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Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Asher-Smith misses 100m final, Djokovic beaten again and more – live!

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From Super-Spreader Sex Houses to Nude Beach Fistfights, Vaccinated Partying Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

After being woken up by the sound of a little dog below me humping his favorite teddy bear, I crawl down the ladder of a kid bunk bed and head downstairs to assess the damage of last night’s debauchery. Cigarette butts, empty wine bottles, and half eaten baguettes litter the kitchen and pool area of this mini French mansion my friend Jackie is currently dog sitting at. There’s puke around the toilet in the “cave” downstairs, a hot Frenchie sashaying through the kitchen in his gunties, still high on X, and a middle-aged dude starfished face up on these people’s shmancy leather couch, completely naked. Goddamn it’s good to be going back to normal!

Before I was washing bananas with Purell and wearing rubber gloves everywhere (all pointless!), I was a wild, perpetually single lady in my early 40’s having the best time (and sex!) of my life here in France. By the time I got my second dose of Pfizer in June, I’m sharing a life and home with my husband (what?!!) and have adopted a traumatized rescue dog who’s way too obsessed with me. The pandemic seems to have brought about either extreme change or heavy doses of the exact same. Most people I know here are entering the vaccinated stage of this global nightmare as new (sometimes jacked-up-on-Redbull) versions of their old selves, for better or worse. But some are like me—emerging from this police-enforced cocoon of three lockdowns and never-ending curfews, flapping our mangled butterfly wings, no idea how to fly, not really sure wtf happened… but quite certain we ain’t caterpillars no more.

When the government finally ended all the curfews, outdoor mask mandates, lockdowns, and permission slips to leave our homes and then let us back into restaurants, bars, and even our beloved sex clubs, I assumed France would collectively bust through the pandemic door, Koolaid-man-style, free at last! But, come to find out, a lot of people, including all of my wilder friends here, weren’t too bothered by a global crisis to begin with. They’ve been partying hard throughout the whole damn pandemic, not the least bit deterred by lockdowns, curfews, or even the threat of a 135 euro fine for defying either.

I, on the other hand, was like that annoying teacher’s pet in class, filling out my little permission slips every time I left home, staying within the allotted 1k (and later 10k) radius from our flat, and making it back chez moi long before curfew. Always. Yet I was stopped and questioned by the police four times. Despite being a bit of a rebel in all other area of my life, I am not one to fuck with the police. Maybe because I’m American and have a fear of people who murder their constituents. I don’t have “revolution in my genes” like the French and would never throw bags of shit at the “bleus.” Or maybe it’s because this wasn’t my first police-not-letting-you-leave-the-house rodeo. Sleeping in kid jail and spending a whole summer on house arrest as a teen primed me for French lockdowns. But really, I was just plain terrified of the thought of me drowning in my own mucus, all alone. That fear wasn’t unfounded either. I had prior immune and lung issues as well as eleven family members here in France with COVID, two in the ICU.

Even though I ended up breaking good during this pandemic, most people I know, even the super careful and responsible ones, were doing things the French way—drawing their own conclusions about which rules were meant to be broken. My husband played by the book but never bothered to fill out those tedious permission slips. My friend, Cecille, would use an erasable pen on hers so she could go see her boyfriend 1k farther away than lockdowns allowed. My buddy, Julien, would wear gym clothes to go drink by the river with friends during the first lockdown when we were only allowed outside for one hour a day to “exercise.” Whenever he spotted a cop, he’d start jogging.

And then there are the folks who did pretty much whatever the fuck they wanted. It wasn’t just young people, either. My divorced mom friend, Sylvie, like a lot of my buddies in their 30’s and 40’s, was partying even harder than usual. At “Easter Brunch,” she snorted coke for the first time in 15 years, then danced in her underwear til 5am.

Since the second lockdown, my friend Julien (who wore jogging clothes to drink) has been partying regularly with a group of parents in one of Lyon’s many 14th century wine caves underground. They’d throw up a disco ball, take a bunch of X, and dance all night in a sound (and ventilation!!) proof room made of rock, hooking up with each other indiscriminately (but only “above the waist!). Julien was actually complaining about restrictions ending—his parent friends are all too busy now that France is open for business again. See why I stayed home? I’ve always thought of masks as pandemic condoms and COVID as an STD minus the fun reason for getting it. Sharing air with any of them indoors was, in my mind, like sharing air with every maskless and drunk person they’d shared air with. It’s simple math, really!

Meanwhile, I’ve become the kind of woman who watches her codependent dog on a baby cam from a block away to see if he can stay home alone for more than 20 minutes without annoying the shit out of the neighbors (still can’t!). Once I got my hands on that second Pfizer dose, though, I could finally go back to “normal” and socialize. Only now, I’ve got to somehow do that while also merging my old choose-your-own-adventure-yeee-haaaw self with the “settled’-and-finally-respected-by-my-parents version of Melanie.

My first night out is at France’s annual music festival, Fête de la Musique, where bands and DJ’s play randomly all over town. I feel a bit like that mermaid, entering a whoooooole neeeeew wooooorld, shoulder-to-shoulder with drunk strangers, walking on my newly vaccinated but wobbly legs. Right out of the gate, my senses are overloaded, like way more intense than any acid trip in high school—techno music blaring, drunk people spitting when they close-talk, everyone doing the French bisous on the cheek, beautiful women blowing bubbles from giant French windows above. Booze, weed, BO, and sooo much cigarette smoke (it is France!). The mask mandate is over now, but I’m not ready to breathe this close to people who give zero fucks about airborne pathogens. I head down to the river where there’s more space and spend the rest of the night dancing to shiny horns of all sizes being played by people dressed as unicorns and clowns. I haven’t drank in 17 years but I’m straight up hung over the whole next day, likely from both a contact high and sensory overload.

But the festival also left me craving more. Desperate to finally go back to the familiar, I eat duck something-something on a restaurant patio and it’s thrilling. I cheer on Team France at an outside bar patio full of belligerent fans screaming ohhh ohhh ohhhh ohhh ohhh ohhhh (until we lose, boooooo). I even venture to places I’ve never before had the courage to go—a local nudist beach where, I kid you not, a fight breaks out. We’re talk’n old naked men rolling on the ground, dicks swinging in the chaos, the police being called. Days later a gal pal convinces me to finally try a French sex club, where masks are the only thing anyone’s sporting. During all this, I’m always pretty safe, either outdoors and somewhat distanced or indoors and masked. Then comes the slumber party at the mini mansion. Finally I’m going to hang out with my party animal friends, all together, for the first time since the pandemic began.

The owners gave my friend Jackie 20 bottles of wine and permission to throw a party in exchange for taking care of their teddy bear humping dog, Leopold. Since Jackie and most of our friends are single women, she invites as many men as possible. My sweet husband offers to stay home and take care of our 80 pound baby because he’s amazing like that, then drops me off at 2pm with my sleeping bag and an armful of baguettes. The party is a mix of Frenchies and expats, mostly single or divorced, and in their 30’s and 40’s, though one is old enough to have a teenage son, who he brings along. I’m not used to having a boyfriend in general, much less a husband, so when drunk men immediately hit on me, I flash my ring “Sorry!” to nip that shit in the bud. I’m the only coupled person here except for one girl, who brought along her boyfriend and two of his hottest coworkers… all cops. This is basically a sausage fest of middle aged folks who rage even harder than me in my high school days.

Besides a massive hail storm, the party is just your typical drunk fest carnality. The cops either don’t know or don’t care that Julien and company are doing coke down in the basement and everyone but me is stoned out of their mind. The guy who walks around in a speedo with a semi boner the entire party ends up puking all night long. My divorced mom friend, Sylvie, doesn’t want him to meet a Jimmy Hendrix fate in that basement, so she tucks him in bed with a trash can in a room upstairs with a child’s name spelled in colorful wood letters on the door. I end up playing mom also, but to Leopold, the teddy bear humper, and carry his anxious ass around the second half of the night. But he’s a great cock block to that drunk guy who keeps trying to dance with me. Luckily that dude finds a willing volunteer to fuck him in the basement real quick before he comes back up stairs and passes out naked on that fancy leather couch.

At 5am, I settle into my bunk bed covered in kid clothes and stuffed animals with the soundtrack of speedo guy’s sporadic vomiting next door. When I text Anthony bonne nuit, it occurs to me this is our first night apart since that life-changing day we decided to confine together 16 months ago. I’d spent most of my 41 previous years sleeping in my own bed (or truck) all alone. That’s what I’ve always known and even preferred. But as I’m laying here now, it’s fucking weird not having Anthony next to me. Too quiet. I miss his snoring. And that of our therapy dog who needs therapy himself. Man, I wish they were here with me now, even if it’d be a little tight.

With so much vaccine inequity and now this Delta variant junk show, it’s pretty clear the pandemic isn’t anywhere near being over. In fact, all the partiers who weren’t fully vaccinated got Covid at that pool party and spent a week in bed. My little Pfizer bender was fun and all, but it’s over for now. I’m still a rule breaker at heart and an adventurer in every other area, but I’m all about calculated risks now that I’m playing on team Melanthony.

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3 critically hurt in Austin shooting

Three people were critically wounded in a shooting Saturday morning in Austin on the West Side.

The group was standing outside about 3:50 a.m. in the 1300 block of North Massasoit Avenue when a male approached on foot and fired shots, Chicago police said.

A 29-year-old woman suffered a gunshot wound to the chest and was transported to Stroger Hospital in critical condition, police said.

Another woman, 56, was struck in the back and a man, 30, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the legs, police said. Both were taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood in critical condition, according to police.

There was no one in custody.

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Horoscopes July 31, 2021: Zac Brown, it’s up to you to make the most of your life

Lead singer Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band in concert at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)

CELEBRITIES BORN ON THIS DAY: Rico Rodriguez, 23; B.J. Novak, 42; Zac Brown, 43; J.K. Rowling, 56.


Happy Birthday: Check out what’s going on around you, and make better decisions. Put what isn’t working for you to rest, and focus on concrete possibilities within your means. Look at change as an experience that helps you grow. Learn something new that encourages you to put your energy where it counts. It’s up to you to make the most of your life. Your numbers are 9, 13, 22, 29, 32, 36, 49.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): An event that offers mental stimulation will exceed your expectations and open your eyes to an exciting life alternative. Gather information and discuss your intentions with an expert. An opportunity that can change the way you earn your living is within reach. 3 stars

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Make up your mind before someone steps in and decides for you. Base your decision on what feels right and will create personal and community changes that make your life better and safer. Rely on what’s tangible, and you will excel. 3 stars

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): A low profile will help you achieve what you set out to do with the least amount of interference. Draw on the experience you have to mastermind what you want to achieve. Choose your words wisely, ask questions and pursue opportunities. 3 stars

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Stay in touch with people who ground you, offer concrete suggestions, and pitch in and help. Be willing to take good advice and add a unique but sensible twist that will encourage acceptance and success. Romance someone you love. 4 stars

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Nurture influential relationships. Discuss changes or concerns, and sort through any unfinished business you have with others. Ease stress by doing what’s right and best for you, and you’ll be in a better position to start something new. 2 stars

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Listen carefully, and you’ll pick up information that will change the way you think. Get together with friends or relatives, but don’t reveal what you are planning to do. Listen attentively, and you’ll gain valuable information and popularity. Romance is featured. 5 stars

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Don’t take anything for granted, primarily when it deals with money, health or contracts. Someone will color a picture to get something from you, but rest assured, there will be underlying facts to consider. Don’t act in haste. 3 stars

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Refuse to get pulled into a messy situation. If you get involved in other people’s business, you will be the one blamed for whatever goes wrong. Concentrate more on self-preservation and looking and doing your best. Learn from your mistakes. 3 stars

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): An opportunity will backfire if it has the potential to jeopardize your health. Play it safe, and don’t trust anyone to be upfront about the way they feel. Ask questions before you take a physical or financial risk. 3 stars

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): You can make a move, update your premises or invest in something that will help you get ahead. A contract between you and someone you love will bring you closer together and pave the way to a better future. Romance is encouraged. 5 stars

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Refuse to let anyone limit what you can accomplish. Emotional decisions and changes will not help you get what you want. Strive for equality, and you will overcome a tug of war with someone close to you. Don’t reveal personal secrets. 2 stars

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): An unexpected opportunity looks promising. Update your resume, search online job sites and prepare to raise your income. Don’t let anyone discourage you from making a move. Do what’s best for you, and you’ll find a way to make it work. 4 stars

Birthday Baby: You are diplomatic, astute and ambitious. You are thorough and relentless.

1 star: Avoid conflicts; work behind the scenes. 2 stars: You can accomplish, but don’t rely on others. 3 stars: Focus and you’ll reach your goals. 4 stars: Aim high; start new projects. 5 stars: Nothing can stop you; go for gold.

Visit, or join Eugenia on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn.

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Bridge: July 31, 2021

“Simple Saturday” columns focus on improving basic technique and logical thinking.

Defenders have two approaches against a notrump contract: They can establish and cash long cards in a suit, or they can prevent declarer from using his best suit so that he comes up short of winners.

In today’s deal, West led the jack of spades against 3NT, and declarer won with the queen and next let the jack of diamonds ride. East hastily grabbed his queen to fire back a spade, returning his partner’s lead.


That defense was inadequate. South won with the king, forced out East’s ace of diamonds, won the third spade in dummy and ran the diamonds. He ended with 10 tricks.

East adopted the wrong approach. If West’s spades are K-J-10-x-x, the deck doesn’t have enough points for him to have an entry as well. East must instead try to stop declarer from using the diamonds. If East ducks the first diamond, South gets only one diamond trick and goes down against best defense.


You hold: S A 7 5 H 5 3 D K 10 9 8 6 C 6 5 3. Your partner opens one heart, you respond 1NT and he bids two diamonds. What do you say?

ANSWER: The problem is difficult using “Standard” methods. Partner’s second bid covers a wide range of hands: He may have as many as 18 points or as few as 12. If you pass, you may miss a game. Many players would want a bit more strength to raise to three diamonds, and a raise might get you too high. I would pass unhappily.

South dealer

N-S vulnerable


S A 7 5

H 5 3

D K 10 9 8 6

C 6 5 3


S J 10 9 8

H Q 10 9 2

D 7 3 2

C Q 7


S 6 3 2

H J 7 4

D A Q 5

C J 10 9 8


S K Q 4

H A K 8 6

D J 4

C A K 4 2

South West North East
2 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening lead — S J

(C)2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Mr Corman: Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s indie comedy funny? It’s complicated …

Mr Corman: Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s indie comedy funny? It’s complicated …

There are not many big laughs in this Apple TV+ show about a miserable middle-school teacher but at times it is breathlessly brilliant

Last modified on Sat 31 Jul 2021 07.04 EDT

One of my personal philosophies is that I would watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt in absolutely anything. I don’t even know why – he always pretty much plays “brooding guy wearing a nice shirt, maybe sometimes glasses” – but he does seem to have an inherent good taste for projects, from Brick to 50/50 to 500 Days of Summer to Inception. We don’t have to talk about Don Jon! There is no reason to bring Don Jon into this!

Anyway, the latest of those tasting notes is Mr Corman (Friday, Apple TV+), a show where Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a brooding guy wearing a nice shirt, maybe sometimes glasses. Gordon-Levitt writes and directs as well as stars, and it’s all overseen by A24 – another of my philosophies is: I’d watch anything A24 produce, especially when it’s just “this guy is having a really bad night” – so, all in all, it feels like the stars are aligning here. Hold on, just reading through the press relea… Ah, no, see. Someone’s got it wrong. They’ve written that it’s a “comedy”. It’s not a comedy. They have to go back and redo that.

Mr Corman follows Josh (Gordon-Levitt) as he … well, does nothing, really. He’s a middle-school teacher who doesn’t seem to have much love for the game. He lives in a sure, fine stucco apartment with his sure, fine housemate (the always-great Arturo Castro). He’s still stinging after Juno Temple dumped him a year ago. His mother is more of a semi-distant friend than a parent. He has given up his music career and has a creative block when it comes to touching a Moog. Occasionally he starts daydreaming and Technicolor surrealism takes over from the day-to-day reality of him crashing a beat-up Toyota at an intersection, but that’s it. I don’t really know how it’s even possible in the TV industry today to start a pitch with: “There’s this guy, right? And he’s in his early 30s or something. But things aren’t going right for him …” without security marching you firmly out of the building, but, listen: Joseph Gordon-Levitt has managed it.

But what marks Mr Corman out from its predecessors (every sitcom ever made) is that it follows this woozy unstructure, more film than TV, which – blended with Apple’s insistence on ensuring every programme it makes is as gloriously overfunded as possible – actually makes for something fascinating. In the opening episode, we see Gordon-Levitt go to the bar and try and chat up women, and the ensuing conversation in the smoking area – a long single take, the camera weaving around the tables, the whole scene minutes longer than any other drama–comedy would have written it – has this “indie-film-you-breathlessly-recommend-to-your-friends” quality about it rather than a pilot half-hour. An episode where Josh suffers a panic attack starts to genuinely feel like one as the minutes tick on. But then a moment of comedy, too: he agonises over how much to spend on a pay-what-you-want breath workshop.

Is Mr Corman funny? I still don’t know. Is it about something? Again, a little unsure. But you’ll have a very good time watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt tucking his nice shirt in, figuring it out along the way.

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Here’s Some Depressing Math: 3 Americans Create Enough Carbon Emissions to Kill 1 Person

The buildings of downtown Los Angeles are partially obscured on a late afternoon in 2019 as seen from Pasadena, Calif.Mario Tama/Getty Images

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This story was originally published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The lifestyles of around three average Americans will create enough planet-heating emissions to kill one person, and the emissions from a single coal-fired power plant are likely to result in more than 900 deaths, according to the first analysis to calculate the mortal cost of carbon emissions.

The new research builds upon what is known as the “social cost of carbon,” a monetary figure placed upon the damage caused by each ton of carbon dioxide emissions, by assigning an expected death toll from the emissions that cause the climate crisis.

The analysis draws upon several public health studies to conclude that for every 4,434 metric tons of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere beyond the 2020 rate of emissions, one person globally will die prematurely from the increased temperature. This additional CO2 is equivalent to the current lifetime emissions of 3.5 Americans.

Adding a further 4m metric tons above last year’s level, produced by the average US coal plant, will cost 904 lives worldwide by the end of the century, the research found. On a grander scale, eliminating planet-heating emissions by 2050 would save an expected 74 million lives around the world this century.

The figures for expected deaths from the release of emissions aren’t definitive and may well be “a vast underestimate” as they only account for heat-related mortality rather than deaths from flooding, storms, crop failures, and other impacts that flow from the climate crisis, according to Daniel Bressler of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, who wrote the paper.

Air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels is also directly killing people, with a landmark Harvard University study published in February finding that more than 8 million globally are dying each year from the health effects of toxic air.

“There are a significant number of lives that can be saved if you pursue climate policies that are more aggressive than the business as usual scenario,” Bressler said. “I was surprised at how large the number of deaths are. There is some uncertainty over this, the number could be lower but it could also be a lot higher.”

The research, published in Nature Communications, illustrates the vast disparities in the emissions generated by people’s consumption in different countries around the world. While it takes just 3.5 Americans to create enough emissions in a lifetime to kill one person, it would take 25 Brazilians or 146 Nigerians to do the same, the paper found.

The social, or financial, cost of carbon has become a widely-used metric after its creation by economist William Nordhaus, who subsequently won a Nobel prize, in the 1990s. The measurement calculates the damage caused by a ton of emissions, factored with the ability to adapt to the changing climate.

Under Nordhaus’ DICE model the 2020 social cost of carbon is $37 a metric ton but Bressler’s addition of the mortality cost brings this figure up to $258 a ton. This change to the model would imply that an economically optimal policy would be to radically reduce emissions to reach full decarbonization by 2050, a scenario that has also been backed by climate scientists as one that would avoid the worst ravages of global heating.

“Nordhaus came up with a fantastic model but he didn’t take in the latest literature on climate change’s damage upon mortality, there’s been an explosion of research on that topic in recent years,” said Bressler.

Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at New York University who was not involved in the research, said that the social cost of carbon is a “crucial policy tool” but is also “very abstract”.

“That makes attempts to translate our climate impact into more relatable terms so important,” he said, adding that the new research on the mortality cost shows the “results are certainly dramatic”.

A series of heatwaves has swept the globe over the past month, including the dramatic heat and wildfires in the US Pacific north-west, where temperature records in Seattle and Portland were shattered and caused hundreds of people to die from heat stroke and other related conditions. Scientists say the climate crisis, driven by carbon emissions, is making heatwaves far more frequent and severe.

Bressler said that while his paper looked at the emissions caused by individual activity, the focus should instead be on policies that impact businesses and governments that influence carbon pollution on a societal scale.

“My view is that people shouldn’t take their per-person mortality emissions too personally,” he said. “Our emissions are very much a function of the technology and culture of the place that we live.”

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Senate work on infrastructure plan slides into Saturday

WASHINGTON — Senators are returning to the Capitol for a rare Saturday session as they try to make further progress on a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

A bipartisan group of senators helped it clear one more hurdle Friday and braced to see if support can hold during the next few days of debate and efforts to amend it.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the chamber should be able to process the legislation quickly given the bipartisan support. But as Friday evening came around, the full text of what promises to be a massive bill was not finished by the time lawmakers adjourned.

“We may need the weekend, we may vote on several amendments, but with the cooperation of our Republican colleagues I believe we can finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a matter of days,” Schumer said.

But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, predicted, “It’s going to be a grind.”

The effort got off to a haphazard start Friday. Shortly after the Senate began the procedural vote, it was stopped. Cornyn said the reason was that some of the text in the draft bill did not comport with the agreement between the negotiators. The rare bipartisan work is testing senators’ ability to trust one another.

Several moments later, the vote resumed and the effort to proceed to consideration of the bill passed by a vote of 66-28.

Earlier this week, 17 GOP senators joined all Democrats in voting to start the debate, launching what will be a dayslong process to consider the bill. That support largely held Friday with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky again voting yes to nudge the process along.

But whether the number of Republican senators willing to pass a key part of President Joe Biden’s agenda grows or shrinks in the days ahead will determine if the president’s signature issue can make it across the finish line.

Cornyn said he expects Schumer to allow all senators to have a chance to shape the bill and allow for amendments from members of both political parties.

“I’ve been disappointed that Senator Schumer has seen to fit to try to force us to vote on a bill that does not exist in its entirety, but I hope we can now pump the brakes a little bit and take the time and care to evaluate the benefits and the cost of this legislation,” Cornyn said.

Schumer had hoped to introduce the text of the bill later in the day with supporters aiming to complete action before leaving for the August recess. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., released a statement saying they were close to finalizing the legislative text and hoped to make it public later in the day.

But Friday came and went without final paperwork that’s now expected Saturday.

“When legislative text is finalized that reflects the product of our group, we will make it public together consistent with the bipartisan way we’ve worked for the last four months,” the senators said.

The bipartisan plan is big, with $550 billion in new spending over five years beyond the typical highway and public works accounts. A draft circulating Capitol Hill indicated it could have more than 2,500 pages when introduced. It’s being financed from funding sources that may not pass muster with deficit hawks, including repurposing untapped COVID-19 relief aid and relying on projected future economic growth.

Among the major investments are $110 billion for roads and bridges, $39 billion for public transit and $66 billion for rail. There’s also $55 billion for water and wastewater infrastructure as well as billions for airports, ports, broadband and electric vehicle charging stations.

The outcome will set the stage for the next debate over Biden’s much more ambitious $3.5 trillion spending package, a strictly partisan pursuit of far-reaching programs and services including child care, tax breaks and health care that touch almost every corner of American life. Republicans strongly oppose that bill, which would require a simple majority, and may try to stop both.

On the other side of the Capitol, a bipartisan group of senators and representative gathered to voice their support for the narrower, bipartisan infrastructure effort and to encourage House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow a quick vote on it after it passes the Senate. However, Pelosi has stated there won’t be an infrastructure bill vote unless the Senate also passes the more ambitious package, too.

“I’m not asking Speaker Pelosi today to support the bill. I’m asking for something a lot more basic than that. I’m asking to give us a vote,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D. “Let us vote.”

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., also appealed for a stand-alone vote on the bipartisan plan because “that’s what the country wants.”

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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? Not at Opus 40.

The scenic vistas of this landscape art and the legacy of its creator, Harvey Fite, are being challenged by a persistent feud and a big fence.

SAUGERTIES, N.Y. — The 6.5-acre bluestone labyrinth rising out of a quarry here is one of the marvels of the Hudson Valley, an artistic tour de force by a self-taught sculptor who spent more than half his life creating it with thousands of rocks, infinite patience and no cement.

Opus 40, whose very name evokes the tenacity of its creator, Harvey Fite, is a monument to the upper bounds of hard work and dedication that took most of 37 years to build.

But now, some say, this soul-soaring triumph has been tarnished by the ordinary: A chain-link fence, nearly 400 feet long, that wraps around one of its edges, spoils its beauty and is the product of a long smoldering dispute.

“One man built this whole thing — it’s incredible,” said Alvah L. Weeks Jr., the town building inspector. “It’s sad, this fence. Why couldn’t you work something out?”

via Opus 40

The participants in the dispute include the Fite family, the nonprofit that operates Opus 40 and the neighbors who surround it. While the spat is full of unsubstantiated theories and unsolicited recriminations, it boils down to a fight about the house Fite built that adjoins his masterful creation.

The house is still owned by Tad Richards, Fite’s 81-year-old stepson, and his wife, Pat, and is operated by their 20-year-old grandson who has rented it out online, allowed guests to camp nearby and used it as a site for gatherings.

The neighbors have complained about the events and about the Airbnb guests who they say make noise until the wee hours of the morning. The small nonprofit organization that runs the site thinks those activities pose a safety hazard and a legal liability.

Enter the fence, in May, which the nonprofit erected to separate Fite’s genius, which they own, from Fite’s house, which they don’t.

“The fence is way over the top — tasteless,” said Gerald Pallor, 73, of Saugerties, a longtime friend of the Richards. “Certainly there is a better way to solve disputes than to put something like that up.”

Andrew Moore for The New York Times

Jonathan Becker, the president of Opus 40 Inc.’s board of directors, said “safety is an absolute — it’s nonnegotiable” and that the fence, however unsightly, is necessary until a broader solution can be forged.

“Harvey Fite spent nearly 40 years building this sculpture, and this temporary fence will be less than a blip in that history,” Becker said.

It is hard to imagine how Fite, who worked in the quiet of his quarry’s recesses to build something that has been compared to a North American Stonehenge, would react to the clamor that now surrounds it.

Angry neighbors have filed a noise petition and complained repeatedly at town board meetings about activities at the house. Family members have assembled a document trove labeled “Opusgate” to chronicle what they view as their mistreatment at the hands of various parties. Their supporters have formed a Facebook group and started a petition that calls for the removal of the fence.

In one recent flare-up, Steven Dunning, a neighbor, called the police just after 3 a.m. to report loud music and a party at the Fite House, according to police records. Roughly 12 hours later the Richards’ grandson, Arick Manocha, called the police to report Dunning — whose wife works at Opus 40 — for trespassing on the property and for yelling at the person staying at the house.

“I’m at the end of my rope,” Dunning, told officials at a recent town meeting.

via Opus 40

The quarry that became the site of Opus 40 was purchased by Fite in 1938 when he was a teacher at nearby Bard College. He finished building the house there a year later at a time when Fite, a drama instructor at first, had already switched over to teach sculpture.

After a trip to Honduras in 1939 to help restore Mayan ruins, Fite began teaching himself how to finely fit stones together without mortar or cement. Each summer, free from his teaching responsibilities, he worked on his sprawling rock formation. In 1963, Fite added one of the finishing touches: A nine-ton boulder he would use as the centerpiece, a 15-foot monolith that shot triumphantly into the air. Opus 40, as some have noted, had been capped off with an exclamation point.

Fite died while still working on Opus 40 in 1976. (While riding a power lawn mower, he fell into the quarry from a precipice on the property, according to his obituary printed in The New York Times.) He had said it would take him 40 years to complete the project and when he died at age 72, some 37 years in, it had been fully outfitted with ramps, stairways, pools, moats and subterranean passageways, all fashioned from hand carved stone that was placed with remarkable precision.

“He left some unfinished areas; but Opus 40 is as complete as it would ever have been,” Tad Richards wrote in the book, “Opus 40: The First 20 Years.” “It was the product of Fite’s ceaseless vision, and could only have been stopped by his death.”

Barbara Fite, the artist’s wife, would go on to create the nonprofit Opus 40, Inc. to tend to his masterwork and would run it until a year before her death in 1987. Her son, Tad, lived in the house on the property and led the nonprofit for years after his mother’s passing.

Andrew Moore for The New York Times

He relinquished control to the organization in 2018 after he said Alan Siegel, the former head of the Thompson Family Foundation, expressed interest in helping to finance the nonprofit and to help buy the Fite House in order to unify it with the sculpture site, which was now separately owned by the nonprofit. (A Richards-led organization could not buy the Fite House from themselves, without running afoul of regulations on nonprofits.)

Siegel pushed the organization to evolve from a family-run enterprise to a professionalized nonprofit and so a new independent board was installed. But in March 2019, Siegel unexpectedly died before the house had been purchased. Without Segal at the helm, the foundation he had led said it could no longer lead the fund-raising efforts.

“Things started to go downhill here from there,” Tad Richards said.

The list of grievances on the part of all parties has continued to grow. Nonprofit officials say that when they took over the organization they were saddled with cleaning up the messy bookkeeping the family left in its wake. Later, they noticed, they said that items like wooden benches, sculptures and quarrying tools were missing from Opus 40, and in a letter, the nonprofit accused the Richards and their grandson of taking them and selling them to a local antique shop. The nonprofit then changed the locks on the doors of the quarryman’s museum.

Andrew Moore for The New York Times

The Richards said they had been struggling financially and only sold items that belonged to them. They have complained that the nonprofit does not properly care for the grounds and had, as Tad Richards put it, let the hedges “go wild.”

Now there is a lawsuit that has further complicated matters, one filed by a local businessman who once had a deal to buy the house jointly with the Richards grandson for $580,000, according to court documents. As part of the deal, the businessman, David Hanzl, bought a house in nearby Kingston for the Richards to live in, according to the court papers, and Hanzl and Manocha were supposed to run the Fite House together as a short-term rental property.

But the sale of the Fite House never went through. The civil suit accuses the Richards and their grandson of having “roped” Hanzl into a reckless scheme to financially rescue the Richards and says the Richards are now living rent free in the Kingston house Hanzl bought them.

Tad Richards, in an interview, said he had been left “high and dry” when Hanzl backed out of buying the Fite House.

Manocha said it has always been his grandparents intention to “resolve these issues” and purchase the Kingston house after the Fite House is sold.

Andrew Moore for The New York Times

In May, the situation began to escalate when the nonprofit announced officially in a letter to the Richards that the organization was severing ties with the house after years of paying to use the Richards’ driveway as part of an entrance to the park and occasionally working with family on various programs. It also said it would work to create a new entrance to the sculpture and was putting up a fence.

The nonprofit has said there must be an “appropriate and binding safety, programming and management plan for Fite House in place,” before the fence comes down. Becker, the nonprofit’s board president, sent an email to Tad Richards in July outlining several more specific “common-sense ideas for an agreement framework” such as bans on camping, loud noise after 10 p.m. and events of more than 12 people. He insisted that if interested parties used a fraction of the time they have spent posting on social media on the work of putting together a safety plan, an agreement could be reached “in an afternoon.”

One solution would be for the nonprofit to buy the house, an idea that has floated around for years but one that would entail raising the money for a down payment. Officials of the organization say they would like that. Manocha said that because the nonprofit has “made it impossible” to turn the property into a business, “our mind has shifted to selling.”

Andrew Moore for The New York Times

Becker said in late July that he plans to soon meet with Tad Richards to once again negotiate a possible deal. And on Friday, representatives of Opus 40, the Richards family and the town met to review the framework for an agreement laid out by Becker.

Everyone agrees the sculpture itself is sorely in need of repairs and that, if they can iron out their differences, the focus can return to preserving Harvey Fite’s artistic masterpiece and personal legacy.

On a recent afternoon, Tad Richards allowed himself a moment of optimism and reflection as he stood next to the house he grew up in and peered out at a work of art that has helped to define his life. “It means more than I can say,” he said.

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

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Rising Romanian Talents Ready for an International Breakthrough

Nearly two decades since the birth of the Romanian New Wave catapulted filmmakers like Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days”), Cristi Puiu (“Sieranevada”) and Corneliu Porumboiu (“The Whistlers”) onto the global stage, a fresh crop of rising talents is breathing new life into the country’s film industry.

At this year’s 20th anniversary edition of the Transilvania Film Festival, New Wave mainstays like Radu Muntean – whose latest feature, “Întregalde,” recently premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival – shared the stage with the likes of Andrei Huțuleac (“#dogpoopgirl”) and Eugen Jebeleanu (“Poppy Field”), offering an invigorating snapshot of an industry opening its arms to embrace a wave of emerging talents.

“It’s a versatile generation,” says TIFF artistic director Mihai Chirilov. “While most of them address the hot topics du jour, they don’t go full frontal for the sake of it, but dress them up smartly, and sometimes inventively, not afraid to walk the edge. Their visual style or narrative approach may differ, but all of them are touching the grand issue of empathy (or the lack of it) – which is extremely relevant and symptomatic in a nowadays world that seems more and more divided.”

Here are seven rising Romanian talents poised to make a breakthrough in the year ahead: