Tribune News Service

News Budget for papers of Sunday, October 18, 2020


Updated at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 UTC)




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^Making money off masks, chain store spawned by COVID-19 hopes to go out of business<

CORONAVIRUS-STORE:KHN — Darcy Velasquez, 42, and her mother, Roberta Truax, were walking recently in the Park Meadows mall about 15 miles south of downtown Denver, looking for Christmas gifts for Velasquez's two children, when they spotted a store with a display of rhinestone-studded masks.

It's an immutable truth of fashion: Sparkles can go a long way with a 9-year-old.

The store is called COVID-19 Essentials. And it may well be the country's first retail chain dedicated solely to an infectious disease.

With many U.S. stores closing during the coronavirus pandemic, especially inside malls, the owners of this chain have seized on the empty space, as well as the world's growing acceptance that wearing masks is a reality that may last well into 2021, if not longer. Masks have evolved from a utilitarian, anything-you-can-find-that-works product into another way to express one's personality, political leanings or sports fandom.

And the owners of COVID-19 Essentials are betting that Americans are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Not that the COVID-19 Essentials owners want their products to be in demand forever.

1300 by Markian Hawryluk in Lone Tree, Colo.. MOVED



^Trump lost these supporters after dual crises struck. It could cost him a second term<

CAMPAIGN-TRUMP-EXSUPPORTERS:WA — Jay Copan is careful to explain why he's supporting a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in 44 years.

The breaking point didn't come with President Donald Trump's tweets or slander of a man Copan admired, John McCain. The 69-year-old retiree has long detested Trump — he considers the Republican a terrible role model for his six grandchildren — but even as recently as the spring he begrudgingly acknowledged that he was still open to backing the president, just as he did in 2016.

It was watching the "clown show" press briefings during the early days of the pandemic — and subsequent "unbelievable" response to the death of George Floyd — that convinced Copan that Trump's presidency was unsalvageable.

A lot has gone wrong for Trump this year.

But the most intractable of his problems might be people like Copan.

1900 by Alex Roarty in Raleigh, N.C. MOVED


^Repeal Obamacare? Once GOP dogma, it's now the party's albatross<

HEALTHCARE-POLITICS:LA — Contempt for the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — was so central to Sen. Joni Ernst's 2014 election campaign that the Iowa Republican, in a TV ad promising she'd "unload" on the law, pulled out a handgun and fired repeatedly. "Give me a shot," she asked voters.

Six years later, the first-term senator is battling for reelection, and she's holstered her gun.

Ernst is not alone. Earlier this month, she joined fellow Republican Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Dan Sullivan of Alaska — two other would-be assassins of the 10-year-old health care law who are now fighting for their political survival — in breaking with their party to support Obamacare on the Senate floor. They voted with Democrats on a measure opposing a Republican-backed case against the law that's now before the Supreme Court.

As that vote showed, endangered Republicans are frantically trying to pivot away from the "repeal Obamacare" slogans that served them well for much of the last decade. Those are now a liability amid a jump in public support for the health care law.

1400 by Evan Halper and Janet Hook in Washington. MOVED



^Signature errors could disenfranchise a record number of voters in the election<

^ELECTION-MAILBALLOTS-SIGNATURES:LA—<A record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail in the November general election because of the pandemic — and a record number may have their ballots rejected over signature issues.

In nearly 40 states, election officials check the signatures on the ballot envelopes that voters send back against the ones on file — usually from voter registration forms or motor vehicle departments. A handful of states require voters to fill out their ballot in front of a witness, who must also sign.

If a signature doesn't appear to match, or the necessary signatures are missing, what happens next depends on the state — and even the county — a voter lives in. Some states require county election officials to give the voter a chance to verify their identity or fix a mistake; others don't, and their ballots are tossed out.

1150 by Arit John. MOVED


^COVID-19 stalks Montana town already saddled with asbestos disease<

MONT-LIBBY:KHN — Frank Fahland has spent most days since the pandemic began at the site of his dream house, working to finish a 15-year labor of love while keeping away from town and the people closest to him.

Like thousands of people from Libby and Lincoln County in the far northwestern corner of Montana, the 61-year-old Fahland has scarred lungs after years of breathing in asbestos fibers from dust and soil contaminated by the town's now-defunct plant that produced vermiculite, a mineral used in insulation and gardening.

Fahland's condition makes him more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19.

He's not alone in taking such precautions. Lincoln County has one of the nation's highest asbestos mortality rates. At least 400 people have died from asbestos-related diseases, which can include asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. At least 1 in 10 people in Libby have an asbestos-related illness, said Miles Miller, a physician assistant at the Center for Asbestos Related Disease.

1150 by Nate Hegyi in Libby, Mont. MOVED




These stories moved earlier in the week and remain suitable for publication.


^COVID-19 'long-haulers' worry about coverage, costs<

^CORONAVIRUS-LONGHAULERS:SH—<Andr a Ceresa has been through three gastroenterologists already and now is moving on to her fourth.

She's seen an infectious disease specialist, a hematologist, a cardiologist, a physiatrist, an integrative doctor and an ear, nose and throat specialist. She has an appointment coming up with a neuropsychologist and another one with a neurologist. She's had an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, a CT scan, a brain MRI and so many blood tests, she said, "I feel like a human pincushion."

Ceresa, a resident of Branchburg, New Jersey, relayed this medical litany on day 164 of her COVID-19 ordeal.

When this will end — if it will end — none of those doctors and specialists can tell her. Nor can anyone else, not at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization or any other major health organization.

So-called long-haulers like Ceresa pose policy questions that have yet to command much public attention, but daily become more pressing for those with lingering problems.

2150 by Michael Ollove. MOVED


^Emboldened far-right groups challenge cities, states<

EXTREMISTS-VIGILANTES:SH — When wildfires threatened rural Oregon communities last month, another unwelcome phenomenon accompanied them: armed vigilantes blocking entry to outsiders, based on false rumors that protesters had not only started the fires, but also were there to loot the evacuated homes.

Throughout the West and beyond, in a summer marked by protests seeking racial justice, armed vigilantes also have shown up at Black Lives Matter events in small towns and big cities alike. Their presence in some places has the tacit support of law enforcement or even local elected officials.

Now, experts who monitor right-wing vigilantes and white nationalist organizations are on even higher alert for the possibility of violence at political rallies.

1800 by Erika Bolstad in Portland, Ore. MOVED


^'She was really a warrior': Transgender migrant reaches US only to die<

TRANSGENDER-MIGRANT-FIRSTPERSON:LA — As Mayela Villegas crossed the bridge from Matamoros, Mexico, to Texas, she looked like a success story. Defying the odds, she had been allowed into the United States to pursue her asylum claim.

That was a year ago: Oct. 5, 2019. We had met days before in the Mexican border tent camp where she had been living with about 2,000 others after migrating from El Salvador. White crosses on the nearby banks of the Rio Grande memorialized parents and children who had recently died trying to cross the river illegally.

A 27-year-old transgender woman, Mayela had been kidnapped and raped in Mexico and El Salvador. She told me those stories alone, in her tent. In the camp, a migrant woman from Honduras had threatened to gut her with a knife. Mayela secretly recorded the threat on her phone, found a witness and reported it to Mexican authorities. That became grounds for her successful U.S. asylum claim, which allowed her to enter the U.S. legally and settle with relatives.

Seven months later, at the end of May, one of Mayela's friends messaged me on Facebook: Mayela was dead.

2200 by Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston. MOVED


^Miami-Dade is one storm away from a housing catastrophe. Nearly 1 million people are at risk<

WEA-HURRICANES-MIAMI-HOUSING:MI — As the tail end of one of the most active hurricane seasons in history nears, Miami-Dade County appears once again poised to emerge unscathed. The region dodged hurricanes and tropical storms that posed a potential threat to South Florida. But what will happen when that luck runs out?

Housing advocates have long feared that the city is one storm away from disaster; nearly a third of all housing structures in Miami-Dade County built before 1990 are at risk of wind damage, mold contamination and even complete devastation from a hurricane.

According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, nearly 1 million people could be left homeless in a worst-case scenario — the majority of them among the poorest of the county's residents.

3400 by Rene Rodriguez and Yadira Lopez in Miami. MOVED


^Mexico is poised to become the biggest legal marijuana market in the world. Who will most benefit?<

MEXICO-MARIJUANA:LA — Mexico's marijuana revolution is on display steps from the nation's Senate, where for the last nine months activists have maintained a fragrant cannabis garden.

Each day, hundreds of people stroll amid a labyrinth of towering green plants, freely lighting joints and getting high.

Their wafting smoke is meant to serve as a reminder to senators, who have to walk through the plumes to get to work. Lawmakers have until Dec. 15 to pass pot legislation under orders from the Supreme Court, which two years ago struck down a marijuana ban as unconstitutional.

After decades of restrictive drug policies that fueled deadly cartel wars, Mexico is poised to become the biggest legal cannabis market in the world.

The looming deadline has intensified debate over exactly what legalization should look like and whom it should benefit.

1350 by Kate Linthicum in Mexico City. MOVED


^How Mexico's murky property ownership helps criminals get away with murder<

MEXICO-CRIME-LAND:SD — When Baja California investigators unearthed a fifth decomposing body in January from the same Tijuana house where a missing Orange County, California, couple had been discovered a week prior, Baja State Attorney General Guillermo Ruiz Hern ndez labeled the property "la casa de mala" or "the house of evil."

Besides the gruesome discovery, the property was unusual in another sense: authorities were able to establish who owned the home, though only because the owners had been buried in it.

That's often not the case in Mexico. For the majority of cases where human remains are located on private properties, authorities are unable to establish ownership, according to state prosecutor Hiram S nchez.

In a country where nonstop violence is on regular and dramatic public display — the brutality punctuated with heads left in front of schools, corpses hung from bridges, and journalists and public officials brazenly gunned down in the streets — thousands of victims disappear in clandestine graves, some of them buried in residences that don't officially exist on any public record.

It's just one more barrier authorities face in a country where getting a conviction is rare.

1550 by Wendy Fry in Baja California, Mexico. MOVED


^Few in number, Black residents in Appalachia push for justice<

^APPALACHIA-BLACK-RESIDENTS:SH—<Just as soon as the grand jury decision came down in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, several people in southeastern Kentucky began organizing a candlelight vigil in her memory.

Taylor was killed in March by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, who executed a midnight no-knock search warrant.

In late September, a state grand jury held no one criminally accountable for killing Taylor. Protests broke out in Louisville and other large cities.

In the small Appalachian town of Hazard, Joseph Palumbo and several friends began looking for a place to hold a vigil and posting updates to a closed Facebook group. Dozens of people attended.

Months after a wave of anti-police brutality and Black Lives Matter demonstrations stretched into rural, largely white areas, the organizing persists in pockets of Central Appalachia. Young and old are sharpening their political voices and strengthening alliances across races.

Their work, however, serves as an example of the challenges organizers face in pushing for racial justice in areas where people of color are few. Some Black residents say they feel physically and psychologically isolated.

1850 by April Simpson. MOVED


^Champion of poor or demagogue? Mexico's president remains popular despite stalled economy, pandemic and crime<

MEXICO-LOPEZ-OBRADOR:LA — The Mexican economy is cratering, homicides are rising at a record rate, and the COVID-19 death toll has surged past 80,000.

For any other leader, the torrent of bad news might herald a political reckoning. Not for President Andr s Manuel L pez Obrador.

Yes, protesters have been camped out in downtown Mexico City calling for his resignation and drawing outsized media attention.

But the left-wing populist saw his approval rating rise from 56% in June to 62% in September — according to polling by El Financiero newspaper — making him one of the most popular leaders in the world.

His enduring appeal stems in part from a kind of everyman persona, a rumpled, wise-uncle image that has helped him cast his presidency as a project to "transform" Mexico and reduce its deep social inequities.

1350 by Patrick J. McDonnell and Kate Linthicum in Mexico City. MOVED




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