Trump Administration Wants To Cut Funding For Public Housing Repairs

An employee of the District of Columbia Housing Authority walks on the grounds of a public housing complex called Richardson Dwellings in Northeast Washington, D.C. The Trump administration wants to eliminate the federal fund now used to repair public housing in favor of attracting more private investment to repair and replace it.

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Mold. Leaks. Rodents. Crime. These are just some of the things the nation’s 2 million public housing residents have to worry about. Many of the buildings they live in have been falling into disrepair for decades. Public housing officials estimate that it would cost $50 billion to fix them up.

But the Trump administration wants to eliminate the federal fund now used to repair public housing in favor of attracting more private investment to fix up and replace it.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says the country needs a new approach because the current one is not working. He admits that living conditions for many public housing residents are extremely poor.

“There are two possible solutions. You can just throw more money at it, or you can say ‘Why is that happening and why is it getting worse and is there anything that we can do about those factors,’ ” Carson recently told a House appropriations subcommittee.

Part of the problem stems from a steady decline in public housing repair funding over the past decade. About $2 billion to $3 billion has been appropriated in recent years, half the amount approved in 2000. At the same time, the needs have grown at a more rapid rate, creating a massive backlog.


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Tyrone Garrett, executive director of the District of Columbia Housing Authority, is one of many housing officials across the country trying to deal with the fallout. Earlier this year, Garrett announced that his agency faced “a monumental crisis.” About 2,500 public housing units in the city — about a third of its stock — are in such disrepair that Garrett says they’re unfit for human habitation.

Tyrone Garrett, executive director of the District of Columbia Housing Authority, says some residents are living in homes that are “decaying around them.”

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“Would we want our parents, our family members, our mothers, or our children for that matter to live in units that are decaying around them?” he asks. Garrett says the answer is obviously “no,” but about 5,000 Washingtonians now live in those units. He says his agency needs $343 million in emergency funding to meet the most urgent needs.

Garrett shows what he’s talking about at Richardson Dwellings, a public housing complex in Northeast Washington. Like much of the nation’s public housing, these two-story brick apartments are decades old and have been patched together with one Band-Aid repair after another. Today, some of the units are beyond repair.

“You have roof leaks, ceiling leaks, probably stemming from something on the roof, decaying floors, walls,” says Garrett, pointing to water stains above him in one unit and chipped linoleum on the floor.

Tyrone Garrett and an employee of DCHA at Richardson Dwellings, a public housing complex in Northeast Washington.

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The apartment’s living room is small and crammed with furniture, piles of personal belongings and a big refrigerator standing in one corner. It’s difficult to walk through the room. Scarlet-colored carpeting on the stairway is so loose, it’s difficult to walk upstairs because it’s unclear where one step begins and another one ends. Upstairs, Garrett points out more water stains on the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, and to black grout between the bathroom tiles.

“You can see where the mold is building up and this is probably more than likely from a lack of ventilation,” he says. These apartments were built in 1953 before exhaust fans were standard.

At Richardson Dwellings, a public housing complex in Northeast Washington, D.C., some of the units are beyond repair.

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The majority of public housing residents here and elsewhere are seniors, people with disabilities, and children — those who can least afford poor living conditions.

Jamell Fields shares an apartment at Richardson Dwellings with several people, including her two daughters and grandchildren. When Garrett stops by, she tells him that the stuffy air inside has become a problem for all of them.

“Everybody in here is asthmatic,” says Fields, who has lived there for two years. “It’s so dry in here a lot and the asthma has gotten really bad for all of us. [My daughter] has medicine for it. I have medicine for it. My other daughter, she has medicine for it. Her son, he got a little bit, but he don’t have as much as we do.”

Jamell Fields lives in an apartment at Richardson Dwelllings that she shares with several people, including her two daughters and grandchildren.

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The apartment has other hazards, including lead-based paint, which has made Fields and her family eligible for emergency vouchers to relocate to other housing. She says at least the bug infestations aren’t as bad as they used to be.

“It’s just the mice. The mice is out of control a little bit,” she says.

There’s a lot at this complex that threatens the health of children. A tree in the courtyard outside is decorated with stuffed animals and pinwheels — a memorial to a 10-year-old girl who was caught in a hail of gunfire when she went out to buy ice cream last summer and died clutching a $5 bill. Her family is now suing the housing authority, saying it did not provide enough security in an area prone to violent crime.

Garrett says D.C. is not alone. “Other housing authorities throughout the country are in the same boat. We’re looking for opportunities to be able to improve the lives of our families, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult with the funding cuts,” he says. Garrett estimates it would take more than $2 billion to fix up all of the city’s public housing over the long run.

But HUD Secretary Carson says the federal government has limited funds and needs to attract more private investment. He told Congress that the administration hopes to address the problem, in part, with a program enacted in the 2017 tax law that provides large tax breaks for investments in what are called “opportunity zones.”

“A lot of money will be pouring into those and a lot of these distressed areas are in the opportunity zones — 380,000 public housing units,” he told lawmakers.

A tree in the courtyard outside is decorated with stuffed animals and pinwheels — a memorial to a 10-year-old girl who was caught in a hail of gunfire when she went out to buy ice cream last summer and died clutching a $5 bill. Her family is now suing the housing authority.

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Carson predicts that tens of billions of dollars will be invested in these struggling communities, aided in part by reduced regulations and other government incentives.

But housing advocates say there’s no guarantee investors will put their money into affordable housing. The tax breaks are also allowed for investments in stores, hotels and other businesses.

Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, says the jury is still out on opportunity zones.

“No one has yet said this is the silver bullet that is going to solve our distressed community problem, and the concern is whether it really will benefit low-income households,” she says.

Zaterman thinks public-private deals can help in the long run, but notes that they can take years to complete and the crisis is now. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have also expressed skepticism about the administration’s proposal to eliminate the fund for public housing repairs, although it’s not clear how much money lawmakers will eventually approve.

The two-story brick apartments of Richardson Dwellings, a public housing complex in Northeast Washington, D.C., are decades old and have been patched together with one quick fix after another.

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This has left residents worried about what will happen to them. At a recent meeting of the D.C. Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners, several tenants said they need their living conditions to improve. They don’t care where the money comes from.

“It’s stressful. We don’t know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen,” said Linda Brown, who has lived in public housing for 12 years with her disabled daughter. She fears being displaced if her aging complex is torn down. She notes that affordable housing is extremely scarce in Washington, D.C. There are currently 41,000 families on the city’s waiting list for housing assistance.

“We should be mindful that we’re talking about human beings and not numbers,” says Brown, who like other public housing residents is required to pay a third of her income in rent. “We’re talking about families that have already been uprooted.”

Both the city and HUD’s Carson have promised to keep poor families housed, but it’s not clear yet how that will happen and in what conditions they’ll end up living.

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Slingshot Scenes: The Best Of Austin, Festival City

Sylvan Esso perform in Austin, Tex. in 2018.

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Known for live music, tacos, and maddening traffic, Austin, Texas has long been an incubator of sounds that run all over the sonic spectrum. With ample green space, temperate climates, and a serious party mentality, it’s no wonder the Little Big City has become such a music festival mecca and testing ground for new events.

The last five years alone have seen some major changes in the Austin festival scene. Beloved festivals have crossed the rock-n-roll-rainbow bridge, new ones have sprung up, and others have evolved, re-configuring themselves into events that put more money into the city’s smaller venues and bars. Even in all the ebb and flow of Festival City, U.S.A., several festivals have strengthened their hold on this incredibly rich music scene.

From the pinnacle of mainstream pop to the gods of the underground, from hip-hop’s illest to Americana’s crunchiest, Austin has a place for everyone. And if not, we’ll make room. Here are five Austin-based music fests we think best represent the city’s increasingly diverse music scene. — Taylor Wallace

Austin City Limits

The pilot episode of Austin City Limits aired on March 22, 1975 with a talented Texas songwriter named Willie Nelson.

Since then, the show has won the National Medal of the Arts, a Peabody Award and become the longest running music series in American Television history in its 45 years. And in 2002, it inspired a festival of the same name which has since expanded into a two-weekend long event that brings approximately 450,000 people into Austin each year.

In its early years, the original show focused on Texas singer/songwriters, country and folk performers, and instrument specialists, but the festival has attracted musicians from every corner of the musical world (The most recent ACL’s headliners were Travis Scott, Metallica, and Paul McCartney). ACL has grown into an internationally-recognized event, but it still doesn’t forget it’s roots. There’s always a healthy amount of Texas artists, and much of the extra-musical fun and food is from local businesses.

Dive into the ACL experience with tons of festival photos, artist portraits and exclusive backstage performances captured by the incredible KUTX multimedia team. This year’s festival runs from Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 11-13, 2019. — Ryan Wen


Old Settler’s

Named after the Round Rock, Texas park where it started in 1988, Old Settler’s has turned out to be a fairly fitting name. Famous for a vibrant campground atmosphere and performances from big names in traditional and Americana music, Old Settler’s left its long-term home at Camp Ben McCullough in Dripping Springs a couple of years ago for new festival grounds in Tilmon, Texas. Despite the recent move, festival organizers continue to recruit bigger and bigger names — Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell headlined this year — all while maintaining the fun, family-friendly campground vibe that makes it such a unique festival.

We tried to capture some of that quirky campground experience by setting up a small studio backstage and recording some of our favorites from the festival. Imagine these performers gathering around a campfire and swapping songs and you’ll get a pretty good idea why people keep coming back year after year. Next year’s festival runs from Apr. 16-19, 2020. — Peter Babb



In the home of SXSW, and the Live Music Capital of the World, you’d expect events like music festivals would be a common thing, and they are. With hip-hop being the number one genre in the music industry, you’d think Austin would be home to one of the premier hip-hop festivals around. And it is. The once Austin startup music promotion company Scoremore took things a step further in 2013 when they held the first ever JMBYLA, in Houston, Dallas, and, of course, Austin.

Since 2013, JMBYLA has grown into one of the premier rap festivals to date. Hosting some of the hottest artists out every year, from Chance The Rapper, Rae Sremmurd, Future, DaBaby, Lil Wayne, J. Cole and so many more. Scoremore and JMBYLA has kept their finger on pulse of today’s rap scene showcasing some of today’s rising artists like Sheck Wes, Gunna, Houston’s Maxo Kream, and Austin’s very own WhooKilledKenny.

In the last six years, the festival has spanned across four cities in Texas, with each year being bigger than the last. JMBYLA is the springboard festival for Scoremore to do more festivals like Mala Luna, Astroworld, and Dreamville Fest. It’s clear that JMBYLA is still Scoremore’s crown jewel in it all and continues to be the go-to festival in Austin as well as Texas. The 2020 festival dates will be announced later this year. — Aaron “Fresh” Knight



At this point, it’s probably easier to list everything the annual SXSW Conference & Festival doesn’t cover. Since the first music conference took over a few downtown hotel lobbies in 1987, SXSW has added Film, Interactive, Environmental, Education, Comedy, and Gaming components to create one of the largest entertainment and industry events in the world.

A quick scan of this year’s lineup shows just how international the music festival has become. 2019 saw some 60+ countries represented among the 2,000-plus official performers. And the genres represented are just as diverse.

In an effort to capture some of the amazing talent in our own backyard we invited a handful of artists to KUTX multimedia producer Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon’s East Austin home to perform stripped-down sets for our cameras. Over the course of three days, we recorded more than 20 bands from Cuba, Taiwan, Canada and everywhere in between. Enjoy this video playlist of everyone that paid us a visit during the 2019 SXSW Music Festival! Next year’s festival runs from Mar. 16-22, 2020. — Peter Babb



Named to honor the patron saints of Austin Psychedelic rock, 13th Floor Elevators, Levitation was originally called something more straightforward: Austin Psych Fest. Since its beginning in 2008, Levitation has situated itself in a myriad of locations, from a Barn to a decommissioned power plant, and finally settling on what was meant to be their forever home at a ranch located on the Colorado River.

In hindsight, the final festival at Carson Creek Ranch had a serendipitously romantic silver lining as it featured the first performance by 13th Floor Elevators in 45 years, but the Ranch proved to be a doomed location nonetheless. Outdoor festivals are at the whims of weather, and mother nature seemed to have a personal vendetta against Levitation. Even the final festival looked like Woodstock ’99 — minus the trash fires. Severe weather canceled the 2016 event at the last minute, but Austin rallied and every space with a stage booked the stranded musicians on a days notice and saved the festival.

Levitation ended up a befitting rebrand as it rose from the ashes of 2016’s events and has grown beyond Austin’s city limits. Now, there’s Levitation in France but it still calls Austin home. This year’s festival runs from Nov. 7-10, 2019. — Ryan Wen

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After A (Partial) Win In Court, Woodstock 50 May Still Go On

Promoter Michael Lang, celebrating Woodstock’s 40th anniversary in New York in 2009.

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On Monday, the New York Supreme Court ruled that the former investors in the Woodstock 50 music festival, a company called Dentsu Aegis and its subsidiary, Amplifi Live, did not have the right to cancel the event, as Dentsu announced last month on April 29. The decision means that the Woodstock 50 promoters, led by Michael Lang — a co-founder of the original Woodstock in 1969 — have the right to continue to prepare to stage a festival in August, as originally planned.

However, the judge, Barry Ostrager, also ruled that Dentsu did not have to return $17.8 million it had withdrawn from a bank account it shared with the Woodstock 50 promoters.

The decision also gives insight into the original contract between Dentsu and Woodstock 50: Mainly, that Dentsu had agreed to put over $49 million into the event, and that the promoters promised to secure performances by at least two marquee artists, “such as Drake or Bruce Springsteen.” In addition, the promoters agreed to sell at least 150,000 tickets across the entire festival, and that Woodstock 50 would have “no less than 24 musical acts per day.”

Ostrager also noted that at the time that Dentsu pulled out, “multiple permits necessary to conduct the Festival were not in place, tickets had not yet been sold, no budget had been agreed upon, necessary and expensive structural improvements to the Festival site and related areas had not yet started, and the production company essential to produce the Festival had withdrawn.” (A production company named Superfly, which also produces the Bonnaroo and Outside Lands festivals, officially left the partnership after Dentsu made its announcement.)

It appears that Lang and his colleagues still have many hurdles to overcome in order to stage the festival, ostensibly taking place between Aug. 16 and 18 at a racetrack in Watkins Glen, N.Y. Billboard reported last month that efforts to raise another $20 million from two giant touring companies, Live Nation and AEG, failed. Permits have still not been acquired, and tickets have yet to go on sale.

Despite those challenges, Lang struck a victorious note in a statement published by Billboard on Monday: “We have always relied on the truth and have never lost faith that the Festival would take place,” he said. “I would like to thank all of the talent and their representatives for their patience and support. Woodstock 50 will be an amazing and inspiring festival experience.”

The judge barred Dentsu from speaking to the press or vendors about Woodstock 50.

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It’s Not Just Salt, Sugar, Fat: Study Finds Ultra-Processed Foods Drive Weight Gain

An example of one of the study’s ultra-processed lunches consists of quesadillas, refried beans and diet lemonade. Participants on this diet ate an average of 508 calories more per day and gained an average of 2 pounds over two weeks.

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Over the past 70 years, ultra-processed foods have come to dominate the U.S. diet. These are foods made from cheap industrial ingredients and engineered to be super tasty and generally high in fat, sugar and salt.

The rise of ultra-processed foods has coincided with growing rates of obesity, leading many to suspect they’ve played a big role in our growing waistlines. But is it something about the highly processed nature of these foods itself that drives people to overeat? A new study finds the answer is yes.

The study, conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, is the first randomized, controlled trial to show that eating a diet made up of ultra-processed foods actually drives people to overeat and gain weight compared with a diet made up of whole or minimally processed foods. Study participants on the ultra-processed diet ate an average of 508 calories more per day and ended up gaining an average of 2 pounds over a two-week period. People on the unprocessed diet, meanwhile, ended up losing about 2 pounds on average over a two-week period.

“The difference in weight gain for one [group] and weight loss for the other during these two periods is phenomenal. We haven’t seen anything like this,” says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina who has studied the role of ultra-processed foods in the American diet but was not involved in the current research.

Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, agrees that the findings are striking. He says what was so impressive was that the NIH researchers documented this weight gain even though each meal offered on the two different diets contained the same total amount of calories, fats, protein, sugar, salt, carbohydrates and fiber. Study participants were allowed to eat as much or as little as they wanted, but ended up eating way more of the ultra-processed meals, even though they didn’t rate them as being tastier than the unprocessed meals.

“These are landmark findings that the processing of the foods makes a huge difference in how much a person eats,” says Mozaffarian. That’s important, because the majority of foods now sold in the U.S. — and increasingly, around the globe — are ultra-processed.

And ultra-processed foods include more than just the obvious suspects, like chips, candy, packaged desserts and ready-to-eat meals. The category also includes foods that some consumers might find surprising, including Honey Nut Cheerios and other breakfast cereals, packaged white bread, jarred sauces, frozen sausages and other reconstituted meat products, and yogurt with added fruit. Popkin says ultra-processed foods usually contain a long list of ingredients, many of them made in labs. So, for example, instead of seeing “apples” listed on a food label, you might get additives that re-create the scent of that fruit. These are foods designed to be convenient, low cost and requiring little preparation.

The new research, which appears in the journal Cell Metabolism, was led by Kevin Hall, a senior scientist at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hall says he was surprised by his findings, because many people have suspected it is the high salt, sugar and fat content in ultra-processed foods that drives people to gain weight. But “when you match the diets for all of those nutrients, something about the ultra-processed foods still drives this big effect on calorie intake,” Hall says.

To conduct the study, Hall and his colleagues recruited 20 healthy, stable-weight adults — 10 men and 10 women — to live in an NIH facility for a four-week period. All their meals were provided for them.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of two diets for two-week stretches: One group was fed an unprocessed diet full of whole or minimally processed foods like stir-fried beef with vegetables, basmati rice and orange slices. The other group ate an ultra-processed diet of meals like chicken salad made with canned chicken, jarred mayonnaise and relish on white bread, served with canned peaches in heavy syrup. When the two weeks were up, the groups were then assigned to the opposite diet plan.

Even though the study was small, it was also highly controlled. Researchers knew exactly how many macronutrients and calories participants were eating — and burning, because they took detailed metabolic measurements. The scientists tracked other health markers too, including blood glucose levels and even hormone levels. Hall notes that this makes these kinds of studies extremely difficult and expensive to carry out. But the study design also makes the findings that much more significant, Popkin and Mozaffarian both say.

“Putting people in a controlled setting and giving them their food lets you really understand biologically what’s going on, and the differences are striking,” says Mozaffarian.

For one thing, previous studies have linked an ultra-processed diet to weight gain and poor health outcomes, like an increased risk for several cancers and early death from all causes. But these studies were all observational, which means they couldn’t prove that ultra-processed foods caused these outcomes, only that they were correlated.

Hall says the new study wasn’t designed to see what exactly it is about ultra-processed foods that drives overeating, but the findings do suggest some mechanisms.

“One thing that was kind of intriguing was that some of the hormones that are involved in food intake regulation were quite different between the two diets as compared to baseline,” Hall says.

For example, when the participants were eating the unprocessed diet, they had higher levels of an appetite-suppressing hormone called PYY, which is secreted by the gut, and lower levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone, which might explain why they ate fewer calories. On the ultra-processed diet, these hormonal changes flipped, so participants had lower levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone and higher levels of the hunger hormone.

Another interesting finding: Both groups ate about the same amount of protein, but those on the ultra-processed diet ate a lot more carbs and fat. There is a concept, called the protein leverage hypothesis, that suggests that people will eat until they’ve met their protein needs. Hall says that this seems to be the case in this study and it partially explains the difference in calorie consumption they found. Even though the meals were matched for calories and nutrients, including protein, the ultra-processed meals were more calorie-dense per bite. In part, that’s because ultra-processed foods tend to be low in fiber, so researchers had to add fiber to the beverages served as part of these meals to match the fiber content of the unprocessed diet. That means participants on the ultra-processed diet might have had to munch through more carbs and fat to hit their protein needs.

And one last finding of note: People ate much faster — both in terms of grams per minute and calories per minute — on the ultra-processed diet. Hall says it might be that, because the ultra-processed foods tended to be softer and easier to chew, people devoured them more quickly, so they didn’t give their gastrointestinal tracts enough time to signal to their brains that they were full and ended up overeating.

Hall says his findings have implications for the diet wars — vegan versus low-carb or low-fat diets. “They all have something in common. … Proponents of healthy versions of those diets suggest that people cut out ultra-processed foods.” He says that elimination might account for at least part of the success that people have on these diets.

Popkin says the take-home message for consumers is, “We should try to eat as much real food as we can. That can be plant food. It can be animal food. It can be beef, pork, chicken, fish or vegetables and fruits. And one has to be very careful once one begins to go into other kinds of food.”

But Popkin says the findings also present a challenge for the global food industry: how to preserve the convenience, abundance and low cost of food without sacrificing health. “Let’s see if they can produce ultra-processed food that’s healthy and that won’t be so seductive and won’t make us eat so much extra,” he says. “But they haven’t yet.”

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Missouri Senate Passes Bill That Would Ban Abortions After 8 Weeks

Missouri’s Republican governor, Mike Parson, has been supportive of restricting abortions in the state.

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Missouri’s Senate has passed a bill that would ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy or later, except in cases of medical emergency. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

It’s the latest in a series of sweeping abortion restrictions passed by Republican-controlled state Legislatures aimed at pushing abortion challenges to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The measure, which saw a series of changes before passage, will now return to the state House. If approved there, it would head to the desk of Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

“Thanks to the leaders in the House and Senate, we have the opportunity to be one of the strongest pro-life states in the country,” Parson said on Wednesday.

The bill passed the Senate early Thursday morning in a 24-to-10 vote, as NPR member station St. Louis Public Radio reported.

The text states that performing abortions in violation of the measure would be considered a felony. The legislation states that “any person who knowingly performs or induces an abortion of an unborn child in violation of this subsection shall be guilty of a class B felony, as well as subject to suspension or revocation of his or her professional license.” Women who receive abortions would not be prosecuted.

In addition to no exceptions for rape or incest, the bill also does not allow for abortions when a fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or because of its sex or race.

As St. Louis Public Radio reported, Democrats succeeded in changing a provision that would have required in most cases that the second parent be notified before a minor has an abortion. “Now, that second-parent notification only applies to the ‘parent of a minor who has been awarded joint legal custody or joint physical custody’ by a court,” the member station writes.

Missouri Senate Democrats are speaking out against what some of them have called an “extreme” bill.

“This language four years ago would be unthinkable. But elections have consequences,” Sen. Lauren Arthur said, according to the member station. “And with new Supreme Court justices, there is a renewed attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade. And with that, there is a push in this Legislature to pass what I would characterize as very extreme legislation.”

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Take or pay: Belgian ex-king faces paternity fines

Belgian artist Delphine Boel and her lawyers leave a courthouse, after a new hearing in her legal battle to prove former Belgian King Albert is her father, in Brussels, Belgium February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – A Belgian court has ordered the country’s former king to pay 5,000 euros ($5,600) a day until he takes a DNA paternity test to resolve a long-running case brought by a woman who says she is his daughter.

A judicial source said the 84-year-old King Albert II must pay the sum to Belgian artist Delphine Boel, 50, for every day he now fails to heed a court order made last year to provide a sample. Albert, who abdicated six years ago in favor of his son Philippe, is challenging the ruling that he submit to testing.

The retired monarch has been fighting Boel’s claim for over a decade. Court-ordered DNA tests have already proved that she is not the offspring of her legal father, Jacques Boel, scion of one of Belgium’s richest industrial dynasties.

Her identity became a topic of public debate after the publication in 1999 of a biography of Queen Paola, Albert’s Italian wife, which alleged that he had a long extra-marital relationship from which a daughter was born in the 1960s.

Albert, who has no formal public role, has acknowledged that he and Paola had marital difficulties. Their three children are all older than Boel. Next in line to the throne is 17-year-old Princess Elisabeth, daughter of Philippe and Queen Mathilde.

Editing by Hugh Lawson

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How To Help A Kid Survive Early Puberty

Hitting puberty at age 7 or 8 — a couple years earlier than average — can cause long-lasting anxiety for kids. But the right kind of parental support can help.

Paige Vickers for NPR

From surging hormones and acne to body hair and body odor, puberty can be a rocky transition for any kid. But girls and boys who start physically developing sooner than their peers face particular social and emotional challenges, researchers find.

“Puberty is a pivotal time in kids’ lives, and early maturing boys and girls may be more likely to struggle psychologically,” says Jane Mendle, a psychologist and associate professor at Cornell University.

A 2018 study conducted by Mendle and her team found that girls who entered puberty significantly earlier than their peers were at higher risk for mental health concerns. They’re more likely to become depressed during adolescence, the study finds, and this distress can persist into adulthood.

“For some girls, puberty can throw them off course, and the emotional stress can linger,” Mendle says, “even after the challenges of puberty wane.”

While the age-range for puberty varies, says Jennifer Dietrich, a pediatric gynecologist at Texas Children’s Hospital, the average age of menses is 12.3 years old. However, about 15% of females start puberty much sooner — by the age of 7.

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests boys are also developing earlier, by age 10, which is six months to one year sooner than previous generations.

Pediatricians haven’t identified a lone cause for this shift, but Louise Greenspan, a pediatric endocrinologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, says childhood obesity, environmental chemical-contributors, and the effects of chronic stress — a hormonal response to neglect or abuse in the family, for example — may all play a role.

At a crucial time when kids long to fit in, puberty can make them stand out. And when breast buds and body hair sprout during elementary school, children often feel exposed. Unable to hide their sexual development from others, they may feel ashamed or embarrassed.

Cosette Taillac, a psychotherapist at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., recalls a particular client, a 9-year-old girl, who was started to feel self-conscious playing soccer because her body was developing.

When the little girl no longer wanted to participate in sports — something she had always loved — her parents sought Taillac’s help.

“She didn’t want to dress in front of her teammates,” says Taillac.

Studies show girls who physically mature early, may be more likely than boys to ruminate about these uneasy feelings. According to researchers, this can prolong the emotional distress, which may increase their risk of depression and anxiety.

Still, though girls are more likely to internalize the stress they feel, boys aren’t unscathed, says Mendle.

In research by Mendle and her colleagues, early maturing boys were more likely than others to feel socially isolated and to face conflict with friends and classmates. “This may increase their risk of depression,” she says,”but we’re uncertain if these effects last into adulthood.”

Because information about early development tends to focus on girls, parents are often perplexed when their sons start puberty early, says Fran Walfish, a child and adolescent psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Their first clue, she says, may come when a tween boy refuses to shower or wear deodorant.

Helping kids navigate these new social and emotional hurdles can be tricky, especially since puberty spans several years. But don’t be afraid to reach out — or to start the conversation early.

Greenspan suggests talking to children about sexual development by the age of 6 or 7. “Starting the conversation when kids are young, and keeping lines of communication open can make the transition less scary,” she says.

At times, parents may also need to advocate for their children. “My client’s parents worked with the soccer coach to create more privacy for her when dressing for team events,” says Taillac. The simple adjustment helped the girl feel safe and more confident.

Of course, not all kids are eager for a parent’s help; some shy away from even talking about their newfound struggles. That’s sometimes a sign they’re confused or overwhelmed, child psychologists say.

“It’s important for parents to realize that puberty triggers identity questions like ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Where do I fit in?’ for boys and girls,” Walfish says.

Taillac says reading books together can help. “Books provide a common language to discuss what’s going on, which can open up conversations between parents and children,” she says.

For elementary school girls, “The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls,” by Valorie Schaefer can be a helpful book. Reading “The Tween Book: A Growing Up Guide for the Changing You,” by Wendy Moss and Donald Moses can be informative for boys and girls, even as they reach the teen years.

Seeing your child mature early can also worry a parent. If you find yourself unsure of how to intervene, psychologists say, remember that distraught kids often want the same thing we all seek when we’re upset — a generous dose of empathy.

Luckily, compassion doesn’t require parents to have all the answers. Puberty calls for the same good parenting skills as any other age: being emotionally available to kids through their developmental milestones, witnessing their growing pains, and providing comfort when life throws them curveballs.

That advice is simple; the effects powerful. Scientific evidence shows this kind of parental support helps foster emotional resilience, and that bolsters kids’ health and relationships for years to come.

Juli Fraga is a psychologist and writer in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @dr_fraga.

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Remote Island Chain Has Few People — But Hundreds Of Millions Of Pieces Of Plastic

Debris blankets the north side of one of the Cocos Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean. Researchers found a huge amount of plastic both on shore and buried in the sand.

Courtesy of Silke Stuckenbrock

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Courtesy of Silke Stuckenbrock

When a marine biologist from Australia traveled to a remote string of islands in the Indian Ocean to see how much plastic waste had washed up on the beaches, here’s just part of what she found: “373,000 toothbrushes and around 975,000 shoes, largely flip-flops,” says Jennifer Lavers of the University of Tasmania in Australia.

And that’s only what was on the surface.

The Cocos Keeling Islands make up barely 6 square miles of land, about 1,300 miles off the northwest coast of Australia. It was a good place to measure plastic waste because almost no one lives there. That meant the plastic debris there wasn’t local — it floated in — and no one was picking it up. It gave Lavers a good notion of just how much was bobbing around the ocean.

She was flabbergasted.

“So, more than 414 million pieces of plastic debris are estimated to be currently sitting on the Cocos Keeling Islands, weighing a remarkable 238 tons,” Lavers says.

There are 27 of these islands, most just a few acres in size. Lavers’ team of researchers studied seven of them by marking off transects on beaches and counting all the plastic inside each transect. They multiplied that number by the total beach area of all the islands. Lavers had done this before on other remote islands. “You get to the point where you’re feeling that not much is going to surprise you anymore,” she says, “and then something does … and that something [on the Cocos Keeling Islands] was actually the amount of debris that was buried.”

Lavers didn’t just count the stuff on the surface, she dug down four inches into the sand. “What was really quite amazing was that the deeper we went,” she says, “the more plastic we were actually finding.” What happens is that the sun breaks down the plastic on the surface, and the waves pummel it into tiny pieces and drive it into the sand.

“It’s the little stuff that’s perfectly bite-sized,” Lavers says. “The stuff that fish and squid and birds and even turtles can eat.”

Brightly colored pieces of microplastic mar one of the 27 islands in the Cocos Keeling chain. Much of the plastic is hidden under the sand. The sun breaks down plastic debris and the tiny pieces get buried in the sand.

Jennifer Lavers

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Jennifer Lavers

In fact, most of the plastic waste was just under the surface. “We estimated that what was hidden below the sediment was somewhere in the range of 380 million pieces of plastic,” Lavers says — but it probably won’t stay there. Eventually, she predicts, high tides or storms will carry it out to sea.

Lavers describes what her team found in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that no place on the planet seems immune from plastic debris. Ecologist Chelsea Rochman at the University of Toronto studies microplastics and says different places simply have different kinds of plastic.

Take the Arctic, for example. “Contaminants are transported via air currents in addition to ocean currents,” Rochman explains. “And there [in the Arctic], we see high concentrations of small microfibers and small particles, and so, absolutely, you expect different things in different places. And what you find tells you something about where it’s coming from.”

Rochman says she’s not exactly surprised at what Lavers found. “It’s just kind of sad to kind of read about it and think, ‘Yep, OK, this is becoming, I guess, normal.’

“And we never wanted something like this to become normal.”

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BTS Transforms Into The Beatles Before Your Eyes, Ed Sullivan Theater And All

BTS, with Stephen Colbert as Ed Sullivan.

Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

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If you’re going to bring the Korean boy band BTS to the spot where The Beatles conquered American TV back in 1964, you might as well milk it for all it’s worth. Welcome to BTSmania, courtesy of Stephen Colbert.

A few weeks removed from a flashy turn on Saturday Night Live, the K-pop juggernaut found itself back on late-night TV, this time at The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which records in New York’s Ed Sullivan Theater. So the show couldn’t resist drawing on the symmetry — “exactly 50 years later, plus 5 years, 3 months and 6 days” — with another massive (and mop-topped) international crossover who took the same stage.


Naturally, BTS performed a black-and-white take on its smash “Boy With Luv,” punctuated by audience screams — and a couple more opportunities for Colbert to trot out his Sullivan impression.


BTS’s new EP is titled Map of the Soul: Persona.

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How Making History Unmade A Family

Julie Goodridge (left) and Hillary Goodridge were the face of the movement to legalize same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. They got married on May 17, 2004, just hours after that state became the first in America to allow same-sex marriage.

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Winslow Townson/AP

Fifteen years ago Friday, Hillary and Julie Goodridge married amid great fanfare and great protests.

In pastel suits, with broad smiles and colorful streamers, they exchanged vows and rings just hours after Massachusetts became the first state in America to allow same-sex marriage.

The Goodridges were the face of the movement. The lawsuit that made gay and lesbian marriages a reality bears their name: Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. Historians often divide the equal-marriage movement into “before Goodridge” and “after Goodridge.”

But less than five years later, they were getting divorced. In winning the right to marry, they lost their own marriage.

Now, Hillary, Julie and their daughter, Annie Goodridge, are speaking more candidly about the entirety of their experience.

“If you look at any interview that we’ve done, we’ve never talked about the trauma,” says Julie Goodridge. “But I think that it’s important to tell the full story.”

The making of a family

Many years into their relationship but long before Hillary and Julie were involved in any court case, they were dreaming about having a child.

Because they were a lesbian couple, marriage was forbidden. But they wanted to do something to mark that they were a family. So, they say, they dug through their family trees and picked a common last name: Goodridge.

Julie remembers thinking, “Oh that sounds positive; let’s pick that!”

Hillary and Julie Goodridge with their daughter, Annie (center). “It was a lot of stress for all of us, all the time,” says Annie, now 23, of her parents’ involvement in the lawsuit that made same-sex marriages legal. “When you have to be on all the time, it’s hard to turn yourself off.”

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Meredith Nierman/WGBH

A few years later, their daughter made a dramatic appearance. She was rushed to the newborn intensive care unit, and Julie, her biological mother, was also in critical condition receiving intensive care. But Hillary was stuck in the hospital’s waiting room. With no legal relationship to either of them, she was unable to visit or help make medical decisions.

“It’s not like that happened and we thought, ‘We have to sue for marriage equality,’ ” remembers Hillary. But later, that was one of the memories that motivated them to find a way to formalize their relationship, she says.

As the story goes, the immediate impetus was a simple question from 3-year-old Annie: “If you love each other, then why aren’t you married?” By the time Annie was 5, they were the named plaintiffs in the lawsuit that would spur a decade of intense national debate.

The trauma of perfection

As the lawsuit gained momentum and the questions of same-sex marriage consumed the country, Hillary and Julie Goodridge say, the pressure mounted and the resistance grew. Now, with 15 years of distance, they say the trauma they experienced during that time took a few different forms.

Initially, Hillary says, they felt the pressure to be perfect.

It was “the stress of feeling like I have the entire community resting on our being likeable,” she says. Every TV outlet wanted shots of Hillary flipping pancakes, Julie ironing, and Annie eating breakfast.

“We had to look like the girls who could be next door,” says Hillary. “Not too threatening.” No leather. No piercings. Just two moms and their curly-haired daughter.

“It was a lot of stress for all of us, all the time,” says Annie, now 23. “When you have to be on all the time, it’s hard to turn yourself off.”

The trauma of being a target

The Goodridge lawsuit became a call to arms for opponents of same-sex marriage, including then-President George W. Bush. In his 2004 State of the Union address, just a few months after the decision came down, he declared to thunderous applause: “Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.”

“I remember watching that and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh. He’s talking about us,’ ” Hillary says. “It really got crazy very quickly.”

Across the country there were efforts to ban same-sex marriage. Forty-one states ultimately limited marriage to heterosexual couples.

In the middle of it all, Hillary got a voicemail from her mother that went something like this: “Hi, darling. Well, I see today you’ve managed to piss off the pope and the president. But when you get done with that, please give your mother a call.”

The pope and the president were pissed off, and soon Annie’s playmates were, too. Elementary school classmates refused to come to her house; she was called homophobic slurs; and opponents sent around a flyer.

“It went into our sex life and how we were harming our daughter,” recalls Julie. “It was a mass mailing.” And Annie remembers, “it was sent to the house of every family that was at my school.”

Julie says walking into Annie’s school, “we felt a little bit like animals being looked at that were in cages in a zoo.”

Losing each other

After spending all day in the public eye, often discussing their relationship, the last thing they wanted to do when they got home was discuss their relationship.

“We kind of went our separate ways in the house,” says Julie.

Annie echoes that sentiment: “When you have to be so public about every tiny detail of your lives, it really exacerbates any minute divide between how you deal with stress and what you need to do at the end of the day.”

Hillary and Julie says seeking couples counseling wasn’t an option. “We couldn’t do that. It felt like too much of a risk. It felt like the word would get out,” remembers Julie.

Less than two years after getting married, Hillary and Julie had separated. A few years later, they were divorced. When news of their split was leaked to the media, it sent shock waves through the gay community.

Julie remembers receiving “an incredibly nasty email about how we were going to be destroying the gay community. It went on for several pages. And I just felt like saying, ‘This is not what I chose. I’m doing the best I can.’ “

“I felt like our family let everyone down,” says Annie, who was 10 when her parents separated.

Two smiling brides

The Supreme Court has now guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. Public opinion has shifted dramatically in support of gay and lesbian marriages. And all the Goodridges have been able to step out of the limelight.

The three of them still spend Christmas together. They exchange Mother’s Day gifts. When their dog was alive — affectionately named “Mary Bonauto” after their lawyer in the case — they all helped care for her.

And, in some fundamental ways, they still consider themselves a family. “Would I ever consider changing my name? The answer is no,” says Julie.

While there aren’t wedding pictures prominently displayed, in Julie’s office there’s a picture from a gay-pride march. Somebody was holding a sign that said ‘Brown Roe and Goodridge,’ ” she says. Their state lawsuit was printed alongside monumental Supreme Court decisions. “And I just kind of love that,” Julie says.

When asked if it was worth it, they are quick to say it was heart-wrenching personally but, they think, good for the country and the world. It was worth it, they decide, but they’re not sure they would do it all again.

Then, they tell a story: A few weeks ago, a waitress at a nearby restaurant showed them pictures of her wedding. Looking at the shots, they saw two smiling brides staring back.

“I remember thinking, ‘She has absolutely no idea who we are.’ And that’s what was kind of great,” says Julie. “She was just showing us because she could and she felt comfortable to bring her pictures to her place of work.”

“Every single time that I scrolled through them, I would cry a little bit because you would see they’re so happy and you feel like you had a part in that,” says Annie.

After all, the Goodridges say, it is nice to have their family name stamped on something that made so many gay couples happy.

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