John Paul Stevens, One-Time Maverick and Conscience of the Supreme Court, Dies at 99

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens died on Tuesday at 99. He was, in a thousand ways, the last gasp of an era.
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How an Iowa summer resort region became a Covid-19 hot spot
A party on Lake Okoboji in the Great Lakes region of Iowa over July Fourth weekend. A medical anthropologist on why the coronavirus response is so controversial in her hometown. ARNOLDS PARK, Iowa — Walking down Broadway Street, flanked with nightclubs and restaurants, you would never know that the coronavirus is lurking here. The sun is shining, maskless people are buzzing about, and ice cream is selling. This is the 100 days of summer in which the Iowa Great Lakes region makes most of its money. Everything is open. But this year, the vacation destination is also a regional coronavirus hot spot. The local economy shut down in the spring for about a month. There were no cases recorded in the area by May 1, when Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds partially reopened restaurants, retail stores, and many other businesses in rural areas, like Dickinson County, where the lakes are located. There was also minimal testing. By Memorial Day, only six cases had been recorded in the county, which has a population of about 17,000 people year-round and nearly 100,000 in the summer. Although big events were canceled, the hotels began filling back up and the lakes were scattered with tourists. As of August 7, cases in Dickinson were up to 377, and at least six county residents have died from the virus. Many additional cases may have originated here because of the constant flux of tourists, young and old, from places like Sioux Falls, Omaha, and Des Moines. Why have there been there so many cases here this summer? Why is it so unusual to see people wearing masks, despite broad consensus that they are helpful in limiting the spread of Covid-19? As a medical anthropologist who has studied the overlap of diseases and society around the world, I set out in June to understand what was going on in the Iowa Great Lakes region where I grew up. I interviewed more than 80 people all over town, reaching out to old friends and classmates, business owners, elected officials, and public health leaders. Here is what I learned about my hometown region — and how its deep conflicts around the coronavirus reflect broader friction across the country. Boaters congregate on Lake Okoboji in the Iowa Great Lakes region over the July Fourth weekend. Conflicting Midwestern values Dickinson County is largely white (96 percent), Republican (72 percent of voters returned a straight Republican ballot in the November 2016 election), and Christian (more than two-thirds). There is an overwhelming ethos of American individualism over collectivism, along with the cultural ideal of self-sufficiency and of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. I heard many people say, “I am not scared of coronavirus,” or, “I’m not scared, I believe in God,” or “If it’s my time to go, God will take me.” For instance, if you wear a mask around here, it reflects defiance against President Trump. When masks became this sort of political statement, most people described feeling deeply hurt — simply due to the divergent views that were (or weren’t) now spread across their faces. This division recently came to a head in a heated open school board meeting on August 3 about reopening schools. Many board members invoked “freedom” and “individual choice” in their comments on masking at schools. One school board member said he would not “dictate” what the children do because personal liberties were more important. Another member dissented by arguing that masking should be mandatory for high school students due to overwhelming safety concerns. Sometimes this conflict was apparent even in individuals. On her way out the door, one member said she was going to “pray real hard” about what to do about masking in schools, moments after asking if the school board could get sued if it didn’t implement more stringent measures. These conflicts are being fostered by a lack of local political support for public health measures, which reflects the greater coronavirus tragedy in the American Midwest. The superintendent of the school district, for example, plans to open schools with few safety measures in place, despite the local public health leaders providing opposing advice. At the state level, Gov. Reynolds never instituted a statewide lockdown and recommended closing most businesses for only a little over a month. This meant some local business owners felt entitled to actively try to impede public health measures, including calling the hospital and demanding them to stop putting educational videos on Facebook because it was hurting business. Statewide, the governor’s approval rating over handling the coronavirus outbreak is markedly low in part because of her lack of leadership on public health measures. When I asked people what they have taken away from these leaders’ actions (and inactions), most say that because there was never a state lockdown and the state is open, there is no need to wear masks. This sentiment is perpetuated from the top and embodied in local behavior: The pandemic is over. Now you’re on your own. A water bar on Lake Okoboji over the July Fourth weekend. “A theater of masks” As a regional tourist destination, the Iowa Great Lakes region has a strong vacation vibe, even in the pandemic. Many young people in the area, for example, still exhibit the carefree frivolity of summer — packing bars, boats, and barges with booze. “Everyone has Covid!” is a common excuse I heard to forgo masking and social distancing around town. Other people worry, “Nobody will take it seriously until someone prominent in the community dies.” (This is despite the fact that six people now havedied, including some who were well known.) Some (incorrectly) believe that because Covid-19 has largely affected the young in the region, there is a weaker strain of the virus circulating, dubbed “corona light.” A 21-year-old waiter called mask-wearing a “theater of masks.” I see people touching their faces, moving masks up and down to take orders. Others say masks do more harm because they make you ingest more carbon dioxide (that’s entirely untrue). If you wear a mask, you’re a “maskhole” or a “fool.” Why use them? If nobody else wears one, why should I? In a Facebook post, Richard Ashby, who was visiting from Texas, described an altercation over masks in the Iowa Great Lakes region over the July Fourth weekend. When he wore a mask in Casey’s convenience store, he was harassed by a group of young men not wearing masks. He and his partner were the only people masked at the convenience store: Richard Ashby Elsewhere in this region, workers at national stores such as Walmart have worn masks consistently for months. I spoke to a manager at Menards, a regional home improvement chain, who said they have been required to wear masks since March. When the staff first was required to wear masks, she made extras for her coworkers who had fewer means. She said it wasn’t a big deal and wants to keep herself, family, and community safe. Although, she notes, they are occasionally harassed by customers. In the past month, both Walmart and Menards made mask-wearing mandatory for customers nationwide, regardless of local mask rules. Because of this, a high-ranking elected official told me, he “avoids” Walmart altogether because masking encroaches on his personal choice. Corona contested The divisive atmosphere in the Iowa Great Lakes Region around coronavirus isn’t that uncommon, especially in other parts of rural America where the response to the virus remains contentious. Without a unified state or national response, the patchwork we have created will allow coronavirus to spread, loved ones to die, and communities to fracture. Many individuals remain conflicted about the situation, too, and beliefs around masks and staying home have created animosity among neighbors and friction among friends. One teacher told me her son’s friends changed according to the families who stayed home and those who did not. These times are radically altering our community dynamics and demonstrate how splintered our society has become. But only by understanding one another and rebuilding trust in our institutions, science, and each other can we come out of this crisis stronger. Emily Mendenhall is a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is the author of Rethinking Diabetes and more than 70 articles, books, and commentaries at the intersection of anthropology, public health, and medicine. She graduated from Spirit Lake High School in the Iowa Great Lakes. She thanks Lori Eich and Dr. Abby Adams for their comments on this article. David Thoreson is an adventure photographer and author of One Island, One Ocean, about his expedition around the Americas. He has an extensive portfolio of photos around the Iowa Great Lakes region, where he spends his summers. Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
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America’s Authoritarian Governor
America has botched its coronavirus response in so, so many ways since the pandemic began. Even in a country that stands apart from the world for its horrific failures, there have been as many leadership bungles as there are states: Some failed to heed early warnings. Others refused to learn the lessons of outbreaks that came before theirs. Still others played politics instead of following science. And then there’s Georgia.Georgia’s response to the pandemic has not been going well. It was bad from the beginning: Back in early April, weeks after other states took initial precautions, Georgia dawdled toward a shutdown while its coronavirus cases surged. Still, less than a month later, the state chose to be among the first in the nation to reopen, bringing back businesses known to accelerate the virus’s spread, such as restaurants and gyms, even though new infections had never made a significant or sustained decline. In June, the state welcomed back bars. What happened next was predictable, and was predicted: Case counts came roaring back. More people got sick and died. Many of these deaths were preventable. The state now has the sixth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the United States, behind five states with significantly larger populations.Lots of states—such as Florida, California, and New York—have mishandled the pandemic since it hit in March. But when you look closely at Georgia, you see a state with a leader unique among his peers. First-term Republican Governor Brian Kemp presided over a late shutdown so short that his reopening drew a public rebuke from President Donald Trump, who has frequently opposed shutdowns altogether. Kemp’s administration has repeatedly been accused of manipulating data to downplay the severity of the outbreak. He has sparred publicly with the state’s mayors and sued to stop them from implementing safety restrictions or even speaking to the press.To understand the course that Georgia has plotted through the pandemic, you have to understand Kemp’s failures. Those same failures, and the trajectory of the state governed by them, also represent a microcosm of America under Trump. The governor has demonstrated a willingness to defer to the president instead of his own constituents, sacrifice Georgians’ safety to snipe at his political foes, and shore up his own power at the expense of democracy. In short, Kemp is a wannabe authoritarian, and millions of Georgians have suffered as a result, with no end in sight.Georgia’s Department of Public Health has released misleading graphics that downplay the severity of the pandemic in the state. ( T.J. Kirkpatrick / The New York ​Times / Redux)Kemp has emulated strongmen since he entered state government. In 2018, as Georgia’s secretary of state, Kemp administered his own election by a thin, contested margin, despite calls to resign the office before running for governor. In his previous role, Kemp systematically purged more than 1 million voters from the state’s rolls, disproportionately disenfranchising Georgians of color. More than half a million of those voter registrations were voided in July 2017 alone, months into Kemp’s campaign for governor. Kemp’s office did not respond to a request for an interview, but in the past, he has repeatedly denied that these actions amounted to voter suppression.In Georgia, and around the world, it has become clear that a novel virus doesn’t respond to the anti-scientific, expertise-shirking preferences of modern authoritarianism. When Kemp announced the closure of the state’s nonessential businesses on April 2, he said it was because he had learned something game-changing about the virus: that it is transmissible before an infected person develops symptoms. In reality, that had been a widely accepted belief for weeks, one that had helped encourage earlier lockdowns around the country. And unlike other states that were slow to shut down, Georgia already had a raging outbreak of nearly 5,000 identified cases. In southwest Georgia in late February, a funeral in the small, majority-Black town of Albany set off a chain of infection that sickened hundreds of people and left the local hospital system overburdened and overpaying for low-quality protective gear.[Read: Georgia’s experiment in human sacrifice]If a slow shutdown had been Kemp’s only major fumble, he’d be in broad and ideologically varied company both nationally and internationally. Instead, he has continued to double down on the state’s approach to the virus in ways that mirror not just Trump, but authoritarian leaders overseeing poorly controlled outbreaks all over the world, such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and India’s Narendra Modi. He has also taken a more hard-line stance than most of his Republican peers. GOP governors in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas have implemented statewide mask rules in response to worsening outbreaks, and others who haven’t, such as Ron DeSantis in Florida and Doug Ducey in Arizona, have still allowed cities and counties to enforce their own local requirements. Not only has Kemp repeatedly refused to require masks in Georgia, but the state’s current pandemic emergency order was written with an explicit restriction to prevent local leaders from implementing their own mask rules.Kemp’s administration has gone so far as to sue Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over the city’s mask mandate and its plan to roll back the city’s reopening to its earliest stage, closing bars and restricting restaurants to takeout. When Bottoms fought the lawsuit, Kemp sought to stop her from speaking to the press. Other cities in the state, such as Savannah and Athens, also passed their own mandates but escaped inclusion in the lawsuit, which has pushed some to question whether the governor was trying to punish Bottoms for her support of Joe Biden. A Kemp spokesperson told The Washington Post that the lawsuit was primarily about the new restrictions on businesses in Bottoms’s order, which weren’t present in other municipalities’ mask mandates, but as the paper pointed out, masks were listed as the first issue in the complaint. “One has to ask about the political aspect of a conservative southern governor and a strong supporter of the president having a very public legal action against the Atlanta mayor, who’s been a vocal supporter of Joe Biden,” Harry Heiman, a professor at the Georgia State University School of Public Health, told me. Kemp backed down from the lawsuit last week, and Atlanta’s local mandate remains in effect.Health-care workers arrive for ​a shift at Grady Memorial Hosp​ital in downtown Atlanta, on Thur​sday, July 16, 2020. Under Kemp, Georgia was one of the earliest states to reopen, contributing to a surge in infections. (Audra Me​lton / The New York Times / Redux)None of Kemp’s actions has been popular among the state’s residents. According to findings released last week by the Atlanta-based market-research platform 1Q, 73 percent of Georgians surveyed believe that cities should be able to enforce their own mask mandates, and 70 percent disagree with Kemp’s refusal to institute a mandate statewide. In recent months, his overall approval rating has taken a hit. In May, Kemp was the only governor whose coronavirus response was less popular than the president’s among his own constituents. A recent poll pegged Kemp’s approval rating at 43 percent, down from more than 59 percent in January.Kemp, like Trump, has recently started to encourage mask usage while still aggressively opposing any kind of enforceable mask rule. The problem with that approach, according to public-health experts, is that it sows confusion, making it more difficult for people to feel confident in their safety. The state’s own messaging has at times been misleading in other ways. On its Department of Public Health website, the state spent months backdating cases to a patient’s first symptoms, which meant that the most recent two weeks of the graph always looked as if the pandemic was in marked decline. The state has also released misleading graphics that it later insisted were honest errors in data rendering, such as a bar graph of case counts with the dates out of chronological order, again depicting a nonexistent downward slope.In mid-July, two nearly identical maps of Georgia’s coronavirus outbreak began circulating on Twitter, depicting the state’s outbreaks on July 2 and July 17, over which time cases increased significantly. Both maps show only three of the state’s 159 counties shaded in red, marking the most dire spread of the disease. As case counts exploded, the state had raised the number of cases required for a county to change color. Once local media took notice, the state redesigned its map. The public health department’s website also now allows users to sort new coronavirus cases by date of diagnosis, the method used almost exclusively in other government and media visualizations of the pandemic.[Read: Keisha Lance Bottoms: Atlanta isn’t ready to reopen—and neither is Georgia]Then there is the matter of reopening schools. The state’s accelerated reopening spiked cases just in time for the South’s typically early school calendar to begin, leaving educators, parents, and students to fend for themselves as Kemp urges the resumption of in-person instruction in order to protect kids from non-coronavirus threats such as malnutrition and abuse. But if Kemp’s concerns lie with the safety of the state’s children and the importance of getting them back in the classroom, why didn’t he do more to stop the spread of the virus? Why, instead, did he prioritize sending low-wage workers back to their jobs in bars, restaurants, nail salons, and gyms?Some of Georgia’s school districts opened this week, and already the system is buckling under the weight of infection: Yesterday, we learned that the state’s outbreak had claimed its youngest victim yet, an otherwise healthy 7-year-old boy. One Cherokee County elementary-school class has already had to be quarantined after a second grader received a positive test result on the first day of school. Earlier this week, a photo from inside North Paulding High School in exurban Atlanta showed a crowded hallway with few teenagers wearing masks. An outbreak has already sickened members of the school’s football team, and students say they fear expulsion if they don’t show up. Two students were suspended for distributing photos of the school’s lax safety measures; at least one of those students has been reinstated following a public outcry over her right to free speech.Georgia’s public universities, which are preparing for students to come back over the next couple of weeks, provide a bleak view of how the state is managing the dangers that a return to regular life presents for Georgians. For much of this summer, the University System of Georgia refused pleas from faculty and staff to require students to wear masks to class, or to allow individual colleges to make their own mask rules, before eventually relenting and requiring masks. At the University of Georgia, freshmen will still be required to live in cramped on-campus housing, much of which assigns two students to one privacy-free room, even if their classes are remote. For students who attend instruction in person, photos have begun to circulate on social media of the safety measures that await them: a small plexiglass divider loosely affixed to the front of a teacher’s classroom desk, or every other urinal in a public bathroom marked off with painter’s tape. With the majority of students yet to return, UGA already has the third-largest campus outbreak in the country, and Athens, the town where the school is located, ran out of intensive-care beds last week.[Read: ‘This push to reopen schools is guaranteed to fail’]Despite all his mistakes, it’s not too late for Kemp to wrangle the pandemic, said Heiman, the Georgia State professor. He told me that a statewide mask mandate; closing bars, gyms, and indoor dining; and clear, consistent messaging from state leadership about pandemic safety can work quickly to limit transmission of the virus, just as such measures have in New York, following that state’s catastrophic outbreak. Once transmission is low, more businesses can be safely reopened, testing supplies and personal protective equipment can be stockpiled, school buildings can be altered for better ventilation, and life can return to something closer to normalcy while Georgians wait for treatments and vaccines to come along.In order to do that, though, Kemp would have to do something authoritarians hate: admit he was wrong, and change his mind based on evidence, the advice of experts, and the will of the people. The same is true for the country as a whole. America is a few decisions away from a much different future.Instead, like the authoritarian he’s shown himself to be, Kemp seems intent on maintaining the disastrous course his administration has plotted so far, at the expense of the people of Georgia. “It’s truly unbelievable,” Heiman said. “It will be a case study for decades to come of what an utter collapse of political and public-health leadership looks like.”
Susan Rice's Fear Came True
A few days before Donald Trump’s inauguration, then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice held a press briefing in her office to talk about the threats she saw on the horizon as Barack Obama’s presidency drew to a close. “What keeps you up at night? one reporter asked toward the end of the meeting. Her answer: a pandemic that spirals out of control.Yesterday afternoon, I asked Rice how the past five months have compared to what she’d been worried about in the early days of 2017. “This is about in the realm of my worst nightmare,” she told me. That’s why, Rice said, she worked to put together plans, and why she oversaw the creation of the pandemic-preparedness office that Trump famously closed. “We knew it was going to happen. We just couldn’t know when.”Rice criticized the current administration’s handling of the pandemic, saying there are “absolutely many more Americans dead because of Donald Trump’s failed leadership.” Our conversation can be heard in full on the latest episode of The Ticket.These days, Rice isn’t speaking just as a former national security adviser and a former United Nations ambassador, or an author whose memoir, Tough Love, just happens to have come out in paperback at the beginning of August. Rice is among the finalists under consideration to be Joe Biden’s running mate, and an announcement is expected within the next few days. If she is picked, she’ll be the first vice-presidential candidate since Henry Wallace, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third running mate, to have never run for office before.She joked that no call from Biden had come in while we were talking.[Read: Could it be Vice President Susan Rice?]Listen to the interview here:Subscribe to The Ticket on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or another podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they’re published.What follows is an edited and condensed transcript:Edward-Isaac Dovere: You’re a huge supporter of statehood for your native Washington, D.C. To some people, it is a ridiculous idea that Washington should ever be a state. To others, like Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, Washington, D.C., shouldn’t be a state and Wyoming should because “Wyoming is a well-rounded, working-class state.” What do you make of that?Susan Rice: What are the demographics of Wyoming versus Washington, D.C.? I think it’s an important priority, particularly when we have 700,000 disenfranchised Americans here who are, as you know, red-blooded, hardworking, decent, tax-paying as any others. And there’s a large history to this, which is that the Constitution has established something called the federal enclave. But the Constitution doesn’t require that that federal enclave be any larger than the federal buildings and territory within the city. So you could take the capital in the Mall and the White House and the Supreme Court and the Smithsonian and the federal entities and continue to reserve them as the federal enclave per the Constitution and allow the rest of the city, which is where the population is anyway, to have statehood. And if we had statehood, it would have been a lot harder for President Trump, for political purposes, to call out federal forces to club and beat and terrorize people in the District of Columbia who are peacefully protesting.Dovere: You’re known as someone who curses, and you write about being known as “direct” and being called a “hothead.” Why do you think that’s been a focus?Rice: I am accused of using profanity. I cop guilty to that. I do occasionally use profanity. Not in my official functions. Not when the circumstances make it inappropriate. But it is the case that I have used the occasional profanity. Does anybody remember what Dick Cheney said on the Senate floor? Told [Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy] to go F himself. On the Senate floor. Does anybody talk about Dick Cheney’s foul mouth? Or does that in any way define him as the vice president of the United States? I think it’s sexist; that’s what it is.Dovere: The Sunday-show appearances around the Benghazi attack have become so much of your public identity. Your mother actually warned you not to do it, and thought Hillary Clinton should have instead. In the end, that became an issue getting in your way to be Obama’s secretary of state, and continues to be an issue Republicans attack you over now.Rice: She said, “Why you?” And I said, “The White House asked me to do it.” And she’s like, “Well, where’s Hillary?” And I said that she’d been asked, but declined. And I presumed—I hadn’t had this conversation with her—that she had had an extraordinarily draining week, having lost four Americans in an American overseas facility, and all the pain and trauma that that entails for the people of the State Department, for the families, for everybody. But I agreed, as a team player. And her instinct was, “I smell a rat. You shouldn’t do it.” And I said, “Mom, don’t be ridiculous. I’ve done this many times before.” She was absolutely right.[Read: What happened the night of the Benghazi attack]Dovere: What did that experience teach you about the way that politics, and at least cable news, political media work?Rice: First of all, the core lesson is always: Listen to your mother. I think this was what she was getting at, and what I suspect in retrospect that Secretary Clinton and other senior officials understood is, when you have a tragedy, a crisis of the sort we had in Benghazi and the terrorist attack, particularly in the height of a presidential campaign, a hot electoral season—it’s going to be politicized and the opposition is going to be looking to shoot the messenger as much as shoot at the message. And that’s what happened.I wasn’t thinking about myself. I’m part of a team, a team that had a very hard week. We’ve lost our colleagues. Christopher Stevens, our ambassador in Libya, was somebody that I knew and worked with and respected and liked. It was painful for all of us and for me to think about myself, rather than think about the responsibility that the administration had to communicate to the American people, was not where my head was. And in retrospect, maybe it should have been. Maybe I should have been more self-centered in how I thought about it, because clearly it has not redounded to my benefit in right-wing circles. But if not that, I’m sure they would have found something else.That was eight years ago, and it was sort of an early leading indicator of how ugly and dishonest our politics were going to get. Eight congressional committees investigated Benghazi ad nauseum through 2016, and not one of them found that I had done anything wrong or that I had deliberately misled the American people or anything else. The fact that really only one piece of that information later turned out to be inaccurate doesn’t make me a liar for having shared it and caveated it as our best current information. That could change. But it shows you how the right wing latches on to a meme or a caricature and drives it relentlessly, and they do it to this day. This one is tired and overwrought, and there’s no substance to it.Frankly, for the Republicans to be harping on Benghazi in 2020, when under Donald Trump’s watch, three Americans were killed on a U.S. military base in Pensacola, Florida, last year in a terrorist attack inspired by al-Qaeda—what appears to be the first foreign-directed terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11—because the Defense Department failed to adequately vet the Saudi military personnel who are being trained on that base. But no investigation, no outrage, not a boo out of congressional Republicans. Four American servicemen were killed in a terrorist attack in Niger in West Africa on Donald Trump’s watch, and not a boo, not an investigation. Not an expression of concern. So this is all political distraction. And in a year when over 160,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 because of this president’s ineptitude and incompetence and disregard for human life, putting his own political interests above the health and well-being and the economy of the United States and the ability to educate our kids … they’re going to talk about Benghazi? I say fine, let them.Dovere: You were the national security adviser when the office was set up in the National Security Council to deal with pandemic response under President Obama. That’s the office that Trump famously disbanded. With your experiences and the awareness you had of the dangers of a pandemic, how does what has actually happened compare to the fears that you had?Rice: This is about in the realm of my worst nightmare. The only thing that would be worse, potentially, is a very deadly flu virus that’s as transmissible as COVID, but much more deadly. Some of the avian flus have a mortality rate of 50 percent. So think about that. Yeah. But in terms of the number of infections, the number of deaths, the economic implications, the complete disruption to our domestic and global economy, this is exactly what I worried about and wrote about in the book when it was published almost a year ago. So this is entirely foreseeable, which is why we tried to put in place plans, offices, equipment, preparatory briefings to help the incoming administration be ready for such a scenario, because we knew it was going to happen. We just couldn’t know when.Dovere: You write in the new afterword to the book, “I find it exhausting and difficult to remain hopeful in the face of such immoral and incompetent leadership.” Is it strange to watch what’s going on, having been on the inside?Rice: Strange is to put it mildly. It’s infuriating because it didn’t need to be this bad.Dovere: Are Americans dead because of Donald Trump?Rice: I’ve said that repeatedly. There are absolutely many more Americans dead because of Donald Trump’s failed leadership.[Read: How the pandemic defeated America]Dovere: Your son is an outspoken conservative, who’s been identified as a Trump supporter. You are outspoken against Trump. How does that family dynamic work, and what does that tell you about the larger divisions in America right now?Rice: You should not accept press characterizations of my son. You should read what I say about what his views are. And I write about them in the last chapter of the book. And he and I worked on that portion together to fairly reflect his views, and where we agree and where we disagree. He likes to characterize himself as a Reagan Republican. We have really fundamental disagreements on a lot of issues. And sometimes they get heated, as I write about in the book. But at the end of the day, it’s so much more important to us to be united as a family, to recognize that we have a shared history. We have shared interests. We love each other. We want to stay together, and we fight not to let political differences or any other kind of differences divide us in any kind of irreparable way. As much as I disagree with Donald Trump and his policies, I can’t write off or discount or fear or hate or dismiss those Americans who support him. If everybody did that, we would literally be irreparably divided as a nation. And I don’t think we can afford to do that. I can’t afford to do that in my family.Dovere: You were a diplomat. You were a behind-the-scenes person. How has it been getting into the political fray yourself?Rice: What I discovered the hard way was, even when I was serving in New York as our ambassador to the United Nations trying to be very much a policy maker in a policy role, and then went on to be national security adviser, I was sucked into the political fray. I didn’t ask for that. But that’s the nature of the way Washington has devolved. I was sucked in, and I know as long as I was a sitting U.S. official, I was responsible to the interest of the United States. I was speaking on behalf of the United States and on behalf of the president and our administration. Now that I’m a private citizen, I have the ability to speak in my own voice.It’s telling my own story in my own voice, and because of how governing has transpired under Donald Trump, I feel compelled not to be silent about the many ways in which I think he is disserving our nation. Americans are dying who didn’t need to die because of failed leadership. And I refused to be silent about that, whether I’m a private citizen or not.
Meow Wolf was set to transform themed entertainment in Vegas and beyond. Then came the pandemic
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Mauritius declares emergency as stranded ship spills fuel
The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius has declared a “state of environmental emergency” after a Japanese-owned ship that ran aground offshore days ago began spilling tons of fuel.
What is behind Gleyber Torres Yankees struggles
Aaron Boone insists he’s not concerned about Gleyber Torres’ shaky start. In three days, however, the burgeoning superstar has gone from the team’s third-place hitter to No. 6. It’s a sign that his anemic .119 batting average and 0-for-24 stretch is at least something the team is monitoring in this shortened season in which results...
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Cancel College
Despite the continued spread of the coronavirus, many colleges around the country plan to welcome students back to campus over the coming weeks.Colleges want to reopen for good, nontrivial reasons. Administrators believe that most students learn better when they are physically assembled in the same place. And they know that the American college experience, at any rate, has long been about more than the classroom. It allows students to cut the umbilical cord, make friends with like-minded people, and pursue extracurricular activities—all of which are much harder to do if your freshman year consists of joining Zoom sessions from your parents’ basement. Many universities also face serious financial problems. If they are unable to reopen this fall, some may collapse.But if colleges go ahead, they will endanger the lives of students, staff, faculty, and those who live in the surrounding communities. Reopening colleges is the wrong thing to do.Many colleges have come up with imaginative ways to reopen while striving to contain the virus.Most plans involve a constellation of the same core elements: lecture classes in big outside tents, or no lectures at all, a two-week quarantine for students upon their arrival on campus, a testing regime to identify cases of COVID-19 as early as possible, distancing guidelines that severely restrict social events, and a shortened term that ends at Thanksgiving to avert the risk posed by students who return to campus after spending a few days with their families all across the country.But these plans all founder on the same basic problem: Most college students are at an age when the urge to socialize is especially strong. Whatever the rules may say, young people will have parties, hook up, and leave campus to have fun.[Julia Marcus and Jessica Gold: Colleges are getting ready to blame their students]Some colleges propose to deal with this problem punitively. Syracuse University, for example, has vowed to punish students with draconian penalties if they violate the university’s strict distancing guidelines. Others believe they can trust their students to behave in accordance with the greater good. The University of Kentucky, for example, has incorporated a vow to maintain proper social distance into its honor code. But neither approach is foolproof.And the consequences if—or rather when—the coronavirus starts to spread will probably be disastrous. As a Harvard University official told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell back in March, “The dorms are cruise ships.” Even if sophisticated testing uncovers a case of COVID-19 within a few days of a student contracting it, that student is likely to have come into contact with dozens of others in the intervening days.Therefore, many colleges will likely, within weeks of reopening, place a quickly expanding set of students under lockdown. And if these measures fail, the colleges will close on short notice. At that point, thousands of students—many of them infected with COVID-19—will board trains and planes to go home, spreading the virus to their families.If colleges reopen, kids from parts of the country with high case counts will, inevitably, travel to parts of the country with low case counts—and bring their home-state problems with them. This is why the biggest threat posed by reopening colleges is not to students, faculty, or staff, but to the surrounding community.According to the latest figures, for example, Addison County, Vermont, has virtually vanquished COVID-19. In the past seven days, they have had only two new cases. But Addison County is home to Middlebury College, which, according to its website, hosts students from 49 states. When young people from coronavirus hot spots such as Georgia, Florida, and Texas arrive for class, Addison County’s infection rate will almost certainly grow.[Read: The nightmare that colleges face this fall]Communities in high- and average-case-count states might not feel comfortable welcoming students, either. As the mayors of four North Carolina towns argue in a letter to decision makers at the University of North Carolina, “There is high anxiety” about “thousands of university students moving into the community from all over the state and country, many coming from areas that lack the same requirements we have locally for slowing the spread of COVID-19.”The letter also points to a bitter irony: While UNC is determined to reopen, local public schools have decided to remain fully online for the time being: “It is hard,” the mayors write, “to feel comfortable with this contrast.”Many universities face the impossible choice between bankruptcy and community health. And millions of Americans are in the same spot: Every day, they must choose between going to work and courting infection, and staying at home and risking financial ruin.The solution is the same in both cases: The federal government must take the measures necessary to contain the virus—including orders to shut down businesses and universities as needed. But when businesses are told to close and workers are furloughed from their jobs, the government must also make sure they can still pay their bills.
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After Biden's comments on Black diversity, some worry blunders could impact support
Even after an apology, some have concerns about Biden's comments.
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Why Giants’ Saquon Barkley decided not to opt out of season
Saquon Barkley intends to play football this season, deciding not to opt out because of COVID-19 concerns. He says what he sees at the Giants facilities gives him confidence he is working in a safe environment. “I believe in our training room and our team and facility and our owners,’’ Barkley said Friday. “They have...
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Letters to the Editor: Hiroshima wasn't the start of the nuclear age; building the bomb at all was
A nuclear arms race was inevitable once the U.S. decided to start building a nuclear bomb.
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Letters to the Editor: L.A. County contract tracing has saved lives, but employers need to do more
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer defends her department's contact tracing efforts and tells employers they need to report outbreaks.
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Elisha Thornton: Native American voters could play key role in elections
As politicians, particularly Democrats, scramble to court minority voters ahead of the November election, there is still one group that — as ever — continues to be left out of the national political conversation: Native Americans.
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Letters to the Editor: Joe Biden hasn't named a VP. Good — one less thing for Trump to lash out about
Don't rush Joe Biden on his VP pick — waiting until the last possible moment keeps the Trump campaign on edge.
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A bourbon with no alcohol? Spiritless, a female-led distillery, is launching in Louisville
Spiritless' Kentucky 74 is a reverse-distilled drink that looks, feels and tastes like bourbon. Only it's not.       
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Want to keep spoiling your pets during the coronavirus pandemic? Here's the latest in 'pet tech'
During the COVID-19 crisis, pets get plenty of attention. Some pet tech can help you keep spoiling your cat or dog when you are with them or away.       
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Opinion: 'Trump's supporters live in denial' — readers pile on a pro-Trump letter to the editor
A letter that defended President Trump's record as one of "promises made, promises kept" came under intense criticism by other others.
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2020 Buick Encore GX small SUV completes the brand's transformation
How many sizes and types of SUV do people want? Judging by Buick's Encore GX, the answer is "at least one more."       
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Without $600 Weekly Benefit, Unemployed Face Bleak Choices
A federal supplement to jobless pay was a lifeline for millions and for the economy. Its cutoff, even if temporary, may have lasting consequences.
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Getting tired of political ads? Here's how to manage your Facebook settings
If you're willing to spend the time, you can dramatically reduce what pops up in your Facebook feed.       
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Black at U.T., and Beyond
A student set out to document the experiences of his Black classmates on their predominantly white campus. These are some of their stories.
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The Riches of This Land
Jim Tankersley visits Slate Money to talk about his book on America’s middle class.
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Reform the Court, but Don’t Pack It
Progressives are taking the idea of reforming the Supreme Court seriously. Earlier this month, Democrats revealed they are planning an election platform that calls for “structural court reforms.” And no wonder—Democrats are unhappy with the Republican capture of the judiciary: Donald Trump has stocked the federal bench with conservative judges and, at the very top, all but guaranteed a clear conservative majority on the Supreme Court for decades to come—a severe threat to any progressive legislation in the foreseeable future.Democrats are reportedly being noncommittal about precisely how to proceed. According to The New York Times, one campaign official suggested that the platform language serves more as a values statement, not an indicator of specific changes or proposals. At this point, a vague statement is probably a good thing. For one, it indicates that enough Democrats saw through Chief Justice John Roberts’s strategic efforts late in this year’s term to sap energy from the Court-reform movement. Moreover, caught up in whether to champion “court packing” or reject it—as Joe Biden, their presumptive nominee for president, already has—Democrats have barely begun to discuss what kind of reform makes most sense.[Jeffrey Rosen: John Roberts is just who the Supreme Court needed]There are two basic types of reform. One type adjusts the personnel of the Supreme Court by adding justices, choosing them differently, or shortening their terms of office. The second kind disempowers the institution itself—removing certain cases from its jurisdiction, requiring a greater number of justices to agree in order to interfere with democratic choices, or letting Congress override any glaring mistakes. As we argue in a new paper, this second brand of reform is best. The first sort of fix may serve the Democrats in the short term, but at the price of naked partisanship and possible blowback, while the second facilitates progressive ends and, just as important, reinvigorates American democracy.The current wave of reform efforts first emerged when Judge Merrick Garland was denied confirmation at the end of President Barack Obama’s term because of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “hardball” tactics, and swelled to a clamor after Brett Kavanaugh’s divisive and hard-fought confirmation provided a more reliable conservative majority on the Supreme Court than before. During the Democratic primary last year and this past winter, the topic gained more traction than at any time in almost a century. But the debate has been for the most part stuck, as the ascendancy of court packing has screened out the broader range of options and the possibility of comparing and contrasting them.For reformers advocating the first strategy, the Supreme Court has been lost to Republicans and the goal is to take it back. The revival of New Deal President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 proposal to “pack the courts,” for example, simply accepts that federal courts wield tremendous policy-making authority. The goal is thus to wrest partisan control away from conservatives, either in order to claw back ill-gotten gains, or because the practical outcomes of conservative judging are viewed as bad.Similarly, the centrist former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg endorsed a proposal during the Democratic primaries for the Supreme Court to consist of five Democrats, five Republicans, and five “apolitical” justices. The purpose of this reform is to make the Court (seem) less ideological, structuring it to produce compromise outcomes and rescuing it from its unfortunate slide into “politicization.” Such wonkish plans, however, merely assume that the Court should and will continue to sit as an unelected “super-legislature.” Such a body cannot be apolitical—and such reforms only hide the exercise of its power better.[David A. Graham: The Democrats discover the Supreme Court]This does not mean that all attempts to reform the Supreme Court through personnel management are created equal. Adding justices works differently than striving for a moderate Court that reflects the current partisan split in Washington. While the former would, ideally, help advance a progressive agenda, the latter aims at restoring the Supreme Court’s “legitimacy” as a nonpartisan—which is to say, ideologically moderate—actor. Both, however, take as a given that the Court will continue to settle many of American society’s most important and most controversial political questions. The goal of these reforms is to change the attitudes of those on the bench, in the hope of getting either more progressive or more “centrist” answers.Contrast these reforms with the other approach: disempowering the Supreme Court and transferring some of its existing authority to the democratically accountable branches. Since at least the early 20th century, both progressive and conservative groups have called for Congress to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over controversial topics such as labor regulation, flag burning, or gun control. New Deal Democrats even proposed eliminating entirely the Court’s power to invalidate federal legislation. These reforms are fundamentally different from efforts to re-staff the Court; they recognize that the problem is not who serves on the Supreme Court but what power it has. For that reason, such reforms challenge the legitimacy of allocating to democratically unaccountable judges the final say on such topics. They recognize that the point is not to “save the Supreme Court” but to save the American system of self-government.A proposal, advanced by 1920s progressives among others, to require six or seven justices (rather than the current five) to agree before declaring a federal statute unconstitutional functions similarly. Such a “supermajority” requirement would have no explicit partisan benefit for one team or the other. What it would accomplish instead is to shift significant power away from the appointed, life-tenured judiciary and to the political branches—Congress and the president.[Bob Bauer: Don’t pack the courts]A supermajority rule might seem more attractive than stripping jurisdiction to those who view the Supreme Court as an important protector of rights. Barring an unusually lopsided bench, in cases of uncontroversial constitutional violation, the Supreme Court would remain empowered to step in. However, in more closely contested cases, members of Congress and the president would determine what the Constitution permits. If the Supreme Court cannot agree on what the Constitution means, the decision ought to be left to Congress, and in turn the popular will. A supermajority rule would implement what the Harvard professor James Bradley Thayer at the turn of the 20th century called a “clear error” standard for judicial review. But whereas Thayer proposed that judges limit themselves to upsetting democratic decisions only in cases of “clear” violation, a supermajority rule would ensure that five justices could not advance a reactionary agenda or thwart progressive change.Reforms that disempower the Supreme Court may involve a period of conflict if the Court resists having its authority taken away. The Supreme Court has, for instance, historically interpreted jurisdiction-stripping legislation incredibly narrowly, thereby preserving the judiciary’s authority. Significant reassignments of power very rarely happen without a fight. But we know from New Deal history that court packing proved so radioactive that Roosevelt could not push it through. A titanic contest over the Supreme Court hardly seems worth it for mere short-term gains.Because of the prominence of “court packing,” court reform is unappealing to some because of the objection that it will set off partisan spirals. It could escalate beyond control, they say, with no stopping point as victors just keep upping the numbers on the high bench with every election cycle. The plan looks too close to the unsavory business in Poland, where 44 spots on the country’s Supreme Court were added in 2018. The Times’ Jamelle Bouie, who has eloquently mainstreamed court packing, reassured listeners of a recent podcast: “The tit-for-tat would have to stop at some point.” That nuclear war would also eventually end hardly means we should launch. Disempowering the judiciary would skirt this problem—turning over the underlying political disputes to the democratic process, where they belong.[Anne Appelbaum: The disturbing campaign against Poland’s judges]Court reform was originally a progressive idea. But conservatives have complained about the antidemocratic power of the Supreme Court for generations, placing them in the hard spot of explaining why they are against its reform now. True, Americans currently agree about very little. And it is fair to worry that Congress is dysfunctional, and that shifting more power to it is merely a recipe for more inaction. But progressives know, as their recent proposals of a Green New Deal and an ambitious H.R. 1 demonstrate, that legislative power is the sole means of political reform of the country. No court will enact these sorts of policies if Congress doesn’t—while too powerful a Supreme Court will pose an existential threat to any policy if Congress does. And even if creating a progressive coalition takes time and work, forcing ourselves to come to terms with one another as fellow citizens is a better choice than inviting a judiciary to do the job of democracy, and packing our energies into debating which judges should determine our common fate.
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Inside the federal prison where three out of every four inmates have tested positive for coronavirus
Three out of every four inmates at FCI Seagoville prison near Dallas have tested positive for coronavirus, and experts say the facility is a cautionary tale for other lockups.
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Inside the federal prison where three out of every four inmates has coronavirus
When James Giannetta first called his brother Russ in late June to tell him that the coronavirus was beginning to spread in his Texas federal prison, Russ could hear the fear in his voice. "This place is exploding," James warned.
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Seattle rioters' lawsuit over pricey protective gear 'out of bounds,' attorney says
A lawsuit brought by Seattle protesters – who claim having to buy expensive anti-police protective gear deprives them of their First Amendment rights – is “out of bounds,” criminal defense attorney Brian Claypool said Friday.
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Saquon Barkley deservedly becoming face of the Giants
DeAndre Baker’s Giants and NFL career was intercepted by the justice system on Friday, finally, charged with four counts of robbery with a firearm, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and facing a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison … on the Commissioner’s Exempt list, heading ominously toward the Exiled list. For...
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4 children identified among Air India Express plane crash casualties
• Plane overshoots runway and crashes
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Sturgis Rally, Nagasaki anniversary, Epstein series: 5 things to know this weekend
No masks will be required as thousands flood South Dakota, Nagasaki marks the 75th anniversary of the US bombing and more news to start your weekend.       
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India flight's deadly runway skid likely due to low visibility, wet runway: expert
The plane swayed violently as it approached a hilltop runway drenched in monsoon rain, and moments later the special return flight for Indians stranded abroad by the pandemic skidded off, nosedived and cracked in two, leaving 18 dead and more than 120 injured.
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Mets’ Dominic Smith gets big hit but fails in the biggest spot
Dominic Smith had done as much as opportunity allowed. Then, no better opportunity arrived. Continuing to take advantage of increased playing time since Yoenis Cespedes’ departure, Smith came through by crushing a solo homer into Citi Field’s upper deck in right field in the second inning of Friday’s game against the Marlins. It was Smith’s...
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Tuscany brings back 'wine windows' used during the plagued
It’s a quaint tradition — with a very dark history.
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Michigan university among 1st in U.S. to test campus living during COVID-19 pandemic
Lake Superior State University students have moved back into dorms and start classes Monday. Life will look different than when they left.       
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As new academic year looms, public school nurses call for more funding to battle the coronavirus
The National Association of School Nurses says on-campus medics are wholly unprepared because of a lack of funding and nurses.
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