Politics Would they be rivals or partners? 4
Nation Fear leads to sickness in Flint 9
Science Latest buzz isn’t bad for bees 17
5 Myths Russia 23
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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
How GOP is coping with Trump BY
A MBER P HILLIPS
he Republican Party had somewhat reluctantly coalesced around Donald Trump, but after the hot-mic video, it’s every lawmaker for him- or herself. When House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) broke up with Trump on Monday, his move forced congressional Republicans to quickly make their own choice about whether to bail on their presidential nominee or stay through the bitter end. We can break down the decisions congressional Republicans have come to so far in eight major categories, based on the actions they’re taking (or not), and the rationale they’re offering for those actions: 1. “Get out now” What Trump said in 2005 makes him unfit to president, and he should step aside. That’s the gist of this most hard-line group. But other than calling on Trump to step down, there’s not much they can do to make it happen. Who’s in it: Lawmakers who had already decided they weren’t going to vote for Trump — Sens. Ben Sasse (Neb.), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.) — along with a handful of others who decided this tape was a dealbreaker, like Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Not everyone who’s in this category stays here. (See No. 6.) 2. “I’m out” Lawmakers in this category followed Ryan’s actions to the logical conclusion by announcing they’re not supporting Trump. Who’s in it: These lawmakers, including Senate candidate Rep. Joseph J. Heck (Nev.), and Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), have calculated that Trump is so toxic, it’s just not worth trying to defend him. Ditching Trump could leave them in a sort of political purgatory where their base is mad at them for leaving the nominee but swing voters are skeptical they ever really left.
3. “At least he’s not Hillary” Republicans in this category analyzed the same situation as those in the “I’m out” crowd and made the opposite decision: to stay with Trump. And they justify it by saying something like what Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) said in a statement: “I disagree with him on many things, but I disagree with his opponent on virtually everything. I wish we had better choices for president. But I do not want Hillary Clinton to be our next President. And therefore my position has not changed.”
Blackburn is staying loyal.
Ayotte said she’s out.
McConnell remains silent.
Who’s in it: Any Republican who calculated they’ll lose more than their presidential nominee if they ditch Trump. 4. “Clinton already won” Rather than go on the record about where they stand on Trump, some Republicans are campaigning as if their nominee is going to lose. Republican polling found that in 18 competitive House races, promising to be a check and balance to a President Clinton could be a winning argument. Who’s in it: Republicans in swing districts. By Tuesday, two House candidates in swingy districts in Minnesota and New York had launched ads using the “checks and balance” language. Rep. Mia Love (Utah) said the magic words “check and balance” in her debate. 5. “Loyal first” Trump is our nominee, and love him or ab-
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hor him, we can’t abandon him now. Who’s in it: Republicans in solidly Republican districts are making this argument. And that makes sense. Abandoning your presidential nominee is politically risky, so why take the risk if you don’t have to? Here’s Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) speaking on Fox Business Network: “You don’t go after somebody who is, as Ronald Reagan would say, your 80 percent friend. What you do is stand with them.” 6. The clarifiers On Oct. 8, they wanted him gone. By midweek, there were at least four congressional Republicans back to supporting him. Kind of. It gets murky in this category. Who’s in it: Two red-state senators (including Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the highest-ranking Senate Republican to demand Trump leave the ticket), a vulnerable New Jersey lawmaker, Rep. Scott Garrett, and an Alabama lawmaker, Rep. Bradley Byrne. 7. “The tape wasn’t a big deal” We’re firmly in Trump-defender territory. Who’s in it: Hardcore Trump supporters like Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (Calif.), one of Trump’s first Capitol Hill backers. He’s standing by Trump in part because he thinks what Trump said 11 years ago shouldn’t factor into what kind of president he’d be today. 8. Silence As evidenced by how many categories there are on this list, there is no perfect solution for Republicans to deal with Trump’s fallout. So some are keeping their lips zipped. Who’s in it: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has managed to refrain from saying publicly what he thinks should happen to Trump. (McConnell, like Ryan, technically endorsed Trump, but it’s clear from the little McConnell has said about Trump that he’s not a fan.) McConnell is trying desperately to save his Senate majority, and Trump isn’t making it easy. n
CONTENTS POLITICS THE NATION THE WORLD COVER STORY SCIENCE BOOKS OPINION FIVE MYTHS
4 8 10 12 16 18 20 23
ON THE COVER Laborers such as Aldair Rangel pluck small leaves and flowers off tobacco plants. Green tobacco sickness, or acute nicotine poisoning, can be a side effect of handling wet tobacco leaves. Photograph by MATT MCCLAIN, The Washington Post
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The relationship between these two BY R OBERT C OSTA AND P HILIP R UCKER
t was October 1998, and Hillary Clinton’s midterm campaign swing for Democratic candidates brought the first lady on a Saturday afternoon to a middle-school gymnasium in Janesville, Wis. A 28-year-old conservative upstart from the town was running for Congress — and Clinton, rallying 1,200 people with a rip-roaring denunciation of Republicans, was trying to stop him. Clinton’s efforts failed, of course. Paul D. Ryan went on to win, and he has held his House seat in Wisconsin’s industrial southeastern corner for nearly two decades as he has risen to become the highest-ranking Republican in the country. Clinton and Ryan did not know each other then, and they barely have a personal rapport now. When they served together on Capitol Hill, they did not collaborate. They have crossed paths only a few times, in perfunctory meetings while she was secretary of state. Clinton, 68, and Ryan, 47, also have no apparent social ties — although they do share a book agent, Washington super-lawyer Robert Barnett. Nonetheless, their relationship could become Washington’s most important in determining whether the federal government functions over the next four years, should Clinton win the presidency and Ryan retain his majority — as polls show is probable, although not certain, for both. Ryan’s uneasy relationship with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — one that appeared to reach its breaking point this past week — has been front and center in this year’s melodrama of a campaign. It’s less clear what a Clinton-Ryan relationship would look like. “It’s fine,” Ryan said flatly when asked about his relationship with Clinton at a late-September breakfast hosted by the Economic Club of Washington. “I’ve only had two or three conversations with her. . . . I can’t really say I know her very well.” The relationship would hinge
on how Clinton decides to begin her presidency. She could claim an electoral mandate and launch a pitched battle to pass the more progressive parts of her agenda. Or she could start with a relatively incremental push on a menu of domestic issues on which she and Ryan have shared interests, including infrastructure investment, criminal-justice issues and anti-poverty measures. “Do they want to begin it at loggerheads or with some signal to a very frustrated electorate that there is ground to be gained by focusing on the overlap between their two agendas?” asked William A. Galston, an official in President Bill Clinton’s administration and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Partnership potential? There is a glaring fault line between optimism and pessimism about Clinton and Ryan forging a productive partnership. Some see the pair as policy wonks with pragmatic instincts who are poised to break the logjam. Others say their political caution and entrenched ideologies would prevent them from defying their bases to resolve disputes and build agreements. “To assume Washington is going to work next year is to assume she’s not Clinton and he’s not Ryan,” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who has been advising Trump and had made legislative pacts with Bill Clinton on issues such as welfare and spending. “Paul Ryan will not be dealing with Bill Clinton,” Gingrich said. “I had a guy I could talk to who had been the governor of Arkansas and dealt with that state’s legislature and helped to found a centrist organization,” he added, referring to the Democratic Leadership Council. “Hillary, on the other hand, is someone who is hard left. They are totally different people with different instincts.” The other power broker in the Clinton-Gingrich negotiations, Republican former Senate leader Trent Lott (Miss.), has a far different assessment. Lott pointed to the lessons Hil-
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IMAGES
If she wins and he stays speaker, there would be obstacles but also hope for common ground lary Clinton took away from watching her husband negotiate with Congress, as well as the warm relationships she built with Lott and other Republicans when she served in the Senate. He said Ryan has an even temperament and eagerness to shed his party’s reputation as obstructionist, as evidenced by the budget deal he struck with Sen. Patty Murray (DWash.) in late 2013. “Paul Ryan’s nature is to try and find a way to make things work,” Lott said. “And Hillary has seen how important communication is. She understands they’re not just a bunch of rogues up there. . . . You’ve got to be willing to give a little to get a little. That’s how Bill Clinton and I made deals across the board.” Ryan’s biggest obstacle to partnering with Hillary Clinton would probably be the House Freedom Caucus, a group of dozens of hardline conservatives whose threats of rebellion led Ryan’s predecessor, John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), to resign and who have become a
thorn in Ryan’s side. One member, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), who ousted then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary two years ago, vowed to work with Clinton on issues such as fighting terrorism, but he said, “I don’t see a love fest.” “For us, it’s not about Paul Ryan,” Brat said. “It’s about constraining anyone who’s opposed to stopping the expansion of the federal government.” House Republican leaders have said that if Clinton is elected, they intend to continue their investigation into her use of a private email server as secretary of state, forecasting a stormy atmosphere. “Next year could be very much like 1998, when we impeached Bill Clinton,” Gingrich said. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who worked with Ryan on the House Budget Committee, said “the jury is still out” on the prospects for common ground. “The question for Paul Ryan is, is he going to be a speaker who wants to try and govern with Presi-
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks Wednesday during a rally in Pueblo, Colo. Clinton built warm relationships with some Republicans when she was in the Senate.
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policy wonks may shape Washington
MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IMAGES
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan speaks this month in Elkhorn, Wis. He has been described as eager to shed the GOP’s reputation as obstructionist.
dent Clinton or continue to kowtow to the tea party faction?” Van Hollen said. “I think that battle within the Republican caucus is unavoidable. . . . If he wants to get stuff done, he’s going to have to be willing to have that showdown.” On top of the possible tensions between the speaker and Clinton could be a Senate with a narrow majority, with Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) as majority leader, depending on election results this fall. People who know Ryan said his amiable disposition can do only so much to help him connect with Clinton. “He’d be gracious and a gentleman, sure — less confrontational than Newt, and he’d be smoother than John Boehner,” said William J. Bennett, a close friend of Ryan’s and an education secretary under President Ronald Reagan. But, Bennett said, “these aren’t people who are going out to dinner.” Further complicating Ryan’s calculations could be his political ambitions — namely, whether Ryan, the GOP’s vice-presidential nominee in 2012, would try to position himself to run against Clinton in 2020. Clinton probably would face similar pressures. She is distrusted by the Democratic Party’s liber-
al wing, which fueled the formidable primary challenge of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.). Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and their followers have signaled they would try to halt any move to the middle by a President Clinton on bedrock programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which Ryan has long targeted for sweeping changes. Finding mutual goals? For Republicans, Clinton presents potentially a far different negotiating partner than President Obama. Obama came to office with little record of bipartisanship and with a disdain for the social rituals that have historically greased relations at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Clinton’s allies said she would be more sensitive to the political realities of divided government. “One of my favorite expressions about leadership is, ‘The best way to persuade is with your ears,’ and she truly understands that — the need to listen,” said Democratic former Senate leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.). Daschle led Senate Democrats through Clinton’s first four years in the chamber, and he recalled her painstakingly cultivating alli-
ances across the aisle. For instance, she befriended Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who only a few years earlier had argued the impeachment case against her husband. They traveled together overseas and worked on issues such as military benefits. And in 2006, when Clinton appeared in Time’s “100 Most Influential People” issue, it was Graham who penned a glowing tribute. “How do you build relationships?” Daschle asked. “It’s inclusion. It’s invitations to Camp David. It’s regular meetings at the White House. It’s socializing. It starts with that.” In his failed attempts at a “grand bargain” with Boehner, Obama’s approach was to appeal to Boehner’s sense of reason and convince him that a deal was best for the country, even if he suffered a backlash on the far right. But Clinton’s associates said she would approach similar talks like a mechanic, understanding Ryan’s constraints and identifying areas of mutual advantage. One such area could be an infrastructure spending bill, which Clinton has said would be an immediate priority. Ryan, too, has in the past year privately reached out to top Democrats about beginning infrastructure talks, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other pillars of the Republican establishment have championed. Clinton also would seek to work immediately on an overhaul of immigration law, an issue that Ryan has advocated but that has become anathema in parts of the Republican conference. It is possible that a Trump loss in November could shift political winds in the GOP, creating momentum for Ryan to consider starting discussions. “It’s got to be done in stages and pieces, not some big, massive bill that ends up collapsing under its own weight,” Ryan said at the Economic Club about the prospect of an immigration pact next year. There are other areas of mutual agreement, such as on criminal justice. Clinton and Ryan have expressed concern about mass incarceration and advocated changes to sentencing laws, and there are bi-
partisan efforts afoot. Another issue is fighting poverty, something Clinton and Ryan prioritize, although they have clear disagreements on the solutions. Ryan sees it as his personal mission and thrust it to the forefront of the GOP policy agenda. His confidants said he would feel invested in reaching an antipoverty accord with Clinton. Bob Woodson, a veteran community organizer who has mentored Ryan, said he could envision Clinton and Ryan touring beleaguered urban neighborhoods together. “Paul and I have taken many of these kinds of trips, and he does it in a way where politics isn’t part of it,” Woodson said. “It won’t be easy. She’s going to want more government; he’s going to want more choice in education and different ways of spending money to tackle these problems. But he’s the kind of person who could sit down and come up with five or six concrete steps where there is overlap.” Clinton’s selection of Ken Salazar, a former Interior Department secretary and senator from Colorado, as co-chairman of her transition team was seen by some in Washington as a telling signal. “Ken was well known for his ability to work across the aisle,” Daschle said. “Just selecting Ken was a strong statement about her desire to govern.” Ryan’s friends say a glimmer of hope may be the speaker’s aversion to the caustic animus toward the Clintons within his party’s ranks — a trait they say traces to his days as a staff member. The Midwesterner has never been comfortable about Clinton conspiracies or sordid accusations, despite his opposition to the Clintons’ policies. “He’s with his party, but he never said that he can’t work with her,” said Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman who worked with a just-out-of-college Ryan at Empower America, a think tank that has since shuttered. “That’s a key distinction. He’s certainly not for her — but he has never said he’s unwilling to engage.” n
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
Michelle Obama: Voter whisperer K RISSAH T HOMPSON Raleigh, N.C. BY
s Michelle Obama taking this campaign personally? It sure sounds like it. “I don’t have to be here,” she told an audience of 6,000 in the basketball arena at North Carolina State University this month. She had been praising Hillary Clinton and lighting into her opponent for a half-hour at that point, and she had brought the crowd to its feet. Then she paused. “I do this because I truly believe that this election matters. I truly want for our young people a president that they can look up to.” The first lady, who has carefully cultivated an everywoman persona, is cashing in on her popularity as she travels the country and says what the politicians in her party cannot. Her role in 2016 is unique: If Hillary Clinton is criticized for dry delivery, Michelle Obama is all emotion and energy. “A president can’t just pop off,” she tells crowds, to wild applause. In the past month, the first lady has held multiple rallies, most of them on college campuses. Her crowds, which skew toward young voters, have often been larger than those attracted to Clinton’s solo campaign events. In Raleigh, students and faculty members lined up before 8 a.m. to hear her speak at 3:30 p.m. One young couple drove more than an hour from Durham. “She has a kind of informality that comes off as very natural, and in a generation that is searching for authenticity and connection, I think that helps,” said political scientist William A. Galston, a former aide to President Bill Clinton who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Obama mentions the policy differences between the candidates only briefly. The heart of her message is aimed at painting Donald Trump as a loose cannon and a poor role model, and Hillary Clinton as hard-working and conscientious. As she goes after Trump, Obama steadfastly refuses to mention his name, referring to the Republican
JIM COLE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The first lady has energized crowds and bridged a gap with young people and African Americans nominee as “people” and “someone.” As in: “There were also those who had other kinds of questions — questions they continued to ask for the past eight years, like whether Barack was born in this country.” The Raleigh audience booed, and Obama went on, speaking of Trump’s “birther” questions in more intimate terms, calling the accusations “hurtful and deceitful.” “They were deliberately designed to undermine my husband’s presidency,” she said. On Thursday, during a passionate speech in New Hampshire, she put aside her usual policy talking points and focused on Trump’s 2005 comments about women that were caught on tape: “I have to tell you that I listen to all of this and I feel it so personally, and I’m sure that many of you do, too, particularly the women. The shameful comments about our bodies. The disrespect of our ambitions and intellect. The belief that you can do anything you want
to a woman. It is cruel. It’s frightening. And the truth is, it hurts.” A unifying figure Her speeches at recent rallies hit many of the same themes as she did during the Democratic National Convention, when her opening-night address drew rave reviews at a time when many in her party remained ambivalent about its nominee. After that speech, the first lady’s popularity ratings surged to 64 percent, according to an August Gallup poll, roughly comparable with that of Laura Bush. Within the Clinton campaign, Obama is seen as a unifying figure whom Democratic officials hope reinforces the role that the president plays — as both a role model and an advocate for children and families. On the campaign trail, she plays a more strategic part: energizing young people and African Americans, two groups who put Barack Obama over the top. Clinton’s support among both
First lady Michelle Obama speaks at a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton on Thursday in Manchester, N.H. “I can’t stop thinking about this,” she said of Donald Trump’s hot-mic comments about women. “It has shaken me to my core in a way I couldn’t have predicted.”
groups is lower than President Obama’s in 2012, in part because of the popularity of third-party candidates with younger voters and flagging enthusiasm among the electorate. Enthusiasm among African American voters is far lower for Clinton than it was for Obama four years ago. At this point in 2012, 82 percent of President Obama’s black supporters were “very enthusiastic” about supporting him versus 49 percent for Clinton, according to national polling by The Washington Post and ABC News. Michelle Obama helps bridge those gaps. “She’s one of the most popular political figures in America because she’s not as political as the others,” said GOP pollster Frank Luntz. “She comes across as authentic, and that’s something that Hillary Clinton has never been able to do.” It’s not likely that the first lady will persuade Republicans, Luntz said, but independents and Democratic voters respond to her approach. “She brings you in. She doesn’t keep you at a distance,” said Doreen Pearson, 51, who attended the Raleigh rally. “Her conversation is not so far above you.” Subtle messaging She’s a looser campaigner than her husband. Even the president’s ad-libs are laden with statistics and a philosophical critique of the modern Republican Party. Vice President Biden’s folksy manner also excites Democratic crowds as he doggedly attacks Trump’s policies head-on. But Michelle Obama has found a third way, coming across as serious and friendly, passive and aggressive. Because of that, Republicans have seemed to be at a loss for how to counter her role in the campaign. After her convention speech, Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that “the first lady is off limits.” Obama has become a stealthy brawler on the campaign trail. When she takes the podium, she obliquely portrays Trump — again, without saying his name — as
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
POLITICS childish. “We need an adult in the White House,” she said at La Salle University in Philadelphia last month. And after Trump’s poor performance in his first debate against Clinton, Obama took the stage in Charlotte to praise Clinton as someone who doesn’t “make excuses.” She tapped her microphone four times — a clear mockery of Trump’s complaint that a faulty mic had given him trouble — and the crowd roared its approval. Michelle Obama’s subtle but pointed messaging has even been evident in the seemingly lighthearted appearances she has continued to make in the entertainment media. During a visit to Stephen Colbert’s late-night show, she did a funny bit about her husband boring the family over dinner by droning on about policy prescriptions. On the surface, she was mocking her husband as a wonky grind — but her message was clear: This guy takes his job seriously. Erin Banks, 37, the director of a student diversity initiative at North Carolina State University, said she left the Raleigh rally energized. A 2008 Barack Obama volunteer, she stood in line for six hours for this speech. “I just wanted the opportunity to see her,” Banks said. She had been planning to vote for Clinton but said Michelle Obama’s speech persuaded her to do more. “I may not be 100 percent in it like I was with Barack, but I am going to go vote and try to motivate others.” To young voters leaning toward third-party candidates, Obama had a message: “Here’s the reality. Either Hillary Clinton or her opponent will be president this year. And if you vote for someone other than Hillary or if you don’t vote at all, then you’ll be helping to elect Hillary’s opponent.” No other Clinton surrogate is speaking so bluntly and publicly about the specter of unhappy liberal voters threatening to stay at home or cast a ballot for a thirdparty candidate. At one point the crowd began a “four more years” chant. She calmed them with a cheerful insistence that term limits are good for democracy. “I’ve been sharing with people that this time is bittersweet for me,” she added. “This is going to be the last time I campaign.” n
It’s not really about Trump for these female supporters M ARY J ORDAN Icard, N.C.
ruption for years and years and years, and we don’t want to go down that path again.” Since the video surfaced, sevf Hillary Clinton becomes the eral women have come forward to first female president of the say that Trump has groped them United States, a lot of women or made other unwanted sexual at Granny’s Country Kitchen advances. Many here said Thurswill be upset. day they have heard those reports They know Donald Trump has but treat them with great skeptisaid crude things about women. cism because of what they perHe may even have behaved like a ceive as media bias against Trump. lout. But when forced to weigh Still, these women accept that Trump’s behavior against their Trump made the vulgar comments disdain for Clinton, the women at they heard on the video, and they Granny’s say it’s not even close. are worried that Republicans in “She couldn’t care less about GOP strongholds like this town me,” said Brenda Vaughn, 62, of 2,700 will be so disgusted they wearing a “Women for Trump” just won’t vote at all. shirt at a rally at this landmark Yoho said she has heard prorestaurant, home to Friday night fessional men speaking “very Gospel gatherings and a reputainappropriately and it doesn’t tion for the best fried chicken in make them incompetent.” And, these Blue Ridge foothills. she noted that huge numbers of Like most of the women here, women bought “Fifty Shades of Vaughn came out Wednesday to Grey,” the best-selling erotic listen to wives of Republican novel that centered on bondage congressmen, who are on a MARY JORDAN/THE WASHINGTON POST and rough sex. week-long barnstorming bus “Women can be just as inaptour through this critical swing Donald Trump fans in Rutherfordton, propriate,” she said. state. And she was happy to dis- N.C., kneel to pray Wednesday after a Alison Lloyd, a cashier at Granparage Clinton as much, if not rally led by some of his female backers. ny’s, said she is an independent more, than to cheer for Trump. who voted for Obama last time. She “When I see her, all I see is tle to do with him. is still undecided and getting more plastic — all fake. He might have Many of these women are steadconfused about whom to support. said things people don’t agree fast supporters of traditional GOP The mother of two said she with, but he is real,” said Vaughn, policies of low taxes and small finds herself questioning if there who helped distribute 400 Trump government. But many simply isn’t more to Trump than she realsigns around neighboring Mccan’t stomach Clinton. They call izes, because he had done so many Dowell County. her “unrelatable,” “corrupt” and a offensive things and yet his sup“I know of only one Hillary “machine” who has been angling port holds. sign,” she said proudly. for the presidency for what they “Is there something about this A growing gender gap is marksay feels like a lifetime. Many man that I am not getting?” she ing the 2016 campaign. Not since strongly disagree with her policy said. CBS News exit polls were first takpositions, especially her views in As Lloyd rang up Carol Smith’s en in 1972 has there been such a support of abortion rights. bill at the register, the scheduler for divide in how men and women Many also said they do not like a local orthodontist group said she view candidates. Polls show that things about Trump. But they have is worried that Trump could kill more women are abandoning been forced to disregard his lessObamacare. She said that would be Trump, while men are still more savory attributes and focus on isbad news for those with preexisting likely to support him than Clinton. sues important to them, such as conditions, including her husband, After The Washington Post reTrump’s promise of tighter immiwho has heart disease. leased a video Friday showing gration control. “It would devastate us,” Smith Trump making vulgar comments “I am voting on America’s fusaid. about women and bragging of his ture, not on Trump’s past,” said Yet she still plans to vote Trump. ability to force himself on them Carolyn Yoho, wife of Ted Yoho “I just feel she is corrupt,” said sexually because he was a “star,” (R-Fla.), before she set off ThursSmith, adding she wouldn’t put it Clinton’s advantage among womday morning for another day on past Clinton to somehow steal the en jumped, according to a Wall the trail. “The Clinton regime and election. n Street Journal-NBC survey. machine has been rife with cor-
Overall, the survey showed Clinton had an 11-point lead, 46 percent to 35 percent. But among women, her lead grew from 12 points in mid-September to a remarkable 21 points this month. Perhaps more unexpected than women abandoning Trump are those who still enthusiastically support him. Judging from conversations with those leading the “Women for Trump” bus tour, and the women it is attracting, the female support for Trump has lit-
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
Slurs, blackface and gorilla masks BY
S USAN S VRLUGA
fter police shot a black man in Charlotte, Jeremiah Pearson was so upset by yet another death that he went to a friend at East Tennessee State University and asked if he would help him organize a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. They prepared for some backlash. They did not prepare for this: On the second day, a white student walked out of the library barefoot, wearing overalls, a gorilla mask, and carrying a burlap sack with a Confederate flag on it. He was making monkey noises, and he offered protesters bananas. He used a racial slur. He tied a rope around a banana and dangled it in sophomore Jaylen Grimes’s face. That moment, and their measured response, was a powerful symbol of the challenges and the possibilities that face universities — and the nation — in what many believe is an increasingly volatile racial climate. This academic year opened with an onslaught of racially charged incidents at colleges across the country. A professor at Eastern Michigan University found a racial slur spray-painted on the side of a building on campus along with “KKK” in large letters. A former Kansas State University student shared a photo of herself and a friend with their faces painted black, and a racial slur. Students at the University of Michigan found posters on campus warning white women not to date black men. On a wall at Ohio University, someone painted a person hanging from a noose. And again, the University of Missouri campus was thrust into the discussion of the racial divide when this year began with black students hearing the n-word yelled at them. It was almost exactly a year after a racial slur in fall 2015 prompted a student leader at Missouri to force a public debate about race that erupted into protests so intense — including a threatened boycott from members of the school’s football team — that they forced out the system president and chancellor and sparked
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As school year starts, incidents show challenge universities face in volatile racial climate and energized demonstrations over race at campuses nationwide. The battery of ugly incidents this fall is a reflection of our times, said Benjamin D. Reese Jr., vice president of institutional equity and chief diversity officer for Duke University and Duke University Health System. National protests over police violence and race have changed the climate on many campuses, he said, and so has political rhetoric. And as racial tensions and polarization ramp up, things that had been muted are now increasingly likely to be expressed intensely and directly. In 45 years of working with race and diversity issues, Reese, the immediate past president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, has seen dramatic cultural change. But in the past year or so, “I certainly do see a backward step,” he said. “There is a kind of increase, or culture of permissiveness when
it comes to saying things and expressing hostile intent and in some cases engaging in violence.” “The racial ugliness we see on campus and on social media isn’t new,” said Shaun Harper, executive director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Some experts said there’s no proof that there are more racist incidents on college campuses than in the past — they say such things have long been happening — and they’re not aware of anyone who tracks such incidents in a systematic way. But they’re far more visible now, in part because phones so easily capture the moment — before it’s painted over, deleted, washed away or denied — and social media so easily spreads it instantly to the world. “It is quite possible that there is growing resistance to the conversations about the need for greater
Tristan Rettke, an East Tennessee State University student, confronts Black Lives Matter demonstrators on Sept. 28 on the campus in Johnson City, Tenn. He was arrested after showing a noose and is no longer enrolled at the school.
diversity and inclusion efforts in higher education, but there’s no concrete evidence to say whether or not that’s the case,” said Sam Museus, director of the Culturally Engaging Campus Environments Project and an associate professor of higher education and student affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. “Any time you have pressure to change, there are people who resist that pressure.” At scores of schools last year, students demanded change — pushing for more faculty of color, cultural centers, and new names for things on campus that honored people whose legacies included slaveholding and advocacy for white supremacy. This year, as some football players take a knee or raise a fist during the national anthem and Black Lives Matter protests continue, at some schools, real changes are happening. The University of Oregon removed the name of a former KKK leader from a building. Georgetown University promised to give an admissions preference to descendants of people who Jesuits sold as slaves in the 1800s, a sale that brought considerable financial benefit to the university. Seventy-five universities hired chief and senior diversity officers in the past year alone, a more than 40 percent increase. Recently, Harvard’s president announced a university-wide task force on inclusion and belonging. At East Tennessee State University, the small group of friends planning a protest knew they were taking a risk. For Jeremiah Pearson and Jaylen Grimes, it was the first time they had been involved in any kind of activism. They just wanted to make the point that black lives are lives too, Grimes said. “We do love all lives — white lives, black lives, brown lives, yellow lives,” Grimes said. “If there were people that were purple with polka dots, we would love them just the same.” Pearson knew, from social media, that some people were angry about the protest. “We are in the South, a fairly
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
NATION conservative, religious area” that is predominantly white, said Nathaniel Farnor, vice president of the ETSU student government association, one of the small group of friends who organized the protest. “In our region, it’s usually frowned on. Black Lives Matter — I’ve heard people call it a terrorist group, a hate group, a racist organization.” When the person with the gorilla mask walked toward them, Grimes said he was in shock, his heart shaking in his chest. But he steeled himself and, for more than 20 minutes, as a white person taunted them with a noose and bananas, they did something remarkable: They stayed calm. Grimes told them they needed to make it clear to everyone that it was a peaceful protest, a counterpoint to the anger and rioting that had emerged elsewhere in the country. “They want to start an argument with you, let the fire flame up,” Pearson said. “We want to extinguish the fire.” When Tristan Rettke, who had been a freshman at ETSU, took out the rope and held a noose in their faces, Grimes said, police stepped in. Rettke was arrested and charged with civil rights intimidation, a felony in Tennessee. The arrest was controversial. Rettke, who is no longer enrolled at ETSU, did not respond to requests for comment. Rettke’s attorney, Patrick Denton, said in a written statement that Rettke deeply regrets the events leading up to his arrest “and understands the negative perception of his speech and actions.” “That being said, despite what many may feel was objectionable behavior, Mr. Rettke has the same Free Speech protections as those in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement,” Denton said. University leaders were quick to respond. They offered support to students. They hosted an open forum that day. Rettke is no longer enrolled. Farnor said administrators met with students. And the next day, which Pearson and his friends had planned as the third and final day for their protest, the same group of 20 or so students were out there — along with a couple hundred more, holding signs, arms locked. “Black people, white people, Hispanic people, Asians,” Grimes said. “It was a beautiful day.” n
Flint residents’ fear of their water is making them sick BY
T RAVIS M . A NDREWS
esidents of Flint, Mich., are still afraid of the city’s water. That fear, caused by the 2015 findings of elevated lead levels in the town’s water supply, had led many of the town’s residents to forgo some basic hygiene, such as washing their hands or bathing with water — even though the federal government has deemed the water safe when using a water filter. “People aren’t bathing because they’re scared,” Jim Henry, Genesee County’s environmental health supervisor, told CNN. “Some people have mentioned that they’re not going to expose their children to the water again.” As a result, the city is facing another outbreak: this time of Shigellosis, an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Shigella. The main way to prevent the infection is by washing one’s hands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, malaise, abdominal pain and tenesmus — constantly feeling the need to evacuate one’s bowels, even with an empty colon. It is, according to the CDC, “very contagious” and resistant to many “first-line drugs,” the most common antibiotics. “It’s very easy to transmit person to person, or through food. If people aren’t washing their hands, it runs through the whole county,” Henry told CNN. The disease is fairly common in the United States — about 500,000 cases appear in the country each year — but incidents in Genesee County, home to Flint, have more than tripled in the past calendar year, according to MLive.com. Since October 2015, 84 cases of the disease have appeared in Flint, a city that normally experiences 20 instances each year, according to CNN. In response, the Genesee County Health Department has issued three advisories since May 2016,
warning of the disease and urging residents to wash their hands. The water crisis that led to this outbreak began in April 2014, when the city of Flint began drawing water from the Flint River to save money. Previously, it had shared Detroit’s water supply. A short 18 months later, though, “researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled,” The Washing-
ton Post reported. The city switched back to Detroit’s water supply, but it was too late — the water from the Flint River had proved corrosive to the lead pipes, and lead levels in water still remain unsafe. Residents have been forced to drink bottled or filter watered for more than a year now, as The Post noted. As a result, residents are averse to using tap water for much of anything, even when their taps are outfitted with the proper filters. Take 35-year-old mother of four Bobbie Nicks, who was interviewed by the Detroit Free Press in July while nervously watching her children swim in an aboveground pool. Her family uses bottled water to drink, cook and brush their teeth, even though they have filters installed in their home. But she let her kids swim because she didn’t want to steal their
childhood. “We have to find a good balance of letting kids be kids and not dealing with what we have to deal with as parents — of being scared of the water,” Nicks told the paper. Some parents, despite the warnings of health officials like Jim Henry, won’t let their children near water in any capacity, which Henry claimed is one of the catalyzing factors in the current Shigellosis outbreak. Henry told CNN that people of Flint, many of whom still must use filtered and bottled water because of damaged water pipes, use baby wipes — available free of charge at various sites around the city — instead. Delano Whidbee, a Flint resident with two young daughters, is one such parent. His household has lead filters on the shower and faucets, making them safe to use, but he still refuses to bathe his girls in the water. “With the kids, we use baby wipes,” he told CNN. Henry said that’s a problem. “Baby wipes are not effective, they’re not chlorinated, it doesn’t kill the bacteria and it doesn’t replace handwashing,” Henry said. “People have changed their behavior regarding personal hygiene. They’re scared.” Speaking with MLive.com, Suzanna Cupal, public health division director for the Genesee County Health Department, stressed the importance of properly washing hands — for at least 20 seconds using soap and water, taking care to clean under the fingernails — to prevent further outbreak. It’s the latest issue arising from the water disaster, which led to six current and former Michigan state employees to be charged with criminal activity in association with the crisis. It has also led to cries for the resignation of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who has called the disaster his Hurricane Katrina. Most importantly, it has left a city of nearly 100,000 without safe tap water for more than a year. n
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
Mexico’s religious right is on the rise D AVID A GREN Mexico City BY
onservatives from all corners of the country converged on Mexico City on a recent Saturday for the National March for the Family, which took aim at the president’s plans to enshrine same-sex marriage in the constitution. The LGBT community and its allies launched a counterprotest, waving rainbow flags and carrying pictures of former presidents Benito Juárez and Plutarco Elías Calles — lionized as heroes of the secular state, figures who curbed Catholic Church privileges in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These contradictory images symbolize a growing conflict in this nation, where the church has been relegated to the sidelines of public life for decades. Now the religious right is rising as a political force, with conservative Catholics and members of the growing evangelical community attempting to influence the National Congress and mobilize the masses. “This is a clash between the secular state and the sectors that don’t accept the secular state,” said Ilán Semo, historian at the Jesuitrun Ibero-American University in Mexico City. The modern Mexican state was created by revolutionaries at odds with the Catholic Church, and they sought to curb its authority through measures such as a secular school system. For decades, Mexico was considered the most anticlerical country in Latin America outside of Cuba, even though the country is overwhelmingly Catholic. Census data shows that 83 percent profess the faith. But politicians have punted the old protocols over the past 25 years as they have sought the blessing of bishops, appeared publicly with prelates and kissed the pope’s ring — unthinkable a generation ago. The use of religious symbolism is increasing: Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a leftist who is among the front-runners for the 2018 presidential election, christened his new party with the acro-
MARCO UGARTE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Catholics and evangelicals are beginning to flex their muscle against the pro-secular government nym MORENA — also a name for the popular national patroness Our Lady of Guadalupe. The country’s expanding evangelical and non-Catholic congregations are becoming politically active, too, having started their own grouping, known as the Social Encounter Party. The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, ruled for seven decades over a one-party system before the opposition won the presidency in 2000. Now, in a competitive democratic system, the PRI increasingly finds itself facing a ceiling of support in the mid-30percent range and needing new sources of votes. That is one reason it has openly courted the Catholic Church and evangelicals, says Carlos Bravo Regidor, professor at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics. It is a dramatic change in a country where, for much of the 20th century, the church had no legal status and was barred from owning property. Relations be-
tween church and state were restored only in 1992, when Mexico and the Vatican re-established diplomatic ties and a raft of religious restrictions were lifted. The Mexican Catholic Church — which has prioritized religious freedom, the teaching of religion in public schools and removing restrictions on its ability to own radio and television stations — had previously attempted to make incursions into politics, pushing back in the 1970s against health officials promoting family planning. PRI governments of the era prevailed. But observers such as Semo express doubts about President Enrique Peña Nieto’s ability to resist church pressure as his approval rating hovers at less than 25 percent — the product of scandals over corruption, security forces and the decision to invite U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump to Mexico. “The difference [now] is that no president has been this unpopu-
Demonstrators carry a giant Mexican flag during a march last month organized by representatives of the National Front for the Family in Mexico City.
lar,” Semo said. Even the president’s own party is resisting his wishes. The PRI in Congress has shelved Peña Nieto’s same-sex marriage initiative — which also included putting positive portrayals of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Mexicans in educational materials — saying the timing was not convenient. Organizers of the “pro-family” marches claim credit for a “punishment vote” against the president’s same-sex-marriage initiative in gubernatorial elections earlier this year. The PRI lost in seven of 12 states, although polls indicated the races were decided on the issues of insecurity and corruption. Activists plan to push a citizen initiative in Congress to outlaw same-sex marriage, even though the Supreme Court has declared laws against such unions discriminatory. Same-sex marriages are allowed in Mexico City and several states. “This is something that if the PRI doesn’t correct will guarantee its defeat in 2018” in the presidential race, said Rodrigo Iván Cortés, spokesman for the National Front for the Family. While the PRI traditionally had a cool relationship with the church, Peña Nieto and the Catholic hierarchy enjoyed cordial relations — until recently. “After talking to many bishops, I would say the feeling is one of betrayal,” said the Rev. Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City. “Peña Nieto was always very close to people in the church; he said publicly that the pope’s agenda was the president’s agenda, then he comes out with [the same-sex marriage initiative]. It surprised us enormously.” The bishops’ conference declined to comment. It is not clear how much influence the religious right will be able to yield. Polling in 2015 by the National Autonomous University of Mexico showed 42 percent of Mexicans opposed religious authorities influencing the vote. “There are many Mexicans who are Catholic,” said Semo, the historian, “but they don’t want priests involved in politics.” n
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
Russians reinvent the cheese wheel A NDREW R OTH Dubrovskoye, Russia BY
he dream is Russian Parmesan. When Russian President Vladimir Putin banned most food imports from Europe in 2014, Russian dairy farmers rejoiced as deliveries of French and Italian cheeses ceased. Now, they believed, they could compete. Since then they’ve tried to duplicate all sorts of famous varieties, from Camembert to Emmenthal. But one global delicacy remains largely beyond reach, a product of rich milk, know-how, and at least 18 months of aging. “It would be like winning the Olympics,” said Oleg Sirota, an entrepreneur turned cheesemaker so enchanted with the idea that he named his new creamery “Russky Parmesan,” or Russian Parmesan. Then, in a slight at competitors substituting palm oil for real milk, he added: “It’s hard to win without doping.” Cheese is more than just cheese in Russia these days. For travelers carrying up to five kilograms, or 11 pounds, of permitted “zapreshyonka” — contraband — back from European vacations, it is a defiant, smelly reminder of Russians’ adoption of European tastes in recent years despite a deepening political conflict with the West. “We aren’t afraid of sanctions,” goes the conservative battle-cry, repeated by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and printed on patriotic T-shirts, but some upscale restaurants and cheese-importing websites are still doing a brisk, quiet business in European Goudas and cheddars (all at a healthy markup). For Sirota, a stout 28-year-old with the wispy beard common among Russian Orthodox believers, cheese is a symbol of national revival, and sanctions are his gospel. An agronomist by education, he was running an IT business with 30 employees when Russian troops quietly seized control of Crimea in February 2014. He had wanted to travel to Crimea, then east Ukraine, as a
ANDREW ROTH/THE WASHINGTON POST
Local creameries take pride in making their own varieties amid nation’s ban on imported foods volunteer to fight in the conflict there but “got scared,” he said. When Putin signed counter-sanctions against the European Union and the United States in August 2014, calling on Russian farmers to make the country self-sufficient, Sirota saw a chance to make his patriotic contribution. He sold his IT business and cars, borrowed money from family members and cut a deal with the Moscow regional government to rent discounted land. “I felt this call to the land, back to farming,” Sirota said over a cup of instant coffee at his farm. “We should overcome,” he said. “When you pressure Russians, even with something like cheese, we only become stronger.” Sirota had always wanted to be a farmer, but as long as he could remember, Russia’s villages had been in decline. On the first anniversary of the sanctions, Sirota opened Russian Parmesan for business, installing
a plaque in honor of the sanctions and hoisting the flag of Novorossiya, the separatist regions of southeast Ukraine, out front. Sirota is saving the first wheel of cheese he made for Putin, a man he once protested for helping Russia join the World Trade Organization. In 2012, he brought a cow to an opposition demonstration to voice his anger. Now he offers full-throated support. “Without sanctions we would not exist,” Sirota said. And if sanctions are repealed, he added, he’ll have to close down. For now, there is no Parmesan at Russian Parmesan, but there is his version of a Swiss Emmenthal, and Gorgonzola, and plenty of yogurt topped with sweet jams, the farm’s best seller. The problems are legion: It is hard to get a steady supply of milk in Russia, so Sirota wants to buy his own cows. During the lean winter months, he came close to bankruptcy.
Oleg Sirota, 28, holds a wheel of cheese he says he is saving for Russian President Vladimir Putin at his creamery in Dubrovskoye, Russia.
Still, the ravenous market for fresh cheese was evident this summer when thousands of gourmets and curious shoppers descended on Sirota’s farm for a festival dedicated to the second anniversary of Russia’s food import sanctions. Sirota, who expected no more than a few hundred visitors and only takes preorders, sold out until October. Reactions were mixed. One customer made a wry face as she tried a slice of Gubernsky, Sirota’s signature cheese named in honor of the regional governor. Then she shrugged. “It’s a bit salty, but you can eat it,” said Larissa Fomenko, a former accountant now living on a pension. Sirota said it “goes with everything,” including vodka. His farm sells as much as two tons, or more, a month, he said. Farms such as Sirota’s are still only “a drop in the bucket,” said John Kopiski, a former London coal and steel trader who moved to Russia in 1992 and has since married, taken citizenship and opened a dairy farm in the Vladimir region, about 80 miles east of Moscow. Russians know him as the British expat farmer who quizzed Putin on the price of milk during a call-in show last year. While supportive of Putin, he also has demanded agricultural reform and said Russian farms need more government support to become competitive. The problem with Parmesan is that it takes a large supply of milk, about five gallons per wheel, according to Kopiski, and enough spare capital not to go bankrupt while the cheese is aging. Most Russian cheese, sold in blocks, is bland and, to Western tastes, a bit rubbery. High-end cheeses account for only 2 to 3 percent of the market, Danilenko said. “It’s still not the full variety that was coming through Europe, but slowly but surely they’re replacing those cheeses,” he said. “They need experience, No. 1, and No. 2 the Russian consumer psychologically being ready to accept that good cheeses can be produced domestically.” n
WORKING IN TOBACCO FIELDS CAN MAKE KIDS SICK, BUT
very day except for Sunday, between 5 and 6 a.m., long passenger vans materialize on the rural roads and highways connecting Lenoir, Greene and Wayne counties in eastern North Carolina. The vans, Our Lady of Guadalupe pendants hanging from rearview mirrors, circle through suburban neighborhoods and mobile-home parks, stopping to pick up passengers along the way: men, women and teenagers looking to make quick, flexible money with few questions asked. Eddie Ramirez has already been up for an hour. A stocky 17-year-old with black slickedback hair and a mustache, he stands in front of the trailer he shares with his mom and checks his cellphone: 5:22 a.m. Eighteen minutes to go. It’s dark and most of his neighbors are asleep. Dim lights appear in a couple of bathrooms and kitchens. “Going to work?” a young female neighbor leaving her trailer calls out to Eddie in Spanish, smiling. “Yeah,” Eddie responds. “Where at?” “In tobacco.” She lets out a quiet laugh, nods and gets in her van. Eddie started working in the fields when he
“Sometimes,” Eddie says, chuckling as Winky buries his face in his hands. A white van pulls up near Eddie’s trailer. In the driver’s seat is Cesar, Eddie’s crew leader, who hires workers. He doesn’t work directly for the farmer but is part of a chain of farm labor contractors. He rolls down the window, flashing a smile. The boys run to the van with their gloves, hats and plastic-bag lunches and hop in. On the radio, an announcer warns of a heat index of 105 to 109. Trailing the van is a caravan of vehicles with more workers. Only Cesar knows where the field is. As they fly down country roads, hundreds of acres of tobacco plants, green or bleached and plump in the summer sun, surround them in all directions. Tobacco has been grown in eastern North Carolina for centuries. And time spent working in the fields is a prized symbol of tradition. Having children as young as 12 spend their summers breaking the flowers off rows of tobacco plants is about as alarming to families here as having a paper route. It is also completely legal under federal child-labor laws, which bar kids younger than 14 from most jobs but allows them to work in agriculture without a work permit for an unlimited number of hours, outside school hours, with a parent’s permission. But after the release of a 2014 Human Rights Watch report on the hazards of nicotine poisoning for children and teenagers working in tobacco, what some see as tradition is now a lightning rod for controversy that has pitted anti-child-labor advocates against farmers who feel their heritage is under attack.
But kids want to work.” When summer rolls around, Eddie and his friends are outside, waiting in the pre-dawn darkness for a ride they can’t afford to miss. Like his friends, Fernando started working on tobacco farms when he was 12. He is 15 now but
looks younger, which sometimes is a problem. Once while he was on a job, a worker told him to pull his hat down over his face. “I was like, ‘Why did you tell me to do that?’ He was like, ‘Because of the farmer. If he notices you’re too young or anything he’ll make you go home.’ ” More than once he has been told to stay home because a farmer was out in the fields surveying workers, but he just waited a few days until the crew moved on to another farm. Fernando lives a few doors down from Eddie in a small white house with his mom, who also grew up working in the fields. She has a job as an assistant manager at a gas station, but it pays barely enough to cover their bills. So she works in the fields on her days off. One weekday in July, she has already left for work when Fernando gets up at 5 a.m. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Fernando pulls a washcloth — bright red and thick with frost — out of the freezer to put in his cooler. Later, when he’s working in the midday sun, he’ll wrap it around his head. In the living room, four small dogs roam around a large green bowl of dog food on the floor next to a pile of laundry. Fernando spreads mayonnaise on some sliced white bread and a
THEY HAVE FEW OTHER WAYS TO EARN MONEY. was 12, like generations of kids who grew up around here. Only, decades ago, they were probably working a small plot of land and working for their families. By contrast, Eddie has no idea whose crops he is tending, or who owns the land. Once in a while, he gets to work with his best friend, Fernando Rodriguez. But Fernando is working sweet potatoes for two more weeks. Instead, Eddie is bringing a friend named Anthony. Everyone calls Anthony “Winky,” a nickname his mother gave him as a baby. Winky is 16. It’s his first time working in the tobacco fields, and he’s nervous. He has heard about how backbreaking it can be. But after McDonald’s and Bojangles’ turned him down, he figured he’d try it. “I hope they have water out there,” Winky says. “They do, man,” Eddie says. Eddie doesn’t mention he found the work unbearable at first but stuck with it because it was a way to make money without risking getting in trouble with police. Without a green card or U.S. citizenship, he didn’t have many other options. And by now he knows what to expect: intense heat, long rows (each one can take about an hour) and a whole lot of suckers (smaller leaves that shoot out from the stem). The suckers, along with the flower that grows on top of the plant, have to be removed; otherwise they will stunt the growth of the plant and quality of the leaf. Harvesting and curing take place later in the season. “Are there snakes?” Winky asks.
“When these Human Watch people came out . . . they were completely way the hell off-base,” says Kendall Hill, a third-generation tobacco farmer in Kinston. “This state was built on the backs of kids working in tobacco, learning how to work. “There ain’t nothing hard about anything in tobacco except it’s just hot. But you know where else is hot? The man laying asphalt. The man nailing shingles.” In response to the report, two associations of tobacco growers, which combined represent more than half of all U.S. growers, adopted policies to ban hiring children under 16 to work in tobacco farming. The parent companies of Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds announced they would not allow farms producing tobacco for them to hire workers under 16. But more than a year later, the outcome has been less than ideal, both advocates and farmers say. Melissa Bailey, co-founder of farmworker advocacy group NC Field, has seen kids traveling farther to find work. She calls it the “worst unintended consequence.” “Telling a really poor family that this isn’t okay is one thing,” Bailey says, referring to the potential hazards of tobacco farming. “Being able to substitute the loss of income is something completely different.” “The man with the money rules,” Hill says. “The tobacco companies tell this guy over here: ‘If you have any child labor on your farm, you are not going to sell your tobacco to us.’ So is that man going to hire any kids? Hell, no. . . .
BY ALEXANDRA HALL
piece of bologna. He sits at a table, eating the sandwich as he reads texts from his girlfriend that he can’t respond to. Yesterday he was working on a row of sweet potatoes when a shower of liquid sprayed over from the next field. On his break he discovered pesticides had soaked his pants, damaging the phone’s screen. Federal regulations require that farmworkers have access to drinking water, toilets and hand-washing stations, and when working around pesticides, protective gear. But not all farmers provide them. Fernando recalls that the first time he worked in a tobacco field, the pesticides made him itch: “When you break the flowers, the chemicals . . . go everywhere. If they get on you, it burns really bad . . . makes your skin [feel] like it’s crawling.” He has also felt queasy after handling tobacco plants, a possible symptom of nicotine poisoning. But he still thinks kids his age should be allowed to work. “To me it’s kind of messed up,” he says. “You got all these other people coming out here. People my age can do it. I don’t see the problem with it. It’s just more help.” While working, Fernando listens to music on headphones to make the time go by faster. Someday he wants to leave fieldwork and become a singer, a fact he doesn’t share with kids at school. “I don’t like to tell people right away that I’m in choir,” he says. “They’ll look at me funny.” Not Eddie, though. When the two met on the continues on next page
A ride they can’t afford to miss. Opposite page Fernando Rodriguez, 15, top, waits for a lift to work. He and Eddie Ramirez, 17, below, say they began working in the tobacco fields at age 12 to help their mothers make ends meet. Photographs by MATT MCCLAIN The Washington Post
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
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bus in middle school, they realized they had a lot in common. Both lived with single moms. Both of their dads had been deported. And they both worked in the fields to help support their families. In May, when Fernando sang with their school’s varsity choir, Eddie was there. After the performance of spiritual hymns and songs in Gaelic, the audience went crazy, which gave Fernando goose bumps. He was so excited he fist-bumped a guy next to him. On the drive home, he and Eddie talked about the coming summer. Fernando’s choir had been invited to sing at Carnegie Hall. He said he was relieved they were traveling by bus. He’d never flown before and was scared. That’s how Ritchie Valens died: in a plane crash with Buddy Holly, Fernando said. “He was a farmworker like us.” Somewhere near Jacksonville, N.C., Eddie is moving down a row of chest-high plants, assessing one at a time. He uses a latex-gloved hand to break off the fluted white flowers at the top of the stalk. The plants are wet from a late-night rain, and as the bouquet jerks to the right, nicotine-laced water splashes Eddie’s face. He wipes it with his shirt sleeve, but he’s completely drenched. He’s not wearing a black plastic trash bag like the two middle-aged women in the next row. Oh well, he thinks, too late. He moves on to the suckers. Other teenage boys listen to rap music on their phones as they work. Some light cigarettes and talk about girls, sex and partying. Eddie works faster than the other kids his age and even some who are older. “El gordo sabe,” they joke: The fat one has it down. It’s moments like these when Eddie prefers to concentrate on his paycheck. Asked if there are minors here, Cesar said no. Several growers interviewed for this story, including one who leases land that Eddie worked on, said they hire only temporary adult workers from Mexico through the Department of Labor’s H-2A visa program. The truth is it’s possible some growers may not know for certain who is in their fields because they are not doing “the necessary due diligence,” says Miguel Coleta, sustainability officer for Philip Morris International, which declined to renew contracts with at least 20 growers in the wake of the Human Rights Watch report. Graham Boyd, executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina, says farmers who turn a blind eye are “the exception.” But the ban on workers under 16 can be hard to enforce because labor practices have changed along with tobacco production in the United States in the past half-century, say farmers and labor advocates. In the 1940s, a sharecropper in North Carolina might have relied on his family to farm 10 or 20 acres. “That’s the only way that we could survive,” Kendall Hill, now 77, says. “Everybody worked.” Today, by contrast, the scale of production is far larger, and it isn’t uncommon for growers to tend hundreds or thousands of acres. They may not even know exactly where each field is located.
“This state was built on the backs of kids working in tobacco, learning how to work,” says Kendall Hill, above, a thirdgeneration tobacco farmer in Kinston, N.C. At top, Jorge Rangel, left, works with others in a tobacco field in Deep Run, N.C., in July.
Growers don’t always know how many workers they will need at the start of the season. When H-2A workers aren’t enough, locals are hired on a temporary, as-needed basis. They answer signs handwritten in black Sharpie that crew leaders tape to the windows of Mexican tiendas: “Looking for people to de-flower tobacco by the hour. In Dunn NC. Payments weekly. For more information call Luis.” With the proliferation of contractors and subcontractors, the relationship between a farmer and migrant and seasonal workers looks less like the close ties between relatives and neighbors that Hill remembers and more like the arms-length transaction between the owner of a company and workers in an offshore factory. Often if a crew leader has many workers, he or she will hire a driver to pick them up — a middleman for the middleman, Bailey says. This multi-tiered supply chain worries her. “The farmer wants to say they’re all H-2A, they’re all temporary workers,” she says. “That’s ridiculous. I mean our schools are full of [kids working in the fields]. You don’t even know if . . . [some farm labor contractors are] really contractors. For all you know they’re just some guy that has a connection . . . who just says, ‘I’m short 10 workers, can you find 10 more?’ and they’ll find ’em and that’s it. “If one of these kids gets bit by a snake or passes out from heat exposure, and they call 911, where are they going to tell the ambulance to go?” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that in 2012, 2,700 youths of the roughly 259,000 hired to work on farms were injured on the job. Those numbers do not include kids like Eddie and Fernando, hired by crew
leaders. And they are unlikely to include most cases of green tobacco sickness, or acute nicotine poisoning — which can be a side effect of handling wet tobacco leaves that workers and farmers often refer to as the “green monster” or the “mean green.” One study by a Wake Forest School of Medicine public health scientist found about 24 percent of adult tobacco farmworkers reported symptoms. Experts say children and adolescents are more vulnerable to the illness because of their smaller size and still-developing bodies. The potential harm from nicotine poisoning was one reason that in 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division drafted changes to child-labor regulations that would have made it illegal for minors under 16 to work on tobacco farms. The rules had not been updated since the 1970s, and the department wanted to bring safety standards for a broad range of agricultural work in line with stricter rules for non-agricultural jobs. The regulations would not apply to children working on farms owned by their parents. But the following year, Labor officials announced they were shelving the proposal and would not pursue it for the duration of the Obama administration. In a statement, they said the decision was made in response to “thousands of comments” from stakeholders, including members of Congress, who said enforcement of the exemption for family farms would be up to the “whims” of the labor secretary. “You’ve got a president of the United States . . . from Chicago . . . and you have to think to yourself, do you have any idea what it’s like not just to run an agricultural business in a rural state . . . but to raise a family in one?” then-Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) told the Hill newspaper.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
limited because of his immigration status. Memories of his journey from Honduras to the United States are hazy. He was 7. His father had already made the trip and had been working for a year and a half. Soon after the family was reunited in Florida, Eddie’s dad was deported. Eddie and his mom eventually moved to North Carolina, where friends said there were more crops and more harvests, which meant more work. Once he was 10, Eddie says, he started to notice how difficult it was for his mom to make ends meet. Gang members in his neighborhood saw an opportunity in Eddie. They promised him new shoes and video games, plus the support his overworked mother and absent father couldn’t provide. “They look for young people, you know, because they start brainwashing you,” he says. After witnessing several fights, Eddie decided gang life wasn’t for him, and he and his mom moved to a different town to get away from the gang. That’s when Eddie started working in the tobacco fields. Five years later, Eddie says that’s behind him now. He can buy his own school supplies and didn’t have to do anything illegal to get the money. “I’m used to working now, you know?” he says. “Everything I got here, I worked for it.” The Labor Department’s decision was one factor that inspired Human Rights Watch researchers led by Zama Coursen-Neff to focus on tobacco farming. Their 2014 report, “Tobacco’s Hidden Children,” drew from the testimonies of more than 140 child and adolescent farmworkers in four major tobacco-producing states, including North Carolina and Virginia. Most were poor Latino kids who said they worked in the fields to help their undocumented immigrant parents put food on the table. The majority reported nausea, headaches, vomiting and dizziness after touching wet, green tobacco plants — common symptoms of green tobacco sickness. The report caught the attention of lawmakers, including Alfonso Lopez, a Democratic Virginia state delegate who represents parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties. In 2015, he introduced a bill to stop the use of laborers under 18 on tobacco farms. Some lawmakers and farmers objected bitterly to a New Yorkbased group trying to dictate how they should raise their children. At a tense public meeting on the bill in Richmond, a delegate asked an anti-child-labor advocate who was testifying whether he thought the parents of lawmakers who worked on farms as kids were “stupid.” Afterward, the bill was tabled and effectively killed. “I was taken aback that there wasn’t more willingness to engage on the subject and a willingness to see both sides of the issue,” Lopez says. “We’re not saying that the farming parents of yesteryear were evil people,” says Coursen-Neff, looking back. “We’re saying . . . looking at what we know now is happening to these kids who work in agriculture, not [to] let poor Hispanic kids do the most dangerous, dirty jobs in America.”
Eddie and Fernando’s neighborhood is a grassy square block of mobile homes and small white houses with porches and chain-link fencing. Fernando stands with his mom, Jessica Rodriguez, outside a neighbor’s trailer. Her dyedred hair is pulled back from her face, showing her green eyes and fair skin. Fernando has her features, but his olive complexion is tanner. He looks beat. “Hi, Miss Diane!” Fernando and Jessica yell out to Winky’s mom as she walks by. “How you doing, Fernando? How’s work going for you?” she says. “Exhausting.” “I see you got a self-made tan on you,” she says, laughing. “Winky tried [working in tobacco] for three or four hours — he quit.” “ Whaaaat?!” Jessica squeals in disbelief. Jessica says she started working on a friend’s family farm when she was 11. “Everybody helped everybody; that’s how it was. You helped your neighbors, you helped your kinfolk, you helped your family,” she says. When Fernando’s father was deported to Mexico about nine years ago, she was left to support three children alone and brought each of them to work with her in the fields once they were old enough. Fernando is the only one who keeps going back. “He wanted name-brand shoes, he wanted name-brand clothes. I thought it was time for him to learn where dollars come from,” she says. “At 12 years old, that’s the only job you can get. “I mean, what even is child labor? I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know what it is. I was always told that as long as the parents are okay with what they’re doing, then they can do it.” Eddie says his mom would prefer he do something else for work. But his options are
“The worst unintended consequence.” After two large tobacco companies said they would no longer buy tobacco from growers who hire workers under age 16, many kids simply travel farther for work, some say. Above, laborers identified as tobacco workers are seen in a van in July in Albertson, N.C.
At lunch, in the fields, Eddie sits on an old yellow school bus reconfigured to transport pesticides. He eats a bean-and-egg sandwich he brought from home. Workers hired through the H-2A visa program are sitting on the other side of the bus. They peer around the tanks of chemicals to tell Eddie and another worker named Junior that there’s soap and water in the back if they want to wash their hands. “It’s starting to burn right here, right here and right here, bro,” Eddie tells Junior, pointing to his cheeks and his forehead. Junior is a 33-year-old originally from Mexico who has been living off and on in the United States his entire life. Eddie is barely eating. Working in the fields always takes away his appetite. But he forces himself so he’ll have something in his stomach for later. “Shoot, man, I been doing this since I was 12, bro. I don’t even know how I made it here,” Eddie says. Junior looks at Eddie and sees something of himself in the teenager. Growing up undocumented, it didn’t matter how much he studied. He never had a bank account or was able to build credit and buy a house or a decent car — the building blocks of a good life. Eddie listens intently but says nothing. He remembers what a school counselor told him once: We’re all immigrants here. You might be where you are right now, and that’s a part of life. But hard work pays off. At 1 p.m., lunch is over. Time to move to another field. Everyone piles into vehicles. The caravan pulls away. And just like that, there is no trace anyone was ever there. Just tire tracks in the mud and the tobacco plants, pruned the way the farmer wanted. n
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
Getting to the root of ‘ghost trees’ S ARAH K APLAN Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Calif. BY
he redwood appears like a phantom: as if from thin air. What looked like a trick of the light a moment ago materializes into a trunk, branches, needles — a tree, roughly the height of a man, with delicate leaves the color of bone. It is an albino redwood, the “ghost” of California’s coastal forests. “I like that metaphor a lot,” biologist Zane Moore said, as he grasps a branch of the unusual conifer and holds it up to the light. Brilliant October sunshine filters through the high forest canopy, where the silver-green needles of healthy trees soak up rays and turn them into fuel. But the albino tree lacks chlorophyll, the green pigment that allows plants to make food from light via photosynthesis. It is incapable of the one thing that all trees must do to live. “It shouldn’t be here. It should be dead, but it’s not,” Moore said. “Just like a ghost.” The mystery of the albino redwood has stumped researchers for more than a century. The trees are so improbable that those who haven’t seen them up close sometimes question whether they can exist at all. But Moore is convinced that this ghost story has a scientific solution — one that should change how we view not just the albino trees, but also the entire forest. Moore is a doctoral student at the University of California at Davis with a professorial manner and an easy smile. He’s been visiting Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, an old-growth redwood grove near Santa Cruz, since he was a small child, and spotted his first albino redwood here at 16. For the trees’ own protection, staff at the park typically don’t tell visitors how to find them. “Trees can be loved to death,” docent Dave Kuty said. “They’re not like animals. They can’t run away.” Kuty is the unofficial caretaker of Henry Cowell’s 11 albinos; he alone knows where each one
STEVE MOORE/COURTESY OF ZANE MOORE VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
Albino redwoods shouldn’t be able to survive, but one expert is devoted to solving the mystery hides. Some look like haphazardly spray-painted bushes, while others resemble the artificial white trees sold around Christmas. Still others are little more than single, luminous branches high up in the canopy, barely discernible in the shifting morning sun. As a teenager in 2010, Moore heard Kuty give an interview to a local radio station about the redwoods, and he set out to track one down for himself. That quest won Moore membership into the loose group of botanists, park rangers and enthusiasts devoted to understanding the enigmatic trees. Now he is among the foremost experts on the albino redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains. And he’s only 22. It helps that hardly anyone else has studied them. Albinos are exceedingly rare — there are only 406 in existence, by Moore’s latest count. And redwoods as a species are notoriously complex. The
trees’ genomes have 32 billion base pairs to humans’ 3.2 billion, and they carry six copies of each chromosome instead of two. No one has successfully sequenced the redwood genome, making it impossible to pinpoint the mutation that causes their albinism. Vast rings of related plants communicate via their roots, and during the hard months of winter and early spring, they’ll distribute nutrients evenly among themselves. Scientists have spilled dye onto trees at one end of a grove and traced it through the root network all the way to the other side. “Most people, when they come to the redwood, they look up at the canopy,” Kuty says. “But down is where the action is.” This collaboration lasts only until summer comes. Then every tree, sprout and branch must fend for itself. Those that can’t photosynthesize enough sugar are cut
This 2011 photo shows doctoral student Zane Moore holding an albino redwood branch at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in California. He may have figured out why the trees, which lack the chlorophyll that plants need to survive, continue to exist.
off from the shared root system and discarded during what’s known as the autumn “needle drop.” That shedding process is taking place at Henry Cowell. The redwoods’ great age and immense height — coast redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, are the tallest organisms on the planet and live as long as 2,500 years — give the forest a cathedral-like quality. But Moore looks down as he explains how albino redwoods take advantage of their shared root system by siphoning off sugars produced by their healthy neighbors. “A lot of people thought they were parasites,” he said. “They even called them ‘vampire trees.’ ” That interpretation never made sense to Moore. If redwoods are so ruthless about sloughing off unproductive branches, it seems unlikely that they would tolerate a parasite year after year. “Redwood trees are smarter than that,” he said. He looks around at the towering green trees that surround — and presumably, sustain — the small albino. “Why, why, why?” Moore and a colleague, arborist Tom Stapleton, set out to document the locations of every known albino redwood. Their map revealed that white trees tended grow where the conditions become less favorable — a hint that environmental pressure might allow the mutants to thrive. Next, Moore sought help from his fellow redwood fans up and down the California coast, soliciting clippings from both albino trees and their healthy hosts. He found that the albino needles were saturated with what should have been a deadly cocktail of cadmium, copper and nickel. On average, white needles contained twice as many parts per million of these noxious heavy metals as their green counterparts; some had enough metals to kill them 10 times over. Moore thinks faulty stomata — the pores through which plants exhale water — are responsible: plants that lose liquid faster must also drink more, meaning that the albino
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
The hive mind is wrong — most bees are doing just ﬁne BY
C HRISTOPHER I NGRAHAM
ou’ve probably heard the bad news by now that bees were recently added to the endangered species list for the first time. But if you’re part of the 60 percent of people who share stories without actually reading them, you might have missed an important detail: namely, that the newly endangered bees are a handful of relatively obscure species who live only in Hawaii. The bees you’re more familiar with — the ones that buzz around your yard dipping into flowers, making honey, pollinating crops and generally keeping the world’s food supply from collapsing? Those bees are doing just fine, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture. In 2015, there were 2.66 million commercial honey-producing bee
colonies in the United States. That’s down slightly from the 2.74 million colonies in 2014, which represented a two-decade high. The number of commercial bee colonies is still significantly higher than it was in 2006, when colony collapse disorder — the mass dieoffs that began afflicting U.S. honeybee colonies — was first documented. Those 2.66 million colonies represent a greater number than just about any year since the late 1990s. How’s that possible, considering all the die-offs we’ve been hearing about? America’s beekeepers are busy at work managing their colonies and replacing the ones that die off. Beekeepers have a number of ways to replenish their stock: They can split one healthy colony into two. They can also breed their own queen bees, which can be sold to other keepers in need of
Number of commercial honey-producing bee colonies in the U.S. in 2015.
trees have twice as much metalladen water running through their systems. “It seems like the albino trees are just sucking these heavy metals up out of the soil,” Moore said. “They’re basically poisoning themselves.” Moore’s theory — which he presented at a redwood conference last month and hopes to publish next year — is that albino redwoods are in a symbiotic relationship with their healthy brethren. They may act as a reservoir for poison in exchange for the sugar they need to survive. “It’s really interesting work, and I’m so glad he’s doing it,” said Jarmila Pittermann, a plant ecophysiologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz who studies redwood water transport systems. She agreed that poor stomata control is probably responsible for the buildup of heavy metals in the albino plants. “As far as conferring advantage to the healthy trees,” she added, “I think that more work needs to be done.” Moore acknowledged that he needs to study the phenomenon further. His next experiment will involve dousing lab-grown green and white redwoods with nickel to see whether the plants with an albino partner stay healthier. He also wants to test whether the heavy metals in albino trees stay bound up in the plants or eventually leak back into the soil. If his theory does turn out to be valid, Moore can envision a day when albino redwoods are planted in polluted areas to help make the soil safer for other trees. But first the albinos themselves must be kept safe. Moore runs through the rare trees’ lengthy list of threats: Overzealous visitors may trample the roots and damage their ability to pump water. Some profiteer might see an opportunity to sell naturally white Christmas trees. Years of unrelenting drought have already taken their toll on California’s redwood forests. And even if each albino could be guarded and preserved, what about the green trees they depend on? “When you’re looking at redwoods, you need to take into account more than just one tree,” he says. “It’s the interactions of the community as a whole that makes the forest. That interconnection from root to root to root.” n
a queen to start a new colony. For the 2017 season, three pounds of bees plus a queen will set you back about $100 or so. The thing is, all of this colonysplitting and queen-breeding takes time, money and effort. It means that the main effects of colony collapse disorder aren’t being felt by the bees themselves, but by the people who breed and manage them. Beekeeping is a business, after all. “Honey bees are not about to go extinct,” Kim Kaplan, a researcher with the USDA, said in an email. “It is the beekeepers who are in danger, facing unsustainable economic losses.” The cost of those losses are currently getting passed on to the consumer. The average retail price of honey has roughly doubled since 2006, according to the National Honey Board. And pollination services, where keepers drive semi-trucks full of bees from farm to farm to pollinate crops, are getting more expensive, too. Of course, the discussion above concerns only commercial bees that are managed by humans and businesses. Wild bees — whether they’re honeybees or one of our 4,000 other native bee species — face different difficulties. If those species suffer die-offs, there’s nobody around to breed new queens and help them recover. Wild bees are on their own. Recent research has shown that the use of certain insecticides called neonicotinoids has been linked to declines in wild bee populations. But assessing the true magnitude of the effect is difficult, because it’s a lot harder to survey wild bee populations than domesticated ones. For now, the placement of seven bee species into the Endangered Species List might be less of a sign that America’s bees are in dire straits and more of an indicator that our other 3,993 bee species are probably doing fine. By and large, our domesticated honey producers appear to be doing just fine, too. n
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
Examining the feelings of the forest N ONFICTION
A NDREA W ULF
THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries From a Secret World By Peter Wohlleben Greystone. 271 pp. $24.95
walk through a forest might never be the same again after reading this elucidating book, which makes a case for trees as social beings that communicate, feel and help each other. “The Hidden Life of Trees” explains that trees use scent to talk, “agree” to bloom together and take communal action against pests. Bizarre as this might sound, the author Peter Wohlleben is not a New Age disciple who conjured up some crazy esoteric visions but a forester in Germany who underpins (most) of his ideas with hard scientific data. He refers, for example, to studies in which scientists have discovered what one called the “wood wide web” — in which trees “exchange news about insects, drought, and other dangers.” Umbrella thorn acacias in the African savannah, for example, pump toxins into their leaves when giraffes munch them. Not only that, they also give off a gas to warn nearby trees that then immediately release toxic substances to protect themselves — these are “arboreal early-warning systems,” as Wohlleben explains. Other species in temperate rain forests in North America send chemical distress signals and electrical impulses through the fungal networks at their root tips when under attack from insects, thereby alerting their neighbors to the impending danger. Wohlleben explains that trees are connected through their root systems and that they not only exchange nutrients but even help sickly neighbors. They are, he writes, “superorganisms with interconnections much like ant colonies.” Together they balance out extreme weather (by creating microclimates), protect one another against storms and pests, store water, and generate humidity. Each member in the community is valuable. He refers to research at the University of Bonn that indicates that trees have “brain-like struc-
JULIAN STRATENSCHULTE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IMAGES
Trees, like these in Hanover, Germany, communicate with and help one another, the book’s author says.
tures” at their root tips that analyze toxic substances and soil conditions and then send electrical impulses to redirect root growth. Many scientists doubt that this is enough to be called a brain, but Wohlleben welcomes the idea of blurring the boundaries between plants and animals. “The Hidden Life of Trees” caused quite a stir when it was published last year in Germany, where it is still on the bestseller lists. Wohlleben’s Canadian publisher, Greystone Books, now hopes to achieve the same in the Englishspeaking world — and I think the firm might be right. Since its release in the United States in September, the book has popped up on both the Washington Post and New York Times bestseller lists. I’m usually not keen on anthropomorphizing nature — and here trees are “nursing their babies” and having “a long leisurely breakfast in the sun,” while “alders flaunt their wealth” and fungus mushrooms are “rascals” who “steal” sugar and nutrients. These cutesy expressions make me cringe. Why can’t we see
nature on nature’s terms? But I have to admit that Wohlleben pulls it off — most of the time — because he sticks with scientific research and has a knack for making complex biology simple and thoroughly enjoyable. And frankly, right now, nature needs every little help there is. So, if Wohlleben’s decision to anthropomorphize nature got more than half a million Germans to be excited about trees and ancient forests, I do hope he can do the same for Americans. He writes about “youngsters,” their “mothers” and light deprivation, which is part of their “strict upbringing.” In an undisturbed forest, the canopies of old trees capture 97 percent of the sun, which doesn’t leave much for the young ones below, but that’s good because trees need to grow slowly to live long. Their wood gets denser (the inner cells hardly contain any air), which makes them less prone to breaking and more resistant against fungi and pests. Wohlleben is a passionate advocate for ancient forests because what he describes does not work
in plantations, where trees start life with damaged root systems (“the brain-like structures are cut off ”) and without “learning” from the older generation. They are “loners,” as opposed to the social beings in undisturbed forests. Wohlleben concludes his book with an evocative description of the transformation of a conifer plantation that begins with the arrival of tiny bark beetles and ends with an ancient forest 500 years later. Patience clearly is a virtue when it comes to forests. Much has been written in Germany about Wohlleben’s claim that trees communicate with one another — which is fascinating — but “The Hidden Life of Trees” is much more: It’s a declaration of love and an engrossing primer on trees, brimming with facts and an unashamed awe for nature. Most of all it’s a timely reminder that we know very little about trees — and that there is still so much more to learn. n Wulf is the author of “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World.”
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
One of year’s most original thrillers
The restless life of a tech genius
P ATRICK A NDERSON
oe Ide, one of this year’s more unlikely first novelists, has produced one of its most enjoyable, offbeat thrillers. Ide (pronounced E-day), who is 58, is a bit late to take up the fiction game. He has said that he finds inspiration in his colorful past: He’s Japanese American and grew up in an African American section of South Central Los Angeles. In a biographical sketch included with “IQ” he recalls the neighborhood in terms of rundown houses, pool halls, bars, drug deals, hookers, crime and rampant gangs. He didn’t like school but made it through college. He tried teaching high school but found his students obnoxious, whereupon he bounced from job to job until he took up screenwriting, without success. Finally he set out to write a novel about a youngster he says is much like his early self and — Bingo! — here’s this sometimes scary, often whimsical, off-thewall delight. The letters IQ are the initials of the book’s African American hero, Isaiah Quintabe. We see him in 2005, as a teenager, and 2013, in his 20s. In the early scenes, he seems destined for college — tests rate him “near genius” — but after his beloved older brother is killed by a hit-and-run driver, IQ quits high school, searches for his brother’s killer and finally, angrily, turns to crime. He’s good at it because he’s smart. He and a partner break into stores in the middle of the night, move in and out far more quickly than the police can arrive, and find safe ways to dispose of the loot. Unfortunately, the partner is a fool we fear will land IQ in prison before he regains his senses. When we revisit IQ in his 20s, he has been reborn as an “unlicensed and underground” private detective in South Central. People come to him with problems the police won’t touch but that IQ — a
big fan of Sherlock Holmes — solves with Holmes-style analysis. One day he’s offered big money to protect a celebrated rapper called Black the Knife — Cal to his friends. Someone is trying to kill the rapper, probably someone working for his estranged wife, Noelle. Their once-torrid romance is over: “At a Thanksgiving dinner, Cal cooked Noelle’s Stella McCartney shoulder bag in the microwave and she slapped him with a turkey leg.” She says of her ex: “He’s part megalomaniac and part pervert. If he’s not telling you how great he is he’s trying to get you to do something nasty.” We’re treated to Cal’s rap lyrics, which are clever and mostly unprintable. The superstar has sunk deep into drugs and depression and rarely leaves his mansion: “Cal was bloated, unshaven, his cornrows undone.” He glimpses salvation in a book that tells him happiness can be found by ridding oneself of pointless possessions. Inspired, Cal makes a huge pile of jewelry, a white ermine Cossack hat, a python-skin bomber jacket, sharkskin cowboy boots, a full-length overcoat made from six endangered cheetah hides and other luxury goods and sets it ablaze, muttering, “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. ” Alas, his bonfire brings not happiness but the police. Cal’s refusal to leave home has made it impossible for a professional hit man called Skip to shoot him from afar. However, Skip raises pit bulls and has bred a 130-pound monster called Goliath that he sends racing into Cal’s home. IQ routs the creature, whereupon Skip sets out to kill him, too. It’s a mad world that lateblooming Joe Ide has brought forth from his past, a spicy mix of urban horror, youthful striving and show-business absurdity. His IQ is an original and welcome creation. n Anderson regularly reviews mysteries and thrillers for The Washington Post.
I IQ By Joe Ide Mulholland. 336 pp. $26
A TRUCK FULL OF MONEY One Man’s Quest to Recover From Great Success By Tracy Kidder Random House. 259 pp. $28
S TEVEN P EARLSTEIN
n an age when too much of journalistic talent and energy is expended on chasing clicks with bite-size reporting and lightly informed opining on the day’s trending topics, it is fortunate that we still have Tracy Kidder. From “The Soul of a New Machine,” the story of how a team of misfit programmers won the race to develop a new computer and saved their company, through “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” the story of doctor Paul Farmer’s heroic efforts to bring health and hope to the world’s poorest precincts, Kidder has repeatedly reminded us of the value of deep, immersive reporting, the power of unadorned narrative and the extraordinary drama that is to be found in ordinary life. Kidder brings his talents to “A Truck Full of Money,” the story of Paul English, a restless genius who overcomes bipolar disorder and a geeky distrust for authority and business convention to achieve repeated success as a high-tech entrepreneur, most famously as cofounder of the popular travel website Kayak. Unlike most of his earlier books, however, this one disappoints. Kidder’s narrative skills seem to fail him — too much detail in some parts, not enough in others. The guiding voice and vision of the author, so welcome in his other work, are missing here. The story of English nonetheless is a compelling one. He was the youngest son in a large Irish household in the West Roxbury section of Boston. While his offthe-chart intelligence turned him into a problem student in grammar-school classes, where he was bored and unruly, it won him entry to the elite Boston Latin high school, where he blew off his regular studies and discovered his lifelong love of computer programming. By graduation, his gradepoint average was a D, but he had already created a computer game that he sold for $5,000. On the strength of near-perfect SAT scores, English was admitted to the working-class Boston cam-
pus of the University of Massachusetts, where he joined a jazz band, got a graduate degree in computer science and began insinuating himself in the programmers network in Boston’s fast-growing tech community. By the age of 25, he was managing a group of programmers at a software firm. By 35, he had started his own, Boston Light, which he sold near the height of the tech bubble to Intuit for $33 million. He generously split the proceeds with partners and employees and was eager to give much of the rest away. It was during a philanthropic trip to Haiti that English met up with a venture capitalist who would later introduce him to Steve Hafner, another entrepreneur who had an idea for a Web-based travel search site. On the basis of a single conversation and a handshake, Kayak was hatched. English by then was teaching at MIT and had become something of a pied piper for programmers, with a deft touch for recruiting and winning the loyalty of those who write software code. “Someday this boy is going to get hit by a truck full of money, and I’m going to be standing beside him,” one would later tell Kidder in explaining why he had followed English to four companies. But as rich a life as English has led, and as fascinating a character as he may be, there are too many details in Kidder’s tale that just aren’t all that interesting or telling. The structure, with its many flashbacks, proves clumsy. Despite prodigious reporting, there are glaring holes in his narrative. Most troubling is Kidder’s reluctance to give shape and meaning to his tale as it is unfolding. In “Good Prose,” Kidder writes, “For a story to have a chance to live, it is essential only that there be something at stake.” In the end, the flaw in “A Truck Full of Money” may be that it’s never exactly clear what’s at stake. n Pearlstein is a Post business and economics writer.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
No leader says things like that in a locker room SALLY JENKINS is a sports columnist for The Washington Post.
There is really no such thing as “locker room talk.” Guys who try to banter this way are just hoping no one hears the note of desperate striving in their voices. Most of them haven’t been in a real locker room since they were in high school, which is probably why Donald Trump’s snickering conversation with the sycophant Billy Bush sounded more like sauna chatter between a couple of junior brokers. Here’s the problem with that kind of talk: It’s not the talk of leaders; it’s the talk of bandwagoners and wannabes who are trying to make some invisible Man Team. “This was locker room talk,” Trump said in last Sunday’s presidential debate. “This was locker room talk. I’m not proud of it. . . . This was locker room talk. Yes, I’m very embarrassed by it, and I hate it, but it’s locker room talk.” Fine. Give Trump the benefit of the doubt that his remarks caught on that hot mic in 2005 from “Access Hollywood” about crotchgrabbing women were just words and not actions worthy of arrest, despite allegations to the contrary this past week. It’s all just locker room talk. But whether it’s uttered by a trader, lawyer, doctor, football player or a political candidate, “locker room talk” is a creepy cliche. What Trump is saying by invoking the phrase “locker room” over and over again is that when guys are in the showers and whirlpools, sitting around naked except for damp towels over their nether regions, this is their alpha code. It’s male-only hormonalbased communication and therefore excusable. He’s saying that this is how rich and powerful manly men commonly talk and think about women when they are alone in their natural animal state and not obliged to put on a mask by the rules of mixed society. After all, he claims, Bill Clinton has said worse to him on the golf course and done worse
things to women. As long as men don’t actually act on this sexual “banter,” Trump says, it’s harmless. It’s merely embarrassing to be caught talking like a werewolf. We’re supposed to accept this as another example of Trump’s celebrated virtue of saying what so many people are fearful of voicing. He has told us the truth about men when no one else will. The characterizing of this as commonplace is doubly creepy because it suggests that sexual obsession is the immutable trait of successful maleness. And that under the skin of every stud is a serial ogler if not a groper. All of which is as demeaning to men as it is to women. But what exactly constitutes “locker room talk,” anyway? What are the parameters of this secret dog whistle of conversation? The fact is, it doesn’t exist. Trump’s fantasy of a locker room is contradicted and proved ridiculous the minute you actually step into a real one. There are a range of characters and voices in that all-male haven. Let’s take the NFL as an example because it’s in-season and has such a reputation for distorted masculinity. Ask some men who have been leaders in NFL locker rooms what they think of Trump’s hot-mic tape from “Access Hollywood,” and here is what you
OBTAINED BY THE WASHINGTON POST
In the 2005 video in which Donald Trump was caught making lewd comments and talking about groping women, Trump is seen with actress Arianne Zucker and “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush.
get: sneers. Scott Fujita, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns before retiring in 2013, said, “There’s plenty of offensive, inappropriate language that’s used in locker rooms, but I don’t recall ever hearing a teammate casually boast about a criminal sexual act, even in jest.” If you really listen to NFL athletes talk in locker rooms, you discover they aren’t all just sitting around in damp towels, snickering. Stephen White played defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets and is a blogger for SB Nation. He recently wrote this about the variety of locker room cultures and outlooks he encountered in the league: “I’m not talking about just being racially diverse, but also diverse backgrounds and points of views all brought together by football,” White wrote. “Hell, there’s always some teammates where just about the only thing y’all have in common is football. If you really think NFL locker rooms can easily come to an overwhelming consensus given all those different personalities and backgrounds, then you really have no idea what an NFL locker room is.” Listen to Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams. Usually, when Williams talks about breasts, it’s because he’s been paying for mammograms for
low-income women ever since his mother died of breast cancer in 2014. If you catch Baltimore Ravens tight end Ben Watson talking about sex in the locker room, it’s probably in the context of abstinence. Watson is a published conservative Christian author as well as a blogger who has gained a massive following on Facebook for his thoughtful posts. On Saturday afternoon Watson posted his response to the discussion of “locker room” talk. “One’s character is one’s character,” he wrote. “It does not and should not change in the locker room, on private emails, or on a bus. This is the challenge for all of us.” Ask guys in the league what they talk about, and they’ll tell you they talk about politics, money, injuries, team problems, union issues. Also “faith, family, movies and music, current events,” Fujita said. Sure, some guys make lewd remarks or crude boasts about their exploits. But here’s what’s interesting. They’re not the most admired men in the room. “I’ve never seen a leader or a team captain resort to slime to establish respect in the locker room,” said Reggie Williams, the former NFL man of the year. “There are narcissist players who think more about the scoreboard in their bedroom than the scoreboard in the stadium. Those aren’t leaders.” n
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
A salute to liberal arts in military JOSEPH ZENGERLE is a Washington lawyer. He and his wife, Lynda, have endowed the Zengerle Family Lectures in the Arts and Humanities at West Point.
The U.S. military understood the importance of STEM long before it became the most coveted acronym in education. Recognizing their critical skills in the conduct of war, George Washington appointed the first engineering officers to the Revolutionary Army on June 16, 1775. Military historian Ian Hope describes how “American military thinking emerged in the young republic solidly committed to . . . the discovery of scientific components of war, with complete faith in the power of reason and with an unprecedented belief in the utility of mathematics as key to all scientific endeavors.” That philosophy helped guide the development of the country’s military academies. In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation establishing West Point as the nation’s first engineering school. Its first superintendent, Lt. Col. Jonathan Williams, declared that “we must always have it in view that our officers are to be men of science.” Superintendent Sylvanus Thayer, often called the “father” of the military academy, later grounded the school’s curriculum firmly in mathematics. The academy remained true to that mission when I was at West Point in the 1960s. We had math every morning, beginning with a slide-rule drill, six days a week for our entire first year.
Today, the engineering programs at the service academies are among the best in the country. There’s an understandable premium on scientific expertise at the Pentagon, too. When I was an assistant secretary of the Air Force in the early 1980s, the defense secretary was a physicist. The current secretary also is a physicist. A technical background makes sense for the leader of an institution responsible for so many complex platforms, including nuclear and satellite systems. The threat of terrorism, the operation of drones and the growing challenge of cyberwarfare further illustrate the demand for uniformed leaders to have a sound grasp of technical fields. But even in an age of highly
sophisticated warfare, our military leaders should not be too narrowly focused on STEM. If we want leaders who communicate clearly, solve problems creatively and appreciate cultural differences in theaters where they operate, studying the humanities is just as important as science, technology, engineering and math. Those who lead need to be ready for the moments when they must summon their troops — who may be hurt or drained by fatigue — to rise, to respond, to prevail against the odds. That power doesn’t come out of the barrel of a gun or the insignia of rank, much less a math formula. It comes from an understanding of human motivation that can be gained by studying psychology, by analyzing history, by reading great literature. Military leaders should know that the familiar notion of troops as a “band of brothers” originates with the stirring speech Shakespeare’s Henry V delivers to his outnumbered forces at the Battle of Agincourt. The utility of non-STEM learning is further reflected in the nature of mission assignments. President Lyndon Johnson said victory in Vietnam would depend on our winning
the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese, an objective necessitating education in relevant history, language and culture for military personnel assigned to advisory roles. That remains true in many conflicts today. The mission of the military has expanded in ways that make a liberal-arts background even more important. When Vice President Biden spoke to the graduating class at West Point in May, he spoke about “building the capacity of emerging countries” and managing “humanitarian crises posed by climate change, mass migration and the spread of infectious disease.” To take on these new challenges, rising military leaders benefit from a familiarity with foreign policy, public health and international development issues. The slide rule my classmates and I struggled to master every day passed out of use a long time ago. But the service academies should be cautious about what they put in its place. If they can expose the minds of officers in training with the right ideas and the right spirit, they will cultivate a cadre of tomorrow’s military leaders who will best serve the national interest. n
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
BY WASSERMAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
Presidents need a ‘team of rivals’ JIM KESSLER AND JON COWAN Kessler and Cowan are, respectively, senior vice president for policy and president of Third Way.
No one knows what President Obama wants to do when his term expires, but in the unlikely event that he wants a gig in a would-be Clinton administration, some say he need not apply. It’s not the election’s outcome that is the potential hurdle. The ex-president’s poor job prospects are due to a burgeoning effort to reject potential Hillary Clinton appointees based on their previous employers, or on views they’ve held that deviate from progressive economic orthodoxy. The project falls under the umbrella of “personnel is policy” — the notion that whom you hire determines the priorities of the White House. A coalition of progressive organizations, including Daily Kos and Democracy for America, are spearheading this effort with a laudable policy goal: to keep special interests away from the next president’s agenda. But the standard they would impose is so unduly restrictive that even Obama would fail the test. The groups’ underlying assumption is that merely working in any of a number of business sectors or promoting a certain set of economic policy issues amounts to a disqualifying mark for those seeking to serve the public. Motivating these groups is the fear that a Clinton administration would choose
people such as former treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin, who served under President Bill Clinton. Rubin helped usher in the Clinton era of 23 million new jobs, rising wages and budget surpluses. But Rubin also spent a quarter-century employed by Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs and, at Treasury, was a proponent of deregulating the financial sector, which many view as the proximate cause of the financial crisis. Hence, the implicit chant: No more Rubins. How, then, to deal with Gary Gensler? He was Obama’s choice to lead the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees the $600 trillion derivatives market. Under Obama, Gensler was arguably the administration’s most capable advocate for Wall Street reform, highlighted by his rules on derivatives that caused much
BY JOEL PETT FOR THE LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER
of Wall Street to gag. He was so effective that the same movement that vilifies Rubin would accept Gensler to be a top Clinton appointee. Yet it was those same progressives who excoriated Gensler as a Wall Street shill when Obama first picked him. You see, Gensler had spent 18 years at Goldman Sachs and was initially seen as the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse. The truth is that Gensler was an effective CFTC chairman because he worked for Goldman Sachs, not in spite of it. He knew as much about the capital markets as anyone this side of . . . well, Robert Rubin. He put that expertise to work for Obama, who outlined the goals that Gensler helped to realize. Still, some may feel that losing a Gensler to avoid a Rubin is worth the sacrifice. That’s why the behind-the-scenes attack on another potential Clinton appointment, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, is so edifying. Brainard, whose name has been floated for treasury secretary, has no “objectionable” private-sector experience. She has never worked on Wall Street and has barely any professional experience in the profit-making sector. Her sin? Backing the much-vilified-on-the-left Trans-
Pacific Partnership trade agreement in the Obama administration. For that, Brainard is now a prime target of these progressive groups. The advocates of this do-nothire list sincerely want to move the country forward, but so do many others. That is why a diversity of viewpoints is essential for any executive to make the best decisions — especially a president. Management books tout divergent thinking as a way to challenge long-held assumptions, generate creativity and lead to breakthroughs. Groupthink, as we saw in the George W. Bush administration’s run-up to the Iraq War, can be a disaster. There is a reason Doris Kearns Goodwin named her marvelous Abraham Lincoln tome “Team of Rivals.” Lincoln understood that diversity of viewpoint and experience was the fertile soil from which great ideas grow. Should she become president, Hillary Clinton deserves to hear alternatives other than those that come from one ideological wing of the party or a slice of the interest groups that backed her. And the people who elected her deserve better than a Team of Conformists. n
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
M ASHA G ESSEN
Although the Cold War has been over for 25 years, after Russian ag gression in Ukraine and Crimea, along with a political crackdown within its own borders, there’s broad consensus that Russia is again a serious threat to the United States and its allies. But there’s still widespread misunderstanding of what Russia is about. MYTH NO. 1 Russia is trying to throw the U.S. election to Donald Trump. The fact is this: Russian President Vladimir Putin would rather see anyone but Hillary Clinton become president. He has blamed her personally for inciting the Russian protests of 2011-2012, saying that “she set the tone for some actors in our country and gave them a signal” that caused the demonstrations. But he is not exactly a fan of Trump, contrary to the billionaire’s perception: Putin has called Trump “colorful,” not “brilliant,” and has mentioned him only twice. Proof of Trump’s Moscow connections is similarly scant. To date, no money trail has been uncovered linking Trump to the Kremlin. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had ties to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who has widely been described as pro-Moscow, but that characterization is a gross oversimplification — and there is no indication that Manafort was on Moscow’s side in important debates. Much more serious are the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and state election systems, which the Obama administration this month officially accused Russian state actors of carrying out. But these fall in line with Russia’s cyberbehavior all over the world: Moscow has been employing cyberwarfare since at least 2007, when it temporarily shut down the high-tech government of Estonia. The purpose of these attacks is to disrupt — but not necessarily on
behalf of Team Trump. MYTH NO. 2 Putin has made Russia great again. The average Russian is much better off today than 20 years ago, but worse off than five or even two years ago, when oil prices — which neither rise nor fall because of Putin — were at their peak. Reliable statistics are hard to obtain, but Russia appears to have one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and the numbers did not improve even when the economy did. Highprofile killings of politicians, journalists and entrepreneurs — at least one of which has been linked directly to Putin by a British investigation — also cannot be conducive to a sense of security. Even during the years of unprecedented prosperity, Russia barely invested in infrastructure and social services, while military spending grew precipitously. Today, hospitals in Moscow ask patients to bring their own syringes for procedures, just like they did back in the 1990s. The government’s response to the economic downturn of the past few years has been to cut social spending and to raid Russians’ pension funds, which now seem bound for extinction. MYTH NO. 3 Russians overwhelmingly support Putin’s policies. When Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, Putin’s approval rating went through the roof, reaching almost 90 percent. Today both Kremlin-controlled
Despite what Donald Trump says, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called him “colorful” — not “brilliant.”
and independent pollsters reliably report approval ratings of 82 percent and higher. At the same time, Russians disapprove of the job done by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (his current negative rating stands at 51 percent), the cabinet (55 percent) and the parliament (62 percent). All three exist solely to rubber-stamp Kremlin policies, which come directly from Putin. The majority of Russians also say they feel pessimistic about their future. How to account for that discrepancy? Russians are unsettled, anxious and looking to identify with an emblematic leader or cause. They support Putin because he has left them no choice. MYTH NO. 4 Russian society is relatively conservative in its values. Russians are fairly liberal on a number of social issues. More than half of all Russians see nothing wrong with premarital sex, a third don’t view love as a prerequisite for sex and a quarter see nothing wrong with marital infidelity (sociologists say this is an unrealistically low number because expressing this opinion out loud to a stranger flaunts
social convention). Russians are also liberal in their views on abortion: Only 20 percent believe that the government should try to take any measures to limit or prevent abortions, compared with more than 40 percent of Americans who believe abortion should be illegal. MYTH NO. 5 Russian politics are mostly reactions to the West. Putin has peddled Soviet nostalgia and anti-Western rhetoric since he first entered office 17 years ago. When opportunities to attack former Soviet states have presented themselves, he has used them — in 2008 Russia effectively annexed a chunk of Georgia, and in 2014 it annexed part of Ukraine. Putin is driven by a very real desire to expand Russia and by the need to hold on to power. Neither of these factors has anything to do with the United States, Russia’s habit of blaming all its troubles on America notwithstanding. n Gessen is a Russian American journalist and the author of “Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.”
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016
A & Q
THE RACE: State Representative | 12th District | Pos. 2
ES T A D I D N A ASK THE C
THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: How big a priority is state funding for addressing wildfire issues? Where would the state get the money to more adequately fund it?
Managing broker with Windermere Real Estate in Wenatchee
Director of Chelan Chamber of Commerce
prefers Republican Party
prefers Republican Party
ANSWER: Too many of our friends and neighbors have lost their homes, their livelihoods and their lives as a result of wildfires. I believe funding to restore forest health and properly mitigate wildfires is an issue of statewide importance and should be a priority for the legislature. The first step is to stop “fire borrowing.”Taking funds out of the budget to fight fires instead of investing in prevention is what led to major fires the past couple of years. In order for this to happen we need to continue to educate people from across the state on the significance of this issue and what it will take to create meaningful change. The Wildfire Project can help be the catalyst for this change as it educates individuals and community leaders across our state. To be successful we will need to harness resources at all levels of government — federal, state and local — and partner them with private industry investment as we implement the solutions to restore health to our forest and develop fire resistant and resilient communities.
ANSWER: I will continue to push for effective planning and budgeting for wildfire preparedness and prevention. It is extremely important that we work with the Department of Ecology and the U.S. Forest Service on forest management and air quality. I have met with both the Superintendent of our Forest Service District and the Director of the Department of Ecology and expressed my concerns and thoughts on this issue. I will continue to be an advocate on this issue. I worked directly on the economic recovery of our region after the last two devastating fire seasons and know first-hand how critical this issue is to our district.
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