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Flint residents still living on bottled water, waiting for government pledges to be fulfilled

By Brady Dennis
Flint residents still living on bottled water, waiting for government pledges to be fulfilled
Darlene McClendon, 62, at her home in Flint, Michigan, on Tuesday, October 11, 2016. Amidst a struggling school system, McClendon, a 6th grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School, said the water crisis has only made her worry more for the future of her students. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Brittany Greeson for The Washington Post

Even now, the people of Flint, Michigan, cannot trust what flows from their taps.

More than one year after government officials finally acknowledged that an entire city's water system was contaminated by lead, many residents still rely on bottled water for drinking, cooking and bathing.

Parents still worry about their kids. Promised aid has yet to arrive. In ways large and small, the crisis continues to shape daily life.

- - -

From the pulpit of the North Central Church of Christ some Sunday mornings, Rev. Rigel Dawson can see it. The anger and frustration over Flint's contaminated water, so visceral at first, over time has given way to something almost worse: resignation.

"It was one more big thing on top of a bunch of big things," Dawsonsays.

You have to understand, Dawson says, that people in Flint have endured crime, blight, economic hardship. But as the water disaster stretches on, it has chipped away at their usual stoicism.

"You see the pain it's caused. You see the discouragement and frustration," says Dawson."You see the full gamut."

When President Barack Obama came to town in May, the 40-year-old preacher was among the Flint residents who met with him. Dawson tried to explain how marginalized people feel, how certain they are that, had this happened in a more affluent community, change would have come sooner.

"I told Obama, 'It makes you feel like you don't count,' " he says.

Later that day, Obama referred publicly to the conversation.

"You can't have a democracy where people feel like they don't count," the president said, "where people feel like they're not heard."

Each Sunday, the pastor tries to deliver a message of encouragement and perseverance. Lately, he has relied on Ephesians: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

- - -

Mona Hanna-Attisha got a cat.

The orange tabby showed up not long after Hanna-Attisha's younger daughter told her, "Mom, ever since you became famous, we never see you anymore, and we don't have anybody to cuddle with."

Since the 39-year-old pediatrician went public last fall with research detailing dangerously high lead levels in the blood of Flint children - a move that forced officials to finally acknowledge a public health catastrophe - her life has been a blur.

She has crisscrossed the country, reminding audiences that Flint's crisis isn't over. She has told college graduates that "there are Flints everywhere, injustices everywhere," and that they must have the courage to act. She has continued seeing her young patients - and their anxious parents.

Month after month, she has felt the same sense of urgency.

"I have to keep talking about Flint, and I have to keep advocating for Flint. Because it's been a year, but not much has changed," Hanna-Attisha says.

The crusading doctor - named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world - tries to compensate for all the time she has missed with her own children, ages 8 and 10. She makes it to as many soccer games as she can and hopes the new cat, Simba, can stay on cuddling duty until life regains some normalcy.

But she also suspects her girls understand what's at stake.

"They very much recognize the importance of the work," she says. "They see that I'm a mom to a lot of kids now."

- - -

He missed her at Halloween, when she used to dress up as a witch and deck out the front porch with a smoke machine and a fake coffin. He missed her at Thanksgiving, when she would cook for a crowd of family and friends. He missed her at Christmas, when she made her famous breakfast casserole.

More than a year has passed since Troy Kidd's mother, 58-year-old Debra Kidd, became one of the dozen people who have died from Legionnaires' disease since officials switched to the Flint River for the city's water supply. Scores more have fallen ill.

Officials suspected a link between the spike in cases and the new water source long before they informed the public. All Troy knew was that one day his mother was bouncing on the trampoline with her grandchildren. Barely a week later, she lay sedated and dying in a hospital bed, her bacteria-filled lungs unable to get oxygen to her body.

Troy works 60-hour weeks at a local electrical-supply store, trying not to think about all the unanswered questions. On the anniversary of her death, he worked on a deck at his home, trying to sweat out the anger and sadness.

"There is no accountability," says Kidd, 38, who has filed suit with several other families over the Legionnaires' deaths.

He pulls out a picture of his daughter, Jocelyn. Granddaughter and grandmother once spent every day together - until they didn't.

Jocelyn turns 4 next month. Sometimes, out of the blue, she asks when her grandmother is coming down from heaven for a visit.

- - -

Darlene McClendon, 62, looks out at the two dozen young faces in her classroom at Eisenhower Elementary School and wonders: How has the lead affected them? Which ones will suffer most?

Already, she is convinced she is seeing changes in how some students retain her science or math or social studies lessons. "A couple days later, it's not there," she says. "I know there's a difference, because I've been in Flint teaching for the last 26 years."

Last fall, when the state finally acknowledged that lead-tainted water was endangering thousands of children in the city, fear and uncertainty filled the school's hallways.

"I heard children say, 'Am I going to die? Am I going to get sick?' How do you respond without tearing up?" says McClendon, 62. "I told them, 'No, you're not going to die.' [But] I don't know that they're not going to get sick later."

This fall, the school water fountains are still off limits. The children hardly mention the water crisis, even as they lug their bottled water from class to class. "That's their reality," their teacher says.

She, on the other hand, seethes about all that has not happened, the help that hasn't come, the promises that remain unfulfilled. On top of all the other obstacles her children face, clean water has become yet another hurdle.

"They're behind the eight ball already, and then you add the water crisis," McClendon says. "That's what I want to say to the governor: How dare you poison my kids? Our kids. Here we are a year later, and things have not changed for us. Or them."

- - -

"I never thought it would come to this," Elnora Carthan says, sitting in the kitchen of her small yellow house on McClellan Street.

Carthan bought the home in the early 1970s. Raised her four children here. Worked three decades at General Motors, much of that time assembling brake pedals. She loves her church, loves her neighbors.

But her city's water crisis has made for a lonely existence. Her three grandchildren used to spend many weekends with her. She'd take them to the movies. They'd bathe in her tub and crawl under the covers with her.

"I miss it a lot. I don't see them as much," says Carthan, 71, whose water had amon, g the highest lead levels detected in Flint.

Her son's family lives more than hour's drive away, where the water is safe for children, but she can make the trip only so often. "When you're on a budget, everything adds up," she says.

She has considered leaving Flint and moving closer to them. But what would this old house be worth? The most recent assessment came in at $13,000, she says, and now even that seems like a stretch.

"If I really could afford to leave, I would," Carthan says. "My son wants me to just walk away. But I can't do that. I paid this house off years ago. It'd be just like starting over."

So she's stuck, the lonely grandmother says. "You hope and pray for something better, but you learn to deal with it."

- - -

There are mornings, before her husband and five children wake, when the Christina Murphy, 35, sits alone at her kitchen table and cries.

Only a year ago, life seemed so normal. Her husband, Adam, 36, had steady work and a solid paycheck as a millwright. They volunteered at their children's schools and were active at church.

The first sign that their home's water was tainted came when one of their dogs fell ill. Another gave birth to a stillborn puppy. Tests soon showed that what was coming through their taps contained lead levels far beyond those considered acceptable.

The children also began to display problems. Lilly, a once-cheerful toddler, became noticeably irritable. An older daughter suffered inexplicable abdominal pain. A son started struggling at school. Adam grew unable to work after months of unexplained weakness, fatigue and short-term memory problems.

Now, their savings and their sanity are nearly depleted. They have fallen behind on mortgage payments and medical bills. And while the pipes in their house have been replaced, they still don't trust the water.

Christina's days are a blur of doctor's appointments, calls from debt collectors and an ever-present mountain of bottles of water she uses to cook, clean and bathe her family.

"If you try to analyze it, you'd drive yourself insane," she says. "I just try to live day to day, because everyone needs me to keep it together."

So she does. Except for those mornings before dawn, when she can cry without anybody knowing.

- - -

Trumbell Drive. Walter Street. Brownell Boulevard. Jackson Avenue.

Block by block, house by house, the father and son have spent months ripping lead service lines from deep in the Flint ground.

"It needs to be done," Bob Revord, 55, says one morning while the crew from Waldorf & Sons Excavating takes a break on Dartmouth Street.

The work is slow and hard, and the workers can replace only a handful of pipes most days. Across Flint, tens of thousands remain underground.

For Revord and his 24-year-old son, Ronald, this particular job has a personal element.

"I grew up in this city," Ronald says. "I know the pain these people are going through not being able to drink the water."

His father is one of them. He still lives here, still brushes his teeth with bottled water before heading out each morning to start digging.

Bob Revord says most residents are grateful when the crews show up. One woman made them doughnuts for breakfast. One family grilled them hot dogs for lunch. Lots of people offer them bottled water.

But at times, they encounter impatience and exasperation. "Where have you been?" some homeowners ask when they arrive. "What took so long?"

The men down in the dirt understand.

"It should have been started years ago," the son says.

"They don't want to wait," the father says. "They shouldn't have to wait."

- - -

"It's sad that we have to fight so hard for what we deserve in this man-made disaster," Mayor Karen Weaver says. "It's frustrating to have to remind people that we are taxpayers, we are U.S. citizens, and we deserve clean, affordable drinking water."

Flint's first female mayor knows that this fight will define her tenure. She also knows her city had long been neglected and forgotten. Which helps explain why, when residents complained of foul, toxic water, few officials rushed to help. "I don't think people thought we were worth the investment," she says.

Two years later, she sees some progress: A vehicle research center under construction. Restoration of a historic theater downtown. Talk of new grocery stores. Funding for more school nurses and an early childhood program. "We've got some things we should be bragging about," the 57-year-old mayor says.

But she understands that until every lead pipe in the city is replaced, until the water is again safe, the disaster will continue. From her office in Flint's decaying municipal building, she keeps pushing state and federal lawmakers to actually commit the dollars needed to fix the problem.

"Sometimes, it's like, 'Man, we've got this jacked-up water,' " Weaver says. "Can you put that in the paper? Jacked. Up. Water. . . . I'm tired of it."

She works the phones, knocks on doors at the state capital and in Washington. "The one thing I'm not going to do is let this story go away," she says.

On her bookshelf is a T-shirt that reads "Flint Lives Matter." And, nearby, a copy of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War."

- - -

Day after day, week after week, Kenyetta Dotson had worried about other people.

She had worried about the stress of Flint's crisis on her children, who still used bottled water to brush their teeth, wash their hair and cook their food.

She had worried about the desperate families who called each day to the Genesee Health System, where she works as the director of community outreach. Mental problems, physical problems, financial problems. People feeling ignored, forgotten, lost.

Everyone, it seemed, was waiting.

"Just waiting for a solution, waiting for answers, waiting for a plan," says Dotson, 45. "A lot of waiting."

The unrelenting nature of the situation began weighing on her, too.

"When you see families going through trauma, it can be devastating," Dotson says. "It really just hit me. It all came crashing on me."

So one evening in August, Dotson drove west out of Flint, to her father's house, and did something she hadn't done in more than a year: She took a bath.

She filled the tub with hot water. She poured in bubble bath and Epsom salts. She dimmed the lights, lit a candle and turned on jazz. She soaked in silence for what seemed like hours.

If only for a while, the water was something that could comfort and heal, rather than something to fear.

- - -

"I don't think we know the complete story," Ron Fonger says one afternoon from his newspaper office downtown.

The longtime Flint Journal reporter has written more than 300 articles about the water debacle since the city began using the corrosive Flint River as its drinking source in early 2014. He documented the decisions of state-appointed emergency managers who were hellbent on slashing budgets. He helped to uncover the negligence and apathy on the part of various government officials who failed to ensure the water was properly treated and dismissed residents' growing complaints.

He and his colleagues have covered the fallout as well, from the rashes and other health issues some people experienced to the concerns over thousands of children's exposure to lead-tainted water to the lawsuits and criminal investigations now in progress.

Fonger grew up nearby, the son of a General Motors worker. At 52, he has seen Flint thrive and seen Flint fall.

"You've got a lot of poor people in Flint struggling every day to get by and pay their bills and find and keep a job," he says. "God knows, the water didn't help things at all."

He figures the least that those people deserve - that anyone in Flint deserves - are answers.

So each day the veteran journalist works the phones. He digs through stacks of documents and emails released by the state. He looks for more pieces to the puzzle of what went wrong.

"I'm going to just keep plugging away at it," Fonger says. "There's a benefit to turning the screw a little bit every day."

- - -

Gina Luster never planned to become an activist.

But in late 2007, when Luster moved back to Flint after nearly a decade away, she was startled by how far her home town had fallen.

Her high school had been shuttered. A growing number of houses were abandoned. Poverty abounded.

Luster started attending public meetings. She joined fights over skyrocketing water rates and over the state-appointed emergency managers who had pushed the city to switch its water source to save money.

Then came confirmation last fall that the water didn't just smell and look bad - it also was poisoned with lead.

"All these bad things kind of woke me up," says Luster, who, along with her daughter, Kennedy, has suffered rashes and hair loss.

A year later, she is a community organizer for the advocacy group Flint Rising. She protested at the capital in Lansing and took part in a "die-in" on the steps of the Flint water plant. She's been to Washington to make sure that lawmakers refusing to vote for aid for her city "have to look us in the face."

On a cool fall evening, the 42-year-old activist watches her buoyant 8-year-old daughter play near the banks of the Flint River. She wants her work to make a better place for Kennedy to grow up. But she also wants to set an example.

""I want her to be able to stand up for herself, stand up for her city," Luster says. "She needs to always know that her civil rights are hers. And she can fight for them."

- - -

"Do I worry?" Michael Love says one evening as the sun sets over East Hobson Avenue. He's sitting on his front steps, watching his five kids ride bikes in the quiet street. "Of course. But what are we going to do?"

The single father, 43, moved his family back to his home town after the children's mother died, he says. That was in 2013, before all the water problems and health worries emerged.

Love makes sure his children don't drink from the tap now, but bathing everyone with bottled water just isn't feasible. The pediatrician has told him the odds are that his children will be all right, but he worries whether lead they ingested before Flint residents realized their water was tainted may have damaged their brains in ways that show up only later.

Each week, Love stops by a church off Saginaw Street to load up on enough cases of water for a family of six. He operates a small fleet of ice cream trucks around the city to make ends meet.

He has considered taking the children somewhere else. But where? And how?

"Of course, I'd want to leave," he says. "But even if I wanted to, I've got all these kids, and I don't got a lot of money. A lot of people want to run from it. [But] where am I going to run?"

New products transforming the way women think about their periods

By Danielle Paquette
New products transforming the way women think about their periods
Diva International Inc.. the creator of the DivaCup, a reusable silicone insert. MUST CREDIT: Diva International Inc.

Miki Agrawal lifts her gauzy white dress and points to her underwear.

"I'm wearing our prototypes," she says.

They're sleek, black -- the kind you save for special occasions. They can also absorb two teaspoons of blood.

"It's liberating," she says. "Once you're free of the messiness, of the frustrations, of the stains, you're more likely to talk about it - your period."

Agrawal, 37, is the co-founder and chief executive of Thinx, a company that sells multi-layer, antimicrobial, leakproof panties. The self-described social entrepreneur is part of a growing wave of businesswomen who are harnessing new technology and changing attitudes to disrupt the $19 billion feminine hygiene market.

Eight decades after a male doctor patented the tampon in the United States, and more than a century after the first disposable pads landed in stores, these pharmacy staples still dominate the field, boasting generations of customer loyalty. Since 2014, though, Thinx and its cohort of women-led start-ups have tried to shake up the two-party system of period protection, introducing such products as moisture-wicking thongs and insertable, liquid-catching latex discs.

These businesses think the market is ready for them, largely because people are openly talking about periods. Lawmakers across the country are slashing taxes on menstrual products, arguing that these are mandatory purchases for about half the population. A runner finished the 2015 London marathon in crimson-soaked leggings, telling interviewers that menstruation "does exist and we overcome it every day." A Chinese Olympian in Rio de Janeiro complained about her period on television. A British model talked to reporters last month about how her cycle had thwarted casting calls.

The entrepreneurs are exploiting this conversation, reaching out to millennials with frank Facebook videos and tweets. They describe the realities of the female body like cool older sisters, touting their inventions as healthier or lower maintenance.

Norms passed down from mother to daughter, however, are tough to break.

"We're not supposed to keep pads or tampons on for too long," a skeptic wrote recently on Thinx's Facebook page. "I don't think sitting in your menstrual blood for too long is sanitary."

Retail forecasters see no imminent consumer exodus from the traditional disposables - pads, for example, accounted for 43 percent of the market's revenue last year, by one firm's count - but companies that sell alternative goods are independently reporting sales spikes, especially over the past two years.

The history of pads

The first commercial menstrual pad hit the nation in 1896, with Johnson & Johnson advertising sanitary napkins crafted of cotton. Almost four decades later, a Colorado doctor named Earle Haas secured the patent for what would become the modern tampon.

Lauren Schulte, the 30-year-old creator of the Flex Company, hates both products. Tampons, she points out, require frequent changing to prevent leaks and toxic shock syndrome, a bacterial infection linked to prolonged use. Pads, she said, are just uncomfortable.

Schulte envisioned a product that would allow her to live as though she were not bleeding. Would some kind of seal work? One you could insert and essentially forget? And wear during sex? She ran the idea by some entrepreneurial friends in 2014, hoping to inspire them to look into it.

"I never intended to be a founder," said Schulte, who worked in marketing at the time. "They said, 'Uh, Lauren, you have every capability to do this yourself.' "

Despite her reservations, she agreed. She poured $70,000 of savings into developing her dream product: the Flex, a puck-shaped seal made of flexible medical-grade polymer, which captures blood for up to 12 hours before the user throws it away. "Mess-free sex" is one of its selling points.

Investors, she said, have loved it - so far, Schulte has raised $4 million. The Flex is registered with the Food and Drug Administration. The first shipment, offered as a free trial, hit 20,000 customers this month. A 24-pack costs $15 per month, if a buyer subscribes to the delivery service. A 36-pack of Tampax Pearl tampons at Walgreens, for comparison, costs less than $9, but the life span of a tampon is four to eight hours.

Schulte said the budding discussion concerning menstruation emboldened her to pursue her idea.

"The more of us that go out and talk about our own experiences," she said, "the more mainstream it becomes."

She entered the business of period management as the face of entrepreneurialism changed. Over the past nine years, the number of woman-owned firms in the United States has surged 45 percent, according to the Census Bureau. That's more than double the growth recorded from 2002 to 2007.

But female entrepreneurs still disproportionately struggle to draw investors, a phenomenon researchers say is fueled by gender bias. Over the past 15 years, the amount of early-stage investment in companies with a woman at the helm has increased from 5 percent to 15 percent, according to a 2014 study.

Schulte said even this modest growth is enough to inspire others.

"What's really interesting about this moment in time," she said, "is there are more women like me, people who never thought about being entrepreneurs, seeing other people do it and feeling encouraged to do it. That really helps you take the leap."

The desired market

Agrawal's Thinx and Schulte's Flex are aimed at a generation rejecting the ancient menstrual stigma - the old taboos that displaced women to special huts during their periods or deemed them unclean during their monthly cycles.

When Donald Trump lashed out at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly by saying she had "blood coming out of her wherever," young women on social media responded with a new Twitter trend: #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult.

"Menstruation is one of those bodily processes women have been obligated to keep hidden," said Tomi-Ann Roberts, a psychology professor at Colorado College, "and now we're celebrating it."

Ann Fishman, author of "Marketing to the Millennial Woman," said: "You'd have to go quite a distance to hit 'inappropriate language' with young women. They want you to treat them as the strong people that they are. 'You're a woman. You have periods. Let's just deal with it.' "

On the Internet, young women are lauding the menstrual products they love: "Free bleeding into my @SheTHINX and feelin powerful," one Twitter user typed last month to her 10,700 followers.

America's millennial women, a cohort of about 40 million, embrace the frankness, Fishman said. Savvy marketers are taking advantage of it.

Still, disposable pads and tampons remain the country's top-selling menstrual products. According to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 62 percent of American women said they used pads, while 42 percent said they used tampons. (These shares include respondents who said they used both, but the survey didn't ask whether they used just one product.)

Industry analysts, though, see potential for a gradual change.

Alternatives "still constitute a small portion of sales," cautions Svetlana Uduslivaia, head of tissue and hygiene at Euromonitor International, a global market research firm. (Note: Analysts don't yet track the sales of most lesser-used products on the market, so aggregate data is lacking.) "They are, however, products to watch for long-term impact. As more women, especially younger women, are getting familiar with the products, they are likely to be passing on this information to their daughters."

Lunapads, a Canadian firm, didn't see wild success at the jump. It began selling peddling washable pads in 1993 to a small niche of buyers: Women who for medical reasons could not use tampons; and those who did not want to overstuff a landfill. But last year, sales leapt 40 percent, according to company.

"I knew this was really blowing up when Target called," said co-founder Madeleine Shaw of her first deal with an American retailer, projecting the deal will help boost the company's vendor sales by 180 percent. "Our pads go on sale there later this year."

Diva International, the creator of the DivaCup, a reusable, silicone, goblet-like insert that collects blood, has also experienced a sales surge. The product has been available since 2003, but sales have grown by more than 150 percent since 2014, said spokesperson Daniela Masaro. (An earlier menstrual cup design emerged in the 1930s but didn't catch on as its disposable rivals have.)

"Customers are looking for products that will improve their health and the environment," Masaro said. "The category of feminine hygiene is no exception."

Though there's no evidence the materials in traditional tampons threaten women's health, alternatives branded as all-natural seek to capitalize on swelling consumer interest in organic products. Most tampons sold in the United States are made of primarily cotton and rayon, according to the FDA Food and Drug Administration. Companies aren't required to list their ingredients.

Lola, a start-up that delivers 100 percent cotton tampons to your doorstep, is seizing on this uncertainty. The company, which launched last year, employs nine full-time workers, all women, and ships boxes to subscribers in 48 states. Lola's Facebook video questioning standard tampon safety, posted in August, has garnered more than 2.5 million views.

"We exercise, we eat well, we try to take care of our bodies," co-founder Alex Friedman, 33, says. "And yet here we were, every single month, using a product that we have no idea what was in it."

Ranit Mishori, a family doctor in Washington, D.C., occasionally hears these concerns from young women and discounts them. Her only cautions: Avoid products with fragrance or artificial dye.

"We don't have enough evidence to say tampons and pads you can find at the pharmacy are harmful," she said. "So I say, use what makes your life easier, and don't listen to people trying to sell you a specific product."

At Fashion Week

As her company neared its two-year birthday, Thinx creator Agrawal rented a 13,000-square-foot warehouse last month for New York's Fashion Week. Like the other designers in town, she planned to flaunt apparel and stoke publicity. Unlike Marc Jacobs or Ralph Lauren or Alexander Wang, her team posted online an open invitation: "This ain't your typical fashion show, y'all."

On a muggy September evening, a couple hundred women and a smattering of men waited outside the slate-gray entrance.

An accountant hoped to snag a pair of hip-huggers. A boyfriend anticipated free drinks. Diarra Payne, 23, a Manhattan copywriter, said she came for creative inspiration. She remembered how Thinx had attracted attention last year with New York City subway posters that proclaimed "Underwear for women with periods" alongside pictures of grapefruit segments positioned slices posed to suggest female genitalia. Metropolitan Transportation Authority boss Thomas Prendergast called the ads "offensive."

Payne calls them honest. "It's nice to be real with people," she said, adding that menstruation isn't obscene to her. "My friends and I say, 'Yay, I got my period. I'm not pregnant.'"

In one of the company's online ads, an IV bag drips red fluid into the underwear of an actress as she acts out an afternoon of activities: reading, exercising, eating an orange. "It feels like you're eating for two," the narrator says, explaining a side effect of menstruation matter-of-factly. "Except not. Because you're on your period. So there's no baby."

The ad is called "A day in the life of a real menstruating human."

Inside the Fashion Week warehouse, models stood on white cubes, wearing white robes with panels of fabric missing to expose Thinx's absorbent underwear. (They're washable and made to wear alone or as backup on heavy menstrual cycle days.) One model is a Sudanese refugee who moved to New Jersey and became a DJ. Another is a young man, sporting briefs designed for people who've made the anatomical journey from female to male but still menstruate.

"These are all people who are moving the narrative forward," Agrawal told the audience. "For women. For everyone."

After the show, Joyce Gendler, 26, checked out the merchandise table with her boyfriend.

She grabbed a pair of $34 black hip-huggers tucked inside a plastic bag.

"They can hold up to two tampons' worth of blood," the saleswoman said.

Gendler, who works at a New York nonprofit group, fancies herself a modern human, unbothered by descriptions of bodily fluid. Still, she later told her companion, "Hearing her say that made me uncomfortable."

She blamed society and handed over her debit card anyway.

Minutes from modern Jerusalem, a Palestinian village is stranded in the past

By Anne-Marie O'Connor
Minutes from modern Jerusalem, a Palestinian village is stranded in the past
Fadia al-Wahsh, shown on September 23, 2016, is the leader of a village women's committee that is trying to get electricity for their community in Jubbet Adh Dhib, West Bank. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Anne-Marie O'Connor for The Washington Post

Special To The Washington Post

JUBBET ADH DHIB, West Bank - Let there be light.

That is a plea of residents of this Palestinian village who have waited nearly three decades for electricity while well-lit Israeli settlements sprang up around them. Now they are pinning their hopes on a new local women's committee that is determined to get them on the grid.

Just a 20-minute drive from bustling modern Jerusalem, on the side of a mountain whose name means "Paradise," Jubbet adh Dhib is like a step back in time.

Without refrigeration, food goes bad. Elderly Palestinians fall down in the dark. Children can't study at night. With no WiFi and limited television, villagers feel cut off from the world.

"Our children don't have a good childhood," said Fadia al-Wahsh, the leader of the women's committee.

"They see kids everywhere, with iPads and Internet" in more prosperous Palestinian communities, she said. "My son says, 'Why do you make me live here?' "

A few hundred yards from Jubbet adh Dhib are the bright lights of Sde Bar, a small Israeli settlement and a neighborhood of the larger settlement of Nokdim, where Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman lives. But the villagers have no access to the schools, cafes, art galleries, garbage collection, tennis courts and public pools at these or other settlements just minutes away.

The village is one of 241 Palestinian communities in the Israeli-controlled West Bank - a zone known as Area C - that lack services because "Israel practically bans Palestinian construction" while helping Jewish settlements grow, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

International donors began installing solar streetlights in Jubbet adh Dhib in 2009, but Israeli authorities ordered them dismantled, saying permits had not been issued. But there is a long history of non-permitted construction in Jewish settlements, such as Sde Bar, which was built as an outpost in 1998 and not authorized by Israel until 2005 as part of the 1982 settlement of Nokdim, according to the nongovernmental Israeli group Settlement Watch.

The inequities facing impoverished Palestinian villages such as this one are receiving renewed scrutiny as the Obama administration steps up criticism of the settlement enterprise on the grounds that it perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Earlier this month, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said a recent settlement-construction proposal would be "another step toward cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation that is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state."

Jamal Dajani, a spokesman for the Palestinian prime minister's office, said the disparities are part of a "systematic land grab" by the Israelis.

"It's a demographic and geographic battle to get more land, and more [Israeli] settlers on the land, and squeeze the Palestinians out," Dajani said.

A spokeswoman for Israeli military authorities in the West Bank said that there are plans for electricity service that "will include a cluster of houses" in Jubbet adh Dhib but that Israeli authorities must first finalize a housing plan for the area.

Israeli soldiers have demolished Palestinian homes and European-funded schools, latrines and solar installations for Palestinians in Area C, where ideology-driven Israeli settlers oppose new "facts on the ground" they view as supporting aims of a future Palestinian state.

In 2014, Israel granted only one Area C building permit for Palestinians - out of 242 applications - and approved 37 of the 1,640 Palestinian permit requests for the area between 2009 and 2012, according to B'Tselem. Area C makes up 60 percent of the West Bank.

"Israeli occupation authorities have an obligation to provide these services," B'Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said. "But the Israelis don't provide, and if the Palestinians provide for themselves, the Israelis knock it down."

Jubbet adh Dhib first requested electricity in 1988, villagers said.

Solar energy heats the village's water and charges cellphones, and a few televisions run on two village generators when diesel is available.

But that's not enough, some villagers say. "This is 2016. We have a right to electricity," said Fatima al-Wahsh, who, like most of the 165 people who live in the village, shares the surname of a clan of an Arabian tribe that claims pre-Islamic roots.

The committee members push their cause with utility officials, politicians and international donors.

"They keep talking about electricity, electricity, electricity," said former Palestinian minister Mustafa Barghouti, who said he was at a loss advising the women on how to break the Israeli permit deadlock.

"Their whole life is a misery," he said. "Their whole life is a battle to get normal things that most people take for granted."

The village, whose Arabic name means "Well of the Wolves," was founded in the 1920s. It sits below a volcano-shaped peak with ancient ruins that some Israeli archaeologists believe were the biblical palace of King Herod, now the Herodium tourist site.

Israeli settlers who live near Sde Bar describe the village as peaceful and mutual relations as cordial.

Built on village grazing land that is now out of reach behind settlement fences, Sde Bar includes a residential program for troubled young men who weathered a loss of state support in 2010 over reports of drugs and sexual abuse - which Sde Bar leaders deny. One resident, Amit Barak, conceded that tensions were caused by one of 25 Israeli youths from a remote hilltop settlement who "were not right in the head" and lived at Sde Bar for eight months this year.

"The police were here every day," he said.

Sde Bar guards use a drone "to detect terrorist movement" and range as far as the Herodium tourist overlook a mile away, where they recently stopped a Palestinian activist and a reporter, demanding that they wait 15 minutes while guards tried to persuade soldiers to investigate them.

Nokdim was built on 114 acres of Palestinian private land, according to Peace Now, an Israeli nongovernmental group, and Palestinian villagers say settlers have pushed them off private property where they raised crops and sheep.

A former Sde Bar security chief and two settlers were convicted of attacking local shepherds in 2004, leaving an elderly villager, Khalaf al-Wahsh, disabled and needing to use a cane, villagers said. Israelis ordered Palestinians to herd far from Sde Bar, villagers said.

Now, all but 100 of their sheep have been sold, and they are allowed to visit some of their remaining olive groves for a few days twice a year, with an Israeli army escort, villagers said.

But Israeli settlers are free to walk and ride near the Palestinian village, and settlement dogs have gotten loose in recent years, killing two sheep, residents said.

Sde Bar security chief Levi Zohar said he was able to persuade Israeli authorities not to stand in the way of villagers who wanted to pave the rough dirt road where Palestinian children trudged two miles to school and villagers struggled to evacuate stroke victims and women in labor.

Palestinian villagers say the settlements' very existence leaves them in the shadows: shrinking land and access to water, forcing farmers to become day laborers or move.

"We have been marginalized," committee member Amina al-Wahsh said. "But we want our children to have a better life."

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

Trump can’t just be defeated. He must be humiliated.

By dana milbank
Trump can’t just be defeated. He must be humiliated.

PHOENIX -- Donald Trump is running against democracy itself.

Here, in the land of Barry Goldwater, democracy is fighting back.

Only once since 1948 has Arizona gone Democratic in a presidential election, and that was the Ross Perot-skewed 1996 contest. But Trump’s manifold charms -- most recently his threat to ignore the results of the election -- have given Hillary Clinton a 5-point lead in this red state, according to a new Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll. Disgust with Trump sent thousands of white, black and brown Arizonans on Thursday afternoon into the Phoenix Convention Center (where Trump weeks ago pledged mass deportation of illegal immigrants) to hear Michelle Obama denounce Trump’s assault on the democratic process.

“We are fortunate to live in a country where the voters decide our elections,” the first lady said. “The voters decide who wins and loses. Period. End of story. And when a presidential candidate threatens to ignore our voices and reject the outcome of this election, he is threatening the very idea of America itself, and we cannot stand for that. We do not keep American democracy ‘in suspense.’”

The crowd roared its approval.

Obama’s speech is part of a push by the Clinton campaign to expand the electoral battleground into reliably Republican states such as Texas, Georgia, Utah, Alaska and, particularly, Arizona, that have been put into play by Trump’s outrages. The Clinton campaign, which already has 32 offices and 160 staffers in Arizona, announced last week that it is spending another $2 million here and dispatched Bernie Sanders, Chelsea Clinton and the first lady to campaign in the state.

As a matter of math, Arizona is irrelevant: If Clinton is doing well enough to win here, she will already have locked up the election elsewhere. But if Trump is to be denied in his bid to subvert democratic institutions by claiming a rigged election, he needs to be defeated resoundingly, removing all doubt. Clinton needs to run up the score.

The need to deal Trump a humiliating defeat has a sociological basis in the “degradation ceremony” in which the perpetrator (Trump) is held by denouncers (officeholders and others in positions of influence) to be morally unacceptable, and witnesses (the public) agree that the perpetrator is no longer held in good standing.

Psychologist Wynn Schwartz, who teaches at Harvard Medical School, explained to me that what’s needed to have a successful degradation of Trump is an epic defeat. “If it is lopsided enough,” he said, “you don’t have critical masses of people who feel disenfranchised” or “who feel justified in saying that it was stolen.”

But if Clinton’s victory is narrow, the degradation ceremony fails, because a large chunk of the population feels swindled and remains loyal to Trump.

Trump’s recent actions suggest that he will attempt to defy the degradation ceremony that a loss typically confers. Hence the importance of a landslide.

Arizona would offer an ideal rebuke. Carolyn Goldwater Ross, granddaughter of the conservative icon, introduced Obama on Thursday by saying, “I come from a long line of Republicans and I’ve stayed independent. ... But this time it’s different.” She submitted that Trump violates her grandfather’s “basic values.”

Apparently, many Arizonans agree. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the anti-immigrant icon and Trump backer, is trailing his Democratic opponent by 15 points in polling by the Republic. The newspaper endorsed Clinton, its first embrace of a Democrat for president in its 126-year history. Arizona’s junior Republican Sen. Jeff Flake is an outspoken Trump critic, its senior Republican Sen. John McCain has been attacked by Trump, and former Republican Attorney General Grant Woods has endorsed Clinton.

A growing Latino population has the state trending gradually Democratic, but not enough to put Arizona in play in 2016 in ordinary circumstances. That’s all about Trump.

“Trump accelerated what’s happening anyway,” Moises Mejia, a Mexican-born engineer at Thursday’s rally, told me. Mejia, who took one of his sons out of school to attend the rally, said he comes from a Republican family and agrees “with the Republicans’ principles, but they’ve taken it so far they’ve lost a lot of us in the middle.”

The first lady, in her fiery speech, reached out to Republicans offended by Trump’s disregard for democratic process. “Our democracy is revered around the world, and free elections are the best way on earth to choose our leaders,” she said. “This is how we elected John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, two George Bushes, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.”

That’s right. This isn’t Trump v. Clinton but Trump v. Democracy. And the way to degrade the threat is to defeat Trump, convincingly.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump’s biggest betrayal

By catherine rampell
Trump’s biggest betrayal

WASHINGTON -- If anyone is rigging the election against Donald Trump, it’s Donald Trump -- by disempowering his own voters.

Yes, Trump once (accidentally, presumably) told rally-goers to “make sure you get out and vote Nov. 28,” which would be 20 days after the polls close. But that isolated goof isn’t what will do him in. Instead, it’s the fact that he has told his supporters, repeatedly, that the election is “rigged” by a vast global conspiracy that will never let him win -- i.e., his own supporters might as well stay home even if they do know the correct election date.

In other words, his claims that he’s doomed to lose could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

At Wednesday’s debate and over several previous weeks -- not just coincidentally, corresponding with his downward slide in the polls -- Trump has repeatedly suggested that the election results will be less than kosher.

The exact nature of this tref-ness varies. He has argued that an international pan-media-banker-Democratic-FBI-elite alliance is behind unspecified improprieties. At other times he has claimed that Mexican nationals are pouring over the border to illegally cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, and that her most loyal voter base might just be dead people.

Such charges will rile up some of his base, including those who want to “monitor” the polls so they can intimidate anyone resembling, as one acolyte put it, “Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American.” These hardly seem like idle threats; data from the World Values Survey show a correlation between belief that election officials are unfair and violence at the polls.

But however motivating this rhetoric may be for a handful of die-hard Trump thugs, the larger effect will probably be to depress turnout among more marginal voters -- who disproportionately comprise Trump’s base.

Several recent social science studies find that belief in government corruption seems to discourage voting. An Innovations for Poverty Action field experiment in Mexico found that telling residents about the incumbent party’s record of corruption depressed their turnout rates.

“They stayed home because they were fed up with the system,” said Alberto Chong, a Georgia State University professor who co-wrote the paper.

A second study, from scholars at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, used a multiple-country analysis to show that perceptions of government malfeasance negatively affect turnout. This is true, however, only in countries with low to medium levels of corruption (like, say, the United States).

In another experiment, this time in the U.S., researchers tested different messages shown to people Googling information about voter registration. Language saying “the system is rigged” was less effective at getting clicks than “registering is quick, easy, and free.”

The voters most likely to be turned off by rhetoric about a rigged system are those least engaged in politics and most on the fence, said Adam S. Levine, a Cornell University professor and co-author of the third paper.

Levine says that Trump’s claims of political and electoral system corruption are most likely to be seen as credible and convincing by Trump’s own followers, the very constituency he should be trying to convince of its political efficacy.

Indeed, Trump supporters are already much less likely to believe that their votes will be counted accurately than are Clinton’s backers.

An August poll from the Pew Research Center found that only 11 percent of registered voters who said they supported Trump were “very confident” that vote tallies nationwide would be counted accurately; this is about one-fifth of the share of Clinton voters who said the same.

As for whether their (BEG ITAL)own(END ITAL) votes would be counted accurately, 38 percent of Trump voters said they were very confident this would happen. In 2008, nearly twice as many John McCain voters (65 percent) had great faith that their votes would be counted accurately.

Many demographics -- women, Muslims, immigrants, Hispanics, African-Americans, people with disabilities -- have been harmed by Trump this campaign. But perhaps his greatest betrayal has been to his own supporters, the economically anxious working-class voters who he says have been forsaken by the rest of the political class. He alone can help them, he asserts.

Trump has made cruel promises that he cannot keep, about reopened factories and mines; he has sown fear and mistrust among these constituents and their neighbors. And now he is hell-bent on convincing them the system is so rigged, so broken, that they no longer have any political agency in choosing their president or anyone else who might be on the ballot next month.

Rather than motivating his supporters to make sure their voices are heard, he is leading them into silence.

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

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Split your ticket

By robert j. samuelson
Split your ticket

WASHINGTON -- There was a time when ticket splitting was common. Voters would support one party’s candidate for president and the other’s for Congress. At its peak in 1972, ticket splitters represented 30 percent of voters, reports political scientist Alan Abramowitz of Emory University. Since then, the practice has gone into eclipse. In 2012, only 11 percent of the electorate were ticket splitters.

And yet. ...

To bring this nasty and bizarre campaign to a meaningful conclusion, what this country needs is an outburst of ticket splitting. Republicans should vote for Hillary Clinton, and Democrats should back Republican House and Senate candidates. This will strike most people as counterintuitive, if not foolishy, but there are three good reasons for doing so.

The first is to make a statement about the outcome. Neither party deserves complete victory. Both nominated widely distrusted candidates. In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (taken before last week’s final debate), only 40 percent of respondents viewed Clinton positively; a mere 29 percent felt that way about Donald Trump. Parties shouldn’t be rewarded when their popular support is so thin.

The second reason is related: to avoid misinterpretation. Assuming Clinton wins, she and others will claim that the Democrats have a “mandate.” They don’t. Her triumph would be more a repudiation of Trump than an endorsement of her policies. Just because Trump’s bad behavior was extraordinary -- routinely crude, hateful and uninformed -- does not make Clinton a beloved figure with a compelling agenda.

The same point holds true for Republicans. Retaining control of the House and, possibly, the Senate would not signal the popularity of their political philosophy, whatever it is. The election’s message for Republicans would seem devastating. Losing the White House for the third consecutive time -- and five of the last seven elections -- would show how out of touch with political reality they are. Their support is mostly defensive: fear of Democratic one-party rule.

The final reason is the most consequential -- and the most hypothetical. Divided government, driven by ticket splitting, might actually produce better government.

How could that be? Superficially, the opposite would seem more likely. Divided government would mean paralyzed government; it’s more gridlock. Clearly, that’s possible. It happened during the Obama years. We could have a repeat performance.

But that’s not inevitable. For starters, we would have a new cast of characters. Clinton, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are all “transactional politicians” -- they want to get things done -- as well as being fierce partisans. They also know that the gridlock of the past eight years hasn’t done either party much good. All this creates reasons to reach mutually acceptable agreements.

There’s a huge backlog of undone legislative business: immigration, corporate tax changes, military spending, climate change, Social Security and Medicare, to name a few. These are controversial and costly issues. Not only may one party be unable to push them through Congress; neither party may want to act alone, because that implies accepting all the blame for unpopular policies. Divided government might force both parties to search for common ground.

We live in an era defined by what Abramowitz and political scientist Steven Webster call “negative partisanship” -- an all-consuming fear of your political opponents’ agenda. What you oppose defines your politics as much as what you support. “It’s not just polarization,” says political scientist Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. “It’s tribalism. People on the other side are enemies, not just adversaries, who threaten your way of life.”

Political parties have become more ideologically pure, says Abramowitz. That’s one reason ticket splitting has declined. In the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, conservative Democrats might vote for Republican presidential candidates; so we got Eisenhower, Nixon and Reagan along with Democratic Congresses. Moderate Republicans might favor Democratic congressional candidates. Now, these political fringes have shrunk. “There’s more ideological consistency -- and more dislike of the other party,” says Abramowitz.

Well, we’ve tried ideological politics and we’ve learned one thing: It doesn’t work. It doesn’t produce consensus, and it doesn’t produce working majorities, either of the bipartisan or one-party variety. Because parties strive to differentiate themselves, cooperation become harder. On both the right and the left, power has flowed to the political fringes, who excel in rhetorical self-righteousness and flunk in legislative accomplishment. Major legislation needs bipartisan support; for confirmation, see Obamacare.

The overriding need of the next president and Congress is for both parties to rebuild their political centers, which -- almost certainly -- still command the backing of public opinion. Revitalized centrist politics does not guarantee good legislation, but it stands a better chance of producing publicly acceptable legislation. Even this may be a long shot, but it’s our best shot.

(c) 2016, The Washington Post Writers Group

You can dress him up, but Trump is Trump

By kathleen parker
You can dress him up, but Trump is Trump

WASHINGTON -- If Beltway insiders and other East Coast elites ever wondered why so many Americans prefer Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, all they need do is watch a rerun of Thursday night’s 71st annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.

There they were in their finery, A-listers from the once-cherished institutions of church, state and the Fourth Estate -- including the two aforementioned major-party presidential candidates; Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the evening’s host; and, hardly least, Maria Bartiromo’s decolletage. No one watching could have missed the cleavage clad in candy apple red beneath long sparkling earrings, as Bartiromo’s elbow-length gloves fluttered like white doves directing traffic to the heart of things. A flickering female vision floating in the TV frame among four, dusty-white males, she appeared as one of those online ads that distract readers as they try to concentrate.

Oh, but the delectable humor, jarring jokes and quivering quips -- the titters they brought to bleached smiles and knowing nods -- and all for the good of disadvantaged children for whom the dinner raised $6 million. What could be better than dining with a few close friends, amusing oneself as the future president and the inevitable loser trade insults, as millions of viewers remember why they hate Washington?

Homage also was paid to the dinner’s namesake, Al Smith, the first Catholic to run for president of the United States and at a time (the 1920s) when Catholics were viewed as Satan’s spawn by people such as Trump’s own father, who participated in a KKK-sponsored, anti-Catholic rally.

God bless America, how far we’ve come.

But not really, as Trump came to remind the boo-and-hisser crowd. As though he cared. And, as though all the deplorables and Trump sympathizers watching at home weren’t perfectly delighted by Trump’s performance. To them, the dais was a diorama of self-congratulatory elites, smugly tittering at insider humor and then, suddenly, betraying white-tie outrage at their redneck Gatsby, who hocked up his couth and hurled it into the nearest vat of Dom Perignon.

The dinner is supposed to be a gentle roast at which political foes parry a bit but always with rubber rapiers. Attendees faithfully present themselves as priests and priestesses of the Highest Order of Civility, Good Humor & Charitable Hearts. A good time is supposed to be had by all.

Trump knows the rules all right and even mentioned that he’d been attending the dinner for years, beginning when he was a young man accompanying his father. But being Trump means never playing by the rules.

He began his remarks well enough, looking rather presidential and certainly comfortable in a formal environment bloated with swells. But Trump carries within him a little bit of Gollum mixed with a touch of Truman Capote. Like Gollum, he loathes what he loves and can’t resist sabotaging himself. Like Capote, he turns on his own. If Capote alienated all his “swans,” the belles of Upper East Side New York, by betraying their confidences in “La Cote Basque, 1965,” Trump betrayed the hopes of his powerful and wealthy colleagues that he could be trusted to behave.

Some of his jokes were very funny: “After listening to Hillary rattle on and on and on, I don’t think so badly of Rosie O’Donnell anymore,” he said. When Clinton took her turn, she jabbed back with: “And looking back, I’ve had to listen to Donald for three full debates, and he says I don’t have any stamina!”

But about midway through, Trump’s lightness turned dark.

“Here she is tonight, in public, pretending not to hate Catholics,” he said of Clinton, who was seated next to Dolan. (Boos.) Trump was referring to the WikiLeaks email in which an exchange among Clinton campaign staffers seemed to be condescending to Catholics.

He earned more boos when he said Clinton was so corrupt that she’d been kicked off the Watergate Committee. And, “She knows a lot about how government works. And according to her sworn testimony, Hillary has forgotten more things than most of us will ever, ever, ever know.”

Reading over the transcript, the jokes don’t seem so bad -- or so good. Delivery really is everything. But watching the speeches in real time, Trump’s cuts contained a palpable hint of malice that wasn’t present in Clinton’s.

To the booing select, Trump’s performance was the final nail in his coffin. But to the great “unwashed,” you can be sure, Trump was doing his job and sticking it to the elites, which is what tens of millions of Americans deeply yearn to do.

Kathleen Parker’s email address is

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump’s repulsive response to his female accusers rings of defamation

By ruth marcus
Trump’s repulsive response to his female accusers rings of defamation

WASHINGTON -- Even as the country recoils, justifiably, from the prospect of Donald Trump threatening not to respect the election results, let us not lose sight of the mounting evidence of Trump’s mistreatment of women -- and his offensive debate dismissal of their claims.

At the second debate, Trump claimed that his taped boasting about grabbing women without consent was just that -- all talk, no action. In the 10 days before the third debate, nine women came forward to dispute that assertion.

So moderator Chris Wallace posed the key question: “Why would so many different women from so many different circumstances over so many different years ... all make up these stories?”

Trump’s response was a characteristically repulsive stew of dishonesty, outright lies, conspiracy theorizing and blame-shifting.

Dishonesty: “Those stories have been largely debunked,” he said. Wrong. Actually, additional corroboration has emerged.

Lies: “I did not say that,” Trump insisted, three times, after Hillary Clinton noted that part of Trump’s argument for his innocence was that the women weren’t attractive enough to merit his unwanted attention. Just go to the videotape.

Conspiracy theorizing: “I think they want either fame or her campaign did it. And I think it’s her campaign,” Trump said of his accusers. There is no evidence on either score. Indeed, a number of the accusers had to be coaxed to come forward. Some are Clinton backers; others are clear that they do not support her.

Blame-shifting: According to Trump, what we should actually be talking about is the violence at his rallies -- instigated by Clinton. Or else, “her emails, where she destroyed 33,000 emails criminally, criminally, after getting a subpoena from the United States Congress.” If the debate hall were a courtroom, Trump’s answer would have been struck as nonresponsive.

So let’s examine the actual evidence. One of the most upsetting stories -- because Trump’s alleged behavior interfered with a woman’s ability to do her job -- is also one of those with the strongest contemporaneous corroboration.

People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, at Mar-a-Lago in 2005 to report a first-anniversary piece on Donald and Melania Trump, described how Trump pushed her against a wall and tried to kiss her, sticking his tongue down her throat.

Six of Stoynoff’s friends and co-workers have corroborated parts of her story. Upset, she called a former journalism professor in tears the night of the incident; he advised her to stay quiet for fear of retaliation. Upset, she called a close friend, Marina Grasic, the next day, to recount the incident. Upset, she told three People colleagues after returning to New York.

Oh, and also, that moment when she bumped into Melania Trump outside Trump Tower, which Melania Trump says didn’t happen? Another Stoynoff friend recalls the encounter.

In other words: To discount Stoynoff’s story, you would have to believe that she was prescient enough to describe to five friends and colleagues an encounter with Trump (BEG ITAL)that mirrored his own taped account that would emerge 11 years later(END ITAL).

To buy that this story was engineered by the Clinton campaign, well, you would have to believe that in 2005, when the notion of Trump running for president was a punch line at best, Clinton and her minions brilliantly recruited Stoynoff to concoct this story and plant the seeds of corroboration to spring on Trump years later, after the “Access Hollywood” tape leaked. Or that the campaign enlisted six witnesses in a current conspiracy to lie on their behalf.

The evidence in Trump’s favor? The butler says he didn’t do it. That is, nothing seemed amiss when he walked in on Trump and Stoynoff. This would be the butler who posted on Facebook that President Obama “should have been taken out by our military and shot as an enemy agent” and said it was astonishing that “a common murder[er] is even allowed to run (killery clinton).”

Mr. Trump, your witness.

Imagining this evidence assessed in court isn’t just instructive -- it’s tempting. Because while the time has long passed for filing charges over the underlying behavior, Trump’s description of Stoynoff as “a liar” and “the dishonest writer from People magazine” opens the door to a defamation suit.

And the prospect of discovery, including Trump being forced to submit to a deposition. Imaging the man who threatens to sue everyone in sight having to answer questions about his conduct toward women, under oath. What a fitting coda for such an ugly campaign, and for such a, pardon the phrase, nasty man.

Ruth Marcus’ email address is

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump is not a GOP aberration

By e.j. dionne jr.
Trump is not a GOP aberration

WASHINGTON -- The lies and distortions that Donald Trump’s campaign messengers deploy to rationalize their candidate’s outrageousness are more typical of the last couple of decades of our politics than we’d like to admit.

Especially revealing and infuriating are the efforts to use Al Gore as a human shield against the public indignation Trump aroused by refusing to say whether he would accept the verdict of a democratic election. To compare what Gore did in the aftermath of the contested 2000 election with what Trump is doing now is like analogizing a fire marshal investigating the causes of a blaze to an arsonist.

But first, the larger lesson. As Trump has plummeted in the polls, more conventional Republicans who thought they could get away with supporting him have tried to pretend that Trump and his message were foisted on them from some distant planet.

On Thursday in Florida, President Obama called the GOP’s bluff. “Trump didn’t come out of nowhere,” he declared. “For years, Republican politicians and far-right media outlets had just been pumping out all kinds of toxic, crazy stuff. ... Donald Trump didn’t start all this. Like he usually does, he just slapped his name on it, took credit for it, and promoted the heck out of it.”

Obama cataloged the craziness he had in mind: the “birther thing,” climate change as “a Chinese hoax,” and claims that “I’m about to steal everybody’s guns in the middle of the night and declare martial law, but somehow I still need a teleprompter to finish a sentence.”

The headline news was about Obama taking on Sen. Marco Rubio for calling Trump “dangerous” and a “con artist” and then deciding it was still OK to endorse him. A race is on between now and Election Day: Can Republican candidates run away from Trump fast enough to keep their opponents from tagging them as enablers of the most dangerous candidate ever nominated by either party?

Many politically vulnerable Republicans have tried to cover themselves by condemning Trump’s refusal to say he’d accept the election’s outcome if he lost. But his election-rigging charges have a long history.

Part of Trump’s rationale rests on accusations that the media are stacked against him. This has been a staple Republican talking point since the days of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. And Trump’s insistence that Democrats win elections through “voter fraud,” mostly in big cities and minority neighborhoods, is the groundless, evidence-less rationalization Republicans have used for years to justify laws aimed at disenfranchising those who are inclined to vote against them.

In fact, voter suppression is a far graver danger to our democracy than the vanishingly tiny amount of fraud, as Ari Berman, the author of “Give Us the Ballot,” documented last week in The Nation.

Which brings us to Gore. Knowing the political trouble Trump’s blatant disrespect for the democratic process is causing him, the Republican’s defenders are relying on innocence by association. “I’m going to keep reminding everybody about the 2000 election when Al Gore said he would accept the results of the election and then did not,” said Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager. “He retracted his concession.”

This, of course, is ridiculous, as the fact-checkers have shown. Gore’s call to Bush after midnight conceding the race actually showed how much respect he had for the electoral process. It was only after news organizations withdrew their calls of Florida for Bush, depriving him of an Electoral College majority, that Gore decided a recount was called for.

To this day, many Democrats view the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision abruptly halting recounts and awarding Florida to Bush by 537 votes as partisan and even lawless. Yet despite this, and even though Gore won the national popular vote by more than 500,000, he nonetheless conceded with exceptional graciousness. “What remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside,” Gore said, publicly congratulating Bush and urging the country “to unite behind our next president.”

It’s very important to notice that Conway was effectively channeling the efforts of Bush partisans during the Florida struggle. They attacked Gore simply because he wanted a recount in an agonizingly close race. The Wall Street Journal’s editorialists spoke then of “a Gore Coup d’Etat” while Rush Limbaugh flatly asserted that Gore was trying to “steal it.” Limbaugh also said this: “We know the whole thing has been rigged.”

Yes, we’ve heard almost everything Trump and his minions are saying before. You wonder how much introspection Republicans will be capable of after all the votes are counted this year.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

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