For some bobsled hopefuls, the Olympics may be a click away

USA Bobsled and Skeleton typically has staff spending part of the spring and summer months on the road recruiting, looking for new talent and luring them with the potential of representing their country in the Olympics.
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How the Pandemic Remade Friendship
My friend Adam Nemett and I became close friends in college, when I basically lived in the house he shared with my then-boyfriend. We saw each other constantly—at home, on campus, over dinner. We got drunk together; took the train to New York City to go clubbing together; emailed during our summer vacations. The last night of college, the three of us wrapped our arms around one another, feeling the weight of this intimacy’s end. This proximity, we knew, would be lost to time and adulthood.But almost 20 years later, after children (for him) and a divorce (for me), Adam and I have rediscovered a new intimacy. The pandemic has deepened our bond, even though we have abandoned proximity entirely. We keep an almost weekly FaceTime appointment to watch TV together. During those video calls, I see his house and his wife, and he sees my apartment—or, more recently, my friend’s apartment, where I’m crashing because of the divorce. It’s the most time we’ve spent in conversation since we lived together all those years ago. In fact, we’ve never been closer.[Read: How friendships become closer]Friendships involve emotional intimacy, but people have assumed that this intimacy is best mediated in space. How many times do we conclude that serious conversations need to happen in person? And yet, exercising a friendship at a distance has been possible for decades—via letters, telephone, text, Facebook, Instagram DMs, and so on. Despite the internet’s ubiquity, those options can still seem like simulacra of friendship, rather than the real thing. Now COVID-19 has made carrying out friendship’s ideal practices hard: house parties; apartment dinners; trips to the park; visits to museums, restaurants, and bars. But the pandemic has also released us from the expectation that closeness requires physical proximity. Instead, it offers an opportunity to decouple good relationships from physical intimacy and to open up other ways for friendships to flourish. Those lessons could improve our relationships now, and later.Regatta Day (2014): hand embroidery on found photographThe pandemic has narrowed my social circle, but it has also made me more aware of the dynamics of social life. The places I go are fewer, which has limited the people I can see. I used to visit a friend who lived around the corner every day. Now, less often. When I temporarily forget about the pandemic and invite an old friend over, she texts back, “Girl, we have to be outside,” so we meet in the backyard of a coffee shop. Four months ago, I went on a socially distanced, fully masked outdoor park date with my boyfriend (whom I have seen nearly every day since). I miss the ease of just seeing whomever I want, whenever I want—though I’ve also realized how infrequently I used to see my closest friends. The joy of a restaurant dinner has been overwhelmed by the logistics of safety, the concern of exposure. My friendships still form the center of my emotions, but not my physical life. Now they occupy the spatial margins.This isn’t the first time the way people relate to one another in space has changed. During the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, many families lived in one room. Collective life and shared intimacies preoccupied culture. Then, things shifted, as the historian John Archer has argued. He sees the early-18th-century adoption of the single-family house as the consequence of Enlightenment values, synthesizing John Locke’s emphasis on selfhood, individuality, and private property. People embraced the “freedom to determine their own selfhood,” Archer writes in Architecture and Suburbia, which “suggested that the material world around us should have a new primacy in defining self.” Individualism caused humans of the modern era to see the physical environment as existing to realize their whims and desires, rather than as a social commons.Aditya Ghosh, an architect and a writer, told me that what’s happening now—the emphasis on in-between spaces, restaurants taking up streets, finding ourselves in parks and medians, almost hiding our intimacies—is akin to the queering of physical space. “The queer community has always taken advantage of that liminality between planned cities to create a very temporary and performative kind of space,” Ghosh said—to make use of spaces in a social world that did not overtly support their intended behaviors and relationships. Now everyone has to do this, everywhere. He offered the transactional nature of cruising in the gay community as an example. The negotiated clarity of cruising reminds me of how many of us have learned, in the pandemic, to adopt a set of safety rules under an umbrella of shared social responsibility and comfort. We have transactional deals with one another, explicitly codified: who wears a mask, who’s been where, who’s been with whom. It’s like safer sex, except the sex is just breathing.Using the city this way changes its temporal dimension too. As Ghosh said, “the queering or appropriation of any kind of urban condition is extremely sensitive to time.” In the short term, that means trying not to linger. In the long term, it means an acceptance of the fact that we have no idea how long this state of affairs will last. We will only ever know how long the coronavirus pandemic lasted once it ends.The Garden Party (2014): hand embroidery on found photograph“What I feel with the lack of space is the lack of pleasure,” Amale Andraos told me when I asked her for her thoughts on friendship and the pandemic. She is the dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University and a principal at the design firm WORKac, along with her husband, Dan Wood. Andraos was a colleague of mine before the pandemic but has become a true friend since—a relationship we codified by having a phone call rather than a Zoom meeting: In an age of videoconferences, closeness can now be measured in how free you feel roaming about your own, private space while socializing via technology.As we spoke, she moved around the garden of her Rhode Island home; I paced my apartment. Sometimes I laid down and sometimes I stood up. I was noticing my environment while listening to her. It was so much more intimate than the times we’d sat across a table from each other to talk about architecture.[Read: The pandemic is changing work friendships]The isolation has been hard on Wood, the couple’s client work has been thrown into upheaval, and the demands upon Andraos as an institutional leader have been enormous. “I think this house will be equated with this time of trauma,” she said. She and Wood are redesigning the house completely, making it absolutely open. “We have depended very much on enclosed spaces in order to coexist, and for separate Zoom channels,” Wood told me. “A lot of what we’re doing in the new house is opening it up even more.” It’s a design decision that makes no sense for the needs of the pandemic, and is thus absolutely rooted in believing that this state is temporary: Designing an even-more-connected future habitat makes material their faith that one day the pandemic’s isolation will end, dinner parties will come back, and people will return to offices and restaurants.I find myself moving in the opposite direction: seeking greater isolation. Recently, I checked myself into a hotel near the World Trade Center so that I could finish a book manuscript. I spent most of the time alone, but not nearly most of it writing. Instead, I took walks to the 9/11 memorial to remind myself that architecture matters. I watched a 1996 Jennifer Aniston movie while texting with my friend Jackie, who was watching the same movie at the same time in Los Angeles. I felt closer to Jackie than usual because I was completely alone in this hotel room, and when I’m completely alone, I feel fully available to others in a way I don’t otherwise. And I felt close to my boyfriend, who came to visit. We walked around SoHo and NoLIta together, the first time either of us had spent time in Manhattan since before the pandemic, and I saw the animal drive for closeness play out everywhere, in the hunger I could feel for proximity.[Read: Friends are breaking up over social distancing]I’m surprised at how much less lonely I feel now than at any other point in my life. Maybe it’s because I know that everyone else is lonely too. Maybe it’s because I had more practice. Many years ago, I suddenly moved to the desert to get away from mold (or my marriage, depending on how I’m looking at it), and I learned how to be remote friends with everyone I knew. It prepared me for now; it allowed me to see that intimacy didn’t have to be mediated through physical space, or proximity. I adapted, quickly, to the idea that I might never see my friends in person ever again.The pandemic will end, eventually. Dan Wood will be able to hang out with his friends. Amale Andraos will be able to get off Zoom. I’ll be able to have a coffee with my friend inside. Everything ends, after all. And so might the new, unfamiliar intimacy that we have built, unless we cultivate it.In one scenario, Adam and I realize how much we like “seeing” each other this frequently, and we make plans to do so even though he has a family in Virginia and I have a partner and a dog in New York. But in another scenario, once the pressure of the pandemic fades and the hunger to connect dissipates, we revert to our once-every-few-years rhythm. I can see a future in which my boyfriend and I cease to marvel at what’s open when we walk around the city and instead regress into frustration at the wait for brunch or the nuisance of the tourists. Today, just getting an ice-cream cone successfully feels like magic. Will it always?The veneer is already cracking. Tonight, I walked to a restaurant to place a takeout order. A woman complained that her reservation wasn’t being honored, distraught that she’d been asked to wait for 10 minutes (outdoor dining is open in New York City). It felt so normal—and devastating. It made me want to preserve parts of this moment in amber, to remember that we still wanted to be close to one another, even though we couldn’t be. That we longed so profoundly for connection that we tolerated bad internet and a terrible season of Westworld, bending the city to make it meet up again. That even though we couldn’t touch each other, we still felt close. That there are thousands of ways to connect with each other, when we want to, whether we’re close and masked; far and virtual; proximate and counting on the wind.
What it’s like fighting for the right to vote in Florida as an ex-felon
Rosemary McCoy advocates for Amendment 4 at a Florida ACLU event on October 7, 2019, ahead of the state’s vote that November. | Bill Corbett A conversation with the two Black women at the center of one of America’s most important felony disenfranchisement cases. After Florida voted overwhelmingly to let 1.5 million formerly incarcerated people regain the right to vote, Rosemary McCoy and Sheila Singleton, two Black women who had completed their sentences and probation for felony convictions, cast their ballots in 2019for the first time in years. Just months later, they lost that newfound power: In May 2019, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature, backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, enacted Senate Bill 7066. It required that formerly incarcerated people pay any restitution, fines, or court fees before they could register to vote and have their rights restored. More than 85,000 released felons had already registered to vote. Now they faced a new roadblock. Backlash to the new ordinance was swift, with critics likening it to a modern-day Reconstruction-era poll tax. And in a state where election outcomes are often close, Floridians with prior felony convictions could be a key voting bloc. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a felony disenfranchisement suit on behalf of McCoy and Singleton, arguing that the law is particularly harmful to these women because of their race, gender, and economic status. According to the SPLC, “nearly a quarter of all Black women in Florida live below the poverty line, and the unemployment rate for Black women with a felony conviction is more than 43 percent.” After the bill was passed, McCoy learned that she owed about $7,500 in restitution; Singleton owed $12,000. Interest has been accruing. Earlier this month, a conservative majority federal appeals court ruled against the women, overturning a lower court’s decision that SB 7066 was unconstitutional. The requirement that formerly incarcerated people pay their fines and fees stands, and the US Supreme Court recently declined to take up the case. Over the past few years, McCoy and Singletonhave become two of the country’s biggest voting rights advocates and educators. They have picked up the torch from other Black women suffragists and activists like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells, and Fannie Lou Hamer. “We are more energized now,” McCoy told Vox after their latest loss. “We are going to go out there and change minds.” I talked to McCoy and Singleton about their mission to educate people about voting as they fight voter suppression. Our conversation has been edited for clarity. Fabiola Cineas An appellate court recently ruled that your voting rights shouldn’t be restored until you pay off all restitution, fees, and court costs. What’s your reaction to this latest roadblock? Rosemary McCoy For the hundreds of thousands of Floridians affected, the decision is a disaster. For me, that means we need to do a lot more work. Part of the work is to educate the public on the local and state level so we can elect better leaders and get better judges. And we also need to work on changing laws of oppressive leadership that deliberately disenfranchise a group of people. I’m going to continue to do the work. I’m energized. Sheila Singleton If I’m being honest, the system is broken. We don’t have the power we need to overtake those in power. We went out, we petitioned, we got our right to vote, and then those with money and power stepped in to take our right to vote away. They’re doing anything they possibly can do to prevent us from voting them out of office. Everybody should have a vote because everybody has a voice. If we don’t get out there and fight for what’s right, the people with wealth and power get to do whatever they want to do. Rosemary’s and my objective is to keep fighting, get the word out, and convince as many people as possible to join our cause. Fabiola Cineas Before Senate Bill 7066 was passed, what did Amendment 4, the measure that initially restored felon voting rights in Florida, mean to you? Rosemary McCoy It brought joy. Because when we say we are a democracy and we used the ballot initiative and people responded and most of the people — we were going out to get people to sign the petition — they didn’t even know that this was going on. They didn’t know, for instance, if someone had shoplifted something for $300 in Florida, that would be a felony charge. So someone could have been disenfranchised for 25 years because of $300! That’s how pitiful this is. So when Amendment 4 passed, I thought, “Oh, my God! A piece of liberation. A piece so that maybe we can feel whole again.” I thought maybe I could feel more positive and have a desire to move forward and look at America in a different way. I could see the power and the truth that our votes do count — until Senate Bill 7066 came along. Courtesy of Sheila Singleton Sheila Singleton poses after voting in March 2019 after having her voting rights restored. Sheila Singleton I took so many pictures because I hadn’t voted in seven years. My voice counts, so that’s how important Amendment 4 was to me. And I feel like whatever my crime was, it was 10 years ago and you’re telling me you’re gonna hold me down for the rest of my life? No! Our votes gotta pass to make a change. That was grimy the way they did the Senate bill — how are you going to take people’s rights back when it was on the ballot and passed? And then you go in and try to make changes? Rosemary McCoy Because it was a Republican majority (the bill passed 22-17 in the Senate and 67-42 in the House along party lines). That’s why SB 7066 happened. Why not give it back to the people? They let the people decide on Amendment 4, so let them decide on SB 7066. Sheila Singleton They didn’t even give the people a chance. They had no say in that. Fabiola Cineas The stipulations of Senate Bill 7066 have been compared to a poll tax — that you have to pay all fees and restitution in order to register to vote and cast a ballot. What’s your reaction to the idea that you are being disenfranchised in the same way Black people were barred from voting 150 years ago? Sheila Singleton That’s the thing. I went through my probation 10 years ago. Now you’re telling me I have to go back through the system again to try to pay this money? That should’ve been included in my probation. I didn’t know anything about my restitution. This is actually how I met Rosemary. We were at the office together when we were trying to figure out our papers and how much we owed. They didn’t tell us anything about restitution because the restitution was somewhere else. Some people get out of jail and they don’t know nothing about their restitution because they don’t follow up on this kind of stuff. They don’t let people know that they owe this money. And there’s recurring interest. I feel like it’s illegal the way it was done, so I’m not going to pay anything until we get through with this case. Rosemary McCoy Duval County, where we live, does not have a payment arrangement or plan for restitution. If you owe restitution, you must pay the full amount. And the other part of that is, according to the restitution statute, if a person is innocent, then how can you assess them to pay restitution? Restitution is supposed to have an end date. It’s not supposed to be forever. Fabiola Cineas What do you say to the people who don’t care, the people who, because of your records, don’t believe you should be able to vote again? Rosemary McCoy First of all, I pay taxes. Sheila pays taxes. That’s the number one thing. And we are still citizens of the United States of America. If they have a mindset like that, and especially if they’re calling themselves a Christian, they need to think about forgiveness. But we are more energized now. No matter what you do to us, we just multiply like Bébé’s Kids. All we are going to do is go out there and speak to someone. Fabiola Cineas Black women are recognized as some of the most loyal and dedicated voters and organizers in the country. Can you each talk about what it feels like to be a Black woman who is being restricted from fully stepping into her power,but also stepping into what seems to be a calling for so many Black women? Rosemary McCoy Black women have been very powerful in all movements. I’m talking about back during slavery. I’m talking about Harriet Tubman freeing her people. Black women have so much determination. And they know. The number of incarcerated women in this country has gone up by more than 700 percent in the past quarter-century. They are arresting a lot of women. Because we are powerful, and we are not going to stop. Southern Poverty Law Center Southern Poverty Law Center staff Nancy Abudu (left) and Caren Short (right) and McCoy plaintiffs Rosemary McCoy (center left) and Sheila Singleton (center right). Sheila Singleton As Black women, me and Rosemary are advocates. It doesn’t matter how they try to stop us. We are going to win anyway. This makes me want to fight even more. We share what we know with the people that don’t know. For example, when they give out the stimulus money, we tried to get people to see it wasn’t enough. How are you giving people $1,200, but you can give the millionaires all of the small-businesses money and don’t do nothing about it? They won’t give us money because they want us to continue to work for pennies. That’s how I look at it — they want us to get back to work. Fabiola Cineas And how does the voting restriction influence your day-to-day work and mission? Sheila Singleton Me and Rosemary do the same thing. We called people and made sure they voted during the primary. We remind them to vote early. We also work on getting people to complete the 2020 census. We make sure people go out and vote early or vote by mail. Rosemary McCoy But the jobs we have as advocates at New Florida Majorityare temporary positions. After the November election, we won’t have jobs. The Lord has taken care of us, our kids, our grandkids, so we know we will overcome and that we will be employed. We will be able to provide for our people and we will be able to change our community. We also started a nonprofit organization we named after Harriet Tubman, the Harriet Tubman Women’s Auxiliary. Through the organization, we are going out there and changing minds. We have been beat down for so long. Fabiola Cineas At this point in the fight to regain such a significant right, what defines each of you and brings you joy? Rosemary McCoy I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, so Florida is a culture shock. I came here through the military. We were stationed here. I had a home and raised my children. I learned the truth when I got arrested — that this is a state, as a whole, that is still oppressing Black and brown people. Having been born and raised in Philadelphia, I’m not afraid to speak up. But what I found here is it’s hard to get people to move in a certain direction. I consider myself complete — I was raised in a house with a mother and father who loved me. I enjoyed myself, running up and down the street, going to the swimming pool, playing Double Dutch and hopscotch. I enjoyed all of that. I believe that I had a great life. I traveled, I was in the military. I had government positions. But reenfranchising 1.5 million more people is now part of my career and what brings me joy. I enjoy serving people. My experience in the criminal justice system changed things for the better because sometimes you have to get the experience in order to understand. As a common citizen, I didn’t know. I was just working, raising my children and enjoying life. When someone got arrested and went to prison, I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t know about the laws being passed or the people we were electing, and why we needed to focus on electing certain types of people. Today, I am very focused. Sheila Singleton Being born and raised in Duval, my TV now stays on MSNBC. I like to know what’s going on. I have a Facebook where I share everything I possibly can to anyone who is listening, to help them understand what’s going on. This is a fight that will end, but it’s terrible because it seems like Congress don’t have no control. It seems like Trump has locked everything down with the judges — they’re doing everything he says. Right now, I see the councilmen and governor opening up schools, and our children are catching the virus. Nobody cares that it is killing people. I’m on my way to a viewing right now for a man who died from coronavirus. They’re trying to downplay this thing so bad, like it’s okay for people to die. Everyone is walking around like it’s normal, but we are in a fight. Though things aren’t going the way we want them to go as returning citizens, we are in this now. We are making sure that other people will get out of their homes to vote. It feels like me and Rosemary are the spokeswomen for what’s going on today in society. In Duval, people are so relaxed. They don’t talk about the issues. It’s scary because just imagine if this man gets four more years. Fabiola Cineas In thinking about how you want your futures to look, what is your idea of liberation? What would liberation look like for each of you? Sheila Singleton My liberation is that Donald Trump loses, Biden wins, and he changes everything back like it was and gives us our rights back. Hopefully, he puts things in order by changing the judicial system. That’s what I’m looking forward to. That would make me feel really gracious, getting my rights back to vote. Being able to get a job, without people saying, “Hey, you’re not qualified because you did this.” Liberation is also being able to change someone else’s life by telling them where I came from and what God did for me — that that’s what made me who I am today. That’s my liberation right there. Rosemary McCoy Liberation, to me, is to divide this country into two different countries. Thinking back to how there was a Black Wall Street, where they had their own banks, schools, markets — everything! They were not dependent on this system. Liberation means I’m not dependent on your evil, wicked system that has a noose around my neck. I want to be free from this system. I want to have my own. I don’t want to look to you for your crumbs. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand what’s happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
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120,000-year-old footprints found in Saudi Arabia -- and they might be human
Hundreds of fossilized footprints dating back 120,000 years have been discovered in Saudi Arabia, and they might point to the earliest evidence of human movement into the region, according to a new study in Science Advances.
120,000-year-old footprints found in Saudi Arabia -- and they might be human
Hundreds of fossilized footprints dating back 120,000 years have been discovered in Saudi Arabia, and they might point to the earliest evidence of human movement into the region, according to a new study in Science Advances.
Fall foliage 2020: Map shows where you can expect to see peak fall colors in the US
Curious when fall foliage will appear in all its glory in your area of the United States? See the fall foliage map for 2020 that will let you know where and when to see peak autumn colors.
Tropical Storm Beta bringing 'excessive' rainfall to Houston area, dangerous storm surge after Texas landfall
A dangerous combination of storm surge and heavy rainfall has unleashed flooding in the greater Houston area on Tuesday as Tropical Storm Beta crawls along the Texas coast after making landfall.
Halloween 2020: CDC issues new guidelines recommending families avoid trick-or-treating
The CDC advises against traditional trick or treating this year amid the novel coronavirus, highlighting Halloween activities in order of risk level.
Latest on 2020 election and SCOTUS battle
As the US election draws near, the race between President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden heats up. Here's the latest news around campaigns, SCOTUS vacancy, voting, and more.