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Go on a literary road trip through the Golden State

Go on a literary road trip through the Golden State

InfoFor generations, California has held a mythic appeal for those yearning to transform. People often come to the Golden State to strike it rich, achieve fame or shake off the trappings of their past and become someone new. But despite its glittering reputation, the state always throws plot twists into its residents’ lives: earthquakes, fires, droughts, immigration raids and exclusion laws, land grabs and skyrocketing housing prices. Writers know that California will assert itself in the stories they set there. Readers may be stuck at home now, but these five new books will take them on a...

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Jun 2
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Bay Area towns need to address sea-level rise. Will they?

Bay Area towns need to address sea-level rise. Will they?

InfoFoster City, a community of curving streets and cul-de-sacs, edges up to California’s San Francisco Bay. Built on wetlands that were drained and filled more than a century ago, the city was barely above sea level to begin with. Today, 34,000 people live in Foster City, and all that keeps water from pouring into their streets and neighborhoods is an earthen levee fortified by concrete and riprap. With climate change raising the sea level, this won’t be enough to protect the small city. So, in 2016, officials floated a plan to raise the levee. That worried Hank Ackerman, the flood-control...

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Jun 2
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Contested water settlements inflamed the Navajo Nation’s health crisis

Contested water settlements inflamed the Navajo Nation’s health crisis

InfoThe Navajo Nation is at the center of the worst global pandemic in recent memory. Although the total number of COVID-19 cases is small compared to national hotspots, the rate of infection is among the nation’s highest.Today, national media is focused on Navajo water insecurity — a clear threat to Diné people during the pandemic. About 30% to 40% of reservation residents do not have regular running water. But behind this statistic lies a history of racism and underdevelopment. Even as white communities benefited from decades of expensive water infrastructure, Diné communities were denied...

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Aug 11
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Patriot militia groups mobilize during a deadly pandemic and massive protests

Patriot militia groups mobilize during a deadly pandemic and massive protests

InfoIn the first weeks of June, as protests against police brutality spread across the country, a group of people who were neither demonstrators nor law enforcement began to appear in the streets. These members of the Patriot militia movement — an assortment of groups defined by antigovernment, pro-gun and conspiracy-driven ideologies — watched from the sidelines, kitted out in bulletproof vests and camouflage and armed with semi-automatic rifles.By mid-June, there had been 136 instances of paramilitary, far-right and armed militia groups or individuals attending anti-police violence...

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Aug 1
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New Mexico’s thin blurred line

New Mexico’s thin blurred line

InfoIn mid-June, on a sunny late afternoon, dozens of protesters led by Indigenous and youth organizers gathered in front of the Albuquerque Museum at the feet of La Jornada, a statue of Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Oñate. They called for the statue’s removal, saying it was a monument to a genocidal colonial history. On the outer banks of the crowd, at least six militiamen from the New Mexico Civil Guard, a civilian militia, flanked the protest in a tight semicircle, some of them shouldering assault rifles.When some of the protesters began taking a pickax and chain to the statue, a man...

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Aug 1
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Wyoming’s ‘Bird Lady’ offers a haven for injured birds

Wyoming’s ‘Bird Lady’ offers a haven for injured birds

In late January, Susan Ahalt walked into a veterinarian’s office in Cody, Wyoming, carrying a hooded bald eagle that was found in a ditch on a ranch, unable to fly. Blood tests revealed severe lead poisoning. Even after 33 years of helping birds, Ahalt still finds moments like this emotional.Ahalt always loved animals, but it wasn’t until she moved to Cody and rescued a baby starling that she decided to dedicate herself to birds. “I decided that I would have to name him a magnificent name because he was such an ugly little thing, so I named him Rex,” she said. “He was just a joy.” Since...

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Aug 1
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Is ‘dismal’ the best education New Mexicans can expect?

Is ‘dismal’ the best education New Mexicans can expect?

Wilhelmina Yazzie decided to sue the state of New Mexico after years of frustration with her son’s education. Parents were asked to donate old socks to wipe the dry-erase boards. Students weren’t allowed to bring textbooks home because there weren’t enough of them. Teachers left so frequently that a constant carousel of substitutes had to run the classes.Yazzie’s son, Xavier, had been earning straight A’s and was active in sports. In third grade, however, Xavier scored below grade level on statewide and national achievement tests. “I would go in and they would tell me, ‘Yeah, he’s still...

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Aug 14
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Unraveling the mystery of a stolen ceremonial shield

Unraveling the mystery of a stolen ceremonial shield

The shield and its siblings were passed down from father to son. The caretaker prayed with them daily when they were not being used as a symbol of protection in ceremonies or festivals, when other tribal members could be in their presence. But the shields never belonged to him alone. According to Acoma law, they were collectively owned; they could not leave the pueblo, nor could they be sold or destroyed. They were considered living beings rather than works of art. Cultural patrimony, unlike possessions, is an aspect of a tribe’s identity as a people — like Acoma land, language and...

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Aug 3
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New bill would permanently protect 130,000 acres of Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine

New bill would permanently protect 130,000 acres of Montana’s Badger-Two Medicine

In the 2017 report that rolled back Bears Ears National Monument, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tacked on a footnote saying that a little-known swath of land in Montana — the Badger-Two Medicine — was worthy of monument status.A staggeringly beautiful landscape bounded by Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Blackfeet Reservation, the Badger-Two Medicine is part of the traditional homeland of the Blackfeet Nation. It’s home to many Blackfeet origin stories, and Tribal members still practice traditional ceremonies there. It’s also important habitat for denning...

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Aug 7
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Catching a band of wildlife killers

Catching a band of wildlife killers

It cracked Haynes wide open. These were deer from Oregon, Haynes admitted. He told the officers that he and another man, Erik Martin, had been on a long hunting trip — what amounted to a two-week killing spree of illegal, late-night spotlighting sessions. And these weren’t the only heads they had: There were 14 more at Martin’s house.The wardens split up, two to Martin’s house, two staying with Haynes to collect evidence. It was midnight by the time the wardens met at a storage facility they kept on the outskirts of town. They formed a production line, tagging and filing the antlers and...

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Jun 2
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