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Did Washington just have a real weekend?

WASHINGTON – President Biden did nothing this weekend.

Well, let’s rephrase: President Biden did nothing alarming This weekend.

There were exactly eight tweets, each rooted in what can best be described as reality. There was a visit to spend time with a sick friend, Bob Dole, a former Republican senator. And there was a stop at church with the grandchildren.

Since Mr. Biden took office, the weekends have been portraits of domestic life – MarioKart with the kids at Camp David, bagels in Georgetown, and football in Delaware. Passionate about Peloton, he has not even played golf. Mr Biden’s obvious lack of interest in generating bold headlines only underscores how Trump’s waist-hole in Washington has created a sense of free time in all areas of the capital. Psychically, if not literally.

While the workload remains (it’s still Washington, after all), people still get a few hours’ sleep during the period formerly known as weekends.

“It went from working 24/7 to sort of not working at all in the blink of an eye,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, Democrat from California and one of the House directors who sued Donald J. Trump in his second indictment, about his first post. -hours of trial. “And it took a little while for my body and mind to calm down.

Mr. Lieu says he’s already back to work at full speed. Among other things, he is pushing for legislation that he says will be drafted to address loopholes Mr. Trump has exploited, including a bill that would create penalties for failure to respond to subpoenas from Congress. .

But first, watch excessively: On the Sunday after the trial ended, Mr. Lieu spent his first few hours without Trump watching episodes of “Snowpiercer.”

Mr Biden, who is focused on his $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, said he also wants to stop discussing Mr Trump. “I don’t want to talk about him anymore,” the president said last week at a CNN town hall in Wisconsin. The reality is a little different. Mr Biden has repeatedly referred to what he called failures of the Trump administration as he sought to gain public patience with the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

There is a parallel in the news industry, where reporters covering this new version of Washington say they are ready to return to the type of journalism that does not involve deciphering a human mood ring. CNN and MSNBC, whose reporters and personalities have spent years challenging Mr. Trump’s policies, have quietly reduced the number of Trump-focused reporters working under contract in recent months.

Mr. Trump of course predicted that the political news complex would crumble without him. Members of this complex say they have some leeway to breathe and, most importantly, to plan.

“As the host of a weekly show, the glaring absence of presidential scandals on Twitter means that I can plan ahead with the hope that our plan will actually be implemented,” said Brian Stelter, a former New York Times reporter who hosts “Reliable Sources” on CNN. “Informally, we used to leave a five minute gap on my Sunday show, we expected some kind of big news to break out on Saturday night. Now, we no longer assume that will happen.

Other journalists welcome the renewed attention to politics.

“A linear policy-making process is always interesting,” Jake Sherman, a Politico veteran and founder of Punchbowl News, said of the relative return to normalcy brought by the Biden era. “When you’re convinced that a rotating cast of characters won’t change the course of the US government, that’s a heartwarming thought.”

New York magazine Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi said she was reconfiguring her relationship with the White House – in particular, the idea that the current president has little interest in undermining his own press officers and political experts .

This weekend, Ms Nuzzi said, she was also surprised to learn that Mr Biden had quietly gone to church. She realized how much she keeps tabs on Mr. Trump’s every move, just in case he turns the pulse news cycle upside down.

“It becomes clear, every day, how much of what happened during that trimester was related to how he was feeling,” Ms. Nuzzi said, “and how much of our day to day life has focused on trying. to understand how he felt. . “

Outside of the isolated worlds of politics and the news media, there is no normal to return to. Washingtonians who don’t have to hang on to every word from the president still struggle to adjust to life in a city where the Capitol and the White House have been essentially militarized and everyday life has been turned upside down. both by the coronavirus and civil unrest.

Amy Brandwein, chef and owner of Centrolina, watched brunches return to downtown on weekends, but she and other restaurateurs struggled for nearly a year to take over the business lost to the pandemic.

She also fears that the political unrest may continue. Ms Brandwein said her plan to install exterior bubble-shaped structures to provide a socially remote dining option was delayed due to violence at the Capitol on January 6. She estimates that she lost around $ 100,000 in business on the days she had to shut down due to the protests. which attracted the Proud Boys and other extremist groups.

Mr Trump may have left the capital, but she fears his supporters still endanger his employees and his business. “I wonder about the future security of downtown or in general in Washington,” she said, “because the Trump movement is still going on.”

As Washington staggers to its feet, it’s clear Mr. Trump is happy to visit the dreams of anyone who suddenly sleeps more.

He issued press releases through his post-presidential office whose targets included not only the entire Democratic Party but also Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader. He has sat for interviews on Fox News, repeating disputed or bogus theories about his electoral loss that allies like Sean Hannity have refused to dispute.

And at Mar-a-Lago, his seaside fortress, Mr. Trump always expects a full crowd on the dinner patio to stand up and cheer, just like he did when he did. was in office.

Other Republicans have filled the void left by Mr. Trump’s diminished profile. Much of the past week has been devoted to Washington’s gossip class gathered around an old-fashioned political scandal as if it were a hot campfire: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas s fled to Cancún – Cancún! – as his constituents suffered in a snowstorm and a power outage. Cruz’s hug was perhaps the most glaring sign of a new political era: Mr. Trump wasn’t there to give Mr. Cruz a cover by instinctively turning the spotlight on himself.

But supporters of the former president expect him to end his relative silence – perhaps with his scheduled speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida on Sunday.

Wayne Allyn Root, radio host and frequent visitor to Mar-a-Lago, said Mr. Trump is indebted to Republican expectations of becoming a “kingmaker” for the party in 2022, if he does not become himself. same candidate for 2024.

“It needs time to heal,” Mr. Root said, “and I think the time is about to end.”

In the meantime, a battered and battered capital has adjusted to life at a calmer pace, with calmer activities and words replacing the obscenities, characters, and gibberish that shaped how the days passed. Bagels on Bannon. Grandchildren at golf. Church on covfefe.

Historian Michael Beschloss said it would take some time to readjust to the idea that presidents typically don’t assess their existence hour by hour on how many headlines they can generate.

“It is human nature that to defend themselves, people locked in a fairing car with a reckless driver will have their eyes wide open and their hearts racing, with a lot of adrenaline flowing,” Mr Beschloss said. . “I hope that for most Americans this car ride has now stopped and we can stagger and catch our breath.”

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While Trump has raised money by denying his loss, few have engaged in a real legal fight

Most of the money seems to come from the internet and small contributors, with relatively few five- and six-figure checks, especially once the calendar rolls over to December. A check for $ 100,000 in early December came from Elaine J. Wold, a major Republican donor from Florida.

Although his run is over, Mr. Trump’s voracious online fundraiser from Nov. 24 to year-end even surpassed that of the two Republican Senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who were in the run-off election. in Georgia that would determine control of the chamber.

In those 39 days, Mr. Trump and his committees shared with the RNC raised $ 80 million online; Ms Loeffler and Mr Perdue have combined for almost $ 75 million. Both lost.

Mr. Trump has incurred legal fees from more than a dozen law firms.

He paid Kasowitz Benson Torres $ 1.6 million, over $ 500,000 to Jones Day, and around $ 600,000 to Dechert. Law firm Kurt Hilbert, which was on Mr. Trump’s phone pressuring Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes to overturn the election result, received more of $ 480,000. A payment of $ 3 million went to the Wisconsin Election Commission to pay for a recount.

A major Republican donor, C. Boyden Gray, who contributed more than $ 2 million to Republicans in the 2020 cycle, also provided legal advice to Mr. Trump, earning $ 114,000.

The man who has made so many public appearances on behalf of Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has not reported any payments from the former president’s campaign. His company was reimbursed $ 63,423 in travel expenses in mid-December.

An associate of Mr. Giuliani had demanded that he be paid $ 20,000 a day for his work for Mr. Trump, which Mr. Giuliani initially denied. He later acknowledged the request to the New York Times, but continued to publicly deny making any money for his work, including in a radio appearance on Sunday.

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Teachers attempt to explain history in real time after Capitol storming

To explain the tumultuous events of the past few days, Tracy Merlin used an analogy her sophomore class would understand: the eternal struggle between dogs and cats.

“Let’s say half the country thinks dogs are the best, and half the country thinks cats are the best,” said Merlin, who teaches in Broward County, Fla. “But it turns out the dogs won the election.”

“Do you think people can still love cats and there can be a conversation?” she asked. “They can still love cats,” dared 8-year-old Ander, his blue headphones tightened to his ears.

Mrs. Merlin scanned the sea of ​​tiny heads floating in their individual squares. “Do you think cats can break into any pet store when they are upset?” she asked.

“No,” Ander said. “Because it’s illegal.”

A riot at the United States Capitol. The second indictment of Donald J. Trump. And, despite everything, a transfer of power. The events of the past few weeks have been mind-boggling for many adults.

How, then, do they explain them to students, whether they are preschoolers meeting on socially distant circle mats or students anxiously scrutinizing seminar videochat?

Teachers across the United States have shifted their focus to current affairs. They turned to science fiction, Shakespearean tragedy and the fall of Rome in search of parallels to help their students deal with events that were often frightening and surely historical.

“When I was a kid, the Challenger exploded,” Ms. Merlin, 46, said the day before President Biden was inaugurated. She remembers exactly what she was doing when the space shuttle exploded after takeoff in 1986 – just as her parents remember exactly what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was murdered.

“I don’t know if this is the time of this generation,” she continued. “But I know there are things that have been with them from a young age. If I can let them know that it’s important to know what’s going on around you, to be informed and to have the facts, then I feel like I’ve done my job.

College students also needed help framing these hectic weeks.

On Wednesday, the morning of the opening, 180 students logged on to Steven G. Noll’s Introductory American History class at the University of Florida. The subject of the conference was reconstruction after the civil war.

Professor Noll, 68, easily found uncomfortable parallels to the present.

“Words matter,” he said. What were once called “riots” that resulted in the murder of newly freed and freed blacks are now called “massacres,” he said.

He showed an image of a stone monument in Louisiana, erected in memory of three “heroes” who in 1873, according to the monument, “fell in the Colfax riot fighting for white supremacy.” These rioters killed 150 blacks.

He said carrying the Confederate flag, as one of Trump’s supporters in the crowd that took over the Capitol on Jan.6, was pictured doing, tells us, “they are fighting for the white supremacy. ”

On the night of the Capitol riot this month, many students at Melissa Deokaran’s middle school in Washington woke up, some hearing Trump supporters yelling in their aisles. At least three have relatives in the DC National Guard who went to protect the Capitol after the riot.

So, the day after the riot, Ms. Deokaran used her Latin class to discuss the etymology of “invasion”, “insurrection” and “coup”. Then on Thursday, after Mr. Biden took office, Ms. Deokaran taught the root of “groundbreaking,” “resilient” and “union.”

“I think it’s important for us to understand what a union means and what it means to be unified,” Ms. Deokaran, 32, told her class. In Latin, she says, “it means ‘one’. In English, union means to be “joined as one”. “

Schools across the country occupy a busy political space. The ways children learn about history, civics, and literature can shape the votes they will one day cast. Teachers work hard to make sure their classrooms are safe so that everyone can express opinions and disagree.

But the pandemic has eroded that four-walled privacy. Teachers have had to navigate the political passions of their communities at a time of intense division. Parents with strong opinions may be nearby as students learn virtually – and object to characterizations of polarizing events.

“I’ve had constant meetings and emails and the like with a pretty aggressive contingent of parents who are very committed to the way I’m dealing with these issues in my classroom,” said James Mayne, who teaches at a Seventh Adventist school. day. in Clark County, Wash., which he said leans conservative.

On Thursday, Mr. Mayne asked his grade 11 American history students to compare Mr. Biden’s inaugural address with Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Then he opened the debate, directing the students to the struggles the two presidents have faced to reunify the country.

“I would be hard pressed to find ground with the white supremacists,” said Jordan, 16.

“White supremacists are an extreme party,” retorted Talia, 16, who called herself a liberal. “I have a group of people on the other side of my life who are do not racist. They can sometimes have a bad way of explaining things, but in their hearts they are good people and they love everyone.

If you can’t look past the tongue, Talia says, you can’t find common ground.

In politically conservative or even politically mixed places, some schools have avoided political discussions. Some school districts, like Bangor, Maine, did not air Mr. Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday because they feared violence. And teachers who live in divided areas have to work hard to avoid appearing biased.

Alyssa Kelly teaches Grade 11 and 12 English in a conservative rural district about 35 miles southwest of Bangor.

The day after the riot, one of his students, a Trump supporter, arrived in class confused. He had spent the evening trying to analyze the memes, sound clips and his social media feeds. He just wanted a clear answer.

What had really happened, he asked. After speaking about it in class, Ms Kelly said he was frustrated with the way her fellow Trump supporters had acted.

“I’m not necessarily convinced that if he hadn’t had the space to fight his own ignorance for a minute – in a way that I didn’t judge him at all – he would have come to the same conclusion, ”Ms. Kelly told me. “I had nothing to say about politics, really. I just had to unpack it for him or help him unpack it.

Ms. Kelly, who teaches in a predominantly white district, hung a copy of “Golden Rule,” a play by Norman Rockwell depicting a racially and religiously diverse group of people under the American flag. When her students turn to take the pledge of allegiance, she hopes they will remember who else lives in the country.

“My students are going to graduate and, most likely, stay in their homogenous perspectives and in practical, familiar contexts,” Ms. Kelly said. “It’s a last chance to remind them that it’s actually possible to befriend someone who doesn’t agree with you.”

To avoid confusion, several teachers said they used a three-part query system: what do I know? What do I think I know? And what do I want to know? Where possible, they steered the discussions towards the program, using primary sources as a guide.

The day after the Capitol Rampage, Nicole Hix turned the class discussion in her Advanced Placement world history class to violence. Instead of having her students at a private Catholic school in Houston analyze documents from the reign of Louis XIV, Ms Hix asked them to discuss the pictures, headlines and tweets, as they would any other. main source.

“When it was awkward, I moved on,” Ms. Hix, 46, said. “It was a difficult day. It was hard to swallow. Many of them didn’t have any questions, so I made it an advanced training day.

A student, Sophia, said her classmates kept their heads down and their mouths shut. She answered direct questions, but mostly avoided sharing her opinion.

“It’s our age,” said Sophia, 15. “We don’t want to lose friends, but we also have beliefs. We can all say it’s very tense.

Back in Ms. Merlin’s second-grade class, she led the discussion on cats and dogs towards the riot on the U.S. Capitol. It had happened two weeks before – eons in second year.

“We have seen a lot of violence,” said Ms. Merlin, a local gun violence prevention activist. “Do you girls and boys remember the beating and pushing? What did you feel?

“It was a little sad to see that,” said Logan, 8. “They could probably talk to people and just understand that, instead of breaking into the Capitol.

“What have you got to do with your ears when the other person is talking?” Mrs. Merlin asked.

Sierra, who is 7, restored the sound. “You have to listen,” she said.

Hartocollis anemone contribution to reports.

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The real dreadful wolf has rushed into an evolutionary dead end

The long genetic isolation is significant in another way.

Larisa DeSantis, a paleontologist at Vanderbilt University, who was not involved in the research, said this “is consistent with the idea of ​​a North American origin of terrible wolves.”

They were here at least 250,000 years ago, and they were still here, albeit near the end of their existence, when humans first arrived in the Americas, perhaps 15,000 years ago.

“They weren’t this gigantic mythical creature, but an animal that likely interacted with humans,” Dr. Perri said.

In the search for fossils that could provide terrible ancient wolf DNA, Dr Perri has teamed up with a number of other researchers around the world, including Kieren Mitchell, evolutionary biologist at the University of Adelaide; Alice Mouton, geneticist at the University of Los Angeles; and Sandra Álvarez-Carretero, doctoral student in genomics at Queen Mary University in London.

They combed museums to find 46 bone samples that might have usable DNA. Five did. “We were really lucky,” said Dr Perri. “And we found a lot of things that we weren’t really expecting.

The results were surprising because terrible wolf skeletons are similar to gray wolf skeletons and because DNA was not available. Xiaoming Wang, a paleontologist at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, who in 2009 published a review of the fossil evidence that placed the terrible wolf in the genus Canis, called the new document a “milestone”, adding that “the morphology is infallible. “

As to why the terrible wolf went extinct and the wolves survived, the authors speculated that its long genetic isolation and lack of crossbreeding with other species may have made it less able to adapt. the disappearance of its main prey. Lighter species like gray wolves and coyotes acquired potentially useful genes from other species.

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Biden’s launch will be mostly virtual, but donor money will be real

WASHINGTON – Allies of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. have launched an ambitious campaign to raise millions of dollars from businesses and individuals by offering special ‘VIP participation’ in redesigned inaugural festivities that will be largely virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Far fewer tickets than usual are being distributed for people to attend the swearing-in ceremony outside the Capitol on January 20, which is organized and funded by the government.

To create a festive air, Mr Biden’s inaugural committee said it was raising private funds to fund virtual events that would echo this year’s Democratic convention, which featured a roll call from 50 states across the country. country. There are also plans for a “virtual concert” with major artists whose names have yet to be released – and possibly for an in-person event later in the year.

The contrast between the constraints of organizing inaugural festivities in the midst of a public health crisis and fundraising as usual underscores that donations for an inauguration are not just about securing good seats for the swearing-in. or tickets for the brightest black tie. balls. They are also a way for businesses and well-heeled individuals to curry favor with a new administration, a reality that prompted liberal groups on Wednesday to ask Mr Biden’s inaugural committee to forgo corporate donations. .

President Trump’s inauguration almost four years ago has taken the practice to a new level. It has become something of an access traffic bazaar, and aspects of its record fundraising and spending have been investigated.

Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee is made up of promising companies donating up to $ 1 million and individuals contributing $ 500,000 – the largest amounts the committee said it accepts – a form of “VIP participation. »At the virtual concert.

This special access is part of the perks detailed on a one-page committee sponsorship menu that circulated among donors on Wednesday. Benefits include ‘event sponsorship opportunities’, as well as access to virtual briefings with inaugural committee and campaign leaders, and invitations to virtual events with Mr. Biden and Jill Biden , the future first lady, and the vice president elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff.

Major donors will also receive an appropriate memento for the coronavirus era – ‘signed virtual photos’ with the President-elect and the First Lady, as well as Ms Harris and her husband, replacing traditional online photo opportunities in person for donors usually pay generously at fundraisers and other political events.

Future presidents have long raised private funds to organize and pay for the inaugural festivities beyond the swearing-in ceremony, which is hosted by the Congressional Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and funded by taxpayer dollars.

Major donors usually have intimate in-person access to parties and dinners to celebrate with members of a new president’s campaign and administration.

Among the corporate giants who have indicated they are ready to donate despite the lack of in-person events are Boeing, the aerospace manufacturer and military contractor. The company is contributing $ 1 million towards Mr. Biden’s inauguration, an amount it says is in line with its past contributions to the inaugural committees. Representatives from Bank of America and Ford Motor Company also said their companies intended to donate.

“We have supported the inauguration events of many administrations on a non-partisan basis because we see it as part of our civic engagement for an important national event,” said Bill Halldin, a spokesperson for Bank of America, in a press release. “The private sector has traditionally done this and we plan to provide support for ceremonies in January, if appropriate, given the health crisis and other factors that could have an impact.”

A number of companies that have been major donors in previous presidential inaugurations – such as Coca-Cola, Google and United Parcel Service – said this week they still had not decided how much, or if, to give, well. that Google noted that it had provided “online security protections for free” to the inaugural committee.

“As you know, it’s a very different year and as such we haven’t made a decision yet,” Coca-Cola spokesperson Ann Moore said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for investment bank JPMorgan Chase, which has donated at past openings, said that instead of donating to Mr Biden’s committee, she would donate to food banks in Washington and the hometowns of Mr. Biden (Wilmington, Del.) and Ms. Harris (Oakland, Calif.) “to help those affected by the pandemic”.

A spokesperson for the inauguration did not say how much had already been raised, or what the purpose of the fundraiser was.

Funds raised for inaugurations cannot be transferred to federal campaigns or party committees. Former inaugural committees donated unspent funds to charities, including those engaged in disaster relief, as well as groups involved in the decoration and maintenance of the White House and the vice-president’s residence.

Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee effort to raise funds from corporate donors has aroused perplexity and objections from liberal activists, who have expressed concern over what they see as the comfort of Team Biden with corporate interests.

A coalition of around 50 liberal groups issued a letter to the inaugural committee on Wednesday, urging it to forgo corporate donations to prevent them from “ exerting undue influence ”, and questioning the need for such donations, given the likelihood that Mr. Biden’s inauguration will cost less than previous inaugurations.

“The willingness to raise so much money without a clear use is confusing, and the appearance of doing so is disconcerting,” said the letter, which was organized by Demand Progress, a group that also urged Mr. Biden to not to hire. business executives and consultants or lobbyists.

Federal law does not require disclosure of donations to inaugural committees until 90 days after the event, and limited disclosures about spending are only required months after that. But Biden’s inaugural committee said it intended to release the names of at least its biggest donors by January 20.

There is no legal limit on the size of donations that inaugural committees can accept, and there are few restrictions on who can give.

Mr Biden’s inaugural committee announced last month that he would voluntarily renounce donations from fossil fuel companies, registered lobbyists and foreign agents, in addition to limiting corporate donations to $ 1 million and donations individuals at $ 500,000.

These restrictions are less stringent than those adopted by former President Barack Obama for his inauguration in 2009. His inaugural committee refused corporate donations and said it limited individual donations to $ 50,000, although it did relaxed the rules for his second nomination in 2013.

While Mr. Trump’s team has said they will not accept contributions from lobbyists for his nomination in 2017, his fundraising has otherwise been virtually unrestricted, resulting in a record transport of 107 million. dollars.

The Biden team has so far released some details regarding the groundbreaking plans, aside from a statement on Tuesday urging people not to travel to Washington to attend the event given the pandemic and noting that “l ‘footprint of the ceremony will be extremely limited’.

To express how unusual the event will be, Biden’s inaugural committee appointed Dr David Kessler, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, as an advisor to help make decisions about the types of events that he can organize.

“We call on Americans to participate in inaugural events from their homes to protect themselves, their families, friends and communities,” Dr. Kessler said in a statement.

In a typical inauguration year, a congressional committee that holds the swearing-in ceremony typically distributes 200,000 tickets to lawmakers for platform seats, elevators, and seats near the western front of the Capitol, which are then distributed to voters and friends who wish. participate.

But this year, the committee announced that it would only give out two tickets to the outdoor festivities to each of the 535 members of Congress, for them and a guest to attend.

Beyond that event, much of it was at Biden’s inauguration committee, where officials have said in recent days that they are still working to “reimagine” and “reinvent” the inauguration.

There will still be some sort of inaugural parade, but it will be drastically reduced and most likely will feature videos or live shots of bands performing across the country.

This week’s inaugural committee revealed that it had retained the services of Ricky Kirshner, a New York-based entertainment industry and television events producer. Her past experience includes this year’s Super Bowl halftime show that starred Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, as well as past Tony Awards and Kennedy Center Honors events, and the largely virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention, among many. other events.

Major donors will also receive “VIP tickets” for some sort of future event to celebrate the start of the new administration in person, according to the on-page donor benefits menu.

But given the lingering uncertainty associated with the pandemic, this event is listed as a “date to be determined”.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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In a tough year, families find joy in real Christmas trees

When Allison Protsko was a child, the onset of the Christmas season meant driving with her family to pick out a Christmas tree, cut it down themselves, and bring it home.

This year, about a decade since Ms Protsko, 34, last brought a real Christmas tree home, she decided to go with her children and boyfriend, Joseph Storminger, to Christmas trees in Bell in Accord, New York, rekindling a cherished family tradition.

“Only the smell of the tree brings back that feeling of Christmas and childhood memories,” Ms. Protsko said.

The stress of 2020, including an out of control pandemic, protests against racial injustice and a bitterly contested presidential election, has left many Americans like Ms Protsko looking for tidbits of joy wherever they are. The holidays have provided an outlet.

As demand increased, some cut and cut tree farms, like Bell’s, ran out of Christmas tree stocks for the very first time. Elsewhere, retail lots have been cleaned up as families bought their first fresh Christmas trees, or their firsts in a very long time.

Bell’s Christmas Trees, about 100 miles north of New York City, has dedicated about 25 of its 150 acres to growing a dozen varieties of Christmas trees. The Bell family began planting trees in 1991 as they planned to turn away from the arduous dairy business that had been at the heart of the farm for decades.

Christmas trees turned out to be more popular than expected, so they planted more each year. This year, their offer ran out. Bell’s announced it will close for the season on Dec. 8, 15 days earlier than last year, to preserve the smaller, less mature trees that the farm plans to sell next year and for years to come. “We can’t grow them fast enough,” Mr. Bell said.

Just four days before Bell’s closing for the season, Ms Protsko and her family drove for about 45 minutes to the farm from their home in Montgomery, N.Y. they cut down a 14-foot tree, rolled it down from a hill and returned home with at least a foot sticking out of their truck.

“Next year we’ll bring a tape measure,” she said.

Ms Protsko said she wanted to make the vacation even more special for her children, Richie, 5, and Will, 3, after a difficult year in which she and her husband separated.

They planned to decorate the tree together, line it with soothing white lights, and fill it with Ms. Protsko’s childhood Barbie ornaments and her children’s dinosaur ornaments.

“It’s not a perfect big tree for magazines,” she says. “It’s made up of memories over the years.”

Jacquelyn and Justin Swisher from Stone Ridge, New York, bought a six-foot tree from Bell’s, brought it home, and decorated it with ornately-framed family photos including their wedding photo and an ultrasound of their young son, Cashton.

Ms Swisher said she wanted to start new holiday traditions with Cashton, now 17 months old, who is delighted that Santa is coming to visit.

She said the pandemic contributed to a grueling year in her job as a second-year teacher. Desperate for a safe and fun family activity, they went to Bell right after Thanksgiving to buy a real tree, their first as a family. Getting one, she says, will be her perfect Christmas tradition.

On December 6, they returned to Bell’s house, this time to find a tree for a sick colleague of Ms. Swisher’s. She and her husband searched for the perfect tree while Cashton ran around.

“I knew my son would like a little adventure,” she said, “and if she knew he had chosen her, it would probably make her smile.

Having a festive home, said Ms Swisher, is a great way to prepare for a fresh start next year, as her family hopes to overcome the pandemic and focus on bright, fun and positive activities.

“We wanted our home to be nice and special for the holiday season.” she said. “We hope that what we have here is a good start to 2021.”

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The evolving travel experience: virtual, real and intermediate

Guided tours have long been the heart of travel, but like everything else, the pandemic has disrupted such experiences and many have gone virtual. But as travel begins to accelerate, existing tour operators are adjusting to social distancing in other ways.

Some complement virtual experiences – for example, guided chocolate tastings with chocolate shipped before the tour – and adapt real-life adventures closer to home, like kayaking and hiking. Others make smaller or private groups and move outdoors.

This fall, a new player, Amazon, took to the strictly virtual model with the launch of its Amazon Explore platform, which offers everything from online shopping tours in Peru to tango lessons in Argentina..

Even in destinations that are reopening to international tourism, some operators wait for the trip to rebound before going entirely from virtual to real. Since Panama reopened international travel last month, Jerin Tate, owner of Panama Day Trips, has only led a few in-person tours and plans to continue offering free virtual birding tours in the Soberanía National Park near Panama City until December.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping, hoping, hoping that there will be some semblance of normalcy then,” he said.

Meanwhile, the trend reflects a continuum from virtual to real, as seen below.

Online retailer Amazon is applying its shopping prowess to sourcing souvenirs with the new Amazon Explore platform. In one-on-one sessions, wheelchair travelers can visit a leather maker in Seattle ($ 20), vintage boutiques in Tokyo ($ 49), and a Norwegian department store ($ 90), accompanied by local guides. In many cases, relevant items are available for purchase during the experience – through Amazon, of course.

Not all experiences are shopping. Amazon offers tango lessons with an instructor in Buenos Aires ($ 90) and a voodoo and cemetery tour in New Orleans ($ 90). A category devoted to creativity, including a Mexican salsa-making ($ 39) and Japanese-style tie-dye class known as shibori ($ 40), often includes a list of items to have on hand for work alongside an instructor.

“Amazon Explore is designed to complement, rather than replace, traditional travel,” the company said in an email.

While Amazon has long been a threat to small retailers, the new platform uses its size and distribution power to connect customers to small businesses around the world. Currently, Amazon Explore offers 175 experiences, ranging from $ 10 to $ 168.

“Store owners, guides, teachers, chefs, stylists, artists and artisans can access millions of customers on Amazon while setting their own prices and hours,” the company said.

To test the system, I signed up for a shopping tour of Kappabashi Street ($ 25), Tokyo’s “kitchen city” filled with stores selling kitchenware. In a quick 45 minutes Giulia Maglio, a guide from Ninja Food Tours, used a hand-held camera to take me to three neighborhood stores where we discussed the different styles of chopsticks (fat and flat for tofu, ribbed for ramen), how to hold a bowl of rice by the pedestal, and the preponderance of realistic plastic foods that restaurants use to signal what’s on the menu.

“The point is also to make you hungry,” she says.

Beware of the temptation to sail abroad. I ordered two bowls of rice for $ 20 which cost an additional $ 20 to ship. But Amazon made it transparent – it charged the credit card I used for the tour within seconds of the session ending – and I doubt I forget how I acquired them.

With travel limited, Americans have looked for real-life diversions outside of their homes, according to Peek, a small-business reservation management platform offering experiences ranging from farm tours to kayak rentals.

This summer, he saw a shift towards what he calls “daycations,” or excursions near home. In June and July, 70% of bookings came from people residing within a 150-mile radius, up from 50% at the same time the year before.

Popular activities included hunting for wild mushrooms in Santa Cruz, Calif. ($ 90) and night boat trips in St. Augustine, Florida ($ 31). Peek user Tanaka Farms in Irvine, Calif., Adapted his farm tours as drive-thru events, including an upcoming Christmas Lights Festival (starting at $ 49 a car).

“People got stuck inside and wanted to find things to do in real life,” said Ruzwana Bashir, the founder of Peek, noting that the company had set a record for October bookings.

San Francisco-based chocolatier Dandelion Chocolate, another Peek customer, has adapted their online experiences, now offering chocolate tastings ($ 70) and truffle making ($ 100) that include shipments of chocolates to attendees. in advance for a mix of virtual and real elements.

“We’re able to reach more people now,” said Cynthia Jonasson, education manager at Dandelion, who said private bookings often celebrate an anniversary or other milestone with attendees from various locations.

Adventure outfitters also book on site. Traffic to 57Hours, a site launched in 2019 that connects travelers to outdoor adventure guides, picked up over the summer as users, mostly locals, turned to outdoor adventures for socially distant entertainment, especially in private bookings.

Guiding services start at $ 80 for a half-day of hiking or surfing, and an average of $ 200 to $ 300 for a full day of climbing or cross-country skiing.

“Many guides who normally take international trips or work in the Swiss Alps are now at home and need to sell for the first time,” said Perica Levatic, co-founder of the company.

Greg Hill, a professional skier and 57Hours guide based in Revelstoke, British Columbia, champions the “300-Mile Adventure Diet,” which he writes for the site, espousing trips in a gas tank as a way to travel from more sustainable way and appreciate what is nearby.

“A lot of times the romance of the faraway kind of blinds you to what’s in your own backyard,” he says. “I find that if you stay within a radius of your home, you are going to see these rivers and mountains over and over again and then your travels will ring out longer than a mountain in Pakistan, because you will never see it again.”

Even culinary company Traveling Spoon, a network of cooks who open their homes to travelers for meals, has found ways to resume operations in person, including moving outside with barbecues in Manila (from $ 74 ), picnics in the Azores (from $ 76)) and cooking classes in an outdoor kitchen near Florence ($ 170).

For those willing to take a city walking tour but wanting to avoid other travelers, including guides, Sherpa Tours uses avatar narrators and augmented reality technology on routes uploaded to a mobile app. .

GPS technology directs users from site to site where an avatar appears on your smartphone screen, discussing the landmark from scripts developed by local experts including historians, professional guides, architects and writers.

After a disappointing walking tour of Quito, Ecuador with a boring guide, Michael Suskind, a Chicago-based private investigator, came up with Sherpa, which launched in 2019 and now has over 150 tours to 80 cities around the world .

“I wanted to find something that eliminates the risk of having a bad guide,” he says.

After trying the Millennium Park Chicago Sherpa Tour, I found the Contactless Tour to be a socially remote way to do the tour – we were able to set ourselves apart from other park visitors and continue to enjoy the narrative – with the high-tech novelty of affordable virtual person tracking (most tours cost $ 4.99).

“It’s very flexible,” said Bori Korom, a Budapest-based guide, writer and editor who has written three tours for Sherpa. “If someone likes to be spontaneous, you can stop and visit a museum or grab a bite to eat, then come back to the tour three hours later.”

For 17 years before the pandemic, Context Travel connected travelers with highly specialized guides, including architects, historians and artists on private and small-group tours, recently to more than 70 cities around the world.

When the pandemic ended travel, the company quickly switched to online virtual tours in a series called Contextual Conversations, with 90-minute live lectures on cultural topics – such as the music of Ireland and the festival. Hindu of light called Diwali – with its experts. (from $ 36.50).

“Our main points of difference are the offer of university tours for intellectually curious or lifelong learners,” said Evan Frank, Managing Director of Context Travel.

Online, The Conversations – around 600 to date – often use the location as a springboard to investigate subjects such as Harlem Renaissance women, the cultural history of Japanese green tea, and portrait painting as used propaganda. by the Tudors in 16th century England.

Compared to in-person guidance, “it’s a bit more of a teacher,” said Marie Dessaillen, art historian and context guide in Paris. “You can’t read customers to see if they understand, but you get that in Q and A at the end.”

An expanded offering called “Courses” includes a series of lectures, including a recent two-day, eight-hour exploration of the Trans-Siberian Railroad with a Russian historian ($ 175).

Henry Lummertz, a lawyer based in Pôrto Alegre, Brazil, has taken the Trans-Siberian Course among more than 250 contextual conversations since their launch in March.

“Traveling and learning is very important to me and I miss it now,” he says. “It’s a way of interacting with people from a place that I would like to visit.”


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Roger Ryman, ‘real’ Nebraska cowboy, dies at 70

This obituary is part of a series on people who died in the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more about the others here.

Two decades before ballader Willie Nelson warned, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,” 8-year-old Roger Ryman was on track.

He idolized Roy Rogers and, in 1958, won a letter writing competition that allowed him to attend a performance of Rogers and his wife, Dale Evans, at the Nebraska State Fair.

He spent summers in middle and high school in the prairies and dunes of the Sandhills in north-central Nebraska working on the ranch his great-grandfather had operated.

He dreamed of becoming a cowboy, recalls his daughter, Cindy Ryman Yost. And he did.

“Our father was a real cowboy, raising and stringing in the Sandhills of Nebraska and the mountains of northeastern California for 30 years,” Ms. Ryman Yost said.

But after all those decades of harshness and injuries while raising cattle, he got a real estate license and sold properties in California, Florida and Arkansas before returning to Lincoln, New York, where he grew up.

A few years ago, Mr. Ryman overcame a rare form of cancer and had open heart surgery. Since then, he has been exercising, losing weight and trying to adopt a healthier diet. He was working part-time as a driver at a car dealership where he asked not to be scheduled if colleagues contract Covid-19 given his vulnerability to the disease, his daughter said.

He left work early on October 16 because he was feeling ill. It was only then, her daughter said, that she was told that a colleague had tested positive for the coronavirus eight days earlier. Mr. Ryman was also asked to be tested.

Thirty-six hours after learning he had tested positive, and only three days after developing symptoms, Mr Ryman died at his home, where his daughter found him on the morning of October 20 after failing to answer phone calls and text messages. messages. He was 70 years old.

Roger Allen Ryman was born on November 30, 1949 in Lincoln to Leslie Ryman, radio and television repairman, and Myrtle (Birt) Ryman, office clerk and housewife.

His great-grandfather, Harry, founded the Ryman Brothers Cattle Ranch with his sons, three brothers who married three sisters and staked land claims in the early 1900s. Roger considered becoming a history teacher, but his summers working at the ranch convinced him to stick to the family tradition. He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in animal science.

In 1968, he married Nancy Stier; their marriage ended in divorce. Besides their daughter, he is survived by their sons, Justin Ryman and Tony Willis; two sisters, Deloris Oltman and Connie Hanken; and seven grandchildren.

Mr. Ryman had a knack for telling stories and playing poker. He coached high school basketball and served on the school board, said Ms. Ryman Yost. “He worked incredibly hard and he was a man of faith.

But he never forgot his life as a cowboy.

“I loved the horses and the way you feel when you get in the saddle, pull your collar and hat down, and go. The feeling of independence, the lively air on your face, you and horse as one, ”he wrote in 2015 in a collection of letters to his grandchildren. “There is no other feeling like this in the world.”

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After big Trump win, ‘it’s really hard to say Florida is a real swing state’

More worrying for Democrats, however, is that Mr. Trump also did better than four years ago statewide with non-Cuban Hispanic voters, who tend to be more liberal. Exit polls conducted for the National Election Poll showed Joseph R. Biden Jr. fell short of 60% of Hispanic voters statewide, compared with two-thirds captured by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Luis Ruiz, 60, who is Colombian-American and registered with no party affiliation, said he voted for Mr. Trump despite his disappointment with the president’s leadership during the pandemic. Mr Ruiz, a Miami resident, said Mr Trump’s policy towards Latin America likely kept left-wing governments in the region under control.

“Trump’s policies, in a way, benefit our countries,” Ruiz said.

As the results arrived on Tuesday, outspoken Democrats such as State Representative Anna V.

“There was a bloodbath in South Florida,” Ms. Eskamani said.

Thursday, Terrie Rizzo, President of the Florida Democratic Party, promised a “deep dive” in what had gone wrong.

Mr Biden beat Mr Trump in Miami-Dade County, but by a margin of just seven percentage points, worse than any Democratic presidential candidate since John Kerry in 2004. In 2016, Clinton won Miami-Dade by almost 30 points. .

Mr. Biden improved Ms. Clinton’s performance in other locations, including Duval County, home of Jacksonville; Seminole County, near Orlando; and Pinellas County, home to Largo, who have all gone from Republican to Democrat. But these were modest gains at best, with Mr. Trump building on his lead even outside the voice-rich Miami-Dade.

Democrats had thought their chances had improved with Mr. Biden as the candidate. After all, he was on the ticket with former President Barack Obama when he won Florida twice. But that was before the coronavirus pandemic froze Democrats’ efforts to register voters, campaign in person, or entice Mr. Biden and his top surrogates to visit.

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In Georgia, Democrats Target Real Silent Majority: People Who Don’t Vote

ATLANTA – Jon Ossoff might not have known it, but a possible key to victory in his Georgia Senate race came to stop alongside him in a dismal black van.

Mr Ossoff, a 33-year-old former journalist considered one of Democrats’ brightest hopes this year when Georgia could be crucial to the battle for Senate control, arrived at State Farm Arena in Atlanta this month. to vote early. To its left, the van was unloading a group of older black men.

“Voters for the first time!” the driver yelled as two of the men, Richard Sanabria and Tony Lamar Jones, exited.

Mr. Lamar Jones, 42, watched the media circus surrounding Mr. Ossoff and asked, “Who is he?

His question should come as no surprise. More than 100 million eligible Americans of voting age did not vote in 2016, more than the number who voted for either of the presidential candidates. In Georgia, about 60% of eligible voters voted in that year’s presidential race, roughly tied with the national figure of 55%.

As Democrats look to Georgia for possible wins in November – the first step towards a larger goal of rebuilding their path to victory in statewide races across the South – a turnout high will be the goal of the game, and that means persuading non-voters to become voters.

In traditional swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, most political observers believe turnout is largely fixed, and campaigns rise and fall depending on their ability to persuade a set of voters. But in the new set of battlefield states in the south, as well as in Arizona in the southwest, the priority is to convert non-voters into voters.

The thinking is this: if the party is able to reshape the electorate with newcomers to the state – including young people, Latinos, and Asian Americans – as well as greater participation from black residents and immigrants, a red state becomes a blue state.

But experts who study non-voting populations and failed democratic campaigns in recent years warn that the job of changing electorates is difficult and complicated. There is no such thing as an inevitable demographic fate, they say.

Nse Ufot, the executive director of the New Georgia Project, a non-partisan group that has sought to attract voters among the state’s new residents, said this could not be done in any meaningful way with “five-minute conversations. that you have on people. porches. “

“It’s a sustained campaign that requires smart targeting, messaging and research,” she said.

She added, “And when you think about the transactional nature of election campaigns, they prioritize having people who are already voters vote for them.”

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The work of registering new voters has become associated with progressive politics and is often an articulated strategy for Democratic candidates, but groups make a point of targeting individuals regardless of their party identity.

In 2016, non-voters were younger, less educated, less wealthy, and more likely to be non-white than the average American voter, according to an in-depth study by the Pew Research Center. They were also more likely to tilt democratically, Pew found, a sign of how failure to motivate Liberal voters was as much a part of Hillary Clinton’s loss as the swing-persuaded voters who backed President Trump.

Four years later, with Joseph R. Biden Jr. now leading the charge, Democrats say they are taking a two-pronged approach: winning back some voters who backed Mr. Trump in 2016 and motivating non-voters who didn’t. did not participate the last time. (That said, political watchers on both sides of the aisle agree that no matter what Mr. Biden’s and Mr. Trump’s campaigns say, they have focused on persuading voters most likely to come forward, such as older and suburban voters.)

Lauren Groh-Wargo, chief executive of Fair Fight Action, the group that Stacey Abrams started in 2018, said she expected November to be the culmination of a decade of political organizing in Georgia.

According to figures provided by Fair Fight, 800,000 Georgian voters who did not have the right to vote in the previous presidential election are now eligible. Of those new voters, the target of the group’s registration efforts, 49% are people of color and 45% are under the age of 30.

“Joe Biden needs multiple paths to the White House,” Ms. Groh-Wargo said. “Getting a victory in Georgia helps him get a democratic Senate, helps him build a really strong mandate.

For Mr. Lamar Jones, the man who blanked out Mr. Ossoff at early voting in Georgia, his voting journey began with the help of a non-profit group. He said a case manager at Trinity House, a group that works with ex-homeless men, helped him get the proper paperwork and provided transportation to State Farm Arena, the home of the Atlanta Hawks, which has been turned into a polling station.

In an interview after his vote, Mr. Lamar Jones said he had another reason to get involved this year: Mr. Trump.

“I thought my vote would count this time around,” Mr. Lamar Jones said, “and I didn’t want to see him win again.”

According to data from the 100 Million Project, an effort by the Knight Foundation that studied more than 12,000 people across the country who typically don’t vote, his experience is not unique. Non-voters are not united by party affiliation, but they often have a lack of confidence in the electoral process, less engagement with news and information than the typical American voter, and the belief that the process policy is arduous and exclusive, according to the survey.

“I just see it as corrupt and biased on both sides,” said Cory Aksteter, a 26-year-old dock supervisor at a Minnesota trucking company who backed Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in 2016 but refrained from speaking. vote.

Mr Aksteter, who took part in the inquiry, said he was torn at the prospect of participating in this year’s election because if he finds Mr Trump beyond bounds, he won’t support not the two-party system.

“I think I could go ahead and vote this year to get Trump removed from office,” he said. “I think he’s a bit more obnoxious than Biden. But personally, I expect a total reform of our government.

Evette Alexander, who helped oversee the Knight Foundation study, said the political will to accept the electoral population as fixed has major repercussions for American democracy. This ensures that the communities with the greatest influence over political choices are whiter, more educated and less representative of the country, she said.

She added that there was a disconnect between the issues that preoccupy non-voters most and those that most presidential campaigns prioritize.

“A lot of what you hear about party platforms is really sort of focused on the concerns of older Americans,” Ms. Alexander said. “There is a bit of a unique message for baby boomers.”

Republicans scoff at the efforts of groups like the New Georgia Project, sometimes claiming without evidence that the group’s registration efforts are attempts at voter fraud. But even in Georgia, Mr. Trump’s will to win the state hinges on maximizing the participation of conservative voters in rural and white communities. This includes registering new voters and finding people who were absent in 2016.

In Macon, Georgia, 90 minutes south of Atlanta, Mr. Trump held a rally this month in hopes of keeping the historically Republican state in the red column. There, speakers nodded at Georgia’s changing demographics, but said they remained convinced she would support Mr Trump.

Brian Robinson, a Republican consultant in Georgia who has worked with some of the party’s top candidates, said he believed there was a down-sampling of Mr. Trump’s supporters.

“There is a Trump effect: the people who vote for Trump will not say they are going to do it,” Robinson said. “Republicans are much more likely not to participate in polls.”

He added: “But I’m not saying it’s not competitive. A wave election might get there, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

On the Democratic side, Senate candidates like Mr. Ossoff and Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock are taking a page from the playbook of Ms. Abrams, the Democratic candidate for Georgia’s governor in 2018, who has targeted new voters in the rural and suburban areas of the state in its race against Governor Brian Kemp.

Terrence Clark, a spokesperson for Mr. Warnock’s campaign, highlighted one such group: voters in the United States of America and the Pacific Islands in counties like Gwinnett and Cobb, near ‘Atlanta. It is the fastest growing demographic group in Georgia.

“It’s not just about keeping white women or suburban voters in the column,” Mr. Clark said. “It’s also about finding, where to turn the dial to further expand the electorate? And you can do it with AAPI voters, Latino voters, and New Americans.

Mr. Ossoff, in an interview during his early voting visit to the Atlanta sports arena, said, “Georgia is getting younger and more diverse by the hour. And the political infrastructure that has been invested here over the past decade is paying off. “

But as always in Georgia, and throughout an American South with a long history of voter suppression, translating a rising demographic tide into a multiracial political coalition has its hurdles. Just ask Mr. Sanabria, one of the potential voters who arrived with the Trinity House group, who left without voting.

Mr. Sanabria, 73, did not have the correct government ID. His ID card, he said, had not been returned from the food stamp office, where he had to mail it to receive his benefits.

“There is so much paperwork that you have to go through,” Mr. Sanabria said. “Even when the mail is slow, the simplest things can get difficult.”

When asked if he thought he would get his ID card back in time to vote, he shrugged.

“Who knows?” he said.