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Cannabis restaurants are coming to California, with 'budtenders' and 'flower' service

By Maura Judkis
Cannabis restaurants are coming to California, with 'budtenders' and 'flower' service
Chef Andrea Drummer shows the caramel corn, s'mores and ice cream sandwiches she's testing for the new Lowell Farms cannabis cafe. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Oriana Koren for the Washington Post.

WEST HOLLYWOOD - Like any good chef about to open a restaurant, Andrea Drummer wants to get her pairings just right. But her lamb chops with plantain-mango salsa won't be matched with wine or beer.

Instead, a "budtender" - some in the industry call them ganjiers, as in ganja sommeliers - will help guests at the soon-to-open Lowell Farms cannabis cafe pair their farm-to-table meal with the perfect strain of farm-to-table marijuana.

"A kush is a little more pungent, so it pairs better with a stew, or something like a beef or a meat product. A lighter lemon profile goes nicely with a fish," said Drummer. One of her favorite strains, Blue Dream, "pairs well with both savory and sweet. I've done it with ice cream, and with bread puddings, but I've also done it with octopus."

When the rustic, plant-filled 220-seat space opens, it will be the first of its kind in America: a place for locals and tourists to have a high-quality meal and smoke a joint in public. Other restaurants are soon to follow. But if they want weed on the menu, restaurateurs in the famously progressive city - which in 2017 approved an ordinance allowing business licenses for this purpose - will still have to navigate a complicated patchwork of regulations.

"With cannabis, we are building the boat as we're on the water," said Jackie Subeck, who plans to open a cannabis spa, clinic and cafe and serves as the chairwoman of the cannabis legislative subcommittee for the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

States that have legalized recreational cannabis will be watching how the city pulls it off. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed a bill in May allowing cannabis lounges. If legalization continues apace, cannabis restaurants might eventually become as normal as wine bars.

"Whatever West Hollywood does now," said Sean Black, co-founder of Lowell Herb Co., the cannabis company opening the cafe, "the rest of the blue states, at least, [do] three years later."

- - -

Proposition 64 legalized cannabis in California, but consuming it in public is still prohibited. When the West Hollywood City Council held a study session on the topic in 2017, it determined that access to places to smoke was a social-equity issue.

"A lot of people in this city are renters, and they may not be able to smoke in their apartments," said John Leonard, the city's community and legislative affairs manager. "They're forced to smoke in public places or smoke in their cars, and they face a greater risk of being arrested for that."

However, that wasn't the only reason the council approved an ordinance allowing public consumption lounges.

People "enjoy the nightlife of West Hollywood. So we thought this was kind of a natural evolution that, you know, you can stay in West Hollywood in a hotel, you can go out to our bars and our restaurants, and now you can go to a cannabis consumption cafe as well," said Leonard.

There are public cannabis consumption areas elsewhere in California and in Colorado, but many are lounges attached to dispensaries or vape clubs reminiscent of a dingy basement. They are pretty different from what West Hollywood had in mind when it opened up applications for 16 on-site consumption licenses (with 24 additional licenses for dispensaries and delivery) in May 2018.

The process drew more than 300 applicants, who were scored on factors such as innovation and social equity. The top eight in each of five categories were allowed to proceed.

Drummer's application, among the highest scorers in the category for consumption lounge (smoking, vaping and edible), outlined a "bright and airy oasis" with tableside "flower" service - cannabis buds hand-rolled into joints. It also called for a menu of infused food, which Drummer has been making for years as a private chef whose clients have included comedian Chelsea Handler. The business has several partners, but its main support comes from Lowell Herb Co., with its rustic branding and celebrity following.

But as soon as the licenses were approved, the compromises began.

The first problem was the discrepancy between city and state licensing. Although the city allows licenses for consumption lounges that aren't attached to dispensaries, "There is no such thing as a cannabis cafe license from the state," which will license the businesses as dispensaries, Black said.

The next problem was the food. Although West Hollywood permits it, California prohibits cannabis businesses from selling anything other than cannabis, with the exception of accessories such as bongs and pipes, and branded merchandise such as T-shirts. The purpose "was to make sure that dispensaries did not become convenience stores and start selling Reese's peanut butter cups and Doritos and Coke," Subeck said.

But folks in the cannabis industry are finding loopholes, which West Hollywood has encouraged. Lowell's strategy is to put two separate businesses under the same roof: a lounge to smoke cannabis and a restaurant. Guests who order food and cannabis will receive separate bills. The plan was approved by the West Hollywood Business License Commission in July.

Another compromise: Drummer originally had planned to serve freshly infused food, with cannabis butters and oils incorporated at various doses. But that will have to wait, because under state law, all cannabis products have to be prepackaged and tested, making it logistically impossible for a restaurant kitchen that wants to serve fresh food. She's now focusing on making uninfused food to pair with cannabis - including a dessert "flight" that features a Fruity Pebbles ice cream sandwich, and a s'more with a housemade marshmallow.

It's trickier for restaurants that planned to infuse food but applied for an edible consumption license. They cannot fall back on making money from joints and vaping, like Lowell, but they, too, have found a creative solution. The team behind the Antidote, which plans to open an upscale cannabis restaurant in the spring, also plans to open a commissary kitchen to produce sauces and dressings infused with THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Guests would purchase a sauce, which would be presented alongside the meal in a sealed container, open it themselves and dose appropriately. (The sauce also would have to be purchased from a separate business - which, as at the Lowell cafe, could be under the same roof as the restaurant.)

"Think of, like, butters and oils and broths," said Kirk Cartozian, a Los Angeles-area restaurateur and partner in the Antidote, which might spin off into a separate business. "We have a lab and essentially the potential setup to supply our own, and maybe supply others, with business-to-business" infused ingredients.

- - -

Running a cannabis restaurant is nothing like running a typical restaurant in West Hollywood. Cannabis businesses cannot serve alcohol, so drinks are zero-proof. The state does not permit cannabis businesses to operate after 10 p.m., so Lowell Farms cannabis cafe must have last call for cannabis before then - though it can remain open until 2 a.m. (Leonard said West Hollywood hopes to be granted an exemption.) The businesses cannot be within 600 feet of a day care or a school. Some neighbors, including a synagogue across the street from the Lowell cafe, aren't too happy about sharing a block with a cannabis business.

Because the federal government still considers cannabis a Schedule 1 drug, most banks are unwilling to serve cannabis businesses, which must rely on alternative banks and credit unions or cash transactions. (The California Senate approved legislation in May that creates a pathway for more banks to work with cannabis companies.) When the city collected more than $1 million in license application money, it was primarily in cash.

Leonard said he anticipates that many businesses will pay their taxes in cash, too, which "creates risks for everybody," he said. "We have to have multiple people in the room counting cash. We have to have sheriff's deputies there with the cash being counted. We have to have armored cars coming in, picking it up."

Tables probably won't turn as quickly at cannabis restaurants because guests who are high may be more likely to linger. Lowell's plans for a roof deck were scuttled because cannabis consumption cannot be seen from the street, so smokers must partake in a walled-in garden at street level. And guests who don't finish their cannabis won't be able to take it home.

"They're going to purchase less," said Subeck. "How is a business supposed to survive if they can't sell products?"

It might encourage some people to take a larger dose in the interest of getting their money's worth. The restaurant also has to ensure guests don't over-consume, and that's trickier than a budtender cutting someone off. Cannabis - especially when ingested - affects everyone differently, depending on body mass and tolerance level, so a dose that barely registers for one guest could send another sky-high.

Cannabis cafes are not yet the moneymaker they seem to be. The added expenses - extra staff and 24-hour security, pricey vents to suck up the smoke, lobbying and preparing the license proposal - mean the Lowell cafe will cost approximately $3 million to open.

"The chance of this being a real moneymaking operation is that it is truly the first of its kind and it becomes a tradition throughout America, and 30 years from now, it's a historical landmark and the first place in America cannabis was served," said Black.

City officials hope the gamble eventually pays off. West Hollywood is ready for marijuana tourists and hopes the new businesses - which include a virtual-reality space and an art gallery with a cannabis lounge - attract them in droves. There are already cannabis tour buses, and the city's dispensaries do brisk business. The Standard Hotel has plans to open a high-end shop in its lobby by cannabis company Lord Jones. And in August, the company WeedMaps opened a 30,000-square-foot Museum of Cannabis in Hollywood, with exhibits both educational (the science of terpenes) and Instagrammable (a room that looks like a psychedelic lava lamp).

Leonard estimates that once most of the new businesses are up and running, annual cannabis tax revenue will be between $5 million and $6 million.

"Amsterdam kind of went to step one," with its simple cannabis coffee shops, said Rachel Burkons, who co-owns Altered Plates, a culinary collective and cannabis hospitality company. "I think these are going to be much more robust in terms of their overall concept and execution and are going to really kind of blow that out of the water."

- - -

The first time Drummer smoked marijuana, as a 13-year-old in south Florida, she got into a fight that sent her to court. After reading the anti-drug book "Go Ask Alice," she became a youth counselor who encouraged students to stay away from marijuana. But after a few years, her thinking changed.

"I just thought, I can't do this," she said, "because I don't know if this is wrong anymore."

She abandoned social work, went to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and later started using cannabis to treat sciatica, caused by long days standing in the kitchen. She founded Elevation VIP, a private cannabis dinner company, and briefly lived in her car while she was getting the business off the ground. It paid off after appearances on the former late night talk show "Chelsea Lately" and the Netflix show "Cooking on High." Drummer said her dream was always to open a cannabis restaurant.

"I've always looked forward to the day that what we do is counted among the critics and among the James Beard [Awards]," Drummer said.

In a way, the new restaurant will allow her to use her social worker skills again. Lowell Farms cannabis cafe aims to hire staff who were previously incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses. Drummer sees it as a way of bolstering African Americans, who have been the most disproportionately penalized for cannabis use but who represent only a small part of the industry.

"Instead of asking for social equity," she said, "I want to be social equity."

As she tested recipes on a recent Monday morning, amid the din of construction, Drummer realized another way the restaurant would be breaking ground: It could potentially forge new territory for food critics, who might need to take a few hits to see how well her pairings work.

Cannabis can make food taste really, really good. So if a critic were to partake, she said with a laugh, "We'll get all the stars."

During Afghan elections, schools double as voting places - and become Taliban targets

By Jon Gerberg and Sharif Hassan
During Afghan elections, schools double as voting places - and become Taliban targets
Noor Mohammad, headmaster of the Ali Nika boys high school in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, stands with his 7-year-old daughter, Bibi Roqia. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jon Gerberg.

SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan - The headmaster knew violence could strike his all-boys high school at any moment. It was why he spent three nights camped out in a first-floor classroom before last fall's parliamentary elections.

But his anticipation didn't dull the surprise of the dinnertime blast from a Taliban bomb.

"It was so strong we thought that the building would collapse," Noor Mohammad recalled. Windows were shattered. Smoke hung in the air. "I was dizzy. It was like falling off a roof."

No one was injured, but it wasn't the first time the Ali Nika school was struck. Nor would it be the last.

Schools in Afghanistan sit at the nexus of education, politics and violence. Their openings are heralded by many as signs of progress in a country stunted by conflict; their students are stewards of Afghanistan's future who might one day lift it out of poverty. But schools here, as in many other countries, also serve as traditional polling places - and so become targets of Taliban violence, especially during election years.

The number of attacks on schools almost doubled in the first three months of this year compared to a year before, according to the United Nations. The spike followed 192 such attacks in 2018, triple the number from 2017. Almost half of the incidents in 2018 were at schools hosting polling places for elections in October.

Now many worry the presidential election slated for late September will bring another surge of violence. The Taliban this month promised to disrupt the elections, warning civilians to stay away from campaign rallies, and has stepped up its attacks on government targets to gain leverage in peace talks with the United States.

"It is unfair, because children have a right to education, and of course they are losing this opportunity," Afghan Education Minister Mirwais Balkhi said in an interview last month. "Schools are for the common good, and no one should harm them - not the government, not the Taliban."

Sometimes schools are directly targeted. Other times, they're collateral damage in attacks on nearby government buildings.

In the weeks following the October attack on the Ali Nika school, small donations from teachers and students helped fix the shattered windows and keep out the cold. Mohammad, the headmaster, said not a single day of classes were missed.

"As Afghans, we are accustomed to such incidents," he said.

The school has faced threats for years. It is also a short drive from the border with Pakistan, and fighting border guards have occasionally sent stray bullets into the school's walls. Its proximity to the police station next door puts it at risk of frequent insurgent bombardments.

"We'd be safer if we were farther away," Mohammad said.

The school's windows are still shattered from a bombing last month on the street outside. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mohammad now stands watch twice a day as his students file home after the final bell. He makes sure that they all turn right, toward the mud-walled huts and dusty auto parts dealers, rather than left, toward the police station.

In June, Balkhi, the education minister, sent a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, chief executive Abdullah Abdullah and the country's election commission, demanding that no schools be used for polling in the election.

"We have many other options," he said in a recent interview, arguing that mosques and community centers should be used instead.

"Without elections we can survive, but without education we cannot," he said. "If you do not educate the young people of Afghanistan, there will be no democracy, no development, no proper state, no proper government."

He said his letter went unanswered.

The election commission says it has no choice. Schools are often the only public spaces available with a known permanent address and reliable supplies, structures and security, commission officials said, and the use of mosques and private homes in the past has led to corruption and mismanagement. (There are no classes in Afghan schools on election days.)

The commission plans to have 5,388 polling sites around the country this year, "70 to 80 percent of which will be schools," according to Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, a commission spokesman.

"The lives of the students are valuable to us, but elections are a national process," Ibrahimi said. "We have no other options."

Some critics have called for the Sept. 28 election to be postponed because of the threat of violence, reports of poor preparation, or possible disruption of the peace talks. Ghani and his running mate have insisted that the vote go ahead as planned.

In a statement posted online on Aug. 6, the Taliban denounced the election as an illegitimate "ploy" put on by foreigners and "sham politicians." They warned "fellow compatriots" to "stay away from gatherings and rallies that could become potential targets."

"Our goal is to prevent the fake election process," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said by WhatsApp voice message in response to questions about attacks on schools. "If a school or any other place is used in the election process, it will not be our fault."

Previous Afghan elections have been marred by allegations of irregularities. This year, some Afghan leaders and foreign observers are concerned that a contested election, along with ensuing violence, could complicate negotiations with the Taliban.

The United States and the Taliban have been in talks for months on an initial peace deal that would require the withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops in exchange for a cease-fire and the promise of direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which has refused to negotiate with Afghan leaders.

Experts say the Taliban's stepped-up attacks on schools will bode poorly for Afghanistan's future. School attendance dropped by 50 percent in most provinces during last year's parliamentary elections, said Balkhi, the education minister.

"Students are already under so much stress in Afghanistan," said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Wilson Center, "but if you now have this cascading threat about getting physically harmed when you're at school, I think that will just make the educational system all the more perilous and vulnerable."

More Afghan civilians were killed or injured on election day than on any other day in 2018. Among the many sites hit by the Taliban in the days leading up to the October elections was a primary school in Shah Mahmoud, a modest village outside of Spin Boldak.

The school serves 311 students, ages 7 to 16. Teachers and local elders said the Taliban had put out a warning days earlier that the school would be attacked if it were used as a polling site.

On Oct. 26 - the day before elections in Kandahar - polling booths and ballots were moved into the school. That evening, two blasts tore off the building's roof, shattered desks and reduced books to ashes. None of the election materials were damaged.

Naazdanah, the 11-year-old daughter of a shopkeeper, heard the blasts from her home in a neighboring village. She knew immediately it was an attack on her school, she said.

"They're the Taliban. They don't like education; they're jealous," she said. Nevertheless, she's determined to continue her education.

"I have no fear," she said. "I will always go to school to see my friends, my teachers and to learn."

The Washington Post spoke to the students with the permission of their parents and the village elders. The Post is identifying the children by only their first names out of concern for their safety.

Sixteen-year-old Ismatullah, an aspiring civil engineer who attends the school, was familiar with violence.

His family had fled from nearby Panjwai district after his school was destroyed because the Taliban had been using it as a militant hideout. Still, Ismatullah was dismayed to see the violence follow him.

"School should be a place for education," he said. "It is not a battlefield."

Despite the attack, more than 4,000 voters turned out to cast their ballots at the schoolhouse, the line stretching far down the road, according to Budradin Badrad, the education officer of Spin Boldak.

This year, teachers and village elders say they will continue as planned with elections and with classes.

"We have no other choice," said Shah Mahmoud, a village elder. "Education is our only way to escape."

A glimpse into processing facility at heart of border crisis

By Arelis R. Hernández
A glimpse into processing facility at heart of border crisis
Men sit on a bench with other fathers of young children in the U.S. Border Patrol Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, on Aug. 12, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Carolyn Van Houten

MCALLEN, Texas - Dozens of dirt-caked shoes popped out from beneath the silver Mylar blankets, where children lie on mats, watching cartoons, and parents cooed infants to sleep. Inside the chain-link pens of U.S. Border Patrol's largest holding facility, nearly 1,300 migrants were waiting Monday to be released, deported or transferred.

Set up in a converted warehouse during the 2014 child migrant crisis, the Central Processing Center was created as an overflow site for families and children. But it recent months it, too, has been stuffed beyond capacity. Derided as "la perrera" - "the dog kennel" - by migrants and border agents alike, it was the focus of public anger when photographs of children behind the chain links circulated last year and brought accusations of "kids in cages."

More waves of shock and anger at scenes of miserable, inhumane border conditions have followed, most recently last month when Vice President Mike Pence visited the McAllen border station nearby and saw nearly 400 men packed in a pestilent garage.

The Department of Homeland Security tightly limits media access and photography inside Border Patrol facilities, citing the privacy rights of migrants in its custody. But the restrictions have made it difficult for the agency to convince the public that the border is in crisis, and the Trump administration has allowed more video cameras and photographers inside its facilities, even though the images of detained children often generate anger and disgust.

The number of people in custody fluctuates daily - and sometimes hourly - at the processing center, as hundreds of thousands of adults and children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala continue arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border despite the scorching summer temperatures. Movement is constant inside the rancid - though much improved - facility, with bus loads of immigrants being moved in and out of the border city.

Arrests along the Southern border have dropped 43 percent since May, when U.S. agents took 144,000 migrants into custody, the busiest month in a dozen years. But border-crossings are still at twice the level they were last year, and the tip of South Texas remains the busiest corridor. Nearly 37,000 people were apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector last month, U.S. data shows.

"We want to give folks a sense of what is going on down here," said Border Patrol agent Marcelino "Alex" Medina.

Inside the cavernous pair of warehouses in Southwestern McAllen, migrants are medically screened for common ailments and contagious diseases such as scabies, lice or chickenpox. Those needing medical help beyond basic services are sent to local hospitals, agents said.

Workers have access to face masks and gloves when entering one of two large containment areas, although the center is not immune from contagious diseases; the processing center had an outbreak of an influenza-like illness in late May that led Border Patrol to stop admitting people until the infections died down.

Once medically cleared, migrants are sent into holding pens. The center has seen tens of thousands of children and families since 2014.

Unaccompanied children are separated by gender and kept in distinct pens, where they have access to crackers, juice and chips. A television runs programming for all hours except mealtimes, and they can choose to don provided sweatpants, T-shirts and shoes.

"Children are held on average about 26 hours in custody," said Oscar Escamilla, acting deputy Border Patrol agent-in-charge, who led a brief tour through the center. There were fewer than 100 unaccompanied children in Customs and Border Protection custody at the time of the tour on Monday - far from the peak a few months ago, when children were backed up in the immigration system and were crowded into the agency's facilities, sometimes for weeks.

During the tour, journalists were not permitted to talk to the migrants in custody, and most shied away from the cameras. Many retreated deeper within their pens and turned away.

Parents with children are held in separate enclosures, where dozens of men and women sat on metal benches or laid across gym mats on the concrete floor. Escamilla said migrants receive "shower wipes" or wet wipes when they first arrive, and they are permitted to take a shower within 72 hours.

Tired men bounced little boys on their knees, children munched on apples and others hid beneath blankets in the cell adjacent to a play area with a plastic playpen and a few toys. In one corner sat shelving units filled with clothes, baby formula, colorful toothbrushes and diapers.

Inside each section of cells, a guard monitors camera footage and keeps watch from a small tower elevated about eight feet from the ground. Escamilla said the agency chose chain-link fencing because it allows more visibility for agents and can help cut down on staffing needs.

Migrants can move freely within their respective holding pens, but unaccompanied minors, girls over the age of 10 and small children are assigned separate fenced-in areas. Between each holding area is a sanitation station containing about a dozen portable toilets and sinks that are cleaned twice a day.

There was no escaping the foul stench of days of accumulated dirt, sweat and waste - even with a far smaller number of detainees than when lawmakers visited the center in June and reported rampant overcrowding and horrible conditions.

- - -

Nick Miroff in Washington contributed to this report.

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McConnell realizes with horror that Beto is right: The Senate is not enough

By alexandra petri
McConnell realizes with horror that Beto is right: The Senate is not enough



(For Petri clients only)


"Some have suggested I stay in Texas and run for Senate, but that would not be good enough for El Paso, and it would not be good enough for this country," Beto O'Rourke said in a campaign-reinvigorating speech Thursday. "We must take the fight directly to the source -- to the person that has caused this pain and peril: Donald Trump."

Miles across the country, Mitch McConnell dropped a pen he was holding, and the world reeled about him.

"Great heavens," McConnell said, "I have made a great mistake, whose gravity until this very moment I had not realized!" He glanced around his office, the office of a mere lowly Senate majority leader, and rent his garments just slightly, since they were woven tightly enough to make any real rending difficult. "I have wasted my whole life!"

He sighed a great sigh and pushed several bills on gun reform he was personally preventing from coming to a vote this month off the desk in a gesture of pique. "The Senate is not good enough! Oh, what a fool I have been!"

From the cage full of gnawed bones in the corner in which he now lives rather than sitting on the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland whimpered. McConnell whirled on him in a rage. "Merrick, why did you not say something? Why did you let me waste these years taking the fight somewhere that was not directly to the source, when I could have caused so much pain and peril?"

Garland started to say something, but McConnell did not let him finish. In a fit, he trashed a plaque he had made for himself to commemorate confirming President Trump's 107th judicial nominee, a record that will linger for decades after he is gone, and tore up another Senate procedural rule, making the process still more vulnerable to partisan stalling, just for good measure.

"I could have been making a real difference, Merrick!" McConnell shouted. "I could have had an impact! Here I was, like a nincompoop, turning a whole house of the legislature into the Party of No, dedicated to stalling the Obama administration's agenda at every turn, when I could have actually caused pain and peril. What have I been doing all this time?"

He ripped off his flag pin and shredded yet another request to pass a bill to secure future elections or prevent campaigns from accepting foreign assistance, which he had been allowing to fester on his desk. "No, I am running for president, Merrick! I have been powerless and useless long enough!"

He stormed out of the office of the majority leader, which had never before seemed so small and powerless. Why, it barely mattered who occupied it! A final shudder of protest convulsed him as he resigned himself to the disheartening truth: If even someone like Beto O'Rourke would not stoop to free him from his mistake, he would be stuck there forever.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

The Emperor's New Island, a tale of Trump buying Greenland

By alexandra petri
The Emperor's New Island, a tale of Trump buying Greenland



(For Petri clients only)


(BEG ITAL)Hans Christian Andersen and Greenland have something in common: They are both Danish national treasures! Amazingly, this story was discovered this week among the unpublished works of the former:(END ITAL)

The Emperor was sad.

(He was not, in fact, an emperor, but his advisers were too craven and self-interested to remind him of this fact except on special occasions, because they knew it would upset him.)

The Emperor had many beautiful things, but they no longer gladdened his heart. He had ordered many fine tanks to accompany him to celebrate the country's birthday, but they had not delighted him. He had a fine long report to read about his innocence, but maybe it was not about his innocence, and he had thrown it into a well.

He had a beautiful economy that was his constant delight to gambol and gamble with, which he had inherited from his predecessor with stern instructions not to break it, and he had tossed it gleefully around, delighting to see how high it bounced, until it had made a crunching sound and fallen down the well where he could not get it back.

He sat sullenly in his palace and stared at his array of locked-up birds and his tiny model wall. Nothing cheered him.

His advisers went to him and tried to cheer him.

"You possess a country rich in wonderful things," his advisers said to him. "Consider the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, which could be even more beautiful if you cared for it at all."

But the Emperor would not consider it.

"Consider the riches of the land, and the many sorts of birds and beasts and winged insects that abound in it," his advisers said.

But the Emperor was sad. "I do not care for the birds and beasts and winged insects," he said. "I wish them all to be destroyed."

His advisers rushed off quickly to see it done.

"Consider the millions of people who would like to come to this beautiful land because it is not like any other place in the world."

But the Emperor was sullen. "I do not care for the people who would like to come to this beautiful land," he said. "I wish them all to be destroyed."

His advisers rushed off quickly to see it done.

"What else do you wish, Emperor?"

The Emperor sighed. "What have you heard about Greenland?" he asked his advisers.

His advisers looked from one to the other. "Tell us," they said.

"We should buy Greenland," the Emperor said. "Harry Truman wanted it, and there are very few things Harry Truman wanted that I do not also want."

"Are you sure you are not thinking of Andrew Jackson?" one of the advisers asked.

"I am always thinking of Andrew Jackson," the Emperor replied.

The advisers glanced from one to the other. They were not exceptionally skilled or wise, and their one task was to keep the Emperor from becoming upset. "If you want it," one said, "I am sure that it can be arranged."

"That is good," said the Emperor. "It is right there. I am certain it must be strategically significant! And it says in the name that it is green. It contains golf courses already and might be induced to contain more. I wish to possess all the finest lands. I will spare no expense until I have Greenland, too."

"All told," the advisers agreed, "it is an excellent plan, although there is one small matter. Denmark owns it."

"That is no great concern," the Emperor said. "I will offer Denmark a great sum of money, and it will part with it. I am sure Denmark cannot want it very much."

"But -- why Greenland?" the advisers asked. "All we know about Greenland is that once a man went there and lied that it was green, and then it became Greenland, even though it was not."

"Precisely," the Emperor said. "I wish to live in such a place, where you can say such a thing and it can be so. Now it is only so when I gaze into my mirror, but if I had the island, I could give it whatever name I wished, and it would be so all the time. If I could only say that a thing was so and it could then be so, then I might know rest. Then I might truly be content."

"But it is a lie!" cried a little boy who was passing by.

The Emperor shrugged. "It has never stopped me before."

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump has a dream team for mismanaging a recession

By catherine rampell
Trump has a dream team for mismanaging a recession



(For Rampell clients only)


WASHINGTON -- President Trump inherited a good economy, and for roughly two-and-a-half years managed (mostly) not to mess it up. As with his business empire, he also somehow convinced much of the public that this windfall was due to his personal talents rather than luck.

But right now his luck -- and ours -- might be running out.

Bond markets are flashing warning signs. Stock prices are whipsawing. Some troubling economic data are rolling in, both here and abroad. All this suggests that the risk of a U.S. recession is rising.

Trump seems to be worried about getting blamed for what is coming. For months, he has been setting up the Federal Reserve as a scapegoat -- including for market swings caused by his own foolish trade wars. When stocks go up, Trump claims full credit; when they go down, it's the Fed's fault. Personal responsibility and all that.

My view on what he (and the rest of us) should be fixed on is slightly different. If indeed we have a downturn, Trump might or might not be the cause; the exact triggers of recession are often hard to pinpoint. But you know what would unequivocally be his fault, rather than fickle fortune?

A badly (BEG ITAL)mismanaged(END ITAL) recession. Which seems inevitable if, indeed, recession strikes.

If things go south, this administration doesn't have a plan. It never had a plan. And it doesn't have competent personnel in place to come up with a plan.

Trump's economic brain trust consists of a guy who plays an economist on TV, a crank who has been disowned by the (real) economics profession and the producer of "The Lego Batman Movie."

For those unfamiliar with this particular dream team, the first person on that list is National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, an affable former CNBC personality. Kudlow has one skill that actually (BEG ITAL)could(END ITAL) be useful in a crisis: being able to communicate clearly to financial markets. That skill has been rendered moot, however, by Trump's inability to settle on any consistent message worthy of communicating.

Next is senior White House aide and trade adviser Peter Navarro. When profiled in the New Yorker in 2016, Navarro could not name a single other economist who agreed with his views on trade. More recently, he suggested the Wall Street Journal editorial page sounded communist.

That's a first, for sure.

And finally, there's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Bankrolling "Suicide Squad" and other movies -- whatever their artistic merits -- and earning the coveted title of greatest sycophant in Cabinet history bear little relevance to rescuing the world from economic crisis.

Moreover, Mnuchin's Treasury Department is rife with vacancies. Many senior jobs lack even a nominee. There is likewise no nominee for the Senate-confirmed job of chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. The acting chair is a health expert.

The only competent economic policymakers we have right now are over at the Fed, an institution that Trump is spending all his energy trying to discredit. He has done this by questioning Fed officials' abilities (a theme of his blow-by-blow tweetstorm of Wednesday's market rout, which referred to Trump's own hand-picked Fed chair as "clueless"); and he's done it by compromising the central bank's perceived political independence.

Whenever the Fed has refused to bend to Trump's will, he (alongside other members of his team) has taken to the airwaves to complain, in violation of a multi-decade-long norm for the White House to never comment on monetary policy. This means that even if Fed officials cut interest rates further next month solely because they believe that would be best for the economy -- which in my view, would be the (BEG ITAL)only(END ITAL) reason this group of professionals would ever cut rates -- at least some Fed-watchers will instead interpret the action as a response to the president's bullying.

In other words, regardless of what the Fed does, Trump is eroding its credibility just when we need it most.

Additionally, with interest rates already low and some powers taken away by the Dodd-Frank Act, the Fed also has fewer tools at its disposal than in recessions past. Fiscal policy, too, is somewhat limited. Trump already spent nearly $2 trillion on tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, leaving relatively little powder left in the keg when we'll actually need it.

Trump -- like the rest of us -- had better hope and pray that we don't have a recession anytime soon. Because if we do, it's gonna be (BEG ITAL)bad(END ITAL).

Catherine Rampell's email address is Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Beware 'moral hazard' in Hong Kong

By david ignatius
Beware 'moral hazard' in Hong Kong


(Advance for Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Ignatius clients only)

WRITETHRU: New 3rd graf. Adding new 5th graf.


WASHINGTON -- Watching videos of Chinese protestors singing the U.S. national anthem in the streets of Hong Kong, or hearing the tear-jerking chorus of "Les Miserables" during a sit-in at the Hong Kong airport, only someone with a heart of stone wouldn't want to assist these brave people who are fighting for their freedom.

But beware. The problem is that easy gestures of support could get these Chinese freedom fighters killed. It's a problem that insurance companies call "moral hazard," when they inadvertently encourage people to take risks or engage in unsafe behavior by promising or implying that they'll be protected or rescued.

President Trump has been as erratic on Hong Kong as on most foreign-policy issues. In the early days, he all but invited Beijing to crack down, calling the protests "riots," and saying it was a matter between Hong Kong and China, "because Hong Kong is a part of China."

This week, as a crackdown seemed near, Trump whined about being blamed for Chinese intervention and offered a "personal meeting" to resolve the crisis peacefully with the "great leader" President Xi Jinping.

Then, on Wednesday, he personalized the issue even more by linking a trade deal with Xi with a cooperative resolution of the Hong Kong crisis.

Much as I dislike Trump's crass and self-centered comments, he is avoiding one important mistake in the Hong Kong crisis. He's not implying that the United States is prepared to step in to protect the demonstrators from the consequences of their actions. He recognizes that Hong Kong is a matter for Beijing and Hong Kong to resolve, and he's not writing checks that the American people in the end wouldn't cash.

We need to be honest, with ourselves and others: America won't go to war to save free speech in Hong Kong. It probably wouldn't go to war to protect the independence of Taiwan, either. The U.S. should subtly raise the cost of potential Chinese intervention, and maintain some ambiguity about our actions. But we should be careful about facile rhetorical threats that raise the costs for others.

The Hong Kong protests present a problem that arose often during the Cold War years. Anti-communist freedom fighters rose up in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. The United States had supported the overthrow of communism and, in the case of the Hungarian revolution, the CIA had apparently maintained some covert networks of support. But when the crunch came, U.S. policymakers correctly judged that it was too dangerous to intervene.

An idealistic, interventionist America has a tendency to make promises it can't keep. When protestors proclaim universal rights, we rightly stand with them intellectually. But sometimes we go further, implying that we're with them on the barricades, too. But that's rarely true -- and for good reason: It's too dangerous.

Too often, sentimental Americans are like the feckless lovers in 19th century novels: We seduce and then we abandon.

The power of the weak against despotic enemies is that they start conflicts that they can't finish -- in the hope that a great power will come and rescue them. The Bosnians and Kosovars did that in the Balkan wars of the 1990s; Iraqi Kurds weaponized their vulnerability against Saddam Hussein at the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Arab Spring protestors did the same thing in Egypt, Syria and Libya in 2011.

When the United States encourages these uprisings, we incur a moral liability: If we don't come to the assistance of those whose hopes we've raised, we are diminished as a people. There's blood on our hands when the tanks roll in.

But if we do intervene with our own troops, we make a far more dangerous commitment. The American people are still angry about the sacrifice of American blood and treasure in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that weren't adequately anchored in American self-interest.

What's the sound course, between the moral hazard of recklessly encouraging risk and the moral blindness of ignoring brave people fighting for their rights? The right answer is awkwardly somewhere in the middle -- supporting causes like the democracy protests in Hong Kong, and trying to deter despotic powers like China from intervening -- without implying that we'll intervene directly ourselves to save the martyrs.

The State Department seemed to get it about right in its statement this week: "We condemn violence and urge all sides to exercise restraint, but remain staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong."

Keeping faith with people who nobly aspire to freedom isn't a spasm of support but a long game that plays out over decades. This is the restrained but steadfast approach that ultimately won the Cold War, and it's a commitment that China will test at its peril.

David Ignatius can be reached via Twitter: @IgnatiusPost.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Immigrants don't need a handout -- but they do need a welcoming hand

By esther j. cepeda
Immigrants don't need a handout -- but they do need a welcoming hand


(Advance for Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Cepeda clients only)


CHICAGO -- The last time I saw Sil Ganzó, she was beaming as she gave a tour of her after-school care facility for newly arrived immigrant and refugee children.

Based on her enthusiasm, you'd have thought the tiny, two-room storefront for the elementary-school students had the grandeur of Google's headquarters. But, as I recall, it had few windows, and she was fighting to get local dog owners to pick up after their pets on the loose gravel outside the building -- the barren spot where the trash cans were kept but also where the kids liked to make up games and run out their wiggles.

That was back in 2015, when I visited the OurBridge program in Charlotte, North Carolina, which Ganzó runs as executive director. I learned on my visit about the astounding diversity and expanding population of U.S.-born Hispanics, immigrants and refugees in the American South.

Charlotte continues to expand and serve as a gateway for new Americans. This has meant major changes for OurBridge and for Ganzó's newcomers.

"We've grown! In the last couple of years, we tripled the number of kids to about 200 and expanded to middle school-aged kids. Our home is now a beautiful building with hundreds of acres of green space, a lake and a kitchen," Ganzó gushed to me on the phone recently. "We partnered with an elder care organization and are renting it for one dollar a year! We can take the kids to cook, on hikes; they have soccer fields and have planted a garden."

It sounds like an oasis for children who are often scarred by the effects of war, deprivation and unspeakable trauma -- whether it be from crossing our southern border or arriving here from Syria, Burma, Bhutan or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Truly, it's a sanctuary. And I don't mean the new facility -- I'm sure it is beautiful, but when I visited, I witnessed gold-standard student-centered engagement. Kids working with each other to build block towers, teachers modeling self-advocacy and problem-solving, older students helping younger ones with homework, groups practicing English and filling in the blanks with their shared language of hand gestures and smiles.

My visit to OurBridge sprung to mind when I heard Ken Cuccinelli, the White House acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, make a mockery of the Statue of Liberty's famous Emma Lazarus-penned inscription. He suggested: "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."

What he didn't say was that almost all poor, undereducated immigrants can pull themselves up by their bootstraps -- they just need a loving, helping hand.

"We make our families feel cared for, not just by teaching their kids English, but by advocating for them in the community," said Ganzó, herself an immigrant from Buenos Aires, Argentina. "Last year when we had ICE agents knocking on doors, I had a parent calling me from the closet, scared because they were outside her house. We went to our elected officials to ask that the city not cooperate. Unfortunately, the mayor didn't sign on to do that, like many other major cities, but it gives our families peace of mind that someone is fighting for them."

Ganzó said that both parents and students come to understand and eventually love the U.S., not because they're offered English as a second language classes or after-school care, but because they feel connected to their new home when their own homelands are honored.

"We know we don't want our families to 'assimilate' -- that word is misused because it means that one culture supersedes the other. What we want to achieve is acculturation, where you learn and become part of a culture without losing your identity or where you come from," Ganzó said. "We take the kids to their markets where they see their flags. We'll go to the Nepali store, the Asian market, the Latino food market, the African store -- then we ask them to help us buy the food for their recipes, and it makes the kids so proud that they know something that we don't know."

People who seek to keep others out of this country don't realize that people who make the treacherous and heartbreaking journey to this country do so because they (BEG ITAL)want(END ITAL) to get on their own two feet. They don't want a handout, but their success here does rely on being met with a welcoming hand.

Esther Cepeda's email address is, or follow her on Twitter: @estherjcepeda.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

Young people: don't let the markets scare you away from investing now

By michelle singletary
Young people: don't let the markets scare you away from investing now


(Advance for Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, and thereafter. Web release Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Singletary clients only)


WASHINGTON -- I was stunned.

My family was watching a rerun of the "Teachers Tournament" on "Jeopardy." I got excited because I knew the correct response to this question: "This proposed federal rule would have required all retirement planning advisers to act in their clients' best interests."

But before I could get my answer out, my 21-year-old son shouted, "What is the fiduciary rule?"

Wait. What's happening?

I paused the television and just stared at him.

"How did you know that?" I asked.

He knew about the rule from watching HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver." The comedian had done a show on retirement planning.

What came next made my heart flutter with joy. My son initiated a conversation about investing for his retirement. He wanted to know if he should start saving by using money earned this summer as an intern at NASA.

Whether it was his mama's regular financial lectures or Oliver's monologue that got my son to this point, the answer is: Yes, it's time.

My son won't have any student loans when he graduates from the University of Maryland Baltimore County -- with a degree in math, I might add. He's a great saver and careful spender, all of which means I have no doubt he'll have money to spare to invest. He has two more years before he finishes college, so I'm going to have him contribute to a Roth IRA. You need earned income to fund a Roth. And because contributions are made after taxes, earnings in a Roth grow tax-free.

Young adults have available to them an important investing strategy that older investors don't. They have time on their side. Consistently investing over a 30- or 40-year career can result in a seven-figure retirement account.

Yet, with the stock market taking deep dives lately, it might scare away a lot of young adults. Experts are talking about the possibility of a recession. In one day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped about 800 points.

Despite the market turbulence, young adults can invest with confidence, but they need to do some homework beyond watching a television show -- no offense to John Oliver. To help with that, for the Color of Money Book Club pick this month I'm recommending "The Everything Guide to Investing in Your 20s & 30s" by Joe Duarte, a market analyst and money manager.

In a note to his young readers, Duarte addresses the barrage of news about the daily gyrations of the stock market.

"The financial markets are influenced more than ever by the rapid speed of information," he writes. "The markets are evolving on an almost daily basis. ... Thus, prices tend to move rapidly, and investors without the right information and training on how to use the information could face big losses. But if you have the right information and know how to use it, you can set yourself up for success throughout the rest of your life."

Rather than dive immediately into the complexities of investing, I like that Duarte begins with this simple question: Can you afford to invest?

Far too often we criticize millennials for not investing, without recognizing that they may not be ready for this financial step.

Build your savings first, Duarte suggest. Save at least $1,000 before buying shares in a mutual fund that invests in stocks and bonds, which he recommends as a good entry-level place for investors.

"Markets will always rise and fall, so in order to stay in the game, set aside as much as you can as often as possible," he writes. "That's how you make the most out of compounding."

And pay off as much debt as possible, he urges.

"Debt is a drag on your ability to save," Duarte writes. "Think of debt as a big sack of potatoes that you carry on your back everywhere you go. By paying down debt and eliminating it altogether, you are taking a big weight off your financial shoulders. Being lighter makes you move faster."

Investing is complicated and can be mind-numbingly boring to read about. But the chapters are chopped up so that they don't overwhelm the reader.

There are a lot of investing books out there. And, like others, Duarte's book covers quite a bit -- from understanding risk to the basics of market analysis to explaining stocks, bonds and mutual funds. It's a lot to digest, but this guide is one I would give to my son.

I'm hosting an online chat about the guide at noon Eastern on Aug. 29 at Duarte will join me to answer questions about investing in your 20s and 30s. Because the earlier you start, the better off you'll be.

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Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook ( Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

(c) 2019, Washington Post Writers Group

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