May 25, 2022

A Storied Battle Over North Dakota Oil Pipeline

Heavy snow and winter cold settled this month on thousands of Native Americans and their supporters encamped on Standing Rock Sioux tribal lands south of Bismarck, North Dakota. Nearby, the Missouri River slipped past. The river’s clean waters serve as the wellspring in what has steadily become one of the storied confrontations over energy development, justice, finance, and human rights in the American West. Viewed in one dimension, the standoff over construction of a 1,172-mile, …

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In the U.S., An “Episode” Set to End, Another Ready to Start

SOMERSET, KY. — A story of leadership and poise emerged on Wednesday night after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. It is a lesson with lasting value to our national life. The Cleveland Indians scored three runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to tie the game. Momentum had veered to the home team. To a man, the Cubs were rattled. Some said they were finding it hard to breathe. At the end …

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The 2016 Election Endgame: Decisive or Dangerous?

SOMERSET, KY — There aren’t too many redder places in this reddest of red southern states than Pulaski County. Mitt Romney beat President Obama in 2012 with 80 percent of the vote in this south central Kentucky county, and a nearly 16,000-vote margin — 20,714 to 4,976. Still, on my afternoon runs through the pleasant leafy neighborhoods of Somerset, the county seat, I haven’t seen one yard sign for Donald Trump. It’s as though in …

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Robben Island’s Long Shadow of Justice

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Barack Obama, America’s first black president, twice crossed the cold and deep 9-mile channel that lies between this magnificent coastal city and Robben Island, where South Africa imprisoned its first black president, Nelson Mandela. The last time Obama stood in the stone cell blocks and peered out of the barred windows was in June 2013, during a presidential visit to South Africa. Before that, in his first visit in 2006, …

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Drought Influenced Syrian Civil War; So What?, Says U.S. Congress

A paper earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States added fresh, peer-reviewed details about how a malicious four-year (2007 to 2010) drought in Syria played a role in touching off a calamitous civil war in 2011. The long rein of water scarcity ruined the farm economy, and drove over 1 million farmers and their families into unstable resource-scarce cities inspired by the Arab Spring to rebel …

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In Heart of Rand Paul Territory, Public Investment For Public Purposes

BOWLING GREEN, KY. – When Gary Ransdell, the president of Western Kentucky University, invites alumni to view this city’s redeveloping downtown from his hilltop campus, the response is almost always exclamations of surprise. Just below domed Cherry Hall, one of the 108-year-old university’s grandest buildings, are nearly 200,000 square feet of new student housing, built at a cost of $24 million. There’s also a 30,000 square foot, $10 million alumni center, and a 72,500 square-foot …

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In Detroit, Scales of Finance and Fairness Have Tipped Over

On July 18, 2013 Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager, acted on the remarkably broad authorities afforded him by an eight-month-old state law and filed a petition to launch the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Orr’s intent, he said, was to reduce the beleaguered city’s operating costs, reduce the cost of servicing the city’s debt, and set Detroit on a fresh course to redevelopment and prosperity. During a news conference that evening, Detroit’s elected one-term …

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Henderson, Kentucky’s Riverwalk Along the Ohio River Shows Value of Public Investment

HENDERSON, KY — The 981-mile Ohio River Valley, which extends from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill. is full of surprises these days. Pittsburgh shed its sooty industrial coat of the 20th century to emerge as a center of engineering and biomedical innovation. Cincinnati, battered by race riots and disinvestment, is building a $1 billion riverfront neighborhood and a streetcar line. Louisville’s days as a meatpacking hub are long gone. Now it’s the growing capital of the …

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The Society of Foolhardy Folly: Anglers and Hunters Against the Environment

EMPIRE, MI — Days before ice crowded back into Lake Michigan’s Platte Bay late last week, the shallow waters opened and fishermen planted their poles in the soft sand at the mouth of the Platte River and waited for steelhead and maybe a brown trout. Clean, cold water is abundant in our region in large part due to the safeguards contained in the 1972 Clean Water Act, arguably the most important environmental protection statute in …

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Washington Is Not Working — Literally

WASHINGTON — Two events occurred here on Thursday this week that together are a nearly perfect distillation of why this otherwise pleasant city has become the capital of intransigence and frustration for people like me concerned about our national interest. In the morning the U.S. Supreme Court announced, in a 5-4 decision, that campaign donations are a form of free speech, and that the wealthy can spend just about as much as they like to …

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