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The political will to avert a no-deal Brexit is ebbing fast

By Ian Wishart and Tim Ross
The political will to avert a no-deal Brexit is ebbing fast
Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister ( left) departs a Brexit meeting with Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg's prime minister, in Luxembourg, on Sept. 16, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert.

Brexit from afar is looking like a disaster about to happen. One European official, watching the situation up close, compared it to two cars driving at high speed toward each other with each expecting the other to swerve out of the way first.

The brinkmanship surrounding the U.K.'s departure from the European Union has been compared to a game of chicken before now. Trust is in short supply, and there's a sinking feeling that the desire to get a deal done to avert the potential economic catastrophe of a no deal is evaporating.

Conversations with officials on the either side of the negotiating table paint a grim picture of the state of play as an Oct. 31 deadline looms. Across EU capitals, the question asked is if Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a plan up his sleeve and if so -- when can they see it.

Will they have to wait for a crunch summit less than two weeks before the crash-out scenario? At a meeting in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron and Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, agreed the U.K. must present a written proposal for a deal by Sept. 30.

These deadlines are largely meaningless -- more a way of trying to exert pressure on the U.K. that under Johnson seems largely impervious to it. His predecessor, Theresa May, buckled at various points and asked for extensions.

But pushing back departure beyond Oct. 31 is a red line for a more combative leader who has framed success around just getting Brexit done. The political cost of backing down and compromising keeps getting higher -- on all sides -- and that makes it hard to see a way out even as talks are ostensibly ongoing.

And while kicking the ball down the road is how many crises are dealt with in Brussels, more than two years of negotiations that keep going around in circles have taken its toll. Brexit fatigue is a thing not just with voters. Europe also wants to move on.

Officials say reaching a successful conclusion is a long shot, and there is evidence of bad blood. Luxembourg's Xavier Bettel vented at a news conference about his frustration with the "nightmare" Brexit process, a view probably many leaders share behind closed doors. He may have been grandstanding, but he showed how patience is running out.

While officials in Berlin, Paris and Dublin have revised their earlier assumptions that Johnson doesn't want a deal, they don't believe he knows how to get there. Over in London, a senior U.K. official said there isn't much sign the EU is prepared to give Johnson what he needs.

"The risk of no deal is very real," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on Wednesday in comments that sent the pound falling. And while a deal is preferable, he's "not sure we will get there."

The sticking point remains the backstop -- a series of measures the EU says is needed to prevent the return of customs infrastructure on the Irish border. In its existing form it would keep the whole of the U.K. in a customs union with the bloc until a future trade deal solved the border problem.

The EU is willing to adapt that to apply to Northern Ireland only, leaving the rest of the U.K. to diverge from European rules, but the government has said that isn't acceptable either.

Arlene Foster, whose Democratic Unionist Party commands a crucial 10 votes in the House of Commons, said on Wednesday night that she and her colleagues from Northern Ireland are willing to be "flexible," but it would be "madness" to erect barriers between the region and the rest of the U.K.

Despite tough talking in public, Johnson's envoy to the EU and European Commission negotiators have discussed possible solutions, although the U.K. hasn't presented anything on paper. This is a deliberate attempt by the British side to prevent ideas becoming public only then to be immediately rejected, according to U.K. officials.

While the EU is frustrated by this, it does understand the strategy and was always expecting British proposals closer to the EU summit scheduled for Oct. 17-18, one official said.

The German government, for its part, hasn't thrown in the towel. "I'll say again now, just as I said during Boris Johnson's visit, that I continue to see the possibility of an orderly exit," Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

The EU is keeping a close eye on U.K. domestic politics, too, which have shaped so much of the trajectory of negotiations. Parliament's victory in forcing Johnson to seek a Brexit delay -- if he hasn't got a deal after next month's summit -- is part of their calculus on when compromise might happen.

Ireland, which of all the EU economies has the most to lose if the U.K. leaves without a deal, doesn't see a reason to compromise until the legal battle in London plays out. It's still waiting to see if Johnson will indeed defy the law as he's said he's prepared to.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, like Johnson himself, is on an election footing. Caving in to the U.K. would risk being seen as a sign of weakness. It's far from clear which, if either, leader will give way.

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Bloomberg's Thomas Penny, Dara Doyle, Patrick Donahue, Gregory Viscusi, Kati Pohjanpalo, Paul Tugwell and Peter Flanagan contributed.

In planet's fastest-warming region, jobs come with thaw

By Danielle Bochove
In planet's fastest-warming region, jobs come with thaw
Elder James Kalluk sits for a photograph at his home in Baker Lake, Nunavut, on July 29, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Cole Burston.

James Kalluk spent much of his childhood inside an igloo in Canada's far north, close to the Arctic Circle. Building that kind of home requires temperatures low enough to freeze the region's countless lakes, a particular consistency of snow and a long-bladed knife the Inuit call a pana.

"Today, there's not much snow and it's harder to make an igloo," said Kalluk, now in his early 70s. "You may find a spot here or there that's good, but the snow is very difficult now. It's different."

The loss of snow and ice are causing Canada to heat up much faster than the rest of the world-more than twice the global rate of warming, according to a national scientific assessment published in April. The farther north you go, the more accelerated the warming. The Canadian Arctic is one of the fastest-warming places, heating up at about three times the global average. That makes Canada's northernmost Nunavut territory, a region the size of Mexico, a bellwether for the unexpected ways an altered climate transform lives and livelihoods.

In Baker Lake, Nunavut, the town of about 2,000 where Kalluk lives, almost everyone's income is tied directly or indirectly to a nearby gold mine operated by Agnico Eagle Mines. As global warming increases access to the region's rich natural resources, he believes the local economy will change. "In the years to come, there are going to be more houses, more development here," Kalluk said. "More people will be able to work."

Such growth may be welcome in Canada's fast unfreezing north, but there are trade-offs. Kalluk worries about dust from new roads disturbing caribou that are already under siege from warmer temperatures, and about water pollution affecting fish. That environmental tug of war is the central story of Canada's remote north. After living sustainably for thousands of years, the country's aboriginal groups became some of the earliest to be hit by climate change. They are also in a position to benefit most from opportunities that now beckon.

From the mosquito-sheltered comfort of his Ford Explorer, David Kakuktinniq surveys his empire through Prada sunglasses. As president of Sakku Investment Corp., he oversees 17 businesses from the town of Rankin Inlet that together get roughly half of their revenue from Agnico. The Toronto-based mining giant opened two new mines this year at a cost of $1.23 billion: Amaruq, located 175 kilometers (108 miles) north of Baker Lake; and Meliadine, about 24 kilometers from Rankin.

Kakuktinniq, 55, has never been busier. Of the 120,000 metric tons of supplies bound for the mines this year-enough to fill 6,000 shipping containers-half will be unloaded by his crews. One of his joint ventures helps provide the 120 million liters of diesel the mines will use this year.

Founded in 1957 by a now defunct nickel-and-copper mine, Rankin looks like it was built by grabbing whatever came off the barge first. Empty oil drums and shipping containers are scattered among homes and businesses. Dogs lie chained beside broken pallets, old boats and snowmobiles. The most spectacular view of the pristine waters of Hudson Bay, home to whales and arctic char, is beside the town dump. For an entrepreneur like Kakuktinniq, it's possible to stand next to the rusty remnants of the town's past and imagine a bright future in which longer windows of ice-free waters open the town to tourism and business.

The world's Arctic and sub-Arctic land and waters generate $174 billion in annual economic activity, according to a report released by the Canadian Senate in June. Canada controls 25% of this circumpolar geography but accounts for less than 2% of its economy. Rich in natural resources that have long been stranded by climate, the far north may soon benefit from increased coastal access. This will create opportunities-and potentially, headaches.

President Donald Trump's recent offer to buy Greenland from Denmark is indicative of the heightened interest in the Arctic from the world's superpowers.

For Canadian policymakers, this underscores a need to reinforce national claims and invest in infrastructure. The government unveiled a C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) plan in 2017 to invest in the north, but there's been only modest spending so far. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in a close fight for re-election on Oct. 21, recently put forward a new northern policy initiative around sovereignty and investment.

The opportunities, especially around trade, are significant. As melting ice opens up coastal areas, Canadian ports are likely to become gateways linking Asia and Europe through the Northwest Passage, bypassing the Panama and Suez canals. The Russia-controlled Northern Sea Route will be a major rival. Canada's Port of Prince Rupert on the Pacific coast is already positioning itself to take advantage of the new routes, which it claims can shave nine days off a shipment to Rotterdam. Global warming will eventually add four to eight weeks to the unfrozen shipping season in Churchill, Manitoba, a deep-water port on Hudson Bay.

"We're definitely looking at a future with less sea ice in the Canadian Arctic and more shipping activity," said Chris Derksen, a climate scientist with Environment Canada who tracks the speed of warming. On the current trajectory, the Arctic will warm an additional 5 to 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, meaning it likely will be clear of ice in summer. If the Paris Agreement on climate is met-a longshot goal, under current trends-Derksen's research suggests sea ice loss will continue until 2050 or 2060.

The melting ice will mean increased access to offshore oil and gas reserves, further complicating any effort to limit global greenhouse-gas emissions. Tapping inland resources may be trickier. Mining is the largest private sector employer in Canada's Arctic, generating up to a quarter of gross domestic product across the three northern territories and accounting for one in six jobs. Miners do business here across an area bigger than India, despite limited roads, power or telecommunications infrastructure.

Mining engineers will need to contend with climate-triggered "thermokarst," a process in which thawing permafrost makes soil slump, creating new lakes and forcing others to drain. It's not insurmountable, but it will drive up costs. Thawing is expected to add to the feedback loops that are accelerating Arctic warming. As sea ice turns to water, for example, less heat is reflected back into the atmosphere, speeding up the thaw. The thawing permafrost, in turn, releases more carbon that traps more heat in the atmosphere.

Arctic vegetation is shifting in response to that amplified warming. Page Burt, a 73-year-old biologist in Rankin, monitors changes to blooming times and the replacement of the tundra's low heath with taller shrubs that caribou dislike. Even with the higher wages provided by mining, caribou remain the primary food source for Inuit in the region, which means warming could increase food scarcity. The trend has been particularly devastating on Baffin Island, where the main herd has all but disappeared.

Mining is an almost inevitable employer in Rankin. Among Burt's many jobs-her house is part of a hotel she runs-is consulting for miners, including Agnico, on environmental impacts. Her husband, John Hickes, 75, has his own connections to the mines, having served as chief negotiator between the Inuit and Agnico. Hickes, who was born in an igloo, also operates a dog-sled tourism business.

Among the most dangerous climate-related changes he's noticed is unpredictable ice thickness, which makes hunting more dangerous. "Twenty years ago, you could ask an Inuk if a lake was suitable to cross by foot. Right now, that Inuk will tell you, 'I don't know,'" Hickes said.

The all-weather road to Agnico's Amaruq mining camp bisects an expanse of tundra that in late July is a multicolored tapestry of lichen, moss and wildflowers. Speed is capped at 50 kilometers an hour (30 mph) to control dust and keep the gigantic trucks from flattening wildlife. On route to the camp, 22-year-old Kaytlyn Amitnak describes the animals who live here: sand cranes and foxes, wolverine and muskox, eagles, hares and legions of ground squirrels called siksik. Twice a year, as many as 250,000 caribou migrate across the mine's routes from Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet. The herd has closed the roads for more than 50 days so far this year.

Amitnak works as a human resources agent for the mine. Until now, she's managed to split her "two weeks on/two weeks off" rotation between the camp and her parents' home in Baker Lake, which she shares with her two-year-old daughter and other family members. Housing is desperately short and prohibitively expensive throughout the north, prompting Agnico to fly some two-thirds of the mining workers on charter flights from elsewhere in Canada. Amitnak recently decided to join the long-haul commuters, leaving her daughter with family so she can rent a home in Ottawa.

Living far away won't be easy, she said, but it will provide her daughter with otherwise unattainable luxuries. She pulls up a photo of the little girl on her phone, dressed in traditional Inuit clothing and trying to bore a fishing hole in the ice with a chisel-or "tuuq"-so big she can barely hold it. Amitnak recently bought her a trampoline with her mine wages and is looking forward to an upcoming heavy metal concert in Toronto.

"It's almost like living in two worlds," she said.

Flying more workers longer distances drives up Agnico's operating costs. If its deposits weren't so rich and the company weren't large, the cost of dealing with a long list of geographic hurdles would swamp the new gold mines. Fuel is the big one: Diesel is dirty and expensive-and hit by Canada's carbon tax.

Agnico says it would like to cut emissions, but there's no viable alternative. Earlier this year, the company submitted a proposal to supplement diesel with renewable power purchased from the Inuit, but the federal government declined to subsidize the construction of a wind farm. The miner has also spent C$200 million to build 200 kilometers of gravel road from Baker Lake and Rankin Inlet to its two new camps, making it the largest owner and operator of roads in Nunavut.

Agnico Chief Executive Officer Sean Boyd hopes the drive to assert Canada's Arctic sovereignty will prompt the government to ramp up investment. Warmer temperatures could help his company in other ways. If Hudson Bay remains ice-free for longer, Agnico might be able to ship in cheaper, cleaner liquefied natural gas. Climate change could relieve some expensive problems associated with extreme cold: When temperatures plunge into the -30s or -40s Celsius, shovel teeth break, idled engines blow and saltwater brine needs to be pumped into drill holes to stop them from freezing.

"A big part of our job is water management," said Tom Thomson, 41, environmental coordinator for Agnico's operations outside Baker Lake. The miner is already using "adaptive management" techniques in anticipation of impacts from global warming-securing pillars directly into bedrock, for instance, or rethinking the ways it stores and monitors mine waste to account for thawing.

Back in Rankin Inlet, David Kakuktinniq threads his car through stacks of shipping containers fresh off the barge. Pulling into an area filled with heavy equipment, he stops in front of a line of shiny yellow tractors. Until three years ago, Kakuktinniq's crews used these to haul sleds of fuel, but he parked them when the ice became too unpredictable. "It's just too risky," he said.

It's not the only change he's noticed as the region thaws. Houses in town that were built with steel piles socketed into permafrost are starting to tilt as the ground shifts beneath them.

"It's changed, but it's OK," said Kakuktinniq, revealing what might just become the entrepreneur's 18th venture. "We'll create a business that fixes houses on piles."

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Bloomberg's Eric Roston, Ashley Robinson and Natalie Obiko Pearson contributed.

How Michael Vick's dogfighting case changed animal welfare

By Emily Giambalvo
How Michael Vick's dogfighting case changed animal welfare
Adopter Richard Hunter said Mel still showed signs of emotional damage 12 years after his rescue from a dogfighting ring. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount

KANAB, Utah - Not long before lunchtime, Mya's wagging tail splashes as she waits for the tank to drain. The bowlegged black pit bull just finished a three-minute hydrotherapy session, guided by treats offered from a staffer reaching down into the apparatus. But while Mya walks slowly on the submerged treadmill, she notices Laura Rethoret's car through the window. Once the tank empties, Mya scurries down the ramp as fast as she can with her weakened legs, which have splayed more as she's aged.

"Good morning, beautiful!" says Rethoret, who embraces Mya with a towel. "I'm right here!"

Rethoret loads Mya and her runmate, Curly, into her car and drives to the quiet office where the dogs hang out a few times a week. These dogs are reminders that even now, 12 years later, survivors of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick's dogfighting operation live on in pockets throughout the country, including here at Best Friends Animal Society's 3,700-acre sanctuary.

Vick pleaded guilty in 2007 to running an illegal dogfighting ring in southeastern Virginia, a scandal that cast a spotlight on the problem of dogfighting rings around the nation. But for 47 dogs pulled from Bad Newz Kennels, there was another, less publicized development that helped change how dogs taken in large-scale dogfighting busts are treated. Rather than being euthanized, the Vick dogs were given a chance to live.

The dogs became ambassadors, tail-wagging proof of what's possible through rescue and rehabilitation. In doing so, they changed how the public - and some prominent rescue organizations - view dogs freed from fighting rings. Dogfighting remains prevalent, but now, in large part thanks to these dogs, others seized in fight busts are evaluated to see if they can become pets.

The Washington Post tracked down all 47 dogs and compiled a comprehensive look into their post-adoption lives and the families they joined. They landed in homes from California to Rhode Island, embraced by people with jobs ranging from preschool teacher to attorney. Some adopters love sports. Others had never heard of Vick, once the highest-paid player in the NFL who at the time of the bust starred for the Atlanta Falcons. Some of the dogs struggled to heal emotionally and remained fearful through their lives. But they all found homes far more loving than the horror-film kennel that made headlines around the globe.

"While Michael Vick [was] a deplorable person in a lot of ways, the fact that he was the one that got caught was a really a big boom for this whole topic and for these animals," Best Friends co-founder Francis Battista said. "It just catapulted it into the public eye."

In late August, just a few weeks after her therapy session, Mya spent her final moments lying on blankets and surrounded by Best Friends staffers, including Rethoret, whose face turned red as Mya slipped away. She's one of five of the Vick dogs who have died in recent months, leaving just 11 survivors. They are poignant reminders of their tragic beginnings but also of the grace, patience and unexpected opportunities that followed.

When Vick's dogfighting operation was broken up, animal rescues from around the country understood the gravity of the case but also the opportunities it presented because of the NFL star's fame. Eight organizations received custody of the animals. Some groups placed a single dog into a foster home. Best Friends agreed to give the 22 most challenging cases a place to recover and, for some, a permanent home.

The organizations worked to redefine what made a dog adoptable. The dogs were seen as victims, not irreparably damaged. They weren't just pit bulls or fight dogs. They became Mya and Curly, Frodo and Zippy.

"Michael Vick brought dogfighting into the living room of every American," said Heather Gutshall, who adopted Handsome Dan and later founded a rescue organization that aims to help survivors of dogfighting. "Am I glad it happened? No. Am I glad, that if it was going to happen, that it happened the way it did? Absolutely. They changed the landscape."

- - -

In southern Utah, the city of Kanab makes the NFL feel like a distant enterprise. The feature of the town, which has fewer than 5,000 residents and two stoplights, is that it once served as the backdrop for Western films.

As the highway curves from the tiny town center and through a scenic southwestern landscape of vast skies and towering orange cliffs, one right turn leads into Best Friends, a haven for second chances that is home to 1,600 animals, including dogs, cats, horses and birds. Dogs cruise by with caregivers on golf carts. The chorus of barking chaos quiets as you venture deeper through the sandy trails. It's busy and boisterous yet vast and peaceful.

John Garcia, who at the time of the Vick case co-managed the Dogtown at Best Friends, grew up in a neighboring town without a TV. He doesn't watch sports. Garcia only learned of Vick through his case, but he remembers the message from the rescue's senior leadership: "Hey, if we get involved in this, it's a big deal," he said. "We may be able to change the world."

The pressure to help the dogs - and to prove they could indeed be helped - was palpable. Because Vick's fame turned the dogfighting bust into a national story, not just a conversation in the animal welfare community, many watched with curiosity or skepticism, wondering whether a dog from a traumatic past could ever live normally in society.

BADRAP, an Oakland-based organization, emerged as an early voice advocating for the dogs. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States thought they should be killed, in keeping with their long-standing belief that the emotional trauma such dogs had suffered would be too much to overcome. Of the 51 dogs listed in court documents, just one needed to be euthanized for behavioral reasons. One, named Rose, was euthanized for medical reasons, and two died in care.

BADRAP had worked with individual dogs seized from fighting situations many times, which gave the organization confidence. Donna Reynolds, the director of BADRAP, said once staff members met the dogs for evaluations in Virginia, there was a sense of relief - "wiping brow with back of hand," she called it. They knew they'd be able to work with them.

Pit bulls continue to face breed discrimination, with blanket bans in parts of the country. As of this year, however, 22 states have provisions against this type of legislation, and Best Friends has spearheaded initiatives to increase that number. Rehabilitating the Vick dogs has helped further the argument that the owner, not the breed, dictates a dog's behavior. And this marquee moment in animal welfare preached values that extend beyond just pit bulls and into the overarching no-kill movement.

"This is what really excites me because it goes to that pushing the boundaries and the demonstration of what is adoptable," Best Friends CEO Julie Castle said. "That flag has always been something that we've held."

Most involved with the Vick case, from the adopters to rescue staffers, express indifference toward the former quarterback himself. Visitors often ask Michelle Weaver, who once co-managed Dogtown and now oversees all animal care at Best Friends, what she thinks about the quarterback who abused dogs such as the ones that have lounged in her office for years. Her answer: She doesn't think about Vick. Her energy usually goes toward the dogs. Is Curly feeling OK? He's been slowing down lately. How's Cherry, whose photo hangs near Weaver's desk, doing in his Connecticut home?

"There's not the anger. I think in the early days there was," said Stacy Dubuc, a Green Bay Packers fan who adopted Ginger from the SPCA for Monterey County in northern California. "Honestly at this point, I hate to say it, but somehow [Vick] is involved in my life. And I have the best dog possible because of it. He was the face of dogfighting. It took a celebrity to become that. And I don't talk about him."

Vick, who paid nearly $1 million restitution for care of the dogs, says he regrets it all and didn't have the strength to stop what he realized was wrong about a year before he was caught. Vick, 39, retired in 2017 and is an NFL analyst with Fox Sports. He has advocated for stronger animal cruelty laws and works to educate children.

"I think people have moved on," Vick said in a telephone interview. "I think they've moved past it. It's been 12-plus years since it all happened, so I don't get any questions about it anymore. People don't talk about it. They don't ask me about it. Life is kind of normal. But I still have a responsibility, and that will never change."

- - -

Mel's life was not normal.

Mel trembled whenever strangers entered Richard Hunter's suburban Las Vegas home, the emotional scars from his time at Bad Newz Kennels still evident 12 years on. But Hunter always emphasized the progress Mel had made, though he let the dog's continued struggles serve as a reminder of what Vick did.

Every night, Hunter walked Mel and his two other dogs. It would take Mel a minute to get going. He'd pause in the short driveway, look in each direction, take slow steps, assess the situation and only then decide he was ready to walk. The stories of all these dogs, Hunter said, shouldn't be reduced to a Disney-style tale.

"Everybody is great in a lot of ways now," Hunter said in July, shortly before Mel's death following a brief and unexpected illness. "But you better believe the ghosts of what Vick did to him and did to those other dogs stays with them to this day and always will."

When Mel and the other 21 Best Friends dogs arrived at the Utah sanctuary, they surprised the staff with their shyness. While some of Dogtown's newest residents, dubbed the Vicktory dogs, were overconfident and aggressive, many seemed under-socialized and afraid. For at least six months, the dogs had 24-hour care. Garcia slept on the concrete floor of the building that housed the dogs for a month straight.

Progress was gradual. The issues varied. Georgia, a former dogfighting champion, reacted to other dogs a football field away. Others loved canine companions, and socializing with dogs helped them get closer to people. Many had never walked on a leash. They hadn't lived in a home environment. They needed to learn how to play.

"It was clear," Weaver said, "that their world was pretty small before."

Once in homes, the dogs still had their own quirks, which in many ways exemplify the legacy these dogs will leave - that all animals, even from a fighting background, should be treated as individuals. Layla, who died in June, needed her collar removed when she ate. The clanging of her tag hitting the stainless steel food bowl frightened her. Shadow, one of the 11 still alive, remains terrified of ladders, making his family wonder if he saw dogs being hanged. His adopters don't think Shadow fought, but the fights took place on the second level of a shed, accessible by a ladder.

Public Facebook pages have chronicled the dogs' post-adoption adventures for thousands of followers. (Handsome Dan's page has 546,000 likes.) Adopters shared successes and the dogs' lives in a world that slowly became more comfortable.

"I almost forget where he came from because he's such a typical dog now," said Melissa Fiaccone, who adopted Cherry. The dog's confidence has surged through the years. Cherry spent a week this summer in a cabin with more than a dozen people, including many children. The family posted a photo of Cherry on a dock with his eyes squinting and his massive tongue flopping happily. He frequently attends public events and loves greeting everyone. Fiaccone's husband, Paul, says Cherry "took on the rock star persona."

- - -

About a year after the Vick dogs were dispersed around the country, a North Carolina man pleaded guilty to dogfighting. All 127 dogs seized, and the puppies born during the legal proceedings, were euthanized. Leaders from across animal welfare met to confront the issue, and it prompted the Humane Society to adjust its stance on dogs seized from fight busts. The experience with the Vick dogs, Battista said, was pivotal in that policy change.

PETA's stance "remains firmly the same as it was in 2007," Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch said in a statement, adding that dogs from these situations can be "unpredictable" and a danger to other animals and humans.

Dogfighting continues to be a problem in the United States, but Janette Reever, a senior specialist for Humane Society International's global anti-dogfighting program, said she believes it's declining. Dogfighting is an underground enterprise, however, so there's not comprehensive data to prove that.

Since 2008, dogfighting has been a felony in all 50 states, and Reever said law enforcement has realized animal cruelty is often joined by other illegal activities, providing an additional incentive for police to look into reports of fighting rings.

Uba, a Vick dog who lives with Letti de Little in northern Virginia, has a housemate named Jamie, a dog from a 2013 multistate fight bust in which 367 dogs were seized. The Missouri 500, a 2009 seizure of more than 400 dogs, is still the largest fight bust in U.S. history, and "thank God it happened after the Vick case," said Ledy VanKavage, a senior legislative attorney for Best Friends whose dog, Karma, was among those rescued.

"She would be dead but for the Vick dogs," VanKavage said. "I have no doubt. They were game-changers."

Across from a small church in rural Virginia, Vick's property has been purchased by Dogs Deserve Better, an organization that focuses on rescuing chained and penned dogs. On a summer day, dogs run in the fenced yard and the mood feels cheerful.

Then there are the four sheds, where Vick kept and fought his dogs. All are painted black, even the windows, to make them less visible at night. The group decided to preserve these relics of the dogfighting operation for educational purposes. The kennels inside one of the buildings still show claw marks on the walls. But there's hope and remembrance, too, through memorial candles and trees dedicated to each dog planted in a grassy field out back.

"They've gone through so much, and they've changed so much," Garcia said. "They'll never be forgotten."

Garcia now works as the safety and security manager at Best Friends. Sometimes during night shifts, he wanders up to the sanctuary's cemeteries, where hundreds of wind chimes ring at different pitches in the breeze and intensify into a song when a strong wind arrives. It's peaceful and quiet.

A number of the Vicktory dogs rest there, with small memorial stones towering into mountains on top of their graves. One has a toy golf cart, representing how the dog loved riding around with caregivers, along with an old tennis ball. A couple of the adopters brought their dogs' ashes back to Best Friends, the place that gave them a chance. That's what felt right, and it helps preserve their legacy, as the dogs fade further from the public eye.

But far from this canyon and across the country, other dogs live because of these 47. So as time eventually defeats them all, the message on a slab of stone in the cemetery carries hope and truth.

"Do not stand by my grave and cry," the poem reminds those who enter through the ornate gates. "I am not there. I did not die."

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

Striking workers remind us that they saved GM

By e.j. dionne jr.
Striking workers remind us that they saved GM

E.J. DIONNE COLUMN

(Advance for Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Dionne clients only)

WRITETHRU: 8th graf, last sentence: "about 7% of the staff" sted "about 7 of the staff"

By E.J. DIONNE JR.

During the debate over whether the federal government should save the American auto industry in late 2008, a driver rammed into my old Saturn in a late-night accident while it was parked in front of my house. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but I needed a new car.

I strongly supported the rescue effort, so I felt an obligation to look to a Detroit-based car company organized by the United Auto Workers union for a replacement. I got a Chevy Malibu -- my kids called it "Dad's Boo" -- and remain happy that I did.

In organizing what critics called the "bailout" of GM and Chrysler, President Obama was defying popular sentiment. Yet what was in many ways the most radical step he took to revive an American economy in free fall turned out to be one of his most politically beneficial initiatives.

The effort was far closer to what could be called "socialism" than anything in Obama's health care plan, although he was, in fact, trying to keep the auto companies under private ownership. But socialism or not, the rescue was key to his success in 2012 in carrying Michigan and Ohio, states that would elude Hillary Clinton in 2016.

And it worked -- witness GM's $35 billion in North American profits over the last three years. The taxpayers got most of their money back and, by certain measures, even turned a modest profit off the government's investment. Either way, a catastrophe was averted. It wasn't just two big companies that were saved. So were suppliers whose collapse would have devastated the Midwest.

My support for the bailout was rooted in practical economic concerns: Our economy was teetering and could not afford the damage an auto-sector implosion would inflict. But my passion for it came from a concern for the lives of the workers involved and a lifelong respect for the UAW.

Unions get knocked for being unconcerned about the health of the companies they organize. The UAW showed how untrue this is. It made sweeping concessions to management to persuade federal officials to undertake the investment of public money -- and to keep the companies alive.

Among other gripes is the tiered wage system that Neal Boudette described well in The New York Times: "Workers hired before 2007 make about $31 an hour, and can retire with a lifelong pension. Those hired after them (now more than a third of the work force) start at about $17 an hour and can work their way up to about $29 an hour over eight years. They also have to rely on 401(k) retirement accounts instead of pensions. In addition, GM uses temporary workers (about 7% of the staff) who earn about $15 an hour, and do not have vision or dental benefits."

The rank-and-file don't like the idea of people doing the same labor at radically different pay levels. And then there are the plant closures that have slashed 14,000 North American jobs, as well as the announcement that the Chevy Blazer would be built in Mexico.

Symbolically and substantively, the closure earlier this year of the legendary GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that had produced Chevy Cruzes was an especially heavy blow -- and it flew in the face of President Trump's promise in a 2017 speech in nearby Youngstown that factory jobs are "all coming back. They're all coming back." So confident was Trump that he told his supporters not to sell their homes.

The bottom line is that the strikers are fighting not only for greater fairness and a larger share of the company's success, but also for work itself. Too late to avert the strike, GM finally put an offer on the table to begin addressing some of these issues. But the rank-and-file are restive for more, and for good reason. Those of us who supported keeping GM alive a decade ago -- and put our wallets where our mouths, pens and votes were -- didn't do so to make it easier for management to outsource jobs or hold down pay and benefits forever. Every Democratic candidate for president should be joining the UAW's picket lines to drive that point home.

The cliché is singularly appropriate in this case: The struggle for employment, pay and benefits in the auto industry is where the rubber meets the road in our too often very abstract discussion of the challenges facing American wage earners in an economy undergoing rapid transformation. The battle at GM is a fight that unions and workers cannot afford to lose.

E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Face it, there will never be any certainty about the Kavanaugh allegations

By megan mcardle
Face it, there will never be any certainty about the Kavanaugh allegations

MEGAN MCARDLE COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE)

(For McArdle clients only)

By MEGAN MCARDLE

WASHINGTON -- My earliest memory is of the time I put a key into an electrical socket. Fine, cue the jokes, I electrocuted myself. And such a vivid memory that makes.

I can remember the keys, which were the color of an old penny, and how I slipped them off the bright yellow Formica of our kitchen island. I remember, too, the black Bakelite of the electrical socket. I remember noticing how neatly the one would fit in the other. And then I remember lying in our foyer while my mother, apparently on the phone with my pediatrician, shouted from the kitchen to my father: "The doctor says give her a glass of water!"

None of which happened the way I remember it.

I really did electrocute myself, but at 18 months, I was far too young to form durable memories. And how could I recall looking (BEG ITAL)down(END ITAL) at the top of our island when I was a toddler? It's what psychologists call "confabulation," the inadvertent construction of false memories. In my case, I probably heard the story more than once and, over time, created a memory to match, built from fragments of real memories -- for example, how that island looked when I was 11.

Inadvertent confabulation is surprisingly easy, and common. At age 44, Elizabeth Loftus, one of the leading researchers on the fallibility of memory, "remembered" that as a teenager she had found her mother's body in the family pool. As with my false memory, the event was real; her mother had drowned when Loftus was 14. But Loftus didn't discover the body. An uncle had mistakenly planted the idea.

Nonetheless, Loftus almost immediately conjured up vivid details -- her mother's nightgown, a fireman giving Loftus oxygen to calm her down -- that only went away after she spoke with relatives who said it was her aunt who found the body, and her uncle admitted he was wrong.

Loftus' work, and her own experience, confront us with a difficult realization: False memories feel as real as true ones, even the really important ones. Neither joy nor trauma chisel indelible recollections into the bedrock of our consciousness. They're still just chalked on the pavement, prone to erasure or alteration by the rains of time. Which is why the Innocence Project keeps winning the freedom of prisoners who were misidentified by eyewitnesses, often traumatized victims who believed absolutely in their misidentification.

As you've probably guessed, this isn't a random jaunt down memory lane. A year after the Senate fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly have published "The Education of Brett Kavanaugh." The book aspires to provide better corroboration of the allegations against Kavanaugh than was available last year: Christine Blasey Ford's claim that he tried to rape her when they were both teenagers and Deborah Ramirez's accusation that he exposed himself to her when they were students at Yale.

Yet as the renewed fighting over Kavanaugh this week suggests, we will never know which of these stories is true, or how much of them is true, because by now everyone's memories are just too impaired -- maybe by alcohol, maybe by trauma, certainly by time.

It's not enough to find the accusers (or the defenders) sincere. Loftus honestly believed she found her mother's body. No one has produced clear, first-hand, contemporaneous -- ideally written down -- corroboration of the allegations against Kavanaugh. Instead, we have second-hand reconstructions of stories heard years ago.

Worse still, many of the people involved seem to have conferred with each other before the allegations went public, particularly in the Yale case; according to the New Yorker article that broke the story, Ramirez herself was initially unsure that Kavanaugh was the man who had exposed himself to her and took six days to conclude that he was.

Trying to firm up fuzzy memories about decades-old events is an invitation to confabulation. The media circus surrounding the Kavanaugh confirmation further muddled things; any witness who comes forward today must be presumed to have gathered significant details from the earlier coverage.

All of which means that we will never have any more certainty about the Kavanaugh story than we have right now -- which is to say, none at all. We can either find a way to live with that fact, and each other, or partisans on both sides can keep tearing the country apart by insisting that they know the one clear truth about an irretrievably murky past.

Follow Megan McArdle on Twitter, @asymmetricinfo.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Boomers crush millennials. Read all about it!

By robert j. samuelson
Boomers crush millennials. Read all about it!

ROBERT J. SAMUELSON COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE)

(For Samuelson clients only)

By ROBERT J. SAMUELSON

WASHINGTON -- As a case study in the workings of modern democracy, the handling of Social Security by successive presidents and Congress over recent decades is a deeply disturbing exercise. The facts are not in dispute. Congress and the White House have agreed to benefits for retirees and the disabled that are woefully underfunded. Rather than bring the programs into balance -- with some combination of benefit cuts and tax increases -- the bipartisan consensus is either to do nothing or to raise benefits.

The amounts are hardly trivial. According to the latest projections by Social Security's actuaries, the uncovered gap between the program's costs and revenues comes to $13.9 trillion over the next 75 years, or 2.78% of covered wages. The share of covered payroll may not sound daunting, but it would come atop the existing payroll tax of 12.4%. If the gap were entirely filled by taxes, the total tax would be roughly 15% of payroll. (This omits the Medicare payroll tax of 2.9%.)

Something must give, because under present law, the Social Security trust funds can pay benefits only from their dedicated taxes and the trust funds' accumulated interest. By the actuaries' estimates, the trust funds would be exhausted by 2035. To bring the trust funds back to balance would require some combination of the 20% tax increase or a benefit cut -- unless the law is changed to allow for other revenues to be spent on Social Security.

All this is explained in great detail in a new study by Sylvester Schieber, a respected economist who was a member of the Social Security Advisory Board from 1998 to 2009 and its chairman from 2006 to 2009. The study is printed in The Journal of Retirement. He writes:

"While Social Security's long-term financing imbalance has been well-known for more than a quarter-century, policymakers have generally managed to dodge the issue. ... What we have been doing is running up a bill that our children, their children and, in turn, their children are going to have to pay."

Regular readers of this column will know that I have echoed similar themes for decades. To my critics, I'm repetitious, boring and coldblooded. To them, I've exaggerated how well-off most of the elderly are and, if my proposals were adopted, there would be more misery. My rejoinder has been that, while many older people have financial and medical problems, millions more live comfortably and are not on the edge of poverty. There needs to be a better balancing of burden and benefits.

Schieber also sheds light on the elderly's well-being. He cites a recent study by economists Adam Bee and Joshua Mitchell that finds that the incomes of the 65-and-over population have been significantly understated. The reason: Surveys on income often rely on respondents' memories. People forget some of their income. Specifically, they tend to forget income from pensions and defined-contribution retirement plans.

When these amounts are counted, the elderly's incomes rise noticeably. In 2012, the average household income for those elderly at the midpoint of the income distribution rose from $25,075 to $32,505. Among the elderly at the 90th percentile of income, incomes went from $76,667 to $92,249. Among the richest 10%, incomes jumped from $172,800 to $230,579. Meanwhile, Social Security's share of the elderly's income fell from 58% to 49%.

Unlike many social problems, we had time to prepare for the aging of America. Much was predictable. We knew, generally, how many elderly there would be and what their Social Security payments would total. We knew that life expectancies and health status were improving. We had time to prepare for an older society by gradually raising eligibility ages, increasing some taxes and decreasing some benefits.

No matter. As Schieber argues, we tragically missed this opportunity. Baby boomers welcomed the status quo. Millennials did little to challenge it. The disappointment with democracy is clear. It's present-oriented. It has a hard time accepting pain today for gain tomorrow. It prefers what is popular and expedient to what is necessary and (at least in the present) difficult.

This is, of course, a dilemma that confronts all modern democracies -- made more difficult by the reality that not all plans for the future are automatically beneficial. But in the case of Social Security, the logic of adjusting today for a largely predictable future seemed overwhelming.

It's not only unfair to millennials and their children, who will pay higher taxes or receive fewer benefits. The combined weight of spending on Social Security and Medicare (government health insurance) is also inexorably crowding out spending on other important goals.

Still, the irony is that democracy worked in the sense that practical politicians did what they judged public opinion wanted them to do. You can criticize what they did or didn't do. But you can't say they were undemocratic.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

Corey Lewandowski debuts his Senate campaign theme: Unbridled nastiness

By dana milbank
Corey Lewandowski debuts his Senate campaign theme: Unbridled nastiness

DANA MILBANK COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE)

(For Milbank clients only)

By DANA MILBANK

WASHINGTON -- Corey Lewandowski has been alternately vulgar, pugilistic and deceitful. Now he wants to run for Senate.

He'll fit right in.

The one-time Trump 2016 campaign manager volunteered to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, not to talk about presidential obstruction of justice -- he happily obeyed White House orders not to discuss such matters -- but to launch his bid for the Senate seat now held by the mild-mannered Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H..

Lewandowski, now a TV commentator and consultant who trades on his influence with President Trump, used the hashtag "Senate2020" in a prehearing tweet promoting his appearance. He requested a five-minute recess in the hearing and used it to tweet: "New website just launched to help a potential Senate run. Sign up now!"

If his testimony is any indication, he has already settled on a campaign theme: unbridled nastiness.

He rolled his eyes. He shook his head. He questioned Democrats' patriotism. He mocked former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's work: "Nobody's actually read the report." He made a crack about Hillary Clinton's emails and attacked "bad" and "shameful" federal agents, as well as "Trump haters" trying to "take down a duly elected president." He said "this fake Russia collusion narrative is the greatest crime committed against the American people in our generation, if not ever." When asked to read sections of the Mueller report by lawmakers, he refused. Instead, he doled out barbs:

"Don't ask me a question if you don't want to hear my answer."

"Could you repeat the question? I didn't hear it. It was just a rant."

"Unlike you sir, I don't live in town."

"I'm not ashamed of anything in my life, congressman, are you?"

He admitted he lied on TV about his and Trump's actions in the Russia probe: "I have no obligation to be honest with the media."

His combative performance brought the House Judiciary Committee, never a harmonious assembly, to a new level of acrimony. Rep. Douglas A. Collins, R-Ga., repeatedly disrupted proceedings with howls for roll-call votes to cease questioning and to adjourn, dilatory interjections ("That was 19 seconds over!"), parliamentary contretemps and an accusation that Democrats violated ethics rules. Democrats, riled, called Lewandowski a "chicken," a "Forrest Gump" of corruption, a "hit man," "bag man" and "lookout."

"I think I'm the good-looking man," Lewandowski rejoined.

Back and forth lawmakers and witness went: Coverup. Socialists. Obstruction. Lie. Contempt. Fake news. Impeachment. Joe Biden's record player. Trump's Sharpie.

It was a depressing scene, and quite a way to honor Constitution Day. Five hours of nastiness made clear that the revolting politics of this moment, though aggravated by Trump, are larger than him -- and will outlast him if people such as Lewandowski gain election.

Lewandowski was charged with battery for grabbing a reporter during the 2016 campaign and lied about it until a video emerged to support the accusation; authorities called the evidence "legally sufficient" but dropped the charge. Singer Joy Villa, a Trump supporter, filed a sexual assault complaint against Lewandowski in 2017. (Lewandowski maintains his innocence.) He was charged with a misdemeanor in 1999 for bringing a gun into a congressional office building. Last year, he settled a dispute with neighbors accusing him of threatening them with a baseball bat.

Mueller's report recounts Trump dictating to Lewandowski a speech he wanted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to give directing the special counsel to stop investigating Trump. But Lewandowski, who claimed he didn't relay the instructions to Sessions because he took a "vacation," refused to say anything more about the incident, instead reading and rereading to lawmakers a letter from White House lawyers (some seated behind him) directing him not to talk.

Mostly, Lewandowski, with buzz cut and extra-large flag lapel pin, campaigned for the Senate. He discussed his childhood, his time as a cop and his work shaping "the greatest political movement in our nation's history." He would later boast about his gun collection -- kept in the same safe with Trump's proposed speech ending the investigation -- and his support for the New England Patriots: "Tom's a winner!"

From Air Force One, Trump, who had already touted Lewandowski for the Senate, tweeted his approval: "Such a beautiful Opening Statement by Corey Lewandowski!"

Lewandowski spoke about what he might do when serving "in the other chamber." He told the lawmakers that "many people in New Hampshire" have "confidence in me."

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., interrupted Lewandowski's taxpayer-funded campaign event.

"You're not on the campaign trail yet," he said. "This is the House Judiciary Committee. Act like you know the difference."

Thanks to the likes of Trump and Lewandowski, there no longer is a difference.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

The heresy of hearsay

By kathleen parker
The heresy of hearsay

KATHLEEN PARKER COLUMN

(Advance for Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Parker clients only)

WRITETHRU: 7th graf, deleting last sentence: "Given that Stier, too, was obviously at the "drunken" party, wouldn't it be fair to question his own condition at the time? "

By KATHLEEN PARKER

WASHINGTON -- The recent fiasco at The New York Times, which last weekend published the latest uncorroborated sexual-assault accusation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, was a monument to hearsay and a travesty of journalistic ethics.

The story, since modified to include crucial information, was an adapted excerpt from a book -- "The Education of Brett Kavanaugh," written by two Times' staff writers, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly. In it, the authors reported allegations by a Yale classmate that Kavanaugh was at a "drunken dorm party" where "friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student."

Setting aside the logistics of such a feat, more eye-popping was the omission from the original Times' piece that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed for the book -- and, according to friends, (BEG ITAL)doesn't remember any such incident(END ITAL).

Such an oversight is inexcusable.

The Times added these details to the story after they were flagged by The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway, who had an advance copy of the book. The Times' writers, who said that the details had been in the excerpt's initial draft, made media rounds Monday and Tuesday to explain the omission and essentially blamed editors, who, they said, "in the haste" of trying to close out production, had deleted the reference.

The facts that the alleged victim refused to be interviewed by the authors and apparently told friends that she doesn't recall any such incident amount to the very definition of a non-story. For the record, The Washington Post learned of the accusation last year but declined to publish it because the alleged witnesses weren't identified and the woman said to be involved refused to comment.

Indeed, the authors' only sources for the claim were two unnamed officials who spoke to Washington attorney Max Stier, who last year apparently told the FBI and various senators that he witnessed the alleged incident. But Stier refused to talk to the Times' writers himself.

Some Democratic contenders for the presidency immediately called for Kavanaugh's impeachment. They include Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

But let's rewind the reel a bit. With apologies to my grandmothers, the reason The Times' writers likely included the penis-in-hand accusation at all is because it added context to the accusations by both Deborah Ramirez, who alleged last year that she experienced sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh at another boozy Yale party, and Christine Blasey Ford.

Ramirez, for her part, initially wasn't quite sure of events. She has admitted to time lapses and also to having been drunk, but told The New Yorker and the Times writers that she remembers brushing away a penis thrust in her face, allegedly by Kavanaugh.

If these stories are true, then Kavanaugh could have been a creepy, perhaps monstrous, drunk in his youth. But all we have to go by is alleged victims who also were drinking at the time and comments from former classmates, who may also have been inebriated, some of whom corroborate the Ramirez accusation and others who dispute it. The Times' writers reported finding seven people who they say corroborated Ramirez's story, but much of what they documented were second- and third-hand reports, things overheard and, yes, Ramirez's mother, to whom she apparently said "Something happened at Yale."

Not exactly a wrap for justice.

The truth is, Kavanaugh has been the target of a media siege since his name was announced for consideration for the high court. Ramirez's story was first reported by The New Yorker just days before Ford's congressional testimony, which, frankly, was flimsy at best. None of the other four people Ford named as attending the high school party where she claimed Kavanaugh groped her recalled any such gathering. One of them, a close friend and the only other female, Leland Keyser, not only doesn't remember the party -- but says she's never even met Kavanaugh.

What's all too clear is that America's privileged youth had a serious drinking problem in the early 1980s; and boozy memories from high school and young adulthood are unreliable. Far more troubling is that several presidential candidates seemingly would impeach a Supreme Court justice on nothing more than hearsay -- and impeachable journalism.

Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Protestors blow whistle on Biden over immigration

By ruben navarrette jr.
Protestors blow whistle on Biden over immigration

RUBEN NAVARRETTE COLUMN

(Advance for Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Navarrette clients only)

By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.

SAN DIEGO -- Immigration baffles both political parties. Republicans have made such a mess out of their handling of the issue that we often forget that the topic is just as messy for Democrats to deal with.

The GOP struggles to please two opposing wings of the party that want different things: Chamber of Commerce Republicans who want the country to admit more immigrants so businesses can fill jobs, and Make America White Again Republicans who want fewer immigrants so we can time-travel back to the days of "Leave it to Beaver."

Likewise, Democrats struggle to please two opposing wings of their party who have different interests: Latinos who don't have a problem with admitting more immigrants, especially from Latin America; and organized labor, which has a big problem with having to work harder as it competes for jobs with immigrants -- both legal and illegal.

In trying to strike that balance, Democrats sometimes do the wrong thing -- or nothing. Neither path is acceptable.

That was the message that protesters tried to send Joe Biden at last week's Democratic debate in Houston as he was answering a question about overcoming setbacks.

Biden had a humdinger of an answer. He was preparing to tell the country how he survived the death of his son, Beau, and years earlier, the death of his daughter and first wife.

The poignant personal story made the timing of the heckling unfortunate -- but no less important. According to Time.com, and the accounts of people in the audience, the protesters were immigrant activists and recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

They chanted: "We are DACA recipients. Our lives are at risk." One man wore a shirt that read: "Defend DACA, Abolish ICE, citizenship for all." On the back were the words: "No human being is illegal on stolen land." The disrupters were quickly escorted from the room by security.

I don't think it was a coincidence that, out of the 10 people on stage, the protesters chose to heckle Biden. The former vice president is the candidate most closely identified with Barack Obama, a point that Biden drives home every chance he gets. And, as debate moderator Jorge Ramos brought up earlier in the evening, and some of Biden's opponents have brought up at other debates, Obama had a spotty record on immigration.

On the one hand, Obama delivered DACA, which gave two-year work permits and temporary dispensation to prevent more than 600,000 young undocumented immigrants from being deported. On the other hand, he also set up the program in such a way that -- in order to get the benefit -- recipients would have to turn themselves in to authorities, get fingerprinted and photographed, and hand over their address and personal information.

Uncle Sam knows exactly where to find them. And now, their personal data has fallen into the hands of Uncle Scrooge. Donald Trump is one of the most anti-immigrant presidents in history. He canceled DACA in 2017, and, while lower federal courts have pushed back and tried to force the administration to reinstate it, we're at an impasse. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the legal challenges, and it will likely hear arguments before the end of the year.

DACA recipients have the right to be anxious. Some I've heard from regret going down this road. Others blame Obama for not honoring his pledge to achieve a permanent fix that would not have left them in jeopardy.

Obama also broke up families, caged children, sent refugees home without due process, roped local cops into enforcing federal immigration law and deported nearly 3 million illegal immigrants -- nearly all of whom were Latino.

Ramos grilled Biden about that record, asking if he had -- as vice president -- done anything to try to stop some of the deportations. He also wanted to know whether Biden thought Obama had made a mistake in removing so many people. Finally, Ramos asked Biden why Latinos should trust him.

Biden responded: "We didn't lock people up in cages. We didn't separate families. We didn't do all of those things."

But they did do all of those things and more. Why? See above. Not every Democrat in America wants an open border. In fact, very few do. Many Democrats approve of heavy-handed enforcement -- building walls, deporting people, separating families, etc.

And, if his attempt to bury the record is any indication, Biden is one of them. Surely, that's what the protesters wanted us to know.

Ruben Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com. His daily podcast, "Navarrette Nation," is available through every podcast app.

(c) 2019, The Washington Post Writers Group

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