Reuters: Top News
Russia-backed Syrian forces step in as U.S. retreats
Russia-backed Syrian forces wasted no time in taking advantage of an abrupt U.S. retreat from Syria on Monday, deploying deep inside Kurdish-held territory south of the Turkish frontier less than 24 hours after Washington announced a full withdrawal.
Brexit hangs in the balance as EU doubts a deal this week
A deal to smooth Britain's departure from the European Union hung in the balance on Monday after diplomats indicated the bloc wanted more concessions from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and said a full agreement was unlikely this week.
EU seeks Italian support for Turkey arms embargo
Spain, Austria and Belgium joined Germany and France on Monday in backing an arms embargo on Turkey over its Syrian offensive but top exporter Italy had yet to declare its position, leaving an-EU wide ban in doubt.
Saudi visit shows Putin's deepening Middle East influence
President Vladimir Putin signaled Moscow's growing Middle East clout on Monday by visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time in over a decade, buoyed by Russian military gains in Syria, strong ties with Riyadh's regional rivals and energy cooperation.
GANNETT Syndication Service
The Traditional Apex of Britain’s Untraditional Moment
A grand carriage procession, a royal “hostage,” a ceremonial sword. Britain’s State Opening of Parliament, and the Queen’s Speech that accompanies it, is nothing if not extravagant—an event more so than any other in British politics that is beholden to ritual and tradition.For a ceremony replete with colorful customs, however, this year’s Queen’s Speech couldn’t have come at a more untraditional time for Britain. Politically, the government has no majority, an election is imminent (though no one knows when), and the country is careening towards a cliff-edge exit from the European Union without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the fall. And on a deeper level, major constitutional questions are suddenly up for debate, from the strength and sovereignty of Parliament, to the power of the executive, and the role of the monarch in relation to the legislature.It was set against this tumultuous backdrop that Queen Elizabeth II made the short journey from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster today to deliver her ceremonial address outlining the government’s legislative agenda for the new parliamentary year. From the elaborate costumes and royal regalia to the theatrical nodding, the Queen’s Speech looks nothing like the Westminster politics that can be streamed online most days of the week. For one, it doesn’t take place in the House of Commons, but across the palace in the less-observed House of Lords. And though the words are drafted by the government, they are delivered by the Queen, who, donning an 18-foot crimson Robe of State, addresses lawmakers from a gilded throne. (Though the Imperial State Crown is always present for the ceremony, the Queen hasn’t worn it in recent years because of its weight. “You can’t look down to read the speech” the Queen told the BBC last year. “Because if you did your neck would break.”)Queen Elizabeth II rides in a coach to Parliament to deliver the Queen's Speech in October 1962. (AP)But even the pomp and pageantry of today’s event couldn’t overshadow all the political controversy surrounding it. After all, it was only last month that Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood accused of lying to the Queen about his original bid to suspend Parliament (an otherwise usual move made controversial by its unusually long duration), which was later ruled unlawful by Britain’s Supreme Court. That the country is just weeks away from its October 31 Brexit deadline and likely headed for a general election (which could prompt yet another Queen’s Speech) led several lawmakers to declare the State Opening a “sham.”Read: The never-ending Brexit crisisStill, as the only regular occasion to include all three central elements of Parliament—the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the crown—the Queen’s Speech remains a deeply symbolic event. For the Queen, it reaffirms her role as the country’s constitutional, albeit politically neutral, head of state. For Parliament, however, it’s an opportunity to remind the monarch who is really in charge. In addition to the customary heckle from veteran Labour lawmaker Dennis Skinner (who is known for his republican, or anti-monarchy, sentiments), the Commons famously demonstrates its authority by slamming the chamber’s doors in the face of Black Rod, the traditional gatekeeper of the House of Lords sent by the Queen to summon the members of Parliament. Only after knocking three times is Black Rod eventually permitted inside.“No monarch has entered the House of Commons since Charles I—and you know what happened to him,” Richard Fitzwilliams, a commentator on the royal family, told me of the tradition, which dates back to the fractious relationship between Parliament and the crown that led to Charles I’s execution during the English Civil War. (A copy of the monarch’s death certificate is displayed in the robing room used by the Queen before the ceremony as a further reminder of Parliament’s sovereignty.)Many of these traditions take place behind the scenes. Ahead of the ceremony, the Yeoman of the Guard, the Queen’s official royal bodyguards, conduct a sweep of the Westminster cellars for explosives, in commemoration of the failed 17th century Gunpowder plot to blow up the State Opening of Parliament by Guy Fawkes. As a further precaution, Buckingham Palace takes a member of Parliament “hostage” in order to ensure the Queen’s safe return. This year’s hostage was Conservative MP Stuart Andrew. (Jim Fitzpatrick, a Labour lawmaker who was held hostage in 2014, said he was permitted to wander around the palace and even enjoy a coffee or a gin and tonic. “But they made it quite clear that I wasn’t going anywhere.”)Queen Elizabeth II reads the Queen's Speech during the State Opening of Parliament in October 1996. (Max Nash / Pool / AP)For all the symbolism and ceremonial significance of the Queen’s Speech, there is a practical political element, too. Soon after the speech is delivered, its contents are moved back to the House of Commons to be debated and voted on. This poses an issue for Johnson, whose lack of a parliamentary majority has already seen him lose a series of votes. To be defeated on the Queen’s Speech wouldn’t just constitute a lack of confidence in his government, but it would also put his premiership into a constitutional grey area: The last time a prime minister lost a vote on a Queen’s Speech, in 1924, he resigned (something Johnson would be loath to do). More recent laws, however, require that lawmakers hold a formal no-confidence vote to depose a prime minister—something opposition parliamentarians have declined to do until they can remove the threat of a no-deal Brexit.Many of the customs and choreography surrounding the Queen’s Speech haven’t changed much since the 1852 Opening of Parliament, on which the modern ceremony is based. In some ways, Fitzwilliams said, they are more important than ever before. “The question marks that remain over what’s going to happen even in the next month are just extraordinary,” he said. “When you’ve got the political chaos that you have at the moment, it is interesting and perhaps reassuring that some traditions are observed.”
The Dangerous Precedent of Trump’s Obstruction of Congressional Oversight
More than once since the Democrats captured the House of Representatives in the midterm elections of 2018, President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to express his irritation at “presidential harassment!” Undoubtedly, he is not the first occupant of the Oval Office to feel that way, but his response has been different. The Trump administration has tended to adopt a posture of maximal presidential obstruction of congressional investigations into the conduct of the executive branch and the individuals surrounding it. That defiance has culminated—for the moment—in White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declaring that the administration will not cooperate in any way with an impeachment inquiry that it regards as “illegitimate” and “constitutionally invalid.”That level of defiance is not healthy, and it might not end with the Trump administration. Congress and the White House have a tense relationship, and future administrations might well choose to build on rather than repudiate the Trump example of how to respond to a hostile Congress. If Trumpian defiance works, then it might well be repeated.The basic purpose of congressional oversight can get lost in the fog of partisan combat. The U.S. Constitution does not vest an explicit power of oversight or investigation in Congress. The Constitution vests “all legislative Powers herein granted” to Congress, but investigative powers are not mentioned in the text, and investigative powers are not clearly legislative in nature. Nonetheless, judges and politicians have long understood legislatures to have the authority to do some investigative work. The English Parliament and the colonial state legislatures had exercised such powers, and the U.S. Congress started to exercise such powers soon after the ratification of the Constitution.Congress needs the ability to exercise oversight of executive-branch activities and conduct general investigations into the state of the world in order to perform its legislative role. If Congress is to make informed policy, it needs to gather facts about the problems the country faces and the policy solutions that might be available, as Brianne Gorod wrote in The Atlantic last month. If Congress is to make reasonable decisions about what funds ought to be appropriated from the public treasury or what existing policy ought to be modified, it needs to be able to learn how the government itself is functioning, how government funds are being expended, and how laws are being administered.More generally, legislative oversight of the executive branch has also been understood as part of the constitutional structure of fragmented power and accountability. If government power is highly centralized—in a king, for example—the preservation of liberty and good government depends on the possibility of creating countervailing institutions that can monitor what the government is doing and call it to account. Elected legislatures arose in part to serve as the people’s eyes and ears in a nation’s capital. It is no surprise that in a modern context, authoritarian leaders work to muzzle such institutions so that their own conduct cannot be easily scrutinized or checked.In the middle of the 19th century, the English philosopher and liberal reformer John Stuart Mill had come to doubt how well an elected legislature could actually make informed policy decisions and govern, but he thought the oversight function of the modern legislature was its most essential function.
The proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control the government: to throw the light of publicity on its acts; to compel a full exposition and justification of all of them which any one considers questionable; to censure them if found condemnable, and, if the men who compose the government abuse their trust, or fulfil it in a manner which conflicts with the deliberate sense of the nation, to expel them from office, and either expressly or virtually appoint their successors. This is surely ample power, and security enough for the liberty of the nation.
Congress must also be able to engage in investigations to perform particular non-legislative tasks that the Constitution has entrusted to it. When the Senate is called upon to ratify a treaty or confirm a nominee for an office, it must gather information to help it determine whether it should accede to the president’s wishes. When Congress considers whether it should authorize the use of military force against another nation, it must take steps to determine whether such military action is warranted or advisable. When the House contemplates whether it should exercise its sole power of impeachment, it must inquire into the conduct of government officers to determine whether anything is amiss, and whether impeachment and removal are the proper remedy.[Brianne Gorod: The need for congressional oversight goes far beyond impeachment]Presidential administrations are often the targets of such investigations, and presidents are not always eager to cooperate with them. Claims of executive privilege have been a common basis on which presidents have asserted that there are limits to how far they should cooperate with congressional investigations. Like congressional oversight, executive privilege is not mentioned in the Constitution, but has instead been inferred from it as a necessary implication of the president’s constitutional responsibilities and the effective functioning of the separate branches of government.When the House of Representatives balked at passing a statute needed to help implement the controversial Jay Treaty of 1795, it asked the president to supply all the communications relating to the negotiation of the treaty to inform its deliberations about whether to adopt the legislation the president wanted. George Washington responded that it was his “constant endeavor to harmonize with the other branches” of the government, but that some of the requested documents were sensitive. The House had no proper right to such documents, and the president had no duty to provide them. James Madison, then serving in the House, responded to Washington’s message by insisting that the president could only appropriately assess the executive branch’s own interest in those papers, but he “ought not to refuse them as irrelative to the objects of the House,” which was something that the House alone could properly judge. In the end, they compromised, and the House passed the desired bill.The first president and the Fourth Congress were grappling with some basic constitutional and political problems that continue to bedevil the 45th president and the 116th Congress today. Washington was confronting the emergence of the first divided government, in which the House majority was in organized opposition to his own administration, a situation that Washington came to regard as threatening to the very foundations of the republic. An opposing party is particularly motivated to make unpleasant demands on the presidential administration and to scrutinize its every action with great skepticism, and presidents are often inclined to think that an opposing party is behaving unscrupulously and unfairly. At the same time, presidents can often rely on their partisan friends to go easy on them and not be too aggressive in exposing the administration’s problems (and in his case, Washington benefited from a Federalist Senate that was willing to ratify the Jay Treaty despite the objections of the Jeffersonian opposition, which held more seats in the House).Washington and Madison were also confronting a fundamental question in the American constitutional system about who should be able to judge the constitutional rights and responsibilities of the various branches of the government and what tools Congress had available to it to compel a reluctant executive to cooperate with its inquiries. They left those questions unresolved, and they remain unresolved. Both the House and the president insisted on their own authority to judge their own constitutional responsibilities, but both denied the authority of others to judge those responsibilities. The president could reasonably assert executive privilege, but he could not reasonably tell the House what information it did or did not need to perform its own duties. The president had control over the information that the House wanted to examine, but the president needed the House’s cooperation to advance the policies he desired.[Keith E. Whittington: How does impeachment work?]The system has worked through give and take. Both branches of government have recognized that they should not push things too far. Both branches of government have recognized that there were deals to be made to overcome impasses. Madison in the House understood that some information did in fact need to be kept confidential if the president were to be able to perform his constitutional functions on behalf of the nation. Washington in the White House understood that interbranch cooperation and concessions would be necessary to keep the government functioning, and that as a practical matter there were things he needed from the House and so had to find ways to satisfy its members.Cipollone’s letter to the House could not be more distant from Washington’s letter to the House in tone, substance, and attitude. Cipollone’s letter reflects the intense partisan divide in contemporary politics and the distrust that has grown up between the Democrats in Congress and the Trump White House. It also reflects a sense that the House and the administration have reached the endgame. James Madison’s House had some leverage over the Washington administration because it had something that the administration wanted, and there was some realistic possibility of reaching an accommodation that could satisfy both sides. Pelosi’s House seems to have lost much of its leverage over the Trump administration. The president seems to be assuming that he will inevitably be impeached and that there is no legislative policy agenda to be advanced, and so he has nothing more to lose by refusing to cooperate further with the House. He is now positioning himself for the Senate trial and the electoral campaign.Congress has some capacity to pressure an administration to comply with its subpoenas by turning to the courts or even using its inherent contempt power to detain an uncooperative witness, but its more substantial weapons have always been political. Congress can refuse to adopt policies that an administration wants. The Senate can refuse to confirm nominees that the president wants to see seated. Congress can refuse to provide funding for White House priorities. At the extreme, the House can vote to impeach and the Senate can vote to remove officers who stonewall congressional investigations.Congress is often reluctant to use those constitutional weapons, in part because there will be collateral damage. Congress also wants laws passed, the government funded, and vacant offices filled. The stakes of a particular dispute between the branches are not always high enough to make those costs worth bearing. The Trump administration can credibly threaten complete noncooperation with the House because it does not think there is much to be gained by cooperation, and in those circumstances Congress will have lost an important part of its leverage over the White House. The challenge for the House is in demonstrating to the administration that there are still things to lose, and perhaps still things to be won. And ultimately, as Madison himself noted, if certain issues cannot “be adjusted by the departments themselves,” then “there is no resource left but the will of the community.” The two sides can plead their case to the electorate and pray the voters can resolve the disagreement.
ISIS Is Gloating
Yesterday saw multiple reports of jailbreaks from Kurdish-operated prisons and camps that contained ISIS supporters. The Kurds, now battered by the full force of a Turkish invasion approved by Donald Trump, have allocated resources away from prisons and to their own survival, which is threatened more acutely by the Turkish military than by the Islamic State. Kurds have fled, prisons have been left unattended, and ISIS members, including Europeans and other foreigners posing serious terrorist threats, have walked free or may walk free soon. ISIS propaganda channels are gloating. The forces that defeated ISIS are scampering frantically around the desert, hunted like jackrabbits and desperate for protection, now that America has forsaken them.Some have likened the mass release of ISIS members to the period in the early 2010s when ISIS busted Sunnis out of jails in Iraq, and many joined the group in search of protection. But the comparison does not do justice to the ludicrous follies and entirely predictable consequences of the last week. More apt might be the climactic scene of the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, in which an orange-haired government employee (William Atherton) defies all logic and expert advice, and directly causes the release of thousands of supernatural ghouls onto the streets of Manhattan. That Walpurgisnacht could have been prevented indefinitely just by letting the Ghostbusters keep doing what they had been doing. No sane person would have ordered the demons freed, but no sane person was present to countermand the order.The best one could say about America’s abandonment of the Kurds is that they should have known we would sell them out eventually. (Patrick Cockburn quotes a new Middle Eastern proverb: “Never get into a well with an American rope.”) Turkey told us repeatedly that it would not accept a Kurdish state run by partisans of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has run a guerrilla war against Turkey, with pauses, since 1984. (See here an extraordinarily forthright admission that the PKK’s rebranding as the Syrian Defense Forces was merely cosmetic.) To some extent, the Obama administration deserves criticism for resting the fight against the Islamic State on an alliance it knew would lead inexorably to either a total renegotiation of our relationship with Turkey or betrayal of the Kurds in Syria. That reckoning has come, and it is totally in character for Trump to give up everything to Turkey (which hosts our military bases and nuclear weapons, and has the second-largest military in NATO) and betray the Kurds (to whom our only debts are moral).But the whole point of being a superpower is that we get to take our reckonings at times of our choosing, and not in chaotic conditions unfavorable to our interests. The situation before Trump’s about-face was not what an economist would call a stable equilibrium—we needed to watch things carefully and nudge them now and then—but we could manage them. Turkey would almost certainly have continued tolerating an unofficial Kurdish state, as long as the U.S. continued to guarantee that it would not be used as a platform for attacking Turkey. Turkey would not have waited for permission to attack the Syrian Kurds if the U.S. didn’t have enough leverage to forestall such an attack.Trump’s promise one week ago to remove U.S. soldiers from Syria, and clear the way for Turkey to invade and subdue our allies, amounted to a decision to hasten the reckoning and to force our debts to come due long before we had the resources to pay or refinance. Perhaps it was not ideal for the Ghostbusters to keep their ghosts imprisoned in a decrepit firehouse not built for that purpose. It is even less ideal simply to disgorge them into Tribeca.What will happen now that the prisons are emptying and the Islamic State is newly flush with manpower? Many of the foreigners have reportedly been trying to return to their home countries; they came to Syria to live in a caliphate, and with ISIS now reduced to a guerrilla force, they might prefer to wait in, say, Brussels for ISIS to rebuild its paradise on earth. Others will probably stay in Syria and will seek out jihadist groups willing to take them in. They will be spoiled for choices, particularly if they can make it to northeast Syria, where Turkish-backed rebels and jihadist groups continue to flourish. The celebration in ISIS’s propaganda does not automatically mean that the group is resurgent. (A car bomb here and there does not a caliphate make.) But ISIS is an opportunistic infection, and the chaos of the moment leaves the group with an attractive opportunity.The immediate victims of the Turkish invasion will, of course, be Kurds. Credible reports of war crimes have already come in. Expect more soon. Moreover, the stated goals of the Turkish invasion include what might generously be called an ethnic rearrangement, to isolate Kurds and allow non-Kurds sympathetic to Turkey to take their places.The closest thing we have to a strategy document to guide us through this mess is a tweetstorm today from Trump. “Endless wars!” Trump wrote. “Others may want to come in and fight for” Turkey or the PKK, but the United States would rather let its erstwhile allies slaughter each other in single combat. It is difficult to exaggerate how shallow and optimistic this approach is. The United States will not be present to cut and broker deals with and between these parties, but Russia and Damascus are already there, bidding for influence now that the United States has left the auction. As American influence zeroes out, we will see what comes next. Already the Kurds have begun aligning with Damascus and, by extension, with Russia. Ghostbusters comparisons notwithstanding, America’s foreign policy in the region has long since ceased to be merely a comedy of errors and is veering into tragedy.
Congress Needs to Save the NCAA From Itself
If anyone can understand what’s wrong with college sports—and why Congress should step in and help—it’s a former college athlete who’s now serving in the U.S. Senate. Long before he started running for the Democratic presidential nomination, or any public office at all, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey was a former high school All-American who played tight end on the Stanford football team.“I still have a shoulder injury,” Booker told me in an hourlong conversation on my podcast, Jemele Hill is UnBothered. Friends of his, he said, suffered knee and brain injuries. “You’re paying the medical bills, you know, five years out, six years out. When you have these chronic illnesses, you’re dealing with all of that. And meanwhile, they’re still making money off you with your likeness and image on Madden”—the popular football video game.Top-tier college football and basketball programs are receiving an education—just not the one they thought they signed up for. The athletes they’ve recruited have turned the NCAA into a multi-billion-dollar business. Schools have been able to get away with exploiting them because they’ve persuaded the public to view sports as just sports—and therefore not important enough for state legislatures or Congress to regulate more aggressively.The NCAA is never going to fix itself. Government intervention may be what finally shames ember schools into creating an equitable system for college athletes—or forces them to do so. On Thursday, Booker’s campaign released a “plan to end exploitation in sports.” It would address health, safety, and equity issues at all levels of sports, including the pay disparities protested by the U.S. women’s national soccer team. But Booker would focus most on college athletics. The issue of compensating college athletes—in money, not just in scholarships that don’t cover all of an athlete’s expenses and come with many strings attached—has begun to resonate nationally, and Booker’s plan would, among other things, allow college athletes to be paid for their name and likeness. Booker is somewhat piggybacking off California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, recently signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. It granted college athletes the ability to make money off their name or likeness starting in 2023. Several other states, such as New York, Florida, and South Carolina, also are considering similar proposals.The inequities that pervade college sports are harder and harder to deny. “I think that these are young people that deserve to have fairness, equality and not be exploited, especially when you start looking at its disproportionate impact on the money generating sports, which are disproportionately African-Americans,” Booker told me.” “The lies that you're told—I remember in season working 60, 70-plus hours a week. There are people that do run scams on [athletes], allowing them to get degrees or to move forward, but then they leave them again without an education. There's a lot of injustice that's going on.”So far, though, the NCAA doesn’t seem at all interested in finding some middle ground with college athletes. After the California legislation passed that state’s Senate, the NCAA Board of Governors sent Newsom a letter that simply doubled down on the status quo. In the letter, the board wrote: “If the bill becomes law and California’s 58 NCAA schools are compelled to allow an unrestricted name, image and likeness scheme, it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics and, because it gives those schools an unfair recruiting advantage, would result in them eventually being unable to compete in NCAA competitions.” The board also said: “The NCAA has consistently stood by its belief that student-athletes are students first, and they should not be employees of the university.”That position might once have sounded reasonable; today, it’s just an excuse for blatantly taking advantage of college athletes. The time most college athletes spend dedicated is practically identical to a professional schedule, particularly in big-revenue sports such as basketball and football. In 2016, Turner Broadcasting and CBS Sports, which had already locked down the rights for the NCAA basketball title game until 2024, agreed to an $8.8 billion contract extension for another eight years—a deal that, for the first time, put the economic value of the tournament at over a billion dollars a year. When exploitation of college athletes is emerging as a campaign issue for a presidential candidate, and is starting to become a priority in state legislatures across the country, the NCAA should understand that, sooner or later, it will lose this fight.Public support for the current system is eroding steadily. A poll released by the Sharkey Institute at Seton Hall earlier this month found that 60 percent of people surveyed believe college athletes should be allowed to profit off their name, image, and likeness. While 60 percent of those surveyed also said a college scholarship was a fair trade-off for college athletes, that still represents an 11-point dropoff from 2013.Whether Congress or other public bodies should police the NCAA is a more divisive question. Only 27 percent of people surveyed in that same Sharkey Institute poll believed the government should be the driving force behind athletes being compensated for their name and likeness. But government and sports are already intertwined—and government and higher education are even more so. Legislators don’t need to stand aside and wait for the NCAA to fix a problem that it refuses even to acknowledge.“I think we are the only ones that can do this,” Booker told me. “Clearly they can't reform themselves from within. Because these issues I'm bringing up were being brought up when I was a student, and the reforms are creeping along because nobody is calling them to the mat.”The NCAA and its member schools are adept at pretending as if figuring out a way to compensate athletes is as impossible as time travel. “It’s an incredibly complex issue, it's like health care in America,” Gonzaga head basketball coach Mark Few recently told Jeff Goodman, a senior college basketball reporter for the digital sports network Stadium.But the truth is far simpler than that. The NCAA has no interest in sharing its vast wealth with its labor force. The system may only change is if elected leaders—first Newsom and now Booker—step in and force the issue.
The Blue Wave Faces Its First Test After 2018
RICHMOND, Va.—It’s a bit too on the nose: The prettiest street in Virginia’s capital city happens to be the one with all the monuments to men who fought for slavery, a boulevard lined with mansions on either side and, in the middle, towering tributes to the likes of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson.The Lee statue is centered in a traffic circle, which means drivers literally have to go around this reminder of a disgraced era to get where they’re going. That is also an apt metaphor for the Democratic Party in Virginia, which is on the cusp of capturing full control of the state’s government for the first time in more than a quarter century. Democrats already occupy Virginia’s three most powerful statewide offices and both U.S. Senate seats, and in elections across the state next month, they need to flip just two seats in each chamber of the General Assembly to gain outright majorities.Virginia has become a key battleground in the concerted Democratic bid to refocus energy and resources to flipping statehouses in the aftermath of Trump’s election in 2016, when Republicans controlled two-thirds of state governorships and Democrats were locked completely out of power in nearly half the country. A Democratic trifecta here—the governor’s office plus majorities in the bicameral legislature—would give the party the power to enact new restrictions on guns, safeguard the state’s expansion of Medicaid, and perhaps most consequentially, reverse Republican gerrymandering and redraw electoral districts for the legislature and Congress for the next decade. It would also cement Virginia’s relatively swift transformation from red to purple to blue in under two decades: At the beginning of George W. Bush’s presidency in 2001, Republicans held the governorship, the legislature, and both U.S. Senate seats; in 2020, the GOP might control none of the above.Hanging over the Democrats’ bid, however, is an issue none of its candidates want to talk about: The Scandals (yes, plural). Within the span of a few days in February, both Democratic Governor Ralph Northam and Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax became embroiled in controversies that reopened the state’s wounds and prompted virtually the entire Democratic Party in Virginia and beyond to demand their resignations.After a photo emerged from Northam’s 1984 medical-school yearbook page that depicted a person in blackface and another in a KKK robe, the governor initially apologized for appearing in the photo but then reversed himself and has since denied that he was pictured. While Northam was fighting to save his job, two women accused Fairfax, his would-be successor, of sexually assaulting them in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Fairfax, who is just the second African American to be elected statewide in Virginia, has denied the allegations, comparing the rapid calls for his ouster to a “political lynching.” Around the same time, the man third in line for the governorship, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, acknowledged that he, too, appeared in blackface during a college party decades ago.The cascade of revelations made for a head-spinning week in Virginia and turned its Democratic Party into an object of national derision. Northam, Fairfax, and Herring, meanwhile, found an odd safety in numbers: While each man was damaged, all three survived—and Democrats will have to work with them to pass legislation should they take control of the statehouse.Eight months later, however, the scandals may not be the threat they once portended—less an obstacle in the Democrats’ path than an ugly spectacle they’ve managed to drive around.Republicans have predictably tried to use the scandals to preserve their slim majorities and a share of power, accusing Democratic candidates of hypocrisy for accepting campaign contributions from a governor they called on to quit. On the window of the entrance to the GOP’s headquarters in downtown Richmond hangs a Wanted poster with Herring’s face on it; the party is offering $1,000 to the first person to find and submit a photo of the Democratic attorney general in blackface.“The media wants us to move on. The Democrat Party wants us to move on. They think that voters won't care at all when it's brought up,” says John Findlay, the executive director of the Virginia Republican Party. “The issue plays,” Findlay told me. “For a party that is self-professed to being obsessed with social justice and equality, their answer to these scandals is that the public has forgotten about them. That's the most cynical, nihilistic answer you could possibly have.”So far, the Democrats seem to be right: In a Washington Post–Schar School poll released in early October, Northam’s approval rating stood at 47 percent, with just 29 percent disapproving of his performance in office. That was a marked improvement from his standing in February. More people also approved than disapproved of the jobs Fairfax and Herring were doing. The same survey found that Democrats had a seven-point edge on the generic ballot among registered voters statewide in the House of Delegates and that gun policy was the most important issue on their minds.“The most unpopular person in Virginia right now is Donald Trump,” says Jessica Post, the president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which has spent more than $1 million in Virginia this year.As I followed Democratic candidates canvassing voters across the Richmond suburbs a couple weeks ago, the scandals involving the party’s leadership never came up. When candidates asked them about their concerns and priorities, most mentioned education, health care, the environment, or guns.Because Republicans are typically more reliable voters in off-year elections, Democrats rely on top-of-the-ticket campaigns to drive turnout to down-ballot races for the legislature and local offices. But this year they may be fortunate that none of Virginia’s top leaders are up for election.Sheila Bynum-Coleman is a 47-year-old businesswoman and a mother of five who is running against the most powerful Republican in the state, House Speaker Kirk Cox. If Bynum-Coleman wins, her campaign is quick to assert, she would be the first black woman to defeat a sitting House speaker in any state legislature in U.S. history. Her achievement would be all the more significant coming in a state whose Democratic governor was engulfed in a blackface scandal just this year.“People’s lives are dependent on me winning,” Bynum-Coleman told me recently as we sat in the campaign headquarters that a group of Democratic candidates for state and local offices share on the outskirts of Richmond, about eight miles south of the state capitol. She took a deep breath. “It’s a lot of pressure.”The November 5 elections in Virginia are what political insiders in the state call an “off-off-year”—the kind that all but the most committed voters usually skip. The 2020 presidential election is still a year away; there are no statewide races for governor or Senate, nor any for Congress on next month’s ballot. “It is normally kind of a sleepy time,” admits Susan Swecker, the chairwoman of the Virginia Democratic Party.Not this year.National state-focused groups like Swing Left, Future Now, and Forward Majority have joined campaign groups like the DLCC to spend money on ads and canvassing efforts. The Michael Bloomberg–backed Everytown for Gun Safety is spending $2.5 million in a bid to defeat the Virginia-headquartered National Rifle Association in its backyard. (In July, Northam called a special session of the legislature to take up gun-control measures after a mass shooting left a dozen dead in Virginia Beach; Republican leaders in the House and Senate voted to adjourn the session after just 90 minutes.)Read: [The Democrats whose 2020 goal is grander than the presidency]As we sat in her campaign office, Bynum-Coleman wore her canvassing uniform—a navy-blue T-shirt emblazoned with her campaign logo in green and white. She knocks doors every night, she told me. It’s a routine she’s had, off and on, for four years.This is not Bynum-Coleman’s first campaign—she initially ran for the House of Delegates in 2015 in the next district over. One of her sons has a learning disability and she discovered his public school was ill-equipped to help him, which motivated her to run. “It was a funding issue,” she said. “It wasn’t a teacher issue.” She first tried to lobby the school board but was referred to her local state delegate, a Republican who refused to meet with her to discuss the issue.She raised barely $20,000 and lost the race handily. The next year, one of her daughters was shot just below her head while leaving a party in south Richmond. A man and a woman had gotten into an argument and both pulled out guns, Bynum-Coleman said. Her daughter narrowly survived. “If she had just turned this way,” she said, swiveling her head, “Boom, it would have taken off her face.”Bynum-Coleman added gun control to her list of priorities when she ran again in 2017. This time, she raised $132,000 and came within 819 votes of victory. Still, she said she had little party support in a race that wasn’t expected to be that close. “I was still on an island by myself,” she said.In 2019, a new legislative map redrawn by the courts put Bynum-Coleman in the same district as Cox, who now has to defend new and unfamiliar terrain with a significant population of African American voters. The chance to topple the House speaker on the way to a majority has turned Bynum-Coleman’s third bid for office into one of the most high-profile races in the state.But to her, Cox was just “a different dragon.”“It just so happened I was in a district with the speaker of the House,” Bynum-Coleman said. “It didn't change how I viewed the district. It didn't change how I viewed our state legislator. It was just like, Oh, I'll run against him. This has got to change.”Republicans and Democrats alike describe Cox, 62, as a savvy politician, and while there are now more Democrats than Republicans in the district, few would be surprised if he edged out Bynum-Coleman. Unlike other Republican candidates, he’s not running ads on the Northam or Fairfax scandals and is instead touting himself as an apolitical fixture of the community—not the conservative House speaker but the baseball coach and schoolteacher who has long supported education funding.He and the state party hammered Bynum-Coleman after she was forced to correct a TV ad that referenced a vote on school funding made by a different Republican legislator with the last name Cox. “Sheila's going to lose,” Findlay predicted. “She needed to run a perfect race against a really popular incumbent in that district, despite the redraw.” (Cox’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.)As I watched her knock on doors, Bynum-Coleman interacted easily with the residents she hopes will soon be her constituents. But in our interview, like other Democrats I spoke with in Richmond, she grew tentative when the topic turned to the scandals surrounding the party’s leadership. “He's the governor, and he's not going to step down. And he's not on the ballot,” Bynum-Coleman said of Northam. “And I'm not going to allow anyone to prevent me from helping to move Virginia forward and help to impact the lives of millions of people.”When I asked if Northam had made amends for the photo, Bynum-Coleman answered carefully: “I think that the governor has been working diligently to make amends for the things that he did in the past,” she said. “I am eager to work with the governor and anyone else in the state legislature to help move Virginia forward.”Then I asked about Fairfax. “No comment on the lieutenant governor,” she replied.When I met Terry McAuliffe in the lobby of the downtown Richmond Marriott earlier this month, it took all of a few seconds for the once—and perhaps future—governor of Virginia to remind me that he very nearly ran for president this year. In his voice was an unmistakable tinge of regret, as he complained about the tenor of the early Democratic presidential debates and openly worried about the party’s lurch left on issues like health care.“I thought I had a good message—southern Democrat, record amount of jobs, most progressive governor ever, most jobs,” McAuliffe said. He had waited to see whether former Vice President Joe Biden was going to run—“Biden’s always sort of been my space”—and he was unsure whether he wanted to join a crowded field with nearly two dozen other candidates.But it was the Democratic scandals in his state that ultimately kept McAuliffe, Northam’s predecessor, home. Just as party leaders have urged former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Governor Steve Bullock of Montana, respectively, to run for Senate instead of the White House, top Democrats begged McAuliffe to set aside his presidential dreams and fill their leadership void in Virginia. Unlike O’Rourke and Bullock, he said yes.Democrats here have greeted McAuliffe like a savior hauling a sackful of cash. “When he announced it, I started to play ‘Return of the Mack’ on repeat,” Post said. “I was over the moon.”McAuliffe’s energetic fundraising throughout the state—he sometimes holds two or three events a day for Democratic candidates—has fed speculation that he might run for governor again in 2021. (Virginia law prohibits governors from serving two terms consecutively, so he couldn’t run for reelection in 2017, and Northam won’t be on the ballot when his term ends.) McAuliffe doesn’t dismiss the chatter; he’s told people repeatedly that he loved the job. “I say to everybody, you focus on ’19, we'll see what happens after November 5.”Democrats outperformed expectations in 2017, when they captured not only the top three statewide offices but nearly swept the GOP out of power in the House of Delegates. (Republicans held a majority only by a stroke of luck: Their candidate won a tiebreaker in a decisive election when his name was drawn out of a bowl.) The looming 2020 census makes this year’s elections arguably even more important, however, because along with Northam, the legislators elected next month will decide how to redraw the maps in both state and congressional elections.Read: [Control of Virginia's legislature comes down to drawing lots]“This is a generational election,” Tram Nguyen, the co-executive of the progressive group New Virginia Majority, told me. “What happens in November will determine the direction of the cmmonwealth for the next 10 to 12 years.”Virginia’s odd-year state elections and battleground status have meant there’s been a critical campaign here every year. “We haven't had time to dismantle our organizational efforts. We haven't had time to become complacent,” says Ghazala Hashmi, a first-time candidate for the state Senate in a district that includes part of Richmond and suburbs to the south and west.Hashmi, 55, is running against a Republican incumbent, Glen Sturtevant, who narrowly won a Democratic-leaning district four years ago. A longtime community-college professor, Hashmi’s bidding to be the first Muslim woman ever elected to the Virginia state legislature. Like many first-time Democratic candidates in the past two years, Hashmi was motivated to run for office by Trump’s election. When we met earlier this month, Hashmi told me how, in response to the administration’s Muslim travel ban directed at majority-Muslim countries in early 2017, she and her husband told their daughter to carry her passport with her at all times in case she had to prove she was a U.S. citizen. She remembered “feeling the sense of not belonging in this country anymore and wondering if my family actually had a home.”The flood of money into Virginia this year has resulted in wall-to-wall TV ads for contested legislative races, turning even inexperienced contenders like Hashmi into recognizable faces in the community. When I watched her canvass through a neighborhood filled with voters that her campaign identified as persuadable but not definite Democratic supporters, most of the people who answered the door were already familiar with her. A few even approached her unbidden on the street.Hashmi volunteered for a state House candidate in 2017 and then Abigail Spanberger, now a freshman Democratic congresswoman, last year before deciding to run herself. Even after the Democrats’ success across the state in 2017, which included the election of the state’s first transgender lawmaker, Danica Roem, Hashmi faced doubts. “I was told I was not electable,” she said. She won a competitive three-way primary, defeating a candidate who had Spanberger’s backing. “Five years ago I didn't think a Muslim American could run and win in this region,” she told me. “This past August, I said, well why not?”Two years ago, Virginia gave Democrats their first hard-fought general election victory after Trump’s win, and the surge of resistance-fueled progressive enthusiasm became a harbinger of the “blue wave” in 2018 that led Democrats to win 40 seats and claim a majority in the U.S House of Representatives. Next month’s elections will offer a similar test of the party’s energy heading into 2020, particularly in the suburbs that have swung toward the Democrats in the Trump era. They’re hoping that a long-sought blue trifecta in once-red Richmond will presage next year’s bid for Democratic dominance 100 miles north in Washington.
Thomas Edison’s Greatest Invention
Thomas Alva Edison listened with his teeth. The inventor of the phonograph was completely deaf in one ear and could barely hear in the other, the result of a mysterious affliction in his childhood. To appreciate a delicate tune emanating from a music player or piano, he would chomp into the wood and absorb the sound waves into his skull. From there they would pass through the cochlea and into the auditory nerve, which would ferry the melody to his prodigious brain. Edison’s approach to music consumption had curious side effects, beyond the visible bite marks all over his phonographs. He couldn’t hear at the highest frequencies, couldn’t stand vocal vibrato, and declared Mozart’s music an affront to melody. But his inner ear was so sensitive that he could dazzle sound engineers by pinpointing subtle flaws in their recordings, such as a squeaky flute key among the woodwinds.A nearly deaf curmudgeon who birthed the recorded-music industry is just one of the extraordinary contradictions that define Edison, whose reputation has tended to oscillate wildly. Depending on whether you incline to a reverential or a revisionist perspective, Edison (1847–1931) was a genius or a thief, a hero of American capitalism or a monster of greed, history’s greatest technologist or a hall-of-famer in the competitive category of overrated American white guys. In a new effort to sum up the protean figure—a seven-year undertaking by the biographer Edmund Morris, who died in May—Edison emerges as a giant containing multitudes.Random HouseMorris’s baroquely detailed portrait presents an Edison motivated by money from his midwestern boyhood onward, who didn’t care for the trappings of wealth. He built the world’s first film studio, yet had little interest in movies as entertainment. He was a showboating maestro of public relations, but he often turned down invitations and celebrations that would force him to leave his laboratory. He was a workaholic whose final résumé boasted 1,093 patents and countless inventions—including the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, the alkaline battery, the X-ray fluoroscope, and the carbon-button microphone. Yet his most important idea wasn’t something anybody could patent or touch.Morris’s book is not built as a revisionist biography—more on its strange architecture in a moment—but it usefully demolishes several myths that have accreted around Edison’s legacy in recent years. First, like various other men who share the “genius” epithet—see: Einstein, Picasso, Jobs—Edison is sometimes portrayed as a beautiful mind that emerged from the chrysalis of childhood awkwardness. He did bounce in and out of various schools in Ohio and Michigan, frustrating teachers in his early years. But under his mother’s tutelage, he read steadily and voraciously. By the age of 13, Edison had built a one-boy business selling fruits, groceries, and newspapers that netted $50 a week—the equivalent of an $80,000 annual salary today. Nearly all of this haul went to buying equipment for electric and chemical experiments. Barely pubescent, Edison was already combining the twin skills that would make him world-famous: a natural talent for earning money and an innate compulsion to invent.A second myth that Morris swats away is the notion that Edison was a mere popularizer of other people’s work—a businessman who didn’t really invent anything. Most inventions adapt previous breakthroughs: From the steam engine to the iPhone, crucial advances have resulted from a tweak of a tweak of a tweak. To create something entirely new is practically impossible. And yet Edison seems to have done just that.Early one morning in 1877, in his newly established lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey, he was playing with a diaphragm—a cup-shaped device with a thin metal bottom, which vibrated as Edison shouted into it. Edison thought if he attached a needle to that metal bottom, he could record his words’ vibrations on a soft surface. An assistant built a small cylindrical device to spin a scroll of wax paper beneath the tip of the needle. Edison bellowed “Mary Had a Little Lamb” into the mouthpiece, and the needle etched his utterances into the wax paper, creating a retraceable record of the poem. “On pulling the paper through the second time,” his assistant Charles Batchelor wrote, the vibrations passed back through the needle and out through the mouthpiece, and “we both of us recognized we had recorded the speech.”As far as we know, this was the first time in history that a human being listened to a recorded sound. Morris describes the moment in Homeric tones:
Since the dawn of humanity, religions had asserted without proof that the human soul would live on after the body rotted away. The human voice was a thing almost as insubstantial as the soul, but it was a product of the body and therefore must die too—in fact, did die, evaporating like breath the moment each word, each phoneme was sounded. For that matter, even the notes of inanimate things—the tree falling in the wood, thunder rumbling, ice cracking—sounded once only, except if they were duplicated in echoes that themselves rapidly faded. But here now were echoes made hard.
The year after inventing the phonograph, Edison built a telephone that surpassed the devices made by its inventors, Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray, in an official contest of call clarity. The year after that, he achieved semidivine status with his incandescent light bulb. He did all this by the time he was 33, despite almost no prior experience in acoustics, telephony, or illumination technology. Such a feat is all but imponderable, like an athlete winning MVP awards in basketball, football, and baseball in consecutive years, having received barely any formal training in ball sports.[From December 1995: The undiscovered world of Thomas Edison]Even as he gives Edison’s accomplishments their due, Morris punctures a third myth—that of the solitary genius—and in the process usefully elbows Edison’s employee turned rival, Nikola Tesla, off the pedestal he’s come to occupy in the internet era. Soon after Edison hired Tesla to work at his New York City dynamo factory, in 1884, the young Serbian engineer left to pursue his own dreams of electricity. A contest to be the Prometheus of their era had begun. While Edison was the first man to bathe a neighborhood in electric light, he relied on direct-current, or DC, technology, which was expensive to run across long distances. Tesla was the godfather of alternating-current, or AC, technology, which uses a rotating magnetic field to more efficiently power a large area. The briefest summary of this rivalry, which is the subject of a new film this fall called The Current War, is that Edison won the battle of the bulbs, and Tesla’s tech won the war.But comparing them reveals something deeper about the nature of innovation. Tesla died alone in 1943, drifting toward madness—a fate that is sometimes offered as proof of the ascetic purity of his genius. But to romanticize Tesla’s lonely death is to implicitly praise the very thing that held him back: his insistence on solitude. Innovation thrives under the opposite conditions, and it was Edison, not Tesla, who recognized that genius loves company.The cooperative nature of science had been understood long before Edison wobbled a diaphragm. When Isaac Newton wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” he was acknowledging that invention is a team sport, even if Newton’s team was mostly dead people. Edison, so proficient at improving existing ideas, made a useful tweak: If ghosts make good teammates, just imagine how helpful the living might be.Inside the two-story shed he built in Menlo Park in 1876, Edison oversaw a factory of invention, with a team of “muckers”—his term for professional experimenters—who fleshed out his sketches and made him the most famous inventor in the world. For example, Edison might never have conceived his signature light bulb without Ludwig Böhm, a Bavarian glassblower, or his right-hand man, Batchelor, who carbonized the paper that glowed within the pear-shaped bulb.From the start, Menlo Park was both unique and controversial. “It has never, is not now, and never will pay commercially, to keep an establishment of professional inventors,” T. D. Lockwood, the head of AT&T’s patent department, declared in 1885. But as Edison’s team-based success became too obvious to ignore, other companies built similar facilities—and saw similarly magical results.In the early 20th century, AT&T abandoned Lockwood’s position and, after years of occupying aging labs in New York City, in 1941 opened a state-of-the-art research facility in Murray Hill, just 10 miles north of Menlo Park—Bell Labs. That unit went on to patent the transistor, the laser, and the first solar-energy cell. From 1930 to 1965, DuPont’s Experimental Station, in Wilmington, Delaware, developed synthetic rubber, nylon, and Kevlar. The following decade, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center helped design the modern personal computer. After Russia’s launch of the Sputnik rocket, the U.S. government got in on the act, establishing the Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, which in 1969 laid the technical foundation of the internet. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that almost every important technological invention in the 20th century emerged from just the sort of R&D lab that Edison created.[View: A gallery of photographs of Edison’s workshop]Since the 1980s, several measures of innovation have mysteriously declined. Some researchers have suggested that today’s biggest challenges in science and technology, such as designing artificial intelligence that can mimic human thought, are just more challenging than the 19th-century problems of reproducing sound and light. But perhaps we’ve also lost sight of Edison’s most important invention: the cross-disciplinary invention factory.In a 2019 paper, economists at Duke University and the University of East Anglia, in England, found that the number of ambitious corporate R&D labs akin to Menlo Park and Bell Labs has dropped in the past few decades, just as productivity rates have fallen. Research and development still happen, but the two processes have been decoupled in the past 40 years: Basic research is concentrated in universities, while large corporations handle product development. Teams like Edison’s—where scientists and abstract thinkers worked cheek by jowl with machinists and electricians and other hardware tinkerers—are harder to find (although exceptions do exist, such as X, the R&D factory at Google’s parent company, Alphabet).Now I have to tell you something about Morris’s biography: It goes backwards. Thomas Edison dies in the prologue, and toward the end, a young boy called Alva reads a book about electricity and is inspired. Each chapter traces a full decade (Chapter 1 begins in 1920 and ends in 1929), and then, for no discernible reason, the story backflips 19 years to begin the previous decade (Chapter 2 begins in 1910).If Morris perhaps felt his innovation would shed fresh light on a life marked by improvisatory creation rather than by structured, strictly cumulative accomplishments, he was mistaken. Nothing is gained by this approach, and much comprehension is lost. Edison’s inventive sprints don’t fit neatly within 10-year chunks. The electric illumination of Menlo Park, on New Year’s Eve 1879, caused a sensation in the first days of 1880. But because Morris’s crab-walk gives priority to the more recent decade, the lights of the New Jersey hamlet turn on more than 200 pages after the crowd cheers their illumination.Within the chapters, however, Edison is vibrantly alive, and though Morris doesn’t step back to emphasize this, Edison’s conjuring powers make him a mascot and a microcosm of his turn-of-the-century era. In 1880, Manhattan had no subway, no cars, and no electric grid; its tallest building was a church. By 1915, New York had a subway system, thousands of cars, the Great White Way (an allusion to Broadway’s newly electric signs), and the world’s tallest skyscrapers, thanks to the development of steel-skeleton construction. That same period saw the invention of the airplane, the air conditioner, and the assembly line. Although today tech journalism is, often rightfully, suffused with cynicism, the age of Edison was marked by exuberant optimism, and individuals believed they could reshape the entire physical world—so they did.But Edison was prescient about our world, too. Before he designed a working light bulb, he had already envisioned a wired city buzzing with electric elevators, sewing machines, and “any other mechanical contrivance.” After realizing the ecological costs of electricity, he suggested that energy companies “should utilize natural forces [like] sunshine … and the winds and the tides.” He might have made a brilliant media mogul. Even before the release of the kinetophone, a device that combined moving pictures with live-recorded sound, he urged President William Howard Taft to campaign for reelection by recording speeches that people might watch on screens, anticipating the future not just of entertainment but of democracy.In a life overflowing with ideas both patented and unrealized, Edison himself gave fuel to his debunkers, insisting, “I never had an idea in my life.”
I’ve got no imagination. I never dream. My so-called inventions already existed in the environment—I took them out. I’ve created nothing. Nobody does. There’s no such thing as an idea being brain-born. Everything comes from the outside. The industrious one coaxes it from the environment.
This can be read in several ways—as provocative overstatement, as an honest description of creativity’s mechanics, or as a paean to the inventor’s workaholism. To me, its ambiguity highlights Edison’s greatest contradiction. The man who created the team-based R&D lab had a habit of talking about his work in the first-person singular, referring to “my so-called inventions” and anointing himself “the industrious one.” Edison’s life should be a durable lesson in the power of creative teamwork. Instead his surname has become an eponym for individual genius, whether heroic or hyped. Edison reveres its subject, but Morris’s portrait also shows that while “the industrious one” can be a remarkable catalyst, inventiveness truly thrives thanks to the industrious many.
The Greatest, Fakest World Record
Updated at 2:15 p.m. ET on October 13, 2019.Early yesterday morning, in a misty park in Vienna, Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon in less than two hours. His time, 1:59:40, is the fastest any runner has ever covered 26.2 miles. Kipchoge carved two minutes off his own world record and became the first marathoner to break the two-hour barrier.At the event, branded the INEOS 1:59 Challenge, the performance was heralded as a radical, historic leap, his “Neil Armstrong moment,” as one announcer said. Indeed, Kipchoge himself—a soft-spoken 34-year-old Kenyan who dulls the pain of distance running by smiling mid-competition—has repeatedly equated his feat to reaching the moon. That comparison is audacious on the scale of human achievement, but in the galaxy of running, it might actually be an understatement. Running’s original moon landing, the sub-four-minute mile, took place back in 1954. Yesterday, Kipchoge launched running to Mars.Like the moon landing, Kipchoge’s run was a technical achievement that required unprecedented planning and support. In fact, it was so heavily engineered that his new time will not count as a world record. Kipchoge ran the fastest time ever over the marathon distance, but for heated reasons that get at the heart of the sport, he did not run a marathon.One hour and 59 minutes is fast in a way that’s difficult to comprehend. Despite the formidable distance, Kipchoge ripped through each mile of his run in about four and a half minutes. This speed would feel like an all-out sprint to almost anyone who could keep up with him in the first place. To sustain this blistering pace, Kipchoge ran under conditions that had been painstakingly and exclusively arranged to push him beyond the two-hour barrier. The INEOS 1:59 Challenge was not a race by any strict definition: It was simply Kipchoge, joined by a rotating phalanx of pacesetters, rocketing along the pavement against the clock.The planning that went into the event was a fantasy of perfectionism. The organizers scouted out a six-mile circuit along the Danube River that was flat, straight, and close to sea level. Parts of the road were marked with the fastest possible route, and a car guided the runners by projecting its own disco-like laser in front of them to show the correct pace. The pacesetters, a murderers’ row of Olympians and other distance stars, ran seven-at-a-time in a wind-blocking formation devised by an expert of aerodynamics. (Imagine the Mighty Ducks’ “flying V,” but reversed.)[Read: Can food and drink improve your athletic performance?]Kipchoge himself came equipped with an updated, still-unreleased version of Nike’s controversial Vaporfly shoes, which, research appears to confirm, lower marathoners’ times. He had unfettered access to his favorite carbohydrate-rich drink, courtesy of a cyclist who rode alongside the group. And the event’s start time was scheduled within an eight-day window to ensure the best possible weather. The whole thing was as close as you can get to a mobile marathon spa treatment—if going to a spa were paired with the worst discomfort of your life.Such an extensive level of support, combined with the fact that Kipchoge wasn’t actually competing against anybody, pushed the event outside of official marathon conditions and prevented his performance from counting as a true record. The organizers were fully aware of this; the event, as Outside magazine aptly referred to it, is perhaps best understood as an “exhibition marathon.” It was a time trial, albeit one that had been scienced to an almost entirely unrivaled level. The only professional marathon competition that has resembled it was 2017’s Breaking2, a much-hyped Nike campaign that put Kipchoge and two other athletes on an Italian motor-racing track under similar top conditions. They all failed at breaking the two-hour barrier, but Kipchoge got close enough to convince INEOS, a U.K.-based chemical company that owns several sports franchises, that two hours could be broken with just a little more optimization.But with great optimization comes great controversy. Looked at one way, the INEOS 1:59 Challenge is a straightforward testament to how money can buy anything, including a branded sub-two-hour marathon. INEOS, which is owned by Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, appeared to spare no expense when it came to either the groundbreaking science or the marketing blitz leading up to the event. “As much as they might like to present this as such, the first sub-2:00 marathon is not like the first sub-4:00 mile, or the first summit of Everest, much less the moon landing,” the running commentator Toni Reavis wrote before the event. “All those challenges carried in the public consciousness the possibility of death. This is a second-chance marketing exhibition for a plastics manufacturer and springy shoes.”[Read: How unhealthy are marathons?]Corporate sponsorship is, of course, nothing new in sports, but when it arrives at the marathon with a monomaniacal focus on time, it rubs against the nature of the race itself. The 1:59 Challenge was less about Kipchoge exhibiting new abilities than it was about improving the marathon’s running conditions. But the marathon as it is popularly run is not really designed for records in the first place, precisely because of its shifting variables. It would be hard for a race organizer to design an ideal 26.2-mile course that would still attract spectators, entertain competitors, and net enough money to justify a race’s costs. (Imagine running a major marathon on an indoor track.)By necessity, then, the marathon has resisted optimization. Different cities have different courses that are known for their unique challenges. Berlin has become the go-to race of late for official world records, but while that course is flat and fast, no one thinks it’s the ideal marathon path. (In fact, Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei set a jaw-dropping new women’s world record this morning in Chicago.) Presciently, the journalist Ed Caesar wrote in Two Hours, a 2015 book about the future of marathoning, that the only way to pull someone under the two-hour mark would be to manufacture a marathon entirely for the purpose of speed. Kipchoge’s new time suggests that part of the reason no one had broken two hours until yesterday is that marathoning simply hasn’t prioritized it.“It’s meaningless,” the sports scientist Yannis Pitsiladis said of the new record in an interview with The Times of London. Pitsiladis was once a vocal advocate of sub-two attempts, but according to the running website Letsrun.com, he recently tried to pull together a marathon that sped runners down a mountain, so that he could point out that two hours can be broken with relative ease under extreme enough conditions.And yet, and yet—the most compelling counterpoint to a cynical view of the performance is Eliud Kipchoge himself. Among a pack of mostly Kenyan runners who have recently pushed marathoning into a golden age, Kipchoge stands head and shoulders above the rest. He is the distance’s Michael Jordan, an era-defining and Kelly Clarkson–loving talent whose credentials—which include an Olympic gold medal and multiple big-city-marathon titles, on top of the official marathon world record—were secure well before yesterday.If INEOS had found a way to usher any lesser runner beyond the two-hour barrier, its hyper-calculated efforts could easily be dismissed as too contrived to merit admiration. But perfect conditions and unavoidable INEOS logos can’t diminish Kipchoge’s magic. At the heart of the spectacle was still one of history’s most extraordinary athletes, flexing his skinny legs and giving the world yet another opportunity to behold him. Kipchoge’s performance was not necessarily better than some of his other great feats, but it’s hard to argue that it was any worse.Yesterday leaves marathoning with a paradox. The INEOS 1:59 Challenge was indeed a brazen defiance of the marathon’s spirit. It was also a triumph of humanity. As the science of running continues to improve and new technologies creep in, that tension is only going to grow.In a televised interview after he crossed the finish line, Kipchoge offered some characteristic platitudes: Running can make the world a more peaceful and beautiful place, and he wants to inspire people to get outside and move. But there was a glimmer in this invitation. He said he wants to inspire his competitors to move, too—to join him in what is now marathoning’s most exclusive club.He didn’t really have to break 2 to motivate them, though. Two weeks ago, while Kipchoge was merely dreaming of landing on the moon, a legendary Ethiopian distance runner named Kenenisa Bekele arrived on Berlin’s famously fast course and dropped a 2:01:41—two seconds away from Kipchoge’s official world record.
Woody Harrelson Is a Surprisingly Effective Joe Biden for SNL
When Saturday Night Live debuted Alec Baldwin’s impression of Donald Trump, it felt like the show’s first effective take on the then–presidential candidate. You’d be forgiven for forgetting this fact as the performance’s satirical bite has become more and more toothless. Still, in the years since Baldwin began playing Trump in 2016, SNL has brought in celebrity after celebrity to play major political figures, often ignoring its in-house cast, and it’s repeating that strategy for the 2020 election. The problem is, it’s mostly successful, and SNL’s newest choice to play Joe Biden is turning out to be a mostly inspired one.Woody Harrelson likely took the role of Biden for the premiere of the 45th season on September 28 only because he was hosting that week. The former vice president had long been played by the departed cast member Jason Sudeikis, who frequently lampooned Biden’s brassy brand of folksiness during the Obama administration. Sudeikis left SNL in 2013, but has popped back in as Biden on occasion, most recently in April, when he returned to satirize reports that Biden’s habit of overly affectionate hugging and kissing had made women uncomfortable over the years.Sudeikis’s impression couldn’t square that circle—it’s too friendly and affectionate a performance, one rooted in the image of Biden as a lovable and harmless grandpa. Harrelson’s Biden is glossy and spiky, flashing a set of eerie pearly whites and speaking in nonsensical truisms. In Harrelson’s first appearance as Biden, he bemoaned the public tide turning on him as he runs for president in 2020: “I’m like plastic straws: I’ve been around forever, I’ve always worked, but now you’re mad at me?” In his return engagement this weekend, he stumbled through a CNN Town Hall on LGBTQ issues, leading off with, “The vast majority of people in America are not homophobic. They’re just scared of gay people.”When pressed on his past support of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” Harrelson’s Biden answers with “a false memory,” recalling being with his father in “Delaware, 19 clickity-clack” and marveling at a particularly well-dressed straight couple. It’s a performance half-rooted in Harrelson’s movie-star magnetism, half in the country-bumpkin character he perfected for many years on Cheers, and it nicely toes the line between charming and creepy. Casting Harrelson might end up backfiring, as it did for SNL with Baldwin—if Biden were to win the presidency, the show would need to keep him around as a recurring presence. But if Lorne Michaels insisted on going the celebrity route, he could have done worse than Woody.Harrelson wasn’t the only celebrity drop-in this week: The past SNL host Lin-Manuel Miranda played the presidential candidate Julián Castro, and Pose’s Billy Porter appeared as a vigorous emcee to introduce the candidates. (Last week, Matthew Broderick showed up as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.) But the regular cast’s big impressions are, admittedly, not really connecting, with Kate McKinnon’s Elizabeth Warren so far feeling like an uninspired rehash of her work as Hillary Clinton. Since the Trump era dawned on SNL, there have really been two shows happening simultaneously on Saturday nights: the political sketches, which are populated with famous faces, and the regular comedy sketches, which lean on the existing cast.Luckily for SNL, there’s a slew of newer cast members ready to seize the spotlight on the show. One of the two hires this season, Bowen Yang, has already made an incredible impression in these early weeks. His appearance on “Weekend Update” as the Chinese trade representative Chen Biao was a highlight, and this week Yang dominated in a goofy sketch set at SoulCycle. Ego Nwodim, a 2018 hire who was largely sidelined in her first season, has also started to get more substantial roles this year.Then there’s the writing team of Streeter Seidell and the cast member Mikey Day, who had their first big hit with David S. Pumpkins three years ago. This week, the pair penned an elaborate parody of Joker called Grouch, casting the host, David Harbour, as a grim and gritty version of Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch. It was produced with the kind of attention to detail that makes a pretaped sketch sing, replicating the filming style and specific locations on display in Joker. There’s plenty of noncelebrity talent ready to shine on SNL, and it shouldn’t be crowded out just because of the coming election cycle.
What I Learned About Equal Partnership By Studying Dual-Income Couples
Although the number of dual-career couples is rising, equal partnerships have not necessarily become the norm. Despite much talk about splitting housework, there is a surprising lack of guidance on how exactly to address the deeper challenges that these couples face, such as when and where to relocate, how to split parenting responsibilities, or how to honor both partners’ ambitions. I have spent the past five years studying more than 100 working couples around the world to learn how they combine two careers and a relationship. Most of the couples I interviewed aspired to split their responsibilities at home and at work equally, but few managed to really do so. For many, resentment and guilt festered, and equality became a mirage.Through my conversations, I found that the couples who were able to thrive in love and at work had three characteristics in common. They acknowledged that they were not fulfilled in their current working and love lives. They formulated specific, detailed action plans and solutions together that allowed them to equitably divide responsibilities. And they were relentless in keeping each other accountable for living up to that view.Take Aanya and David (whose names I’ve changed to protect their privacy). A couple in their mid-30s, they were both committed to their fast-track careers, to each other, and to a 50/50 marriage. When their first child was born, both were excited to invest in their new family and had no doubt that they would share parenting duties equally. A few months in, however, they were a long way from their ideal.[Read: The unique tensions of couples who marry across classes]“Aanya was overburdened and worn out, and I felt redundant,” David told me. “Our relationship was very tense, and neither of us could figure out what went wrong.” One night, the lingering tension turned into a heated argument about how much time Aanya had spent that day on child care and housework. She was fed up, he felt guilty, and both were shocked by the bitterness of their exchange. It was a needed wake-up call. The next morning, for the first time, they acknowledged to each other that they were neither happy nor fulfilled in their relationship. If they could not find some solutions to get back on the 50/50 track, they realized, it would eventually break them up.Both data scientists by training, Aanya and David wanted to take a data-driven approach to their problems. Their first step was to list all their duties and track who did what. Research shows that while men think they split housework equally with women, women ultimately do more. The average man does 16 hours a week of housework, while the average woman does 26 a week, according to the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics. A large piece of the discrepancy in estimates stems from partners simply not knowing what the other one does. Aanya and David’s first step was an important starting point.In reviewing their logs, Aanya and David discovered that she was doing nearly 80 percent of the housework and child care, including all the shopping, most of the cooking and cleaning, and managing almost all the day-to-day care for their son. David took care of some cooking, and organized most of their leisure activities. Aanya was no control freak and David no slacker. So how had they managed to create such unequal division of labor? Two forces were at play—one societal and one self-made. Like many heterosexual couples, once they became parents, Aanya and David found themselves on the receiving end of a strong social norm that mothers should be in charge of the child care.When it comes to this norm, heterosexual couples fare worse than their same-sex counterparts. Although some of the gay couples I studied also struggled to reach a 50/50 partnership, many were already well accustomed to challenging gendered social norms. They just had to mindfully divide the load and stick to their plan. Without a plan, Aanya and David succumbed to social pressures. I found that couples who reach 50/50—that is, couples in which both partners feel that the other is contributing equally and fairly to the family life—have good intentions and a concrete plan. When it is clear who is responsible for what, couples have a better chance of maintaining an equal partnership.After listing their responsibilities, Aanya and David decided to renegotiate their tasks. David, for example, took charge of their son’s health—arranging and taking him to regular checkups, keeping on top of his vaccination schedule, and dealing with any illnesses he suffered. He also explicitly asked their health-care providers to call him, not Aanya, if there was an appointment to be booked or an administrative matter to be taken care of. By claiming health as his domain, David decreased Aanya’s to-do list, and did what Aanya described as even more important—he relieved her of the need to keep these tasks in mind.I found that the strategy of dividing tasks, rather than taking turns to do them, was most effective among couples striving for equality. Couples were able to hold each other to account and reduced the need to constantly discuss practicalities.Another couple I spoke with, whom I call Noah and Rachel, faced a somewhat different challenge. The source of their discontent was an approach to their careers that no longer fit them, held in place by social expectations channeled by friends and family.In their mid-40s with children in middle school, Noah and Rachel had two full-time careers and were active parents. Since their children were born, Noah had invested more at work and Rachel more at home. While initially that arrangement suited them, more recently both had become dissatisfied. During one of their date nights, over drinks, Noah blurted out that he was tired of being the main breadwinner. He longed to transition from his corporate role to being an executive coach with a more balanced life. He had not expected Rachel’s reaction. Tearing up, she confessed that she had been wanting to take on a management position and let Noah take the lead at home. They decided that they would try to make their new ambitions into real goals.Rachel applied for, and quickly accepted, a promotion that came with a significant salary raise. The money allowed Noah to resign, retrain, and begin to build up a coaching practice. Making it work, however, required wrenching changes—they had to rein in their spending, including canceling family holidays and nights out, and both needed to loosen their grip on identities that they had long cultivated. Noah was the dependable financial provider and Rachel the chief family organizer. They saw themselves as such, they saw each other as such, and the world around them saw them that way too.Unsurprisingly, Noah and Rachel struggled, and their family and friends didn’t help. Noah’s friends ribbed him for “not wearing the trousers anymore” while Rachel’s friends and parents constantly asked her whether Noah was coping at home. Rachel told me that she and Noah made sure to communicate their struggles to each other. “Every time my friends or my mum questioned our choice, I’d talk it through with Noah,” Rachel said. “Part of it was blowing off steam, part of it was reassurance that we were doing the right thing, and part of it was making sure we were holding each other to the deal.”Rachel also told everyone how suffocated she had come to feel in the family-organizer role, and praised Noah’s eagerness and ability to take over that role. Noting that her conversations with her loved ones were often about family, she began speaking of her work more often. By talking openly, helping each other let go of old identities and arrangements, and challenging the expectations of those around them, Noah and Rachel were able to make a major change that benefited them both.A real 50/50 marriage is not just one where the partners split the housework equally, important as that is. It is one where both partners have equal opportunities to pursue their ambitions for their work and love lives. It is a social revolution that starts at home, with both partners making commitments—and a plan—to challenge society’s endless pulls. To do that, couples need to develop the habit of having conversations about what really matters to them and how they are going to support each other’s ambitions. It’s a hard battle, requiring honesty and stamina to triumph, but it is a worthy one to fight for a happy work and family life.
Ways of Being
Chloe CushmanAssigned one gender at birth, we’d felt like the other since childhood. That feeling—which had nothing to do with sexual desire—grew until life in the wrong gender seemed not worth living. So we came out as trans women or trans men to loved ones and health-care providers, who gave us the courage, the hormones, and maybe the surgery to live as who we always were, and then we were fine.That story describes many transgender lives; parts of it describe mine. It’s also a relatively easy narrative for cisgender (non-transgender) people to follow, and it’s the only one that popular culture supplied until recently. Many health-care providers required an even narrower story. Until 2011, widely accepted medical standards mandated that we prove we were really trans by living in our genuine gender for three months or more without hormones. They also stipulated that we try to look conventionally masculine or feminine, and that we not identify as gay.Such stories exclude people whose experience of being trans has shifted over their lives. (Some regret or reverse their transitions; many more do not.) They exclude people with more complicated experiences of gender and sexuality. And they exclude nonbinary people, who live as both genders, or neither, often taking the pronouns they/them. We can hear more stories now—not only life stories, but fiction, poems, comics, films, essays, both about trans people and by us. Some of those stories may reassure trans readers, or help cis readers accept us. Other stories aim to disrupt and unsettle the narratives we already know.Andrea Long Chu is one of the disrupters. A doctoral candidate in comparative literature at NYU, she’s a writer and critic whose work has appeared in n+1, Bookforum, and The New York Times. In early 2018, she published an essay called “On Liking Women” that lit up trans Twitter: The piece championed the 1960s playwright and provocateur Valerie Solanas, the author of the SCUM Manifesto (SCUM = Society for Cutting Up Men) and the would-be assassin of Andy Warhol (she shot him in 1968). Chu hit back hard against the unitary, easy-to-understand trans story I sketched at the start of this article. She also took aim at a subset of radical feminist activists who regard trans women as interloping men.“I have never been able to differentiate liking women from wanting to be like them,” Chu confessed. She described her young self not as a child who was already a girl, but as “the scared, straight boy whose life I will never not have lived.” As for the SCUM Manifesto, it implies—according to Chu—that trans women transition “not to ‘confirm’ some kind of innate gender identity, but because being a man is stupid and boring.”Coming out, announcing her womanhood, was—for her and for trans women like her (and, to be honest, like me)—an exhilarating, empowering choice, not an act of simple survival. That perspective wasn’t a breath of fresh air so much as a mountaintop’s worth. “Some of us … might opt to transition,” she concluded, to climb out of the cage that radical feminists take “heterosexuality to be.”VERSOHow did Chu come to such views? What is it like for her to live with them? You won’t find clear answers in her first book, Females, a short, exasperating volume that is nothing like a memoir and not much like a manifesto. It’s more like a provocation, thick with what Chu herself labels “indefensible claims.” “Everyone is female,” Chu writes, “and everyone hates it”: We are all female in this special, philosophical sense because we all “make room for the desires of another.” You, too, let “someone else do your desiring for you.”Males, in Chu’s terms—that is, men who behave “like men”; men who fit archetypes of masculinity—know what they want and how to get it for themselves. But expanding on what she takes to be Solanas’s view, Chu argues that no one is totally independent, totally dominant, totally satisfied—which means that anyone trying to be “male” has signed up for continual failure. If femaleness means vulnerability and dependence, then we are all female, and “the patriarchal system of sexual oppression” works “to conceal” that universal truth. Men feel they have to be male, but they cannot be. They find relief from this double bind in porn, where passive, humiliated, masturbating viewers may find permission “not to have power, but to give it up.”The logical question, if you see maleness this way, is not “What makes some people trans?” but “Why would anyone want, or try, to be male?” One answer is that guys have no choice. Another answer is that masculinity feels that painful and that limiting only if you don’t want it—if, like me, you’d rather be a girl. (“I hated being a man,” Chu remembers, “but I thought that was just how feminism felt.”) A third is to say that we might try to redefine maleness, to tell other stories about it. Trans guys might lead the way.Cyrus Grace Dunham—the younger sibling of Lena—has written a coming-out memoir, and a celebrity memoir, and a well-off young writer’s memoir of a quarter-life crisis. It’s also an anti-memoir, set against the idea that Cyrus, or you, or I, must believe one consistent story about our life. After months of flailing and drinking and fighting depression, Dunham has come out as nonbinary and as transmasculine. They take they/them pronouns in professional contexts, and do not exactly feel like a man but take he/him pronouns among friends: “I am appalled by how much I love it.” They have also had top surgery (a double mastectomy).Little, BrownA Year Without a Name can come off as recovery literature, addressing the tough row they feel they had to hoe—their sister’s fame (“a toxic substance”), as well as their adventures with “alcohol, ketamine, cocaine.” But we have other memoirs that work that terrain. This one’s much better read as an account of generational and intellectual good fortune. Dunham can build on terms they have inherited from earlier trans people, and can also talk and write about the vicissitudes of erotic desire, about how desire affects what gender means.For Dunham, exploring gender and sex means exploring embodiment and uncertainty. They live in—and have sexual feelings within—a body that won’t settle down, that does not seem to want to take clear form. It’s a body, Dunham discovers, that needs to be valued as a kind of chrysalis, ready “to turn into goo, and then re-form.” In bed, before transition, Dunham was “always more in tune with my partner’s desires than my own.” Crushing on a magnetic party girl, Dunham once “felt like a little girl, too self-conscious to get anything right.” Their current lover, by contrast, sees and accepts Dunham as a kind man, a real man, a hot man. Dunham found that experimenting with bondage and domination helped clarify how it felt to wield power, and to give it away—paving the way to seeing themselves as a man.Maybe you, too, have had to embrace uncertainty before you could grow and change. I’m told many people, even cis people, do. Trans people like Dunham, or like me, have to work our way out of false certainties that insist we are now and forever the body our genes assigned us, the gender we were handed at birth. Some of us have to work our way out more than once. “My value,” Dunham concludes, “is not in my permanence, but in the resilience with which I recover, and re-recover, and re-form after the deluge.”How do you know you’re trans and need to re-form? Can you be trans (the way you can be diabetic, or have perfect pitch) before you know it? Opponents of trans acceptance maintain that trans identities are new and trendy, that trans teens today are jumping on a bandwagon. The claim is in one sense obviously false—many cultures, from Samoa to South Asia, have gender-boundary-crossing identities—and in another sense irrelevant: Our right to acceptance shouldn’t depend on how long ago we showed up. We are here now.Yet this question of origin has inspired useful history. Anne Lister (1791–1840) loved and had sex with women, and dressed and acted very much like a man. Her Yorkshire neighbors called her “Gentleman Jack,” though someone who behaved like her today could be an aristocratic butch lesbian, rather than a trans man. Dr. James Barry (1789–1865), by contrast, consistently presented himself as a man throughout his adult life, from his student days in Edinburgh to his decades as a military medical officer, improving sanitation in outposts of the British empire.Closer to home, Lou Sullivan (1951–91) knew he was trans before he had words for it. But he didn’t simply prefigure modern identities. He helped make them visible and livable, publishing Information for the Female-to-Male Crossdresser and Transsexual in 1980; writing the biography of an earlier San Francisco trans man, Jack Bee Garland; and working with health-care providers to, in Sullivan’s words, make it “officially okay to be a female–to–gay male.”NightboatLike Lister, Sullivan kept extensive diaries. To read through them now—in the abridged edition We Both Laughed in Pleasure, prepared by Ellis Martin and Zach Ozma—is to find sentiments that trans readers might recognize. “I wanna look like what I am,” he muses early on, “but don’t know what someone like me looks like.” “I’ve spent my whole life dreaming I was someone else, but no one else would believe me.” Sullivan had the sense—as I did, for decades—that coming out as trans was both inevitable and impossible, right up until he decided to take the step. “It’s too good to be true,” he reflected. “It’s so nice to allow myself to say I am a man.” First he had to move to San Francisco, and leave his tender, difficult, long-term lover: “Had J not been around,” he mused, “I would definitely go towards being male.”Once Sullivan chose the story he wanted to tell about himself, he could help others find their own. In California, he saw the well-known trans man Steve Dain “counseling an 18-yr-old female who says she feels like a gay man … so we do exist!” Not everybody agreed. “A reputable clinic” in the late 1970s “wouldn’t touch [Sullivan] with a 10-foot pole … Because I don’t have the typical transsexual story they want to hear.” Yet Sullivan was undeterred in his quest to “just ‘be there’ for new F➞M’s,” telling them they’re “NOT the only one.” As his death from HIV/AIDS approached, he wrote: “They told me … that I could not live as a gay man, but it looks like I will die as one.”You could paint Sullivan’s life as a tragedy, but the diary feels full of joy, in part because it’s also full of sex—a manual of sorts from a time when trans people had to educate ourselves. “I made myself a good strap-on cock out of socks & wore it to sleep. Good masturbation.” “I want to have sex with a man as a man.” With the power of imagination, of socks stuffed in pants, of testosterone, and later of top surgery, he did. His most evocative writing conveys the desire at the core of his being. “In my search for the perfect male companion, I find myself. In my need for a man in my bed, I detach myself from my body and my body becomes his.”Trans acceptance should not depend on our having to hide or lie about our sex lives. (Chu describes a trans woman whose therapist rejected her on the basis of her sexual tastes: “Real MTFs don’t do that.”) Nor should acceptance depend on whether we pass, whether we feel the same way every day, whether we match strict binary definitions of male or female. Our stories can change, and they interact with the stories that others tell us about ourselves.In that sense Chu is right: Almost all of us in various ways try “to become what someone else wants.” We seek both the other people who can accept us (as Sullivan did in San Francisco, as Dunham does now) and the imagined future self that we want to, and try to, become. If that search feels like a problem, it’s also a solution, the one that Dunham’s quarter-life memoir, and Sullivan’s voluminous journals, record. “Is wanting enough?” Dunham asks. Can they be “a real man,” or will they always and only be “a girl obsessed with men”?Am I a real woman? Was Sullivan a real man? Why do I care how other people answer that question? But I do care. So does Dunham, and so—I think—does Chu, and so did Sullivan, who made himself, even while dying, into the Bay Area’s proud transmasculine historian. “I can never be a man,” he wrote, “until my body is whole and I can use it freely and without shame.” Such a goal might be the kind you never quite reach. Still, so many of us try to get there, whether the effort looks like one great change or a string of smaller moments. We share our stories, and we make new ones if those we find don’t fit; and then we send the new stories out into the world to see whether what resonates for us, what might save us, could help others too.This article appears in the November 2019 print edition with the headline “Bodies in Motion.”
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HOUSTON — In a battle of the bullpens, Carlos Correa felt the greatest relief.
Injured down the stretch and slumping this month, Correa hit a leadoff home run in the 11th inning that lifted the Houston Astros over the New York Yankees 3-2 Sunday night, tying the AL Championship Series at one game apiece.
Correa, who earlier lined an RBI double and made a sensational play at shortstop, connected for an opposite-field shot to right off J.A. Happ.
“Not playing a couple of weeks before the playoffs and then not producing for or my team offensively, obviously it’s tough, getting hurt and everything,” the All-Star said. “But it’s all worth it for moments like this, moments like this where you give your team a chance to win every day, it’s worth it, man.”
Hours earlier, Correa was confident this would be the day he turned things around. About time, too, after starting out 3 for 22 in the postseason after returning from back problems.
“I’ve got my swing back,” he said then. “I’m going to hit a homer tonight.”
And with a swing that kept Houston from falling into an 0-2 hole, he did just that.
“Going into that last inning I thought: ‘I got this. I feel like I got this,'” Correa said. “And I had the right approach against him. I’ve been successful against him going the other way. And that’s what I try to do, I saw a good pitch down the middle and I drove the other way.”
Correa watched the ball sail, tossed his bat, put his hand to one ear to soak in the roars of the crowd and then held up one finger as he rounded the bases. As he approached home plate, he tossed his helmet as if shooting a basketball at the crowd of teammates waiting for him.
“As soon as I hit it I knew it was going to go over the fence,” he said. “The adrenaline started pumping like crazy. I don’t even know what I did. I’ve got to go watch the video. But I know I was so hyped.”
Correa’s big night gave him 27 RBIs in the postseason to pass Lance Berkman for the most in franchise history. And it was a familiar scene — in Game 2 of the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees, Correa hit a walk-off double in the ninth.
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“The game of baseball, it’s a beautiful game,” Correa said.
The Yankees tied a League Championship Series record by using nine pitchers. The eight relievers had permitted only one run and two hits with 11 strikeouts before Correa homered, ending a game that took 4 hours, 49 minutes and ended just before midnight.
Houston’s five relievers combined for 4 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout ball after taking over for Justin Verlander. Going into this best-of-seven series, the Yankees were considered the better team in the bullpen — the Astros amply held their own in this one.
“Our bullpen was nasty, gave us a chance to win the game,” Correa said.
Gary Sánchez struck out looking to end the Yankees 11th with runners on first and second. The pitch appeared outside — it came right after he swung and missed with two strikes, but was ruled a foul ball.
New York lost for the first time this postseason after four wins.
“It was a struggle tonight,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “They’re tough to score runs off, especially on a night when Verlander is out there.”
Aaron Judge put the Yankees on top 2-1 with a two-run shot off Verlander in the fourth. It was his first homer this postseason and the eighth in his playoff career.
George Springer tied it in the fifth with his franchise-record 12th career postseason home run. The 2017 World Series MVP homered on the first pitch after reliever Adam Ottavino entered.
“Just back and forth — the two best ballclubs in the game,” Judge said. “I wish we could have come away with two here, but now time to regroup and get ready for Tuesday.”
Along with his bat, Correa made the key play in the field to keep it tied at 2 in the sixth. With runners at first and second, and on the move on a full-count pitch with two outs, Brett Gardner hit a hard grounder that bounced off second baseman José Altuve for a single.
The ball bounded away and Correa quickly retrieved it and threw a strike to catcher Robinson Chirinos, who tagged out the sliding DJ LeMahieu.
Verlander pumped his fist and screamed “let’s go!” as he came off the field and Correa shook his finger with a look that said: “not on my watch.”
Cameras then panned to Verlander’s supermodel wife, Kate Upton, who jumped and cheered from a luxury suite.
“I just tried creeping over and as soon as the ball hit him, I scooped it and he sent him, so I had to gun him down,” Correa said.
Correa ended an 0-for-14 slump with an RBI double in the second off James Paxton, who lasted just 2 1/3 innings.
Hours later, Correa ended it with his drive off Happ. Correa is 6 for 12 with two homers against the lefty.
“It’s been a tough road this year but I’m finally here and I was able to contribute tonight,” he said.
Yankees: Slugger Giancarlo Stanton missed the game with a strained right quad. He homered in the opener. “So hoping that it’s something that with today and the off day, that he would be back in play for Game 3,” Boone said.
Cole was 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA and 25 strikeouts across 15 2/3 innings against the Rays in the ALDS. The 29-year-old led the AL with a career-best 2.50 ERA and was first in the majors with 326 strikeouts in the regular season.
This will be the eighth postseason start for Severino, who did not factor in the decision in New York’s Game 3 win over Minnesota. Severino, who made just three regular-season starts because of a late injury, allowed four hits in four innings against the Twins.
Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston may have cloudy futures with shaky showings
Marcus Mariota might be out as the starting quarterback in Tennessee, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have to decide how many more interceptions they can afford from Jameis Winston.
For the top two picks in the 2015 draft, the future might not be so bright.
Mariota was pulled in the third quarter of a 16-0 loss to Denver with 63 yards passing, a 9.5 rating, two interceptions and three sacks. Winston made it to the finish of Tampa’s 37-26 loss to Carolina in London, but with a career-worst five interceptions — and an oh-by-the-way fumble for a sixth giveaway.
Winston has an NFL-worst 86 giveaways since entering the league and five games with at least four turnovers while no other player has more than two during that span.
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“Throw the damn ball away,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He has a habit of trying to be Superman. That’s been a problem in the past. The fumbles haven’t occurred this year until today. But again, trying to make something out of nothing. It’s just a matter of knowing when to quit on a play.”
Mariota has a better record (29-32 compared to 23-37) and a slightly better ratio of touchdowns to interceptions, while both have similarly mediocre passer ratings in the high 80s.
The problem for Mariota is that Titans are near the bottom in points and total yards and have been shut out twice since the start of 2018. Ryan Tannehill, a former starter in Miami, replaced Mariota and was 13 of 16 for 144 yards and one interception. He was sacked four times.
“We’re not pulling our weight as an offense,” Mariota said. “We have to find a way to improve and change that because our defense is playing lights out.”
Titans coach Mike Vrabel didn’t want to discuss who would be the starter going forward.
Between Mariota and Winston, Mariota has the only playoff appearance. He won a wild-card game during the 2017 season. Neither has signed a second contract, which means both are in the fifth and final years of their rookie deals.
So both teams have decisions to make in the offseason, if not sooner.
“Sometimes I do want to do great things,” Winston said. “But you can do great things but protect the team at the same time.”
FAST START, QUICK FADE
Dallas and the Los Angeles Rams, divisional-round foes last postseason, have matching 3-0 starts followed by three-game losing streaks.
The Cowboys lost to the previously winless New York Jets 24-22 after trailing 21-3 on the road. That was a week after a 34-24 home loss to Green Bay that included a 31-3 deficit.
The slump is a little more surprising from the Rams considering their 24-8 regular-season record the first two years under coach Sean McVay, capped by a Super Bowl appearance last season.
LA’s 20-7 loss to undefeated NFC West leader San Francisco gave the Rams three straight losses under McVay for the first time, while the Cowboys have lost three straight for the first time since the first half of star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension two years ago.
“Was it a humbling day for us? Absolutely,” McVay said. “But it’s something that we’re going to learn from. We’re not going to let it demoralize us. They did a nice job. We didn’t do enough collectively.”
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was asked about the future of coach Jason Garrett after the stunning loss, brushing it off as something he wasn’t even considering. Despite the slide, the Cowboys are tied with Philadelphia atop the NFC East and hosting the Eagles next Sunday.
“We’re 0-0 right now,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “We have a huge game next week. It’s for first in our division. We have to figure out a way to turn this page and focus on exactly that and how do we become a better offense. Everything, as crazy as it is, is still ahead of us.”
PERFECT WITHOUT BREES
For the third time in four starts filling in for Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater had modest numbers. The New Orleans Saints don’t care. They’re 4-0 without the NFL’s all-time passing leader, and that much closer to getting him back from a torn thumb ligament.
The initial diagnosis was six weeks for Brees, which means the club probably will face a decision after next week’s visit to Chicago. The Saints (5-1) play Arizona at home on Oct. 27 before their open week.
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New Orleans handed Dallas its first loss in Week 4 without scoring a touchdown, then didn’t allow Jacksonville a TD in Sunday’s 13-6 victory. The only touchdown was Bridgewater’s tiebreaking TD toss to Jared Cook early in the fourth quarter.
“Each week we just talk about how do we win that game,” Payton said. “Honestly, in a week or two weeks from now, we’re not going to look specifically to how we win certain games.”
Yeah, because Brees will be back somewhere in there.
HOT UP NORTH
Minnesota’s 38-20 victory over the Eagles gives the NFC North a chance to be the only division with four winning teams through six weeks, while it ended up leaving the NFC East without a team above .500.
If Detroit beats Green Bay on Monday night, the Vikings (4-2) and Packers (currently 3-2) would be tied for the division lead, followed closely by the Lions (currently 2-1-1) and defending NFC North champion Chicago (3-2).
Denver weather: Sunny and breezy to start the work week
Warm temperatures and sunny skies are on the horizon again to kick off the work week.
Denver area residents can expect dry and breezy weather on Monday with highs of 74 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder.
The mountains will remain in the 50s with gusty winds ahead of a cold front.
Tuesday will be considerably cooler in the metro area, forecasters said, with highs in the low 60s.
Dry and breezy this afternoon with temperatures slightly above normal. Gusty winds over the higher terrain and along the northern border, ahead of an approaching cold front. Cooler Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/FihX9vlqi8
— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) October 14, 2019
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Colorado marijuana regulators finalizing ban on certain additives in cannabis vape products
Colorado’s marijuana regulators are finalizing a ban on certain additives in cannabis vape products, a significant step given new urgency by a national crisis over a mysterious lung disease linked to e-cigarettes and marijuana vape pens.
The state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division proposed finalized rules include prohibiting certain ingredients in marijuana vaping products that will be discussed in a Tuesday public hearing. The proposed changes were crafted with information from industry stakeholders’ discussions and recommendations, said Shannon Gray, marijuana communications specialist at the Colorado Department of Revenue.
The proposed prohibitions in ingredients used in marijuana concentrates or products intended for inhalation include:
Polyethylene glycol (PEG);
Vitamin E Acetate; and
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT Oil)
THC oil, in its natural form, is too thick to be atomized or vaporized. These additives are sometimes used as thinning agents to cut the oil and make it possible for vaporization and inhalation. While the research is still in its infancy, multiple studies have shown that polyethylene glycol breaks down into carcinogens when vaped at high temperatures.
Another rule change mandates that additives within concentrates or products intended to be inhaled through a cannabis vape would need to be listed on the product label. And vaping devices containing the product or concentrate would need to be labeled as “Not approved by the FDA.”
The rule, if approved, will go into effect Jan. 1.
“I think it’s a good first step and positive sign,” said Tyrell Towle, director of chemistry at the state’s first licensed cannabis research facility MedPharm. “It shows MED is willing to take a strong action and go as far as banning a substance that could be harming people’s health in an acute way, which is terrible. This lung disease comes quickly, and it can be devastating. To me, we should be doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen in Colorado.”
Colorado has one of the highest youth vaping rates in the country and is one of dozens of states responding to a mysterious vaping-related lung disease that has sickened more than 1,000 people and killed at least 18 across the nation. There were nine cases of the vaping illness in Colorado as of Wednesday with seven people hospitalized, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has suggested the public refrain from using e-cigarette products, particularly those containing THC.
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“I made a strong push at this time in response to recent news,” Towle said.
Stephen Goldman, owner of cannabis testing company PhytaTech, was surprised the additive bans made it into the final proposed rules this quickly.
“Probably some pressure from what we see from other states that is putting the impetus to make these moves,” Goldman said.
Kristi Kelly, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said these changes are “not very surprising” in light of the concerns presented as part of the federal government’s investigation into vaping.
The public has a final chance on Tuesday to weigh in on the rule changes. The proposed rules then head to the State Licensing Authority, which decides whether to make them official.
Multiple members of the rule-making committee said the final proposed rules rarely see significant changes once they’re sent to the Licensing Authority.
“At this point, I don’t see it not going through,” Towle said.
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He said cannabis manufacturers were resistant to the proposed changes. The additive ban was brought up more than a year ago in one of the MED’s committees, Towle said, but was dropped in order to focus on “less controversial” issues.
“Everybody should not be using additives, because they’re totally unnecessary to the manufacturing process,” Towle said. “Why add things that could be harmful, or probably are harmful, when you don’t need to?”
Towle hopes more additives are banned in the future, such as vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol.
“They need to do more soon,” Towle said.
Goldman agreed, adding that, if passed, the ban would be “the tip of the iceberg.”
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Retrofitting busy highways, like U.S. Highway 285 in Colorado, to let wildlife travel safely, too
COLLEGIATE PEAKS SCENIC BYWAY — U.S. Highway 285 was once a death zone for the dwindling herds of elk and mule deer on Colorado’s Western Slope. But today it offers a lifeline, helping them travel from their summer range high in the mountains to winter foraging grounds along the Arkansas River.
For the past year, a tunnel dipping under three lanes of speeding traffic has beckoned. And as frost descended recently on subalpine meadows and glittering-gold aspen, a huge bull elk, measuring at least nine feet from antlers to hoofs, entered the structure ever so cautiously. Infrared cameras on both ends captured his meandering.
“Yes!” exulted Mark Lawler, an environmental specialist with the state transportation department, sitting under the 25-foot-wide tunnel arch and watching images pop up on his laptop. The ground there was marked by coyote, deer and even squirrel tracks, more proof of success. But Lawler was focusing on the elk’s safe passage. He “won’t be hit by someone on the highway.”
The $3.5 million project is one of several planned for Colorado’s ever more crowded roads, on which some 4,000 bears, bighorn sheep, coyotes and myriad other animals died last year. The cost of the carnage exceeded $80 million, according to state officials.
Across the country, as development continues to encroach on natural areas, wildlife-vehicle collisions are taking a massive toll. More than 1.9 million animal-collision insurance claims were filed in fiscal 2019, a State Farm report found, with some researchers estimating the annual price tag of the resulting human fatalities, wildlife mortality, injuries, vehicle damage and other costs at almost $10 billion.
Yet advances in satellite tracking technology are helping biologists to better understand how many animals rely on corridors — strips of land that link habitats — and how wildlife crossings over and under roads are essential to reconnect these shrinking settings. Federal and state officials, conservationists and landowners are now partnering across borders on remedies.
“Our ecosystems are in crisis due to habitat loss, deforestation and, of course, climate change,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who in May introduced a Wildlife Corridors Conservation bill with bipartisan support. The measure would provide federal land managers the authority to establish corridors, set aside $78.5 million in funding, in part for regional projects, and order the creation of a federal wildlife connectivity database.
“The science is clear that corridors help protect our most vulnerable species,” Udall said in an interview.
Research and video feeds show that specially designed crossings have protected scores of pronghorn antelope in Wyoming, panthers in Florida, mule deer in Nevada, moose along “Slaughter Row” in Utah and grizzly and black bears in Montana from oncoming cars and trucks. Mortality dropped by as much as 90%, studies show.
Beyond maintaining populations, such projects ensure that ailing ecosystems retain biodiversity, scientists note. The strategy works for flora, too. A new study based on a decades-long experiment that restored longleaf pine savanna in South Carolina found that fewer plants went extinct in connected habitats.
“We need to create, or support, maintaining wildlife movement and connectivity at landscape scale because it has long-term genetic consequences,” said Rob Ament, road ecology program manager at the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University, who is consulting on a project in Asia that will benefit rhinos, tigers and elephants. “We built our interstate system in the 1950s and 1960s before we knew this, and now we must retrofit it to connect landscapes across major highways.”
Under a 2018 secretarial order, the Interior Department is funding work in 11 Western states to identify wildlife corridors and what threatens them, and to create plans and partnerships to preserve such areas. Casey Stemler, a senior adviser in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, recalls asking those states to list the key risks to the corridors, “and they all said highways.” A Senate transportation bill includes $250 million for a five-year wildlife-crossing pilot program.
New Mexico and Colorado officials are collaborating with tribes, the National Wildlife Federation, sportsmen’s organizations and landowners pushing for special management areas to protect corridors across three national forests — Rio Grande in Colorado and Carson and Santa Fe in New Mexico. Collectively, they represent one of the least fragmented wildlife landscapes in the continental United States, with elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorns, lynx, black bears and cougars traveling among them.
“When you have two areas that promote wildlife movement from forest to forest, region to region, and state to state, it sets a strong precedent,” said Jeremy Romero, the federation’s regional connectivity coordinator. “We are hoping this can be a West-wide model.”
States are independently prioritizing wildlife corridors and crossings, too. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, in March signed legislation directing her transportation and game and fish agencies to work with tribes in using GPS data from wildlife fitted with electronic collars to identify roads that hinder migration. A plan listing the top proposed corridor projects is to be submitted to the legislature by January.
And under an executive order from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, in August, his natural resources department is studying migration patterns in advance of developing new policies. “We want to ensure conservation of big-game winter range so we can grow our outdoor recreation economy and protect the diversity of our wildlife,” Polis, a Democrat, said in a recent interview.
Meanwhile, engineers in Southern California are designing the world’s largest animal crossing. The $87 million overpass, which will span a 10-lane Los Angeles freeway, is a bid to save the region’s mountain lions by reconnecting habitats in the Santa Monica Mountains with those to the north. Other creatures also are expected to traverse it.
Roadway ecologists emphasize crossings’ cost-effectiveness. Every vehicle-elk collision avoided meant $17,483 per kilometer per year in car repairs and medical expenses averted, a 2009 Montana study found. With moose, the figure jumped to $30,760.
“A lot of these structures, we’ve done the math on them and they can effectively pay for themselves in a decade,” said Hall Sawyer, a research biologist at West Inc., an environmental consulting firm in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Key to crossings’ success are fences that direct wildlife toward the site and structure, metal guards that keep animals off roads at intersections, and earthen ramps that allow them to exit.
A couple of hours west of Colorado Springs, the project along Highway 285 has two miles of eight-foot fencing on either side of the asphalt to funnel animals into a trio of box culverts constructed in the late 1960s. Its location near the small town of Buena Vista is not happenstance: Lawler compared law enforcement crash data on injuries from wildlife-vehicle collisions and carcass removal information collected by maintenance crews, then talked with wildlife managers in the area and coordinated with private landowners.
The effort paid off: The bodies of elk and mule deer no longer litter the road. Instead, Lawler watches remotely as they amble with little danger through the tunnel.
The state transportation department plans to hire a firm next spring to track data from the structure’s cameras and better quantify the crossing’s effectiveness.
“It would be great if someday wildlife treatments are seen as stand-alone projects,” said Lawler, glancing up at the pinyon- and juniper-covered hillside where animals case the underpass for safety. “I can see that day coming.”
Columbus Day started in Colorado. This may be the last year the state celebrates it.
Colorado in 1907 became the first state to recognize Columbus Day as a state holiday. Next year, the state could officially abolish the October holiday.
State Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, a Commerce City Democrat, promises to bring a bill in 2020 to repeal Columbus Day as an official state holiday and, in its place, make Colorado Day a state holiday. That’s on Aug. 1 each year.
Seven states and more than 125 cities, including Boulder, have repealed and replaced Columbus Day.
Benavidez is motivated by the fact that Christopher Columbus killed, kidnapped or enslaved thousands of native people.
“The terrible atrocities that he oversaw and personally initiated against the indigenous people that he encountered — it’s not something that we should be celebrating,” she said.
There’s good reason to believe her view will be supported by enough lawmakers next year to pass the bill she says she’ll bring. She introduced similar legislation last year, proposing to repeal Columbus Day and to make Election Day a state holiday. The bill easily cleared the House but was sidelined in the Senate amid concerns from progressive groups who worried that, counterintuitively, an Election Day holiday could actually harm voter turnout.
Benavidez is starting anew this year, with a proposed holiday swap she believes will be less controversial.
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville is vowing to fight her.
“Democrats and Rep. Benavidez seem intent upon destroying Columbus Day,” the Republican said in a statement. “What a tremendous waste of time and effort with the important issues we are facing in this state.”
But it may not matter to the potential bill’s fate what Neville and other critics think. A similar bill failed in the split legislature of 2017, but Democrats now control the House, Senate and governor’s office, and could repeal Columbus Day on a party-line vote.
Rep. Chris Kennedy, a Jefferson County Democrat and assistant majority leader, chairs the committee that heard Benavidez’s bill last session. He indicated strong support for advancing repeal-and-replace legislation next year.
“It is time for us to move on from celebrating Columbus Day in this way,” he said, later adding, “I think there’s a growing understanding that this isn’t just some symbolic thing. Columbus Day being celebrated is something that causes trauma from the people descended from the people brutalized by Columbus and others with him.”
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Sky Roosevelt-Morris, who sits on the leadership council for the American-Indian Movement of Colorado, said she supports Benavidez’s proposal and, should a bill be introduced, will rally for it next session.
“It’s long overdue,” she said of the potential repeal.
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Some states and cities have repealed Columbus Day and now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the same date. But there’s disagreement in the Native American community about the value of that.
“Would an Indigenous Peoples’ Day mean that for one day of the year, non-native people have to acknowledge our existence on some superficial level?” Roosevelt-Morris said. “The hell with that. I want people to honor our treaties, to stop murdering our women, stealing our children, maybe give some land back.”
Death of unarmed 23-year-old in police custody prompts questions about increasingly common use of ketamine as sedative for agitated patients
A Denver lawyer and the family of an Aurora man who died after a violent police encounter are questioning paramedics’ use of a strong sedative that is becoming an increasingly common way for Colorado first responders to treat extremely agitated people.
Ninety fire departments and emergency medical service agencies across Colorado — including those in Aurora, Denver and Colorado Springs — have waivers from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to use ketamine to treat excited delirium, according to data from the department. Law enforcement and medical professionals for years have struggled to safely handle those experiencing excited delirium — a sometimes fatal physical condition that makes someone aggressive, unreasonable and seemingly impervious to pain.
No deaths have been reported to the state health department in connection to ketamine used to treat agitation, but the department’s guidelines show that there can be dangerous side effects, like difficulty breathing and lowering a patient’s blood pressure.
“Ketamine may be used for management of patients exhibiting such severe agitation that they are placing themselves and/or their providers in imminent danger,” according to guidelines from the state health department. “However, ketamine may be associated with high in-hospital intubation and ICU admission rates; therefore the use of ketamine should be approached with caution. Ketamine should not be used for patients who can be managed safely with traditional therapies.”
McClain FamilyElijah McClain
Elijah McClain, 23, died Aug. 30 after he was violently arrested by Aurora police the week before. After McClain was handcuffed, authorities injected him with ketamine in an attempt to sedate him, his family has alleged. McClain suffered cardiac arrest during the ambulance ride to a nearby hospital, where he was later taken off life support. It’s unclear exactly what caused McClain’s death as the Adams County coroner has not yet completed the autopsy.
Aurora Fire Rescue paramedics can use ketamine in the field to treat extremely agitated people, but Mari Newman, the attorney representing McClain’s family, said the 23-year-old was lying handcuffed and complacent on the ground when he was injected.
Aurora Fire Rescue protocol for agitated and combative patients shows that ketamine only can be used if the patient is showing signs of excited delirium such as paranoia, hyper-aggression, hallucination, disorientation and overheating, according to the agency’s policies and procedures handbook obtained by The Denver Post.
McClain’s family and Newman recently viewed body camera footage of McClain’s Aug. 24 arrest at Aurora police headquarters, but the family was not given copies of the videos and the footage has not been released publicly. In the recordings, an unknown person can be heard calling for 500 milligrams of ketamine as McClain lay on the ground, Newman said.
“The video shows the opposite of anybody showing any signs of excited delirium,” Newman, said. “There’s no legal or factual reason why a chemical restraint was used because he was already totally still and totally compliant.”
Newman has handled other cases involving excited delirium, including the family of Michael Marshall, who died in the Denver Downtown Detention Center after asphyxiating on his vomit as deputies pinned him down while Marshall was experiencing a mental health crisis.
Aurora Fire Rescue representatives did not return multiple phone calls requesting information about their use of ketamine and instead responded via email telling a reporter to file a records request. They have not confirmed that they used ketamine on McClain, though Aurora police have said the agency’s paramedics used a sedative. Aurora police have repeatedly declined to provide more information about the arrest, citing an ongoing investigation into the incident.
It’s unusual, but not unheard of, for paramedics to use ketamine on a patient who is already restrained, said Dr. Kevin McVaney, medical director for Denver’s emergency medical response system. Denver paramedics for years have used ketamine in the field if the patient is an imminent threat to a provider or themselves.
“Either the patient is going to break their arm fighting the restraints, flip the pram over or fight so hard that they go into cardiac arrest,” McVaney said. “Most of the time those people are not restrained. But sometimes they are.”
Between August 2017 and July 2018, 427 patients in Colorado received ketamine for agitation, according to state data. Of those, about three percent had to be intubated before reaching the hospital because they struggled to breathe and about 20 percent of all patients were intubated in the hospital.
“Ketamine is a drug that has been shown to be effective for the treatment of excited delirium and/or extreme or profound agitation,” according to the state guidelines. “However, it is also associated with a significant potential for complications and may lead to the need for intubation and admission to the Intensive Care Unit.”
The guidelines state that paramedics should only intervene with ketamine if the person’s agitation is extreme and seems to stem from medical or psychological reasons. Otherwise, agitation should be managed with conversation or traditional medications such as benzodiazepines and anti-psychotics.
“The use of ketamine for excited delirium and/or extreme or profound agitation is an emerging treatment indication; therefore it does not have a large body of evidence-based support in the literature,” according to the state’s guidelines.
Using the drug as a treatment for agitation has become more common in the past decade, said Dr. Andrew Monte, a professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Traditionally, ketamine has been used as a painkiller or for sedation in the hospital for minor procedures.
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“Just because it’s a new use of an old medication doesn’t mean it’s inherently unsafe,” Monte said.
The use of ketamine as a treatment for agitation has been largely successful, though it does have side effects, Monte said. Paramedics attempt to make the best decision with the limited information they have.
“Ketamine is the biggest, strongest tool that we use for this,” McVaney said. “But it is by far the most infrequent.”
Of the drugs used to sedate patients in the field, ketamine poses the least amount of risk of stopping someone’s breathing, McVaney said. It works quickly, but isn’t the best medication for every patient.
“Nothing we give is without risk,” Monte said.
Broncos’ Drew Lock remains upbeat during rehab from thumb injury with Week 9 return possible
Drew Lock has accepted his rookie year isn’t going according to plan. The quarterback, Denver’s second-round draft choice in April from Missouri, has been on injured reserve since suffering a right thumb sprain in the Broncos’ third preseason game.
Lock is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation and has been throwing a football for a couple weeks. But with the injury setback and an understudy label behind first-year veteran starter Joe Flacco, Lock’s rookie season features the tall task of getting better … without playing.
“I realize that I can either get wrapped up in the negative things or get wrapped up in my work,” Lock said in an interview with The Denver Post after practice last week. “I’m getting wrapped up in my work and trying to get better every day. That means still learning even when I’m not participating, and focusing on the (positive) here for me. I have to figure out how to be the best quarterback I can possibly be without actually taking reps.”
Lock is eligible to begin practicing Monday, six weeks after he was placed on injured reserve. But because of the Broncos’ short turnaround to Thursday’s game against Kansas City, Lock’s first true practice won’t be until next week.
The Broncos have three weeks to reinstate Lock to the active roster or keep him on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
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Per NFL roster rules, teams can pull two players off injured reserve and put them on the active roster during the season. It’s unclear if Lock will be one of those two selections. Tight end Jake Butt (knee, placed on injured reserve Sept. 2), running back Theo Riddick (shoulder, Sept. 2) and wideout Tim Patrick (hand, Sept. 11) are other potential candidates to return to the roster.
For Lock’s part, he remains focused on immersing himself in the offense, learning under Flacco and making sure his thumb is 100 percent healthy should he get activated. Brandon Allen, acquired off waivers on Sept. 1, is currently Flacco’s back-up.
“It’s just about getting the strength and flexibility back,” Lock said. “Those are my two main goals throughout every day, and there’s no pain when I do those (thumb) exercises, so that makes me feel good about it.”
Broncos vs. Titans — a roundup of Denver’s Week 6 win over Tennessee
Don’t look now, but the Broncos are two games out of first place in the AFC West.
A road win last week over the Chargers and then a dominant 16-0 victory at home against the hapless Titans on Sunday have the Broncos at 2-4 and about to host the 4-2 Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. Quite the contrast since Denver opened the season with a 0-4 record.
Like Rocky Balboa — and later Randy Marsh — said, “I didn’t hear no bell.” Here’s a look at what you may have missed from yesterday’s game:
Seven sacks. Three takeovers. Zero points from the Titans. Does the Broncos defense finally look like a Vic Fangio defense? Ryan O’Halloran breaks down how Denver took down the Titans in his analysis.
The Broncos “loudly declared they’re back in the hunt with the ferocity of linebacker Alexander Johnson screeching like an angry dinosaur,” columnist Mark Kiszla writes.
Denver’s defensive backs flexed their muscle against Tennessee. The Denver defense is allowing 196 passing yards per game, fourth-best in the NFL. Not bad for a unit missing Bryce Callahan (foot), who was expected to start opposite Chris Harris Jr. at corner as well as other backups, Kyle Newman reports.
Former Highlands Ranch star Mike Purcell made his first start in Denver, calling it “surreal.”
A “second-round bust?” DeMarcus Walker recorded two sacks at critical fourth-quarter junctures Sunday. Kyle Fredrickson takes a look at the defensive lineman’s fresh start under coach Vic Fangio.
Broncos Status Report: Things are getting interesting after 0-4 start, Ryan O’Halloran writes.
Broncos up-down drill: Here’s a look at the best and worst performances against the Titans.
Champ Bailey stood at midfield amid the roar of Mile High and looked up toward the east stands as a banner fell from the nameplate cementing his Broncos legacy, Kyle Fredrickson reports. “It’s surreal,” Bailey said after the ceremony.
If you missed it, we have some highlights for you, including Chris Harris Jr.’s 20th career interception, Phillip Lindsay’s touchdown run and DeMarcus Walker sacking Marcus Mariota on fourth down late in the fourth quarter.
… speaking of Mariota, he might be out of a starting job after getting benched.
If you enjoy the Denver Sports Omelette, tell a friend it’s easy to sign up here for our daily sports roundup. If you have any questions or suggestions, hit me up on Twitter @joenguyen or by email.
— Joe Nguyen, The Denver Post
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What’s on Tap?
Avalanche: At Washington Capitals, 3 p.m. Monday, ALT | Buy tickets
Nuggets preseason: At Phoenix Suns, 8 p.m. Monday, ALT | Buy tickets
Avalanche: At Pittsburgh Penguins, 5 p.m. Wednesday, NBCSN | Buy tickets
TV/RADIO: Here’s what sports are airing today
NFL: Broncos 16, Titans 0
Full story | Box score
Check out our new and improved stats page.
Joe Amon, The Denver PostColorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer (31) blocks a shot from Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) in the second period as the Colorado Avalanche take on the Calgary Flames at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver on Oct. 3, 2019.
Washington reunion for Avalanche’s Philipp Grubauer and Andre Burakovsky
In obscure roles, Philipp Grubauer and Andre Burakovsky helped the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup in 2018.
On Monday, they return to Washington as front-line players for the 4-0 Avalanche. Grubauer is Colorado’s clear-cut No. 1 goalie and will make his fourth start. And Burakovsky is one of the Avs’ top-six wingers, Mike Chambers reports. Read more…
Courtesy of the University of WyomingTed Williams waves to the crowd at the University of Wyoming.
How Wyoming’s Black 14 learned to forgive — but never forget
Last month, to honor the 50th anniversary of one of the worst days of Ted Williams’ life and one of the seminal intersections of sports and civil rights, Wyoming had him and seven of his former teammates, eight survivors of the Black 14, take a victory lap at War Memorial Stadium. The group of 14 African American football players were kicked off the Cowboys football team on Oct. 17, 1969, for wanting to wear black armbands in protest of BYU, that weekend’s opponent, Sean Keeler writes. Read more…
Who were Wyoming’s Black 14?
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostColorado Rockies Wade Davis watches Arizona Diamondbacks Jarrod Dyson, not pictured, as he tries to steal to 2nd base in the 8th inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field on Aug. 14, 2019 in Denver. The Rockies beat the Diamondbacks 7-6.
Wade Davis’ meltdown forcing Rockies into major bullpen decisions
If the Rockies are going to rebound in 2020, the bullpen must do a 180. Because in 2019, Colorado relievers posted a 5.14 ERA, the worst since 2004 (5.53) and a precipitous fall from 2018 (4.62), Patrick Saunders reports. Read more…
Rockies’ rotation resurgence revolves around Kyle Freeland.
+ How Gary Harris’ two-way toughness fits into Nuggets’ title-contending puzzle.
+ Mark Barberio returned with something to prove for the Avs.
+ For Mel Tucker and the CU Buffs, how much fight is left after a pummeling at Oregon?
+ Broncos Journal: Red zone defense has made positive strides after slow start.
+ Colorado Prep Football Rewind, Week 7: Smoky Hill playing for November, Regis’ new weapon and Cherokee Trail’s big upset.
+ Saunders: Hey Dad, I’m rooting for your St. Louis Cardinals, too.
+ Chambers: NHL should ditch video review for offside.
+ Eliud Kipchoge first to break 2-hour mark in marathon event.
Ask The Experts
+ Broncos Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Ryan O’Halloran here.
+ Nuggets Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Mike Singer here.
+ Avs Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Mike Chambers here.
+ Rockies Mailbag: Have a question about the team? Ask Patrick Saunders here.
By The Numbers
How many world championship medals U.S. gymnastics star Simone Biles has won in her career, the most all-time. Read more…
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostA statue of Pat Bowlen sits out in front of Mile High on Aug. 26, 2019 in Denver.
Kiszla: Would the best way to honor Mr. B’s memory and save Broncos from downward spiral be for Bowlen kids to sell the team?
Could the current squabble over future control of the Broncos be more imperfect, more awkward or more troubling for anyone who loves this franchise? Read more…
Get in Touch
If you see something that’s cause for question or have a comment, thought or suggestion, email me at email@example.com or tweet me @danielboniface.
Wade Davis’ meltdown forcing Rockies into major bullpen decisions
Editor’s note: Second in a five-part series looking at the Rockies of 2020. Today: The bullpen
After the Rockies’ final game of their lost season, deposed closer Wade Davis was in a rush to leave the clubhouse at Coors Field.
“I’m going home to forget about everything that’s been negative this year,” the veteran right-hander said as he packed up his belongings. “I’ll try to remember the positive things and I will get ready again.”
Positives? Well, there was this: he posted an 0.63 ERA in his first 16 road games from March 31 through Aug. 9. But that sliver of sunshine was blotted out by some truly ghastly numbers:
— An overall 8.65 ERA, highest in the majors among pitchers who appeared in 50-plus games.
— A 13.50 ERA after the all-star break.
— An 0-5 record and 11.10 ERA at Coors Field, the highest home ERA in franchise history (minimum 29 appearances).
— With two outs, opposing hitters slashed .476/.560/.667.
Considering that right-handers Scott Oberg and Jairo Diaz both showed some promise in closing roles late in the season, it’s fair to ask why the 34-year-old Davis even matters in 2020. The answer is $17 million, which will make him the Rockies’ third-highest paid player behind Nolan Arenado ($35 million) and Charlie Blackmon ($21 million).
Plus, there is another catch to Davis’ contract. He has a $15 million option for 2021 but that becomes a player option if Davis finishes 30 games in 2020 and is healthy enough to be on the 2021 opening-day roster. In other words, the Rockies are in a tough place regarding Davis’ contract.
Manager Bud Black likes to point out that relievers are volatile creatures, noting, for instance, that former Rockies right-hander Adam Ottavino struggled so badly in 2017 that he was left off the playoff roster before bouncing back with a monster 2018 which led to a three-year, $27 million deal with the Yankees.
Is Davis capable of such a turnaround? Next season will tell, but the Davis of today looks nothing like the Davis of 2014-15 when he posted a 0.97 ERA over two full seasons with Kansas City. In 2019, the stoic right-hander’s fastball averaged 93.3 mph, down significantly from the 96.7 mph heater he threw for the Royals in 2014, and also down from the 94.4 mph fastball he threw last year when he led the National League with 43 saves.
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But Davis said it was not a lack of velocity that hurt him, it was poor pitch location.
“I’m not getting the ball up when I want to get it up, and then I’m not getting the pitches down when I need to. It’s a bad combination,” he said on Aug. 21, the day after giving up three critical runs in Colorado’s 5-3 loss to Arizona. “I’m trying to wrap my head around it and analyze some of the mistakes that I’ve made.”
Davis’ season included a 7.53 ERA in save situations and he admitted that his confidence took a bit of a hit.
“I’ll be fine, I’ve had struggles before,” he said. “But everybody’s confidence (is going to be shaken) when you struggle. But it doesn’t change my view of myself. I have full confidence in this never happening again, so it will be fun to kind of prep for those things in the winter — and even in the mental game.”
When Davis lost his job as closer to Oberg, Black praised Davis’ track record but also explained why a change was needed.
“The thing that stands out for me is the walk total on the road and at home. It’s too high,” Black said. “We’ve addressed that with Wade. And Wade can’t come up with an answer either, why that’s happened. We’ve looked at mechanics, mindset, a lot of different things.”
General manager Jeff Bridich is not ready to quit on Davis.
“His first year here, he leads the NL in saves and helps pitch us into the playoffs,” Bridich said. “This year, it was a completely different year. It was his toughest year ever as a professional athlete. It doesn’t mean he can’t lead the NL in saves again.”
But if the Rockies are going to rebound in 2020, the bullpen must do a 180. Because in 2019, Colorado relievers posted a 5.14 ERA, the worst since 2004 (5.53) and a precipitous fall from 2018 (4.62). Davis may or may not play a key role next season, but the Rockies need to figure out what to do with him.
Priming the ‘pen
The Rockies have some talented young relievers but their inexperience is a caution flag. Here are the contenders for the 2020 bullpen:
RHP Scott Oberg (2.25 ERA, 56.0 innings): His season ended in mid-August because of a blood clot in his right arm but he’s expected to fully recover. He had five saves and showed moxie as a closer.
RHP Carlos Estévez (3.75, 72): After a frustrating, injury-filled 2018 season, Estevez blossomed in 2019 in a set-up role. Armed with a hopping fastball and cutting slider, his 26.3% strikeout rate was the best in the bullpen. Estevez’s 7.5% walk rate also was a career-low.
RHP Jairo Diaz (4.53, 57 ⅔): The sturdy, hard-throwing Diaz notched five saves in a screen test as a closer and flashed potential, though his 1.301 WHIP illustrated some inconsistency.
LHP Jake McGee (4.35, 41 ⅓): McGee’s ERA was decent for a high-altitude pitcher, yet 65 percent of the runners he inherited scored and his 1.403 WHIP was too high for a late-game reliever.
RHP Bryan Shaw (5.38, 72): Shaw, who has retooled as a pitcher, incorporated an effective curveball to go with his cutter, but he was too erratic to trust. Shaw’s contract is problematic. If Shaw appears in 40 games in 2020 and is healthy at the start of 2021, a $9 million option for ’21 becomes guaranteed.
RHP Wade Davis (8.65, 42 ⅔): Manager Bud Black stuck with the veteran for much of the season but Davis got worse instead of better, especially at Coors Field, where his slash line was .318/.426/.567.
RHP Chad Bettis (6.08, 63 ⅔): The veteran right-hander began the season as a starter and ended up in the bullpen. Bettis’ season was cut short by a bilateral hip procedure and projections are he won’t be in the majors until after the 2020 season begins.
RHP Jesús Tinoco (4.75, 36): The right-hander, 24, was part of the 2015 trade that sent Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto. He showed glimpses of potential but his 22 walks vs. 28 strikeouts illustrated his inconsistency. Plus, he served up 12 homers in just 36 innings.
RHP Yency Almonte (5.56, 34): If Almonte wants to succeed he must cut down on walks. With the Rockies, his walk rate increased from 2.5 walks per nine innings in 2018 to 3.7 walks per nine in 2019. At Triple-A Albuquerque, his walk rate nearly tripled from 2.9 in 2018 to 7.8 per nine in 2019.
RHP DJ Johnson (5.04, 25): Johnson spent most of his season at Triple-A and he got hit hard at times when he got called up, as evidenced by his 1.680 WHIP. Johnson, however, provided some shutdown innings late in the season.
LHP Sam Howard (6.63, 19): The Rockies like the southpaw’s potential but he failed to impress in his 20 appearances.
In the mix: Right-handers James Pazos and Joe Harvey, along with lefty Phillip Diehl, saw time on the mound toward the end of the season and all three will get a long look during spring training.
Editors' Picks and Don't Miss stories | The Denver Post
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.
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“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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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.
RELATED: Why lightning is one of the top weather-related killers in Colorado
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.”
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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.
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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.
RELATED: In Denver housing market, what was hot is now cold. See where your ZIP code ranks in home prices.
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.
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“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.
Melanie Griffith’s Aspen mansion — featuring gondola access and a 9,000-bottle wine cellar — sold for $4 million
Melanie Griffith’s log cabin in Aspen sold for $4 million.
The 7,391-square-foot estate at 46 Lower Hurricane Road was decorated by Griffith, who earned the Golden Globe Award for best actress for “Working Girl” (1989) and landed her first lead role in the 1991 drama “Paradise.”
Griffith’s former residence features floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the interior with natural light and are a lens to Aspen Highlands Ridge. Decks wrap the house that has a stone fireplace as its focal point and a gourmet kitchen, billiards room and a wine cellar among other amenities.
“A 9,000-bottle wine cellar,” said Carrie Wells, a broker with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse Real Estate, who represented the seller. “There’s a very large stone fireplace that separates the dining and living room, and outrageous views.”
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What puts this property apart from others, Wells said, is that it’s on the backside of Aspen Mountain, where people can ski down the mountain to the house. The private residence has access to a gondola and Little Annie Road and is a 20-minute drive to downtown Aspen.
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“The main experience is a private setting and view experience that people would associate with being in Switzerland — ridge-lined, snow-capped peaks,” Wells said.
Secluded on two acres, it houses five bedrooms, including a master suite, and six bathrooms, according to a news release provided by Laura Acker, vice president of Kreps DeMaria PR & Marketing.
Wells said the buyer is not a celebrity but famous in the business they own. The buyer has a young family and is planning to relocate to Aspen.
This $17.95 million Aspen estate is on the market after staying in one family for 70 years
An estate in one Aspen family for 70 years now searches for new ownership.
The 12-acre contemporary at 700 Nell Erickson Road is on the market for $17.95 million after Paula Zurcher, 90, decided to sell.
Zurcher is the daughter of Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, who together in 1946 contributed to the development of downtown Aspen by founding The Aspen Skiing Company and created The Aspen Institute — now an international nonprofit think tank — three years later.
The Paepcke’s business endeavors in Aspen spawned after the family found the 400-acre gem 10 minutes from downtown during a mountain hike. The land was pared down as time wore on, starting when Walter died in 1960. When Elizabeth passed in 1994, the property was subdivided by her heirs.
What remains are four developed lots nestled in 51 common acres with caretakers for the entire ranch.
“I chose the lot so that it was far removed from the road,” Zurcher said during an interview with James Tarmy of Bloomberg. “I didn’t want to see any traffic.”
Colter Smith, the step-grandson of Zurcher, is the founder and broker of Christie’s International Real Estate Aspen Snowmass and the listing agent for the property after being a caretaker of it for 15 years.
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“I know the property intimately,” Smith said.
Two-story windows line the living room and gaze toward nature’s abundance of ponds and streams, an elk habitat and aspen and spruce forests that encompass the mansion.
The roughly 6,800-square-foot home has seven bedrooms all above grade, five bathrooms with one half bath and a two-car garage. Resting at the base of Aspen’s Red Mountain, the property has senior water rights and produces around 1,500 gallons a minute throughout the summer. There also is 1,400 square feet for additional development opportunities, Smith said.
“It’s probably the most private lot on Red Mountain,” Smith said. “This property is about the land and the location. It’s a legacy property.”
What’s happening with the Rockies’ “West Lot” construction project ahead of opening day
Rockies fans headed to games this season will get to see the transformation of the old West Lot, where work has been underway since the team last played to transform the space into a three-building project set to open in 2021.
When finished, the old lot at the southwest corner of 20th and Wazee streets will be a mixed-use project that will house the team’s hall of fame.
Denizens of the ballpark neighborhood may be aware of all the work that has happened since crews fenced it off last September in advance of its transformation, but for fans that haven’t been to LoDo since the end of the 2018 season, here is the latest:
Excavation work is still underway, but support pillars are rising as concrete is poured for the two floors of underground parking that will eventually host 420 spots.
Three tower cranes have been erected around the site. They are lit up purple at night.
An official naming ceremony for the project has been scheduled for April 4. Team co-owner Dick Monfort is expected to speak about what the project means for the neighborhood and the organization.
A tentative grand opening date has been announced: New Years Day, 2021.
An executive team has been seated to oversee the construction. It features representatives from the architecture and designs firm Stantec, general contractor Hensel Phelps and the team.
The project has also been further refined. The final product will be a trio of interconnected towers centered on a 29,000-square-foot public plaza complete with a giant video screen and a grass berm for summer lounging. The building that fronts onto Wazee Street will feature 112 condos. The building that faces 19th will be office space. The building closest to the stadium, facing 20th Street and running along the east side of the “Wynkoop Plaza” pedestrian area, will be a 176-room hotel with the team hall of fame on the second floor.
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“This was always kind of a dead corner because it was just a parking lot,” John Yonushewski, Stantec’s senior principal on the project and a member of the executive team, said Wednesday. “Soon, people will now have a reason to interact with Wynkoop Plaza literally 24/7.”
Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver PostConstruction workers work on the former "west lot" across from Coors Field on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Denver. The construction is for a future Rockies hall of fame, offices, residential units, and an audio visually equipped public plaza.Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver PostThe former West Lot across from Coors Field on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Denver. The construction is for a future Rockies hall of fame, offices, residential units, and an audio visually equipped public plaza.Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver PostConstruction workers work on the former West Lot across from Coors Field on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Denver.Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver PostThe former West Lot across from Coors Field on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Denver. The construction is for a future Rockies hall of fame, offices, residential units, and an audio visually equipped public plaza.Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver PostThe former West Lot across from Coors Field on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Denver. On Thursday. team owner and CEO Dick Monfort announced the team will name the project McGregor Square in honor of late team president Keli McGregor.Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver PostThe former West Lot across from Coors Field on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Denver. The construction is for a future Rockies hall of fame, offices, residential units, and an audio visually equipped public plaza.Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver PostConstruction workers work on the former West Lot across from Coors Field on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Denver. The construction is for a future Rockies hall of fame, offices, residential units, and an audio visually equipped public plaza.Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver PostThe former West Lot across from Coors Field on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Denver. The construction is for a future Rockies hall of fame, offices, residential units, and an audio visually equipped public plaza.Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver PostConstruction workers work on the former West Lot across from Coors Field on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Denver. The construction is for a future Rockies hall of fame, offices, residential units, and an audio visually equipped public plaza.Rachel Woolf, Special to the Denver PostConstruction workers work on the former "west lot" across from Coors Field on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 in Denver. The construction is for a future Rockies hall of fame, offices, residential units, and an audio visually equipped public plaza.Show Caption of Expand
Yonushewski and his company were tasked with designing a project that achieved three goals at the West Lot: be active year round, extend the game day experience and be a community gathering spot. He’s confident the project will achieve all three.
The size and shape of the buildings has been finalized with the city, but internal uses are still being fleshed out. Another LoDo food hall may be in the offing. An ice skating rink may be part of the winter programming.
While leasing teams consider what to do with the forthcoming 75,000 square feet of bar, restaurant and shopping space, game day attendees will see the skeleton of the project slowly take shape throughout the 2019 season. Yonushewski said the development team expects to apply for a superstructure permit in late May. After that, passersby will really begin to see the buildings rise.
“By September, you’ll certainly see the concrete frame up and out of the ground,” Yonushewski said. “They’ll be out of the ground and on the upper levels.”
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Aside from narrowing the Wynkoop Plaza walkway, work on the project is not expected to have a major impact on visitor traffic. Road closures will occur when the team is on the road, Rockies officials said.
That’s welcome news at nearby Denver ChopHouse & Brewery.
Assistant general manager Ally Wolf said that when streets were closed to accommodate cranes going up, business suffered. But Hensel Phelps has been responsive and helpful, putting up signs on the fences around the project alerting people that the ChopHouse is open, even moving the signs when asked, she said.
Rockies season is naturally the busy season at the restaurant with game nights regularly pulling in $60,000 or more, Wolf said. She is hopeful that the construction won’t impact any of the foot traffic games generate.
“We think it’s going to be great,” when it’s done, Wolf said. “It’ll be an attraction. More businesses, more condos. It will be the new thing in Denver.”
Technology news, startups, reviews, devices, internet | The Denver Post
AirPod rivals give consumers an earful as they try to catch up to Apple
By Marie C. Baca, The Washington Post
Some people would rather put a broken Q-tip in their ear, while others would prefer a bulky earplug or a mint candy the size of a coin.
That’s essentially the choice consumers have as tech companies — including Microsoft, Amazon and Samsung — introduce a wave of new, often oddly-shaped, competitors to the AirPods, Apple’s popular in-ear wireless headphones that start at $159.
Silicon Valley has long been on the cutting edge of aesthetics, with numerous game-changing designs over the years (like the Apple products released under Steve Jobs’ tenure) as well as some memorable misses (Google Glass). And while Apple has succeeded in turning its white, dangly AirPods into a status symbol, truly wireless earbuds are gaining popularity in spite of, not because of, their design.
To the credit of those companies, product design experts say it’s difficult to create a pair of wireless, Bluetooth-enabled devices that sit comfortably but unobtrusively in the ear, provide high-quality sound and still capture the user’s voice. For one thing, the human body interferes with Bluetooth signals, so transmitting information to both earbuds in a synchronized fashion is complicated.
The newest devices to enter the fray are the Microsoft Surface Earbuds, which the company unveiled earlier this month. The earbuds have both touch and voice controls and retail for $249. The most visible part of each bud is a flat white disc that measures slightly less than an inch in diameter, about the size of a quarter.
In September, Amazon announced its $129.99 Echo Buds, which are black, resemble round earplugs and are also about the size of a quarter. Visually, they are similar to Samsung’s equally-priced Galaxy Buds. The Galaxy Buds are available in black, white and yellow and debuted in February.
None of the devices have escaped the wrath of social media. When they were introduced, AirPods were the butt of many a Twitter joke, and the devices have since been compared to Q-tips, corn cob holders and “an angry praying mantis.” Only after competitors were introduced did they seem streamlined in comparison. The Surface Earbuds were variously described on the web as refrigerator magnets, the mint candy Mentos, ear gauges and “chonky bois.”
“So Apple earbuds look like cigarettes hanging out of your ears while Surface earbuds look like you’ve been tagged as a part of an animal migration experiment,” tweeted Kevin Giszewski, a software engineer and podcaster.
Other tech companies have followed Apple’s lead in part because earbuds have become big business for the company. Though Apple doesn’t disclose AirPods sales, Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives estimates that the company will sell between 55 million and 60 million AirPods this year, the equivalent of roughly $9 billion in revenue. That’s an important source of income as consumer interest in the iPhone wanes and the global smartphone market begins to slow.
In addition to seeing wireless earbuds as a cash cow, companies also view the devices as a path to lock consumers into their product and service ecosystem, as well as a way to bring digital assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa into the user’s broader world.
For instance, Microsoft’s Earbuds allow users to open their Outlook email and calendars with their voice and instantly stream music by triple-clicking either bud. Consumers can also use the earbuds to interact with their PowerPoint presentations.
Ives said there is currently a small window of opportunity for other earbud manufacturers to encroach on Apple’s market dominance before the third-generation AirPods are released, which Ives says is likely to happen in early-to-mid December. He expects the devices to include active noise-canceling technology, which is present in the Echo Buds and some other manufacturers’ products but not the Surface Earbuds or Galaxy Buds. The market penetration for wireless headphones is only 10% to 12%, according to Ives, so while it would be difficult for anyone to make a dent in Apple’s market share, tech companies are still trying.
“Right now, it’s an all-out assault,” said Ives. “These are really aggressive moves by competitors.”
Truly wireless headphones first appeared on the market in 2015 — devices from EarIn and Bragi were among the initial batch — and became more popular after Apple’s AirPods launched in 2016. The devices have become such a symbol that retailer ASOS is selling an AirPod-like “faux headphone ear piece” for $9.50.
Apple’s market share was 53% in the second quarter of 2019, according to a Counterpoint Research report, the equivalent of about 14.3 million devices. That’s a decline from the 60% share Apple had for the prior two quarters, a slide driven by sales from second-tier competitors like Xiaomi AirDots. Samsung holds the No. 2 spot behind Apple with 8% market share.
Tech industry analyst Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies said she believes Microsoft’s Surface Earbuds could capture some of Apple’s market share, because consumers will value the device for its ability to interact with Microsoft’s other software and not just its sound transmission capabilities.
“I wouldn’t think about it as, ‘Oh, I’m going to a store for earbuds and here is what i’m getting,’” said Milanesi. “It’s more like, ‘I’m a Surface person, I buy into the brand, I’m a heavy Office user, and I want to use this with the capabilities that Office brings to me.’”
In that sense, the Surface Earbuds are more comparable to Amazon’s Echo Buds, which Amazon touts as being seamlessly integrated with its Alexa digital assistant.
As for Giszewski, he says he’s sticking with the “garden-variety” truly wireless earbuds he purchased for $30. That is, he said, until tech companies can come up with something that looks less ridiculous.
Green gaming: Video game firms make climate promises at U.N.
UNITED NATIONS — Gaming is going green — and some of the biggest game companies hope players will, too.
The companies behind PlayStation, Xbox, Angry Birds, Minecraft, Twitch and other video games and platforms pledged at the United Nations in September to level up efforts to fight climate change and get their throngs of users involved.
The promises range from planting trees to reducing plastic packaging, from making game devices more energy efficient to incorporating environmental themes into the games themselves.
“I believe games and gamers can be a force for social change and would love to see our global community unite to help our planet to survive and thrive,” Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan said on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly gathering of world leaders.
Ryan said Sony’s plans include outfitting the next-generation PlayStation system with a low-power, suspend-play mode. He said if 1 million players use it, they could save enough electricity to power 1,000 average U.S. homes.
Some games already are set in drowning coastal cities, educate children about wildlife or otherwise address environmental issues. Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon anointed the Angry Birds character Red as an “honorary ambassador for green” in 2016.
But the idea of gaming green got new visibility with commitments from 21 companies, facilitated by the U.N. Environment Program and showcased against the backdrop of the U.N. climate summit.
With an estimate of more than 2 billion video game players globally, “this is the most powerful mobilization channel in the world,” David Paul, the Marshall Islands’ environment minister, told the gaming CEOs. His low-lying Pacific island homeland faces an existential threat from rising seas as the planet warms.
The “Playing for the Planet” pledges come from an industry that isn’t always seen as nurturing societal good.
Parents and psychologists have fretted for years about games and other digital diversions sucking youths into staring at screens. The U.N.’s World Health Organization this year recommended no more than an hour of screen time a day for children under 5, and none at all for those under 1.
Gaming company leaders say that not all screen time is of equal value. They believe their products can engage players on such serious issues as climate change.
“We try to provide entertainment with substance,” Clark Stacey, CEO of WildWorks, said in an interview.
Among the initiatives:
WildWorks intends to incorporate new materials about habitat restoration and reforestation into its children’s game Animal Jam, and to plant a tree for every new Animal Jam player.
Microsoft plans to make 825,000 Xbox consoles that are carbon-neutral — or don’t cause any net increases in heat-trapping carbon dioxide — and to promote real-life sustainability activities through its massive-selling game Minecraft.
Angry Birds maker Rovio Entertainment is offsetting carbon emissions generated by each of its daily, active players charging one mobile device per day for a year.
Game streaming giant Twitch, owned by Amazon, intends to spread sustainability messages through its platform.
Google’s upcoming Stadia streaming service is financing research on how people can be inspired to change their behavior through games.
“They’re participatory. They require the player to take action. It’s not just absorbing a message from the outside,” said Erin Hoffman-John, Stadia’s lead designer for research and development.
Strange Loop Games already has ecological issues at the heart of its simulation game Eco. Players collaborate to build a civilization and confront its impacts on the environment. If they cut down too many trees, for example, they might kill off a species.
“For us, it’s less about telling the player about being green or avoiding climate change than letting them have that experience, letting them face that challenge themselves in a world that they care about,” CEO John Krajewski said in an interview. “And then they can bring that to the real world.”
Doctors turn to thumbs for diagnosis and treatment by text
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Dr. Anna Nguyen spoke with none of the five patients she treated on a recent weekday morning. She didn’t even leave her dining room.
The emergency physician nevertheless helped a pregnant Ohio woman handle hip pain, examined a Michigan man’s sore throat and texted a mom whose son became sick during a family trip to Mexico.
Welcome to the latest wrinkle in health care convenience: the chat diagnosis.
Nguyen’s company, CirrusMD, can connect patients with a doctor in less than a minute. But such fast service comes with a catch: The patient probably won’t see or talk to the doctor, because most communication takes place via secure messaging.
“We live in a consumer-driven world, and I think that consumers are becoming accustomed to being able to access all types of service with their thumbs,” CirrusMD co-founder Dr. Blake McKinney said.
CirrusMD and rivals like 98point6 and K Health offer message-based treatment for injuries or minor illnesses normally handled by a doctor’s office or clinic. They say they’re even more convenient than the video telemedicine that many employers and insurers now offer, because patients accustomed to Uber-like convenience can text with a doctor while riding a bus or waiting in a grocery store line.
Millions of Americans have access to these services. The companies are growing thanks to a push to improve care access, keep patients healthy and limit expensive emergency room visits. Walmart’s Sam’s Club, for instance, recently announced that it would offer 98point6 visits as part of a customer care program it is testing.
But some doctors worry about the quality of care provided by physicians who won’t see their patients and might have a limited medical history to read before deciding treatment.
“If the business opportunity is huge, there’s a risk that that caution is pushed aside,” said Dr. Thomas Bledsoe, a member of the American College of Physicians.
Message-based care providers say they take steps to ensure safety and recommend in-person doctor visits when necessary. Nguyen, for instance, once urged an 85-year-old woman who contacted CirrusMD about crushing chest pain to head to an emergency room.
These companies note that a thorough medical history is not crucial for every case. They also say doctors don’t always need vital signs like temperature and blood pressure, but they can coach patients through taking them if necessary. Doctors also can opt for a video or phone conversation when needed.
Even so, the companies estimate they can resolve more than 80% of their cases through messaging.
About 3 million people nationwide have access to CirrusMD doctors, mostly through their insurance. The insurer or employer providing the coverage pays for the service, allowing patients to chat with doctors at no charge.
The medical industry is seeing a growing form of care where doctors diagnose, treat and prescribe through secure text messages. (Randall Benton, The Associated Press)
At first glance, a visitor to Nguyen’s Sacramento home wouldn’t be able to tell if she was the doctor or the patient during her recent shift. She sat at her dining room table and tapped her iPhone to bounce between patients.
The doctor’s phone started dinging shortly after her five-hour shift began.
She gave physical therapy recommendations to the pregnant woman and helped a Colorado man who hurt his back moving boxes at work. A Michigan man checked in about his sore throat as that conversation wound down.
Then the mom messaged from Mexico. Her 6-year-old started vomiting and developed a fever and diarrhea after his brother and father became sick during a vacation. Nguyen wanted to know how the boy was acting, so she asked several questions and requested a picture.
The emergency physician could tell by his skin color that he wasn’t dehydrated.
“The picture itself looks reassuring,” she said. “If he had encephalitis, he’d be really confused and out of it.”
The doctor said she thought the boy just had a stomach bug, and she told his mother to make sure he kept drinking fluids.
Nguyen said she enjoys this type of care because the format gives her more time with patients.
“I think patients will like it a lot because most really hate going to their doctor,” she said, referring to the hassle of setting an appointment, getting to the office and then waiting for the visit.
Some patients simply don’t have time for all that.
Ohio Wesleyan University student Jasmine Spitzer contacted a 98point6 doctor in a panic earlier this year because her throat was sore, and the music education major had an opera recital coming up. She texted for help as she walked to class.
The doctor couldn’t prescribe anything. But she sent pictures of common medications Spitzer could buy, including cough drops with lower levels of menthol, which dries out vocal chords.
“I wish that there is a way for me to … tell her, ‘Thank you so much, you kind of saved my life,’” Spitzer said. “I was able to give my recital and it was great.”
98point6 customers first describe their symptoms to a chatbot that uses a computer program to figure out what to ask. That information is then passed to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
“There are many, many cases where the physician does not have to ask a single additional question,” CEO Robbie Cape said.
The company launched its service in January 2018 with 600 customers and expects to have about 1 million people signed up by the end of this year.
K Health also started in 2018 with a business that offers personalized health information to patients who might otherwise Google their symptoms. Those patients then have an option to chat with a doctor.
These companies say their doctors often answer an array of quick questions as well provide care. Nguyen had a Louisiana woman send her a picture of her thumb, which she punctured cleaning out a chicken coop, just to see if the doctor thought it might need attention.
Patients and doctors have long emailed outside of office visits, usually about prescription refills or follow-up questions. These newer, message-based treatments often involve care by a physician who doesn’t know the patient and who may have a limited view of that person’s medical history.
That concerns Bledsoe, the American College of Physicians doctor. He noted, for instance, that a patient who wants a quick prescription for another bladder infection may actually need a cancer test.
“Sometimes what seems to be a limited problem to a patient is actually part of a bigger problem that requires some more evaluation and treatment,” he said.
Virtual care like this also might lead to antibiotic overprescribing, said Dr. Ateev Mehrotra. The Harvard researcher said it’s probably easier for a doctor who knows a patient to explain face to face why they don’t need a medicine than it would be for a stranger to deliver that news by text and risk upsetting a customer.
CirrusMD and 98point6 executives say they closely monitor antibiotic prescription rates and take other precautions. Neither company prescribes highly addictive painkillers, and 98point6 sends doctors through six months of training.
Instead of hurting care, these chat-diagnosis companies say they help by improving access, especially if someone’s regular doctor isn’t available.
“We’re meant to fit into your life,” Cape said.
Drone technology takes Boulder County public safety to new heights
On the roof of a Longmont FirstBank, a suspect on the run from police was at last spotted.
That September night, a man, who would later be identified as Augustus Cropp, 21, rode an ATV throughLongmont in an alleged crime spree, first threatening people with a weapon that would later be determined to be a BB gun. Police said Cropp also attempted to steal a delivery truck, broke into a house and stole clothes and trespassed at the bank, where an employee saw him and called police.
Rather than sending police up to the roof in search of Cropp, Longmont police Sgt. Jason Malterud said they first piloted a drone to the his location to provide a complete picture of the situation.
“We actually didn’t have to put anybody on the roof, which is very unsafe for the suspect and for us,” Malterud said. “We could put the drone up there and look. We saw him and gave him commands. He complied and came down to us.”
If not for the drone, Malterud said police likely would have had to contact the fire department for a ladder truck. The situation is one of many in which public safety officials have used unmanned aerial systems to assist in operations.
The high-flying technology has ushered in a new era of crime fighting and rescue techniques. With drones at their disposal, authorities have located suspects fleeing from justice, found missing people in the wilderness and been able to capture invaluable information in a short span of time.
Malterud, who leads the Longmont Police Department’s drone program, has seen firsthand how the technology makes police jobs safer.
Drones became available to Longmont police about two years ago and the department has four in its arsenal, providing police with visual intelligence and a high-tech eye for locating suspects on the run.
For example, a suspect fleeing Longmont police hid in a wooded area, Malterud said. Canines searched the area to no avail, but a drone’s thermal technology, which detects heat, was able to pin down the man’s location.
“We would have probably walked away and never caught him, without that technology,” Malterud said.
In the Longmont Police Department’s traffic unit drone, technology can provide a complete overview of major crashes. The images captured provide more details and visual understanding than a 2D picture, Malterud said.The technology also helps in search and rescue operations, as well as capturing aerial crime scene photos and the aftermath of traffic crashes, which Malterud said can provide useful information during court proceedings and jury trials.
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Three Longmont officers are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly the drones. Malterud said three more officers are preparing to take the test to receive their license, with the department’s overall goal being to have an officer who can fly a drone on duty at all times.
Police aren’t the only ones the drones can help protect from danger. Drones also provide visual cover for the departments canines, according to Malterud.
At the Boulder Police Department, Detective Sgt. David Spraggs said the department has been utilizing drone technology since 2017.
Spraggs is the program manager for the department’s unmanned aerial system, which includes seven drones and eight licensed pilots. The fleet has the capability to provide thermal technology imaging, a loudspeaker, the ability to carry up to 10-pounds and spotlight capabilities that can light up an area as large as a football field from 400 feet above the ground.
As of Oct. 9, Spraggs said the department had flown 40 missions across a variety of scenarios from traffic accident mapping to search and rescue operations. Over the summer, drone technology helped to locate a suicidal man in Boulder Canyon. Another man in need of welfare check was also spotted trespassing in various north Boulder backyards.
Dead and Company fans that pack Folsom Field and athletes who run in the Bolder Boulder are also likely to catch a glimpse of the sky-high technology, which Spraggs said is deployed during special events to give police a live stream for operational planning.
Police work that used to take hours of photography and videography can now be captured in 20 minutes.
“In years past we used to go up in manned aircraft with long lenses to capture aerial crime scene images,” Spraggs said. “Or we would have to climb up the 100-foot fire truck ladder to capture an overhead perspective. We can now launch a drone and capture incredible photos and videos in a matter of minutes.”
When a 17-year-old escaped Lookout Mountain Detention Facility, the Boulder Police Department assisted Golden officers in the search, clearing 20 buildings in 90 minutes.
“The implementation of UAS technology has been incredible,” Spraggs said. “Drone use has increased the efficiency of police services, as well as helping to keep the public safe and police officers safe. We are very careful to use the drones in a safe, prudent manner with due regard for ‘public perception’ surrounding drones and privacy implications.”
Erie and Louisville police departments do not have drones at this time. Louisville police chief Dave Hayes, said that the department has not had to use drones, but that partner agencies would likely lend the equipment if needed. In Weld County, the Firestone Police Department also utilizes drone operations.
With Colorado amassing an additional 80,000 people to its population in 2017 and the state recognized as the seventh fastest growing in the nation, more people are spending their free time exploring the mountains and open spaces — increasing the chance of people becoming lost, hurt or stranded.
Boulder Emergency Squad Capt. Ryan Singer described drones as an important supplement to search and rescue workers on the ground. The nonprofit partners with local fire departments and the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, providing drone technology when needed.
“If we can do more with less that is always a positive,” Singer said. “(Drones) will never replace (or) be the sole thing that does search and rescue … but it provides that value add to enhance other capabilities.”
The Boulder Emergency Squad began working with drones about six years ago, though Singer said drones weren’t used in the field until 2016, following pilot training. So far this year, the squad has flown 25 drone missions and responded to 124 incidents.
In a white truck marked Boulder Emergency Squad, rescuers can station the mobile technology lab in Boulder County’s most remote fringes. Here, they can analyze drone images gathered in the field, in addition to a number of other rescue tasks.
From up to 400 feet in the air, the drones can take in canyons and forests, helping rescuers to pick out differences in the natural landscape. Singer said these images give rescuers the ability to carefully comb an area, without having to exhaust workers on the ground.
“I could put (the drones) back through that area a second time, three times, four times,” Singer said. “I can just review those images and process them and look for those anomalies that (you) might not see the first time or in the heat of the moment running that mission.”
Much like they do for Longmont police, Singer said drones reach areas that would be dangerous for people to try and get to, like cliff overhangs.
Drone technology, however, is far from perfect. The machines, while high tech, are sensitive to inclement weather and can withstand only a light snow or drizzle. There are also FAA visibility minimums with which pilots must comply. Thermal technology is also less useful in picking up on human body heat, when the ground is hot.
This technological sensitivity can call on operators to make tough decisions about putting pricey equipment up in the air.
“If there is the potential that it could save a life by putting this up in a little bit of drizzle, maybe that’s a risk we take,” Singer said. “The environment we work in is very challenging. We have canyons and we have heavy timber, which makes utilization of (drones) a challenge. While it provides value, until some magical solution is provided by some company, it will never be a one-stop solution.”
Drones making up the fleet owned by the Boulder Emergency Squad vary in price from $1,000 to $30,000, depending on individual technology features. While acknowledging the cost, Singer also said deploying a drone is more cost effective than a helicopter.
The squad is largely funded through a county contract to provide technical rescue services in Boulder County. Grants and some city funding also aid in funding the resource. The staff is made up entirely of volunteers, including Singer.
“That’s one of the great benefits as a squad. We don’t just have this one little district. We go everywhere in Boulder County, wherever they need help. If we invest $30,000 in drones, then we can share that resource.”
Boulder Emergency Squad Reserve and unmanned Aerial Vehicle Pilot Mark Grayson shows infrared footage on a screen during a drone training session Sept. 23 at the Boulder County Regional Fire Training Center in Boulder.
Drone missions flown by Boulder Emergency Squad
Total Incidents for BES: 132
Total Missions with UAS Use: 19
Total Incidents for BES: 90
Total Missions with UAS Use: 10
Total Incidents for BES: 124
Total Missions with UAS Use: 25
Get ready for 500 new 30-foot-tall cell poles around Denver’s neighborhoods
Corey Wadley dropped his service with Verizon a decade ago because of the company’s lackluster coverage in north Denver, he said. That may be changing — and he hates it.
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostA recently installed, 30-foot-tall cellular pole is seen in Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.
Wadley recently discovered that Verizon’s newest cellular transmitter would be right outside his door.
“I went out to walk my dog and saw a truck and a Bobcat (excavator) right next to the house,” Wadley said. “I immediately got on the phone to everyone I could talk to.”
They were building a “small site” cell pole on the narrow stretch of grass between the sidewalk and the road, the public right of way that the city owns but residents maintain. It’s one of about 500 poles that could appear across the city in the near future. Now Wadley is the latest convert in a growing army of irritated residents in Denver and countless other cities.
It’s part of a bigger urban shift: To serve a growing and data-hungry population, cellular companies are racing to build new infrastructure along Denver’s residential blocks.
“When Denver first started, there were like six (cellular) sites, and they were all on the tallest buildings in town,” said John Rowe, a cellular infrastructure consultant in Denver.
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Today, it’s nearly impossible to build large new facilities. Additionally, high-speed 5G service will require transmitters to be deployed for individual blocks. So the industry is infiltrating neighborhoods with 30-foot-tall metal poles, and companies also are retrofitting power and light poles.
“Now we’re going into the nooks and crannies of activity centers, running fiber to antennas that cover much smaller areas,” Rowe said.
Companies have built 163 freestanding cell poles around Denver in recent years, according to city permitting data, and they have requested permits for about 350 more. The towers are meant to improve current cell service and will form the backbone for higher-speed technologies.
“A lot of these poles we’re putting in now are an enhanced 4G, but they’re paving the way for a 5G environment,” said Scott Harry, government affairs manager for Crown Castle, an infrastructure provider.
So far, Verizon is the biggest player in the market. But competitor AT&T has filed for permits, as have Crown Castle, Mobilitie and Zayo Group, which provide services for other companies.
It’s resulted in new waves of outrage as the crews roll into new neighborhoods.
“We beautified the parkway there, the city right of way. We put in irrigation and sod and trees and everything,” said Wadley, a real estate broker. “And to just come drop this thing in there because it’s convenient to Verizon, it’s too much.”
The pole near his home is one of about 10 that he’s spotted plans for around Berkeley. Neighbors in Capitol Hill also have spotted construction crews. Downtown, Washington Park, Cherry Creek and patches of northeast Denver also have poles planned, according to city permitting data.
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The city can do little to stop the construction. A new state law gives the companies broad rights to plant their poles in the public right of way, a right supported by federal authorities.
The companies are taking some steps to minimize new construction. They have made requests to place about 1,000 transmitters on utility poles and cables, and some poles — including Crown Castle’s — will host multiple carriers. But there’s no requirement they do so.
Neighborhood groups also are asked to weigh in on applications for new poles, but there are only a few specific reasons that the city can reject a pole, including “unreasonable visual blight.” One notable catch: The poles also are supposed to be 25 feet from trees in the right of way.
“We should have planted a little more trees,” Wadley said.
Why you don’t need a 5G phone just yet
NEW YORK — No 5G iPhone? No problem. You probably don’t want one anyway.
For most people, it’s smart to stick with a smartphone that isn’t compatible with speedier 5G wireless networks, which are just starting to roll out. That’s the case even if you think you’ll be hanging on to your next phone for a few years.
Not only are the first-generation 5G phones expensive, their antennas and modems typically work only with particular 5G networks owned by specific mobile carriers. That could limit your options if you’re trying to get the faster speeds while roaming overseas or on a rival company’s network — or if you decide to switch providers later.
Experts say second-generation phones in the coming year will address those and other shortcomings. The research firm IDC, calling 2019 “an introductory year at best,” expects 5G phones to make up 9% of worldwide shipments next year and 28% in 2023.
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The target market
Samsung, Motorola, LG and OnePlus already make 5G phones that use Google’s Android system. Huawei announced one in September, though it’s missing popular Google apps because of a U.S. ban on tech exports to the Chinese company.
Although 5G phones are a niche product, IHS Markit said phone makers haven’t been able to keep up with surprisingly strong demand, especially in South Korea.
Samsung said it has sold 2 million 5G phones worldwide since April and expects to double that by the end of the year. Motorola said it has seen “tremendous engagement and excitement” from customers.
But Motorola said such first-generation products primarily suit early adopters who need to be first on the block.
New iPhones released in September won’t support 5G. Apple typically waits for technology to mature before adopting it.
The price of 5G
The speedy wireless technology can add a few hundred dollars to phone price tags. For instance, Samsung’s standard Galaxy S10 phone costs $900; the 5G model costs $1,300, though Samsung said it also showcases the company’s best features, including a larger screen and a better camera. For Motorola, 5G comes as a $350 option for the existing Moto Z series phones.
“This territory is reserved for the leading-edge type of consumer, those willing to sacrifice a bit more money up front to be first,” said Wayne Lam, an analyst at IHS Markit. “Longer term is where the smart money is.”
The price gap is expected to narrow and eventually disappear as 5G becomes a standard feature, Geoff Blaber of CCS Insight said.
Even as phone companies make big claims about revolutionary new applications, 5G coverage is limited to certain neighborhoods in a handful of cities. While 5G phones can still connect over existing 4G LTE networks, “are you willing to spend extra for something you might not see consistently until 2021?” IHS Markit analyst Josh Builta asks.
5G is actually a set of wireless technologies using different parts of the airwaves. Each wireless carrier emphasizes a different flavor of 5G, and each one is selling 5G phones designed specifically for its network.
Wireless networks have a history of Balkanization, although it tends to sort itself out. Verizon and Sprint have been using a wireless technology called CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile use an incompatible version called GSM. Early on, phone makers produced separate CDMA and GSM models. But as technology advanced, they were able to pack all the necessary antennas and components into universal phones.
Similar all-in-one 5G phones should be fairly common by next year, experts say.
In fact, T-Mobile CEO John Legere suggested the company is holding back on 5G network expansions until compatible phones come out later this year. T-Mobile’s current 5G phones only work with parts of its planned 5G network. Sprint, which T-Mobile is in the process of acquiring, said first-generation phones are intended to show off 5G benefits to those who live or spend a lot of time in the company’s nine 5G markets.
Verizon didn’t return messages. AT&T isn’t offering 5G to consumers yet, although it has rebranded some existing 4G service as “5G E.”
To wait or not to wait
If you can squeeze another year or two out of your current phone, there will be plenty of 5G phones to choose from — including iPhones — by the time you’re ready to upgrade.
But it’s OK to buy a new, pre-5G phone now if you can’t wait. You can always trade that in for a 5G model later. Even if you stick with 4G, experts say you’ll still see speed bump there as phone companies install new equipment.
And IDC is expecting deals on 4G phones to clear shelves for upcoming 5G models.
Uber adds more services to its app in its quest for profit
SAN FRANCISCO — Uber is cramming more services into its ride-hailing app as it explores ways to generate more revenue and finally turn a profit.
The makeover announced in late September includes force-feeding its food delivery service, “Eats,” into the Uber app that millions of people use to summon a ride. That means Uber users who don’t already have the “Eats” app may now be asked whether they want to order some food in the ride-hailing app.
Uber also will start making other changes to the ride-hailing app as part of its effort to create an “operating system for life,” according to company CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
“This is a big change for us, but we, as a company, have never been afraid of big changes,” Khosrowshahi said.
Although Khosrowshahi didn’t mention it, Uber is under intensifying pressure to start making money. With the exception of when it has generated a windfall by selling a part of the company, Uber has done nothing but lose money since its inception, while also pioneering a way for people to easily find someone come pick them up at prices that undercut traditional taxis.
With its losses still mounting, Uber’s stock has plunged by nearly 30% since pricing its shares at $45 apiece when it became a publicly held company in May.
In an effort to reverse its losses, Uber has been gradually raising the cost of rides and becoming more aggressive it its attempts to plumb new sources of revenue. That has included food delivery and helping passengers find other means of transportation on bikes and scooters.
Uber Eats has proved to be popular, with revenue surging 80% during the first half of this year to $1.1 billion. But Uber remains mired in a morass of red ink, with losses of $6.2 billion during the first half of this year.
Most of that setback reflected nearly $4 billion in employee stock compensation that it had to record as part of its initial public offering, but even without that accounting expense, the San Francisco company still isn’t close to making money, much to the dismay of investors.
So, Uber will be rolling out a new menu of services in its ride-hailing app. It has already been testing the concept among some users in the U.S., Europe and Australia within the ride-hailing app’s map section, but now it will create a new gateway at the bottom of the app. Users of the ride-hailing app will get the new services feature, whether they want it or not, according to the company.
Eats will be included in the newly created menu, and at times Uber may ask a user if they want to order some food from a nearby restaurant participating in the service. Depending on user reaction, Uber may add other services, such as a supermarket delivering groceries.
In a recent research report, HSBC analyst Masha Kahn predicted Uber also could team up with department store chains, banks and digital subscription services with a variety of offers served up through the ride-hailing app.
Even if Uber is able to bring in more revenue with a new range of services, it still may face a long road to profitability. It still faces a number of concerns about the safety of its services, and California recently approved a new law that could force it to end its practice of classifying its drivers as independent contracts and treat them as full-time employees instead. That could require Uber to begin paying a variety of new benefits that would dramatically increase its expenses.
Ready student one? Universities in the U.K., U.S. launch degrees in esports
LONDON — On their first week in class, a group of students is playing a first-person shooter video game in a sleek new digital studio. It’s their introduction to the degree in esports they’ve all enrolled in.
The group clicking away on their mice are at the University of Staffordshire, one of several U.K. and U.S. schools launching programs aimed at capitalizing on the booming industry’s need for skilled professionals.
Ryan Chapman, 18, said his parents were “skeptical at first” about studying esports, or competitive multiplayer video gaming.
“But now they understand how big the industry is growing, the pace it’s growing at. They’re now really all for it because it’s a great industry to start to get into,” said Chapman, who was among the students in the lab playing Counter-Strike, one of the most popular esports games.
The University of Staffordshire last year launched its bachelor’s and master’s esports programs, in which students mainly learn marketing and management skills tailored to the industry. This autumn, it’s expanding the program to London while other schools are also debuting esports degree courses, including Britain’s Chichester University, Virginia’s Shenandoah University, Becker College in Massachusetts and The Ohio State University. In Asia, where esports has seen strong growth, schools in Singapore and China offer courses.
The global esports market is expected to surge to $1.1 billion this year, up $230 million from 2018 on growth in sponsorships, merchandise and ticket sales, according to Newzoo. The research firm expects the global esports audience to grow in 2019 to about 454 million as fans tune in on livestreaming platforms such as Twitch and Microsoft’s Mixer.
Esports tournaments have become a cultural phenomenon and now rival traditional sports events in size and scale. Big competitions are held in arenas where thousands of fans watch big-name professional video gamers compete for lucrative prize pools.
Esports leagues have franchises in North America, Europe and Asia. The biggest names, such as Fortnite superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, can earn millions in prize money and livestreaming deals. Esports are even set to be a medal event at the Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines in November.
Dozens of U.S. colleges have offered varsity-level esports competitions for years. But some schools are taking it a step further by adding courses as the industry’s boom drives demand for professionals who know how to, for example, organize esports tournaments.
A number of U.K. and U.S. universities are launching degrees in esports. (Kelvin Chang, The Associated Press)
New niche degrees partly highlight the changing economy, but they also reflect the “need to communicate to parents and students that there will be a job waiting for someone once they earn a degree,” which may include hefty tuition fees and student loans to pay for them, said Joni Finney, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Research on Higher Education.
She worried that some degrees are too specialized and that some schools are launching them to offset falling enrollment.
“It’s really up to the faculty of those institutions to step up and say, ‘You know, a degree in business will cover these kinds of jobs,’ rather than saying we have a degree in a certain job category,” Finney said.
Becker College has formally launched its Bachelor of Science in esports management after an initial “soft release” last year.
“It’s no longer kids playing games in their basement,” said Alan Ritacco, dean of Becker College’s School of Design and Technology. The top esports players now earn almost as much as the highest-paid stars in traditional sports like golf or tennis, he said.
The schools emphasize that their courses aren’t about just playing video games.
“People are unaware of the industry that goes behind esports,” said Matt Huxley, a lecturer at Staffordshire University’s Digital Institute London, a new outpost in tech hub Here East that the university, which is based near Birmingham, England, opened so students could be closer to companies in the capital.
Huxley, who teaches a class on organizing tournaments, said learning about esports was akin to studying sports management.
“If you were to go and study to be a director of football, you’re not playing football, you’re learning the business behind how (player) transfers work, how you run a stadium and all those kind of operational things.”
Chichester University hired former pro gamer Rams Singh, known as R2K, as a senior lecturer for its program, which includes playing games such as FIFA and League of Legends as part of the course.
Ohio State is poised to launch an esports and game studies undergraduate major, which will include the application of games to health and medicine.
A business focus helps to ease worries among students and parents about paying tuition for degrees that have no track record. In Britain, standard tuition fees are set at 9,250 pounds ($11,430) a year, while the U.S. programs charge as much as $36,000 a year.
“There’s always going to be risks, but I have zero regrets,” said Ellis Celia, 26, who is also starting the Staffordshire course. The industry “can only go up at this point,” she said.
McDonald’s enlists Alexa and Google to help with its hiring
Want a job at McDonald’s? Just ask your smartphone.
McDonald’s Corp. will now let job seekers start an application by using voice commands with Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant.
If users say, “Alexa, help me get a job at McDonald’s,” Alexa will ask which country they want to work in and play McDonald’s catchy “I’m lovin’ it” jingle. After that, users can share their phone number and get a link to continue the application process. Alexa also shares some facts about working for the company, such as how it can lead to jobs in other fields.
The function is available in the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. McDonald’s is also exploring adding the feature in other markets. It’s not yet available through Apple’s Siri.
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The move is an unusual one. While some job recruitment companies have built voice-recognition systems on Google and Amazon’s platforms, both companies say McDonald’s is the first direct employer to use its platform in this way. McDonald’s developed the technology itself.
For McDonald’s, voice-initiated hiring is a way to stand out in a tight job market. The U.S. unemployment rate of 3.7% is near a 50-year low. Unemployment is also below 4% in the U.K. and Germany.
McDonald’s employs 2 million people at 38,000 restaurants worldwide, and its needs are constantly changing based on turnover and seasonal demands. Over the summer, the Chicago-based company said it was hiring 250,000 people in the U.S. alone. McDonald’s is currently seeking 338 part-time crew workers in the New York area and 414 in Toronto, according to company hiring sites.
Applications by voice — dubbed McDonald’s Apply Thru — are also part of a broader effort to use technology to streamline every part of the fast-food restaurant, said David Fairhurst, McDonald’s executive vice president and chief people officer. For customers, that means digital ordering kiosks and mobile ordering; for employees, it means online scheduling and virtual reality games to train store managers.
Review: Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is finally here. Handle with care.
You can fold up Samsung’s $2,000 phone, no problem. But for heaven’s sake, keep your fingernails away. Keys, coins and water, too.
We got a sneak peek of the Galaxy Fold in April, when it was originally supposed to go on sale and kick-start a new generation of “foldable” screen devices. Then Samsung delayed the launch after its futuristic flexible screen began peeling apart and malfunctioning on early units.
Last Monday, I got a new Fold to review, and it hasn’t broken. Yet. The new version, which became available in U.S. stores on Friday, has hardened screen edges, a new hinge and a giant warning about all the ways you might accidentally break it. A phone that can open up into a tablet is truly a precious thing — maybe still a little too precious.
Using the new Galaxy Fold has undoubtedly raised my blood pressure. A “care instruction” guide attached to the front of the phone includes the following list of ordinary-sounding activities that might destroy this extraordinary device:
Do not press or apply “excessive pressure” to the flexible screen with anything sharp, including fingernails. (Good thing you don’t operate a phone with fingers.)
Keep keys, coins and cards away from the folded-up Fold, which has a slight gap between the two halves of its screen. (Good thing you never keep such items in pockets.)
Do not expose the Fold to liquids or “small particles” that could enter through its exposed hinge. (Is pocket lint “particles”? Unclear.)
Keep it away from credit cards, which it might demagnetize.
With apologies to Kenny Rogers: Samsung knows how to fold ‘em. But you’re gonna have to know how to hold ‘em.
I suppose we can’t blame Samsung for including warnings to Fold owners after taking a black eye for version 1.0. The company says to think of the Fold like an expensive, fancy watch. To add to its luxury marketing push, a new “premier service” that comes with each Fold includes 24-7 call center “concierge.” Samsung is also offering to replace the screen within the first year of use for $150.
But it’s also hard to think of a phone as a delicate piece of jewelry in 2019. That’s partly Samsung’s fault: It was one of the first manufacturers to add water and dust resistance to smartphones, back with 2014’s Galaxy’s S5. Since then, we’ve grown accustomed to making phones live as hard as we do.
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Why would anyone put up with this? To be one of the first people to have a tablet that also fits in your pocket. Whatever our concerns might be about overdosing on screen time, the truth is that people keep buying larger-screen phones. (Apple now maxes out at 6.5 inches with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, and Samsung goes up to 6.8 inches on its Note10+.) But our poor hands really can’t take much more of this expansion. Folding screens could allow us to have it all.
The Fold has a slender 4.6-inch screen on its front (measured diagonally). Then it opens up like a taco to reveal a 7.3-inch screen, big enough to multitask with multiple Android apps at once.
Creating an OLED screen that can fold and re-fold hundreds of thousands of times involved technical challenges that boggle the mind. But the question remains: Why is Samsung selling a device that it knows is still so delicate, instead of waiting until it’s worked out how to make it strong? (This isn’t just a Samsung problem; Apple recently introduced a white titanium credit card you can’t keep near leather or denim.)
Maybe, like many newborns, this gadget will turn out to be more resilient than we fear. Or, maybe it’ll be remembered as the device Samsung got its superfans to test for it.