1952 for actress and singer Ethel Merman, according to local fable. The grounds span just over two acres wrapped by formal gardens and punctuated with a vast circle drive.
The Taylors have owned the five-bedroom, nine-bathroom home at 3900 S. Colorado Blvd. for over three years. Jim Taylor, his wife and two young children relocated from the Highlands area and have been enjoying the home for the past year and a half after completing a comprehensive remodel.
“We were living downtown and wanted more space for the kids,” Taylor said.
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In all, Taylor’s renovations expanded the property from 7,000 square feet to 15,000 – that includes a 160-square-foot wine cellar in the basement – while gutting the house to the studs in the process. Taylor converted the existing tennis court into a pickleball court for his children and added a 1,200-square-foot master suite as well as a 1,200-square-foot cabana and an 800-square-foot greenhouse.
The Taylors now have their sights set on another iconic Cherry Hills house, a mid-century modern this time.
Why would someone tear down a $2.1 million home in Boulder? To build this $7.5 million house, of course.
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“I’m a process person so I don’t mind starting a new project,” Taylor said. “Modernizing this legacy home was the opportunity of a lifetime. Selling it is a little bittersweet.”
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Why would someone tear down a $2.1 million home in Boulder? To build this $7.5 million house, of course.
A luxurious estate in Boulder’s Knollwood neighborhood is on the market for $7.5 million.
The home sits on a 0.45-acre lot at 2135 Knollwood Drive and faces south so that its floor-to-ceiling windows can flood the main rooms with natural sunlight and take in Boulder Canyon and Flatirons, which are visible from nearly every window of the 5,075-square-foot home.
“It’s on the western edge of Boulder right above downtown,” said Tim Goodacre, owner of Goodacre & Company. “It’s private and quiet in the Knollwood subdivision with walking trails right above it.”
Annette Martin, a Boulder architect, designed this home that replaced one which was bought for $2.1 million in 2015.
The single-family property houses three bedrooms and five bathrooms and was built last year. Inside features oak floors and its hallmark centers around the living room.
“The living room expands to the deck, so it’s a true indoor-outdoor living space,” Goodacre said.
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Some of Colorado’s best fried chicken is served in a family’s adobe on a turn-of-the-century ranch
To find some of the best fried chicken in the state, you’ll need to get out of Dodge.
Head toward Colorado Springs, then south on Highway 115, past Fort Carson and the insect museum, to a modest terra cotta house by the side of the road.
Juniper Valley Ranch — worth the drive but easy to miss — is a 68-year-old restaurant, situated on a turn-of-the-century family farm and serving the same dinner menu since 1951.
Here, members of the Dickey family still skillet-fry chicken drumsticks and thighs, bake fruit pies and rolls, rice potatoes and place two Cheez-Its on the side of a cup of sweet cherry cider or consomme (a tradition that started with a great-grandmother who enjoyed Cheez-Its in her soup but also didn’t want diners to lose their appetites).
They still wear blue jeans or flowing skirts and stand before clay walls covered in tintype photographs and knickknacks from the Old West. Inside the original dining rooms, wood hearths warm the backs of creaking chairs on cooler nights.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostOlivia Dickey, daughter of owner Greg Dickey, greets patrons as they arrive for dinner at Juniper Valley Ranch restaurant on April 7, 2019 in Colorado Springs.
“Authentic” is a tough word to ascribe to restaurants and food these days, but stepping into the Dickey family’s adobe home will transport you.
“The menu hasn’t changed because it reminds (diners) of their childhoods or dinner at their grandma’s house, and I think there’s something really special about that,” chef Preston Dickey said.
In time for spring and Juniper Valley’s 68th season, Dickey, 35, has returned to his hometown along with his husband, Jan Kratzer, 28, to live full-time. They’re carrying on a four-generation family tradition, serving fried chicken dinners to weekend diners traveling through this part of the state.
On Friday and Saturday nights and all day on Sundays, Dickey and Kratzer, who previously worked in non-profits and fine dining restaurants, respectively, are in the kitchen cooking alongside Dickey’s extended family. His dad, Greg (who owns the restaurant), stepmom, sister, brother-in-law and aunts are all fixtures there.
Their meals still cost $22 per person for heaping, family-style portions in four courses.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostAn assortment of homemade pies and ice cream with the restaurant’s famous butterscotch sauce are available at Juniper Valley Ranch on April 7, 2019 in Colorado Springs.
You’ll get platters of crispy-outside-juicy-within fried chicken, served classic or hot (cayenne, cumin, chipotle and chili powders, plus apple cider vinegar for Juniper Valley’s touch); homemade apple butter to slather over hot biscuits; coleslaw and okra casserole and gravy to pour over it all.
“You can take people back in time or take them forward in time,” Dickey said of the effect of a restaurant. “Whichever experience they want.”
The forward and back is a balancing act for someone who grew up gay and “outspoken” in the ’80s and ’90s in Colorado Springs. But Dickey came from a long line of free-thinkers: homesteaders, business people, artists and matriarchs.
“Four girls inherited (Juniper Valley), and they kept it all together,” he said of his great-grandmother Ethel and her three sisters, who by the mid-20th century were running the ranch and building a business with their father, Guy Parker, on his land.
Between them, they sold sandwiches to construction workers, started a Mexican restaurant that later failed and then landed on skillet-fried chicken dinners, a model that stuck.
Dickey’s grandmother, Sydney, eventually took over the restaurant kitchen, and when he was born, his parents, who were right out of high school, were given the reins.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostChef Preston Dickey hand fries individual pieces of chicken in a skillet at Juniper Valley Ranch on April 7, 2019 in Colorado Springs.
“The running joke is I was born in the restaurant,” Dickey laughed. For the first part of his life, he lived behind the restaurant in a converted chicken coop (that’s now a gift shop), before his family moved out to the original homestead house.
“Growing up in a rural area like this, it was kind of challenging,” Dickey said. “Colorado Springs 25 years ago was a different place. I felt like I needed to get away.”
Sydney helped with student loans so that Dickey could attend Tufts University outside Boston. While he was away, and soon after she had retired from the family business, she died in a car crash on her way from the ranch into town.
“Our family was really rocked by it,” Dickey said. “Because my parents had me so young, she was really influential in raising me.”
Dickey moved to Denver shortly after his grandmother’s death, and helped at the restaurant on weekends when he was needed. Ten years after her passing, he decided to become more involved.
For years, Sydney had made all the desserts at Juniper Valley. Dickey started to dabble in baking with just a butter crust and a box of peaches and thought “that would be that.” But the pies, and rolling out their dough every day, became a way for him to process his grief.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostWaitresses Marah Macura, in front, and Miranda Lening, in back, keep a steady pace bringing out food for diners at Juniper Valley Ranch on April 7, 2019 in Colorado Springs.
“It’s kind of like reconciling with my family and this place,” he said. “And now, I come back and feel like I do belong here.”
Last summer, he sourced fruit from farmers on the Western Slope and made 25 kinds of pies throughout the season — from blackberry to nectarine and plum — while pan-frying hundreds of pieces of chicken each day, “low and slow,” from birds that his dad would butcher every morning.
“We were really worried that a lot of our food traditions would die with her,” Dickey said of his grandmother. “We didn’t learn as much as we probably should have.”
But this season, he and Jan have rented out their Denver apartment on Airbnb and moved near Juniper Valley full-time. In addition to the regular menu, they’ve started baking their own sourdough bread, added local gin and tonics to the drink offerings, and are serving Nashville hot chicken as a Sunday special.
“I think Jan and I have spent a lot of our lives working on other people’s dreams. Here we get to take liberties and risks that just aren’t possible at other places,” Dickey said.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostA table full of friends from Canon City toast one another during dinner at Juniper Valley Ranch on April 7, 2019 in Colorado Springs.
They bought three new milking cows that birthed their first calves this spring, adding to the 10 steer and six horses left on the 300-acre ranch.
By opening weekend in early April, the low-slung adobe was humming with families, first-time visitors and friends. Dickey’s sister, Olivia, and his dad greeted diners, who filled the worn-in rooms, tucking in at dining tables as the house settled into its 68th year.
“Something about this place is that it (…) it’s like local produce: It follows the season, and so do we,” Dickey said.
“If I could tell myself 20 years ago that I would be putting myself back here, I would have never believed it.”
If you go: Juniper Valley Ranch is located at 16350 Highway 115, southwest of Colorado Springs. It’s open from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from 1 to 7:30 p.m. Sundays. For reservations, call 719-576-0741, and for more information visit junipervalleyranch.com.
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostThe sunsets outside of the small red adobe house at Juniper Valley Ranch welcomes diners to the restaurant on April 7, 2019 in Colorado Springs.
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Study shows explosive growth in time spent streaming TV
Elise Amendola, The Associated PressIn this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, file photo, a person displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass.
NEW YORK — Streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu account for 19% of television viewing in the United States now for people who have that capacity, virtually double what it was less than two years ago, a report out Wednesday said.
A Nielsen company study illustrated how quickly consumers have embraced streaming as an alternative to live TV. The percentage of time spent streaming has gone from 10% in a Nielsen study from March 2018 to 19% during the last three months of 2019.
More than half of consumers with the capacity to stream subscribe to two or more services, Nielsen found. And, in a survey, 93% said they planned to either increase or maintain that number.
“There is room for growth there,” said Pete Katsingris, Nielsen’s senior vice president for audience insights.
The average American spends a staggering 11 hours, 54 minutes each day connected to some form of media — TV, smartphones, radio, games — although that number is bloated because some of the usage is simultaneous, Nielsen said. That’s up nearly an hour and a half in only a year.
Smartphone usage accounts for virtually all of the increase. People spent just under four hours a day on their phones in Nielsen’s most recent study, compared to 2 hours, 31 minutes in the last three months of 2018.
A walk through the train on his daily commute shows Katsingris how absorbed people are in their phones, and they’re becoming increasingly comfortable using them to watch video, he said.
“They are finding more and more ways to keep their attention occupied,” he said.
Live television viewing is actually down in the past year (3 hours, 44 minutes to 3 hours, 27 minutes), explaining the worry in executive suites at television networks. Streaming time is up, from 29 minutes a day to 38 minutes in the same period.
Nielsen’s report also illustrates a technological generation gap. People aged 18 to 34 spend five and a half hours a week on an internet-connected device, compared to two and a half hours for people older than age 65. Meanwhile, older folks spend nearly 50 hours a week in front of the television, compared to 20 hours for young people.
It’s not like there’s nothing to watch: Nielsen said consumers had access to 646,152 different movies or TV programs last year, up 10% in only a year.
There’s something to be said for familiarity. Nielsen said the five most-watched programs on Netflix during the last three months of 2019 were episodes of programs that began on broadcast network TV: “The Office,” “Friends,” “Criminal Minds,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “NCIS.”
Can’t touch this: Real slot machines controlled online
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Slot machines, the bread and butter of the casino industry, long ago lost their nicknames as “one-armed bandits” when manufacturers did away with the lever gamblers had to pull in order to activate the machine, replacing it with buttons.
Now, people can gamble on a real-life slot machine without touching it at all.
Atlantic City’s Hard Rock casino unveiled slot machines Feb. 10 that exist inside the casino, but which are entirely activated and played by gamblers over the internet. The casino and its technology partner, Softweave Ltd., say the 12-machine offering is the first of its kind anywhere.
Patrons at the casino can look at the machines through peepholes in a wall of the secure, off-limits room where the machines sit on the second floor, with an array of cameras set in front of them to let players see exactly what is happening with the machine as it is activated.
“The psychology, there are brick-and-mortar players that have a fear of doing things online,” said Kresimir Spajic, senior vice president of online gaming at Hard Rock International. “This is helpful in transitioning them into online customers. This is a real, physical machine that they can see, almost like they’re sitting in front of it.”
Joe Lupo, Hard Rock’s Atlantic City president, said the remote-controlled slots are the natural outgrowth of live-dealer tables games that have been growing in popularity in Atlantic City over the past six years.
“Credibility and transparency have been paramount to seeing online gaming move forward,” Lupo said. “The difference between seeing a computer image as opposed to the kind of machine that a customer has been playing for years, it may be easier to understand.”
Online or in person, slots work the same way. Their foundation is technology called a random number generator, which does exactly that: comes up with numbers at random. State gambling regulators put the devices through extensive investigation and testing to ensure the integrity of the games.
The new machines at Hard Rock are no different: They are the same type of machines that exist by the thousands on the casino floor, only they are connected to the internet so that they can be activated online.
Players with a valid internet gambling account with Hard Rock can access the new machines through the casino’s online gambling website. If all 12 machines are occupied by other players, others can join a queue waiting for one of them to become available. While they’re waiting, they can still play online slots or table games, Lupo said.
Spajic said another potential benefit is the ability to play popular slot machines that have not been made available online previously.
Samsung’s new foldable phone: Cheaper, but still a novelty
SAN FRANCISCO — Samsung on Tuesday unveiled a new foldable phone, the Galaxy Z Flip, its second attempt to sell consumers on phones with bendable screens and clamshell designs.
The new phone can unfold from a small square upward into a traditional smartphone form, and went on sale Friday starting at $1,380. The company announced the phone at a product event in San Francisco.
Samsung’s first foldable phone, the Galaxy Fold, finally went on sale last September after delays and reports of screens breaking. The Fold, which carries a price tag of nearly $2,000, folds at a vertical crease rather than horizontally as a flip-phone design would. Motorola has also taken the flip-phone approach with its new $1,500 Razr phone.
The foldable phones represent manufacturers’ attempt to energize a market where sales have slowed. Many consumers are holding onto old phones longer, in part because new phone features offer increasingly marginal benefits. But these foldable models come with higher price tags and are likely to appeal for now mostly to tech enthusiasts and others at the forefront of technology.
“While there’s a lot of excitement around this new category, it is still early days and they will evolve significantly,” said Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at PP Foresight. “While these innovative new designs are nice to have, they’re not must-have, sought-after features among users.”
The Z Flip can stay open at different angles for use watching videos or taking photos. When the phone is closed, it will take selfies and display notifications in a small window on the cover. Unfolded, its screen measures 6.7 inches diagonally.
Samsung says it added fibers to the gap between the hinge and the phone to keep out dust and improve hinge function, likely to address shortcomings of the Galaxy Fold.
On the more traditional front, Samsung offers its S series. In a nod to the start of the 2020s, the South Korean company showed off the Galaxy S20, S20 Plus and S20 Ultra, skipping directly to the S20 from its previous S10 series.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip screen measures 6.7 inches diagonally when it’s open. (Josh Edelson, AFP via Getty Images)
The S20 phones are designed to take high-quality pictures in dark settings, Samsung product manager Mark Holloway said. The phones can take both video and photos at the same time, using artificial intelligence to zero in on the best moments to capture the still images.
Samsung’s renewed focus on the camera follows other smartphone makers. Apple last fall announced the iPhone 11, which offers an additional lens for wider-angle shots and combined multiple shots with software to improve low-light images. Google’s Pixel phones also offer a similar low-light feature.
Samsung’s S phones already offer the wider angle and some features for low-lighting. But the company says the new phones will focus on high-resolution photos and the ability to zoom in 30 to 100 times, depending on the model.
The camera on the S20 series is “a giant leap,” said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy, who argued that people might gravitate toward the more expensive models even as the sales of smartphones slow.
Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen called the S20 “astounding,” but worried that the crowd at the event had a muted response.
“I think we’ve reached the point in the technology timeline that all of us have technology that’s so good, better than we can even grasp or take advantage of, that anything new that’s introduced is not greeted with the same enthusiasm,” he said.
The S20 phones go on sale in the U.S. on March 6, and will range in price from $1,000 to $1,400. All S20 models will be compatible with next-generation cellular networks known as 5G, although it’s still an early technology that consumers typically won’t need yet. The Z Flip will not work with 5G networks.
As people packed into San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts for Samsung’s launch event, they passed a team taking remote temperatures in the security line, likely a precaution to check for the coronavirus. Samsung also offered hand sanitizer stations and face masks inside the event lobby.
Another San Francisco tech company is expanding in Denver. This one is banking on small businesses’s success
When a company has a shoeless office policy, it makes sense to offer employees comfy footwear options sporting the company logo. For folks who work for Gusto, the San Francisco-based provider of web-based payroll and benefits services, that means Gusto socks and Gusto slippers.
In Denver, the number of feet with access to that branded footwear has multiplied in the last month and a half, a trend that is only expected to accelerate through the rest of 2020.
Coming off a $200 million funding round last summer, Gusto moved into 65,000 square feet of new office space in the building at 1515 Arapahoe St. earlier this month. The number of so-called “Gusties” in the Mile High City has shot up more than 13% since mid-December to 885 people, company representatives say.
The new space is just across the 16th Street Mall from Gusto’s existing Denver digs, inside the retail wing of the Tabor Center complex, real estate previously occupied in part by Denver’s ESPN Zone.
“We are committed to downtown Denver for the long term,” Gusto’s head of environment Charles Sim said. “That’s our home.”
By the end of September, Gusto expects to take on other 64,000 square feet in the Arapahoe Street building, identifiable by the Ashford.edu sign on the side. In 2021, the company aims to add another 70,000 square feet there. With all that room to grow, today’s headcount of around 900 Gusties is expected to balloon to around 1,500 by the end of 2020, Sim said.
Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostGusto office at Tabor Center on 16th street mall Denver. Jan. 21, 2020. Tech-powered payroll and benefits company Gusto’s was among the first SF tech firms to plant a flag here in Denver.
Founded in San Francisco in 2011, Gusto first arrived in Denver in 2015 with just seven employees, said Jess Felluss, a member of the Gusto’s real estate staff that was part of that “landing team.”
It’s one of 22 Bay Area tech or life science companies to set up outposts in Denver between 2010-19, according to research by Cushman & Wakefield. By the end of 2017, the company’s Denver presence had grown to 250 employees.
That overlaps with an explosion in tech jobs in Denver. The metro market added 8,544 high-tech positions in 2017 and 2018, according to an October report from CBRE, a growth rate of 13.8%. In 2019, all Gusto did was add another 300 employees in Denver. That 2019 growth is equivalent to the size of the company’s entire San Francisco headquarters office as of December, according to Sim. Gusto also launched an office in New York City last year.
As with many of its fellow Bay Area firms, Gusto execs tout Denver’s tech talent pool as one of the things that made it a desirable place to be. But COO Lexi Reese focused on another group of people when laying out why the company has is so keen on the city.
“We really felt it was a good fit because there is a tremendous small-business community there,” Reese said last month. “Gusto is a technology platform, for sure, but our customers hire Gusto to do the very important work of growing and taking care of their teams. To be in Denver where a lot of that growth is happening felt exactly right for the company that we are trying to build.”
RELATED: Californication: Denver has attracted satellite offices for 22 major Bay Area tech companies since 2010 (October 2019)
Gusto provides payroll and other services to 100,000 small businesses, Reese said. Of those, 5,000 businesses are in Colorado and more than 1,300 are in Denver, according to the company.
The Denver office has employees focusing on all aspects of Gusto’s business, but it’s heavy on sales and customer service workers. It’s “fueled by the businesses’ needs,” Reese said. In addition to payroll and benefits services, the company offers human resources expertise and has organized meetups for customers in Denver covering topics such as data security, Reese said.
With meeting rooms in the expanded office named after small-business varieties like “corner store” and “day spa,” Gusto emphasizes that its success is predicated on the success of other businesses. It’s a feel-good message that’s easy to for workers to buy into.
“My dad had a moving company in Telluride, that’s why I have a passion for what we do,” Whitney Bondy, part of Gusto’s health insurance qualification team, said.
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For Koan Goedman, signing up for Gusto’s payroll and benefits took pressure off of him and allowed him to provide his employees with benefits sooner than if he had to set them up on his own. The owner and co-founder of Denver coffee company Huckleberry Roasters said he and his former business partner were originally keeping track of payroll on Excel spreadsheets. Gusto’s platform was not only much more efficient but made adding health, dental, vision and paid time off benefits push-button simple.
“Our core mission for Huckleberry was we wanted to treat people well and offer benefits in an industry where it’s not really the norm,” said Goedman, who now runs a commercial roastery and two coffee shops. “With Gusto being able te navigate those private insurance waters for this growing group of employees was really advantageous and very easy for us.”
Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostCaitlin Matalone takes off the shoes at the entrance of Gusto office of Tabor Center on 16th street mall Denver. Jan. 21, 2020. Tech-powered payroll and benefits company Gusto’s was among the first SF tech firms to plant a flag here in Denver. The founders of the company all grew up in “shoe-less” households so their offices are all shoe-less.
Boulder’s Misty Robotics has made it easier to turn its robots into front-desk workers
It can’t clean a bathroom or turn down a king-sized bed. It doesn’t have the gripping hands — or the size, for the matter — necessary for such tasks.
With proper finishing work by a developer and some software integration, however, it’s possible that a Misty II robot could check someone in at a hotel’s front desk and maybe even recommend a good restaurant for dinner.
Boulder’s Misty Robotics earlier this month unveiled its Misty as a Concierge application template. Launched at the CES tech show in Las Vegas, the bit of code provides a programming head start for people that own one of the company’s Misty II robots, making it easier for those owners to turn the tiny machine (14 inches tall and weighing 6 pounds) into a greeter, a payment taker, an attendant at an eldercare facility or outfit it for a number of other tasks.
The template builds on Misty’s II ability to detect humans nearby and interact with them by integrating with third-party software platforms such as FourSquare, company officials say.
“Misty is a platform. It’s a tool for any technologist or someone who employs a technologist to solve a problem with a robot,” company CEO Tim Enwall said. Misty as a Concierge is a “half-built application that is open source and really helps our customer not have to start staring at a blank sheet of paper saying, ‘Gosh, how do I get my applications started and written?’ ”
Open-source means the template is free. It can be downloaded by anyone through GitHub.com. A Misty II robot, on the other hand, costs $2,899 and can be bought through the company’s website.
The template is the next step in the speedy evolution of Misty Robotics. The Boulder company, which spun off from robot toymaker Sphero, launched the handbuilt Misty 1 robot in February 2018. Misty I’s factory-built successor has built-in microphones, allowing for conversations, a neck joint that makes it more effective at communications emotion and liveliness and newer software, Enwall said.
While he wouldn’t disclose sales totals, Enwall indicated that since its launch on Oct. 30, Misty II has been popular. Making it easier to get the “platform robot” up and running and performing tasks is key to driving its success.
“Our customers are out there solving problems in health care facilities and eldercare and office reception, places where a robot can solve problems but a roboticist has not deemed the problem worthy of solving,” Enwall said, adding he has even heard of a magician that incorporated a Misty II bot into his act.
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At a time of high anxiety over how self-driving cars and other forms of automation and artificial intelligence could soon do away with masses of human jobs around the globe, Enwall isn’t afraid to discuss the impact bots could have. Although in a recent conversation with The Denver Post he did offer the disclaimer it is “obviously a rich and deep and challenging topic that is not well-suited for soundbites.”
“Our view is robots are going to be another tool for humans to use alongside them, the same way that almost any productivity tool we have ever known has been used,” he said, referencing mules and ATMs. “It’s taking the least meaningful work and removing that so the human can do the most meaningful work.”
Enwall and Co. are planning to launch other application template this year, noting that their key customer base — developers — will guide them on what base skillsets will be the most useful.
Colorado’s seasonally adjusted unemployment was measured at 2.5% in December, an all-time low dating back to 1976. It’s a labor market so tight that some businesses, such as the Berkshire restaurant in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood, are closing in part because they can’t find enough help.
“There are many industries that are at risk of contraction or getting smaller because they can’t find labor,” Enwall said.
With that in mind, he sees companies like his as a part of the solution, not a problem, when it comes to the future of work.
CES gadget show: Pizza from robots, underwater scooters
LAS VEGAS — Robots were front and center at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas. One even made pizza.
Tucked away behind a concession stand, one robot was busy making overpriced pizzas for the hungry crowds.
“It’s not bad,” said McCord Fitzsimmons, who paid $7.50 for a pepperoni slice while the robot worked behind the register. “It’s kind of neat watching the thing do its thing.”
The robot, which resembles an assembly line, can churn out 300 12-inch pies in an hour. (The high price, though, has nothing to do with the robot’s costs, but the captive audience at CES’ sprawling venues.)
Humans are still needed to make lunch. A worker with an iPad tells the robot what type of pizza to make and then slides a frozen crust on the conveyor belt. As the crust goes down the line, sauce, cheese, sausage and other toppings fall from above and onto the crust. A worker then needs to put the pie in the oven, take it out when it’s done and slice it up.
Picnic, the startup behind the robot, said it’s also assembling pizzas at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, where the company is based.
Pizza shop owners can customize the machine and add whatever crusts or ingredients they want.
Besides pizzas, Picnic said the robot could be reconfigured to make wraps or salads for restaurants.
Cruisin’ under the sea: Need a faster way to travel underwater? Sublue has your back.
The company makes handheld scooters for underwater use. Just press two buttons for the battery-powered motors to start, and you’re on your way.
Sublue’s scooters are mostly made for professional use — for divers or other underwater explorers. But the company is working on a less expensive model for casual water adventurers, one it expects will cost $500 to $600.
On the CES floor, Sublue had a huge glass tank pool where onlookers gawked at a professional diver showing off the scooters.
The scooter comes with a strap so you don’t lose it. There’s also a mount for your phone, hopefully encased in a waterproof covering.
Land scooters have gained popularity in urban areas in recent years, garnering both praise for their small size and ease of use and pushback for crowding sidewalks and streets.
At least underwater, there’s a smaller chance of traffic accidents — for now.
Use the force: How focused are you, really?
At BrainCo’s booth, people wearing headbands equipped with EEG sensors move toy cars around a racetrack using only their minds.
The company, which was incubated at Harvard Innovation Lab, uses the headband to convert electro signals into a numeric scale of 0 to 100 to tell how hard someone is focusing. The cars moved faster as people hit higher numbers.
BrainCo makes the headbands for athletes, including the USA Weightlifting team, to test their focus levels and get them in the right headspace for training. The company says that using mind games before workouts — and meditation afterward — can make athletes more effective, without altering their training.
Traditionally, EEG measurements are used medically — but BrainCo says it collects more than 1,000 data points from the headband, which it uses to measure the person’s mental state.
BrainCo also sells the headbands to schools so teachers can get a real-time look at how students are responding to lessons. But it’s not currently on sale for individual consumers.
Gym class without the gym? With technology, it’s catching on
Grace Brown’s schedule at West Potomac High School in northern Virginia is filled with all the usual academics, and she’s packed in Latin, chorus and piano as extras.
What she can’t cram into the 8:10 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. school day is gym class.
So she’s taking that one, minus the gym, and on her own time.
The 14-year-old freshman is getting school credit for virtual physical education, a concept that, as strange as it may sound, is being helped along by availability of wearable fitness trackers.
For students whose tests and textbooks have migrated to screens, technology as gym equipment may have been only a matter of time.
Grace, who lives in Alexandria, wears a school-issued Fitbit on her wrist while getting in at least three 30-minute workouts a week outside of school hours. She has an app on her computer that screenshots her activity so she can turn it in for credit.
While online physical education classes have been around for well more than a decade, often as part of virtual or online schools, the technology has made possible a new level of accountability, its users say.
“We’re asking kids to wear this while they do an activity of their choice, and they can change the activity as they desire, as long as it’s something that they understand is probably going to get their heart rate up,” said Elizabeth Edwards, department head for online physical education at Fairfax County Public Schools, which includes Grace’s high school.
Though a physical education instructor isn’t shouting from the sidelines, teachers do guide assignments by setting goals such as fat burn, cardio or peak, relying on the technology to be their eyes and ears. Students also are required to sign in for a weekly 60-minute to 90-minute classroom session with the teacher.
Teenagers who play soccer, swim or dance all year may satisfy the workout requirements without doing anything extra. Grace has been adding bike rides and jogs to her days.
For her, online PE freed her up to take three elective courses, instead of two in school. For others, it’s a welcome way to take a required class that students otherwise may find socially or physically challenging.
“We definitely exercise more in online PE,” Grace said. “There’s a lot of standing around in regular PE. Online, I do much harder workouts.”
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A survey of more than 3,000 fitness professionals by the American College of Sports Medicine named wearable technology the top trend in fitness for 2020.
It’s not clear how many schools are embracing the trend. It comes with some cautions.
Technology and the collection of any student data always raises the specter of student privacy concerns. And some worry that students exercising on their own may miss out on important social concepts such as teamwork.
“There is a difference between physical activity and physical education,” said Chris Hersl, former vice president for programs and professional development at SHAPE America, which wrote national standards for K-12 physical education.
“Physical activity is great for the body. We want everybody to move,” he said, “but physical education is a class where students are taught how to move their body and the social context in which to do that.”
Joliet Township schools in Illinois use fitness trackers as part of a blended learning conditioning program that has students who sign up for it work out two to three times a week in the gym with an instructor and the other days on their own.
Grace Brown wears a school-issued Fitbit on her wrist while getting in at least three 30-minute workouts a week outside of school hours. (Jacquelyn Martin, The Associated Press)
“It’s a flexible schedule where they still have in-person physical education classes and there’s still instruction happening, but they’re able to use the Fitbit to monitor how students are working outside the classroom,” said Karla Guseman, the district’s associate superintendent for educational services.
She said it’s one of numerous blending learning options that Joliet Township High School offers to give students both more control over the pace and time of their work, and more responsibility to get it done.
“We’re trying to give them an opportunity to see what post-secondary might look like,” Guseman said, “when you don’t meet every day but you’re still expected to do work for a course or preparation between class periods.”
A virtual school that is part of the Springfield, Mo., public school district started with a single class — physical education, said Nichole Lemmon, the creator of the program, called Launch, which uses Garmin fitness trackers.
“Eight years ago, it was the very first online class by our developers to meet a really niche student who could not fit PE courses into their schedule,” Lemmon said. “Maybe they wanted to take more honors level courses, or advanced placement, or international baccalaureate classes and PE was hard to fit in, so we allowed them to do it outside of the school day.”
A telling illustration of the technology-driven 24/7 school day is the peak log-in time on the school’s portal system: 10:03 p.m.
“They may not be working out at 10 p.m., but that’s when they’re turning in their workout. The notion that education now runs 7:30-4, 8-3, is really antiquated,” Lemmon said, “and our students are begging to be able to have more flexibility in the time of day they learn.”
During the past summer session, there were 22,600 students enrolled, and the most popular courses were PE, she said.
Teachers help students set up their fitness devices, entering the student’s height, weight and age, and coming up with a target heart rate. As an added layer of instruction and accountability, Launch students are required to send video back to the teacher, who checks their technique as they stretch or lift weights, for example.
“They work with their PE instructor to set a fitness goal and then they get their workout however they want to,” Lemmon said. “It really does promote lifelong fitness because it’s about working out the way they want to, not they’re required to do a particular activity in gym. … We have a lot of kids — a locker room is their worst nightmare. It’s not where they want to be.”
Grace’s mother, Rhonda Brown, remembers how hard gym class soccer and softball games were for her because of blindness in one eye.
“You’re talking to someone who was always picked last for every sporting activity. I have nightmares sometimes,” she said.
She’d like to see the county go even further and grant waivers from PE to kids that play school sports.
“We’re so stuck in the traditional classroom setting. These kids are burning 2,000 calories during a practice and more at every game,” she said. “I wish the schools would catch up with the times.”
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Want your personal data? Hand over more please
The new year ushered in a landmark California privacy law that gives residents more control over how their digital data is used. The Golden State isn’t the only beneficiary, though, because many companies are extending the protections — the most important being the right to see and delete the personal data a company has — to all their customers in the United States.
In the fall, I took the right of access for a test drive, asking companies in the business of profiling and scoring consumers for their files on me. One of the companies, Sift, which assesses a user’s trustworthiness, sent me a 400-page file that contained years’ worth of my Airbnb messages, Yelp orders and Coinbase activity. Soon after my article was published, Sift was deluged with over 16,000 requests, forcing it to hire a vendor to deal with the crush.
That vendor, Berbix, helped verify the identity of people requesting data by asking them to upload photos of their government ID and to take a selfie. It then asked them to take a second selfie while following instructions. “Make sure you are looking happy or joyful and try again” was one such command.
Many people who read the article about my experience were alarmed by the information that Berbix asked for — and the need to smile for their secret file.
“This is a nightmare future where I can’t request my data from a creepy shadow credit bureau without putting on a smile for them, and it’s completely insane,” Jack Phelps, a software engineer in New York City, said in an email.
“It just seems wrong that we have to give up even more personal information,” wrote another reader, Barbara Clancy, a retired professor of neuroscience in Arkansas.
That’s the unpleasant reality: To get your personal data, you may have to give up more personal data. It seems awful at first. Alistair Barr of Bloomberg called it “the new privacy circle of hell.”
But there’s a good reason for this. Companies don’t want to give your data away to the wrong person, which has happened in the past. In 2018, Amazon sent 1,700 audio files of a customer talking to his Alexa to a stranger.
The right to have access to personal data is enshrined in the new California Consumer Privacy Act. The law is modeled in part on privacy regulations in Europe, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Soon after Europe’s law went into effect, in May 2018, a hacker gained access to the Spotify account of Jean Yang, a tech executive, and successfully filed a data request to download her home address, credit card information and a history of the music she had listened to.
Since then, two groups of researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to fool the systems created to comply with GDPR to get someone else’s personal information.
One of the researchers, James Pavur, 24, a doctoral student at Oxford University, filed data requests on behalf of his research partner and wife, Casey Knerr, at 150 companies using information that was easily found for her online, such as her mailing address, email address and phone number. To make the requests, he created an email address that was a variation on Knerr’s name. A quarter of the companies sent him her file.
“I got her Social Security number, high school grades, a good chunk of information about her credit card,” Pavur said. “A threat intelligence company sent me all her user names and passwords that had been leaked.”
Mariano Di Martino and Pieter Robyns, computer science researchers at Hasselt University in Belgium, had the same success rate when they approached 55 financial, entertainment and news companies. They requested each other’s data, using more advanced techniques than those of Pavur, such as photoshopping each other’s government ID. In one case, Di Martino received the data file of a complete stranger whose name was similar to that of Robyns.
Both sets of researchers thought the new law giving the right to data was worthwhile. But they said companies needed to improve their security practices to avoid compromising customers’ privacy further.
“Companies are rushing to solutions that lead to insecure practices,” Robyns said.
Companies employ different techniques for verifying identity. Many simply ask for a photo of a driver’s license. Retail Equation, a company that decides whether a consumer can make returns at retailers like Best Buy and Victoria’s Secret, asks only for a name and driver’s license number.
The wide array of companies now required to hand over data, from Baskin Robbins to The New York Times, have varying levels of security expertise and experience in providing data to consumers.
Companies such as Apple, Amazon and Twitter can ask users to verify their identity by logging into their platforms. All three give a heads-up via email after data is requested, which can help warn people if a hacker got access to their account. An Apple spokesman said that after a request is made, the company uses additional methods to verify the person’s identity, though the company said it couldn’t disclose those methods for security reasons.
If consumers can’t verify their identity by logging into an existing account, Di Martino and Robyns recommend that companies email them, call them or ask them for information that only they should know, such as the invoice number on a recent bill.
“Regulators need to think more about the unintended consequences of empowering individuals to access and delete their data,” said Steve Kirkham, who worked on Airbnb’s trust and safety team for five years, before founding Berbix in 2018. “We want to prevent fraudulent requests and let the good ones go through.”
Colorado joins states suing over rules governing 3D-printed “ghost guns”
WASHINGTON — Attorneys general in 20 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging a federal regulation that could allow blueprints for making guns on 3D printers to be posted on the internet.
New York Attorney General Tish James, who helped lead the coalition of state attorneys general, argued that posting the blueprints would allow anyone to go online and use the downloadable files to create unregistered and untraceable assault-style weapons that could be difficult to detect.
The lawsuit, joined by Colorado, California, Washington and 16 other states, was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle. It is likely to reignite a fierce debate over the use of 3D-printed firearms and is the latest in a series of attempts by state law enforcement officials to block the Trump administration from easing the accessibility of the blueprints.
Proponents have argued there is a constitutional right to publish the material, but critics counter that making the blueprints readily accessible online could lead to an increase in gun violence and put weapons in the hands of criminals who are legally prohibited from owning them.
Washington state’s attorney general Bob Ferguson said a previous multi-state lawsuit led a federal judge last year to strike down the administration’s earlier attempt to allow the files to be distributed.
“Why is the Trump administration working so hard to allow domestic abusers, felons and terrorists access to untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed guns?” Ferguson said in a statement.
For years, law enforcement officials have been trying to draw attention to the dangers posed by the so-called ghost guns, which contain no registration numbers that could be used to trace them.
A federal judge in November blocked an earlier attempt by the Trump administration to allow the files to be released online, arguing that the government had violated the law on procedural grounds. But the administration published formal rules on Thursday that transfer the regulation of 3D-printed guns from the State Department to the Commerce Department, which could open the door to making the blueprints available online.
The state attorneys general argue the government is breaking the law and say such deregulation will “make it far easier for individuals ineligible to possess firearms under state or federal law to obtain a deadly weapon without undergoing a background check,” according to the lawsuit. They also argue that the Commerce Department lacks the power to properly regulate 3D-printed guns.
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“Ghost Guns endanger every single one of us,” James said in a statement. “While the president and his Administration know these homemade weapons pose an imminent threat, he continues to cater to the gun lobby — risking the lives of millions of Americans.”
In 2015, Cody Wilson and his company Defense Distributed sued the federal government after it told him to remove online blueprints of a 3D-printed gun. The State Department reached a settlement with the company in 2018 and removed the 3D gun-making plans from a list of weapons or technical data that are not allowed to be exported. But a coalition of state attorneys general filed a lawsuit to stop the maneuver, arguing that undetectable plastic guns pose a national security risk.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit filed Thursday.
In addition to Colorado, Washington, California and New York, the states suing are: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia as well as the District of Columbia.
“We successfully challenged the Trump administration’s first reckless attempt, and we will continue to fight against this latest attack on the safety of our communities,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
Grygiel reported from Seattle.
Denver startup that makes digital “skin” gains interest — and money — from California-based fuel company
A Denver startup whose technology transmits real-time data about the human body and other physical objects has garnered the attention — and money — of a California-based fuel supplier and retailer.
Cipher Skin Inc. said in a statement that Boyett Petroleum, based in Modesto, Calif., recently invested $1 million in its technology that is designed to monitor the flows in pipelines and detect leaks.
Company officials said a Cipher Skin sleeve wrapped around a pipe can remotely and continuously monitor what’s happening to the pipe. It can show if there are leaks, ruptures, vibrations, dislocations and monitor the flow of fluids.
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“Because we can integrate a near infinite number of sensors into the mesh, not only are we able to locate and characterize — in real time — the type of distortion applied to a pipe, but also measure flow and fluid density inside it,” said Phillip Bogdanovich, CEO and co-founder of Cipher Skin.
Dale Boyett, president of Boyett Petroleum, said Cipher Skin stood out when the company was looking for a way to “instantaneously, remotely and with the highest precision” monitor the fluid running through the pipes.
Cipher Skin said the investment by Boyett Petroleum came as it closed on a $5 million round of fundraising. The company has said it also talking to sports teams, water companies, other oil and gas companies and the military about trying its products, including helmets and arm and knee sleeves