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GANNETT Syndication Service
Potty break almost foils soldier surprise
Spc. Caleb Whitley hasn't seen his family in 11 months. Just as he's about to walk up behind his daughter, she has other plans that involve a very important potty break.
Your guide to COVID-19
What you need to know about coronavirus, including what to do if you think you might be sick, how to keep you and your family safe and tips on what to do while staying home.
Scolding Beachgoers Isn’t Helping
We’ve entered another risky, uncertain phase of America’s pandemic summer. COVID-19 cases are surging across most states, and once again, intensive-care units are filling up. Eighteen states have either paused or rolled back their plans to reopen, and even Republican governors who previously resisted public-health guidelines about masks are now asking people to mask up.So why on Earth do so many articles about this crisis feature pictures of people frolicking on wide-open beaches? Why is an attorney dressed as the grim reaper bothering beachgoers in Jacksonville, Florida? Why are cities such as Los Angeles shutting down beaches?The answer, unfortunately, goes a long way to explain why, of all the developed, rich nations, the United States may well be stuck in the worst-case scenario, and for the longest amount of time.Our national pandemic conversation, like almost everything else, has turned into a polarized, contentious tug-of-war in which evidence sometimes matters less than what team someone is on. And in a particularly American fashion, we’ve turned a public-health catastrophe into a fight among factions, in which the virus is treated as a moral agent that will disproportionately smite one’s ideological enemies—while presumably sparing the moral and the righteous—rather than as a pathogen that spreads more effectively in some settings or through some behaviors, which are impervious to moral or ideological hierarchy. Add in our broken digital public sphere, where anger and outrage more easily bring in the retweets, likes, and clicks, and where bikini pictures probably do not hurt, and we have the makings of the confused, unscientific, harmful, and counterproductive environment we find ourselves in now. [Read: America’s Patchwork Pandemic]“You’d think from the moral outrage about these beach photos that fun, in itself, transmits the virus,” the Harvard epidemiologist Julia Marcus told me. “But when people find lower-risk ways to enjoy their lives, that’s actually a public-health win.”The beach shaming is especially terrible because, so many months in, we now know that the virus spreads most readily indoors, especially in unventilated, crowded spaces, and even more so in such spaces where people are talking or singing without masks. Outdoor transmission isn't impossible, of course, but being outdoors is protective for scientifically well-understood reasons: Open air dilutes the concentration of virus in the air one breathes, sunlight can help kill viruses, and people have more room to stay apart in the great outdoors than within walled spaces.In other words, one can hardly imagine a comparatively safer environment than a sunny, windy ocean beach. It’s not that there is any activity with absolutely zero risk, but the beach may well be as good as it gets—if people stay socially distant, which is much easier to do on a big beach.And yet many news organizations have seized upon beaches, and scenes of beachgoers, as a sign of why things are so bad in the United States. For example, a New York Times article about the “disturbing” number of younger cases featured a beach photo with two women—in bikinis—who are very far away from everyone else in the image frame, who are also clearly far away from everyone else, alone or in small groups. They’re demonstrating the ideal precautions public-health experts have been begging us to undertake for months. Similarly, a Washington Post article talking about how Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, became “a coronavirus petri dish” includes a picture with the caption “Crowds pack the beach in Myrtle Beach,” but the very few people in the photo are separated by tens or even hundreds of feet, at least, and there are no crowds and no packing.Still, people enthusiastically retweet or share photos of beaches in disgust, even when the photograph shows no crowding whatsoever. Worse, many photos make a scene look more packed than it actually is, because of the way the camera lens or the angle distorts the distances. It’s gotten to the point where even articles about the coronavirus in cities that don’t have a beach feature photos of beaches.Who are you going to believe, your lying eyes or people who’d like us to get mad at others who dare enjoy life for a day outdoors, which epidemiologists overwhelmingly agree is safer than many other activities?[Read: Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should]But what about the indoor restaurants, packed shops, and house parties at vacation hot spots by those beaches? These activities represent a real risk, and especially given what scientists have found elsewhere, it’s crucial to emphasize that the crowded indoors appears to be conducive to transmitting this virus efficiently. A pandemic is a communications emergency, as the saying goes, and the only effective way to communicate risk effectively is to tell people the truth in plain language, and to give them evidence-based advice on reducing risk. Furious scolding about the least risky part of a potentially risky chain of activities is certain to backfire. When we scold, people stop listening, especially when they figure out that the scolding isn’t evidence-based—and they eventually will. When authorities close parks and beaches without strong scientific evidence, socializing may well move out of sight to more dangerous settings indoors.This is particularly concerning because some of the places where beach outrage has taken hold, like Los Angeles and Jacksonville, are large cities, so locals enjoying the beach wouldn’t even necessitate travel or other risky behaviors. But limiting access or closing beaches down, as L.A. has done, might result in people congregating in less safe environments indoors. When we conflate high-risk and low-risk activities, people will not know what to avoid or how to do things safely.We are drowning in anger and fear, but at the same time, we don’t get the basic information we need to live our lives in a pandemic. We don’t even receive the simplest message that applies in this case: Please enjoy the beach and practice social distancing while there, but avoid bars, indoor restaurants, and parties. And if you do have to be indoors around people you are not quarantining with, keep it as brief as possible and wear masks.This furious scolding isn’t limited to beaches, but often to anything that can be deemed frivolous. But that is no way to sustain ourselves through a pandemic that may last another year. Until we learn how to assess the dire risk we all face, and how to live more safely and with reasonable precautions, we will be powerless to protect ourselves. And all the while, the pandemic rages on.
The Boogaloo Tipping Point
On May 29, two federal security officers guarding a courthouse in Oakland, California, were ambushed by machine-gun fire as elsewhere in the city demonstrators marched peacefully to protest the killing of George Floyd. One of the guards, David Patrick Underwood, died as a result of the attack, and the other was wounded. For days, conservative news broadcasters pinned the blame on “antifa,” the loosely affiliated group of anti-fascist anarchists known to attack property and far-right demonstrators at protests. But the alleged culprit, apprehended a week later, turned out to be a 32-year-old Air Force sergeant named Steven Carrillo, the head of a squadron called the Phoenix Ravens, which guards military installations from terrorist attacks.According to prosecutors, Carrillo and an accomplice, 30-year-old Robert A. Justus Jr., were part of the “boogaloo” movement, a patchwork of right-leaning anti-government libertarians, Second Amendment advocates, and gun enthusiasts all preparing for another American civil war.Authorities say that when they went to apprehend Carrillo at his residence, he attacked them with pipe bombs, killing a police sergeant named Damon Gutzwiller. Investigators found a boogaloo-themed patch in a vehicle used by Carrillo. And Carrillo had scrawled boog, along with various boogaloo slogans, in his own blood on the hood of a car.The boogaloo movement originally grew from the weapons discussion section (“/k/”) of the anarchic anonymous message board 4chan over the past several years. By 2019, its culture had disseminated across social media into a mix of online groups and chat servers where users shared libertarian political memes. In the past six months, this all began to manifest in real life, as users from the groups emerged at protests in what became their signature uniform: aloha shirts and combat gear. As nationwide unrest intensified at the start of the summer, many boogaloo adherents interpreted this as a cue to realize the group’s central fantasy—armed revolt against the U.S. government.In Colorado earlier in May, then in Nevada in June, police arrested several other heavily armed self-identified boogaloo members, who the authorities claimed were on their way to demonstrations to incite violence. Disturbingly, the boogaloo movement is at least the third example of a mass of memes escaping from 4chan to become a real-life radical political movement, the first being the leftist-libertarian hacktivist collective Anonymous, which emerged in 2008; the second was the far-right fascist group of angry young men called the alt-right, which formed in 2015. (The conspiracy theory QAnon might be considered a fourth, but it is more than a political movement.)[Read: The Prophecies of Q]At first glance, armed right-wing militants dressed in floral shirts may seem like another baffling grotesquerie in the parade of calamities that is 2020. However, their arrival can be explained by tracing their online origins. Similar to other right-leaning extremist movements, they are the product of an unhappy generation of men who compare their lot in life with that of men in previous decades and see their prospects diminishing. And with a mix of ignorance and simplicity, they view their discontent through the most distorted lens imaginable: internet memes.Since its founding in 2003, 4chan has attracted a unique population of deeply cynical men, once all young, but now aged from their 40s down to their teens, who generally use the board to express their angst through dark humor. People who are unhappy with the circumstances of their life tend to retreat there. The unhappier they are, the longer they stay and the more they post.The site was originally conceived as a blank slate, where anyone could scrawl what they pleased. Gen Xers and Millennials started out wanting to talk about escapist fantasies such as anime and video games, but after two decades of economic crises and political deadlock, the discussion eventually evolved into cartoon-inflected talk of political mobilization.The birthplace of the boogaloo movement, 4chan’s /k/ section, is ostensibly devoted to the ownership and purchase of weapons. But in practice, it is a space where weapons discussions combine with 4chan’s politicized male anger. The name “boogaloo boys” is a reference to the critically maligned 1984 sequel Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo—around 2012, users on /k/ began referring to the possibility of “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo.” Half-serious posts about how certain weapons might be employed in “the boogaloo” evolved over time and grew more elaborate. Like many memes on 4chan, each new version was more cryptic than the last, a means to express insider knowledge and in-group status.This meant that the oft-repeated phrase Electric Boogaloo became corrupted into the similar-sounding Big Igloo and Big Luau. Soon users were creating images in which revolutionaries appeared beside houses made of ice and at Hawaii-themed parties.The co-option of Hawaiian imagery and igloos was inherently cynical and meaningless. There was no connection to the group’s ideology outside of the linguistic resemblance of the word boogaloo to igloo and luau. But this co-option fit the ethos of online spaces perfectly, with a niche group celebrating its anti-government, libertarian views by draping them in colorful jokes and nonsense that could be remixed and reinterpreted endlessly.The message board /k/’s culture overlapped heavily with 4chan’s virulently racist politics discussion board /pol/. However, by 2017, the movement that had developed there—the alt-right—had largely imploded, after the disastrous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.While overt fascism fell out of vogue for many, the core demographic of disenchanted men remained, their circumstances and unhappiness largely unchanged. Indeed, the unique mixture of right-wing male discontent appealed to many who never frequented 4chan. By 2018, as talk of fascism declined on /pol/, the more libertarian and less overtly racist culture of 4chan’s /k/ and the boogaloo movement began to fill the empty niche.[Read: It’s Not Easy Being Meme]The memes about a new civil war spread from /k/ to various groups on Facebook and Reddit, all with names that evoked the terms boogaloo, igloo, or luau. Enthusiasts also congregated in group chats using services such as Discord. The politics of the boogaloo boys are deeply contradictory and varied but can be roughly summed up by a few agreed-upon ideas. They are libertarian, in favor of gun rights, and opposed to government police forces. Many users say they are active-duty service members or military veterans.The boogaloo groups disagree when it comes to racism. Some members are white supremacists. Others compare the movement to the left’s campaign against police brutality. Many boogaloo memes are focused on police overreach, equating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and FBI sieges at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, in the ’90s with the recent high-profile police killings of Black Americans.As with the alt-right, many boogaloo posts are about men in crisis, humiliated or debased. Intermingled with memes about revolution are nostalgic images and video clips, glitched out to look like old VHS tapes, of what they imagine was the ideal existence: being the patriarch of a middle-class American nuclear family sometime between the 1950s and the 1990s.As alt-right protests waned, boogaloo boys began to appear on the streets. Armed men in aloha shirts and boogaloo patches made their first widely noticed appearance at a heavily attended pro–Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Virginia, in January. And they came out again for the anti-lockdown protests in March. Later, many attended protests over the killing of George Floyd, some in solidarity, others to oppose the left.The catalyst was similar to what mobilized so many young people on the left: the notion that the government enriched a privileged few at the expense of the people. In this, the boogaloo boys shared the anti-corporatist left’s belief that the government had betrayed public trust by maintaining a growing police force to perpetuate an unjust status quo. President Donald Trump’s inconsistent response to the coronavirus pandemic and his promise to march the military into American cities to quell unrest only strengthened these convictions.
The recent killings in the name of the boogaloo appear to blend two once-distinct domestic-terrorist movements, one new, one old.Last summer, murderers who identified as fascist “incels” (involuntary celibates) attacked synagogues and mosques, and, in one case, a Walmart. Like the boogaloos, their stated goal was to spark a larger conflict. And in addition to posting hateful manifestos on the 4chan copycat site, 8chan, some coated their automatic weapons and gear in images from memes from the chans.But Carrillo’s crimes in Oakland are also closely related to Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of an Oklahoma federal building in 1995. McVeigh was a military veteran whose experience in the Gulf War left him radicalized and resentful of the government as a source of injustice. His hatred killed more innocents than the ATF and FBI did at Ruby Ridge or Waco, his bloody-shirt causes that have since become the boogaloos’.Having spent the past several years speaking with radicals on 4chan for a book I wrote on its political history, I’m not surprised by the odd mixture of ideologies that the boogaloo movement encompasses. One of my first sources was a chan-going Black man in his 30s, an accelerationist Communist who was friends with a variety of radicals, including many in the alt-right. What these men shared was years of marginalization and a hatred of the present state of society.As decades of rising inequality produced successive generations who felt they were consigned to the fringes, 4chan became an outlet to express rolling waves of escapist memes and radical anger. Among the left, this uptick in radicals and the corresponding increase in funding for law-enforcement agencies have generated further support for protests aimed at defunding the police and diverting the funds to social programs. Among libertarians, they have produced phenomena such as the boogaloo boys.Boogaloo boys certainly do not face the economic disadvantages of marginalized groups in the United States, but like the alt-right, they are unhappy enough to form their own radical identity politics of collective grievances. Also like the alt-right, they now face a wave of de-platforming. In the past few months, both Reddit and Facebook have purged major boogaloo groups, though not all of them, from their sites.But 4chan occupies a unique place on the social web, distinct from more mainstream sites. If 4chan’s history is any indication, it’s extremely likely that some portion of these social-media users and posters on /k/ are federal agents. Having interviewed many young men who ran chan-style sites, I know that state security agencies knock on their doors early and often and ask for comprehensive records. On 8chan, many posts were automatically logged for federal agencies issuing subpoenas in a data-collection system nicknamed “Sunshine.” (8chan was taken offline last summer and replaced by a site called 8kun.) When chan radicals are caught and prosecuted, court documents often reveal police “honeypots,” meant to tempt extremists into unwittingly plotting crimes with undercover agents.Indeed, before most people, including myself, got wind of the boogaloo movement, Rutgers University had generated a “contagion and ideology report” for law-enforcement agencies in February that detailed the group’s online network. Its conclusion: The boogaloo boys are terrorists. Its recommendations: more law enforcement, more surveillance.
How Revolutions Happen
Three months ago, a global pandemic and a sudden economic crisis looked grave enough to suggest that something—if not a revolution, then at least the stirrings of a revolutionary era—was under way. Since then, the revolt against the pre-coronavirus status quo has only gained force. Crowds chanting “Black lives matter” and “Enough is enough” have marched all across the country. Statues have been toppled, buildings have been renamed, and pollsters report that public opinion has shifted with almost unprecedented speed. In Ferguson, Missouri, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, protesters carried a guillotine. As a historian of the French Revolution, I can’t help but pay attention to guillotines (adopted in the 1790s as an alternative to the cruel and unusual punishment of death by hanging). If the United States right now is not in the early months of a revolution, Americans are certainly surrounded by the signs of past ones.Revolutions dress up in the costumes and rhetoric of the past for the same reason that, as Karl Marx once asserted, people learning a new language begin by translating word for word from a language already known to them. By repeating gestures and slogans from past upheavals—such as damaging a statue of Louis XVI, the French king beheaded in 1793—people pushing for permanent social change make the present recognizable as revolution. They might as well be chanting, “This is what a revolution looks like.”Simultaneously, opponents can exploit the word’s association with violence to make any change seem frightening: When early election returns in New York and Kentucky appeared to favor progressive insurgents over establishment favorites, the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted that the French Revolution had come for the Democratic Party. In an article likening “the illiberal left” and “cancel culture” to Robespierre, the libertarian author Samuel Gregg predicted that the United States is about to fall into an intolerant Great Terror of “wokeness.” In images that went viral Sunday, a St. Louis attorney brandished a rifle as protesters passed his palatial home. He thought they were “storming the Bastille,” he told an interviewer later.[Shadi Hamid: The coronavirus killed the revolution]Would-be revolutionaries and radical counterrevolutionaries both forget, however, that real revolutions invariably catch people by surprise. Revolutions happen when the distinct concerns of many different groups are for a time more or less soldered together—and this coming together is not planned in advance, but produced largely by chance. This is what historians call “contingency”: One thing builds on another in a way that is neither inevitable nor easily reversed.Think about the Russian Revolution. Mutinies in the army, strikes in the factories, a parliamentary body willing to ignore the czar and declare itself a provisional government—all these dramatic struggles had been under way for months before the Bolsheviks eventually took power. So, too, the Black Lives Matter movement has been building for years. Now the COVID-19 crisis and establishment politicians’ continuing battle with Donald Trump have helped move Black Lives Matter’s concerns to the center of American politics. The threat to Black lives from official violence, the failure of anything like public-health policy, the catastrophic scale of unemployment, the inadequacy of federal and state relief measures (so mistakenly referred to as “stimulus”), the climate crisis, America’s dramatic loss of international status over the past four years: All of these threads are now interwoven. It is too early to tell what shape the resulting social fabric will take.The historian William Sewell Jr. helpfully distinguishes between ordinary “events” and “historical events”; the latter resonate as world-changing because they somehow transform the very structures of daily life. In his analysis, the reaction to and aftereffects of an event—and not just the event itself—determine whether it is historical. Imagine, for instance, if the United States Navy had responded to the bombing of Pearl Harbor by concealing the number of lives lost and saying it had long planned to scupper the USS Arizona—the attack would still have happened, but it wouldn’t be the historical event “Pearl Harbor” anymore.Or consider the French Revolution. In the summer of 1789, King Louis XVI convened roughly 1,100 men from France’s tiny elite (aristocratic military officers, major landowners, lawyers, clergy) for the first meeting of the Estates-General (the closest thing the kingdom had to a national parliament) in 175 years. Refusing to abide by rules that effectively silenced most of those notionally represented (as gerrymandering and voter suppression thwart the popular will today), many delegates instead proclaimed themselves members of the National Assembly, a new, constitution-writing body. This was a standstill, not a revolution.A few weeks later, the king summoned troops to Paris and fired his most popular adviser. Parisians poured into the streets; on July 14, about 800 of them swarmed to the Bastille, a fortress on the city’s edge, where they hoped to find weapons and gunpowder. First welcomed by the fortress’s defenders, then fired upon, the crowd eventually succeeded in getting the troops to lower the drawbridge and abandon the Bastille. They then marched the soldiers to central Paris, killed the commanding officer, and paraded his head through the streets on a pike. Popular unrest had become a rebellion, but not a revolution.When word of the violence and mayhem in Paris first reached the National Assembly, 20 miles away in Versailles, its members were horrified. Educated men, many with great fortunes, they had little personal sympathy for a mob of workers and agitators. Fearful for their own lives, many worried they would be the next victims. Within days, however, their anxiety turned to hope, as National Assembly members who took part in a fact-finding mission to Paris reported being greeted by a peaceful and joyous crowd eager to shake their hands. Men whose politics we would today characterize as center-right then spoke positively about the attack on the fortress, describing its conquest as legitimate resistance to tyranny—much like their own decision to write a constitution.[Rebecca L. Spang: The revolution is under way already]The modern concept of revolution—as an enduring political and social change created through mass action—can be traced directly to that reevaluation. Neither the creation of the National Assembly nor the attack on the Bastille was a revolution in and of itself. Both might be dismissed as “performative” insofar as neither alone achieved anything like its stated goals. But revolutionary events, those that result in sustained transformations of society, are not made by strategic plan. They do not have bullet-pointed deliverables and clear metrics of success. If they did, they would be business as usual, not a revolution.The protesters seeking justice for George Floyd have similarly combined collective creativity, a devotion to ritual, and an ability to draw mainstream approval. The Black Lives Matter movement has worked for years to oppose police brutality and show how the American justice system condemns Blackness and routinely presumes the guilt of Black boys and young men. The grossly disproportionate health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic made fundamental inequalities all the more glaringly apparent. But it was Donald Trump encouraging governors to “get tough” with protesters and his threat to mobilize the United States military that attracted prominent supporters and establishment politicians—including former President George W. Bush, Senator Mitt Romney, and many others—to the cause.An unexpected and growing coalition now exists. On a basic level, these are pro-democracy protests made difficult to recognize as such because they’re happening in a country that has widely been considered a leading site of liberal democracy. Critics have been fast to dismiss statements from Romney, Bush, and others as mere show, but they signal a decisive change in the direction of public opinion. Republican leaders may (in the eyes of many activists) be on the wrong side of history, but they want to be on the right side of the future.[Shadi Hamid: Things were going to be so much better]Yet if one major lesson of the French Revolution is that people make history, another is that it rarely turns out as planned. The members of France’s first National Assembly were hardly men with an obvious stake in disturbing the status quo. Their conscious impulses in the first months of the revolution were in many ways conservative; they wanted to protect themselves, ensure continuity, and get things over with as quickly as possible. In the name of honoring the absolutist monarchy’s debts, however, many of them opted for policies (such as nationalizing properties held by the Catholic Church and issuing a new currency) that proved to be far more disruptive than expected. We might think of the revolution’s radicalization as a Möbius trajectory—moving in what seemed to be a single direction, it nonetheless arrived on the other side of a metaphorical strip.If the United States is in the middle of a new American revolution, months and probably years will pass before its effects or causes are fully discerned. Even when structures are unstable and existing institutions lack legitimacy, “old regimes” never fall apart neatly and completely—they have to be taken apart piece by piece. Tearing down the Bastille took nearly a year; years more passed before the workers who did the job had all been paid. Late on the night of August 4, 1789, members of the National Assembly voted to give up privilege and abolish feudalism. But privilege (literally, “private law”: one set of laws for the nobility, one for everyone else; one set of laws for the province of Brittany, one for Normandy; one for pork butchers, one for pastry cooks) had been the foundation of the kingdom’s entire judicial and administrative order. Only after decades of legal, political, and violent conflict was something like a new order stabilized.The protocols and norms that emerged in the aftermath of 18th-century revolutions—the inviolability of private property, the abstract idea of the rights-bearing individual, the fiscal-military nation-state—are today under attack as forms of privilege themselves. For now, translating that critique into an existing revolutionary vocabulary (the “poetry of the past,” Marx called it in the text I mentioned above) helps to sharpen it and draw attention to it. But those acts of translation should not, however, be mistaken for revolution itself. For real structural change, Americans will need to look not behind them to vanished certainties but ahead to uncertain possibilities. What is the difference between a revolution and the failure of a state or the collapse of an empire? Only that in a revolution, many men, women, and children have the emotional energy to imagine a better future and put lots of creative work into trying to make it so.
The Latest Catastrophe at the VA
On a warm November day in 2017, Representative Mark Takano, a California Democrat, met with a whistleblower who had serious concerns about the 270-bed Veterans Affairs facility in Loma Linda. Later that day, Takano took a tour of the hospital, and was shocked by what he saw. Grime encrusted the water fountains; the floors of the operating room were noticeably dirty. Takano called for the VA’s inspector general to launch an investigation, which found “inconsistent levels of cleanliness” in the main hospital building, and unwashed floors, dusty cabinets, and a sterile instrument resting on a dirty rack in the inpatient dental unit. The rate of infection among Loma Linda’s patients was higher than the agency average, and the housekeeping department was largely incapacitated by high turnover, poor pay, and shaky management. A separate investigation found the bacteria Legionella pneumophila, which causes Legionnaires’ disease, in the water supply—a discovery that the facility had failed to communicate to clinicians.Today, in the midst of a pandemic that threatens everyone, but especially people with preexisting conditions, including the many veterans who suffer respiratory illnesses likely brought on by exposure to Agent Orange and burn pits, problems with cleanliness at VA facilities endure. For nearly two decades, the agency’s federal watchdog has uncovered filthy conditions at facilities across the country. The problem is due, at least in part, to the fact that 40 percent of all VA hospitals suffered from severe shortages of housekeeping staff in fiscal year 2019—the most recent data available. More than 2,000 cleaning positions are vacant across the VA’s national network, according to granular workforce data released by the agency in late May. And despite Takano’s spotlighting of issues in Loma Linda, the facility still has 21 unfilled housekeeper positions.“The way many think of custodial staff does not reflect the value that they provide to hospitals,” Takano told me recently. “They are critical to infection control; we need to see these employees as skilled workers.”[Thomas Chatterton Williams: Do Americans understand how badly they’re doing?]In the VA, housekeeping positions are generally reserved for those who served. Retired service members struggling with mental illness or physical impairments fill many of those slots. As of 2015, roughly 65 percent of VA housekeepers were people of color; currently 85 percent are veterans. Unlike clinical hospital staff, who are less likely to be veterans or minorities, housekeepers aren’t required to have advanced degrees, and they rarely win public accolades. But the VA’s 257-page COVID-19 battle plan relies heavily on housekeepers, and requires sanitizing everything from hospital chapels to body bags holding the remains of those who succumbed to the coronavirus. The VA, however, lacked enough cleaning staff to fully execute that plan. Ten days after its release, agency officials announced they needed to quickly hire housekeepers.In an impressive feat, the department hired 1,126 cleaning staff over the next month. But it’s unclear how quickly these employees were onboarded and whether this boost meaningfully shrunk the vacancy number or simply replaced some of the staff lost to attrition each quarter. The VA did not respond to a request for comment for this story.President Donald Trump earned historic support from veterans in 2016, in part by promising to fix the VA. Yet one of his signature legislative achievements, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, has disproportionately targeted lower-level employees, who are typically veterans. Many of them are housekeepers.From 2017 to 2018, nearly 900 cleaning workers were suspended or fired as a result of the bill, many of them for specious reasons or minor mistakes. The president, however, boasted of the office’s firing spree just a few weeks ago, in Memorial Day comments dedicated to America’s fallen. “They don’t take care of our vets, we fire them,” Trump said. He enthusiastically estimated 8,000 employee terminations—many of them veterans—calling the fired staffers “sadists” and “thieves.”“They didn’t take care of our vets,” Trump said. “Now they’re gone. We got ’em out.” Those no longer in the agency include housekeepers, yes, but also clinical staff crucial to COVID-19 care. Although an analysis by the American Federation of Government Employees showed housekeeping as the top position targeted by the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, nursing came second.The necessity of VA housekeepers—and the story of their mistreatment—is vividly illustrated on the grounds of the Pittsburgh VA’s University Drive campus, a sprawling, 14-acre system built on top of an abandoned mine shaft. When the virus reached the Steel City in March, it circulated on the third floor of the Pittsburgh VA’s mental-health ward. Four housekeepers manned the floor in good times, but staff fluctuations in recent years had brought that number to as low as two. Just before the pandemic, the Pittsburgh VA acknowledged 36 custodial vacancies, and had three housekeepers on the third floor, all of whom were veterans. The oldest was in his 70s. The virus moved throughout the floor quickly. Soon most of its patients were sick.[Read: The biggest worry for doctors fighting the pandemic]None of the rooms in the mental ward were negatively pressurized, which heightened the chances of virus transmission. Staff witnessed dust spilling out of the building’s air ducts, and housekeepers spent precious time running water faucets—supposedly to prevent the spread of contaminants. Another puzzling policy that raised eyebrows on the third floor: COVID-19-positive patients were allowed to freely walk about, in and out of their rooms. This added stress to already-demanding eight-hour cleaning shifts. A VA Pittsburgh spokesperson did not respond to a detailed list of questions concerning conditions and policies on the floor.“In that situation, you’re constantly having to disinfect,” one housekeeper, who requested anonymity because of a fear of retaliation from management, told me. “Even if [patients] were wearing a mask, anything they touched you had to bleach clean. But not knowing exactly what they touched or didn’t touch, we were constantly wiping. That’s your whole day. And after a while, that bleach gets to your head.”In the early days of the pandemic, housekeeping staff lacked access to preferred cleaning supplies and nurses had to reuse protective gowns. N95 masks were also in short supply and seemed to come last for cleaners. “If they did have them, we weren’t the priority,” the housekeeper said. “We are the ugly stepchild.” As housekeepers shoulder additional risks related to COVID-19, only a few are receiving additional pay.As of April, at least half a dozen Pittsburgh VA employees had caught the virus, including the oldest housekeeper, who fought in Vietnam. Reached by phone, he confirmed that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19, but declined to speak on the record. More than 24,000 VA patients and employees have been diagnosed, and nearly 1,700 have died, including at least 40 VA employees.As the Pittsburgh VA’s housekeeping staff contended with COVID-19, they surely could have used the hands of Kevin Patterson, a feisty Marine veteran who, for 16 years, cleaned many of the hospital’s nooks and crannies. I first met Patterson more than two years ago when on a reporting trip to assess the immediate impacts of the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. The office was created under Trump’s 2017 law and was responsible for the VA purge. At the time, Patterson was busy fighting an overwhelming number of proposed terminations as part of his work as the local vice president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Federation for Government Employees. Speaking in his cramped union office in 2018, Patterson warned that the purge was “getting the guppies instead of the trout.”The VA’s leadership has long undervalued housekeepers, and the federal Office of Personnel Management hasn’t updated the job description for VA housekeepers since the Vietnam War. As a result, many earn a lower hourly wage than their private-sector colleagues, which puts them on the edge of poverty. Their firing can be catastrophic to their personal finances.The AFGE warned that the 2017 law’s provisions could be exploited to fire employees without cause and crack down on union activity, but few lawmakers took their warnings seriously. Although the OAWP no longer releases adverse action reports to the public, data from 2017 to 2018 show thousands of frontline employees were demoted, suspended, or fired, including the housekeepers.Although some OAWP terminations were surely justified, many others relied on issues as minor as narrowly missing performance metrics or arriving late to work. Last October, the VA’s inspector general found that the OAWP “did not consistently conduct procedurally sound, accurate, thorough, and unbiased investigations.” In March, the Project on Government Oversight came to a similar conclusion, and found repeated instances of retaliation against employees who raised concerns about office dysfunction. (As of late last year, the OAWP’s current director had targeted just one department leader for punishment.)In our 2018 interview, Patterson bluntly warned that the widespread termination of employees would cripple hospital services and hit veteran households hardest. He and other sources also pointed me to a Pittsburgh VA administrator untouched by the accountability office despite his work to cover up the 2011–2012 Legionnaires’ outbreak and other accusations of misconduct. (He has denied any wrongdoing.)Shortly after my story was published, Patterson was fired under Trump’s accountability statutes. The official justification for his departure cited a shouting match between him and a colleague, though multiple VA employees described the incident as a minor dispute.During arbitration, Patterson argued that he was slapped with the charge as retaliation for his union activity, including his cooperation with my story. (In the course of his case, then-AFGE local president Colleen Evans, who also spoke with me on record, testified that after my piece went live, she was “approached by somebody from public affairs, who basically told me to watch my back.”) In May, a federal arbitrator overturned Patterson’s firing and ordered the department to reinstate him with back pay. (The arbitrator found no evidence that the firing was retaliatory.)[Read: The veteran who could be VP]Patterson is eager to return to work, both to help out his fellow union members and to come back from the brink of his financial collapse. After being fired from the VA, he found a job at an Amazon warehouse. Within a few weeks, a colleague injured Patterson with a pallet jack.As he healed and sought employment elsewhere, Patterson said his job history made it virtually impossible to secure a steady position. “My wife told me to stop saying I had been fired, but that was the truth; I couldn’t lie about it,” he told me. “Plus, some employers just don’t like to hear that word, union.”Despite a couple years off the job, Patterson can still quickly run through a housekeepers’ best-practices list and can tick off specific uses for the cleaning chemicals tucked away in broom closets throughout the Pittsburgh VA. “You have to pay attention to detail,” he told me, “because cleanliness in a hospital is not just wanted—it’s necessary and needed.”Many veterans face an untenable economic future. The veteran unemployment rate has nearly tripled since January, to 8.6 percent, only slightly lower than it was in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. At the same time, the VA is grappling with roughly 50,000 vacancies across a host of departments. Hiring qualified veterans into these positions would not only improve agency functionality but also provide security for struggling veteran families. Patterson and his wife, Crystal, face foreclosure on their home and pressure to pay their daughter’s college bills. Even though he won his arbitration case, he noted the VA could still appeal the decision, preventing his return to work for months.Takano told me he had reservations about the VA bill that led to so many terminations, but he voted for it, citing its statutes as strengthening whistleblower protections. He told me he now sees the OAWP’s work as “classist” and “galling.”“They fired a lot of cleaning staff to prove accountability came to the VA,” he said, “only to create a situation where cleanliness during a pandemic is difficult.”
Du Bois Gave Voice to Pain and Promise
W. E. B. Du Bois was torn between hope and rage. Following the First World War, challenges to colonialism in Africa and Asia, revolutionary labor movements, demands for women’s rights and universal suffrage, and the growth of what would become the modern Black freedom struggle portended a new, radical future. However, the harsh realities of imperial conquest, capitalist exploitation, the subordination of women, and horrific racial violence remained firmly intact. Black people fought back. But, Du Bois wondered, could democracy ever become a reality for Black folks?In 2020, across the nation and the world, people have turned out in unprecedented numbers to answer this question. We are again grappling with the failures of democracy, the specter of Black death, and the tension between faith and despair. We are again fighting to affirm the sanctity and beauty of Black life. And Du Bois’s 1920 book, Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil, offers us a clarion call to action, to imagine a better tomorrow and continue, even in the face of death, to live, to fight, and to love.Du Bois finished the first draft of Darkwater on February 23, 1918, his 50th birthday, believing that it might very well be his final work. The previous year, he had undergone surgery to remove a damaged kidney. In the book’s autobiographical opening chapter, “Of the Shadow Years,” Du Bois wrote that he had “looked death in the face and found its lineaments not unkind.” He survived, although he felt assured that soon he would “enjoy death as I have enjoyed life.”America’s entry into World War I had tested his resolve. Du Bois, echoing current debates about the efficacy of Black patriotism, supported the war effort and encouraged Black people to “forget our special grievances,” as he wrote in the July 1918 Crisis editorial “Close Ranks,” and stand “shoulder to shoulder with our own white fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy.” Du Bois was widely excoriated, with his harshest critics calling him a traitor to the race. In December 1918, Du Bois traveled to France, where along with organizing a pan-African congress, he saw firsthand the devastation of the war and heard directly from Black soldiers and officers how American racism had wounded them in body and soul. “With the armistice came disillusion,” he later recalled.[From the March 1901 issue: W.E.B Du Bois on ‘The Freedmen’s Bureau’]Du Bois’s disillusionment deepened by the end of the summer of 1919. Racial violence had exploded across the country, from Washington, D.C., to Chicago to Elaine, Arkansas. The lynching of Black people had skyrocketed. On August 30, 1919, in Bogalusa, Louisiana, Lucious McCarty, a Black veteran, was shot, dragged through town, and burned to the howling delight of some 1,500 spectators. Two weeks later, Du Bois submitted the final manuscript of Darkwater to Harcourt, Brace, and Howe.The trauma of the war and the horror of the “Red Summer” explain the harsh racial world Du Bois depicts in Darkwater. Race, as an ideology and social reality, had become an immutable fact, with the modern investment in whiteness being one of its most dreadful costs. “But what on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?” Du Bois asked rhetorically in the prescient chapter “The Souls of White Folk.” After pausing to reflect on the countless everyday acts of privilege—some silent, some ugly, all enraging—white people wielded like a weapon, he sardonically concluded that “whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!”In Darkwater, Du Bois reprised the image of a veil from his 1903 work, The Souls of Black Folk, to characterize the color line as inhibiting yet ultimately permeable. But this time it was much more violent and unforgiving. “There is Hate behind it, and Cruelty and Tears,” he painfully revealed. “As one peers through its intricate, unfathomable pattern of ancient, old, old design, one sees blood and guilt and misunderstanding. And yet it hangs there, this Veil, between Then and Now, between Pale and Colored and Black and White—between You and Me.” The veil, no longer solely a metaphor, was “true and terrible.”East St. Louis, Illinois, offered a prime example. Du Bois detailed how the wartime influx of Black migrants into the city unsettled the color line, heightened labor tensions, and caused “red anger” to flame in the hearts of white workers. On July 2, 1917, it exploded. White mobs “killed and beat and murdered; they dashed out the brains of children and stripped off the clothes of women; they drove victims into the flames and hanged the helpless to the lighting poles,” he wrote. Du Bois argued that racial terror is thoroughly ingrained in the soil and psyche of America.[Ibram X. Kendi: The American nightmare]Darkwater also speaks to the deep roots of our current struggle with the precarity of Black life and the traumas of premature Black death. “We know in America how to discourage, choke, and murder ability when it so far forgets itself as to choose a dark skin,” Du Bois lamented. He posed questions that still haunt Black parents: “Is it worth while? Ought children be born to us? Have we any right to make human souls face what we face today.” Having lost his first son, Burghardt, in 1899 at only 18 months, Du Bois pondered these questions from a place of personal sorrow, while also writing that Black mothers felt, and continue to feel, this pain even more acutely.At every turn in Darkwater, shadows seem to overtake the light. And yet, through the pain, Du Bois offers hope.Darkwater was the canvas for Du Bois’s bold postwar political vision and challenge to global white supremacy. This included ending European imperialism, pursuing economic justice and the redistribution of wealth, expanding the franchise and protecting the right to vote, recognizing the struggles and contributions of Black women, and investing in education. Darkwater represents a foundational moment in the long battle for Black freedom and democracy that endures with the movement for Black lives today.Du Bois also knew that any vision of the future for Black people had to be coupled with an appreciation for the beauty of life. In Darkwater, he wrote of his travels in the United States and abroad: the iridescent colors of the ocean in Maine; the vast living awe of the Grand Canyon; the heroic quaintness of France. “Grant all its ugliness and sin,” Du Bois wrote, “the petty, horrible snarl of its putrid threads,” but he could not forget that “the beauty of this world is not to be denied.”And above all else, there was the beauty and gift of Blackness. Tears welled in Du Bois’s eyes as he listened to the “wild and sweet and wooing” sounds of the jazz musician Tim Brymm and his military band playing in the small French hamlet of Maron. He delighted in memories of a walk down the streets of Harlem, surrounded everywhere by “black eyes, black and brown, and frizzled hair curled and sleek, and skins that riot with luscious color and deep, burning blood.” All this and more affirmed Blackness as a life-sustaining force that even the harshest forms of white supremacy could not deny.[Adam Serwer: The most dangerous American idea]“Which is life and what is death and how shall we face so tantalizing a contradiction?” Just as Du Bois asked this question in 1920, we ask it again a century later. Du Bois lived until 1963, leaving behind an enormous corpus of writings for us to learn from. Darkwater, however, rings especially prophetic. Du Bois gave voice to the pain and promise, the hopelessness and faith, the rage and beauty that continue to define so much of the Black experience in America.
We Returned to Normal
#ThursdaysChild x Trunk Archive / Jingyu LinAfter 24 hours of travel from our home in Brooklyn, we landed exhausted and disoriented in Iceland on a Saturday night just two weeks ago, the midnight sun shining through the airplane windows. The otherworldly feeling I always get landing on this volcanic island in the middle of the North Atlantic was more intense than usual, because we had left one reality—the crisis-induced confinement of our small apartment—and were entering another—a country that has by and large stopped the spread of the coronavirus. We gathered our sanitized belongings, roused our young children, and exited the plane for the empty airport and our COVID-19 test, which we needed to get through customs. With the national contact-tracing app installed on our phones, we felt free for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.We had been planning our annual trip to Iceland to visit my wife’s family for a long time, but getting there took on increased urgency during the outbreak in New York City. First there were near-constant ambulance sirens and an ominous feeling that people were suffering and dying all around us. During the Black Lives Matter protests, the sirens transformed into police sirens—a new kind of ominous. Low-flying police helicopters and fireworks kept the children up at night. New rituals—limiting our outings to only the most essential trips, sanitizing our groceries, constantly washing our hands—helped us manage our persistent trepidation, but they were unnerving in their own right. I learned to master the mute button on conference calls when my children would fight or scream for whatever reason children fight or scream.The kids needed family, friends, other people. They needed playgrounds. Our downstairs neighbors also needed our children to have playgrounds, and we constantly felt guilty about that. We all needed a break, and a summer in Iceland was our opportunity for one. The country had done what it needed to do. People had listened to the scientists, trusted its leaders, tested widely. If you needed to quarantine, the government would put you up in a hotel and you would continue to receive your pay. The country responded in a rational and robust way and did everything it could to ensure that schools remained safely open. Iceland was still managing the pandemic, but it had thus far been successful, and life was continuing mostly as normal.[Thomas Chatterton Williams: Do Americans understand how badly they’re doing?]After three canceled flights on two airlines and lots of time spent on hold, we were finally able to book a confirmed flight through Boston. Despite a ban on Americans entering the country, we managed to secure a letter from Iceland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that would allow us to return to my wife’s home country together.We completed our COVID-19 tests at the airport and collected our checked bags, but no family was there to greet us. We did not yet have our test results and did not want to endanger others. Without a ride, and to avoid taking the airport shuttle, we rented a car to get to the apartment where we’d be staying. As we drove into downtown Reykjavík, now past midnight, I felt like we were driving into the twilight zone. The streets were alive and joyous—and mask-less. It was all so jarring. Normal had become bizarre. We arrived at our destination and secured our masks before exiting the car. We did not want to be the people to bring the virus back to this country.We received our negative results in the morning—relieved, but not surprised. We had been hypervigilant in New York. We were most afraid of what we might have contracted while traveling. There was the man behind us on the flight to Boston who refused to wear his mask properly. There were the taxis and the hotel in Boston. There was everything that our 1-year-old daughter might have put in her mouth when we were not looking.Feeling cavalier, the first thing we did on Sunday in Reykjavík was go to the playground. It felt like the first playground we had been to in forever. Our kids were overjoyed.On the walk back from the playground with my son on my shoulders, I felt a hand touch my back. It was our Danish friend Peter, happy to run into us. This was the first physical contact I had had with someone other than my immediate family in more than three months. We asked him to give us some distance. We told him that we had tested negative but wanted to be extra cautious because of our travel. He was surprised and questioned the need for our masks. COVID-19 was over in Iceland, he said. We told him about New York, the fear of getting sick, the overloaded hospitals, the long-term closure of schools and playgrounds, the economic devastation there and throughout the country, the lackluster federal-government response. We told him how grateful we were to be here in Iceland. Our masks weren’t for our safety, we said, but for his.[Molly Jong-Fast: The new New York will be better]Peter knew much of this. He had been watching the news and had seen the disaster of the United States’ COVID-19 response. But if it was that bad to live through, he wanted to know, why didn’t the country respond to the virus in a serious way, so that it could move on safely? I didn’t know what to say. I don’t understand it either.I have always seen Iceland as a laboratory for the future, particularly for the United States. Its leadership in climate change, renewable energy, gender equity, and so much more show what could someday be possible with real innovation and effort. Today, Iceland also shows us a vision of a missed present.A few days into our trip, with normal life beginning to feel more and more normal, I sat in a café on the ocean edge of the city and called into an urgent parents’ meeting for our children’s preschool. Our tuition was due imminently and so many questions were still unanswered. Preschoolers don’t do well in virtual classrooms, we all agreed, and what about child-care needs for those of us who are working, not to mention those of us who might have to go back to the office? How do we keep our beloved school solvent and teachers employed? It felt like I was calling into another planet. There was so little governmental guidance or support. There was still the virus.We love New York City. We are going to return. But we don’t know what New York will be when we do. After only a few days in Iceland and a taste of normal life, the city and the coronavirus already felt so far away. As we settle in for our summer here, we hope this is an early return to normalcy. What we fear, though—and what I think we know but struggle to accept—is that this is just a temporary reprieve. Soon we’ll be back in New York City, ready with our masks and rituals, steeling ourselves for the months ahead.
The Atlantic Daily: Making Sense of the Fourth
Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.OLIVER MUNDAYThis is an awkward moment to be celebrating America. The past few months showed a great power in decay, struggling to contain a deadly pandemic and reckoning anew with its racist systems.As such, many Americans may hesitate to drape themselves in red, white, and blue. Still more will be prevented from gathering. This year finds fireworks shows that are socially distant, or canceled altogether.On the eve of the holiday, here’s an essay worth revisiting: Resistance, Ibram X. Kendi argued last year, is not incompatible with patriotism.
We should be celebrating our disobedience, turbulence, insolence, and discontent about inequities and injustices in all forms. We should be celebrating our form of patriotism that they call unpatriotic, our historic struggle to extend power and freedom to every single American. This is our American project.
Read the rest here.NICHOLAS HUNT / GETTYFeeling patriotic? Kick off your Fourth with a rereading of Julia Ward Howe's “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” first published in The Atlantic in 1862.Feeling wary of celebration?The American revolution wasn’t only an effort to establish independence from the British—it was also a push to preserve slavery and suppress Native American resistance. A history professor looks deeply at the lesser-known closing sentence of the Declaration of Independence—words that speak to hard truths about America’s founding.Feeling like you want some poetry?Spend time with two poets whose works were inspired by the potential of a younger America. Walt Whitman’s verses on democracy and Langston Hughes’s “I, Too” complement each other.Feeling like history has its eyes on you?Step-kick your way to the couch for the Disney+ edition of the musical Hamilton. To say that much has changed in the country since the hit first opened in 2015 would be an understatement.“Hamilton’s brassy celebration of the founding of America’s governmental institutions plays in a different light in 2020,” our film critic David Sims writes. “But the show is not irrelevant … It now also functions as a reminder that the country’s history and future is still being written and rewritten.”Feeling ready to party … but wondering how to do so safely?We know you miss live music. Revisit our playlist specifically designed for partying alone—there’s no shame in busting a move in your bedroom.Absence makes the heart grow fonder when it comes to pools too. But even if your local swimming hole is open, keeping a six-foot distance from everyone in and out of the water would be a tricky task on a normal day, let alone a holiday. For a safer splash, try a sprinkler.Want more guidance? Here’s how to think through the risks of various summer activities.Feeling like fireworks in the sky—and the Fourth in general—are played out?Try this long read about skydiving worms. Each week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture drops nearly 15 million flesh-eating worms along the Panama-Colombia border. The health of a continent is at stake.Thanks for reading. This email was written by Caroline Mimbs Nyce and Haley Weiss, and edited by Shan Wang. Did someone forward you this newsletter? Sign up here.
Trump Is Turning America Into the ‘Shithole Country’ He Fears
There is a lot of learned material written about nationalism—scholarly books and papers, histories of it, theories of it—but most of us understand that nationalism, at its heart, at its very deepest roots, is about a feeling of superiority: We are better than you. Our country is better than your country. Or even—and apologies, but this is the precise language deployed by the president of the United States: Your country is a shithole country. Ours isn’t.In this sense, nationalism is not patriotism, which is the desire to work on behalf of your fellow citizens, to defend common values, to build something positive. Nationalism is not community spirit either, which seeks to pull people together. Nationalism has nothing to do with democratic values: Authoritarians can be nationalists; indeed, most are. Nationalism has nothing to do with the rule of law, justice, or opportunity. At its core, nationalism is rather a competition, an ugly and negative competition. There’s a reason nationalists build walls, denigrate foreigners, and denounce immigrants: Because our people are better than those people. There’s a reason nationalism has so often become violent in the past. For if we—our nation—are better, then what right do others have to live beside us? Or to occupy land that we covet? Or even, maybe, to live at all?Sure, people pretend otherwise. We’re just defending our right to be unique! We just want everyone to stay in their own country! We just like our own culture! But that’s not really what nationalists think, and everyone knows it. They can nod and wink at equality among nations, but really they are motivated by, driven by, addicted to a feeling of superiority. Our county is better than your country. So stay out.[Thomas Chatterton Williams: Do Americans understand how badly they’re doing?]I hear this when Donald Trump uses the slogan “America First”: This is why he needs a physical wall at the Mexican border; this is the source of his dislike for immigrants, for people with unfamiliar surnames or different skin colors. He regards all of them as lesser, inferior people who somehow got inside our borders and made our country worse. He and the claque who support him repeat these things over and over again because this kind of nationalism requires reinforcement. It thrives on stories and pictures, songs and chants, repetition. It needs a constant stream of evidence, constant proof of superiority.But what happens when the stream stops? What happens when the stories and pictures no longer match? More to the point, what will Trump do, what will his followers and admirers do, when their understanding of the world is flipped on its head? What will happen when they realize that other countries are building walls between them and the United States?Here it’s worth pointing out a genuine oddity: The world in the age of the coronavirus should be a nationalist’s paradise. Borders have slammed shut. Countries have fallen back on their own resources. Multiple international institutions have failed, in major and minor ways, starting with the World Health Organization, the one group that was explicitly created for this moment, and continuing on to the G-7, whose members can’t even manage to meet for coffee.[Read: The decline of the American world]And yet, has there ever been a more global moment? Everyone in the world is living in the same isolation, with the same fears. Everyone is working on the same vaccines, exchanging notes about the same cures. Everyone is trying to solve the same medical, psychological, and economic problems. Everyone is dealing with a virus that seems completely uninterested in the national origins of the people it infects. More to the point, everyone can look at everyone else’s country, read its media and social media, see how its institutions are coping with the crisis. We can’t leave our houses, but we can meet in cyberspace, where we can keep talking.While we are there, we can see how other countries are dealing with the pandemic. Some are doing well, especially those that have decent bureaucrats, respect for science, and high levels of trust: South Korea and Taiwan, Germany and Slovakia, much of Scandinavia, New Zealand. Some countries are not doing well, especially those run by divisive populists on both the left and the right: Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and, of course, the United States. But even within this latter group, we stand out. Out of all these countries—out of all the countries in the world—the U.S. has the largest number of cases and the highest death toll. The U.S. isn’t merely suffering; the U.S. is suffering more than anybody else.[Read: The three weeks that changed everything]The numbers of American sick and dead are a source of wonder and marvel all over the world. They also inspire fear and anxiety. The European Union has decided to allow some foreigners to cross its borders now, but not Americans. Uruguayans and Rwandans can go to Italy and Spain, but not Americans. Moroccans and Tunisians can go to Germany and Greece, but not Americans. For the first time in living memory, Canada has kept its border closed with the United States. On July 3, the governor of the Mexican state of Sonora delivered the coup de grace: She announced the temporary closure of the border with Arizona and banned Americans from Sonoran beaches.How will American nationalists cope with this new situation? I’m guessing many will pretend, like the president, that this isn’t happening: Months into the crisis, he has once again expressed the belief that the virus will magically “disappear.” But for some, it will be difficult to prevent the intrusion of reality: The stupid and pointless competition among nations continues in their heads—and they are losing. A major reckoning is coming. It can’t arrive too soon.
Watching Hamilton Is Like Opening a Time Capsule
In an ideal world, I’d expect a Disney+ edition of Hamilton to have some real Broadway flavor. Perhaps there’d be a filmed rendering of waiting in line to have your ticket ripped at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, or a re-creation of buying an overpriced drink before taking your seat. But the stage recording of the hit musical, which starts streaming today, offers no such thing. It begins instead with a Skype clip in which the show’s writer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, acknowledges the sad circumstances of Hamilton’s online release: The musical wasn’t supposed to arrive on Disney+ until October 2021, but it dropped early to help distract audiences from the ongoing pandemic.Watching the show from my couch in 2020, four years after I saw it on Broadway, was a strange throwback in more ways than one. I was reminded of the cruel reality that Broadway’s theaters will remain closed for the rest of the year because of COVID-19, a blow for an industry that relies on packed houses. Revisiting the show during another election year, it was hard not to think about how Hamilton was indelibly shaped by the more hopeful times of Barack Obama’s presidency.The musical is, after all, an earnest work that celebrates patriotism and diversity, one that tries to distill the Founding Fathers’ revolutionary vigor into something modern. But in 2020, pride in most American institutions is at an all-time low, and the iconography of figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson feels ever more fraught. So when households across the United States watch the streamed version of Hamilton this holiday weekend, the musical might register as a surreal artifact—of a political moment that was defined by optimism, and of a pre-pandemic live experience that people clamored to see.[Read: The case for “Hamilton” as 2015’s album of the year]Hamilton is a definitive cultural work of the Obama era. The show can trace its origins to a 2009 White House poetry jam, where Miranda performed an early version of the opening number, “Alexander Hamilton,” and earned cheerful applause from the president. What started out as a 2013 Vassar College workshop production evolved into a 2015 smash hit at the Public Theater and quickly leaped to Broadway. Miranda had succeeded in making a hip-hop musical about the first secretary of the Treasury feel stunningly dynamic, with talented young actors of color taking on mythic roles such as Hamilton, Washington, and Jefferson. Disney+’s filmed recording of Hamilton captures that vitality—it was shot in June 2016 as the show’s original cast prepared to depart, lending it the aura of a swan song.The show’s bubble of optimism burst that November, days after the election of Donald Trump. Vice President-Elect Mike Pence went to see the musical, and after the curtain call, the cast member Brandon Victor Dixon addressed him from the stage: “We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us,” he said, adding, “We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents.” The statement, crafted by Miranda and the producer Jeffrey Seller, was predictably slammed by Trump on Twitter. The entire episode, a cultural flash point from the beginning of the Trump era, feels like it happened a thousand years ago. Where Obama had greeted the tenor of Miranda’s project with enthusiasm, Trump responded with angry tweets.The Hamilton performance recorded that year still plays powerfully today. The first act of Disney+’s film, which focuses on the Revolutionary War, is as vigorous as ever—full of patriotic fervor as the characters foment rebellion and fight their war of independence. I had worried that the musical’s energy might fall flat compared with the Broadway performance I saw, but rewatching “My Shot”—the show’s third, tone-setting song—largely assuaged those fears. In that angry and bold number, a young Hamilton (played by Miranda) entreats fellow revolutionaries such as Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.) and the Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs) to “rise up” with the American colonies and overthrow British rule. The song is also a marker thrown down by Miranda for the viewing audience. He’s a Latinx performer stepping into a role he would’ve been traditionally barred from playing, just like the Black and Latinx actors alongside him, and he’s proudly seizing the opportunity.[Read: Lin-Manuel Miranda on the role of the artist in the age of Trump]Hamilton is a very sincere work, one that filters out some of the more uncomfortable and ugly realities of the American Revolution to present a familiar narrative of freedom and justice overcoming oppression and tyranny. Hamilton himself didn’t own enslaved people, but he was involved in purchasing them for family members; in general, the show’s references to slavery present Hamilton as an activist for abolition, which historians have criticized as overstated.Though the show’s potted American history is a little too glossy, that’s mostly because Miranda’s storytelling focuses on characterization, depicting an ambitious immigrant (Hamilton was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis) trying to effect real change in the world. Miranda brings an impressively angry streak to his performance, and is at his best when he highlights the massive chip on the shoulders of Hamilton and his rival Burr. Both characters know they belong at center stage; each resents any person or institution that might hold him back. That sense of determination and pride is even more profound in the context of a show that has a whole ensemble of actors playing historically white figures—something that wouldn’t have happened in an earlier Broadway era.What most stuck out to me about the show in retrospect was how Miranda wove his own ambition into the character he played. Divorcing Hamilton from the ecstatic praise that quickly surrounded it can be difficult, but the filmed presentation helps underline how risky a proposition the musical was. Miranda’s passion for the subject is clear, but this is still a show in which people in tricornered hats twirl around the stage as politicians have rap battles about fiscal policy; it could’ve very easily come across as too nerdy to find any mainstream success.The Hamilton film’s moving cameras and quick editing can’t convey the experience of seeing the story unfold all at once onstage, of course, but there are some advantages. The director Thomas Kail swoops in dramatically close to the actors’ faces, capturing raw emotional moments that would’ve been impossible to see if you were seated in a mezzanine. This intimacy particularly benefits Miranda, Phillipa Soo (as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza), and Renée Elise Goldsberry (as her sister Angelica), a trio whose quieter, melancholic moments in the second act get more of a showcase on camera. Kail does his best to take in the total spectacle too, but there’s no way to absorb the full power of a Broadway show without being, well, in the room where it happens.The time-capsule quality of Hamilton can serve as a bracing throwback, both for new viewers and returning fans. Yes, there was once a time, not too long ago, when a Tony-winning composer could debut snippets of his new American-history-themed musical at a White House poetry event. Pop culture has continued to move at warp speed since then, and Hamilton’s brassy tale of the founding of America’s governmental institutions plays in a different light in 2020. But the show is not irrelevant. Hamilton existed to both celebrate and reframe the past; it now functions as a reminder that the country’s history and future alike are still being written and rewritten.
The Books Briefing: The Power of Friendship
Emily Dickinson wrote a letter to a stranger in 1870 in which she asked the recipient, the writer Thomas Wentworth Higginson, to read a few of her poems. The letter sparked an enduring correspondence between the two, who became friends before eventually meeting eight years later. The friendship was said to have changed Dickinson, giving her a new confidence, as Martha Ackmann chronicles in her book These Fevered Days. The authors (and friends) Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney, in A Secret Sisterhood, also document literary friendships, focusing on the influential relationships that some famous women writers had with one another.Platonic relationships, as a subject of and catalyst for writing, present the richness and profundity of the connections we have with nonfamilial, nonromantic companions. Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life follows the friendship of four queer men who support one another while dealing with trauma rooted in their coming of age.Elena Ferrante’s The Story of the Lost Child, the last of the Neapolitan novels, revisits a pivotal moment in the main characters’ friendship, answering old mysteries while also tracking a new story line about one of the women’s disappearance decades later. Marlena, by Julie Buntin, focuses on the friendship of two teenage girls—one of whom (a troubled soul and adventurer) dies tragically, leaving the other to grapple with the terms of their relationship.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
Know other book lovers who might like this guide? Forward them this email.
What We’re ReadingThe encounter that revealed a different side of Emily Dickinson
“Dickinson’s letter [to Thomas Wentworth Higginson] set into motion a correspondence with Higginson that lasted almost a quarter of a century. Eight years after writing her initial letter, on August 16, 1870, Dickinson and Higginson finally met face-to-face.”📚 These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson, by Martha AckmannAn epic from Italy about female friendship and fate
“[Elena] Ferrante’s accomplishment in these novels is to extract an enduring masterpiece from dissolving margins, from the commingling of self and other, creator and created, new and old, real and whatever the opposite of real may be.”📚 The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena FerranteAn astonishing and ambitious chronicle of queer life in America
“The book vigorously defends friendship as a primary relationship, as central as marriage to the making of lives and communities … [The main characters’] relationships with one another challenge categorization.”📚 A Little Life, by Hanya YanagiharaMy brilliant (doomed) friend
“Marlena joins a glut of recent novels that pair a retrospective female narrator with an extravagantly charismatic but troubled friend … These novels consider the fierce complexity of female friendship, and the particular agony of innocence that yearns to be shed.”📚 Marlena, by Julie BuntinA book about formative literary friendships
“Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney … probe the lives of four literary giants, exploring formative experiences of literary sisterhood that have gone unsung.”📚 A Secret Sisterhood, by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney
About us: This week’s newsletter is written by Myles Poydras. The book he’s reading next is Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler.
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Analysis: Republican internal polling signals a Democratic rout
Whenever I hear an operative complain about public polling, I have just one thing to say: Put up or shut up. Release your own numbers that show the race in a different place than the public polling, or let the public polling stand. This is especially true in House races, where public polling is limited and there's a real chance to shape the conventional wisdom.
White House hosts party during a pandemic
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Two demonstrators face charges after Elijah McClain protest in Aurora early Saturday morning
Aurora police arrested or cited two people early Saturday morning during a protest calling for the firing of officers involved in the death of Elijah McClain.
The protest began Friday evening when demonstrators marched on the department’s District 1 station, where they declared they will peacefully remain until all of the officers involved in the 23-year-old’s death last year are fired.
Department spokesperson Matt Longshore said Aurora police didn’t spray the crowd with tear gas, smoke or pepper spray. He did confirm that they did shoot about five foam rounds at demonstrators around 3:30 a.m. after members of the crowd reportedly fired fireworks at the officers, he said.
About an hour later, two people were either arrested or cited on suspicion of obstructing a highway or passageway and failure to obey, Longshore confirmed. He said identifying information about the two people — which he confirmed are adults — was not immediately available.
Longshore also could not say which roadway the people are accused of obstructing.
A third person was also detained for a time, but later released, Longshore said.
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Additional information was not immediately available. Another rally focusing on racial equality, among other things, is scheduled for Saturday night at Manual High School.
As monuments fall, Confederate carving has size on its side
STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — Some statues of figures from America’s slave-owning past have been yanked down by protesters, others dismantled by order of governors or city leaders. But the largest Confederate monument ever crafted — colossal figures carved into the solid rock of a Georgia mountainside — may outlast them all.
Stone Mountain’s supersized sculpture depicting Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson mounted on horseback has special protection enshrined in Georgia law.
Even if its demolition were sanctioned, the monument’s sheer size poses serious challenges. The carving measures 190 feet (58 meters) across and 90 feet (27 meters) tall. An old photo shows a worker on scaffolding just below Lee’s chin barely reaching his nose.
Numerous Confederate statues and monuments to American slave owners have come down across the South amid recent protests against racial injustice. Stone Mountain hasn’t escaped notice.
After organizing a protest where thousands marched in neighboring Atlanta, 19-year-old Zoe Bambara held a demonstration June 4 with a much smaller group — her permit allowed no more than 25 — inside the state park where the sculpture has drawn millions of tourists for decades.
“The Confederacy doesn’t celebrate the South; it celebrates white supremacy,” said Bambara, who is Black. “The people on that mountain, they hated me. They didn’t know me, but they hated me and my ancestors. It hurts to see those people celebrated and a memorial dedicated to them.”
Still, Bambara admits she’s at a loss for what should be done with the massive monument, conceived some 50 years after the Civil War ended but not finished until 1972.
The sculpture’s creators used dynamite to blast huge chunks of granite away from the mountain, then spent years carving the detailed figures with hand-held cutting torches.
Erasing the carving would be dangerous, time-consuming and expensive.
The stone is likely too durable for sandblasting, said Ben Bentkowski, president of the Atlanta Geological Society. Controlled explosions using TNT packed into holes drilled in the mountainside would work, he said.
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“With the logistics, the safety aspect of it, you’d have a budget certainly north of $1 million, I suspect,” Bentkowski said. “You’ll need insurance for the project, you’ll need hazard pay for people working on the surface of it. It could easily take a year or more.”
There’s also a sizable legal obstacle.
When Georgia lawmakers voted in 2001 to change the state flag that had been dominated by the Confederate battle emblem since 1956, language to guarantee the preservation of the Stone Mountain sculpture was included as a bargaining chip.
The law states that “the memorial to the heroes of the Confederate States of America graven upon the face of Stone Mountain shall never be altered, removed, concealed, or obscured in any fashion.”
Ryan Gravel, an Atlanta-based urban designer, noted the law doesn’t mandate maintenance. He suggested allowing nature to take its course, letting vegetation grow over the sculpture from its nooks and crannies.
“I think we’re in a moment where pushing the limits of that law is possible,” Gravel said. “And certainly the scale of the challenge at Stone Mountain warrants that.”
Other ideas — such as adding a bell tower atop the mountain in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — have failed to take hold. And Democratic proposals to strip the protective language from Georgia law have fallen flat with the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Asked whether Stone Mountain still deserves special protection, GOP Gov. Brian Kemp didn’t give a direct answer when speaking to reporters June 26.
“As I’ve said many times, we can’t hide from our history,” Kemp said, while citing the new hate crimes law he signed the same day as a significant step in fighting racial injustice.
Stone Mountain wasn’t a battle site and had little historical significance to the Civil War. But 50 years after the war ended, the exposed surface of the mountain’s northern face sparked an idea among the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
“It looked like a giant billboard,” said Stan Deaton, senior historian for the Georgia Historical Society.
The group hired sculptor Gutzon Borglum — who later would carve Mount Rushmore — to design a massive Confederate monument in 1915.
That same year, the movie “The Birth of a Nation” glorified the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan and Stone Mountain played a key role in its resurgence, marking its comeback with a cross burning atop the mountain on Thanksgiving night.
Budget problems plagued the Stone Mountain project and work on the sculpture languished until the state bought the mountain and surrounding land in 1958 for a public park. Finishing the monument gained renewed urgency as the civil rights movement brought unwanted change to defiant Southern states.
“It became the centerpiece of the park,” Deaton said. “There was never any doubt that the state’s intention of finishing this was of a piece with massive resistance.”
An estimated 10,000 people attended the monument’s dedication in 1970. Another two years passed before its official completion.
Five decades later, the park at Stone Mountain markets itself as a family theme park rather than a shrine to the “Lost Cause” mythology that romanticizes the Confederacy as chivalrous defenders of states’ rights. Its website highlights miniature golf and a dinosaur-themed attraction while downplaying the Confederate carving, Confederate flags and brick terraces dedicated to each Confederate state.
Paula and Michael Smith of Monticello, Georgia, visited Stone Mountain on Monday so their 10-year-old grandson could see the monument for the first time.
“The mountain itself is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and the carving is an engineering marvel,” said Paula Smith, a 70-year-old white woman who dismissed talk of removing or altering the carving as an attempt to “steal American history.”
Jarvis Jones climbs the steep hiking trail on the back side of Stone Mountain several times a week. The 29-year-old Black man said he tries to avoid seeing the carving.
“I definitely understand everyone wants their history to be represented,” Jones said. “But when it comes to the oppression of other people, I think it needs to change.”
Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. Associated Press writers Ben Nadler and Jeff Amy in Atlanta contributed to this story.
NFL to discuss union’s desire to cancel preseason, AP source says
The NFL plans to consider the NFL Players Association’s recommendation to cancel the preseason though it prefers to cut the schedule in half, a person familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press on Friday night.
The league decided Wednesday to cut its preseason from four games to two and push back the start of exhibition play so teams have more time to train because the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of offseason practices, a person with knowledge of the decision told the AP.
But the union’s board of player representatives voted Thursday to ask the league to cancel the entire preseason schedule, according to two people who were part of that conversation.
According to the collective bargaining agreement, the NFL can impose up to four preseason games per team this season and up to three when the regular season goes to 17 games in 2021. The teams that play in the annual Hall of Fame game may play an extra game. That game between the Cowboys and Steelers scheduled for Aug. 6 already was canceled.
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The four people spoke on condition of anonymity because the league and the union haven’t reached an agreement.
The pandemic forced teams to conduct their entire offseason programs via videoconference. So, teams will be gathering together for the first time when training camps open this month.
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What does it take to make a gallon on milk? Two Weld County dairy farmers explain the ins and outs of the dairy industry
Stores with dairy cases filled with gallons of milk, pints of cream, rows of cheese and shelves of butter make it easy to take for granted the convenience of grabbing what you need and going on your way.
However, for dairy farmers, that gallon of milk or stick of butter took a lot of time, work and money before hitting stores’ shelves.
“Milk doesn’t just come from cows, it comes from people putting in the grind,” said David Walpole, co-owner of Walpole Dairy, north of Eaton. “You’ve got to have the passion and dedication day in and day out. It has its rewards and it has its tough times.”
A family affair
The Walpole Dairy has been around 40 years, Walpole said. The dairy has a few hundred dairy cows in its herd.
“My dad started over on 5th Street, across from the church,” Walpole said. “He milked there and then he bought this place.”
Walpole’s kids– five daughters and one son — as well as his brothers, nieces, nephews and mother, Bonnie, still work on the farm. His father, Kent Walpole, takes care of all of the cows’ veterinary needs.
While some of Walpole’s kids aren’t sure if they want to continue the tradition of dairy farming, they definitely want to work in an animal-focused industry, Walpole said.
Cows waiting to be milked look over farm workers in the milking parlor at the Long Meadow Dairy Farm outside of Greeley June 27, 2020. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
Eric Blaser, manager of Long Meadow Farm, LLC in Greeley, is a fourth-generation dairy farmer. While Blaser doesn’t own Long Meadow Farm, the dairy is a family-owned farm. The dairy has around 5,100 cows and calves currently housed at the farm.
“To me it’s not really like a job. It doesn’t feel like a job because it’s what I’m passionate about and enjoy,” Blaser said. “It’s a lot of fun, it doesn’t come without its challenges, but it’s something I’ve been involved with my entire life.”
Growing up on a dairy farm has benefits that other environments don’t normally offer youngsters and teens, Blaser said.
“You get exposed to a lot of things early on, and it teaches you a lot of things early on,” Blaser said. “You learn about responsibility and how to interact with animals. It’s a skill you can perfect over time.”
A cow sniffs at a Tribune photographer as more cows gather around the edge of the enclosure at the Long Meadow Dairy Farm outside of Greeley June 27, 2020. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
The pregnancy process
Dairy cows are bred for their ability to produce milk. In the U.S., there are seven different types of dairy cow breeds — Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Ayrshire, Milking Shorthorn and Red and White Holstein.
Holstein cows, with their iconic white and black patterns, are the most common of milk cow breeds. The cows produce more milk than any other dairy cow breeds.
Both Blaser and Walpole raise and use Holstein cows at their dairy farms.
Holstein cows’ spots are like fingerprints — no two cows have the same pattern.
A curious calf checks out a Tribune photographer at the Long Meadow Dairy Farm outside of Greeley June 27, 2020. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
In order for cows to produce milk, they must be pregnant. Cows will continue to lactate for about 10 months after birthing a calf, during which time she is inseminated and becomes pregnant again.
“Usually an animal gets to be around 14 months old, and we will inseminate them and breed them,” Walpole explained. “They have to reach a certain size to have a calf. We usually do a 13-month rotation so they will have a calf every 13 months.”
Like humans, a cow is typically pregnant for nine months, Walpole said. Once the calf is born it is moved to a separate pen where it is bottle-fed and cared for until it is old enough to be moved to a group area with other cows its age.
Calves can start with bottle-feeding of high-quality colostrum and begin eating solid food like grain and hay at around two-days old.
“If you take care of them really well in the first 60-days, your cows are going to be healthier and live a lot longer,” Blaser said. “We have a really expansive vaccination protocol that protects them against respiratory disease and any viral diarrheas.”
Male calves are sold to ranches, farms and feedlots to be raised and processed for the public food supply.
Cows’ genetics can be tailored to a variety of needs through the use of semen consultants.
“They have this huge book, and you can go through it,” Walpole said. “They do DNA tests and take samples from cows. They know the traits of the animal two years before she starts lactating.
“You can buy semen from different bulls to accommodate what you need in your herd of cows. The trend is to produce smaller cows to make them more feed-efficient.”
Pregnant cows are usually moved to the maternity section of the farm when they are around two-months out from birthing, Blaser said. This process, called “drying-off,” allows the cows to rest and reserve energy for the birthing process.
Cows are inseminated again after around two months after giving birth, Blaser said. The dairy’s goal is to have each cow birth a calf once a year.
“It’s kind of a continual schedule that we attempt to keep them on as best as possible,” Blaser said.
Caring for cows is a 24/7 job
There’s more to owning a dairy farm than just throwing down some hay and making sure the cows have clean water. It’s a year-round, 24-hour per day job that needs to be done no matter the weather or if it’s a holiday.
“The cows don’t take a day off, and that’s the challenge in it. But, what we try to do here is focus on how to develop our employees, how to develop our management and how to create leadership when we are not here,” Blaser said. “We focus on those things everyday just so that we can allow ourselves vacation and family time.
“You have to create a balance between work and family life, otherwise you’re not going to last.
Farm manager Erik Blaser holds up a handful of feed at the Long Meadow Dairy Farm outside of Greeley June 27, 2020. According to Blaser, one of the most important aspects of feed for dairy cows is the consistency of the mixture. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
Blaser’s and Walpole’s days start off early in the morning with checking on the cows and any new calves that were born overnight. From there, the list of duties that need to be done is endless.
Ordering more food; scraping the barns; moving cows around to different pens; seeing which cows are ready to breed and which cows are ready to birth; checking if cows are feeling sick and which ones need medication; and scheduling the farrier to come in check the girls’ feet are just a portion of the things that need to be done on the farm.
“We try to keep the corrals as comfortable and clean as possible,” Walpole said. “The corrals get scraped twice a day and clean hay gets laid down. We make sure their beds are soft and they are comfortable.”
A cow’s diet can affect her health as well as the quality of milk she produces, so Blaser and Walpole are always on top of what food the cows are eating and how much they are getting each day.
Part of caring for cows is making sure they are milked regularly and cared for with compassion and kindness.
Cows eat their feed at the Walpole Dairy Farm in unincorporated Weld County June 6, 2020. Collars on their neck monitor the cows’ health and help the Walpole family and their employees take care of them. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
“We focus on how to handle the cows to make sure they aren’t being roughed,” Blaser said. “We try to have our employees not whistle or anything like that. There’s no room for hitting or abusing cows. We won’t stand for that.”
Employees on Blaser’s farm sign a contract with a list of expectations of animal handling and an agreement that if they see someone mistreating an animal, they will alert management immediately. Abusing an animal is grounds for immediate termination.
“These girls are what provide us a living, and we need to take care of them as best as possible,” Blaser said. “They deserve respect, and that’s what we try to do everyday.”
In addition to taking care of the cows, maintenance on equipment and machinery needs to be done, as well as general maintenance of fences, pens and such.
“We do as much of the servicing ourselves as we can,” Walpole said. “Equipment costs a lot of money and we are running kind of older stuff. A new tractor like the one we have would cost darn near $120 grand.”
The rise of technology in the dairy industry
Gone are the days when farmers got up early to hand-milk their herds. As farms have grown to supporting cows numbering in the hundreds and thousands, technology has also evolved.
Automatic milking machines have taken the place of the stool and milk bucket.
Farm manager Erik Blaser discusses the advantages of having an internet-connected storage tank monitoring system at the Long Meadow Dairy Farm outside of Greeley June 27, 2020. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
Two to three times per day, cows are taken to the milking parlor, where they file into stalls. As each cow enters the milking parlor, an ear chip or collar gets scanned, relaying a variety of information back to Walpole and Blaser, such as the identification of the cow, how much milk the cow produced, how many times that day the cow has been milked and more.
Employees then clean cows’ udders with sanitizing solution and brushes in preparation to be milked.
Once ready, employees then attach a milk controller to each of the cows’ teats and the milking process begins.
Depending on the cow, the milking process can take anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes.
A farm worker sprays off a cow’s udder to ensure it is clean before milking at the Walpole Dairy Farm in unincorporated Weld County June 6, 2020. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
Once finished, the milking controllers are removed, the cows’ teats are sprayed with iodine to prevent infections, and the cows mosey back to the barn to eat, drink and rest until the next milking session.
“I think back to my grandparents when they hand-milked their cows and I feel lazy,” Blaser said, laughing. “The technology that we have now makes everything so efficient.”
Automatic milkers record the amount of milk collected from each cow during each milking as well as a total of milk collected throughout the day.
While Blaser’s cows have ear chips, Walpole uses collars to keep track of his herd.
The collars act as a type of “Fitbit” for his cows, tracking their health, breeding cycle, temperature, activity and sleep levels, identifying animals under heat or cold stress, and more.
“We know if they are sick before they know they are sick. We use technology to help us take care of our animals,” Walpole explained. “
Computer programs have been designed to allow farmers to track cows’ genetics and family lines as well.
A large temperature-controlled tank holds milk from cows before it is hauled away by trucks from Dairy Farmers of America at the Long Meadow Dairy Farm outside of Greeley June 27, 2020. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
Technology is also used to maintain cooling temperatures and track the filling of milk tanks.
Blaser uses a program that tracks the temperature and quantity of his milk tanks.
Information on Blaser’s tanks can be accessed by the milk transporting company to determine when they need to come out and collect the product. This access to information helps alleviate unnecessary trips or full tanks putting a halt on the collection of milk.
“If DFA ever has a shutdown or something, they can look at the data from my tanks and say, ‘OK, Long Meadow has four more hours of milking,’ and they can call me and let me know about the delay,” Blaser said. “That lets us make a decision to what we need to do on our end. They don’t want us to not milk, and we don’t want to be forced not to milk — it’s a bad situation for them and us. So these tools help us mitigate any issues.”
Testing, testing and more testing
Milk that is harvested from cows passes through a filtering system before making its way into the milk tanks to wait for the milk trucks.
Before a milk truck even begins pumping milk from a dairy farm’s tank, operators check the temperature and test it for any antibiotics and white blood cell counts.
Milk that tests positive for antibiotics is immediately dumped.
Farm workers keep the milking parlor clean to reduce the risk of infection for cows and contamination in milk at the Long Meadow Dairy Farm outside of Greeley June 27, 2020. (Alex McIntyre/, Greeley Tribune)
There are also regulations as to how long milk can stay in tanks on a farm, Walpole said.
The milk is also tested again when it gets to the manufacturing plants.
Milk is one of the safest food products on the market because of all the testing that takes place, both Walpole and Blaser said.
Co-ops and dairy organizations keep the milk flowing
Dairy Farmers of America, or DFA, assists farmers with a variety of needs such as helping with financing, insurance options and management tools. DFA also represents and advocates for dairy farmers at state and national government levels.
The organization is composed of family farmers from across the U.S. that are divided into seven regions — Central, Mideast, Mountain, Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and Western areas — with Colorado, Idaho and Utah making up the Mountain area with 251 member farms broken into 11 districts.
A truck driver from Dairy Farmers of America picking up milk walks back to operate the scale before leaving the Long Meadow Dairy Farm outside of Greeley June 27, 2020. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
Both Blaser and Walpole sell their milk to the DFA, which then transports it to one of its manufacturing plants like Leprino or a partner plant.
Dairy MAX is a nonprofit dairy council that represents more than 900 dairy farms across eight states, including Colorado.
According to its website, the organization works to build “understanding around dairy as a healthy, beneficial, everyday food choice; connecting the role of the dairy farmer to American tables; and driving an increase in dairy consumption.”
The organization also assists farmers with marketing, industry image and relations, education on issues, crisis management and business development.
As the cost for care rises, dairy farmers’ pay remains the same
The consumer price for a gallon of milk, a block of cheese or a tub of butter fluctuate, but the price farmers are paid for milk hasn’t changed in years, Blaser said.
Dairy farmers are paid per 100 pounds of milk, Walpole explained. Right now, dairy farmers are getting around $17 per 100 pounds of milk. With a gallon of milk weighing 8 pounds, farmers have to milk a lot of cows to cover overhead and turn a profit.
“We don’t get near the prices in the store,” Walpole explained. “I don’t think the amount dairy farmers get paid has changed in years.”
David Walpole and his son give a Tribune reporter and photographer a tour at the Walpole Dairy Farm in unincorporated Weld County June 6, 2020. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
With schools and restaurants closed down to help control the spread of the virus, a large portion of the dairy market was affected.
“Restaurants and schools use a lot of dairy, and when they closed down, the dairy industry took a big hit,” Blaser said.
Dairy farmers also have to pay to have their milk transported from the farm to the manufacturing plant, Blaser said.
“You don’t get into this business for the money,” Blaser said. “You dairy farm because it’s something you love and believe in. I wouldn’t change growing up on a dairy farm for anything.”
Cows line both side of the barn at the Long Meadow Dairy Farm outside of Greeley June 27, 2020. (Alex McIntyre, Greeley Tribune)
Dairy farm facts
Milk is a key source of potassium, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Riboflavin and Vitamin B-12
A serving of milk fulfills 25% of your daily phosphorus needs and is a healthy source of Niacin
There is no difference in quality, safety or nutrition between organic and regular milk, only the way milk is produced on the farm
Hormones are not added to milk. Milk naturally contains certain hormones.
Flavored milk like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry provide the same nine essential nutrients as white milk.
Milk from a cow that has been treated with antibiotics is disposed of and never reaches the food supply.
Vanilla is the post popular ice cream flavor in the U.S.
Brown cows do not make chocolate milk
All 50 states have dairy farms
Cheddar is the most popular natural cheese in the U.S.
June is National Dairy Month
Cows don’t really sleep much and when they do, they lay down, making “cow tipping” a myth.
Sources: Dairy Farmers of America, Drink-Milk.com
Body of child found in Eagle River Friday
EAGLE — A child’s body was found Friday afternoon in the Eagle River between Eagle and Dotsero.
KUSA reports a spokesperson for Eagle County said it was found by someone who was on some sort of watercraft on the river.
The body has not been identified. The spokesperson said it’s not clear how long that will take.
Rockies crush Giants at Coors Field in MLB The Show 20
With the start of the Major League Baseball season postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, we here at The Denver Post took a look at how the Rockies would fare in MLB The Show 20 on PlayStation 4. We will have a story for every game that had been scheduled until real-life baseball returns. Here’s a look at the virtual Rockies’ preseason preview. Entering Friday’s game, the Rockies were 58-29.
The Rockies peppered the Giants with 18 hits in a 10-1 win Saturday at Coors Field.
San Francisco starter Kevin Gausman, who starred at Grandview High School, allowed three runs and six hits in five innings of work in the loss. His Colorado counterpart, Antonio Senzatela, gave up just one run on five hits in six innings.
Colorado (59-29) has a seven-game lead over the Dodgers (53-37) for first place in the National League West. The Rockies and the Giants (35-54) play again on Sunday. Kyle Freeland (7-4) takes the mound against Giants’ Tyler Beede (1-3). The live stream will take place at 3 p.m. MT Sunday.
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SFG — 000-100-000 — 1-7-0
COL — 011-102-23X — 10-18-0
San Francisco — Slater 4-0-0-0, Belt 4-0-0-0, Flores 4-1-1-0, Yastrzemski 4-0-2-0, Pence 4-0-0-0, Longoria 3-0-1-0, Crawford 3-0-2-1, Garcia 4-0-1-0, Gausman 1-0-0-0, Anderson 0-0-0-0, Sandoval 1-0-0-0, Suarez 0-0-0-0, Gustave 0-0-0-0, Garcia 0-0-0-0. Totals — 32-1-7-1.
Colorado — Dahl 4-1-1-2, Blackmon 3-0-0-0, Arenado 5-0-1-1, Story 5-1-2-2, Murphy 5-1-4-0, McMahon 4-2-2-1, Desmond 3-4-3-2, Wolters 4-1-3-0, Senzatela 2-0-0-0, J. Diaz 0-0-0-0, E. Diaz 1-0-1-0, Davis 0-0-0-0, Tapia 1-0-1-2, Almonte 0-0-0-0. Totals — 37-10-18-10.
2B — Longoria; McMahon, Tapia. HR — Story, Desmond. SB — Murphy. WP — Senzatela (7-3). LP — Gausman (8-7).
Mississippi could drop Jim Crow-era statewide voting process
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi just ditched its Confederate-themed state flag. Later this year, the state’s voters will decide whether to dump a statewide election process that dates to the Jim Crow era.
Facing pressure from a lawsuit and the possibility of action from a federal judge, legislators are putting a state constitutional amendment on the ballot in November.
The amendment would simplify elections for governor and other statewide officials by erasing an Electoral College-type provision from Mississippi’s 1890 constitution — one that was written to dilute Black voting power and maintain white control of state politics.
Mississippi is the only state with such a system for state elections.
If voters adopt the amendment, a statewide candidate receiving a majority of the popular vote would win. If nobody receives that in a race with at least three candidates, the top two would go to a runoff.
Legislators’ final action to put the amendment on the ballot happened Monday, a day after they took historic votes to retire a 126-year-old state flag that was the last in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem. Amid widespread protests over racial injustice, Mississippi faced growing pressure to drop a symbol that’s widely condemned as racist.
A commission will design a new Mississippi flag without the rebel symbol and with the phrase, “In God We Trust.” Voters will be asked to accept or reject the new flag Nov. 3, the same day the amendment and the presidential race are on the ballot.
Mississippi Center for Justice is one of the groups representing plaintiffs in a 2019 lawsuit against the state. The center’s president, Vangela M. Wade, said documents show the complex electoral process was created to uphold white supremacy.
“As you go back through these documents, there’s language that clearly shows intent to circumvent the rights of African Americans,” Wade said Thursday.
About 38% of Mississippi’s residents are Black. The lawsuit — backed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — argues that Mississippi’s election system violates the principle of one-person, one-vote.
The Mississippi Constitution currently requires a statewide candidate to win a majority of the popular vote and a majority of electoral vote. One electoral vote is awarded to the candidate receiving the most support in each of the 122 state House districts.
If no candidate wins both the popular vote and the electoral vote, the race is decided by the state House. But representatives are not obligated to vote as their districts did, so arm-twisting could decide the outcome.
The process was written when white politicians across the South were enacting laws to erase Black political power gained during Reconstruction. The electoral vote was promoted as a way for the white ruling class have the final say in who holds office.
Plaintiffs argued that Mississippi’s history of racially polarized voting means that candidates preferred by Black voters must receive a higher share of the statewide vote to win a majority of House districts.
U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III wrote last November that he has “grave concern” about the constitutionality the electoral vote provision. Jordan wrote that the plaintiffs’ argument about violation of one person, one vote is “arguably … their strongest claim.”
Jordan put the lawsuit on hold in December, saying he would give legislators a chance to remedy the system by putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. The amendment will need approval from a simple majority of voters.
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The last time a governor’s race was thrown to the Mississippi House was 20 years ago. Nobody received the required majorities in a four-person race for governor in 1999. The top two candidates were white, and each won 61 electoral votes. In January 2000, House members chose Democrat Ronnie Musgrove, who led the popular vote, over Republican Mike Parker. At the time, the House was controlled by Democrats. It is now controlled by Republicans.
Some Democrats thought the electoral provision might come into play in a tight 2019 governor’s election, but Republican Tate Reeves easily defeated Democrat Jim Hood and two lesser-known candidates.
Kickin’ It with Kiz: Broncos’ signing of Melvin Gordon was very good news — for the Raiders.
As a Raiders fan living in Broncos Country, I was very happy to see Denver sign running back Melvin Gordon. Take money away from other team needs and limit Phillip Lindsay’s carries? I’m all for it. That’s great GM’ing as far at the Raiders are concerned.
– Art, sticking needle in
Kiz: Although not very smart, the staff here at Kickin’ It Headquarters is loyal to a fault. So put us down as big believers in Lindsay, with serious doubts the money for Gordon was well spent. Let the Phil vs. Mel debate begin. There can be only one No. 1 back. Pick a side, Broncos Country.
I’d suggest Hogs if the NFL team in Washington changes its nickname. But won’t the “woke” crowd demand the word “Washington” be dropped, as well?
– John, Colorado native
Kiz: To appease folks who like the way things used to be, perhaps Washington could call its hapless team the Generals. Has that name been used?
One might ask why Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was not more careful about the coronavirus?
– Robert, safety first
Kiz: Jokic is 25 years young, and this pandemic has developed a reputation as a scourge only old folks need to worry about. Whether your idea of fun is hanging out at Daytona Beach or in Belgrade, Serbia, the coronavirus is often viewed as somebody else’s problem until it hits home. In that regard, is Joker really much different than the governor of Florida?
Reading your column on the Colorado Peaches and 89-year-old Maggie McCloskey’s sweet swing moved me almost to tears. Good stuff. Not only your writing, but being able to see what really matters about sports. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, my wife had been unable to do her daily 800-meter swim in the local pool until recently. And I miss playing goalie in my pick-up hockey league. So thanks for letting me know “the athlete in everyone” continues to be alive and well, especially where many people wouldn’t expect it.
– Rosco, Whitewater
Kiz: When I grow up, I want to be just like McCloskey.
Kiz, I have enjoyed your columns in The Post for many years. Back when I lived in Texas, I read Blackie Sherrod. Although I had zero interest in baseball or basketball, I read all Blackie’s columns because he was such an excellent writer. Same with you. I appreciate your brutal honesty about the powers that be, especially John Elway and various Broncos quarterbacks that have come and gone. The vitriol your columns elicit just demonstrates what a great writer you are. If you stunk, no one would attack you.
– Dinah, Aurora
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Kiz: Every brickbat a fan throws at me smells as sweet as a rose.
And today’s parting shot offers reassurance we will indeed see everyone from the CU Buffs to the Alabama Crimson Tide on the field in September, despite my fear SEC Country regards wearing a mask as a sign of weakness until it’s too late to save this college football season.
Don’t worry about the coronavirus, Kiz. It’s just going to disappear … er, I hope.
– Paul, Philadelphia
Video shows fatal shooting of unarmed man by Carlsbad ranger
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Recently released body camera video shows the final moments before an unarmed Colorado man was shot and killed by a park ranger at Carlsbad Caverns.
KOB-TV in Albuquerque reported Tuesday that video from the March shooting has 26 seconds missing, leaving local prosecutors unsure whether to rule the use of force was justified.
Authorities say National Park Ranger Robert Mitchell stopped Charles “Gage” Lorentz for erratic driving March 21. The video shows Lorentz outside of his vehicle and initially complying. But then when ordered to turn around, Lorentz starts dancing to music from another car.
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Mitchell commands Lorentz to take his hands out of his pockets and — without warning — deployed his Taser. The video then resumes 26 second later showing the ranger on top of Lorentz. Mitchell then fires his service weapon twice.
Lorentz had been traveling from Texas back to his home in Colorado. Authorities say he had stopped in Carlsbad to meet a friend.
Shannon Kennedy, an attorney representing Lorentz’s family, said they intend to sue the U.S. Interior Department and the National Park Service.
The National Park Service, through an email, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Mexico is investigating.
Colorado epidemiologist has faith in NBA’s Orlando bubble, but should the league be returning at all?
The NBA has about three months to hold its breath.
To hope that the bubble doesn’t burst.
To pray that the 2019-’20 season concludes in a safe manner, without any hospitalizations and devoid of any uncontrolled outbreaks.
The league has implemented exhaustive testing procedures for its Disney campus in Orlando, and yet NBA Commissioner Adam Silver concedes it’s “not impermeable.”
He even allowed that his concern is increasing, owing to the 10,000 cases Florida just saw in one day.
“We’re talking about degrees of risk in all these things, and I think sometimes that gets lost,” said Dr. Lisa Miller, a professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health. “It’s not like there’s a black-and-white line between you’re either over 65 and you’re at risk or you’re under 65 and you’re not.”
Miller reviewed the NBA’s health-and-safety protocols and was impressed with its testing procedures. She was confident in the league’s ability to catch a positive test early before it steamrolled into something more devastating.
“It would be difficult to have a significant outbreak because they’re going to be testing so frequently and so widely that I think they’ll identify anyone who’s infected fairly quickly,” she said. “… But I still think you’re depending on people following those guidelines, especially the pre-quarantine requirements.”
The Nuggets, at least publicly, have been among the most impacted franchises in terms of positive coronavirus cases. Superstar Nikola Jokic tested positive in Serbia, as did at least three members of the team’s traveling party since last weekend. Head coach Michael Malone, whose antibody test revealed he had had the virus months after he was feeling symptoms, suggested maybe the only benefit was that members of his team were testing positive before traveling to Orlando.
On Thursday, the NBA and NBPA announced that of the 351 players tested since June 23, when mandatory testing began, 25 players (7%) have tested positive. That number was significantly lower for staffers, where only 10 were positive out of 884 tested from June 23-29.
“If you’re in the bubble and you know you have seven percent of people who are PCR positive, that seems concerning,” Miller said. “If it’s pre-bubble, and you’ve allowed the appropriate amount of time for isolation of those people then I think that’s different.”
The NBA has, deliberately, not stated what it would take to call off the restart.
“This level of testing and oversight is just so many levels more than any other community that I find it hard to imagine that there will be uncontrolled transmission because they’ll be able to identify it so early,” Miller said, while acknowledging some level of risk associated with just playing basketball. “The concerning thing would be if there was identified person-to-person transmission within the bubble, and they demonstrate that all these safeguards are really not preventing that then I think they’ll have to rethink it.”
On a recent Zoom call with reporters, Malone turned introspective and revealed that at different times he didn’t know whether the NBA should be considering a return.
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“Do I think it’s worth it? I’ll be honest, in the three months since the season was suspended, depending on the day, the week, the month, I probably would have a different answer,” he said.
Ultimately, assuming a safe environment and the conversation around racial justice doesn’t subside, Malone believes returning is the right decision.
Miller understood the need for something “uplifting” and recognized the value in bringing back basketball. But she also had reservations about resource allocation. The NBA has partnered with Quest Diagnostics to aid its testing and has said its plan wouldn’t hurt the availability of testing for first responders.
“The magnitude of this issue and the needs are so great that it’s a bit of a struggle to think about for instance all these testing resources going to this relatively small group of people,” she said. “I hope that that isn’t impacting the availability of testing elsewhere. And I don’t know that it is. It’s just worth thinking about.”
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Coronavirus stay-at-home orders in Colorado
On March 18, San Miguel County on Colorado’s Western Slope became the first in the state to impose a shelter-in-place order for its residents, a move intended to counter the novel coronavirus’s spread. It comes as one in four Americans now fall under strict movement orders — though Gov. Jared Polis has not mandated such a “stay at home” measure statewide.
On March 23, Denver followed suit — and other municipalities soon adopted similar orders.
Authorities in the city of Boulder and Piktin County, plus the Southern Ute Tribe in the southwest corner of the state, have all adopted stay-at-home orders.
These orders include closing non-essential businesses, and mandating that people stay home unless they are buying groceries, going to the doctor or providing other critical services for family members. Group gatherings have been banned, while outdoor exercise (in non-group settings) will still be allowed.
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For more information, go to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Join our Facebook group for the latest updates on coronavirus in Colorado.
T.J. Ward’s home is for sale. And the former Broncos safety’s “swag and style” are everywhere.
T.J. Ward is selling his custom home in Lone Tree.
The 6,745-square-foot interior was designed by the former Broncos safety and is listed at $2.24 million.
Ward was a veteran of the Broncos secondary for three seasons and a driving force in the team’s Super Bowl 50 run. But what led him to construct a home from scratch came from an aspect of his life outside the white lines.
“I was inspired by my sense of fashion,” Ward said. “It was my first home and I wanted my home decor to represent me and my personality as much as possible. I have a lot of space so I could create different aspects of my life into each room.”
The interior features vaulted ceilings, a gourmet kitchen and automation throughout that controls the lights and audio/video.
Two places, in particular, hit home most for Ward.
“I was most adamant about my bedroom and the finished basement,” he said. “I spend most of my time in those places.”
Ward’s master suite pairs with a luxury bathroom housing a steam shower. The space also has a custom sitting room and wet bar. There are five bedrooms, three full bathrooms and a half bath in all. The basement has a bar, and media and exercise rooms, and walks out to an enclosed fireplace courtyard that’s surrounded by a large backyard.
“He wanted to make (the house) unique and modern and picking things that other people didn’t pick,” said Gwenivere Snyder, a luxury property specialist with Christie’s International Real Estate and Ward’s realtor. Snyder worked with Ward from the home’s inception to its completion in early 2017.
Snyder said Ward’s home at 9697 Vista Hill Drive is on one of the biggest lots in a gated community that also houses Ward’s former Broncos teammate, defensive lineman Derek Wolfe.
“This location was perfect for me because I could get to Dove Valley, where we practice, quickly and also be near lots of retail,” Ward said.
Although Ward was the only resident of the home, he certainly had space for some familiar faces.
“Family first is everything to T.J.,” Ward’s mother, LaNeita Ward, said. “Throughout the process of building this home he had his family in mind. Every family member has their own bedroom. T.J.’s style and swag is present everywhere in the home. He brought me in at every phase of the process, from selecting the tile in the kitchen to choosing custom pieces of furniture. I truly loved and appreciate sharing his experience with him and was pleasantly surprised that we had the same taste and style.”
This Colorado log home has a 750-foot zipline and its own stocked fishing lake
Imagine zipping down a 750-foot zipline over your private lake, then taking in the beautiful Colorado views from the comfort of the expansive front porch of your log home.
It doesn’t get much more “Colorado” than this.
This idyllic Rocky Mountain dream could become a reality for a homebuyer with $2.5 million to plop down on 568 Woodside Drive in Pine, a picturesque 4-bedroom, 5-bath log home situated on seven acres of land in the mountains of Colorado.
The 5,703-square-foot home, which was built in 2003 by Roger and Lorna Nichols, is constructed of kiln-dried, hand-hued Colorado-grown logs and 400 tons of moss rock. Roger Nichols, who is an excavating contractor by trade, said the logs are 16 inches to 24 inches in diameter and were all brought in from Steamboat Springs.
“A log home is the most expensive home you can build per square foot,” Roger Nichols told The Denver Post. He said many people dream of building a log home but often they will scale back and use other materials when they find out how expensive they can be to construct.
“It’s just special,” Nichols said of the home. “It’s just homey. Everybody who sees it wants it.”
When the Nichols family first set out to build the log home at 568 Woodside Drive, the lot looked a lot different.
“I thought, if I could put a lake in here, I’d like it,” Nichols said. So he went about getting permits and excavating the land to put in a lake that covers about an acre of the property, is about 4 feet to 9 feet deep and is now stocked with trout.
At the edge of the lake is a log archway from which hangs an old chairlift from the Breckenridge ski area. Nichols said the archway originally was erected for his daughter’s wedding and was later converted to have the chairlift bench added.
Inside the home, buyers will find 10-foot-tall ceilings throughout, with some areas where the ceilings soar to 28 feet.
“One of the things that’s great about this property is it can come fully furnished if the buyer would like,” said Jackie Garcia, the listing agent with RE/MAX Luxury Homes.
The home’s furnishings currently include several taxidermied animals that give it the feel of a Colorado lodge — and Nichols said they don’t really fit with their new home in the Florida Keys.
The kitchen has a large island, Brazilian marble countertops, double refrigerators, double freezers, a restaurant-quality cooktop and custom stainless steel hood.
“My wife’s like Martha Stewart,” Nichols said.
The home also has a workshop with plenty of space for parking ATVs or a recreational vehicle. And there’s more for the kids, too, with a playground and a playhouse.
“The playhouse has electricity so the kids can play their video games in it,” Nichols said.
The home is located about 35 minutes from Denver and 45 minutes to Breckenridge, depending on traffic, and has access to nearby trails and amazing views, especially from the front porch and the balconies, Nichols said.
“We just loved it up there,” Nichols said. “You see deer and elk in your yard every day. It’s just nice.”
This is Denver’s most expensive home listing. And it has a gym, yoga studio and koi pond.
If you’re a fitness junkie with a cool $14 million to spend on a home in Denver, it’s hard to beat 460 Saint Paul Street.
The 5-bed, 8-bath mansion in Denver’s Cherry Creek neighborhood has a two-floor gym with a weight room, fitness machines, a yoga studio, massage room and a juice bar lounge.
“The location is super strong,” listing agent Gina Lorenzen said. “It’s steps away from the best boutiques in Denver.”
Priced at $13,995,000, the home is currently the most expensive listing on the market inside Denver city limits.
When you first walk in, you are sure to be impressed.
“It’s just the elegance of the design, the openness, and all the natural sunlight,” Lorenzen said. She added that the home, which was constructed by Paul Kobey in 2000, was built with the highest caliber materials. The gym was added six years later.
The 11,832-square-foot home sits on a 13,300-square-foot lot and was designed by architect Michael Knorr.
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“He’s a very well-known, well-respected architect who specializes in a contemporary style,” Lorenzen said, adding that the design of this home is very unique.
The home has mountain views from the master bedroom and also a private upper deck, Lorenzen said. The home also features a koi pond.
The high-end Poggenpohl kitchen was recently upgraded and has limestone countertops and a glass backsplash.
It also has plenty of parking. In addition to a five-car garage, the home also have five additional parking spots deeded to it.
Buyers can “name their price” for this multimillion-dollar Telluride home
There’s a home in Telluride that would make Flo from Progressive proud.
Potential buyers can name their price on this 5,400-square-foot house at 220 Cortina Drive, which hit the market Aug. 12. But don’t expect to toss a “Price is Right” bid — the window for offers is $3.75 to $4.195 million.
“220 Cortina Drive was originally listed for $4.995 million and wasn’t receiving any offers, so we decided to take a different approach,” said Mike Russo, founder and developer of SparkOffer, a transaction platform that aims at a more transparent way to connect sellers with buyers. “Based on my 20 years of industry experience in the global luxury residential sector, I know that every property has a low end of the range which will motivate buyers on an accelerated time frame.
“I’ve also noticed that when buyers see a set asking price that isn’t within their budget, they won’t even bother to make an offer. From that understanding, we developed our methodology of listing homes with a range vs. one price, to spark offers. Our goal is to increase sales activity within a 45-60 day time frame for 220 Cortina Drive.”
The property’s clean lines and symmetrical design mirror mid-20th-century architecture constructed of steel, stone and glass. Inside features include a custom-built staircase with a 16-foot chandelier. All three levels house a bar and kitchenette and the master bedroom, fittingly, has a master balcony.
Sean Hakes, managing member of Monroe Cardinal, an advisory and asset management platform, highlighted his favorite aspects of the interior: “We built two living rooms on top of each other, both with tremendous entertainment systems. You could have an extended family in both rooms and simultaneously have different experiences. Additionally, the tongue-and-groove cedar ceiling on the main floor and in the master suite lends great context and warmth to the home.”
A hallmark is the house’s “green energy” ventless fireplaces found in multiple living spaces.
“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.
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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.
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One of the main reasons parts of the Denver area are particularly susceptible to lightning is because of the so-called Denver Convergence Vorticity Zone (DCVZ). The DCVZ is a term frequently used by local meteorologists to explain a natural area of spin that often takes place in and around Denver due to eastern Colorado’s topography. That can lead to increased stormy weather for parts of the Front Range.
Provided by National Weather ServiceThe animated image shows lightning strikes by time of day in Colorado from 1996-2016.
The DCVZ creates a mini area of low pressure in the Denver area as air is sandwiched between the Divide to the south, the Rockies to the west and the Cheyenne Ridge to the north. In essence, the immediate Denver area becomes a funnel for converging winds, leading to some of Denver’s hyper-local and crazy weather — that often can be difficult to predict.
On the contrary, that same rising motion along the Divide can create a sinking motion further north, and you can probably note a lack of lightning from Longmont up to around Fort Collins and Greeley. This area also is known for having lower snow amounts during winter storms.
“(The DCVZ) enhances the activity over the southern Front Range Mountains/Pikes Peak/Palmer Divide region,” the study hypothesizes. “While decreasing lightning activity over the northern Front Range Mountains/Cheyenne Ridge region and over the area of the plains just east of the Front Range Mountains, generally north of Denver.”
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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.
In addition to the newly renovated main lodge, the property features six “Nippe” guest cabins (smaller and without heating) as well as an executive cabin (three bedrooms), a four-bedroom hunting house, four staff housing cabins (one to three bedrooms) and a sportsmen’s lodge with a half bath.
There’s also a maintenance barn, fitness center, horse barn and ranch office, and water treatment plant.
The property is remote. But don’t worry, it’s no more than a half-hour helicopter ride to Vail, Aspen and Steamboat. (No, there is no helipad on site, but when you’ve got 11,600 acres to play with, who needs one?)
Find out more about Seven Lakes Ranch at sevenlakesranch.com.
This iconic Cherry Hills Village home listed at $7.75 million after major renovations
An exquisite estate in Cherry Hills Village that finished as a finalist for the 2019 Home of the Year in Colorado Homes & Lifestyles Magazine was recently listed for sale at $7.75 million.
The immaculate single-family house was originally designed in 1952 for actress and singer Ethel Merman, according to local fable. The grounds span just over two acres wrapped by formal gardens and punctuated with a vast circle drive.
The Taylors have owned the five-bedroom, nine-bathroom home at 3900 S. Colorado Blvd. for over three years. Jim Taylor, his wife and two young children relocated from the Highlands area and have been enjoying the home for the past year and a half after completing a comprehensive remodel.
“We were living downtown and wanted more space for the kids,” Taylor said.
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In all, Taylor’s renovations expanded the property from 7,000 square feet to 15,000 – that includes a 160-square-foot wine cellar in the basement – while gutting the house to the studs in the process. Taylor converted the existing tennis court into a pickleball court for his children and added a 1,200-square-foot master suite as well as a 1,200-square-foot cabana and an 800-square-foot greenhouse.
The Taylors now have their sights set on another iconic Cherry Hills house, a mid-century modern this time.
Why would someone tear down a $2.1 million home in Boulder? To build this $7.5 million house, of course.
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“I’m a process person so I don’t mind starting a new project,” Taylor said. “Modernizing this legacy home was the opportunity of a lifetime. Selling it is a little bittersweet.”
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Why would someone tear down a $2.1 million home in Boulder? To build this $7.5 million house, of course.
A luxurious estate in Boulder’s Knollwood neighborhood is on the market for $7.5 million.
The home sits on a 0.45-acre lot at 2135 Knollwood Drive and faces south so that its floor-to-ceiling windows can flood the main rooms with natural sunlight and take in Boulder Canyon and Flatirons, which are visible from nearly every window of the 5,075-square-foot home.
“It’s on the western edge of Boulder right above downtown,” said Tim Goodacre, owner of Goodacre & Company. “It’s private and quiet in the Knollwood subdivision with walking trails right above it.”
Annette Martin, a Boulder architect, designed this home that replaced one which was bought for $2.1 million in 2015.
The single-family property houses three bedrooms and five bathrooms and was built last year. Inside features oak floors and its hallmark centers around the living room.
“The living room expands to the deck, so it’s a true indoor-outdoor living space,” Goodacre said.
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Marqeta, global card-issuing platform, picks metro Denver as second headquarters
Marqeta, a global modern card issuing platform, has chosen the Denver area out of 17 other sites to open its second headquarters.
Marqeta, based in Oakland, Calif., plans to employ more than 500 people in Colorado over the next eight years with a goal of hiring 100 employees within the first 12 months of opening its new office, the company and state officials announced Tuesday.
“Colorado is an emerging leader in financial technology because of our high quality of life and talented workforce, and I’m very excited to have a great company like Marqeta make its second home in Colorado. Our state is a hub for innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement.
Innovative companies are seeking lower-cost markets, said Michelle Hadwiger, director of Global Business Development at the Colorado Office of Economic Development and Trade.
“Marqeta signals to the market that Colorado is a prime location for companies seeking a diverse industry base,” Hadwiger said.
Started in 2010, Marqeta provides payment card programs to such clients as Uber, Square, Instacart and DoorDash. It employs more than 430 people and at the end of 2019 had issued more than 140 million cards through its platform. It operates in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.
“We are thrilled to be expanding Marqeta into metropolitan Denver, exporting the unique culture and energy from our Oakland home into a new city and tapping into a deep talent pool in Colorado,” said Jason Gardner, founder and CEO of Marqeta.
The state Economic Development Commission approved a Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit of $5.5 million June 18 to help land Marqeta’s second headquarters. State officials said the average annual wage of the new jobs is $134,472 and the positions will be in management, finance and business development, software engineering, marketing, legal and operations.
Denver tech companies score federal contracts to help further product development
Two Denver tech businesses have landed federal funding to help them develop new products and expand their reach at a time when many businesses are in survival mode.
Greetly, which provides systems for companies to check in and track visitors, received $50,000 through the Small Business Innovation Research program to work with the Air Force. The company is looking at providing more efficient and secure check-ins for contractors and deliveries at Air Force sites, said Dave Milliken,the company’s founder.
The 5-year-old company launched a new touch-free version of its visitor-management system Thursday. Milliken said interest has been high as workplaces look to welcome back employees and the public with the coronavirus pandemic still in force.
An even younger company, Cipher Skin, has won a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Defense through the SBIR program. The company will match the grant and work with the Air Force to explore how the military can use the Cipher Skin technology and develop it for civilian use.
Phil Bogdanovich, the company’s CEO and co-founder, said the Air Force is interested in technology that can measure the oxygen saturation in the blood while a person is moving, through their clothes and remotely.
“The real benefit of a relationship with the government is the ability to test equipment in an austere environment, under cases of stress that an average individual doesn’t experience,” Bogdanovich, who was in special operations with the military in Baghdad.
The company’s technology transmits real-time data about the human body and physical objects. A mesh is embedded in sleeves with sensors that simultaneously registers several data points and can be applied to elbows, knees or inserted in caps or helmets.
Early this year, a California energy company invested in Cipher Skin because it wants to use the technology to remotely and continuously monitor pipelines.
Bogdanovich started the company in 2017 with Shaka Bahadu, )the chief operating officer. They drew from Bogdanovich’s experiences when he was recovering from injuries. His therapy with a personal trainer showed him that immediate feedback was vital to healing.
Milliken’s experiences working in the marketing world inspired him to develop the Greetly system, whose clients include several federal, state and local agencies as well as businesses, including Randstad, DHL and Office Evolution.
“I spent so many days going in and out of professional shops, small ad agencies. I felt like those organizations spent a lot of time trying to impress me as a client with really modern offices, great decor,” Milliken said. “But I saw a gap in reception. There would either be no receptionist or a junior account person maybe waiting for me. I just felt that was a gap in showcasing themselves as modern and being efficient.”
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Milliken, armed with technological know-how and background, worked with previous partners and vendors on filling that gap. He said he got great feedback on the interactive kiosk he proposed. People can sign in, alert the people they’re visiting, have ID photos taken, ID badges printed and sign any forms they need to sign.
Greetly’s new touchless technology arrives as the coronavirus pandemic has made people wary of exposure to the infection in public places. The new system allows people to use their phone to scan a QR code or text a code that enables the same check-in process. In the COVID-19 era, forms that visitors have to fill out might include questions about whether they have any symptoms of the illness.
“We were wondering, like everyone else, what the future of the organization looked like and what was that going to mean for employees and workplaces,” Milliken said.
So, the Greetly staff “did several deep dives as to how the product might evolve due to COVID,” he added.
“We came up with this concept of visitors checking themselves in in a touchless manner using their phone rather than a shared kiosk,” Milliken said.
Entrepreneur picks Juneteenth, “day of celebration, freedom,” to launch new faith-based tech venture
This year, Shamika Goddard is celebrating Juneteenth as well as her grandmother’s 71st birthday by officially starting her new business.
Goddard’s Tech Chaplaincy Institute melds strong forces in her life: the desire to serve others and her passion and affinity for technology. She said the institute, which opens for business Friday, has a goal of helping faith-based and other organizations that focus on social justice and progressive issues.
“We center the human being in the technological crisis and help usher them through that moment with dignity and grace,” Goddard said. “Our goal is really to help replace fear and anxiety around technology with empowerment.”
How does one become a tech chaplain?
“This was something I made up in my first year in seminary,” said Goddard, who has a master’s degree in divinity.
In a similar way, much of Goddard’s tech skills was self-taught. She attended math and engineering camps as a kid and became her family’s go-to tech adviser after people realized she liked computers. She attended online coding boot camps.
At Stanford University, Goddard took math classes and thought she would become an engineer, but ended up on a different path. After a stint with AmeriCorps, she wanted to keep serving others and enrolled in Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
It was there that two paths converged for Goddard: the impulse to minister to others and her talent for technology. The seminary’s information technology department hired her to do what she had been doing informally, offer tech counseling to students and faculty members.
Goddard, who is pursuing an information sciences doctorate at the University of Colorado-Boulder, has channeled her interests into the Tech Chaplaincy Institute. Patrick Rwamasirabo and Javon Bracy are her co-chaplains.
Andy Cross, The Denver PostShamika Goddard, owner of the tech business, Tech Chaplaincy Institute is pictured at her home in Boulder on June 18, 2020.
Goddard, who is black, deliberately chose Juneteenth to formally launch her business. The celebration marks June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, and spread the word that slavery was ended, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
“Juneteenth is a day of celebration, of freedom and emancipation,” Goddard said.
It’s also her grandmother’s birthday. “She’s going to be turning 71 and she was born on Juneteenth, one of triplets.”
Explaining why she sees herself as a tech chaplain, Goddard said she got the idea after talking to one of the pastors at the seminary about helping people with their computer problems.
“And he said you know it sounds like what you’re doing is chaplaincy. You’re helping people find dignity in a crisis and that’s what a chaplain does,” Goddard said. “And as soon as he said those words, it clicked for me. Being a tech chaplain meant someone who had expertise in technology, who could help people but also approach that moment of help and support like a chaplain would approach someone in a hospital or a prison or even a corporation.”
People have often told Goddard about feeling silly “or even stupid” when they’ve sought help from other people. “Or people just fix the problem and don’t explain it,” she said.
Being able to navigate the internet is important in today’s world, Goddard said.
“Tech is so pervasive that sometimes it’s like it’s invisible until it’s broken,” she said. “For most of us, our work comes through working with some kind of device.”
When people don’t have a good handle on technology or feel anxious about it, work becomes challenging and even painful, Goddard said.
And many faith-based organizations don’t have an IT department or staff and don’t have updated websites or a social media presence, she said.
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“As tech chaplains, our goal is to work with those faith organizations who are lifting up humanity and embracing everyone and working to help as many people as possible,” Goddard said.
The institute has set a goal of creating or updating 100 websites for faith-based communities by 2025.
Another goal, Goddard said, is to provide an example for other black women.
“There was a time when people like me would try to start businesses and they were not received well,” she said. “I’m wanting to start this organization to serve people, to help people through their technology. And to be a bright spot, be a beacon and an inspiration.”
How messaging technology is helping fuel global protests
When a friend shared a Facebook post with Michelle Burris inviting her to protest in downtown Washington, D.C., last Saturday, she knew she had to go. So she bought a Black Lives Matter mask from a street vendor before marching the streets of the district with a “No Justice, No Peace” sign.
After that march ended, she pulled up details on Instagram for a car caravan demonstration just a few blocks away. “It was extremely powerful, not only Facebook but Instagram,” Burris said. “It was very easy to mobilize.”
Protesters are using a variety of technology tools to organize rallies, record police violence and communicate during the marches sweeping the U.S. and other countries following the death of George Floyd. Some of that involves secure messaging services like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram, which can encrypt messages to thwart spies. Those apps, along with others for listening to police scanners and recording video, are enjoying an uptick in popularity.
But experts say convenience and reach are key. “Reaching as many people as possible is the number one criterion for which platform someone is going to use,” said Steve Jones, a University of Illinois at Chicago media researcher who studies communication technology.
That means Twitter, Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram remain the easiest ways for people to organize and document the mass protests. Facebook’s tools remain popular despite a barrage of criticism over the platform’s inaction after President Donald Trump posted a message that suggested protesters in Minneapolis could be shot.
“I don’t want to support or be a part of something that is possibly supporting Trump and his racist, hate filed spew,” said Sarah Wildman, who’s been to three protests in Atlanta and has used Instagram exclusively to locate and to document the demonstrations she attended. But she said she feels that, at this point, “the benefits of Instagram outweigh not using it.”
Half a century ago during the civil rights protests, Jones said, it was almost impossible to know what was going on during a protest. “There was a lot of rumor, a lot of hearsay,” he said. “Now you can reach everyone almost instantaneously.”
Wildman said she uses Instagram’s “live” function to find out what is happening during protests, especially when protesters in the back might not know what’s happening at the front. At one, she said, people started yelling that police were using tear gas — but it wasn’t true, which she learned by checking Instagram.
Organizers are also using Telegram, an app that allows private messages to be sent to thousands of people at once, creating channels for specific cities to give updates on protest times and locations, as well as updates on where police are making arrests or staging. One New York City Telegram channel for the protests grew from just under 300 subscribers on Monday to nearly 2,500 by Friday.
During a peaceful rally in Providence, Rhode Island, on Friday, Anjel Newmann, 32, said that while she’s mostly using Instagram and Facebook to organize, younger people are using Snapchat. The main problem: It’s hard to tell which online flyers are legitimate. “That’s one of the things we haven’t figured out yet,” she said. “There was a flyer going around saying this was canceled today.”
The simplicity of shooting and sharing video has also made possible recordings of violence that can spread to millions within moments. A smartphone video of Floyd’s death helped spark the broad outrage that led to the protests.
Apps like Signal are seeing an uptick in downloads according to Apptopia, which tracks such data. Signal was downloaded 37,000 times over the weekend in the U.S., it said, more than at any other point since it launched in 2014. Other private messaging apps, such as Telegram and Wickr, have not seen a similar uptick.
One new user is Toby Anderson, 30, who also attended the Providence rally on Friday. Anderson, who is biracial, said he downloaded the encrypted Signal app several days earlier at the request of his mom. “She’s a black woman in America,” he said, worried about his safety and eager to grasp any additional measure of security she could.
Meanwhile, apps like Police Scanner and 5-0 Police Scanner, which allow anyone to listen to live police dispatch chatter — and may be illegal in some states — racked up 213,000 downloads over the weekend, Apptopia said. That is 125% more than the weekend before and a record for the category. Citizen, which sends real-time alerts and lets users post live video of protests and crime scenes, was downloaded 49,000 times.
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On the down side, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism said in a blog post this week that it has found white nationalists using Telegram to try to wreak havoc during the protests.
“Some, especially those in the accelerationist camp, are celebrating the prospect of increased violence, which they hope will lead to a long-promised ‘race war,’” the ADL said Monday. “They are extremely active online, urging other white supremacists to take full advantage of the moment.”
In one Telegram channel, the ADL found, participants suggested murdering protesters, then spreading rumors to blame the deaths on police snipers.
Others want to further exacerbate racial tensions. “Good time to stroke race relations” and “post black live’s don’t matter stickers,” a user posted — with misspellings — to the Reformthestates Telegram channel, according to the ADL.
Google sued for at least $5 billion over claimed “Incognito mode” grab of “potentially embarrassing” browsing data
A trio of Google users has filed a lawsuit seeking billions of dollars in damages for millions of people allegedly tricked into giving up their web-use data by promises of “private browsing” in “Incognito mode.”
“Through its pervasive data tracking business, Google knows who your friends are, what your hobbies are, what you like to eat, what movies you watch, where and when you like to shop, what your favorite vacation destinations are, what your favorite color is, and even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing things you browse on the internet — regardless of whether you follow Google’s advice to keep your activities ‘private,’” said the suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose. “Google has made itself an unaccountable trove of information so detailed and expansive that George Orwell could never have dreamed it.”
The suit centers on language the Mountain View digital advertising giant uses to explain incognito mode, with the plaintiffs highlighting a statement that the mode allows users “to browse the web privately” and Google pointing to advisories to users that explain “private” browsing doesn’t mean data isn’t collected.
Google said it strongly disputes the claims in the lawsuit and would defend itself vigorously.
“Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device,” the company said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity during your session.”
The plaintiffs in the suit, Chasom Brown and Maria Nguyen of Los Angeles and William Byatt of Florida, are seeking class action status and damages of at least $5,000 each for “millions” of people affected by the alleged data grab since June 2016. Those demands, if granted by the court, would force Google to pay at least $5 billion in damages.
“To prevent information from being shared with Google, Google recommends that its consumers need only launch a browser such as Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, or Firefox in ‘private browsing mode,’” the suit filed Tuesday claimed.
However, regardless of whether a user selected private browsing, “Google continues to track, collect, and identify their browsing data in real time, in contravention of federal and state laws on wiretapping and in violation of consumers’ rights to privacy,” the suit alleged. “Unbeknown to most consumers, Google constantly tracks what they request and read, click by click and page by page, in real time.
“Google’s various tracking tools, including Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager, are actually designed to automatically track users when they visit webpages — no matter what settings a user chooses.”
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How messaging technology is helping fuel global protests
Incognito mode’s landing page on Chrome says, “Now you can browse privately, and other people who use this device won’t see your activity. However, downloads and bookmarks will be saved.” The page says Chrome won’t save a user’s browsing history, cookies, site data and information entered in forms, but warns that user activity might still be visible to websites visited, employers, schools and internet service providers. A link on the page goes to a support page clarifying that the reference to employers and schools concerns use of work or school computers.
Incognito mode won’t “prevent you from telling a website who you are,” the support page says. “If you sign in to any website in Incognito mode, that site will know that you’re the one browsing and can keep track of your activities from that moment on.”
The suit claims Google intercepts browsing data when private modes are used on other browsers including Safari. Google’s statement referred to “Incognito mode in Chrome,” and a spokesman, asked about the claim of data interception from other browsers, said, “Chrome works the same way the other browsers work.”
Colorado company creates tool to help stores manage lines online
At a time when metro area health officials are mandating caps on how many people can be in one business at one time, waiting in line is becoming a larger part of daily life in Colorado. Queues are forming outside grocery stores, restaurants with bundles of to-go orders waiting to be picked up — even at hair salons and shops.
With that in mind, an Erie-based tech firm has developed JoinOurLine.com, an online tool that allows companies to digitally manage how many people are inside their stores while allowing customers to hold a spot in line without leaving their cars.
The tagline for JoinOurLine.com is “social distancing made safer.” The platform isn’t being used at any business today, but the company behind it, Latitude Digital, has high hopes for how useful it can be amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“One of the things that is important about this is that it helps both sides of the experience,” Tony Gambee, Latitude’s founder and CEO, said. “On the one hand, it’s extremely convenient for the customer. And it also helps frontline workers.”
JoinOurLine is a software-as-a-service platform maintained and supported by Latitude and its staff of about a dozen people. All a customer has to do is bring up the website or click on a link to it from the website of the business they are visiting and they can join the digital line, getting a number like one would at a deli counter. No downloading an app, and no putting in any personal information, Gambee emphasized.
For a business, meanwhile, it operates as a digital counter, giving the person monitoring the crowd inside a readout of the store’s capacity and how many people are waiting in line. From the business-facing side of the site, the person monitoring capacity can give people waiting to come inside the green light when others leave, either individually or in a group.
“Just the fact that the physical line is not there protects the person working the door and people coming in and out because there is not that mass of bodies there,” Gambee said.
Gambee points to a recent McKinsey survey of retail executives that found that, in addition to cleaning stores more, ensuring safe distancing between customers is a top priority when it comes to promoting customer and employee safety during the pandemic.
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May 9, 2020
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Latitude Digital has been in talks with a chain of small-box sporting goods stores about using JoinOurLine, and Gambee hopes that the Krogers and Costcos of the world might give him a call. In the meantime, the company is offering its software free of charge to nonprofit organizations including food banks and independent small businesses. As long as the business has only one location (or even a few in the right circumstances) Gambee is encouraging business owners to reach out to him about using JoinOurLine.com.
“We don’t have the skills to create an antibody test but we can write some software,” Gambee said of his firm’s contribution to the fight against COVID-19. “If we can give this back to a few places or even hundreds of small businesses like us, I can’t think of anything more exciting.”
Gambee encouraged business owners to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 248-787-6898.
Desperate for Wi-Fi, many have nowhere to go but a parking lot
By Cecilia Kang, The New York Times
As the sun set on a recent evening in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, author Beth Revis drove her green SUV into the parking lot of a closed elementary school and connected to the building’s free Wi-Fi. Then, for the third time since the coronavirus pandemic had taken hold, she taught a two-hour writing class from her driver’s seat.
Revis, 38, held a flashlight to her face with one hand. In the other, she held a selfie stick with her smartphone attached, looking at the device to speak to her students.
Getting the internet in her area, about 70 miles west of Charlotte, had always been a headache, Revis said. “But during the pandemic,” she said, “it has turned from a mild inconvenience to a near impossibility.”
For Revis and many others across the country, parking lots have been a digital lifeline during the pandemic. Instead of spending hours in restaurants, libraries and cafes, people without fast internet access at home are sitting in lots near schools, libraries and stores that have kept their signals on.
In Ohio, Jon Husted, the lieutenant governor, has directed people to connect to hundreds of nonprofits, libraries and schools across the state. School leaders in Philadelphia and Sacramento, California, have encouraged families to use free hot spots in library and school parking lots, and more than 100 people logged on to the Wi-Fi of one of Omaha, Nebraska’s libraries over three days recently.
Near Topeka, Kansas, a steady flow of cars now arrive outside the public library, while other cars cluster near connected bookmobiles parked in lots near a women’s correctional facility and a mobile home park.
“I hope that there is a lesson learned from this,” said Gina Millsap, the chief executive of the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. “Broadband is like water and electricity now, and yet it’s still being treated like a luxury.”
The dependence on Wi-Fi in parking lots shows the lengths to which people are going to combat the country’s digital divide, one of the most stubborn problems in technology — and one the coronavirus has exacerbated.
One in four Americans has no high-speed internet access at home, according to the Pew Research Center, either because it’s too expensive or because the home is in a rural area with limited service. Some use their smartphone data plans for high-speed internet access, but those plans are often insufficient to handle work from home and distance learning. That makes it harder for many people to work from home during the health crisis and for their children to keep up with their schoolwork away from the classroom.
In recent weeks, numerous federal lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, have pushed for legislation to make service more affordable, especially for families with school-age children. But such legislative pushes have happened in the past without ever crossing the finish line.
“What is disappointing is that we have done nothing for years to address the problem,” said Mignon Clyburn, a former commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission who has long pressed for more funding for rural broadband and subsidies for low-income families. “Now we are in a crisis, and we are triaging.”
On federal internet service maps, Louis Derry appears to have broadband access, because few people in his area of upstate New York have high speeds, defined by the government as 25 megabits per second. But at his home, 7 miles from Cornell University, only a much slower speed is available from his provider — 5 megabits per second. It is not enough to support the needs of his family.
The family takes turns driving down to Brookton’s Market, a small country store with a gravel driveway, to park and connect to its free internet. Derry’s daughter, Ellie, a freshman at Colorado College, goes almost daily for her Zoom class sessions and to download big files that she can take home and work on offline. Other cars are almost always parked nearby, drivers typing away at their laptops and using the free Wi-Fi. They often keep one empty spot between them, to follow social distancing guidelines.
In more urban areas, the problems are due to affordability. Mary Anne Mendoza, 26, a doctoral student at the University of California, Irvine, shares the least expensive internet service available with her mother and sister in their two-bedroom apartment near the college. When her mother, an MBA candidate, is on a videoconference call, and her sister is online for an undergraduate class, the Wi-Fi at home slows to a crawl.
As a result, Mendoza, who also teaches political science at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, has been driving to the parking lot of a nearby Starbucks to get online.
“In my car, I get the privacy I need, and the quality of service is better,” she said.
Anna Haskins, a professor of sociology at Cornell, said she feared that relying on parking lots was inadequate for her students, who are taking classes remotely. One student, in St. Louis, dropped all electronic communication for two weeks until he was able to find a public Wi-Fi hot spot. Another, in rural Oklahoma, is driving several miles a day to the nearest parking lot Wi-Fi spot to do her quizzes and homework from her car.
“To leave the house and take a quiz in a car shows how hard this transition is for some,” Haskins said. “It’s hard to evaluate people fairly. Is their grade on a quiz low because they didn’t study or because they didn’t have the best situation to take the quiz?”
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In Philadelphia, the high cost of broadband has left an estimated 17% of residents without internet at home, according to the Movement Alliance Project, a consumer advocacy group. The city’s school district was set to begin formal online classes Monday, and educators fear that many lower-income students will be left behind. The district has passed out 80,000 Chromebooks to its 130,000 students, but is concerned that residents won’t have broadband access to participate in classes and make the most of their new devices.
The school district has pointed to free and reduced-priced services offered by providers like Comcast, but some parents have complained of long waits to get the service. Officials have also pointed families to free parking lot hot spots around the city as a last resort for students, said Monica Lewis, a spokeswoman for the school district.
The idea of using a parking lot for studies has rubbed many residents the wrong way.
“In a city like Philadelphia, you can’t expect people to socially distance in a parking lot,” said Devren Washington, a senior policy director at the Movement Alliance Project. “You can’t expect some students to be sitting in a parking lot doing their schoolwork while others are in a much better position at home.”
Here come COVID-19 tracing apps — and privacy trade-offs
As governments around the world consider how to monitor new coronavirus outbreaks while reopening their societies, many are starting to bet on smartphone apps to help stanch the pandemic.
But their decisions on which technologies to use — and how far those allow authorities to peer into private lives — are highlighting some uncomfortable trade-offs between protecting privacy and public health.
“There are conflicting interests,” said Tina White, a Stanford University researcher who first introduced a privacy-protecting approach in February. “Governments and public health (agencies) want to be able to track people” to minimize the spread of COVID-19, but people are less likely to download a voluntary app if it is intrusive, she said.
Containing infectious disease outbreaks boils down to a simple mantra: test, trace and isolate. Today, that means identifying people who test positive for the novel coronavirus, tracking down others they might have infected, and preventing further spread by quarantining everyone who might be contagious.
That second step requires an army of health care workers to question coronavirus carriers about recent contacts so those people can be tested and potentially isolated.
Smartphone apps could speed up that process by collecting data about your movements and alerting you if you’ve spent time near a confirmed coronavirus carrier. The more detailed that data, the more it could help regional governments identify and contain emerging disease hot spots. But data collected by governments can also be abused by governments — or their private-sector partners.
Some countries and local governments are issuing voluntary government-designed apps that make information directly available to public health authorities.
In Australia, more than 3 million people have downloaded such an app touted by the prime minister, who compared it to the ease of applying sunscreen and said more app downloads would bring about a “more liberated economy and society.” Utah was the first U.S. state to embrace a similar approach, one developed by a social media startup previously focused on helping young people hang out with nearby friends.
Both these apps record a digital trail of the strangers an individual encountered. Utah’s goes even further, using a device’s location to help track which restaurants or stores a user has visited.
The app is “a tool to help jog the memory of the person who is positive so we can more readily identify where they’ve been, who they’ve been in contact with, if they choose to allow that,” said Angela Dunn, Utah’s state epidemiologist.
A competing approach under development by tech giants Apple and Google limits the information collected and anonymizes what it pulls in so that such personalized tracking isn’t possible.
Apple and Google have pushed for public health agencies to adopt their privacy-oriented model, offering an app-building interface they say will work smoothly on billions of phones when the software rolls out sometime in May. Germany and a growing number of European countries have aligned with that approach, while others, such as France and the U.K., have argued for more government access to app data.
Most coronavirus-tracking apps rely on Bluetooth, a decades-old, short-range wireless technology, to locate other phones nearby that are running the same app.
The Bluetooth apps keep a temporary record of the signals they encounter. If one person using the app is later confirmed to have COVID-19, public health authorities can use that stored data to identify and notify other people who may have been exposed.
Apple and Google say that apps built to their specifications will work across most iPhones and Android devices, eliminating compatibility problems. They have also forbidden governments to make their apps compulsory and are building in privacy protections to keep stored data out of government and corporate hands and ease concerns about surveillance.
For instance, these apps rely on encrypted “peer to peer” signals sent from phone to phone; these aren’t stored in government databases and are designed to conceal individual identities and connections. Public-health officials aren’t even in the loop; these apps would notify users directly of their possible exposure and urge them to get tested.
In the U.S., developers are pitching their apps directly to state and local governments. In Utah, the social media company Twenty sold state officials on an approach combining Bluetooth with satellite-based GPS signals. That would let trained health workers help connect the dots and discover previously hidden clusters of infection.
“It’s unlikely that automated alerts are going to be enough,” said Jared Allgood, Twenty’s chief strategy officer and a Utah resident, citing estimates that the peer-to-peer models would need most people participating to be effective.
North and South Dakota are pursuing a similar model after a local startup repurposed its existing Bison Tracker app, originally designed to connect fans of North Dakota State University’s athletic teams.
Regardless of the approach, none of these apps will be effective at breaking chains of viral infections unless countries such as the U.S. can ramp up coronavirus testing and hire more health workers to do manual outreach.
Another big limitation: many people, particularly in vulnerable populations, don’t carry smartphones.
In Singapore, for instance, a large migrant worker population lives in cramped dorms, makes about $15 a day, and powers the city’s previously booming construction industry — but smartphone usage in this group is low. When the Southeast Asian city-state launched its tracing app in March, total confirmed COVID-19 cases were well under 1,000. Then in early April, a rash of new infections in worker dormitories pushed that number to more than 18,000, triggering new lockdown policies.
“If we can find a way to automate some of the detective work with technology, I think that would be a significant help,” said Nadia Abuelezam, a disease researcher at Boston College. “It won’t be all we need.”