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When Queen Elizabeth invited White House Residence staff to dinner at Buckingham Palace

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When Queen Elizabeth Invited White House Residence Staff To Dinner At Buckingham Palace
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Queen Elizabeth II was no stranger to the United States and the White House. She first visited in 1951 as a young princess, meeting President Harry Truman. As queen, she met every American president in the United States or Britain, from Dwight Eisenhower to Joe Biden, except Lyndon Johnson.

The Queen, who died on September 8 at 96 after a record 70-year reign, met more US presidents than any other head of state. She has been to the United States eight times on official and unofficial visits and has attended five state dinners.

Queen Elizabeth personified the “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom. In a show of solidarity with our country, The Queen ordered “The Star Spangled Banner” to be performed at Buckingham Palace two days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. A few days later, she broke protocol and joined in on American Singing. national anthem at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, with tears in his eyes.

FILE – President George W. Bush shakes hands with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth before leaving Buckingham Palace in London, November 21, 2003.

The final White House State Dinner for the Queen and her husband, Prince Phillip, was held on May 7, 2007, hosted by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST LEADERS OF THE MODERN ERA

In remarks as she toasted the state dinner, the Queen praised the United States for coming to the aid of her country and others in Europe during World War II. “I grew up knowing that Britain’s very survival was tied to this vital wartime alliance forged by Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt,” she said.

Queen Elizabeth Sincerely Thanks The Staff At The White House Executive Residence Who Helped Organize The State Dinner In Her Honor.  (Photo As It Appears In

Queen Elizabeth sincerely thanks the staff at the White House Executive Residence who helped organize the State Dinner in her honor. (Photo as it appears in “Entertaining at the White House: Decades of Presidential Traditions”)

“Divided, alone, we can be vulnerable,” the Queen added. “But if the Atlantic unites us, not divides us, ours is a partnership to always be reckoned with in defending freedom and spreading prosperity.”

The 2007 State Dinner was literally fit for a queen. These elegant white tie dinners are the highest honor for any head of state visiting the United States.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were on a six-day tour that included a trip to Virginia to mark the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, a stop at the Kentucky Derby and a reception at the British Embassy. The White House State Dinner was the highlight of the royal couple’s historic visit.

WHAT QUEEN ELIZABETH LEARNED FROM THE CHALLENGES OF WWII

Mrs. Bush and her East Wing team spent six months preparing for the state visit. Elegant gold-edged invitations were engraved and handwritten by White House calligraphers. The White House florists have planned arrangements for each public space.

White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford arranged tastings weeks in advance. She designed a five-course menu that showcased the best of America with a bit of British flair.

File - July 7, 1976: Gerald Ford Dancing With Queen Elizabeth Ii At The Ball At The White House, Washington, During Celebrations For The Bicentennial Of The 1976 Declaration Of Independence.

FILE – July 7, 1976: Gerald Ford dancing with Queen Elizabeth II at the ball at the White House, Washington, during celebrations for the bicentennial of the 1976 Declaration of Independence.
(Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

The floors of the White House have been freshly polished and the walls (interior and exterior) have been repainted, the floors perfected. Photographs from past royal visits were on display, including one of President Gerald Ford dancing with the Queen at the White House in 1976.

After the State dinner, the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman performed. The Army Choir brought the evening to a moving close by singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip thanked all of the White House Residence staff who had worked so hard for the State Dinner, shaking their hands. And in a remarkable gesture of gratitude, the royal couple then sent out invitations to staff members and their wives for dinner at Buckingham Palace.

June 23, 2014: In This File Photo, Queen Elizabeth Smiles At The Media As She Arrives At Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland.

June 23, 2014: In this file photo, Queen Elizabeth smiles at the media as she arrives at Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland.
(AP)

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The Queen entertained on a grand scale with the help of many staff, so she appreciated the work of the White House staff and wanted to provide those who had worked so hard for the dinner in her honor with an equal memorable evening. to the one she had received at the White House.

When I interviewed him for my book “Entertaining at the White House, Decades of Presidential Traditions,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Stephen Rochon, who served as director of the executive residence and chief usher at the White House from 2007 to 2011, praised the Queen for hosting him and other White House staff in London .

“While I have many wonderful memories of my service in the White House, being in the presence of Her Majesty, at her historic royal residence, was incredible,” Rochon told me. “His hospitality and thoughtfulness towards those who serve at the pleasure of the first family or the royal family spoke to me much of his character. I will never forget him.”

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Queen Elizabeth’s popularity in America is a testament to the deep and enduring friendship between the United States and the United Kingdom, which will no doubt continue during the reign of her son, King Charles III.

Hopefully in the near future, a State Dinner will be held at the White House in honor of King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla, further strengthening the special relationship between our two nations.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT JENNIFER B. PICKENS

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Trudy Rubin: Putin’s threat to use nukes is a sure sign his war is failing

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Trudy Rubin: Putin’s Threat To Use Nukes Is A Sure Sign His War Is Failing
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Twenty-two years ago, at the Davos World Economic Forum, when a little-known Vladimir Putin had just become president, I asked four senior Russian leaders: “Who is Mr. Putin?”

Seated in a row on stage, all four refused to answer, apparently fearful of their new boss. The audience burst out laughing. Russian TV, in the front row, filmed the whole episode and ran it repeatedly — for years. “Who is Mr. Putin?” became a meme that has endured until the present.

Now, as Putin threatens (again) to use nukes to rescue his failed war in Ukraine, his psyche is once more being dissected. Is he bluffing? Is he mad? Can he be enticed to negotiations?

These are the wrong questions. Vladimir Putin is a bully who only stops when confronted. He has made clear that he is a danger to Europe, the United States and the world — not just Ukraine.

Now is the historic moment, when Putin is reeling from a string of Ukrainian military successes, to take advantage of his weakness. At long last, the West must give Kyiv the critical weapons it needs to push Russian troops out of Ukraine.

Putin’s Sept. 21 speech — in which he called for a “partial” military mobilization of 300,000 soldiers and hinted that Russia might use nuclear weapons — was a clear sign of weakness. Ukraine’s advances in the north of the country led to the collapse of the ill-equipped, poorly led Russian occupation troops, and his call-up won’t rejuvenate his troubled army.

“There is almost no chance they will get anywhere close to 300,000, because nobody wants to do it,” I was told by Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of the United States Army Europe, by phone from Romania.

“It will be months before any of these guys show up, never mind get trained,” Hodges added, especially since Russia is running short of uniforms, supplies — and capable commanders. And fears of the call-up are already generating social unrest in big cities.

Knowing this, Putin has trotted out his veiled nuclear threat, stating that, if any nation jeopardizes “the territorial integrity of our country … we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.”

Yet Putin and his circle have made nuclear threats frequently in recent years — and they have always been a bluff. “They typically back down if you ignore them or you make a very clear response,” said Hodges.

The reason that Putin’s use of tactical nukes is highly unlikely is that it won’t gain the Russians any military advantage.

“There is zero strategic upside,” Hodges explained. Putin is not going to start a strategic nuclear war with NATO, which would destroy him. As for using tactical nuclear weapons (which have a much smaller yield), Hodges noted that they wouldn’t do as much damage as Moscow’s conventional missiles have done to major Ukrainian cities such as Mariupol.

But their use would provoke a global outcry against breaking the nuclear taboo that has existed since 1945, forcing even China and India to condemn Putin. “It would be impossible for the U.S. not to respond, and the response would be devastating,” said Hodges.

President Joe Biden told “60 Minutes” last Sunday that the U.S. response would be “consequential.” One hopes private White House messages to Putin make clear that Biden’s retort is not a bluff.

Of course, many observers wonder if that response to any Russian escalation would be nuclear. But the U.S. has many non-nuclear options — from so-called bunker busters to cyber counterattacks — to seriously punish such a strike. Their extent should be made clear to Moscow.

“Of course, good people worry (about the nuclear threat),” Hodges said, “but if we give in to Putin’s blackmail there is no end to this. Where does it stop?” Such threats could be used against small NATO countries. China and North Korea are also watching how the West responds to Putin’s nuclear threats.

Which brings us to the pipe dream of peace talks, a frequent proposal by those who fear a Putin who runs “crazy.” The Russian leader has so far rejected peace talks (despite lies to the contrary), and would only use them to regroup his military. Putin has said Ukraine has no right to exist and is preparing to annex occupied Ukrainian lands via rigged referendums.

So there is no possibility of serious talks before Russia is forced to give up most or all of the lands it has annexed. Indeed, the administration should stop talking about “strengthening Ukraine’s hand” at the negotiating table.

On the contrary, this is the moment, when Putin is on the back foot, that the West must expedite delivery of the weapons systems Ukraine needs to win this conflict.

“Yes, we have a few HIMARs” — the precision multiple rocket launchers sent recently by Washington, that have enabled the Ukrainians to knock out Russian logistics and command centers — I was told via WhatsApp by Brig. Gen. “Marcel” Melnik, commander of the Ukrainian Army’s Kharkiv garrison, as he drove around newly liberated towns last week. “But if we would have more HIMARS, along with air defense systems, and armored cars, we can win.”

There is no reason for the U.S. and its allies to keep denying the Ukrainians the air defenses, long-range missiles, tanks and planes that could defeat Putin. It is critical to deliver them now, before winter sets in, before Russia mobilizes, before Putin bombs every bit of civilian infrastructure left in Ukraine.

Let’s stop letting fear of “mad” Putin’s nukes spook us. Get off the stick, Biden administration (which has done much right, but is still holding back key weapons systems)! Put your weapons where your mouths are, France and Germany! Now is the moment to help Kyiv push Putin’s army out of Ukraine.

Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the The Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may write to her at: Philadelphia Inquirer, P.O. Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101, or by email at [email protected]

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Movie review: ‘Blonde’ a tour de force take on Marilyn Monroe’s fabulous, tragic life

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Movie Review: ‘Blonde’ A Tour De Force Take On Marilyn Monroe’s Fabulous, Tragic Life
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Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde” is a “Phantom of the Opera” whose phantom hides her psychological scars behind the mask of a Hollywood screen goddess. Based on the 2000 novel by Joyce Carol Oates, the beautifully shot, almost three-hour film, which switches back and forth from color to black and white, presents Marilyn Monroe as both a damaged flesh-and-blood human being and a semi-divine, hyper-sexualized product of the 1950s studio system. This creation was fodder for gossip columns, abused and victimized by powerful men and designed to lure audiences, especially men, into movie theaters.

As the blonde of the title, Cuban actor Ana de Armas is genuinely heartbreaking. Her Monroe is, yes, beautiful and sexy, but also delightful, vulnerable, profoundly talented, far more intelligent and knowledgeable than she was ever given credit for and tragic. It is an exciting, star-making performance.

Also brilliant is Medford’s Julianne Nicholson as Gladys, the mother of little fatherless Norma Jeane Baker (a fine Lily Fisher). Following Oates’ Freudian lead, Dominik creates a father myth for Monroe when mentally unstable Gladys gives her daughter a dramatic photo of a dark-haired man, telling her that he is her father, but that she cannot utter his name. The film’s Marilyn calls her male partners, “Daddy,” for the rest of her life. After getting a start in modeling, Marilyn breaks into acting and is assaulted at her first major studio audition. Much of “Blonde” is prefigured in a scene in which Norma Jeane’s mother drives her as a child into the smoke and flame-filled hills of Hollywood. Welcome to the inferno, honey. Marilyn learns to place herself in a “circle of light” from an acting coach. She will need that skill to shield herself from most of the men she meets.

Marilyn gets a break playing the troubled Nell in “Don’t Bother to Knock” (1952). She also gets involved in a scandalous threesome with the sons of Charlie Chaplin and Edward G. Robinson. De Armas is topless in a lot of “Blonde.” We see simulated sex acts. But that NC-17 rating is as over-the-top as some of the dialogue (Dominik adapted the novel). Dominik chooses to distort the image to make it look like the threesome bodies are merging. “Niagara” (1953) makes Monroe a sensation, if not a human waterfall. Daryl F. Zanuck buys “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” for her. But Jane Russell makes 20 times more. Also, Monroe will be forced to have an abortion to keep the production moving along.

Giant, voluptuous images of Monroe appear over theater marquees. She’s bigger than life, a modern-day sex goddess. We see de Armas recreate the “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” routine. She is very good. But Monroe was iconic. The film’s Marilyn begins to use pills and booze to self-medicate. She marries Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) in part to get out of Hollywood and study acting in New York City. But he is viciously jealous and beats her. Monroe did not invent the “male gaze.” But she turned it into her superpower. She marries celebrated playwright Arthur Miller (Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody) and almost clasps the happiness that has perversely eluded her. In the end, she becomes the cruelly treated plaything of an unnamed JFK. “Am I meat to be delivered?” she wonders. Her life is a wilderness of broken mirrors, ringing phones, talking fetuses, booze, drugs and voice-overs by a probably imaginary, letter-writing father. She needs a doctor on set to complete “Some Like It Hot” (1959). “Blonde” is a spooky, troubling evocation of Hollywood’s most obsessed-over star. If you liked “Mank,” “Blonde” will once again send you to movie heaven … and hell.

‘BLONDE’

Grade: A-

MPAA rating: NC-17 (for some sexual content)

Running time: 2:46

How to watch: Now in theaters and streaming on Netflix Sept. 28

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ASK IRA: Are Heat keeping trade options open to potentially seize a moment?

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Ask Ira: Are Heat Keeping Trade Options Open To Potentially Seize A Moment?
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Q: Hey Ira, I am intrigued by the process of signing/waiting to sign Tyler Herro. Since Tyler was not a starter (but did play significant minutes) last season, it would seem logical for the Heat to argue that Tyler could sign a larger contract next offseason, or take less now on the laurels of a non-starter this past year. I would think that Tyler needs to decide if he wants to be paid prior to the season starting (for less) or bet on himself for further success this season to enhance the contract offer next summer. – David, Venice.

A: While I appreciate the logic, all the financials and analytics are secondary to this: The Heat effectively cannot trade Tyler Herro this season should an agreement be reached on an extension prior to the extension deadline at the start of the regular season. So even more than Tyler’s value in the moment is whether he could stand as a trade component by February’s NBA trading deadline (or before). And the Heat won’t know where they stand with Tyler as a rotation component until they first see where they stand with players such as Victor Oladipo, Max Strus and even Gabe Vincent.

Q: I see some upside in fringe players such as Marcus Garrett, Darius Days, et al., that could have Max Strus-like impact. That’s why I agree with Pat Riley’s philosophy of nothing being given, but rather earned. Right now saying the team’s rotation will be the same as the roster in April entering the playoffs is premature. – Leonard, Cornelius, N.C.

A: Exactly. A year ago at this time who thought that Caleb Martin would become a primary rotation component, or Max Strus? The Heat have a way of making it work. That is why I already mentioned keeping an eye on Haywood Haysmith. Now, it might not be Marcus Garrett or Darius Days. But the Heat are known for presenting opportunity. Will there be someone this time around to seize it?

Q: Ira, the 5 at 35 segments have really taken me back through the years. What are your professional Top 5 Heat moments in the last 35? – J.J.

A: Honestly, just being able to be here for all of it, including starting season No. 35 on Monday at media day at FTX Arena.

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How has Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan spent the past 4 years? Advocating, just like before

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How Has Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Spent The Past 4 Years? Advocating, Just Like Before
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On paper, the Minnesota lieutenant governor is basically a backup.

Aside from chairing a few boards and commissions as required by law, the lieutenant governor’s only duty under the state Constitution is to take over if the governor can’t do the job.

But that’s changed over the years, and Peggy Flanagan, who was elected with Gov. Tim Walz in 2018, can’t be described as a mere backup.

Instead, according to Flanagan and those who’ve worked with her, the 43-year-old former state lawmaker is more of an insider advocate — critics say activist — for issues she’s spent most of her career supporting: public aid to poor parents and children, especially racial and ethnic minorities.

Now, she’s seeking a second term along with Walz, who will face the Republican ticket of former state Sen. Scott Jensen and his pick for lieutenant governor, former NFL star Matt Birk, in November’s general election.

Flanagan is married to former Minnesota Public Radio host Tom Weber, who now is assistant director of marketing at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and has a 9-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

Here are some things to know about Flanagan and how she’s spent her first term.

GREW UP ON WELFARE

  • “There it is! My old locker,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan after spotting it as she walked through St. Louis Park High School on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan returned to her alma mater to speak at a voter registration rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Left, Is Greeted By Principal Lanisha Paddock At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Flanagan, left, is greeted by principal LaNisha Paddock. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Signs The Visitor Log At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan signs the visitor log at St. Louis Park High School. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Waves To Students In The Auditorium At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Flanagan waves to students in the auditorium. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Talks To Students At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Flanagan talks to students at St. Louis Park High School. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Greets Isaac Israel, 17, Center, And Sebastian Tangelson, Organizers Of A Voter Registration Rally At St. Louis Park High School, In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan greets Isaac Israel, 17, center, and Sebastian Tangelson, organizers of a voter registration rally at St. Louis Park High School. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Left, Poses With Student Marley Curtis, 15, Center, And Larry Kraft, A Candidate For Minnesota House District 46A, In The Auditorium At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Flanagan poses with student Marley Curtis, 15, center, and Larry Kraft, a candidate for Minnesota House District 46A, in the auditorium at St. Louis Park High School. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

  • Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Walks Down Familiar Hallways At St. Louis Park High School In St. Louis Park On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Flanagan Returned To Her Alma Mater To Speak At A Voter Registration Rally. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

    Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan walks down familiar hallways at St. Louis Park High School. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

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Flanagan grew up in St. Louis Park, raised primarily by her mother. And, as she frequently points out in speeches and interviews, they were poor. She says it was only because of taxpayer-funded programs, including federal Section 8 housing vouchers, welfare payments and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — then called food stamps — that her mother was able to live in the suburb.

As a welfare recipient and member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, Flanagan says she understands the experience of feeling marginalized. “There’s a lot of people around the Capitol who talk about ‘those people.’ I am one of ‘those people,’ ” she said in a recent interview with the Pioneer Press.

With some influence from her father, American Indian rights activist Marvin Manypenny, Flanagan set out to change what she saw as a system of public aid that needed improving.

“I was really intentional in building a career that allowed me to advocate,” she said, referring to a course steeped in left-wing activism.

BACKGROUND IN ADVOCACY

Flanagan served on the Minneapolis school board from 2005 to 2009 and worked at Wellstone Action — now called Re:Power — training progressives to organize. That’s where she first met Walz, who at the time was less experienced in politics and considered Flanagan a mentor.

In 2013, she was hired as executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund, which often lobbies the Legislature to fund programs that help poor kids. In 2015, she was elected to the Minnesota House, where she was a founding member of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus.

When Flanagan speaks about her American Indian identity, she’s direct.

“It’s hard to be a Native woman in a system that was not created by us or for us, and in many ways was created to eliminate us,” she said.

That sort of language, as well as her focus on racial justice and equity, have led some Republicans to keep Flanagan at arm’s length. More than a legislator or lieutenant governor, they see her as an activist who views everything through the lens of race.

Several Republicans who have worked with Flanagan on issues declined to speak on the record for this story, citing the charged atmosphere of the election season.

As for Jensen and Birk, their central campaign messages of improving public safety and the economy often target Flanagan and Walz as a unit for their response to the riots following George Floyd’s murder, spikes in violent crime and for what many Republicans viewed as a heavy-handed response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As for her identity as an American Indian, Flanagan — the first tribal member elected to statewide office in Minnesota and at one point the highest serving elected Indigenous person in America — has leaned into it from day one.

FLYING THE WHITE EARTH FLAG

The Governor Speaks From Behind A Lectern.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, right, and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, left, speak with reporters on May 2 at the Capitol following a news conference. (Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service)

Inside the ornate Governor’s Reception Room of the Minnesota Capitol, three flags hang: the American flag, the Minnesota state flag and — since Walz and Flanagan assumed office — the flag of the White Earth Nation.

“We’re in this office, and I’m a citizen of White Earth and I’m a citizen of Minnesota, so why not have both flags?” she said.

The move never was publicly questioned, but it’s made some conservatives and Capitol observers uneasy; after all, tribal policy and state policy sometimes are in opposition. Flanagan brushes off the concern.

“Of course, there’s tension when we’re interpreting tribal and state and federal law, but the quality of the relationships has been improving,” she said.

Indeed, formal relations between the state and the tribes arguably is at a high point. An early executive order by Walz bolstered the state’s recognition of tribal sovereignty by, among other things, requiring state agencies to consult with tribal officials on policy and procedures. Earlier this year, that stand was approved by the bipartisan Legislature and now is codified in state law.

BEHIND THE SCENES

Aside from the at times all-encompassing task of navigating the pandemic alongside Walz, Flanagan has grown into the role of behind-the-scenes policy advocate for her cherished causes.

The self-described “policy nerd” has been integral in working with the governor’s Cabinet formulating his budget proposals. She keeps a “hot sheet” to track bills relating to those issues, and she’s the primary liaison with the wider community of government and nonprofit providers — many of whom she’s known for years.

That level of access and understanding has been eye-opening, some say.

“The difference is that when Lt. Gov. Flanagan gets into that role, I don’t have to explain or educate people on that policy,” said Jessica Webster, a veteran lobbyist and staff attorney at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, which advocates for programs for the poor. “She feels it. She knows it. And she’s experienced it. In the three administrations I’ve worked with — those include Republicans and Democrats — this is the first time that someone with an election certificate in that office really understands these programs.”

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Webster credits Flanagan for an early victory for advocates of anti-poverty spending: a $100 increase in monthly payments from the Minnesota Family Investment Program, the state’s welfare program for low-income families with children.

“That was huge,” Webster said. “I personally had been running an uphill battle on that for 17 years.”

The increase, approved in 2019, was the first in 33 years. “It hadn’t seen an increase since I was in eighth grade,” said Flanagan, who benefited from the program in her childhood. “It’s always been on my radar. I lobbied for it at Children’s Defense, I worked on it in the Legislature, and frankly, it matters who’s in the room where it happens.”

Despite her unapologetic posture as a progressive, Flanagan underscores that the MFIP increase and subsequent legislation that indexed future increases to inflation were approved by a politically divided House and Senate.

“Relationships matter, and I build those relationships,” she said.

Flanagan said she’s also helped secure state investments in affordable housing and the creation of a state office dedicated to missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The latter was created with what amounts to lightning speed for the Capitol: In 2019, a task force was formed to study the problem — homicide rates for Native women are seven times higher than for white women — and earlier this year, the state office was up and running.

While Flanagan is quick to note that the plan had numerous supporters — from tribal advocates to fellow American Indian lawmakers and white Republicans — she has no doubt her presence as the No. 2 in the executive branch was critical when it came to approving funding in the public safety bill.

“For the first time ever in the history of Minnesota,” she said, “there was an Indigenous woman at the negotiating table.”

Coming soon: A report on Republican lieutenant governor candidate Matt Birk.

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Sheriff sounds alarm as Ramsey County jail population climbs

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A Jail Official Handles A Temporary Bed.
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Inside the Ramsey County jail, there are nights that people sleep on mattresses on plastic cots because there aren’t enough beds.

After clearing out many people from the jail during the coronavirus pandemic, the facility in St. Paul is back to being full, but now there are new concerns.

The Ramsey County sheriff’s office, which runs the jail, told county board members that a variety of factors are at work, including:

  • A state court backlog due to the pandemic.
  • More people being held on murder or attempted murder charges.
  • More people waiting for court-ordered evaluations for mental illness.

“The care and the safety of the inmates in our jail is at risk if the population continues to grow,” Sheriff Bob Fletcher told county commissioners recently.

The sheriff’s office requested an additional $2 million for housing and feeding inmates next year. The jail’s budget is $21.7 million this year.

County commissioners have been meeting with staff from the courts, public health, corrections and other departments about how to reduce the number of people in the jail when they’re not being held for violent offenses, said Trista MatasCastillo, chair of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners.

“At the same time, we are looking deeper at the harder-to-solve situations about mental health,” she said. “There are a ton of budget implications and not easy solutions.”

SHARP INCREASE IN MENTAL HEALTH EVALUATIONS

The Ramsey County Adult Detention Center is a pre-trial facility intended to hold people for a short time. The average stay is six days, but some, such as murder suspects, can be held for a year or more, said Lt. Mike Johnson, the jail’s assistant superintendent. There were 36 people being held on charges of murder or attempted murder as of last week.

The average stay is 72 days for people waiting for a mental health competency evaluation, Johnson said.

“The fact is they don’t belong in a jail,” Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt said during a county board budget committee meeting. “They belong in mental health facilities or getting services.”

Though the jail has mental health counselors, it’s not intended to be a place for intensive treatment.

If a judge, prosecutor or defense attorney feels that someone charged with a crime doesn’t understand their court proceedings because of mental illness or a cognitive issue, such as a traumatic brain injury, they can ask for a competency evaluation.

The number of competency evaluations ordered in Ramsey County District Court increased by 84 percent from 2020 to 2021, and the numbers this year are on track to surpass last year, according to court information.

Court rules call for competency evaluations to be completed in 60 days, but evaluators can’t keep up with the caseload, said Ramsey County Chief Judge Leonardo Castro. Judges can order that people are released from jail, with conditions attached, if they aren’t a flight risk or a threat to the public; otherwise, bail is set.

At least 30 people in the Ramsey County jail as of last week were waiting for competency evaluations, Johnson said.

SLEEPING ON ‘BOATS’

Johnson shows a “boat” bed used when there’s a lack of space in cells. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Looking at the average daily population of the Ramsey County jail in June of various years, it was 319 in 2013; 379 in 2019; 172 during the pandemic in 2020; and 424 this June, according to the sheriff’s office. The high was 473 over the summer, Johnson said.

Any time the population rises above 440, it “causes logistical problems for us,” Fletcher told the county board. The jail’s average daily population has been above that number since April.

When the jail surpasses 440, some inmates have to sleep on a mattress on a Stack-A-Bunk — jail staff call them “boats” because they look like small canoes. There were three people who slept on the temporary beds Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Though the jail has 492 beds, traditional cells have bunkbeds and the jail can’t use all of them because they need to separate people by gender or risk — people with the most serious mental health or behavioral issues are held in cells without another inmate, Johnson said. They’ve also been quarantining people when they arrive at the jail to make sure they don’t have COVID-19.

WORKING THROUGH COURT BACKLOG

Thousands of cases through Minnesota’s court system were put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic. Ramsey County had a backlog of about 1,500 gross misdemeanor and felony cases, but they’ve been able to reduce it by about 20 percent, Castro said.

“That backlog has a significant impact on people who are involved in the justice system — whether it’s the accused person, the victim’s family members, community members. Their lives are on hold,” Castro said. “We need and want these matters brought to conclusion.”

The judicial system in Ramsey County is coordinating with prosecutors and defense attorneys to have back-to-back hearings for less serious cases that have been lingering in the court system. Castro said the latest involved about 60 cases of people being held in the jail for non-violent offenses; however, it amounted to about 30 people because some had more than one case, Johnson said.

The next set of cases Castro said they’re aiming to get moved through the court system are gross misdemeanor charges from suburban Ramsey County. There are more than 200 cases that were filed at least six months ago, Castro said.

These aren’t situations of “catch and release,” Castro said, but letting people have their day in court without further delays. If the cases aren’t resolved through guilty pleas or dismissals, judges aim to get trials scheduled quickly.

If the courts can continue moving cases through the system, the jail can return to a population that’s in the “safe range again,” Reinhardt said recently.

$2M REQUEST FOR FOOD, HOUSING

County commissioners who heard from Fletcher about the jail at a budget meeting this month said they’re concerned about the situation, but told the sheriff that his budget request was too late for a meaningful discussion.

Reinhardt, who chairs the budget committee, noted a letter about the budget from Chief Deputy Dave Metusalem arrived late in the afternoon the day before Fletcher’s presentation and the PowerPoint presentation arrived the morning of the presentation.

“To get something this late … it’s not respectful of our process nor of this county board,” Reinhardt said. “… We will make full analysis of everything.”

Fletcher said the information is part of ongoing discussions they’ve been having about the jail and they’re not just beginning to deal with it. Commissioners listened to the sheriff’s presentation and said they will get back to his office about the budget requests.

The sheriff’s office requested $1.5 million to house inmates at other locations and that a reduction of $471,000 for 2023 food service be restored.

Because Ramsey County works in a two-year budget cycle, county commissioners aren’t proposing a change to the 4.54 percent property tax levy increase for 2023 they approved last December. The budget discussions they’ve been having are for a supplemental budget of $785 million for next year, which they’ll vote on in December.

TAX LEVY INPUT

The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners will vote Tuesday to approve the proposed maximum tax levy to finance the 2023 budget.

Residents, businesses and other stakeholders can submit budget feedback to commissioners through an online feedback form that’s available at ramseycounty.us/Budget. They can also contact their commissioner directly.

A public hearing about the budget was held this month and a second one will be Nov. 28 at 6:30 p.m.

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Skywatch: The big bird flies high

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Double-Star Albireo
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Among the constellations seen from Earth throughout the year, there are heroes, hunters, musical instruments, royalty, and all kinds of critters, including eight birds. The biggest and brightest bird constellation seen from Minnesota/Western Wisconsin is Cygnus the Swan, flying high overhead these autumn evenings. The bright star at the tail of the high-flying swan is Deneb, nearly overhead in the early evening this time of year. Deneb is also one of the stars of the Summer Triangle. The other stars are Vega and Altair, the brightest in their respective constellations, Lyra and Aquila. Just look for the three brightest stars you can see straight overhead and that’s it.

Deneb is the dimmest star of the Summer Triangle, but it is by no means a small star. Quite the contrary; it’s an incredibly huge star at least 1,500 light-years away, and some astronomers argue that it may be even more distant. Just one light-year equals almost 6 trillion miles. Light years are also a measure of time. Even if Deneb is just 1,500 light-years away, the light we see from it tonight left that star around 500 A.D.!  It’s not likely, but if Deneb were to experience a very violent supernova explosion tonight, our descendants wouldn’t see the blast until the year 3500.

According to the latest data, Deneb has a diameter of at least 175 million miles. Our own sun comes nowhere near that, at only 864,000 miles.  Deneb is also estimated to kick out at least 60,000 times more light and other radiation than our sun.

Cygnus the Swan contains within it a pattern of stars called the Northern Cross. Deneb marks the head of the cross, and at the foot of the cross is the not-so-impressive star Albireo, at least to the naked eye. It’s actually much easier to first see the Northern Cross before taking on the entire swan. If you’re facing south, the cross will be overhead, leaning to the left. By the way, Albireo, as benign as it appears to the naked eye, is a great telescope target. Even a small telescope reveals that Albireo is not just one star but a beautiful pair of stars, one gold and the other blue. It’s one of the best double stars in the sky.

Double-star Albireo (Mike Lynch)

To expand on the Northern Cross and find the rest of Cygnus is easy; extend both ends of the crosspiece. There are faint stars off both sides that convert the crosspiece into the swan’s wingspan. Deneb marks the tail of the swan and Albireo serves as the swan’s head.

I love the Greek and Roman mythology story of how Cygnus wound up as a constellation. It’s a sad one, although it has a somewhat happy ending.  Apollo was one of the most important gods of Mount Olympus. He was the god of the sun, with the critical job of faithfully guiding the sun chariot across the sky every single day. The chariot was pulled gallantly by a fleet of flying white horses. The sun rode inside the giant glass chariot. Apollo loved his job and was rewarded handsomely by Zeus, the king of the gods.

Diagram Of Cygnus The Swan Constellation
(Mike Lynch)

One of the sun god’s kids was Phaethon, who at 10 years old idolized his dad and hoped to someday take over the reins of the sun chariot. Phaethon repeatedly begged his dad to take the sun chariot for a ride, but Apollo refused. He was just too young. Phaethon, though, was convinced he could handle it. One morning temptation set in, and disaster quickly followed.

It was about an hour before Apollo was to take the reins of his sun chariot. Phaethon was up early that morning and broke into the hangar where the sun chariot spent the night. This was his chance!  He climbed in, backed it out of the hangar, and bellowed out a big giddy-up! Before he knew it, Phaethon was airborne with the sun chariot and flying quite well until he started to hotdog it, zigzagging and pulling celestial wheelies. He soon lost control and was on his way to a horrible crash.

From Mount Olympus, Zeus saw what was happening and took immediate action. He thought some scoundrel had stolen the chariot, not knowing his grandson was in the driver’s seat. He shouted down to Apollo, finally waking him, and then shot a lightning bolt at Phaethon, spearing him out of the driver’s seat and on the way to a fatal plunge. With the sun chariot totally out of control and within minutes of crashing, Apollo quickly borrowed his sister Diana’s moon chariot to catch up with his sun chariot and soon had it under control.

Phaethon plunged into the river Po and drowned. Other gods took great pity on the young lad. Instantly, they raised his body out of the river and magically transformed it into a beautiful celestial swan winging its way in our night sky.

Celestial Happening this week: The very bright planet Jupiter is on the rise in the eastern evening sky, rising at sunset. You can’t miss it! Jupiter’s by far the bright starlight object in the evening sky. This week Jupiter’s is the closest it’s been to Earth since 1951! Even with a good pair of binocular you may see up to four of Jupiter’s largest moons that appear as little “stars” either side of Jupiter. You may even see some of Jupiter’s cloud bands. I’ll have much more about Jupiter in the coming weeks in Skywatch

STARWATCH PROGRAMS

  • Monday, Sept. 26, (weather backup date Sept. 28) 7:30-8:30 p.m., at Patriot Park in Marshall, Minn. For more information, call Marshall Public Library at 507-537-7003 or visit www.marshalllyonlibrary.org.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 27, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Hutchinson Middle School, Hutchinson, Minn. Call Community Education at 320- 587-2975 or visit www.hutch.k12.mn.us/pageView.cfm?pageID=7.
  • Thursday, Sept. 29, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Sandburg Learning Center in Golden Valley, Minn. For more information or reservations, call 763-504-4170 or visit ced.rdale.org/.
  • Friday, Sept. 30, 7:30-9:30 p.m., Sauk City, Wis., through Sauk Prairie Schools. For location and reservations call, 608-643-8346 or visit cc.saukprairieschools.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=478607&type=d.
  • Saturday, Oct. 1, 7:30-9:30 p.m., at Eagle Ridge Golf Course in Coleraine, Minn. Reservations required Call 218-245-6232 or visit www.getlearning.org/.

Mike Lynch is an amateur astronomer and retired broadcast meteorologist for WCCO Radio in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is the author of “Stars: a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations,” published by Adventure Publications and available at bookstores and adventurepublications.net. Mike is available for private star parties. You can contact him at [email protected]

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