NYT Politics

Bolton’s revelations could hardly come at a worse time for Trump.
Author: Peter Baker
Until now, Mr. Trump seemed assured not only of acquittal but appeared likely to fend off the testimony of any more witnesses.
Trump’s defense resumes the morning after an adviser’s account is revealed.
Author: Noah Weiland
That account directly contradicts two key components of the president’s impeachment defense.
New Jersey to Become First State to Make Builders Consider Climate Change
Author: Tracey Tully
The move is part of an effort by states to counteract the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental regulations.
Trump Denies Telling Bolton That Ukraine’s Aid Depended on Biden Investigations
Author: Eileen Sullivan
Hours after an article described an unpublished manuscript by his former national security adviser, President Trump rejected John Bolton’s account.
Trump Denies Telling Bolton That Ukraine’s Aid Depended on Biden Investigations
Author: Eileen Sullivan
Hours after an article described an unpublished manuscript by his former national security adviser, President Trump rejected John Bolton’s account.

Columbian Newspaper

Seniors’ sweet tax breaks have become a target
Author: Elaine S. Povich,

As Americans begin the challenge of filling out their tax returns this year, one taxpayer demographic generally pays less than others: senior citizens.

Tax breaks for seniors cost states approximately $27 billion a year and will more than double in the next decade, according to a recent study from the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. That money could pay for schools, roads and other needs, critics argue.

Giving a break to seniors based on their age rather than their income or financial status dates from a time when people had shorter lives and fewer investments. But the financial situation of seniors has improved overall, leaving some experts to question whether the tax breaks make sense.

“I think part of it is because there is sort of an image of seniors living on fixed incomes struggling to get by,” said Elizabeth McNichol, who wrote the study. “I think that’s stuck in peoples’ heads. The reality is the senior poverty rate is less than for other people and certainly less than for younger people and children.”

In 1970, about a quarter of the over-65 population had below-poverty income, the report pointed out, citing the U.S. Census Bureau’s official poverty measure. Since then, retirement income, including Social Security, has expanded. Today, only 10% of those over 65 are poor, according to the same measure.

By comparison, the rate of children under 18 living in poverty is 16%, according to the latest U.S. census figures.

But, the report noted, senior poverty is higher within minority groups and among the very old — leading to greater disparities in wealth among senior citizens. “As a result, many longstanding state tax preferences for seniors now benefit taxpayers with much better ability to pay taxes than lower-income households,” the report said.

The state income tax liability of seniors varies. Seniors in Georgia paid just 42% of what they would have paid as non-seniors, compared with 90% in Rhode Island, according to a 2016 study in Public Finance Review. However, state lawmakers have little incentive to stop handing tax advantages to seniors.

Older folks vote more, and they have powerful lobbyists like the AARP to look after their interests. In fact, a half dozen states — including West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia — already are gearing up with new or carryover senior tax break legislation for the coming legislative sessions.

Those would be in addition to 28 states and the District of Columbia, which exempt Social Security income from state income tax. Another 26 states exempt private pension income from taxes, in full or in part. And all but six states give additional age-based benefits such as personal income tax exemptions, higher standard deductions or extra tax credits.

AARP’s Elaine Ryan, vice president for state advocacy and strategy, said in an email to Stateline that while the group generally supports tax preferences that are “equitable, cost-effective and targeted to those who have lower and moderate incomes,” seniors have special needs.

Those include a greater need for financial security, as pensions don’t keep up with the cost of living or are eliminated altogether and can’t compensate for the increasing costs of groceries, utilities and prescription drugs, she said.

She also noted that the most recent data from the Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure — an alternate poverty measure that accounts for many of the government programs designed to assist low-income families and individuals that are not included in the official poverty measure — shows that nearly 14% of seniors are at or below the poverty level, slightly higher than the overall population (13%).

But the cost to state treasuries is significant, setting up battles between old and young as well as competing special interests.

Take Michigan. A couple of bills last year that would have done away with the state’s tax on government worker pensions got caught up in arguments about how to make up for the estimated $330 million annual loss to the state treasury.

A similar bill is under consideration this year, sponsored by state Sen. Paul Wojno, a Democrat, who argues it’s a matter of fairness. Many employees were told their pension would be tax-free, he said, when they went to work for the state government.

Former Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, imposed the levy in 2011. Current Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, campaigned on getting rid of it.

“We do have a large number of individuals who worked in public service,” Wojno said in a phone interview. “They went in and they had promises made to them. … They earned their pension and they deserve to maintain as much of it as they were promised.”

Wojno said his proposal would not raise other taxes, but to compensate for the lost revenue, the state could tap $450 million that was allocated but never spent. He also said his proposal would not take money from vital services such as education.

But it was those worries over school funding that led the Michigan Association of School Boards to oppose the move, according to Jennifer Smith, the group’s director of government relations.

“We’re opposed at this point because (the pension tax) brings in a significant amount of revenue,” she said. “If the pension tax is repealed, it’s a $70 million cut to the school aid fund. We’re not arguing the merits of the pension tax — it’s $70 million that would no longer be available to the school aid fund.”

James Hohman, director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan, said concerns over where money will come from to fix the state’s crumbling roads also play into the debate.

In addition, he said, there’s a fairness issue over proposing to exempt pensions from taxation, but not other sorts of retirement income, especially as fewer and fewer companies fund defined benefit pensions and go with employee-funded 401(k) accounts, for example.

“States have generally wanted to give preferences to taxation for people in retirement,” he said. “I understand why the state is mimicking a lot of other states in giving preference for retirees. But to do it for pensions only is inappropriate and unfair to people with other types of retirement income. In the future, especially, there are going to be a lot of people in retirement with other types of income than pensions.

“There’s probably a good reason most states have a preference for retirement income,” Hohman said, noting the politics behind the policies. “Popular policy really matters. A lot of states look at it as something desirable. Is it a fair policy? A lot of people have opinions on that.”

In Maryland last week, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan proposed cutting income taxes for retirees who make less than $100,000 a year and eliminating them for retirees who make less than $50,000, saying it would help keep retirees in the state.

Similar tax breaks for seniors took effect in Connecticut last year. The state already exempted Social Security income from taxes if a retiree’s annual income was less than $50,000 for an individual or $60,000 for a couple. But the state raised those ceilings to $75,000 and $100,000. Income over those limits will be 75% exempted.

Then, Connecticut started to phase in tax exemptions for retirees with pensions and income from savings and investments at the same thresholds. During legislative debate on the issue, lawmakers said the breaks would help keep retirees in the state, rather than have them move to states with lower taxes.

The belief that retirees move for tax reasons is fueled by popular magazine stories with headlines like “2020’s Best States to Retire.” But a recent Kiplinger piece sounded a cautionary note. The article — “Should You Relocate to Trim Taxes in Retirement?” — noted other factors to consider, such as local cost of living and taxes on property and consumption.

Fred Carstensen, a professor of finance and economics at the University of Connecticut who has studied the issue, said the idea that retirees move for lower taxes is false.

“Does anybody really believe you are going to move to a different state, separate from community, family and friends, because you want to avoid taxes? No,” he said in an interview. “If you lived in Westport (a wealthy Connecticut suburb), why would you move to someplace that doesn’t offer the quality of life that Westport has?”

He also said the new tax breaks forfeit $170 million in revenue at a time when the state’s economy has been shrinking.

McNichol, of the progressive think tank, says the tax cuts for seniors and the subsequent revenue forfeiture are not fair at all.

“All of it eats into the revenue for services that affect everyone, but also infrastructure that would help seniors — better roads, better health care,” she said. “It’s really important now to try to target seniors’ tax breaks. The share of population in each of the states is aging, and we really need to invest in the whole population.”

39 essential films to see at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival
Author: Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

For 50-plus weeks of the year, Park City, Utah, happily presents itself as the home of the world’s largest ski resort and all that that implies. But for the coming days, something bigger comes to town, something so consuming that one luxury hotel felt safe promising potential guests there would be “virtually NO ONE on the mountain.”

That would be the Sundance Film Festival, the independent film colossus, which last year attracted 122,000 attendees from 48 states and 35 countries and generated $182.5 million in economic activity, numbers even the massive ski mecca would find hard to match.

Speaking of numbers, a record 15,100 films were submitted for the 2020 event, including 3,853 features, which the festival narrowed down to 118 from 27 countries, all to be viewed by 1,300 accredited journalists, which is a scary number all by itself.

Because Sundance is so good at drawing a crowd, it attracts other entities as well, including media powerhouses intent on showcasing their inclusive sides. Audiobook giant Audible, for instance, will debut at the festival with The Audible Speakeasy, “where stories are stirred, shaken and spoken” and AT&T is behind both the WarnerMedia Lodge (“elevating storytelling with AT&T”) and a three day HBO, TNT and TBS pop-up named Our Stories To Tell.

Those hungry for a throwback to the festival’s earlier, rowdier days will be happy to hear that an 8-foot-tall Bigfoot, a competitor in a World Taxidermy Championship, is scheduled to make appearances on Main Street to promote “Big Fur,” a documentary screening at Slamdance, the rival Park City film festival.

As to what’s screening at Sundance itself, the news is good. Having had the opportunity to sample a variety of what’s in store, I was struck not only by the continued remarkable strength of the festival’s documentaries but also by the involving adult dramas that are rare elsewhere but plentiful here. Here are a baker’s dozen that made the strongest impression on me:

“The Father”: What could be better than superb acting by Anthony Hopkins as a maddeningly difficult 80-year-old dad and Olivia Colman as his trying-to-cope daughter?

“Farewell Amor”: A gift for conveying delicate emotion by debuting director Ekwa Msangi infuses this story of an Angolan family reuniting in New York after a 17-year gap.

“The Last Shift”: Richard Jenkins and Shane Paul McGhie excel as a man leaving a fast-food night shift after 38 years and his unhappy replacement, respectively. Doesn’t at all go where you think it will.

“The Assistant”: Tackles the incendiary subject of workplace degradation with remarkable cool conviction.

“I Carry You With Me”: An impressive Spanish-language narrative debut by documentary veteran Heidi Ewing follows a gay love story over 20 years and two countries.

“Herself”: Irish actress Clare Dunne cowrote a very moving part for herself as a mother of three facing adversity without end.

“Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made”: A Disney+ charmer for kids directed by Tom McCarthy about a super serious fifth-grade detective and his imaginary partner: a 1,500-pound polar bear.

“Lost Girls”: The first drama by documentarian Liz Garbus stars a commanding Amy Ryan as a mother pushing for answers when her sex worker daughter is murdered.

“Ironbark”: Based-on-fact spy dramas are always a treat, especially when starring Benedict Cumberbatch as an ordinary man drawn into the maelstrom of the Cuban missile crisis.

“Nine Days”: As offbeat and enigmatic as speculative drama gets, writer-director Edson Oda posits that personified souls apply for the privilege of being born. One of a kind, though reminiscent of Kore-Eda’s brilliant “After Life.”

“Tesla”: Ethan Hawke plays the legendary star-crossed scientist, and electric car namesake, in Michael Almereyda’s unconventional biography of a very unconventional man.

“Charter”: From Sweden, a devastating story of a divorced woman and her fraught relationship with her children and her ex.

“The Glorias”: An unconventional Julie Taymor biopic about Gloria Steinem elevated by having several actresses, including Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore, play the role.

Sundance’s documentaries never steer you wrong, and I found that the ones I especially enjoyed could be divided into capacious categories. Most vivid, perhaps, are films about big personalities, people whose stories fill the screen with no trouble at all.

“Mucho Mucho Amor”: How celebrity astrologer Walter Mercado, who believed “to be different is a gift, to be ordinary is common” became an international sensation and “like a religion” to his followers.

“Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind”: Daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner brings her keen, intimate perspective to the life of a powerful actress whose unexpected death “left a hole in our lives.”

“Whirlybird”: L.A.’s pioneering helicopter news pilot Bob Tur, known to be exceptionally aggressive in chasing stories, looks back on his life, having transitioned to Zoey Tur.

“The Go-Go’s”: A thorough and detailed account, made with current and past band members, detailing the rise, fall, and rise again of the beloved L.A. all-female band.

“Be Water”: Great clips and comments from everyone who was anyone in the life of Bruce Lee delve into his career and his concerns with family, culture and identity.

“Lance”: Marina Zenovich (“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”) constructs a blisteringly candid examination of the full-throttle personality of cyclist Lance Armstrong.

“Spaceship Earth”: The outlandish 1990s large-scale science experiment that was Biosphere 2 wouldn’t have happened without charismatic futurist John P. Allen.

“Rebuilding Paradise” A small town with an outsized personality comes back from the devastating Camp fire. Ron Howard directs.

Several of the bigger personalities on screen this year just happen to be involved with criminal activity. For instance:

“The Painter and the Thief”: One of those highly unlikely stories about the long strange trip of a friendship between an artist and a junkie she met after he stole her paintings.

“Love Fraud”: Veterans Rachel Grady and Ewing examine the depredations of a heartless lonely-hearts conman and the determination of the women who decide to take him on.

“Into the Deep”: When a Danish inventor murdered a young female journalist on his homemade submarine, an Australian filmmaker was already working on a film about him. This is the result.

“Assassins”: The story of the two women who took out the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is so bizarre you almost can’t believe it happened.

Though teenagers always factor in Sundance’s dramas, this year documentaries involving them are especially involving as well.

“Giving Voice”: The August Wilson Monologue Competition invites high schoolers to master the playwright’s dazzling writing. Six are followed, and as they explore the power of art to change lives, the results truly stir the soul.

“Boys State”: A high-energy fly-on-the-wall look at what happens when 1,000 Texas high school students gather over a week to wheel and deal and attempt to construct a representative government.

“Crip Camp”: Paradigm-shattering summers spent at an unusual camp in the Catskills had a formative effect on individuals who went on to become disability rights activists.

“The Reason I Jump”: A sensitive attempt to be “an envoy from another world,” to explain the potentially impenetrable universe of autism from the inside.

Always a major documentary category at Sundance are the films that look at society’s attempts to grapple with political and social issues. The best ones this year include:

“The Cost of Silence”: A mystery inside a disaster details how the use of chemical dispersants after 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling explosion caused extensive illness that was covered up.

“The Social Dilemma”: A provocative look, powered by renegade tech insiders, at how “surveillance capitalism” wants to manipulate our lives.

“Collective”: A knockout Romanian doc, already a hit at Venice and Toronto, that shows a variety of citizens who refused to be intimidated by entrenched corruption.

“The Fight”: A surprisingly lively behind-the-scenes look at how ACLU lawyers fight the government to uphold rights.

“A Thousand Cuts” and “Softie”: Two gripping films profiling remarkable journalists, the first in the Philippines, the second in Kenya, who expose government malfeasance at considerable personal cost.

“Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen”: A thoughtful, articulate examination of how Hollywood has portrayed gender-nonconforming people in the past.

“Coded Bias”: The concept of artificial intelligence sounds impressive, but it turns out all too human bias can easily slip into technology.

Finally, every Sundance has those one-of-a-kind, indescribable documentaries that are like nothing else. This year there were two:

“The Truffle Hunters”: Enter the remarkable world of elderly Northern Italians and their wonder dogs, the only individuals who know how to find super valuable white truffles. And they’re not telling.

“The Mole Agent”: Wry, charming, gently observational, this Chilean doc introduces the world’s oldest undercover agent, an 83-year-old man hired to see how a nursing home is doing its job. An AARP version of a John LeCarre film, and none the worse for that.

Goldendoodle rescued from hoarding has new purpose in Juvenile Court
Author: Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Izzy stood on a light blue mat, as 16-year-old Marley placed her left hand on the top of the Goldendoodle’s head and turned to face the juvenile court referee.

The teen listened as a probation officer spoke to the Macomb County Juvenile Court referee. She occasionally petted Izzy or glanced at her, and sat calmly, as the pooch silently laid on her mat beside the teen’s seat at a table.

Izzy was present when Marley learned the referee was going to release her from the county’s juvenile justice center and place her on intensive probation.

Though the teen’s mom was sitting on the other side of her, Marley said Izzy “was more comfort there. I didn’t feel so alone.”

That’s one of the goals of the juvenile court’s new therapy dog program, which started in October. Izzy provides comfort and stress relief to youths and their families who are receiving services, particularly those who are vulnerable, fragile or anxious victims or litigants.

“We deal with a lot of kids with mental health problems. Court itself is kinda scary for those kids. She can be in on the office visit or a calming influence in the courtroom,” said Nicole Faulds, juvenile division administrator.

She said Izzy — who was rescued from a hoarding situation and was recommended by the county’s chief animal control officer because of her temperament — has reduced stress for some children and built rapport with others, particularly those who have experienced trauma in their lives. Izzy is handled by Amy Mitchell, a case work supervisor for the court, and comes to work daily with her since she finished training.

The use of trained dogs and handlers in criminal justice settings — including courthouses, prosecuting attorneys’ offices, child advocacy centers and domestic violence programs — is a growing trend.

As of December, there were 234 accredited facility dogs working in legal agencies in 40 states, as well as in Canada, Australia, Chile and Europe, according to Courthouse Dogs Foundation.

Two are accredited through the group in Michigan: the Leelanau County Prosecutor’s Office in Suttons Bay and the Sexual Assault Services of Calhoun County in Battle Creek.

There also are an untold number of other dogs providing support in these types of settings, including dozens in Michigan.

Ellen O’Neill-Stephens, a retired deputy prosecuting attorney in Seattle and founder of Courthouse Dogs Foundation, said she saw a lot of emotional trauma that people suffered with while involved in an investigation and testifying in court.

“This is one way to mitigate that trauma,” she said. “Especially for children, it’s very important they go through this without causing additional lifelong trauma.”

The growth of dogs in legal areas is happening despite reports that some judges and defense attorneys have raised concerns about dogs in courtrooms, potentially bringing bias against the defendant or prejudicing juries.

In a 2018 article in the Chicago Tribune, a Denver defense lawyer said he has unsuccessfully fought the use of dogs in criminal trials several times. The lawyer, Christopher Decker, told the newspaper that he believes it distracts jurors from determining the truthfulness of the testimony, “tends to engender sympathy” and is “highly prejudicial.”

O’Neill-Stephens said she is trying to use her group’s model to set the standard in this area so “the presence of the handler nor the dog should create a problem on appeal … or be unfair to the defendant.”

“Personally, I’ve had defense attorneys say it’s not fair to their client,” said Dan Cojanu, program director and founder of Canine Advocacy Program in West Bloomfield, which has 29 dogs working in courts in Oakland County and throughout Michigan.

“If you look at the flip side, if you prepare a child properly to testify, they’ll get the opportunity to cross-examine this child. If the child is upset, rolls into a ball and is crying, it’s not good for their client, either. We’re offering a service for everyone,” said Cojanu, a retired victim advocate supervisor with the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office. “When a child is up there and they’re not as anxious as they were coming in, they’re going to be able to give the information and answer the questions everybody wants.”

The Lake County Public Defender’s Office in Illinois was the first — and may still be the only — public defender’s office in the country to have a dog, starting in 2018, said Keith Grant, chief of the office’s Guardian ad Litem Division. He said the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office also has two dogs.

When Grant’s office has clients in need, especially delinquents and those in abuse and neglect cases in non-trial settings, the certified facility dog, Simba, helps calm them.

He said Simba has been in interviews and courtroom settings, but not trials. Juveniles waiting for a case to be called have petted Simba; and in one surprising instance, a very agitated juvenile smiled and petted the dog during his entire proceeding.

“Everybody in the room was like something had just exploded,” Grant recalled. “He was gonna blow up the court, yell and scream, and tell the judge his mind before Simba came in and changed the entire thing.”

Since then, the juvenile has worked more with the office and is formulating plans for his future, Grant said. The Labrador retriever gives the youth a reason to come in.

“That’s the kind of thing he can do,” Grant said of Simba.

Amber Depuydt-Goodlock, supervisor of the Child Advocacy Center Program at Sexual Assault Services/Bronson Battle Creek, said the dog she handles — Matty — has helped ease many kids through the legal system over the years.

Matty, a cross between a golden retriever and a Labrador, has been in counseling settings and at courts, waiting with victims before they testify. He now primarily works in the Child Advocacy Center, greeting children when they arrive and spending time with them before they leave.

“When they leave, the last memory of the case is not things that happened with them, Depuydt-Goodlock said, “but time they spent with Matty.”

Michigan statute allows for a courtroom support dog, meaning “a dog that has been trained and evaluated as a support dog pursuant to the Assistance Dogs International Standards for guide or service work and that is repurposed and appropriate for providing emotional support to children and adults within the court or legal system or that has performed the duties of a courtroom support dog prior to Sept. 27, 2018.”

It allows a courtroom support dog and its handler to be with, or in close proximity to, children and vulnerable adults during testimony.

A notice of intent to use a courtroom support dog is required if the dog is to be used during trial, but not during other courtroom proceedings. A court must rule on a motion objecting to the use of a courtroom support dog before the date when the witness needs to use the dog, according to the statute.

In 2018, the Michigan Court of Appeals in a 2-1 ruling overturned a sexual assault conviction because an adult complainant was allowed to testify with a support dog and its handler. It stated there was legal precedent to allow children and developmentally disabled adults to testify with a support dog, but not “a fully abled adult.”

O’Neill-Stephens, with Courthouse Dogs Foundation, said the ruling was “complete nonsense.”

While state laws may vary on the use of dogs in court, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas announced on his website that the Senate passed his Courthouse Dogs Act, which could clarify federal judges’ authority to allow certified facility dogs in courtrooms during legal proceedings.

The act allows for any party in a federal criminal proceeding to request an order authorizing an available certified courthouse dog to accompany a witness while testifying in federal court, according to Cornyn’s website.

It states that in order to be certified facility dogs, they must have graduated from an assistance dog organization that is a member of an internationally recognized assistance dog association whose primary purpose is based on excellence in the areas of dog acquisition, training and placement.

The dog also must be accompanied by a trainer who is trained to manage the dog and has knowledge about the legal and criminal justice processes. The act was supported by Courthouse Dogs Foundation among others.

Twenty-four dogs are registered as courthouse therapy dogs in courts throughout western Michigan, with four more in training through West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Kent County Circuit Court Chief Judge Pro Tem Kathleen Feeney said.

She said the dogs help ease children’s fears, allowing them to “stand up and tell their story … things you and I don’t want to tell as adults.”

Navy Lt. Kayla Barron of Richland completes astronaut training, sets her sights on the stars
Author: Kip Hill, The Spokesman-Review

Richland native Kayla Barron can now be a little more specific about what she does for a living.

“I normally say that I work at NASA,” said Barron, 32, who was one of 11 NASA candidates for space missions who formally completed her training in Houston on Friday. “And a lot of people don’t ask a follow-up question. Then you get to keep your anonymity for a little bit longer.”

If asked now, the 2006 graduate of Richland High School can say she’s in line to be among the first humans to walk on the moon in nearly 40 years, and the first woman to ever do that. Barron’s graduation means she can be picked for missions in space, and NASA has announced its intention to return to Earth’s satellite in 2024 as part of preparations to continue to Mars.

Barron said she often returns to Washington via Spokane and travels northward to Lake Roosevelt, where her husband’s family owns property. The U.S. Navy lieutenant said the past two years of training have been about building team skills with her fellow astronauts, who she said aren’t locked in competition for the coveted position aboard Earth’s next moon-bound vessel.

“I don’t think I’ve ever experienced any competition among our class,” said Barron. “Our class is incredible. Every single person comes from a different background, and a different perspective.”

Barron’s desire to travel to space came later than many of her peers, she said. After graduating high school, Barron continued her studies at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. There, she ran cross country and track under her maiden name, Sax, and attained a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering. Barron was drawn to serving on submarines, and was assigned to the USS Maine ported in Bangor, Washington, after obtaining a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from Cambridge.

After serving underwater, Barron said her attention turned to the stars following a conversation with Kay Hire, a fellow Naval graduate who’d gone on to work at NASA and made two trips to the International Space Station in 1998 and 2010.

“We just geeked out about all the similarities between submarines and the space station, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Barron said.

Hire retired from NASA last February.

Training included test flights on a T-38 supersonic jet, underwater walks meant to mimic those in space and learning the Russian language to communicate with the cosmonauts also assigned to the International Space Station. Barron described herself as a “struggling conversationalist” in the Cyrillic language.

Barron’s graduation means she’ll be the second female astronaut from the region eligible for space travel as NASA begins its Artemis missions with eyes to the moon and beyond. Anne McClain, a 1997 graduate of Gonzaga Prep who served aboard the space station last year, has also been rumored as among candidates for the moon mission.

Barron said she’ll remain in Houston, continuing to train for space walks and assisting the mission from the ground. But she’s eager to continue her journey beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

“All my family’s still in Washington, so Washington definitely holds a really close place in my heart,” Barron said. “I love coming back and visiting. I can’t wait to see Washington from space.”


"Ours to Tell": New Film Highlights Personal Stories About the Importance of Abortion Access
Author: (Democracy Now!)

As Roe v. Wade faces unprecedented attacks, the new short film “Ours to Tell” puts a human face to the fight for reproductive justice and highlights those whose stories are often sidelined by the media: LGBTQ communities and communities of color. The film focuses on Ylonda, Nick, Hannah and Brittany, four people who discuss how having access to abortion shaped their lives. The film was directed by Rayka Zehtabchi and was created by Planned Parenthood and We Testify. For more on the film, as well as the state of reproductive rights in the United States, we speak with Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and executive director of We Testify and the executive producer of “Ours to Tell.”