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Biden will not restore Law Society’s role in scrutiny of judges

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has told the American Bar Association it will not reinstate the group’s quasi-official guardian role in vetting potential judges until the president decides to appoint them, according to the group’s chairperson legal, Patricia Lee Refo.

The policy, a first for a Democratic president, echoes that of the last two Republican administrations. The bar association’s first name role dates back to the Eisenhower administration, serving as external oversight over the selection process for judges who have a life term.

“Each White House sets its own rules for judicial appointments,” Ms. Refo said in an interview. “Other White Houses have found it helpful to obtain our confidential assessment in private. This White House made a different decision. But the evaluation work we are doing will continue without change. “

The bar association and the Obama administration had recurring tensions that most of the “unqualified” reviews produced by the bar’s peer review system involved women or people of color. Against this backdrop, liberal groups welcomed the decision as a signal that the White House under President Biden was determined to diversify the federal judiciary.

Not waiting for the bar to review potential candidates – a process that takes about a month, according to people who know him – is also likely to speed up Mr Biden’s efforts to push nominations through the confirmation pipeline. faster than President Barack Obama. . President Donald J. Trump set a record pace in appointing judges – largely white and male – during his tenure.

The White House decision struck a blow at the prestige of the ABA, which describes itself as the world’s largest voluntary association of lawyers. Commenting on nominees only after their names have been proposed reduces the group’s power to block potential judges it deems unqualified.

Yet the bar – which has expressed a desire to work with the Biden administration on various issues related to the justice system – is not publicly opposing the change.

Randall D. Noel, chairman of this year’s bar association audit committee, said he had been in contact with staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee since the White House ruling and has been informed that lawmakers still greatly appreciate the contribution of the ABA. He said his group would continue to conduct its reviews ahead of confirmation hearings, as it did under Mr. Trump.

The Biden administration’s decision has already been reported by the Washington Post.

Paige Herwig, who focuses on judicial appointments for the White House attorneys office, said in an interview that the administration appreciates the bar’s input ahead of the senators vote. But, she said, the White House also believes it will have a freer hand to consider a wide range of candidates if the group does not exercise the first-name veto.

“All of this serves one of our broader goals – the diversification of the justice system, ensuring that we have considered the most talented candidates from a wide range of personal and professional life experiences,” said she declared.

During the transition, Dana Remus, the new White House lawyer, sent a letter to senators noting that the Biden administration was looking for various suggestions to fill the judicial recess.

The bar classifies lawyers as “unqualified”, “qualified” or “well qualified” to be judges after having confidentially questioned their professional peers on their competence, their temperament and their integrity. Although the group claims to ignore ideology, Republicans have sometimes accused it of bias against conservatives.

In 2001, President George W. Bush broke with the decades-long practice of stopping sending names to the group for verification before nomination. Mr Trump did the same when he took office in 2017. But in 2009, the Obama administration reinstated the association’s role, raising expectations within the group that Mr Biden would do the same.

In a phone call last Friday, however, Biden administrative assistants, including Ms Remus and Ms Herwig, informed Ms Refo that Mr Biden would not share the names of people he was considering proposing for due diligence.

Those briefed on the call said White House officials had expressed concerns that the subjective criteria by which the group gathered peer impressions of the lawyers reviewed could be vulnerable to unintentional negative assumptions and stereotypes. racial or gender.

During Mr. Obama’s presidency, the association’s selection committee judged candidates for “unqualified” judge positions at a more frequent rate than it opposed potential candidates under President Bill Clinton, Mr. Bush or Mr. Trump. In November 2011, he had opposed 14 of the 185 candidates.

Most of those the group rejected were women or members of a minority group, frustrating Obama administration officials who made it their goal to diversify the bench. Their identities have not become public because Mr. Obama has not named any of those who received negative reviews. The recurring conflict is said to have contributed to its delays in filling vacant posts.

Christopher Kang, who worked on judicial appointments at the Obama White House and who is now lead counsel for Demand Justice, a liberal advocacy group, welcomed the move.

“Although well intentioned, the ABA Standing Committee is another guardian dominated by corporate lawyers in the judicial selection process and should not be allowed to act as an obstacle to the diversification of the judiciary,” he said. he declared.

In assessing professional competence, the bar has traditionally placed great emphasis on whether those who are likely to become judges have experience in prosecution and trials.

Advocates of diversifying the judiciary say one of the concerns is whether this standard can reduce the available pool of female and minority lawyers by putting those who have chosen other types of legal careers at a disadvantage. , such as being a law professor or government lawyer.

Mr. Noel defended inclusion by AB.A. litigation experience as a factor in deciding who would make a good judge, stating that the courtroom was “the place where we operate professionally every day” and that its proper functioning could put the stakes in terms of sending people in prison or gaining and losing fortunes.

While saying he did not know the details of the Obama-era disputes – he was not involved – he also said that Mr. Obama was successful, with controlling the ABA as part of his process. selection, to appoint a historically diverse roster of judges. And he pointed out that the current selection committee itself is diverse.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Affairs currently has 19 members appointed by the annual bar chairs; most committee members have staggered three-year terms. Unless there is a conflict of interest, the member of the same circuit of the court of appeal as a judicial candidate serves as an “assessor”.

An assessor reads a candidate’s writings and confidentially interviews judges, legal partners, opposing lawyers, clients and others who have worked with that person about factors such as their ethics, preparation, skills. in writing and the way they treat people.

Then, the evaluator writes reports summarizing the results and recommending a note to the whole committee, which votes. This process normally takes about 28 days, Noel said, unless there appears to be a non-qualifying rating, during which the committee will appoint a second assessor to review again.

Nan Aron, chairman of the Liberal Justice Alliance, said in a statement that the ABA’s former first-name role “has mainly disadvantaged Democratic nominations” after the Republican administrations have since 2001 stopped giving. the names of groups of potential candidates in advance. She also praised his exclusion from the shortlisting process, saying it would help Biden expand judicial diversity.

But Ms Refo objected to the principle that the association would hinder Mr Biden’s diversity efforts.

“I can’t speak to what has happened in the past, but the American Bar Association is deeply committed to diversity and inclusion in the justice system and in all aspects of its work,” a- she declared.

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Biden to restore homeland security and cybersecurity aids to top White House positions

“We will again be dealing with border security, biosecurity, global public health and building the resilience of our own democracy,” she said in a brief interview. “The last of them have become more urgent.”

Mr. Trump dismantled the National Security Council’s pandemic preparedness office, and while he had an active cyber team early in his tenure, it was languishing. “It is disturbing to be in a time of transition when there really are no counterparts for this transition to be passed on,” Ms. Sherwood-Randall said.

Ashton B. Carter, the former Secretary of Defense, who hired Ms. Sherwood-Randall during the Clinton administration, said “the challenge will be to restart this office.”

He noted that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ms. Sherwood-Randall worked to build relationships with the former Soviet republics while also “dismantling their nuclear legacy”.

Mr Biden also announced that Ms Sherwood-Randall’s deputy will be Russ Travers, a 42-year veteran of the intelligence community, where he has focused on the fight against terrorism. The Trump administration abruptly replaced Mr. Travers as acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center in March during cuts planned by acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell.

Mr. Travers has twice postponed his retirement to lead the National Counterterrorism Center on an interim basis. But he was so alarmed by what he saw as the Trump administration’s retreat on counterterrorism priorities that he shared his concerns with the Inspector General of the intelligence community last year at during his last weeks of work.

Over the summer, he predicted an increase in right-wing violence if Mr. Trump were re-elected.

Ms. Neuberger is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, and her family came to Brooklyn after the failure of the Hungarian revolution of the 1950s. She began her career in the private sector, leading American-style technology. Stock Transfer and Trust Company, until it becomes a member of the White House, a program that brings talented foreigners into government for a year. But she quickly joined the National Security Agency, where she was first in charge of risks and led the electoral security effort.

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California designers restore monolith, as another pops up in Las Vegas

For the first time, someone took credit for erecting one of the monoliths that have arisen in recent weeks, fascinating the world.

A group of four artists and makers revealed themselves on Saturday as the creators of the Curiosity of Steel that was placed atop Pine Mountain in Atascadero, Calif. On Tuesday – and shared a YouTube video of their installation of a replacing after a group of young men. broadcast live unceremoniously overturning the original and replacing it with a cross.

“We wanted it to be a guerrilla work of art. But when it was taken apart in such a malevolent fashion, we decided we had to replace it, ”said Wade McKenzie, one of the creators of the California monolith, in an interview Sunday night.

News of the monolith’s origins was first reported by the YourTango website.

McKenzie said he built the three-sided steel structure with the help of his friend Travis Kenney, Kenney’s father Randall, and Jared Riddle, a cousin of Travis Kenney.

Atascadero, a town of 30,000 near the central coast, is the long-time home of three of the men who installed the Pine Mountain artwork. They say it has been a trying year for everyone: Business has been tough, and McKenzie’s father died a few weeks ago from complications from COVID-19.

Credit…YourTango

When the first monolith was found in Utah, Travis Kenney said it piqued their interest. “We were like, ‘Damn it, look at this art that people travel for hours to see! “, He said. He and McKenzie both identify as sci-fi geeks and are fans of “2001”.

“After the second one appeared in Romania, we thought to ourselves: ‘There must be a third one,” he said. “And then we were like:’ Crazy, why not us? ‘”

They said they built the original out of stainless steel in a matter of hours on Tuesday and hauled the 10-foot-long two-mile piece up the 1,300-foot mountain trail. “Not for bragging rights, but we motivated this thing,” McKenzie said. “We’re all almost 50 years old, and that proved that we were all in good enough shape to be able to haul a 200-pound piece up a mountain in a relatively short period of time.

A hiker discovered it the next morning.

“We had no idea it would go viral,” McKenzie said. “People were driving four hours from Los Angeles or San Francisco to see it.”

Following its demolition, McKenzie said the men contacted Mayor Heather Moreno with an offer to create a permanent facility somewhere in town. “But she said no, the best place would be to go up the hill,” he said.

So this time they made it harder to travel and enlisted other people to help them. “There’s about 500 pounds of concrete in there,” McKenzie said. “No kidding.”

“It has an entire subsection that’s all structural steel, and it sinks about four feet into the ground,” said Travis Kenney.

“But that’s not an invitation for someone to try to tear it down,” McKenzie quickly added.

The men brought it back to the top of the mountain, the twinkling lights of the city below reflecting in its shiny black surface. In their video, posted Friday, the structure is put in place under cover of darkness as a man shouts, “You can’t bring me down!”

Terrie Banish, the deputy director of the town of Atascadero, said in an email Sunday evening that the town was happy to see her return.

“It brings back that joyful spirit that has been taken away and gives something to look forward to” in a difficult time, she said.

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Can America restore the rule of law without suing Trump?

The Department of Justice had now been transformed under Barr. There didn’t seem to be any issues with Trump that the agency wouldn’t at least try to resolve. He launched a counter-investigation into the FBI investigation into Trump’s campaign, attempted to block the distribution of a memoir by former national security adviser John Bolton that was not flattering to Trump, and intervened in a libel lawsuit brought by author and columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s, claiming that Trump’s insulting comments about her fell within his official duties as president. (Trump has denied Carroll’s allegations.)

Trump, meanwhile, continued to test the limits of his seemingly limitless authority. He expelled five inspectors general charged with overseeing the conduct of the executive branch, commuted Stone’s prison sentence, and openly challenged the authority of the other two branches of government in an effort to fuel his political base. Rather than appoint Chad F. Wolf, who oversaw the administration’s ‘law and order’ response to racial justice protests in Portland, Ore., To serve as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Trump appointed him director acting to avoid the Senate confirmation process. Even after the Government Accountability Office and a federal judge ruled that Wolf was most likely holding his post illegally – and many of his actions therefore could have been illegal – Trump left him in place. He also ignored an order from a federal judge requiring him to restore the Obama-era DACA program that allowed hundreds of thousands of immigrants to stay in the United States.

Even as Trump boldly wielded his power, the potential threats that awaited him if he lost the election proliferated and intensified. Not only was the Manhattan DA investigation progressing, but a watchdog had accused Trump’s re-election campaign of illegally funneling $ 170 million in funds to unidentified recipients through companies controlled by the recently dismissed director of the United Nations. campaign, Brad Parscale, and other officials. (The Trump campaign has denied any wrongdoing.) Outside of office, Trump would almost certainly face financial problems. The presidency had been good for business, bringing tens of millions of dollars in foreign projects to the Trump organization, providing a constant stream of clients seeking favors at Trump’s hotel in Washington, and allowing Trump and his children to charge hundreds of dollars to the government. official visits ”of its properties. But his golf courses were losing millions of dollars each year and he had personal debt of $ 421 million, most of which matured over the next four years.

And so, in the final weeks of his tenure, Trump stepped into a new realm of potential crime, directing the full weight of the government executive toward his re-election efforts. He turned the White House into a stage prop for the Republican National Convention, pardoning a former prisoner and participating in a naturalization ceremony as part of the festivities. In October, days after leaving Walter Reed Hospital with Covid-19, Trump held a campaign rally on the South Lawn. Even that wasn’t enough to move his poll numbers. Still lagging behind in the final days of the campaign, Trump criticized some of his staunchest allies in the administration for not using their power aggressively on his behalf, even calling Barr for not stopping. his political rivals, including Biden, and trying to get Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to go public with Hillary Clinton emails dating back more than four years.

In 1939, in the face of widespread claims that employees of the Works Progress Administration were forced to work on Democratic Party campaigns, Congress passed a law known as the Hatch Act to prevent federal officials from exploiting their authority. for partisan purposes. Most presidential administrations have since taken care to separate their public and political operations, so as not to break the law. Civil violations of the law are handled by an independent agency known as the Office of Special Counsel. President Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro has been censored for discussing the 2016 election in a television interview. He issued a public apology, explaining that the error was inadvertent.

Presidents and vice-presidents are exempt from the civil provisions of the statute. Because they are effectively still at work, some of the prohibitions – such as the one prohibiting engaging in political activities while on duty – would be difficult to enforce. Dozens of Trump administration employees, including at least nine high-level appointees, have been investigated for violations of the Hatch Law. Kellyanne Conway broke the law more than 60 times, prompting the Office of the Special Advisor to recommend that Trump remove her from her post as a senior White House official. (“Blah, blah, blah,” Conway said at the time. “Let me know when jail time starts.”)

But the Hatch Act also contains criminal provisions from which the president is not exempt; one is the prohibition on using official authority to influence a federal election. “This is the very heart of the Hatch Act,” Kathleen Clark, professor of legal and government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, law school told me. “Public power is for the public good, not for the private good.” Trump’s blatant violations of this ban were widely noted at the time of the Republican convention. Neither Trump nor his senior executives seemed so worried about it. “No one outside the ring road really cares,” said Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

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Biden to restore a White House tradition of presidential pets

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to restore a centuries-old tradition of having a presidential pet in the White House.

From January, the two German Shepherds of the Biden family, Champ and Major, will roam the executive residence.

President Trump was the first president in over a century not to have pets of any kind, said Andrew Hager, the historian in residence at the Presidential Pet Museum.

In 2008, the Biden family obtained a German Shepherd puppy from a breeder after Mr. Biden was elected vice president, according to Politico. The Bidens named the dog Champ because Mr. Biden’s father said to him growing up, “Get up, champion,” when his life was tough.

In 2016, Lois Pope, a veterans and animals philanthropist in Palm Beach, Florida, said she gifted Mr. Trump a goldendoodle puppy named Patton, after George Patton, the WWII general that Mr. Trump said to admire, The Washington Post reported.

At a rally in February 2019 in El Paso, Mr Trump said he did not have a dog because he did not have time and believed it would be ‘wrong’ for him to get one for political reasons.

“You love your dogs, don’t you? Mr. Trump said. “I wouldn’t mind having one, honestly, but I don’t have time. How would I look like walking a dog on the White House lawn? “

Mr Biden’s dog Major reflects a broader trend for Americans to adopt pets from shelters and their views on animal rights, Mr Hager said.

“In a way, I made the point that you can look at the history of Americans and animals by looking at the president and their pets,” he said.

Mr. Biden occasionally posts about Champ and Major on social media.

“No campaign ruff days when I have a major motivation,” Biden wrote on Instagram last month.

There was even a separate campaign called Dog Lovers for Joe. Its slogan: “Choose your humans wisely.”

“Red State or Blue State, we can all agree on the power of dogs,” the website said. “It’s about time we had a dog lover in the White House.”

From the earliest days of the country’s formation, pets have been a tradition for presidents.

President Theodore Roosevelt owned dozens of animals, including a one-legged rooster, snakes, guinea pigs, kangaroo rats and horses, said Jennifer B. Pickens, author of “Pets at the White House.”

One of the strangest animals in the White House was a raccoon later named Rebecca who was sent to President Calvin Coolidge to be served at Thanksgiving dinner. In November 1926, Mr. Coolidge pardoned the raccoon and adopted it.

Pets humanize the chair and help people connect with their owners. Dogs are cuddly presidential props and provide companionship when presidents are making tough decisions, Ms. Pickens said.

When President Richard M. Nixon ran for vice-president in 1952, he withstood a financial irregularities scandal, in part because he was talking about his dog, Checkers.

President Herbert Hoover’s muffled and stilted image improved when he humanized by posting a photograph in which he held his German Shepherd King Tut.

President Barack Obama and his family brought Bo, then Sunny, Portuguese Water Dogs, to the White House. They were adored, even after Sunny knocked down a 2 year old visitor.

“Americans have always had pets, so the White House has always had pets,” Ms. Pickens said.

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An Ohio mill has lost its identity. Can youth sports restore it?

HAMILTON, Ohio – Hamilton has long been a city in search of identity.

In its heyday, its industries produced paper and housed a company that manufactured safes capable of withstanding a nuclear explosion. But as the demand for paper and bomb-proof safes declined, these industries took Hamilton with them. What was left of this city of 70,000 people along the Great Miami River was then destroyed by the Great Recession ten years ago.

Over the years, rulers have attempted to reinvent the city, sometimes in a way that brought more ludicrous than redemption.

Hamilton gained notoriety in the 1980s when the city officially added an exclamation mark after its name (an addition quickly rejected by cartographer Rand McNally). Later, the city called itself the City of Sculpture, and it still has a much-loved sculpture collection and award-winning sculpture park. Still, the artistic nickname couldn’t pierce the image of the city’s rust belt.

The city’s manufacturing ghosts continued to haunt her in the form of abandoned factories and smokestacks pointing like frozen fingers in the sky. Now one of those closed factories is about to be reused, and residents doubt even the pandemic could derail Hamilton’s transformation, this time into a sports town.

City manager Joshua A. Smith arrived in 2010 from Howard, Wisconsin, a suburb of Green Bay, another struggling Rust Belt town.

“The community was lacking any kind of energy,” said Mr. Smith, now 47. “It was almost as if the city had abandoned itself.”

Perhaps no facility exemplifies the city’s fortunes better than the empty Champion Paper factory, which closed in 2012. Some potential buyers have started bidding (an out-of-town company wanted to buy it for cold storage), but Mr. Smith saw the promise and the city bought the Champion complex along with its 40 acres of waterfront land for $ 400,000.

The 1.3 million square foot site is on its way to becoming what is billed as the largest indoor sports complex in North America: the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill.

Spooky Nook is an indoor sports company based in Manheim, Pa., Where its 700,000 square foot resort attracts more than one million visitors annually, bringing in more than $ 50 million to the local economy, according to Tourism Economics. , an analysis firm trip.

Hamilton, through tax breaks and infrastructure improvements, has provided $ 20 million in funding for the $ 170 million Champion Mill complex in the hopes that it will receive the same draw when it opens. by the end of 2021. To achieve this, development will go beyond sports to include a fitness center, restaurants, residences and shops. The city estimates that it will create 380 permanent jobs.

Switching to sports is a natural fit, said Mayor Pat Moeller, who added that he envisions legions of tourists visiting Hamilton’s restaurants, bars and shops.

“It will transform us,” he said.

Across the country, youth sports have become big business, and cities often covet the facilities as a way to boost local development and attract residents from the outside.

The industry generates $ 19 billion in revenue nationwide, up from around $ 9 billion several years ago, said Norm Gill, managing partner of Pinnacle Indoor Sports, an advisory service that helped build 50 complexes across the country but is not involved in the Spooky Nook Project. .

“Sport tourism is on steroids,” said Gill, who estimated that each visitor could spend $ 110 to $ 180 per day on food, accommodation and tickets.

More than $ 550 million has been spent to develop complexes to accommodate youth sports in the past three years, according to Sports Business Journal, a trade publication. And there are 1,250 indoor soccer facilities across the country, according to the US Indoor Sports Association, a commercial organization. They can range from under 25,000 square feet to the size of Champion Mill, but only the larger ones attract major tournaments.

The SportsPlex in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, for example, opened in May with great fanfare among residents. By providing six regulation basketball courts, two indoor soccer fields, 12 volleyball courts and other equipment, organizers hope to attract sports and tournament activities to a five-state region.

“These sports complexes are a symptom or the result of the professionalization of sports for young people that has taken place over the past 40 years,” said Victor A. Matheson, professor of sports economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass Elite traveling teams, increasingly expensive equipment and more rigorous training schedules are part of the experience of today’s players.

The pandemic has put the brakes on many industries, and youth sport is no different, but Gill believes by the time the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill opens, the demand will be there. The industry is most likely oversaturated and headed for reduction, he said, but the mixed-use component of the Hamilton plant could give it some durability.

Industry experts agree that the key is to attract travelers who will circulate their dollars in the host city. Without this element, success can be fleeting.

Large youth sports complexes are typically 30,000 to 100,000 square feet, and many are privately run. Those owned by municipalities, like the SportsPlex in Cape Girardeau, are often built as a catalyst for development.

“These facilities cause losses – cities don’t make money with them,” said Gill. “The real goal is to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy.”

Spooky Nook Sports predicts one million visitors to Hamilton in its first year, a milestone its Manheim, near Lancaster, Pa. Facility did not reach until its third year.

But the challenge for Hamilton and other cities is the limited number of kids and parents willing to spend many weekends of the year competing in these tournaments.

“You have to have gigantic tournaments to justify this size,” said Professor Matheson. “A city of 70,000 people cannot generate activity to conserve 700,000 square feet of indoor sports space. You can pull baskets down your driveway for free. “

To that end, Hamilton is attempting to attract a critical mass of recreation seekers to complement Spooky Nook. The Pinball Garage recently opened nearby, with over 30 gaming machines, and Mr Smith, the city manager, has stipulated that Spooky Nook is occupying the space for restaurants and other amenities with local operators.

Spooky Nook founder Sam Beiler isn’t concerned about the saturation of the market. Thirty-five weekends in 2022 are already set aside for youth sports tournaments at Champion Mill.

“We think our model, which focuses on local traffic and corporate events throughout the week and youth sports tournaments on the weekends, is a great model,” he said. in an email.

Local businesses are also hanging their fortunes on Spooky Nook. Hamilton straddles the Great Miami River, and until a few years ago the west side was pockmarked with empty storefronts. But once rumors of the arrival of Spooky Nook started to circulate, boutiques, art stores, and restaurants began to take hold.

Mike Hoskins, owner of Petals & Wicks, a flower and candle shop, said one of the things that drew him and his wife to their current location four years ago was the expectation of an increase in traffic from the sports complex. They struggled during the pandemic lockdown, but regained a foothold and are banking on Spooky Nook changing the city, he said.

The same goes for Paula Hollstegge, co-owner of Hip Boutique, where shelves are full of colorful clothing and accessories, less than a mile from the sports complex.

“We’re super excited about Spooky Nook,” Ms. Hollstegge said. “We hope that after a day of sports women will want to leave the guys behind and go shopping.”

The city’s fortunes may well depend on it.