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America’s strip club capital sees push for fair terms, labor rights and food

Meals 4 Heels is offering healthy late-night takeout for sex workers and strippers, and its just part of a discussion on wellness and working conditions in the industry

Nikeisah Newton has cornered a market in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, which she calls strip city.

Shortly before 10pm on a Friday, Newton bounces around her kitchen, steaming kale and packing take-out boxes into a tote bag. Newton is working for herself in a business she created called Meals 4 Heels, a one-of-a-kind food service that delivers fresh, nutritious bowls to sex workers and strippers during late-night hours.

After 13 years of living in Portland and hustling in food service, Newton launched Meals 4 Heels in January. Her ex-girlfriend is a stripper and she has several friends who work in the industry. She quickly noticed that no one was looking out for their basic health needs like sustenance.

Were known for our food carts and strip clubs, but yet the human aspect is missing, said Newton. It doesnt make sense why there hasnt been something like this.

Better eating is just a part of a wider discussion on wellness and labor rights and conditions taking place in some of the countrys strip clubs. Just as in more conventional workspaces, there is now a debate over workers rights, the complex pros and cons of contract work and a struggle to wrest better terms from employers.

Cha Cha plus chicken sausage, a dish produced by Meals 4 Heels. Photograph: Nikeisah C Newton

Portland is home to the most strip clubs per capita in the US. According to research by Priceonomics, the city boasts 54 and has more than twice as many strip clubs as it has public restrooms. That is largely because Oregons constitution protects obscenity under the first amendment. Moreover, zoning laws state that businesses cannot be denied locations based on their sexual content or nature.

Yet despite their numbers, strippers and sex workers are rarely free from disparagement in many instances their industry is the first to face harassment and the last to be protected.

For Newton, Meals 4 Heels is her way of putting a diverse and caring face on Portlands sex industry, while nourishing its workers.

From an online menu, clients can choose from several south-western and Mediterranean-inspired bowls, like the GTP ($Gettin That Paper$), a gluten-free and vegan dish that includes roasted cauliflower and sweet potato noodles; or the Freegan Vegan, piled with roasted yams, apples, sauted mushrooms and brown rice. Almost all ingredients are organic and locally sourced.

The menu is curated for dancers, said Newton. No legumes, low on nightshades, low garlic, onions and acids, so theyre not gassy or breathing garlic. I keep that in mind.

Newton does all the prepping and cooking herself and delivers to about 20 clubs. Shes also running a GoFundMe campaign to help cover costs and wants Meals 4 Heels to be recognized as a business of color in Americas whitest city.

At Riverside Corral, a strip club in Portlands south-east neighborhood, a dancer who uses the stage name Plum ordered the Verbal Tipper, which comes with lemon pepper couscous, massaged kale, pickled veggies and marinated artichokes.

What she likes most about Meals 4 Heels, said Plum, is the delivery, number one. And its so nice to have food thats healthy thats not going to make me fart or shit my pants. And its just made with love.

Julie Flores, a stripper at Club Rogue, said her favorite was the Cha Cha Cha, which blends brown rice, citrus slaw, black olives, avocado and tortilla chips.

Its just a really good, clean option for us, said Flores. Where I work, we just have fried shit, like wings. So [Meals 4 Heels] provides wholesome meals that fuel our bodies, because every time I come home I feel like I just did a workout.

Late-night employees would be hard pressed to find food options that are open at 2am and not teeming with trans fats and cholesterol.

But a healthy diet is just one of the issues facing Portlands sex workers and strippers.

Matilda Bickers, a former stripper, and Amy Pitts, another dancer, sued Portlands Casa Diablo strip club in 2015, citing unpaid wages and harassment, on the part of the customers and employees. They settled out of court.

A strip club in Portland, Oregon, which has more strip clubs per capita than any other US city. Photograph: Melanie Sevcenko/The Guardian

Since then, Bickers, who now works as an escort, has been a vocal proponent of sex workers rights in the city. One of her most publicized platforms is lobbying for strippers to be classified as employees in Oregon.

Most strippers in the US are deemed independent contractors. Theyre paid in tips, rather than an hourly wage or salary.

Many of them prefer the freedom to schedule their own shifts, wear whatever they want, do the job in the way they want, work for competitors even, said the labor lawyer Rich Meneghello. Now if they became employees, a lot of that freedom goes away.

But freedom also means contractors dont pay into social security or Medicare, are not eligible for sick leave, overtime or unemployment benefits and are not protected in the same way as employees from workplace harassment.

In addition, as contractors, strippers essentially have to pay to work, through what are called stage or house fees. They can range anywhere from five dollars to well over a hundred. Its a pay for the pole policy that is typically meant to cover expenses like advertising and club maintenance.

If theyre late to a shift, get sick or dont make enough in a night to pay those fees, the stripper then owes back rent to the club.

In January this year, a Democratic state senator, Kathleen Taylor, introduced a bill that would have classified strippers as employees. The bill was eventually laid to rest, marking the third attempt to get this type of legislation passed.

According to a study by Portland State University, because Portland strippers dont require a permit, can perform fully nude, allow clients to touch them with consent during private dances, and, as contractors, lack protection from workplace agencies, the research suggests that exotic dancers are at risk of experiencing various forms of violence while at work with limited resources to turn to for help.

Of 33 strippers who participated in the study, 32 reported experiencing some form of violence while at work, while 84% reported they had experienced unwanted groping, rape, forced or coerced unwanted sexual acts.

Elle Stanger, who dances at Portlands Lucky Devil Lounge, is fiercely committed to maintaining her independent contractor status. She makes good money, has control over her performances and schedule, and keeps all her earnings from private dances.

But she recognizes that her club is not all clubs, which means theres no silver bullet solution.

I just want to caution people to be wary of a quick fix approach to labor problems, when the issues tend to be so different in some cases, said Stanger.

Elle Stanger has been co-organizing the Portland Slutwalk since 2014. Its a demonstration against sexual violence and victim-blaming. Photograph: Courtesy Elle Stanger

In neighboring California, a bill passed the legislature in September that designates independent contractors in several industries as employees, including strippers. At first sight, it sounds good.

But Stanger, who co-hosts the sex worker industry podcast Strange Bedfellows, has been asking for feedback from strippers in California who have recently become employees. According to Stanger, the majority say the bill is damaging to their industry, claiming lower earnings and fewer bookings.

Stanger foresees clubs forced to fire dancers, simply because they wont be able to afford their wages.

I heard from dancers who said: I was deemed too fat for my club. Or due to racist management practices, they cut a lot of dancers of color, said Stanger.

Aaliyah Topps, who danced in Seattle, said she believed club managers and owners favored Caucasian strippers. I know multiple girls who arent allowed back to the club due to back rent and most of these are women of color. They dont advertise women of color on any flyers, posters or websites, she said.

Topps is part of a coalition called Strippers Are Workers, which formed in the summer of 2018 through the not-for-profit Working Washington. It was co-founded by the dancer Angelique, who declined to offer her last name. She works at one of the only clubs in Seattle that is not owned by Dj Vu, which runs roughly 132 strip clubs in 41 states. It owns 11 of Washingtons 14 strip clubs.

More and more customers were becoming aggressive, they were starting to not pay for services, said Angelique of why she started the coalition. [The clubs] were treating us like employees in terms of scheduling us, having control over our work and setting our prices, which is illegal.

The coalition took its complaints to the Washington legislature last October. Topps, who stripped at Dj Vu, testified about the lack of running water at the club, having to use a portable toilet as a restroom, harassment from management, and the $140 to $200 stage fees the dancers had to pay the club per night, which can quickly become back rent.

This May, Strippers Are Workers succeeded in getting House Bill 1756 passed. Its a landslide piece of legislation for the sex worker industry that requires Washington strip clubs to install panic buttons in VIP rooms; offers a Know Your Rights training for dancers who apply for a business license; creates a record and blacklist of violent customers; and establishes an advisory committee to help implement and enforce the bill.

The efforts in Washington echo another reform movement in Minneapolis. In August, its city council unanimously voted in a new ordinance that mandates adult entertainment workers receive a copy of their contracts, prohibits retaliation against those who report violations and requires businesses to post customer conduct and workers rights information.

Back in Portland, Nikeisah Newton knows the importance of lifting up those who are sidelined as a gay, black woman working for the sex worker industry: Its all about marginalized groups. Weve got to take care of each other.

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Shes on fire: Elizabeth Warren on the rise but has work to do to win black voters

Biden leads among African Americans but Warren has gained ground with ambitious policy plans and hours-long selfie lines

Linda Edwards is the family authority on all matters of politics. Every election year,she watches the news, studies the candidates, attends campaign events and renders a verdict.

A year before the 2020 election, the 68-year-old retired pharmacist from Charlotte has her work cut out: 19 Democrats vying to be the Democratic presidential nominee. Yet with five months left before voting begins in the primary race, Edwards says she is ready to make an endorsement.

Elizabeth Warren is the absolute greatest, Edwards said of the Massachusetts senator after waiting for more than an hour to take a selfie with her at a recent campaign event in Rock Hill, South Carolina. I always had her at the top of the list but she is the No 1 now. I totally support her.

Since entering the race nine months ago, Warren has steadily gained ground with ambitious policy proposals, a decision to swear-off high-dollar fundraising events and her hours-long selfie lines. But if she is to win the nomination, it will likely be with the help of African American voters such as Edwards, part of an increasingly powerful and decisive constituency in the Democratic party.

A spate of recent polls show Warren edging past Joe Biden in the first two early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, home to predominantly white electorates. But in South Carolina, where African American voters make up an estimated 60% of Democratic primary voters, Biden still enjoys a wide lead.

In South Carolina, known as the Palmetto State, which holds the first in the south primary on 29 February next year, Biden leads Warren by 21 points, according to a CNN poll released this week. Although they draw the same share of support from white primary voters in the state, 45% of black Democrats back Biden compared to just 4% who favor Warren.

I dont know how anyone can become the Democratic nominee or the next president of the United States, for that matter without strong, across-the-board support from African American voters, said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist in South Carolina, who is not aligned with a candidate. South Carolina is the first test of that support.

The event at Clinton College in Rock Hill on Saturday highlighted the challenge for Warren as she works to introduce herself to African Americans in the state.

Despite the unbearable heat and humidity, nearly 1,400 attended her outdoor rally, and hundreds stayed afterward for selfies. Yet the crowd that blanketed the campus of this historically black college was overwhelmingly white.

Elizabeth Warren addresses the crowd at the event at Clinton College in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Photograph: Meg Kinnard/Associated Press

Biden drew a smaller, but more diverse, crowd when he visited the college earlier this year.

Bidens dominance in the state rests on his deep ties to black political leaders and his service as Barack Obamas vice-president, which have made him popular among older, more conservative black voters.

We trust him, said Steve Love, a local councilman in neighboring York, who endorsed Biden. Obama is not got going to elect a vice-president who doesnt have our back.

Love met Warren before her rally and offered point-blank advice.

If you want to make gains in our community, you are really going to have to come into our community and sit down and talk to us, he told her.

Warren says she has plans to do just that.

What Im doing is showing up and trying to talk to people about why Im in this fight, about whats broken, about how to fix it and how were building a grassroots movement to get it done, Warren told reporters after the rally. Its not just one policy. Its everywhere.

Woven into her raft of police proposals are specific prescriptions to address racial injustice. Her proposal to forgive most student loan debt and make college tuition-free attempts to reduce the racial wealth gap that disproportionately burdens black students. The proposal would also invest $50m in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), such as Clinton.

Her affordable housing policy specifically aims to redress decades of discriminatory housing practices and redlining in places such as the Mississippi Delta, where she went early in her campaign to highlight the initiative.

She was one of the first candidates to endorse congressional legislation that would create a commission to study reparations for the descendants of slaves. And at a recent forum on LGBTQ issues in Iowa last week, Warren began her remarks by reading the names of 18 black transgender women killed this year. It is time for a president of the United States of America to say their names, she said.

Black folks have a very unique experience that requires policies that pinpoint that experience, said Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the Working Families party, a progressive political organization that endorsed Warren.

The candidates who arent afraid to talk about race and class at the same time, those are the candidates that are going to compel black people to not just show up at the polls, he continued, but to get involved, to volunteer, to engage and to build a movement with them.

A woman listens to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren at an event in New Hampshire. Photograph: Cheryl Senter/Associated Press

Black voters, and black women in particular, are the most loyal Democratic voting bloc. In 2016, African Americans comprised nearly a quarter, 24%, of Democratic primary voters a share that is expected to rise in 2020.

There are signs Warrens efforts are paying off, especially among African American women.

A Quinnipiac poll showed that her support among black voters nationally climbed over the summer from 4% in July to 19% in September as Bidens support slipped from 53% in July to 40% in September.

At several presidential forums focused on voters of color and in private meetings with activists and black leaders this year, Warren has left her audiences impressed, said Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, political advocacy group focused on women of color that hosted an event with 2020 candidates in Houston earlier this year.

She is campaigning directly to women of color, she said. And at the same time, she is attracting white progressives. That has the potential to be a potent coalition.

Cliff Albright, cofounder of Black Voters Matter, said fresh scrutiny of Bidens record and his recent remarks on race from comments about working with segregationists to a discordant reply to a debate question about reparations are starting to chip away at his support, especially among younger black voters.

The more that black people hear from Elizabeth Warren, the more they are intrigued by her, Albright said. The opposite happens with Joe Biden.

But public opinion surveys and interviews with voters suggest Bidens appeal may be more durable than many expect.

Melissa Rouse, 46 and Tracey Easter, 44, cousins from Charlotte who sat in folding chairs under the shade of a tree as they waited for Warren to speak, said they have not yet settled on a candidate, but Warren was at the top of their list.

That wasnt the case for many of their older relatives, who they said are firmly committed to Biden.

My mom is 76 and she loves, loves, loves Joe Biden, Rouse said. They feel like they know him.

Both said they thought Biden would be the strongest candidate against Trump. Nevertheless, they came to be persuaded by Warren.

When people have an opportunity to be in her presence and hear her message, they always leave impressed, said Wendy Brawley, a South Carolina state representative who has endorsed Warren. Now Im starting to hear, This is a person who I not only like and support, but who can actually win.

Before leaving Rock Hill, Warren made a final stop for dinner at Gourmet Soul Kitchen. As cooks rushed to prepare an order of fried shrimp and hush puppies, Warren worked the room, introducing herself to staff and diners, all of whom were black.

Deborah Cousar, a 60-year-old retired nursing assistant who had rushed to the restaurant with her grandchildren upon hearing of the senators visit, beamed as Warren told her 11-year-old granddaughter that she was running for president because thats what girls do.

Though their encounter was brief, it left an impression on Cousar. While she intends to hear out the other candidates, especially as the primary race for South Carolina intensifies, Cousar said the vibrant lady from Massachusetts will be hard to beat.

Shes on fire, Cousar said. If she just keeps on doing what shes doing, I think shes going to persuade them pretty good.

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Hurricane Dorian strengthens to category 4 as Florida braces for storm

Landfall anticipated early Tuesday on states east coast with maximum sustained winds of 140mph

Residents of Florida braced for what could be a historically damaging storm on Friday as Hurricane Dorian lingered in the western Atlantic, building strength in advance of its anticipated landfall early on Tuesday on the states east coast.

The storm strengthened into an extremely dangerous category 4hurricane on Friday evening, amid fears it could prove to be the most powerful hurricane to hit Floridas east coast in nearly 30 years. Forecasters warned that Dorian could wallop the state with extremely dangerous 140mph (225 kph) winds.

Brandon Wall (@Walldo)

NHC: Dorian is now a category 4

August 31, 2019

It could be an absolute monster, Donald Trump said in a video address, pledging federal support for local disaster relief efforts.

Floridas governor, Ron DeSantis, declared a state of emergency for every county in the state and warned of a potential multi-day event, but stopped short of declaring any emergency evacuations.

Emergency preparations were under way up and down the Atlantic coast, from Jacksonville in the north to Miami and the Florida Keys, as well as in Orlando and inland areas.

Ominously, on Friday morning the storm had developed a distinct eye and slowed its westward progress, meaning it could spend more time over land and do more damage.

Meteorologists said Dorian could make landfall in Florida on Tuesday as a category 4 hurricane.

If it makes landfall as a category 3 or 4 hurricane, thats a big deal, the University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy told the Associated Press. A lot of people are going to be affected. A lot of insurance claims.

Hurricane Dorian gains strength as it tracks towards the Florida coast, on 30 August. Photograph: NOAA GOES-East/Handout/Getty Images

DeSantis acknowledged fuel shortages across the state as residents formed long lines at petrol stations, supermarkets and hardware stores. Officials advised residents to stockpile canned food, water and other supplies and to refill essential prescriptions.

Coastal residents were amassing sandbags against potential flooding and tacking plywood over windows and doors. Officials directed residents in the hurricanes path to check their preparedness plan against advice on the states storm emergency website and to be on guard against price gouging and fraud.

DeSantis announced that highway patrol cars would escort fuel trucks to expedite distribution.

Were doing all we can on the fuel, he said.

Earlier predictions of an arrival of the storm early on the Labor Day holiday, Monday, were revised in anticipation of an early Tuesday arrival. Storm surge could be made worse by extreme tides associated with the new moon, which fell on Friday.

A hurricane watch was in effect for the north-western Bahamas, with a risk of life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds. Heavy rainfall and flash flooding were anticipated in all affected areas.

While it was unclear where on the Florida coastline Dorian would make landfall, Trump compared the storm to the 1992 Hurricane Andrew, which likewise tore into Florida along the Atlantic coast, killing 65 and tallying $27bn in damage.

It does seem almost certain that its hitting dead center, and thats not good, Trump said. Somebody said bigger, or at least as big as Andrew.

Trump is traveling to Camp David in Maryland, where he will monitor the storm after he canceled his planned trip to Poland this weekend.

Forecasters have put Trumps luxury resort of Mar-a-Lago in the crosshairs of the storm. Late Friday, the National Hurricane Centers projected track showed Dorian hitting near Fort Pierce, some 70 miles north of the so-called winter White House, then running along the coastline as it moved north. However forecasters cautioned that the storms track was still highly uncertain and even a small deviation could put Dorian offshore or well inland.

The major models of the storm showed it most likely deflecting up the Atlantic coast after making landfall but the risk remained, DeSantis said, that the storm could cross Florida and move into the Gulf of Mexico, to potentially grow in strength once again over relatively warm and shallow waters.

Obviously a storm that cuts across the state, crosses the Gulf and then slams the Panhandle is a bad, bad thing for us, DeSantis said.

Not every path of the storm has the same probability but youve got to be prepared for that. Its too soon to tell.

Dorians approach has played havoc with peoples Labor Day weekend plans. Major airlines began allowing travelers to change their reservations without a fee. The big cruise lines began rerouting their ships. Disney World and the other resorts in Orlando found themselves in the storms projected path.

Jessica Armesto and her one-year-old daughter, Mila, had planned to have breakfast with Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy at Disney World. Instead, Armesto decided to take shelter at her mothers hurricane-resistant house in Miami with its kitchen full of nonperishable foods.

It felt like it was better to be safe than sorry, so we canceled our plans, she said.

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Reports reveal egregious conditions in US migrant detention facilities

Child migrants could lose access to recreational activities, while conditions at adult facilities pose health and safety risks

As the number of Central American families and children approaching the US-Mexico border continues its dramatic rise, the US is failing to provide adequate care to those already in detention.

Reports this week from the US Department of Homeland Security watchdog, the Office of Inspector General (OIG), and leaked documents, have revealed distressing conditions for migrants in the custody of US immigration agencies.

Child migrants could soon lose access to recreational activities and English lessons, while conditions at adult detention facilities were found to pose immediate risks to immigrant health and safety.

These damning reports came the same week the US announced that the border patrol arrested an unprecedented number of families at the border in May. Though the number of families attempting to enter the US has spiked, the overall total of attempted border crossings is below the records hit in the early 2000s when most people entering were adult males from Mexico.

In May, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents apprehended 132,887 people at the southern border and 11,391 people arrived at ports of entry but did not have the documents required to enter the US. They are mostly Central Americans fleeing poverty, violence and the climate crisis.

We are bursting at the seams, said Randy Howe, CBPs executive director of operations. This cant continue.

Citing budget pressures because of the influxof children at the border, the health department agency that cares for children who arrive at the border on their own, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), has started to end funding for activities such as soccer and English classes for children in its custody. Children can spend months in ORR shelters, including tent cities.

A health department official emailed shelters last week explaining the funding for those programs was unallowable, according to an email obtained by the Washington Post.

Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA, said the move was unconscionable.

Locking up children and then denying them legal aid, education, and even playtime is all part of this administrations cruel efforts to dehumanize people who have come to the US seeking safety, Bell said in a statement. Childrens human rights must be protected by ensuring they receive proper care while in government custody and are released as soon as possible.

The homeland security and health departments were also under pressure this week because of an alarming NBC report that revealed the government had kept immigrant children in a van for 39 hours while waiting to reunite them with their parents.

In July last year, 37 migrant children aged between five and 12 years old were held for two nights in the van after a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite families it had separated at the border, according to the report.

The Republican leader of the House energy and commerce committee, Oregon representative Greg Walden, said the reports findings were unacceptable and indefensible.

This is not who we are as Americans, Walden said in a statement. I expect a prompt explanation from the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services about this failure.

As advocates for migrant children raised concerns about these reports, the DHS inspector general released a report showing egregious conditions in four adult detention facilities across the US, including nooses found in detainee cells.

In 2018, immediate health and safety risks were observed at two of the facilities, Adelanto Ice Processing Center, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), in California, and Essex County Correctional Facility, in New Jersey. At Essex, inspectors found open packages of raw chicken that had leaked blood over refrigeration units the kitchen manager was replaced during the inspection. At Adelanto, chicken smelled foul and appeared to be spoiled. At both locations, inspectors found bathrooms in poor condition with unusable toilets and mold on ceilings, mirrors and vents.

Three of the facilities were owned and operated by the private prison firm GEO Group: Adelanto in California, LaSalle Ice Processing Center in Louisiana and Aurora Ice Processing Center in Colorado. The fourth facility, Essex, was operated by the local corrections department. Together, they house nearly 5,000 detainees.

Our observations confirmed concerns identified in detainee grievances, which indicated unsafe and unhealthy conditions to varying degrees at all of the facilities we visited, the inspector said.

Other problems inspectors observed included the Essex facility providing detainees with clothing only in extra large sizes, 3x and 4x, which detainees said they could not keep on. And three of the facilities were found to be violating homeland security department standards by inappropriately using handcuffs and strip searches without documenting a justification for doing so.

And in a separate inspector general report last week, officials found dangerous overcrowding at a border patrol processing facility in El Paso, Texas.

In May, inspectors found the processing center, which has a capacity of 125 people, held between 750 and 900 people. A cell meant to hold 12 people held 76 people and another with capacity for 35 held 155, according to the report.

Donald Trump has not directly addressed the problems uncovered in US detention facilities.

On Wednesday night, the president blamed Democrats and Mexico for the influx of immigrants at the border. His immigration policies have so far failed to reduce the number of people making the dangerous journey north.

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‘Ick’: rats, roaches and rank smells dampen NYC composting program

Plans to expand program are on hold as gag-inducing pong and vermin are holding back residents, foodies and hipsters from saving food scraps

It was meant to be an ambitious environmental program but efforts at composting in New York are breaking down amid rats, roaches and rank smells.

New Yorkers are relatively good at recycling but an ick factor is holding them back from saving food scraps for reprocessing, the authorities admitted.

In a sweaty city that regularly has back to back humid days in the eighties and nineties Fahrenheit all summer, some householders are recoiling from the scheme in a cloud of fruit flies.

Now plans to expand New Yorks organics collection program are on hold as even eco-minded residents, foodies and hipsters wrestle with the idea of bags of putrid mush sitting on their kitchen counter tops awaiting disposal.

City-issued large brown plastic collection bins that are put out on the sidewalk have special fastening lids to keep out vermin but, full of deteriorating leftovers, still often exude a gag-inducing pong when opened.

New York mayor Bill de Blasio introduced a pilot program five years ago, hoping hundreds of thousands of tons of this food-loving citys leftovers and grass mowings would be churning their way through the system, to be turned into alternative energy or fertilizing compost.

But expansion has been put on hold because there is insufficient participation to be cost-effective. The city collected only about 13,000 tons last year and found that the 3.5 million people currently in the voluntary program are only separating 10.6% percent of their potential scraps.

Honestly, I think its a complete waste of time, says Anselmo Ariza, who maintains the trash and recycling bins for several blocks of apartment buildings in Brooklyn. Some people use them, but most of them just put trash and plastic bags in there.
Marzena Golonka complained that the citys weekly pickup at her apartment building in Brooklyn is not frequent enough to keep the stink and rats away.

Its vile, she says. Until sanitation starts doing their job effectively, Im not going to have a brown bin.

De Blasios goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030 depends on residents and businesses separating their organic waste, which currently makes up a third of the trash that ends up in landfills and is a major producer of greenhouse gases.

The city is still committed to expanding the program to all 8.5 million New York City residents, but right now is focused on making the system more efficient, sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia said.

We are having to overcome the ick factor, Garcia said.

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Dangerous, growing, yet unnoticed: the rise of America’s white gangs

White gangs are less covered by the media and less punished even though 53% of gang members in Mississippi are white

When he was 13, three white teenage boys beat Benny Ivey. They aimed for his chest as his back pressed against the wall of his friends house in Florence, Mississippi. The skinny blond adolescent had to show he was tough enough to become a Black Gangster Disciple.

It was 1989, the height of the crack era, and many white kids wanted to join black gangs that did not welcome them, so they initiated each other into home-grown copycat versions.

Ivey lived in a trailer park, and the thought of wearing the gangs colors black and blue made him excited to be part of something beyond his chaotic family.

None of them knew the first thing about being in a gang, and yet many kids lusted after it, even some wholived in nice homes with their families, Ivey says now. Others grew up like he did: the child of poor crack and opioid addicts, ripe to be ensnared by a world promising brotherhood, loyalty and respect.

Iveys future was not in a black organization, however it was in one of the oldest and largest white gangs in the US, the Simon City Royals.

A lot of us were raised in the pits, and thats where almost all gang life begins, he says.

Benny Ivey got the now fading royal shield tattooed on his back about 20 years ago. Photograph: Imani Khayyam for The Guardian


Ivey, now 41, is muscular and likes to keep fit, even though he only weighs 160 pounds. He sports a buzz cut and has tattoos over much of his body. He proudly calls himself a redneck.

Gesticulating passionately during a driving tour of Jackson houses he broke into over the years, Ivey explains the absurdity of the media fixating on inner-city gangs. The world should know there are whites struggling in hoods as well as any other race, and more often than not those kids become gang members or drug addicts, he says.

Ivey was 12 when he began sniffing Scotchgard. He soon followed his adoptive parents and two uncles all school dropouts into addiction. His dad made $20 an hour as a carpenter, but most of it paid for their habits.

By 15, Ivey had dropped out of school and broken into probably 200 houses, robbed a crack dealer, had a cop kick his face into the pavement, and started selling meth to support his own addiction. He went in and out of juvenile detention and Mississippis notorious training schools that, before being reformed, were near-torture chambers for mostly African American and poor white delinquents.

At 21, Ivey was living with other drug users who helped run dope out of a small rentalhouse. One day, Ivey walked in and found his best friend Jimmy writing a letter to his young son, whose mother had said he couldnt see any more.

gang chart

What ya doin, bruh? Ivey asked him.

Im writing Jordan a letter.

You think he can read it?

He will one day, man.

As Ivey walked toward the kitchen, Jimmy told him: Man, Im gonna go lay down on your bed.

Ivey went to set up the grill, but something felt weird, so he went back to his room. Jimmy was sitting at the front of the bed with a pistol to his head, the letter on the floor beside him. It was the gun Ivey kept under his pillow.

Sheetrock dust busted out of the ceiling when the bullet hit it. Jimmys head slumped to the side, blood seeping into the mattress. Ivey jumped into the bed with him, yelling to the others: Go call the cops, go call somebody!

After Jimmys death, Ivey bottomed out. I didnt give a shit about nothing, I guess. After he killed himself, I went running wild, he says.

He soon pleaded guilty to an aggravated assault charge for pumpkin-heading a man at a party, breaking his jaw. With a one-year suspended sentence, he stayed free, but he kept robbing until he got caught and was sent to back to jail.

There, Ivey met a Simon City Royalwho called himself True Love.


The Royals roots date to Chicagos North Side in 1952, when two violent white greaser gangs the Ashland Royals and Simon City guarded Simon Park turf as Puerto Ricans moved in.

Early greasers were immigrants, often Italian, maligned by wealthier whites for greasing machines in blue-collar jobs. In 1968, the greasers united as the Simon City Royals, often rumbling with the nearby Latin Kings as well as the white supremacist Gaylords. (Their rhetoric is familiar: a Gaylords nostalgia website called Latino gangs storage bins for illegal immigrants.)

The Almighty Gaylords are one of the oldest street gangs in Chicago. This card is a particularly heavy version depicting two klansmen preparing to execute a Simon City Royal rabbit another white gang. Photograph: Brandon Johnson

The Royals were one of the biggest and most violent street gangs in Chicago by the 1970s, when they joined the Folk Nation alliance with the Black Gangster Disciples, began admitting Hispanics and, later, women and black members.

But by the 1980s, the gang had weakened after its leadership got locked up or killed.

Strength shifted to prisons, and the brand spread to midwestern and southern states like Mississippi, where the Royals are now one of the largest and most violent gangs in the state.

Surveys of young Americans have shown that 40% identifying as gang members are white, but police tend to undercount them at 10% to 14% and overcount black and Hispanic members, says Babe Howell, a criminal law professor at City University of New York who focuses on crime and race.

Police see groups of young white people as individuals, each responsible for his or her own conduct, and hold young people of color in street gangs criminally liable for the conduct of their peers, she says.

An early Simon City Royals business card. In the middle is one of the primary symbols of the Simon City Royals a cross with three slashes above. Behind this is a broken flaming cross representing the Almighty Gaylords (a longtime enemy). Photograph: Brandon Johnson

How law enforcement labels specific gangs may also obscure white membership, a 2012 study published in the Michigan Journal of Race and Law posited.

Jordan Blair Woods researched how the feds had applied the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (Rico) to various gangs. Congress passed Rico in 1970 to target the mafia as organized criminal enterprises. In the early 1990s, the attorney general, Janet Reno, started using Rico to charge criminal street gangs.

Woods explains that law enforcement typically splits gang activity into three groups: white supremacist prison gangs, outlaw biker clubs and criminal street gangs. He concluded that systemic racism often keeps white gangs categorized as prison and biker groups instead of street gangs the category drawing the toughest charges and sentences.

This means white gangs are not typically policed as stringently, he writes, and their members can miss interventions sometimes offered to more publicized gangs of color. That help can include job and life skills training, or interaction with trained violence interrupters, who are often former gang members.

Woods blames the media for underreporting white gangs. He backs up Iveys point about this lack of attention, writing that media may be more prone to cover black and Hispanic gangs because of consumer demands for stories of sensationalized racial gang violence.

How can you help [with a problem] if you dont recognize its there? Ivey says. A lot of white kids, 15, 16 years old, look at white gangsters as rock stars.

Mississippi has recently named the majority-white Royals and the Bandidos a biker club started by a white marine later convicted of murder among its largest criminal street gangs in annual assessments over the last decade. The Mississippi Association of Gang Investigators often points to violent white gangsters to push for tougher enforcement, telling media that 53% of verified gang members in the state are white.

But despite the growth in white gangs, Mississippi public defender Andr de Gruy says from 2010 to 2017, all 97 people prosecuted under current state gang law were African American.

When Ivey met True Love in jail in 1998, he found a brotherhood that understood rednecks like him. His mother didnt have transportation to visit, and he was alone behind bars, so he decided then and there the Royals would be his family.

Like many, Ivey stepped up into the gang from an unstructured life without positive adult influences, looking for what initiates tend to call betterment.

It was about bettering yourself: get a job, go to school, learn communication skills so you can do anything, go to banks, get loans, Ivey says. Most getting into gangs didnt come from environments that know how to write a check or basic life skills.

When Benny Ivey retired in 2008 from leading the Simon City Royals in central Mississippi he covered most of his Royals tattoos, but left one of the gangs shield on his leg, inking retired under it. Photograph: Imani Khayyam for The Guardian

New gang members have often already tangled with police. A 2016 study in Jackson, which focused on urban black gangs, showed that not finishing school and being put into a police car are top precursors for a young person committing worse crime as an adult.

Ivey says no one tried to redirect him as he went in and out of juvenile facilities and prison, where he smoked weed every day. They never tried to get me to rehab, they always sent me to prison, he says.

In jail, Ivey vowed to True Love that he would remain loyal to the death and keep Royals rules confidential. Gangsters punched him hard in the chest 12 times and pricked his finger so he could bleed on the gangs six-point star on a birth certificate while guards looked away.

He soon transferred to prison, where he had to defend his new gang allies, the Black Gangster Disciples.

Ivey avoided conflicts with the Aryan Brotherhood who considered the Royals traitors to the white race but he also had to stand up to his own black allies.

In prison, it got to where some Gangsters thought the Royals were their do-boys, he says. I started getting a little bit of rank, and I didnt put up with it. They knew I would go out there with a knife, because Im not gonna be your bitch so they always treated me with respect I didnt never stab nobody, I didnt have to.

During his time behind bars, Ivey studied Royals literature 50 pages of policies and history and started networking. By the time he returned home in 2003, he had claimed the title of Central Mississippi regional captain.


On the outside, Ivey started organizing the Royals. In 2003, there was no structure, no meetings so I was going around trying to bless people in. That is, he wanted to initiate others into the group. I didnt become Royal because I wanted to sell dope, run the streets It was [about] the brotherhood. I had their backs, they had mine, no matter what.

In 2004, Ivey was locked up for four years for manufacturing crystal meth. He ran his chapter via cellphone (a little gangster would hold it for me) and he sent missive scrolls to Royals on the outside.

Thomasa Spirit Massey was a Royal Queen of the Simon City Royals chapter Benny Ivey ran. She helped administer the shared Royal poor box fund. She also worked as a paralegal until she was arrested. Photograph: imani khayyam/Imani Khayyam for The Guardian

In 2008, he returned to a trailer park where a mother of two called Spirit lived and assisted with operations. She helped Ivey administer the Royals fund; he required each of the 150 members to contribute $12 a month. They could borrow for a child support payment or to keep their lights on.

If they didnt repay, or violated other rules, Ivey assigned Royals to beat them.

His members prided themselves on not being racist. Iveys members were all 100% fine being allied with a black gang, but his Royals werent diverse. It was an all-white organization, he says. Still, he didnt see much bigotry among his members. I think everything depends on the person Hell, a lot of the Royals acted more black culturally than white.

By late 2008, Iveys organization started to unravel internally. His first lieutenant, Kruz, started squabbling with two young members called Smash and Street, whom he suspected were talking to the cops. Soon afterwards, police told Ivey that no Royal better touch their informants. If anything happens to them boys, we coming for you, a local lieutenant warned.

Spooked, Ivey left town for a few weeks, but a mob of Royals beat up Smash and Street while he was gone and were arrested on $1m bonds. When leaders get locked up is a prime time for violence which is now more often intra-gang than between different gangs, Northwestern University sociologist and violence expert Andrew Papachristos reports.

Then 32, Ivey was sent to the private Delta correctional facility because of gang activity. There, he gathered the Royals in the yard.

I have to retire because Im a liability, he said.

Nobody objected.

Law enforcement say the Royals started growing exponentially on the Gulf coast in 2008 the year Ivey retired and are now Mississippis third largest criminal street gang.

They now refer to themselves as Chapter 13 and the Mississippi Combat Legion. Police say the gang traffics guns and narcotics, with some members participating in gruesome violence against snitches.

Ivey had his six-point tattoos covered, but left the Royal shield on his shin, inking retired under it.

It was all a blessing in disguise, he says now. When it all went down at first, I was heartbroken. I thought I was doing something. I wasnt doing nothing but prolonging my miserable existence.


Still, after leaving the Delta prison, Ivey went to jail again for driving a woman to a drug deal. A friend eventually referred him to Randy Adams, a graduate of drug court who ran the Common Bond Recovery Center in Jackson.

Ivey broke down crying to Adams, who told the cops:Yes, I want him in my rehab. There, Ivey worked out, prayed and wrote his story with pen and paper for eight months.

Thats where I met her, he says now, pointing to a blonde 30-year-old sitting across from him in a puffy recliner.

Kristina Arnold, now Ivey, was visiting someone else at rehab when she met him. I was all anti-him, like, hes just a thug, she says. Her parents were addicts, too, and she had had a daughter at 16. She had kicked her own habit and was studying to be a medical assistant.

Benny Ivey met Kristina Arnold, who was visiting someone else, at the Common Bond rehabilitation center in Jackson, Mississippi, where he finally kicked his meth habit after 20 years. Photograph: imani khayyam/Imani Khayyam for The Guardian

They talked on the phone and had lunch when she visited. At first, she told Ivey she wasnt interested in more. Well, I just gotta woo you then, he responded.

By then, Ivey was getting clean, writing, praying, working out and trying to imagine his own future. She could sense his sincerity and dropped her guard. I think God put us in each others paths for a reason, Kristina says now.

In February 2012, Ivey rented a house for him, Kristina and her six-year-old, who is now 12. He adopted her on Valentines Day 2013.

Like many gang members, Ivey had never had a real job or even a drivers license, but a friend referred him to a plumbing and remodeling company. He started regrouting floors at KFC and clearing sewer drains for $10 an hour, moving to $15 in five months. When one of his bosses died two years ago, the other made Ivey his partner.

In 2017,the couple bought the 2,100 sq ft home in Rankin County cheap because it needed work.

Who wouldve ever thought? I lived in shacks. I never stayed the night in a house like this ever in my entire life, he says.


Over the last year, Ivey built a large deck for Sunday cookouts, positioned a flatscreen for Nascar viewing and turned his garage into a workout studio with a large Confederate flag over his weight set.

Im not racist, but I like the flag, he says, calling it defiance of those who put rednecks down. People up north like to make fun of us.

Still, the flag was gone in December when the black photographer he had gotten to know for this article visited. I didnt want to hurt Imani, he says later. The flag is not about racism to me.

Iveys brother Danny, who is now in rehab, had turned Aryan Brotherhood in prison, tattooing a swastika on to his chest. But Iveysays he has spent too much time around black people with similar struggles to think hes superior to them.

He also doesnt believe white privilege is a thing. I think its wealth privilege. I dont care what color you are, if youre poor, you get treated like crap. Because I never had none of that white privilege, he says.

We have the same problems as all other races when it comes to money, social stature, living with nothing, drugs, addiction, poverty, Ivey says. All that is all too real for a lot of us.

Ivey attends a church by the interstate with a few black members. He works on houses in formerly lily-white South Jackson, where race demographics have flipped since his family house-hopped there. But he passed on talking to kids at a Jackson YMCA about avoiding the gang life.

Its all black kids, he says. Theyre not gonna listen to my cracker ass.

Today, many locals are surprised to learn that white gang members ran drugs and kicked in doors for two decades between Jackson and its majority-white suburbs.

We watch the news every morning, Ivey says. My little girl comes in here and says, Why do black people commit so many crimes?

Baby, because we have Jackson news, and theres two-thirds black in Jackson, he tells her. White people do bad, too.

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The Texas boys were beaten, abused, raped. Now all they want is an apology

The youngsters at Cal Farleys Ranch in Texas were subjected to years of abuse. But the institutions feeble response has been a slap in the face to survivors

Steve Smith was just eight when his mother left him in the care of Cal Farleys Boys Ranch, a Texas institution for at-risk children. From the moment he got there in 1959, the place didnt sit right with him.

I cried probably more than any boy that I know that came out [of] there, just homesick, and I didnt take it very well.

Almost immediately upon his arrival, Steve was subject to the first of many beatings. For the following decade, he endured regular and arbitrary violence at the hands of staff. He also had to watch helplessly as his younger brother, Rick, was beaten by adults until he couldnt stand.

Along with the physical punishment, Steves pets were killed, and his friends were worked to the bone in atrocious conditions. Some boys, including Rick Smith, were also sexually abused while under the care of the ranch.

The ordeal has permanently damaged their lives.

At the kitchen table in his immaculate home in the Amarillo suburbs, Steve, now almost 70, goes through all of the details of what happened to him without showing much pain. Hes a tough man he served in the Vietnam war and was wounded in the line of duty and his piercing blue eyes only sprout tears twice.

The first time is when he describes how a succession of dogs he owned, all called Boots, were killed by staff members. The other is when he talks about what happened to his younger brother Rick, and how powerless he was to help him.

Rick, Steve, and six other men the Guardian spoke to named staff members responsible for the abuse, which lasted from the 1950s until at least the early 1990s. They say the abuse went beyond them, and was systemic, affecting hundreds of others who went through the ranch.

They say Lamont Waldrip, a long-serving superintendent, was one of the worst abusers. Last month, at the behest of a wealthy donor who wrote a cheque for $1m to build a new dormitory, the ranch named the new building Waldrip House.

The ranchs current CEO, Dan Adams, acknowledged the weight of the accusations against Waldrip, who died in 2013, but he said that other boys had had very different experiences with him and admired and liked him.

For the survivors who want to make the ranch accountable for the abuse and have been encouraged to break their silence after Steve Smith brought them together in a Facebook group this is an unbearable affront.

A very wealthy ranch and a revolt

A postcard of Cal Farleys ranch that Steve Smith has kept. Photograph: Jason Wilson for the Guardian

Cal Farleys Boys Ranch is accustomed to the generosity of well-heeled donors, but is less used to having its reputation called into question. Almost since its foundation, the Christ-centered but nondenominational institution has been a byword in Texas for juvenile reform and a can-do spirit. There is no suggestion that there is abuse at Cal Farleys now indeed, there is broad acknowledgment, even from advocates for the men, that current practices at the ranch are in line with the best in the sector.

With 100 direct employees and 526 across its subsidiaries, it is no small fish, and notable individuals from the ranching and oil industries queue up to serve on its board. Cheques like the one that funded Waldrip House are not unusual: the most recent publicly available tax filings show an annual income for the ranch just north of $56.8m. About $43m of that came from contributions and grants. The ranch also owns parcels of land as far away as California.

The ranchs founder, Cal Farley, was a professional wrestler and Amarillo businessman. He had been a prominent college athlete before he moved to Amarillo, where he gained prominence as the owner of a tire shop. Throughout the 1930s, he ran a sporting club, The Mavericks, which tried to channel the energies of troubled and abandoned boys in the panhandle. Eventually he was gifted land in Tascosa, a ghost town, by a local rancher, so he could set up a more permanent home for the boys.

But for all their organizational success, Farley and his staff had no special training to deal with wayward children. In 1950, the superintendent was overpowered and thrown in the river by a group of boys who staged an effective revolt, and for a brief moment they were running things to suit themselves.

In an otherwise laudatory biography of Farley published in 1959, A Shirttail to Hang To, this moment is presented as a major crisis for the ranch. The situation demanded immediate attention. One revolution or mass runaway would mean that Cal would never again win public support for his project.

Faced with a risk to the ranchs prestige, Farley replaced his superintendent with a professional wrestler named Dorrance Funk, who turned to violence as a solution to the discipline problem at the ranch.

In A Shirttail to Hang To, author Beth Day writes that in the wake of the revolt, Funks immediate problem was to command their respect and obedience. He would invite the big boys to work out with him on the wrestling mat Funk illustrated wrestling holds and techniques, and also managed to get over to each boy the suggestion of potential power After a round apiece with Funk on the mat, not one of the leaders of the embryo revolution suggested they might throw *him* in the river.

By the time Rick and Steve Smith arrived in 1959, there were about 250 residents, and Texas courts had taken to diverting young offenders out of the juvenile justice system and into the ranch. Those boys were thrown together in dorms with others who had never committed a crime, but whose parents could not take care of them.

They made me run in front of horses

Ed Cargill lives in New Mexico now, after a stint in the US army and some years of riding motorcycles all over the south-west. His time in Cal Farleys overlapped with Rick Smiths.

After years of living in what he calls a paradise for adult abusers, he made repeated escape attempts. Each time he was caught, and punished. On one occasion, he says, Lamont Waldrip delivered a punishment straight out of the Old West.

I ran away on foot and got about halfway to Amarillo when they caught me, using a helicopter. Lamont Waldrip and another staff member then took me 10 miles away from the ranch, and made me run in front of these horses all the way back. Anytime I floundered, theyd hit me with coiled-up rope or run over me with the damn horse.

Several of the men say that another escapee was dragged for miles behind two horses back to the ranch. Again, one of the horses was ridden by Waldrip. The man in question talked about the incident in a private survivors group on Facebook, which was set up by Steve. His comments were seen by the Guardian.

Cruel punishment wasnt the only ordeal students had to endure. Sexual abuse also happened, and Rick Smith says he was raped by another boy while under the care of the ranch.

The way Steve tells it, his brother has been nervous all his life, like he was hiding something. Just in the last year he told me that when he moved into Maynard [his dorm], one of the bigger boys said hed beat the hell out of him if he didnt sleep with him that night. Hes had it bottled up in him all that time.

Cargill says that the wife of a staff member was having sex with him and three other boys in effect, statutory rape. Its only in retrospect he has come to realize how damaging this was. I didnt realize how bad it was fucking me up. And, she was committing a fucking felony, he says.

As for Steve Smith, he recalls seeing a dorm parent make a boy take his penis out and hit it with a ruler.

He was screaming and begging and I couldnt do anything

For decades, the men say, a culture of abuse prevailed at Cal Farleys.

Martin (not his real name) was sent to the ranch in the early 1980s aged five after being brutally abused and mutilated by his father. Of that time, he says, if you wanna know what its like to die over and over again and watch yourself die in the mirror I know that.

On his first night at the ranch, an older male student dragged me out of the bed, and I went into the bathroom and he basically stuck his dick in my mouth.

Steve Smiths standard release form from Cal Farleys. Photograph: Steve Smith

When he committed a minor infraction not long after, Martins female dorm parent ordered him to jump in a trash can and scrub it in freezing weather.

When you put a little kid whos been tortured inside a trash can, upside down, and make it like a little prison cell and have him scrub You know, you got these tiny little holes at the top just to let a little light in, youre scared, youre freezing, you know?

Cargill says that his dorm parent would also encourage other boys to administer physical punishment. I saw him hit two boys with his fist and then tell the rest of the dorm, You better finish what I started or its all gonna happen to you.

So I watched as they literally beat these two guys half to death, and me and another guy tried to intervene. We didnt get beat up as bad, but we got beat up.

Cargill says their only crime is they were gay. Which, thats not my place to judge, or my place to punish.

Steve Smith remembers his helplessness while his brother was beaten mercilessly. A staff member did it. I heard Rick screaming at the top of his lungs so I ran down there. I looked into his room and the guy was beating the hell out of him with a belt. My brother didnt even have clothes on, just his underwear. He was screaming and begging and I couldnt do anything.

Afterwards, Ricks nervousness at being at the ranch led to a pattern of behavior that only led to more beatings.

I pissed the bed till I was probably 10, and for that they beat the hell out of me till I bled, he says.

Bill Varnado, who was there at the same time as Steve Smith, says you really didnt have to get in trouble for them to beat the hell out of you. Normally, he says, they used a belt, but as you got older they used their fists on boys.

Joe Stroud, who was there in the 1980s, says the ethos of punishment at Cal Farleys went all the way from how people treated themselves, down to how people treated animals, to how people treat anything. It was a culture of violence.

Its not that I dont believe it, its just that its past

Janet Heimlich, a former journalist, now runs a nonprofit in Austin called the Child-Friendly Faith Project. Through her work and in a book, she has worked to expose religious groups that abuse children. I am always in search of faith-based organizations that are really great, she says.

When she first wrote about Cal Farleys, she used it as an example of best practices in youth care. She still maintains that currently Cal Farleys appears to be in keeping with modern and humane standards of childcare, and says they run a flagship program for cutting-edge child therapy.

In 2015, after she published a laudatory post about Carl Farleys on her blog, Steve Smith left comments. He wrote about the constant abuse, and the beating meted out to Rick. Alarmed by what she was reading, Heimlich got in touch with Adams, the ranch CEO.

I asked Dan, Is what this guy is saying true? He said, Yes. But were evolved.

Heimlich decided to help Steve talk it out with Adams.

Their first conversation was a two-and-a-half-hour meeting on 23 March this year, which Heimlich attended as an observer via Skype. She observed that Adamss attitude to Smith was sympathetic. We were both blown away with what Steve was telling us. Every so often Dan would reach out and touch Steves shoulder.

On 7 and 8 April, the three of them met in Amarillo, first at a coffee shop, and then the next morning for breakfast. At this point, she started to become concerned about how the ranch was going to deal with Smiths allegations.

I thought that meeting was his opportunity to say, Heres what were going to do, but I was getting nothing from him.

At breakfast, she presented a draft letter suggesting the approach Cal Farleys could take. These included investigating allegations of abuse, setting up a fund for survivors medical needs, and ensuring that information on their website and in their marketing material was truthful and not misleading.

Adams, she says, was uncomfortable. Most of all, he was resistant to the idea of going public with any it. He thought that involving the media would not bring the men the healing they were looking for, she says.

At the same meeting, Adams told Heimlich that the ranch was planning to name a new dorm after Lamont Waldrip.

For survivors, she says, it was a slap in the face.

In conversation with the Guardian, Adams acknowledged that abuses had occurred in the past, but also reaffirmed his stance.

I cant deny Steve or anybody else their experience, he said. When asked if the behavior of staff at the time sounded like abuse, he responded, absolutely, no doubt about it. But he stressed that practices had changed, including the phasing out of corporal punishment since he took over in 1996.

I knew Lamont. And there are guys today that had very different experiences with Lamont and admired and liked him. In his early days, I think he probably was way over his head in terms of knowing how to deal with all those kids any time you have a system thats scantily staffed, and not trained, abuse happens.

Adams has no plans to change the dedication of the new building.

I do think when it comes to honoring founders or former employees, thats a collective thing, thats bigger than me, its not arbitrary. I think [a public apology] can be disruptive, because Ive got 260 kids out there that were working very well with, and we have a lot of younger people whose experience has been good at Boys Ranch, and a lot of families that count on us.

I dont say its hearsay and I dont deny it. Its not that I dont believe it, its just that its past.

I want somebody to stand up and say, Hey, Im frickin sorry

The men the Guardian spoke to say they have carried the scars of this experience for decades, as well as a sense that their lives have been misshapen by their time there. Many talked about extensive substance abuse, suicide attempts,
and incarceration among alumni.

Bill Varnado wants to be very clear that theyre not looking for any monetary deal out of this. What we would like is an apology from those people for treating us the way they treated us.

Martin asks: What did Boys Ranch take from me? I dont know. My sense of security, my sense of self, my sense of being comfortable in my own skin.

Arnold Wells says hes still not sure hes an adapted person in adulthood. It got ingrained into me for a period of five years that violence fixes everything, he says.

Ed Cargill says: I want somebody to grow a pair of balls, stand up and say, Hey, Im frickin sorry.

For all the abuse Rick Smith endured, he is more concerned to talk about his brother, and the years it took him to live down what happened to him, and to get past his drinking and anger.

Let me tell you, hes just so proud he didnt let it get him down. Because it was for a while, and he overcame a lot. He was headed for the wrong, wrong place.

Hes skeptical that they will ever receive an apology. Its not gonna happen. Because they are committed to the hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank. Theyre committed to that.

And because of this lack of closure, he also doubts he and his brother will ever get over it.

Steve and I will die. Well go to our grave and Ill guarantee you itll be one of the things we think about when we take that last breath: how they got away with it.

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What happened when I discovered my brother was a sexual predator

Unravelling the central mystery of my childhood taught me the uncomfortable truth about toxic male behavior and what I, as a man, must do about it

Ive fallen out of touch with a lot of childhood friends, but how it happened with my Christie was different more sudden, and at the time, inexplicable.

Christie was my best friend. Her mother, Suzanne, was my mothers best friend since high school. In adulthood, they would get together for coffee once a week. I can still remember the times I spent listening to both of them hold forth on politics and relationships at the kitchen table while Christie and I would play hide and seek.

But one day, Suzanne stopped returning my mothers calls. Christie stopped coming over too.

My mom struggled with depression and it was a hard blow for her. I was always protective of her growing up, and I remember feeling angry, blindsided and hurt. Christie was my best friend, after all.

After a long decline from early-onset dementia, my mother died two years ago. She and Suzanne had never reconciled.

A year later, my half-brother Todd died at the age of 52 from a heroin overdose.

When I was in town for Todds funeral, Christie got in touch and soon afterward, her mother invited me over for dinner. And over glasses of beer and wine, Suzanne told me a series of painful truths that helped unravel one of the central mysteries of my childhood.

In the same conversation, I learned that my brother was a sexual predator, and that my mother was a rape victim.

Suzanne told me that Todd and a group of his friends had sexually assaulted Christies half-sister, Denise, in our home. Denise would have been about 11 at the time.

Suzanne couldnt bring herself to tell my mom because my mom was fragile, dealing with continuous conflict between my father and my two half-brothers, and had herself been raped as a teenager by an ex-boyfriend.

Not knowing what to do, she decided to cut ties and stopped talking to my mother. Christie, meanwhile, said she felt pressured at the time into not talking to me.

After our conversation, I felt numb for days. I pushed it to the back of my mind and did nothing for months. But then the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke out.

It prompted me to asked myself some hard questions. There have been women in my life I could have treated better, and missed occasions where I could have stepped up to the plate to be a better man.

Then I thought about my mother, who started a feminist book club when I was a child; womens rights were important to her. What Suzanne had told me that my mom had been raped, and that her parents refused to believe her or act on it made sense to me, and I was able to confirm parts of it by talking to her sisters. What could I, as a man, do to seek a small amount of justice for the women in my life?

Ultimately, it was a tweet from @sansdn, a feminist Twitter user in Sydney, Australia, that spurred me to action.

San (@sansdn)

It’s easy as hell to call people like Trump and Weinstein monsters. It’s not easy, however, to critique the men in your lives the same way.

October 16, 2017

I decided to do just that.

First, I spoke to a few of Todds friends. I didnt tell them about Denises story, but asked if they could share anything about Todds relationship with women when he was young.

One friend jokingly told a story about how his girlfriend woke one morning after a party to find Todd on top of her, and that he had to pull Todd off her. Man, Todd could be crazy! he said, thinking Id laugh with him.

I didnt.

In his book The Macho Paradox, Jackson Katz argues that sexual assault is a mens issue. Men commit the vast majority of rapes, and men have a special responsibility to hold both themselves and other men accountable for how they treat women and girls.

Men have to think about what role they play, and how they can use whatever platform of influence they have to make it unacceptable for men to act out in sexist and harmful ways, Katz told me. Not because they are nice guys, helping out the women, but because they have a responsibility as men in a sexist society. If they dont speak out, and they dont use whatever influence they have, then in a sense they are part of the problem.

But, as San pointed out, its all-too-easy to do that in a tweet or a Facebook post, when the man in question is a celebrity who is being publicly shamed.

The real work begins where you can have most impact closer to home.

And so I reached out to Denise, and she told me that she wanted to tell her story. As she would explain to me later, she wanted other victims to know about the importance of speaking up quickly about sexual assault so they can find the support they need.

We agreed to meet in person at her home in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, not far from where I grew up.

It was time to go home again. I caught a flight the next day.

Whenever we threw cookouts at our home, the adults would gather at the backyard patio, while the kids would go off and play, sometimes in Todds room in the basement.

Denise isnt sure exactly how old she was when it happened, but as far as he can remember, Todd was about 15, and she was 11 or 12. She knew Todd and his friends, and trusted them. She recalls Todd as the leader when a group of his friends encircled her and pinned her to a chair.

I didnt know what to do. It was very scary. All I see is me on the chair and all their hands everywhere on me, Denise told me. I dont hear what theyre saying. I got to the point where I was actually gonna threaten to spit on them. They didnt like that, but then I thought I cant really spit on them cause then theyll get mad at me, so again I felt powerless.

Jared Goyette and his friend Christie. Photograph: Jared Goyette

She isnt sure how long it went on for, but the memory of the emotions she felt then is still raw, many decades later. Fear, anger, and guilt, because she thought that she had brought it on herself.

When the boys paused for a moment, she bolted out of the room, and to her mother. But she was afraid to say anything directly.

I just remember going outside, trying to get my mom to notice that perhaps something was wrong, but not making it so obvious that all the adults would notice. I didnt know what to do and it was an instinct of mine learned from society that I couldnt say anything about it, because I didnt want the grownups to get mad.

Her mother told her to go play back inside, back to the room. Denise obeyed.

There, the assault continued.

At a moment when some are rushing to downplay the alleged sexual assaults committed against young girls by Roy Moore, the Senate candidate in Alabama, its worth saying that what happened to Denise in the basement of my childhood home was a life-altering event for her.

The shame and guilt she felt in that moment lingered, and grew, and spread. At 11, she played piano, the harpsichord, the violin, and sang in the church choir, but suddenly, her interest in music faded. Her mother knew something was wrong, but couldnt figure out what had happened.

She was extraordinary, and that ended, Suzanne said. She had to be talked into going to choir practice or talked into practicing. She just went into this little cave of her own making. And I thought it was because of something that was happening at school. I didnt understand what the impetus was that began that.

Denise described her descent as a domino effect: Your whole perception changes about how you think people look at you.

Years would go by before she would tell anyone.

There was another person I had to talk to while I was home: my other half-brother, Chris. Im 35, and hes 51, a year and half younger than Todd. He would have been about 13 around the time it happened, and I needed to ask him what he knew.

We met a restaurant. When I broached the topic, he asked not to be recorded, and the conversation grew heated. Later though, we talked over the phone, and he agreed to go on the record.

First, he denied knowing anything about it. I have no memory whatsoever of seeing this go on, or hearing about it, nothing, he said.

He did not speak fondly of Todd, however, recalling a time when he tried to bring a girl home only for Todd to make a move on her. He remembered Todds attitude toward women as being very confident and aggressive.

Im telling you, the culture was different in those times. Todd was jock, handsome. Of course he always thought the girls wanted him. Boys will be boys, Chris said.

Chris generally had two lines of thought. On one hand, he said that if what Denise described did happen, there was nothing right about it. But he also continually tried to shift the responsibility back to her, recalling times she did things that he said could have been interpreted as suggestive. There may have been a little promiscuity going on. Right? he said at one point. (Again, Denise was about 11 at the time.)

The conversation moved to our mother. He began by saying that he believed the story of her being raped as a teenager, and that hearing what our mother went through had upset him. For a moment, after what had been a draining conversation, I thought that we had finally found common ground.

But again, he shifted.

I think that sucks, but the other thing I remember now Ive heard a couple of different people, throughout the years is that our mother was a little promiscuous when she was young, he told me.

My heart sank. I mean, really? This was our own mother he was talking about. As we went back and forth, I concluded that the tendency to shift the focus back to the accuser was reflexive and almost hardwired in him, as I think is often the case for men of his generation. This is something many women know and have known, but I was discovering it first-hand.

Some of my earliest memories are of Chris swinging me by my feet as a child. He loves his wife and they have a solid relationship. Hes my brother and I love him. But what I found in our conversation was a painful example of the kind of attitudes that made Denise and Suzanne, as well as countless other victims, reluctant to come forward. And if I were to stay silent about it, or just shrug it off as the kind of thing guys say sometimes, I would, in essence, be participating.

I choose not to participate.

Denise slowly began her healing process, and eventually got married and then separated. She has a daughter in college and a son in high school. Both live with her, and all three perform together at church Denise and her daughter Cassandra sing in the choir, while her son Colin plays in the bell choir. Her children were in the room as she told her story. She wanted them to be there.

What I hope people get out of this is, that they should not be embarrassed about it. They should tell somebody as soon as it happens, so that you can get the help that you need and you can start to move on from it. And you can move on from it, Denise said.

I would say a lot of me has been able to move on, but theres still parts of me that need to be fixed. Knowing that these things happen, I feel that I have been able to be very open with my children. Let them know that if anything happens to them, they can come and ask me and I will not judge them and I will try and help.

I think people need to know that there are people out there that will help them and support them, she said.

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Hookworm, a disease of extreme poverty, is thriving in the US south. Why?

Exclusive: in America, the worlds richest country, diseases that thrive amid poverty are rampant, the first study of its kind in modern times shows

Children playing feet away from open pools of raw sewage; drinking water pumped beside cracked pipes of untreated waste; human faeces flushed back into kitchen sinks and bathtubs whenever the rains come; people testing positive for hookworm, an intestinal parasite that thrives on extreme poverty.

These are the findings of a new study into endemic tropical diseases, not in places usually associated with them in the developing world of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, but in a corner of the richest nation on earth: Alabama.

Scientists in Houston, Texas, have lifted the lid on one of Americas darkest and deepest secrets: that hidden beneath fabulous wealth, the US tolerates poverty-related illness at levels comparable to the worlds poorest countries. More than one in three people sampled in a poor area of Alabama tested positive for traces of hookworm, a gastrointestinal parasite that was thought to have been eradicated from the US decades ago.

The long-awaited findings, revealed by the Guardian for the first time, are a wake-up call for the worlds only superpower as it grapples with growing inequality. Donald Trump has promised to Make America Great Again and tackle the nations crumbling infrastructure, but he has said very little about enduring chronic poverty, particularly in the southern states.

The study, the first of its kind in modern times, was carried out by the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in conjunction with Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE), a non-profit group seeking to address the root causes of poverty. In a survey of people living in Lowndes County, an area with a long history of racial discrimination and inequality, it found that 34% tested positive for genetic traces of Necator americanus.


The parasite, better known as hookworm, enters the body through the skin, usually through the soles of bare feet, and travels around the body until it attaches itself to the small intestine where it proceeds to suck the blood of its host. Over months or years it causes iron deficiency and anemia, weight loss, tiredness and impaired mental function, especially in children, helping to trap them into the poverty in which the disease flourishes.

Hookworm was rampant in the deep south of the US in the earlier 20th century, sapping the energy and educational achievements of both white and black kids and helping to create the stereotype of the lazy and lethargic southern redneck. As public health improved, most experts assumed it had disappeared altogether by the 1980s.

But the new study reveals that hookworm not only survives in communities of Americans lacking even basic sanitation, but does so on a breathtaking scale. None of the people included in the research had travelled outside the US, yet parasite exposure was found to be prevalent, as was shockingly inadequate waste treatment.

The peer-reviewed research paper, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, focuses on Lowndes County, Alabama the home state of the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and a landmark region in the history of the nations civil rights movement. Bloody Lowndes, the area was called in reference to the violent reaction of white residents towards attempts to undo racial segregation in the 1950s.

It was through this county that Martin Luther King led marchers from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 in search of voting rights for black citizens, More than half a century later, Kings dream of what he called the dignity of equality remains elusive for many of the 11,000 residents of Lowndes County, 74% of whom are African American.

Raw sewage is carried through a PVC pipe to be dumped only a few yards away from a nearby home. Photograph: Bob Miller for the Guardian

The average income is just $18,046 (13,850) a year, and almost a third of the population live below the official US poverty line. The most elementary waste disposal infrastructure is often non-existent.

Some 73% of residents included in the Baylor survey reported that they had been exposed to raw sewage washing back into their homes as a result of faulty septic tanks or waste pipes becoming overwhelmed in torrential rains.

The Baylor study was inspired by Catherine Flowers, ACREs founder, who encouraged the Houston scientists to carry out the review after she became concerned about the health consequences of having so many open sewers in her home county. Hookworm is a 19th-century disease that should by now have been addressed, yet we are still struggling with it in the United States in the 21st century, she said.

Our billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates fund water treatment around the world, but they dont fund it here in the US because no one acknowledges that this level of poverty exists in the richest nation in the world.

Flowers took the Guardian on a tour of Lowndes County to witness the conditions in which hookworm continues to proliferate. One stop was at a group of mobile homes outside Fort Deposit that graphically illustrated the crisis.

An eight-year-old child was sitting on the stoop of one of the trailers. Below him a white pipe ran from his house, across the yard just a few feet away from a basketball hoop, and into a copse of pine and sweet gum trees.

The pipe was cracked in several places and stopped just inside the copse, barely 30ft from the house, dripping ooze into a viscous pool the color of oil. Directly above the sewage pool, a separate narrow-gauge pipe ran up to the house, which turned out to be the main channel carrying drinking water to the residents.

The open sewer was festooned with mosquitoes, and a long cordon of ants could be seen trailing along the waste pipe from the house. At the end of the pool nearest the house the treacly fluid was glistening in the dappled sunlight a closer look revealed that it was actually moving, its human effluence heaving and churning with thousands of worms.

Ruby Dee Rudolph, 66, noticed her septic tank was slowly sinking unevenly into the ground. Photograph: Bob Miller for the Guardian

This is the definition of Make America Great Again, said Aaron Thigpen, 29, a community activist who assisted with the hookworm study. This is the reality of how people are being forced to live.

Thigpens cousins live in the trailer park, and he has talked to them about the perils of piping sewage from their homes and dumping it in the open just a few feet away. They are disgusted about it, theyre sick and tired of living like this, but theres no public help for them here and if youre earning $700 a month theres no way you can afford your own private sanitation.

He added that people were afraid to report the problems, given the spate of criminal prosecutions that were launched by Alabama state between 2002 and 2008 against residents who were open-piping sewage from their homes, unable to afford proper treatment systems. One grandmother was jailed over a weekend for failing to buy a septic tank that cost more than her entire annual income.

People are scared. They dont like to speak out as theyre worried the health department will come round and cause trouble, Thigpen said.

The challenge to places like Lowndes County is not to restore existing public infrastructure, as Trump has promised, because there is no public infrastructure here to begin with. Flowers estimates that 80% of the county is uncovered by any municipal sewerage system, and in its absence people are expected and in some cases legally forced to provide their own.

Even where individuals can afford up to $15,000 to install a septic tank and very few can the terrain is against them. Lowndes County is located within the Black Belt, the southern sweep of loamy soil that is well suited to growing cotton and as a result spawned a multitude of plantations, each worked by a large enslaved population.

The same thing that made the land so good for cotton its water-retaining properties also makes it a hazard to the thousands of African Americans who still live on it today. When the rains come, the soil becomes saturated, overwhelming inadequate waste systems and providing a perfect breeding ground for hookworm.

Ruby Rudolph lives just beside the main Selma to Montgomery road where King led the protest walk. On the other side of the road theres a brown history placard to mark the spot where her grandmother, Rosie Steele, ran a campsite for the weary marchers.

After they moved on and the campsite was cleared, Rudolph said, her grandmothers grocery store was set on fire in an arson attack. She was 13 at the time, and can remember the flames leaping into the night sky.

Rudolph, now 66, does have her own septic tank at the back of her house, which she shows us in the sweltering 41C (105F) heat. But it doesnt function properly and when it rains the tank spills over, spreading raw waste all over the yard. Thats better than when it flushes back into the house, and Ive had that too, she said.

Shes been told a replacement system would cost her at least $12,000, which is beyond her means. She runs through her finances: she gets up at 4am every day to do an early shift at a Mapco convenience store, which brings in less than $1,200 a month. From that amount she has to pay $611 for her mortgage and theres the electricity bill that can be more than $300 a month when its hot and the air conditioning is busy. Theres not a lot left to put toward a new tank.

Perman Hardy, 58, stands with her grandson Carlos near the pipes that carry sewage from a relatives nearby trailer home into the woods, approximately 30ft from the back door. Photograph: Bob Miller for the Guardian

Perman Hardy, 58, lives in nearby Tyler in a collection of seven single-storey homes all occupied by members of her extended family. Only two of them have septic tanks, the rest just pipe raw waste into the surrounding woods and creeks.

Hardy is one of the lucky ones with a treatment system of her own, but like Rudolphs it is often overwhelmed in the rains with faeces washed back into her home. Last year the stench was so bad she had to vacate the property for two weeks over Christmas while it was professionally cleaned.

Hardy has traced her family back to slaves held on the Rudolph Bottom plantation about five miles away. The road that leads to the old plantation from her house is still called to this day by white neighbors Nigger Foot Road, she said, though she and other African Americans call it Collerine Cutoff Road.

As a child, Hardy worked in the cotton fields after school and, mindful of that and her familys slave history, shes determined to see a better future for her grandchildren. I dont want the same for my boys. But its still a struggle. Its the 21st century and we shouldnt be struggling like we still are today.

The daily hardship faced by Hardy, Rudolph and fellow inhabitants of Lowndes County is reflected in the Baylor studys glaring statistic of 34% testing positive for hookworm. The sample size was low 67 people participated with 55 giving stool samples, all of whom were African American but the results are so stark that the Houston scientists now want to conduct a larger survey across the region.

We now need to find how widespread hookworm is across the US, said Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, who led the research team along with Rojelio Mejia. Hotez, who has estimated that as many as 12 million Americans could be suffering from neglected tropical diseases in poor parts of the south and midwest, told the Guardian the results were a wake-up call for the nation.

This is the inconvenient truth that nobody in America wants to talk about, he said. These people live in the southern United States, and nobody seems to care; they are poor, and nobody seems to care; and more often than not they are people of color, and nobody seems to care.

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How to tell if you damaged your eyes during the eclipse

Use this simple test to find out if viewing the eclipse through a kitchen colander has blinded you

Hospitals around the country were inundated with people arriving at their emergency departments to see if they had sustained eye damage as a result of watching the eclipse.

Doctors across the country also reported a huge volume of calls requesting information about the possible long term effects of having stared at the eclipse. One doctor told the Guardian: If you cant read this piece, then …

(Turn around.) Every now and then I get a little bit lonely. And youre never coming round. (Turn around.) Every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears. (Turn around.) Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by. (Turn around.) Every now and then I get a little bit terrified. And then I see the look in your eyes.

(Turn around, bright eyes!) Every now and then I fall apart. (Turn around, bright eyes!) Every now and then I fall apart. (Turn around.) Every now and then I get a little bit restless. And I dream of something wild. (Turn around.)

Every now and then I get a little bit helpless. And Im lying like a child in your arms (Turn around). Every now and then I get a little bit angry and I know Ive got to get out and cry (Turn around). Every now and then I get a little bit terrified
But then I see the look in your eyes.

(Turn around, bright eyes!) Every now and then I fall apart.

(Turn around, bright eyes!) Every now and then I fall apart.

And I need you now tonight. And I need you more than ever. And if you only hold me tight. Well be holding on forever. And well only be making it right. Cause well never be wrong together.

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First time in 99 years: US total solar eclipse on 21 August excites scientists

Entire US will fall into shadow as eclipse passes, with darkest path, or totality, contained in 70-mile (113km) ribbon from Oregon to South Carolina

The sun, moon and Earth will line up perfectly in the cosmos on 21 August, turning day into night for a few wondrous minutes, its path crossing the US from sea to shining sea for the first time in nearly a century.

Never will a total solar eclipse be so heavily viewed and studied or celebrated.
Were going to be looking at this event with unprecedented eyes, promises Alex Young, a solar physicist who is coordinating Nasas education and public outreach.

And the party planning is at full tilt from Oregon to South Carolina. Eclipse fests, StarFests, SolarFests, SolFests, Darkening of the SunFests, MoonshadowFests, EclipseCons, Eclipse Encounters and Star Parties are planned along the long but narrow path of totality, where the moon completely blots out the sun.

Vineyards, breweries, museums, parks, universities, stadiums and just about everybody is getting into the act.

The Astronomical League for amateur astronomers is holing up at Casper, Wyoming. Minor league baseball teams will halt play for eclipse delays in Salem, Oregon, and elsewhere. By a cosmic quirk of the calendar, the Little Green Men Days festival will be in full swing in Kelly, Kentucky, as will the American Atheists annual convention in North Charleston, South Carolina.

And where better to fill up on eclipse T-shirts and safety glasses and eclipse burgers than the Eclipse Kitchen in Makanda, Illinois.

Scientists are also going gaga. This is a really amazing chance to just open the publics eyes to wonder, says Montana State Universitys Angela Des Jardins, a physicist in charge of a Nasa eclipse ballooning project. The student-launched, high-altitude balloons will beam back live video of the eclipse along the route.
Satellites and ground telescopes will also aim at the sun and at the moons shadow cutting a swath 60 to 70 miles wide (97 to 113km) across the land. Astronauts will do the same with cameras aboard the International Space Station. Ships and planes will also catch the action.

Its going to be hard to beat, frankly, says Thomas Zurbuchen, head of Nasas science mission office.

At the same time, researchers and the just plain curious will watch how animals and plants react as darkness falls. It will resemble twilight and the temperature will drop 10 to 15 degrees.

Expect four hours of pageantry, from the time the sun begins to be eclipsed by the moon near Lincoln City, Oregon, until the time the moons shadow vanishes near Charleston, South Carolina.

The total eclipse will last just 90 minutes as the lunar shadow sweeps coast to coast at more than 1,500mph (2,400kph) beginning about 1.15pm EDT and ending at 2.49pm EDT. The suns crown, the normally invisible outer atmosphere known as the corona, will shine like a halo.

These take-your-breath-away eclipses usually occur in the middle of the ocean somewhere, or near the sparsely populated top or bottom of the world. But the US is in the bulls-eye this time.

It will be the first total solar eclipse in 99 years to cross coast-to-coast and the first to pass through any part of the lower 48 states in 38 years.

Nasas meteor guru, Bill Cooke, was in Washington state for that one in 1979. This time, hes headed to his sisters farm in eastern Tennessee. It is the most weird, creepy, awe-inspiring astronomical event you will experience, he says.

In all, 14 states (two of them barely), 21 national park locations and seven national historic trails will be in the path.

Darkness will last just under two minutes in Oregon, gradually expanding to a maximum two minutes and 44 seconds in Shawnee national forest in southernmost Illinois, almost into Kentucky, then dwindling to 2 1/2 minutes in South Carolina. Staring at the sun with unprotected eyes is always dangerous, except during the few minutes of totality. But eye protection is needed during the partial eclipse before and after.

With an estimated 200 million people living within a days drive of the path, huge crowds are expected.

A partial eclipse will extend up through Canada and down through Central America and the top of South America.

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Jeff Sessions discussed Trump campaign with Russian ambassador report

US intelligence intercepts show Sergey Kislyak told supervisors he discussed Trump campaign and policy issues during meetings with attorney general

Jeff Sessions discussed Donald Trumps White House bid with the Russian ambassador to Washington in 2016, according to reported US intelligence intercepts which contradict the US attorney generals assurances that the campaign was not discussed.

Sergey Kislyak told his superiors in Moscow he talked about campaign-related matters and significant policy issues during two meetings with Sessions, according to current and former US intelligence officials, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

The ambassadors accounts of the meetings which US spy agencies intercepted clash with those of Sessions and pile fresh pressure on the attorney general just days after the president publicly criticised him.

Sessions was a senator and senior foreign policy adviser to Trump during the presidential race. After being tapped to run the justice department, he initially failed to disclose his encounters with Kislyak and then said the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

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