GUEST POST: CHACO CULTURE NATIONAL PARK IS UNDER SIEGE ~ THE LAND DESK

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By Bruce Babbitt 

Jonathan P. Thompson
Sep 29

Editor’s Note: The following is by Bruce Babbitt, a contributor to Writers on the Range.

A massive tank battery on an oil and gas well-pad about 15 miles outside Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Jonathan P. Thompson photo. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that New Mexico’s Chaco Culture National Historical Park is under siege. A surge of oil and gas development threatens this ancestral site, recognized as one of the architectural marvels of the world and revered by Native Americans who consider it a living presence.

If you visit the area you will immediately see the blight that comes from all-out oil and gas production: More than 30,000 wells have been drilled throughout the region, yet 10,000 of those are inactive and many will never be plugged and reclaimed. Sacred landscapes have been transformed into an industrial wasteland littered with rusting tanks and drill pads and connected by now-abandoned roads and pipelines. 

Almost as troubling is that in 2014, NASA satellites detected clouds of methane gas from thousands of leaking wells and pipelines. The party responsible for the ongoing destruction is a federal agency—the Bureau of Land Management. It administers public lands extending for many miles around Chaco.

The BLM has a long history of deferring to industry and handing out concessions to oil and gas companies. Left out from these deals with private companies are the tribes and their desires to protect ancestral sites from harm.

With the arrival of the more open Biden administration, newly invigorated tribal governments—including the Council of New Mexico Pueblos, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi tribe—are calling for a thorough-going reform of BLM oil and gas leasing and sales.

The demands of the tribes are basic: to be consulted in advance of leasing proposals, and to participate as active partners in the management of their ancestral lands. 

E. Paul Torres, former governor of Isleta Pueblo, calls Chaco “a vital part of our present identity through active pilgrimage, story, song, and prayer passed to us from ancestors whose footsteps we follow today.”

Brian Vallo, the governor of Acoma Pueblo, adds, “If the department brings the tribes into planning and decision making about oil and gas leasing early and often, our irreplaceable ancestral resources will be better protected.”  

In a report just released by Archaeology Southwest, a non-profit based in Tucson, Arizona, archaeologist Paul Reed describes in detail the failure of the BLM to meet its trust responsibility to Native Americans. Tribal governments are generally ignored or consulted only at the last moment, Reed found, and when it occurs, “key decisions have been made, leaving the tribes to suffer the consequences of prior agency decisions.”

The Reed report recommends including tribal governments at every step of the leasing process. In addition, he recommends that tribal members and their cultural experts should be empowered to conduct field surveys to identify cultural sites, to look at alternatives to proposed oil and gas development, and to recommend any mitigation measures.

A final recommendation goes to the essence of what meaningful regulation and enforcement requires: Oil-gas operators should be prohibited from disturbing the land in any way “until all tribal concerns are identified and successfully addressed.” So far, however, tribal proposals along these lines have fallen on deaf ears.

For example, in 2019, the New Mexico congressional delegation sponsored legislation to establish a cultural protection zone within a 10-mile radius around Chaco. There, oil and gas leasing on federal lands would be banned. 

The legislation passed the House by a vote of 245 to 174, only to die in the Senate. Prospects for action in the present Congress remain uncertain. Meanwhile, a new pathway to reform has opened up. President Biden’s appointment of Native American Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary is a first in the Department’s history. She is an enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo, and as a former New Mexico Congresswoman co-sponsored the failed 2019 Chaco protection legislation.

Secretary Haaland has powerful management tools granted by the 1976 Federal Land Planning and Management Act. That act authorizes the Secretary to close tracts of public lands from all forms of mineral leasing for up to 20 years. That sets the stage for Secretary Haaland to protect Chaco by doing what the Congress has failed to do—establishing a 10-mile buffer zone around the magnificence that is Chaco.  

All she needs is an affirmative “let’s go” from the President. The tribes have been waiting for that signal for a very long time.

Bruce Babbitt is a contributor to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring lively conversation about the West. He is a former Interior Department secretary and also served as governor of Arizona.

ANCIENT FOOTPRINTS PUSH BACK DATE OF HUMAN ARRIVAL IN THE AMERICAS ~ NYT

Human footprints found in New Mexico are about 23,000 years old, a study reported, suggesting that people may have arrived long before the Ice Age’s glaciers melted.

Fossilized human footprints that a White Sands National Park program manager first discovered.
Fossilized human footprints that a White Sands National Park program manager first discovered.Credit…Dan Odess

By Carl Zimmer

Ancient human footprints preserved in the ground across the White Sands National Park in New Mexico are astonishingly old, scientists reported on Thursday, dating back about 23,000 years to the Ice Age.

The results, if they hold up to scrutiny, would rejuvenate the scientific debate about how humans first spread across the Americas, implying that they did so at a time when massive glaciers covered much of their path.

Researchers who have argued for such an early arrival hailed the new study as firm proof.

“I think this is probably the biggest discovery about the peopling of America in a hundred years,” said Ciprian Ardelean, an archaeologist at Autonomous University of Zacatecas in Mexico who was not involved in the work. “I don’t know what gods they prayed to, but this is a dream find.”

For decades, many archaeologists have maintained that humans spread across North and South America only at the end of the last ice age. They pointed to the oldest known tools, including spear tips, scrapers and needles, dating back about 13,000 years. The technology was known as Clovis, named for the town of Clovis, N.M., where some of these first instruments came to light.

The age of the Clovis tools lined up neatly with the retreat of the glaciers. That alignment bolstered a scenario in which Siberian hunter-gatherers moved into Alaska during the Ice Age, where they lived for generations until ice-free corridors opened and allowed them to expand southward.

But starting in the 1970s, some archaeologists began publishing older evidence of humanity’s presence in North America. Last year, Dr. Ardelean and his colleagues published a report of stone tools in a mountain cave in Mexico dating back 26,000 years.

Other experts have been skeptical of such ancient finds. Ben Potter, an archaeologist at the Arctic Studies Center at Liaocheng University in China, said that some of these supposed tools might actually be oddly shaped rocks. Dr. Potter also questioned some of the dates scientists have assigned to their finds. If a tool sinks into underlying sediment, for example, it may appear to be older than it really is.

“There are unresolved issues with every single one of them,” Dr. Potter said of the older purported sites. “None of them are unequivocal.”

The study at White Sands now adds a new line of evidence for an early arrival: Instead of tools, the researchers have found footprints.

The footprints were first discovered in 2009 by David Bustos, the park’s resource program manager. Over the years, he has brought in an international team of scientists to help make sense of the finds.

Together, they have found thousands of human footprints across 80,000 acres of the park. One path was made by someone walking in a straight line for a mile and a half. Another shows a mother setting her baby down on the ground. Other tracks were made by children.

Researchers work on excavating a footprint in the bottom of a trench.
Researchers work on excavating a footprint in the bottom of a trench.Credit…Dan Odess

“The children tend to be more energetic,” said Sally Reynolds, a paleontologist at Bournemouth University in England and a co-author of the new study. “They’re a lot more playful, jumping up and down.”

Mathew Stewart, a zooarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, who was not involved in the study, said that the evidence that humans had left the footprints was “unequivocal.”

The footprints were formed when people strode over damp, sandy ground on the margin of a lake. Later, sediments gently filled in the prints, and the ground hardened. But subsequent erosion resurfaced the prints. In some cases, the impressions are only visible when the ground is unusually wet or dry — otherwise they are invisible to the naked eye. But ground-penetrating radar can reveal their three-dimensional structure, including the heels and toes.

Mammoths, dire wolves, camels and other animals left footprints as well. One set of prints showed a giant sloth avoiding a group of people, demonstrating that they were in close company.

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THE AMERICAN WEST’S DROUGHT ISN’T A DISASTER. IT’S OUR NEW, PERMANENTLY ARID NORMAL ~ The Washington POst

It’s dangerous for governments to treat this as a short-term anomaly, rather than adapt to our drier reality

A roller dam diverts water to irrigation canals and regulates the flow of the Colorado River in Palisade, Colo. The area is irrigated with water from Grand Mesa and the canals off the Colorado River. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)

By Justin Mankin who is a climate scientist and assistant professor of geography at Dartmouth College. He serves as a co-lead of the NOAA Drought Task Force.

The drought in the American West is not a passing crisis. It is the shape of things to come.

The past 20 months of rain, snow, heat, and wildfire have been exceptional in our records of weather and climate. And they have conspired to make the most severe and widespread drought the region has experienced in the modern era, punctuating a 20-year period as dry as any time in at least the past 1,200 years.

The consequences have been swift, severe and extensive. Drought favors wildfire, and this year is just the latest in a series of catastrophic wildfire seasons: Flames have engulfed an area larger than the size of New Jersey. In June, Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the country, which supplies water for the Hoover Powerplantreached its lowest level since first filling in the 1930s. The Colorado River has declared its first water allocation shortage since its governing compact was signed in the early 1920s, entering uncharted political, legal and geophysical territory. While we do not yet know the full scope of loss, the economic consequences of the drought for 2020 is in the tens of billions of dollars.

Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asked the scientists leading its Drought Task Force to consider the context, causes and future of this unyielding drought. With the lowest rain and snow and the third-highest temperatures on record since at least 1895, this drought covers an astounding 94 percent of the Western United States.

Our work suggests, though, that this drought is only extraordinary when we consider the climate we used to have, not the one we’ve committed ourselves to. The danger is that state and federal governments, businesses, advocates and other groups will continue to manage this drought as a disaster — a short-term event that requires emergency responses — rather than what it is: a transition to permanent water loss.

Severe heat and drought: the hallmarks of a changing west

Why have conditions become so dire? An unlucky string of seasons of low rain and snow across Western states was the initial culprit. But the drought has been made much worse by searing temperatures in the West, part of a regional warming trend from global warming. Warm air evaporates rain and snow more quickly and dries soils and rivers and forests, priming the landscape for wildfires. While our greenhouse-gas emissions may not have caused the low precipitation that started this drought, human want has made it worse: The atmosphere is much warmer and thirstier than it would otherwise have been.

This means that crisis management will not suffice. Siphoning groundwater via regulatory loopholes in Arizona, building more dams like the one proposed just east of the Grand Canyon, or briefly injecting money to subsidize farmersranchers and water districts, will merely maintain an illusory socioeconomic and political status quo.

That may be appealing or even necessary, but it does not solve the problem. Western states face the risk of soils as dry as the past year, every four years in the coming decades. Because of this, solutions borne of crisis management won’t work for long. They consider the drought an anomaly from which we need to recover, rather than an emerging feature we need to abide. With recurrent droughts, relying on groundwater to compensate surface losses becomes unsustainable. Another reservoir in the already-dry and over-diverted Colorado River basin becomes an environmental stressor and a waste of resources.Emergency coffers meant to get working lands through hard times quickly become empty. 

The only way to respond at the scale required is to reorient resources, institutions, regulations, supply chains and household practices to this drier reality. That is what it means to adapt. This requires updating our nation’s drought classification system that informs the allocation of emergency funds. It means overhauling century-old water and land management practices to accommodate more violent swings in dry and wet periods, as a water consortium in Northern California and some Colorado ranchers are working to do.

It means restructuring our power supply away from drought-vulnerable hydropower and shifting to other renewables. It means changing what we grow and where we grow it. It means hardening structures and changing building codes, while accommodating a more wildfire-prone landscape. It means upending water rights that were asserted in a wetter climate. This is the stuff of sound, long-term planning, not crisis management.

Depleted by drought, Lakes Powell and Mead were doomed from the beginning

We tend to think of one-off disasters as having a beginning, a middle, and an end. So political leaders are understandably concerned with state and federal disaster declarations and emergency funds for farmers, ranchers, wildfire victims and water districts as the drought impacts life, wealth and livelihood, depressing state economies to the tune of billions of dollars. But the bigger question is what happens if this drought doesn’t go away. An emergency can only be an emergency for so long. Eventually it becomes something else. What we are witnessing in the West is an acute crisis unfolding into a near-permanent one.

Present drought conditions will only “end” when reservoirs and rivers refill, which will take a number of very wet (and cold) years across the whole of the West. That may not be in the cards. The Southwest monsoon rains this summer illustrate this point: Despite Arizona welcoming an extremely wet season, 86 percent of the state still remains in drought. Barring a reversal of global warming, the evaporative demands of a warmer atmosphere will draw more water from the land and melt the mountain snowpacks that keep Western rivers running. The region will slip into drought more easily in the coming years, even in the face of once “normal” rain and snow. And each time it will be harder to emerge.

Drought, by definition, is an aberration, but to treat this one as such only deepens our vulnerability. Accepting aridity, and rejecting shortsighted and maladaptive responses, is central to managing drought risks for the more than 60 million people reliant on the West’s dwindling water — and for the generations to come. An era of drought in the Western United States has begun. Our focus should be on adapting to this dry run, rather than hoping for it to end.

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THERE’S A 1-IN-3 CHANCE LAKE POWELL WON’T BE ABLE TO GENERATE HYDROPOWER IN 2023 DUE TO DROUGHT CONDITIONS ~ CNN

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In this aerial view, a boat is dwarfed by the tall bleached “bathtub ring” on the rocky banks of Lake Powell on June 24, 2021, in Page, Arizona. 

By Drew Kann

September 23, 2021

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(CNN)The falling water levels at Lake Powell, the second-largest man-made reservoir in the US, could make the dam’s hydroelectric power generation impossible as soon as next year, according to new projections released Wednesday by the US Bureau of Reclamation.Lake Powell hits lowest level on record in climate change-fueled water crisisThe new modeling shows a 3% chance that Lake Powell, which is located on the Colorado River from northern Arizona to southern Utah, could drop below the minimum level needed to allow the lake’s Glen Canyon Dam to generate hydroelectricity next year. 

In 2023, the chance of a shutdown grows to 34%, according to the projection. 

When running at full capacity, the dam produces power that is distributed to some 5.8 million homes and businesses spanning from Nebraska to Nevada.

“The latest outlook for Lake Powell is troubling,” said Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Basin Regional Director Wayne Pullan in a news release. “This highlights the importance of continuing to work collaboratively with the Basin States, Tribes and other partners toward solutions.”Interactive: The Colorado River’s shortage is a sign of a larger crisisLake Powell and nearby Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, have drained at an alarming rate this year. The two reservoirs fed by the Colorado River watershed provide a critical supply of drinking water and irrigation for many across the region, including rural farms, ranches and native communities.

In late July, Lake Powell had fallen to roughly 3,554 feet in elevation — just 33% of capacity — according to the US Bureau of Reclamation, below the previous all-time low set in 2005.The projections for water levels in Lake Mead, which provides water to 25 million people in the West, are also bleak as climate change, drought and poor runoff continue to sap the river’s supply.The world is running dry at an alarming rate. Here’s how businesses can helpIn 2025, the updated projections now show a 66% chance that Lake Mead could drop below the critical threshold of 1,025 feet above sea level. If water levels stay below that threshold, it would trigger deep water cuts, potentially affecting millions of people in California, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.There is also a greater than 1-in-5 chance that water levels in Lake Mead will fall below 1,000 feet above sea level in 2025. That is barely 100 feet above what is considered “dead pool,” the level at which water can no longer flow through Hoover Dam.The new models come just over a month after the Colorado River system’s first-ever shortagewas declared, triggering water cuts that will be felt next year in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.

Drought is evaporating water resources 

The Colorado River Basin and much of the Southwest are in the midst of a climate change-fueled megadrought, which has stretched on for more than 20 years. A study published in the journal Science in 2020 found that the period from 2000-2018 was the driest 19-year stretch since the late 1500s. First-ever water cuts declared for Colorado River in historic droughtAnd matters have only gotten worse in the years since. The dryness the region has experienced from 2020 and into 2021 is designated as exceptional — the most severe level of drought — in both the paleoclimate and historical records, according to a study published Tuesday by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s drought task force.

California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico experienced exceptional drought since 2020, NOAA’s study shows. It found that the current drought is expected to continue into 2022 and perhaps beyond.As drought conditions cause water levels to drop, billions of kilowatt hours of hydroelectricity that power homes from Nebraska to Arizona are also at risk.

CNN’s Rachel Ramirez and Jon Passantino contributed to this report.

PERU PROCESSES THE DEATH OF ABIMAEL GUZMÁN ~ The New Yorker

What do you do with the body of a terrorist?

By Daniel Alarcón

September 19, 2021

Abimael Guzmn behind bars next to a security guard.
Abimael Guzmán, shown after his arrest, in 1992, spent twenty-nine years in prison before his death, on September 11th, at the age of eighty-six.Photograph by Hector Mata / AFP / Getty

A couple of weeks after Abimael Guzmán, the founder and leader of the terrorist group Shining Path, was arrested, in September, 1992, he was presented to Peru and the world in a cage, wearing an ill-fitting, black-and-white-striped jumpsuit that did little to flatter his stocky frame and middle-aged paunch. Aside from a 1978 mug shot, and a few videos found in a raid of a Shining Path safe house, this was the first time that the country had been able to lay eyes on its tormentor, now trapped and humiliated, on display like an animal in a zoo. Guzmán, then fifty-seven, had been, for the better part of a decade, the most wanted man in the country, the personification of a battered nation’s collective nightmare. That day, his scruffy beard was tinged with gray, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, but his hair was still black and his voice, seething with rage, performed defiance. From behind the bars of his cage, he shook his fist and shouted at the gathered press. “Some think it’s a big defeat,” he bellowed. “They’re dreaming! We say to them, ‘Dream on’!” The television cameras rolled, photographs were taken, and then, after a few more minutes of Guzmán ranting, curtains were drawn over the prisoner, and the show was over. A year later, Guzmán publicly admitted defeat and asked for a peace treaty from the government of Alberto Fujimori, and Shining Path largely collapsed within a matter of months. As for Guzmán, he spent the next twenty-eight years in prison, until September 11th, when he died, at age eighty-six.

Among the many armed Latin-American insurgencies of the seventies and eighties, Shining Path was a totalitarian outlier, a Maoist cult of personality constructed to glorify Guzmán’s messianic fantasies, which sometimes appeared to have little to do with Peru. In 1980, as most Peruvians celebrated the return of democracy by voting in the country’s first elections in seventeen years, Shining Path militants burned ballot boxes in Chuschi, a small town in the department of Ayacucho. On the day after Christmas of that same year, while most Peruvians spent the holidays with their families, Shining Path members marked Mao’s birthday by killing street dogs in Lima and hanging them from street lamps in the colonial center. This macabre spectacle, ordered by Guzmán, was a protest against Deng Xiaoping’s revisionism, a gory act of cruelty that was perhaps more perplexing than terrifying to the average Peruvian.

Terror would come, of course, and, by the time of Guzmán’s capture, Shining Path had claimed tens of thousands of lives, primarily among the rural and indigenous poor for whom he claimed to be fighting. The terrorists had almost no public support, nor did they require it: their mystique was born of fear, which stemmed from their fanatical commitment to violence. In the early eighties, Shining Path focussed its savagery on the countryside, but by the middle of the decade it had shifted its campaign to Lima, the center of the country’s political and economic power, with car bombs, kidnappings, and attacks on police and military installations. An uncle of mine had the misfortune of living in an apartment whose windows overlooked a navy post, the walls of which had been painted with a warning: “No Stopping Under Penalty of Death.” My uncle and most of his neighbors in the building prepared for a car bomb by sticking electrical tape across their windows in a giant “X,” to protect against the shattered glass that they knew could come at any time.

In the final years before Guzmán’s arrest, Shining Path was responsible for more than nine hundred armed attacks in the city, while residents grew accustomed to power outages caused by bombings. Already Shining Path members had decimated the interior of the country, their terror sparking a brutal government response, which was characterized by a wanton disregard for the rule of law or basic human rights, and whose victims, once again, were primarily the rural and indigenous poor. By 1993, the year Guzmán admitted defeat, some six hundred thousand Peruvians had been displaced by the violence. According to the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up in 2001 to investigate the roots and consequences of the conflict, about seventy thousand Peruvians were killed or disappeared between 1980 and 2000, with nearly half of those deaths directly attributable to Shining Path, and almost a third to the Peruvian military and police.

“If Guzmán had died a year ago, it wouldn’t have been so explosive,” Alberto Vergara, a political scientist and co-editor of “Politics After Violence,” told me. The leftist President Pedro Castillo has been in office for only a couple of months, after narrowly winning, in the second round of voting, by forty-four thousand votes. His rival for the Presidency, Keiko Fujimori, alleged fraud but failed to produce evidence, and eventually, after a weeks-long stalemate, conceded. Meanwhile, Castillo endured incessant attacks from sectors of the right, which accused him and his allies of being Shining Path sympathizers, a fairly common strategy, known in Peru as terruqueo, which is used to delegitimize all manner of leftists and progressives. In the case of Castillo, however, the accusations are not baseless. A member of his cabinet has ties to Shining Path dating back to the early nineteen-eighties, and his prime minister has made sympathetic remarks about the group, which is what makes the death of Guzmán now particularly fraught: What might Castillo’s handling of it reveal about the President and his administration? “What’s remarkable is not that we happen to have a leftist government at the moment,” Vergara said. “What’s remarkable is that we have a leftist government with members who appear to sympathize with Shining Path.”

Media reports of Guzmán’s death began to filter out on the morning of September 11th. The Minister of Health, Hernando Cevallos, who was visiting a covid-19 vaccination site in Lima, was asked by a reporter to comment on the passing of a man responsible for so much bloodshed. “It’s sad, like the death of anyone in the country,” Cevallos said. “No one can applaud anyone’s death, no matter their past.” Aside from this tin-eared response, there was no statement from Castillo’s administration for hours. The hashtag #SinCuerpoNoHayMuerto (Without a body, there is no dead man) popped up on social media to fill the vacuum, along with wild speculation that Guzmán hadn’t died at all but had been secretly released by Castillo. Finally, at 12:30 p.m. local time, there was something official: a blandly worded tweet from the President condemning terrorism and praising democracy. So underwhelming was the response that, on Sunday, a small group of congress members visited the morgue to see the body for themselves, and then held a press conference to confirm that Guzmán was indeed dead.

By then, another question had emerged: What to do with Guzmán’s body? Normally, after the death of an inmate, the body is turned over to the family or the next of kin. But the leader of the Shining Path, of course, is no ordinary inmate. According to Romy Chang, the director of the master’s program in criminal law at the Catholic University in Lima, the norms can be changed depending on the nature of the offense. “Drug trafficking and corruption are terrible crimes, but their motive is profit. Terrorism is different because at its core is an ideology,” she said. In any case, it wasn’t clear, initially, who would claim the body. Guzmán’s first wife, Augusta La Torre, second-in-command of Shining Path, died mysteriously, in 1988. In 2010, the imprisoned Guzmán was allowed to marry Elena Iparraguire, who had taken La Torre’s place, both as Guzmán’s partner and within the leadership hierarchy of Shining Path. Like Guzmán, she had been sentenced to life in prison for terrorism. But on Sunday the 12th another woman appeared at the morgue, with power of attorney from Iparraguire, to claim the body. Iris Yolanda Quiñónez Colchado, alias Comrade Bertha, was a former Shining Path militant, who had been convicted of the 1992 murder of a police officer but was later released. The authorities denied her request.

José Carlos Agüero is a historian and writer whose memoir, “Los Rendidos,” tells the story of his parents, Shining Path militants whose devotion to Guzmán led to their deaths. I asked Agüero if the death of Guzmán, a man who had been the direct cause of so much pain for him, brought any sense of satisfaction. It didn’t. “For those of us who are interested in democracy, he had already died,” Agüero said. “I understand why some people are celebrating, of course.” As to the question of the body: “The very idea that his tomb could become a pilgrimage site, that he could be reinterpreted as a martyr, is offensive,” Agüero said, but, despite these misgivings, he hoped the state would turn the body over to Guzmán’s family or its representatives. “Even if it scares us. That’s what it means to be a democrat, to be above the barbarism that they and others inflicted. Because in the end it isn’t the body that’s offensive. It’s the damage, the pain he caused, that offends. Shining Path’s victims are all around us.”

In a sense, Guzmán’s body has always been both a mystery and a matter of national security: for years, no one knew for certain if he was dead or alive, or where he might be hiding. As early as 1983, some speculated that he was living abroad, seeking treatment for a chronic kidney condition. Meanwhile, the militants believed in his mystical powers, and sacrificed accordingly: they sang war songs even as they died, while Guzmán directed Shining Path’s war on the Peruvian state from comfortable safe houses in middle-class Lima neighborhoods. The decision to present him in a cage after his arrest was perhaps a way of demystifying his body as well. This monster, who appeared in Shining Path prison murals as an all-seeing god, stood before the Peruvian people, his victims and his devotees alike, who could now see for themselves that Guzmán was just an ordinary man.

On Thursday afternoon, local media reported that a proposal to cremate the terrorist leader’s body had been discussed at a cabinet meeting, and the majority of Castillo’s ministers had voted against it. That night, Congress hastily passed a measure to allow the state to cremate the bodies of terrorists and those convicted of treason who die in custody. While there were a few abstentions, the majority of the parties voted in favor, except Castillo’s Perú Libre, which voted against. The President had fifteen days to sign the bill into law or send it back to Congress, but in the end, perhaps eager to move on from an uncomfortable topic and attend to the pressing concerns of the living, Castillo wasted little time pondering the decision. By Friday afternoon, the bill was signed. There are still exams and DNA tests pending, and Iparraguire, Guzmán’s widow, has filed a habeas corpus in a bid to delay the cremation, accusing the state of murdering her husband. According to the new law, when this is all cleared up, the Ministry of Justice will have twenty-four hours to cremate Guzmán’s body, dispersing his ashes as it sees fit.

Media reports of Guzmán’s death began to filter out on the morning of September 11th. The Minister of Health, Hernando Cevallos, who was visiting a covid-19 vaccination site in Lima, was asked by a reporter to comment on the passing of a man responsible for so much bloodshed. “It’s sad, like the death of anyone in the country,” Cevallos said. “No one can applaud anyone’s death, no matter their past.” Aside from this tin-eared response, there was no statement from Castillo’s administration for hours. The hashtag #SinCuerpoNoHayMuerto (Without a body, there is no dead man) popped up on social media to fill the vacuum, along with wild speculation that Guzmán hadn’t died at all but had been secretly released by Castillo. Finally, at 12:30 p.m. local time, there was something official: a blandly worded tweet from the President condemning terrorism and praising democracy. So underwhelming was the response that, on Sunday, a small group of congress members visited the morgue to see the body for themselves, and then held a press conference to confirm that Guzmán was indeed dead.

By then, another question had emerged: What to do with Guzmán’s body? Normally, after the death of an inmate, the body is turned over to the family or the next of kin. But the leader of the Shining Path, of course, is no ordinary inmate. According to Romy Chang, the director of the master’s program in criminal law at the Catholic University in Lima, the norms can be changed depending on the nature of the offense. “Drug trafficking and corruption are terrible crimes, but their motive is profit. Terrorism is different because at its core is an ideology,” she said. In any case, it wasn’t clear, initially, who would claim the body. Guzmán’s first wife, Augusta La Torre, second-in-command of Shining Path, died mysteriously, in 1988. In 2010, the imprisoned Guzmán was allowed to marry Elena Iparraguire, who had taken La Torre’s place, both as Guzmán’s partner and within the leadership hierarchy of Shining Path. Like Guzmán, she had been sentenced to life in prison for terrorism. But on Sunday the 12th another woman appeared at the morgue, with power of attorney from Iparraguire, to claim the body. Iris Yolanda Quiñónez Colchado, alias Comrade Bertha, was a former Shining Path militant, who had been convicted of the 1992 murder of a police officer but was later released. The authorities denied her request.

José Carlos Agüero is a historian and writer whose memoir, “Los Rendidos,” tells the story of his parents, Shining Path militants whose devotion to Guzmán led to their deaths. I asked Agüero if the death of Guzmán, a man who had been the direct cause of so much pain for him, brought any sense of satisfaction. It didn’t. “For those of us who are interested in democracy, he had already died,” Agüero said. “I understand why some people are celebrating, of course.” As to the question of the body: “The very idea that his tomb could become a pilgrimage site, that he could be reinterpreted as a martyr, is offensive,” Agüero said, but, despite these misgivings, he hoped the state would turn the body over to Guzmán’s family or its representatives. “Even if it scares us. That’s what it means to be a democrat, to be above the barbarism that they and others inflicted. Because in the end it isn’t the body that’s offensive. It’s the damage, the pain he caused, that offends. Shining Path’s victims are all around us.”

In a sense, Guzmán’s body has always been both a mystery and a matter of national security: for years, no one knew for certain if he was dead or alive, or where he might be hiding. As early as 1983, some speculated that he was living abroad, seeking treatment for a chronic kidney condition. Meanwhile, the militants believed in his mystical powers, and sacrificed accordingly: they sang war songs even as they died, while Guzmán directed Shining Path’s war on the Peruvian state from comfortable safe houses in middle-class Lima neighborhoods. The decision to present him in a cage after his arrest was perhaps a way of demystifying his body as well. This monster, who appeared in Shining Path prison murals as an all-seeing god, stood before the Peruvian people, his victims and his devotees alike, who could now see for themselves that Guzmán was just an ordinary man.ADVERTISEMENT

On Thursday afternoon, local media reported that a proposal to cremate the terrorist leader’s body had been discussed at a cabinet meeting, and the majority of Castillo’s ministers had voted against it. That night, Congress hastily passed a measure to allow the state to cremate the bodies of terrorists and those convicted of treason who die in custody. While there were a few abstentions, the majority of the parties voted in favor, except Castillo’s Perú Libre, which voted against. The President had fifteen days to sign the bill into law or send it back to Congress, but in the end, perhaps eager to move on from an uncomfortable topic and attend to the pressing concerns of the living, Castillo wasted little time pondering the decision. By Friday afternoon, the bill was signed. There are still exams and DNA tests pending, and Iparraguire, Guzmán’s widow, has filed a habeas corpus in a bid to delay the cremation, accusing the state of murdering her husband. According to the new law, when this is all cleared up, the Ministry of Justice will have twenty-four hours to cremate Guzmán’s body, dispersing his ashes as it sees fit.


ON KILLING TROUT ~ HATCH

Fish are food, not friends

Killing trout is easy. The actual act, at least. I use a four-inch Mora knife for all my trout work, and even its light birch handle has plenty of heft for the job. For a hand-span length trout, one or two sharp raps above the eyes triggers that electric death-shudder, the final sparks of current, and the trout is perfectly limp in hand for the rest of the cleaning process. No twitches, no gill movement, nothing. If I’m lucky there’s some wild mint along the streambank to wrap the fish in before sliding it into my creel. 

But then the killing of trout is not easy. It’s a troubling contradiction. To admire the dark gold flanks of a brown trout just moments from its undercut home, with flashes of blue and pearl on its gills and the starscape of black and red spots, unique to that fish alone, never before so arranged and never again to appear — it’s hard to take all that in and then whack it with the handle of a knife. Especially after a few decades in the fly fishing world.

As a kid, I was taught that fishing is a search for “keepers.” But upon buying my first fly rod at the smartass age of sixteen, I sought out other ideas. I traded traditional hook and bullet rags for fly fishing magazines, which included no photos of dead fish and no trout recipes. Through the transition from tackle box to fly vest, I omitted the old J. Marttiini Rapala filet knife as finally as a mayfly leaves behind its nymphal shuck. I had evolved beyond it. Keep ‘em wet, I cried, pinching down all my barbs, pretending I didn’t notice the arterial blood or torn mandibles of badly-hooked fish that I insisted upon releasing.

There is perhaps no more delusional angler on the water than the one who catches and releases a hundred trout in a weekend, admonishes a worm-dunker for keeping five, and then pats himself on the back for being a good conservationist. I’ve been that guy. 

I’m a hunter. I grew up on venison and have killed my own since I was old enough to do so. It’s a lifestyle that’s questioned a lot these days, and the most thoughtful dialogue on the topic is led by modern conservationist-hunter-thinkers like Steven Rinella, Hank Shaw, and others. Their work focuses on the basic why of hunting: the ethical acquisition of high-quality meat. 

The concept is not new, and those guys will tell you that. It is older than humankind. So old, and so deep, in fact, that my hunting elders never really spoke of it. They grew up during the depression on the edge of the great boreal forest, and talking about meat being the reason for hunting would be like talking about oxygen being reason for breathing. 

But today the world is a different place entirely and we must now talk about why we personally choose to kill animals. And think about it on our own. Challenge ourselves. And when we do, we find that it dovetails well with ongoing narratives about sustainable agriculture, landscape ecology, human health, and food ethics. Or it should.

And it’s within this discussion that catch-and-release fishing begins to lose its self-righteous shine. Conservation writer Todd Tanner says in his tense Seeking Absolution that the whole idea of catch and release “looks awfully tenuous, as if we are a legion of cats playing with a similar number of unhappy mice.” Even if catch and release was always harmless to the fish — which it is definitely not — it’s still questionable. 

“At the same time, though,” Tanner adds, “I think it’s important to point out that we are cats.” We are meat-eaters, and fish are made of meat. By definition, catch and release is us playing with our food. 

And fish are good food. No, not the grocery store’s dry-skinned bug-eyed farm-plumped rainbow trout, or the translucent, tasteless tilapia fillets, or the ethically-risky origin-unknown salmon. Instead consider these eight-to-ten-inch wild brown trout, lean and cold, delicious and nutritious, legally and ecologically sustainable. More than sustainable. On some streams, taking a few home is arguably ecologically beneficial. 

On some streams, of course. It’s probably too obvious to mention, but not all fisheries can sustain catch-and-keep and not every angler can keep every fish they catch. Moderation in all things. 

Because while food is the point, it’s not necessary to fill the freezer. To me, the act of converting fish to food strengthens my connection to the streams that I love, to my own past, to my reasons for fishing in the first place. It takes the experience beyond the technical challenge, the artistry of the cast and the flies. The blood on my hands reminds me of what’s really at stake out there. It’s never a game for the fish, even if I let them go. 

So I take my little Mora knife with me on most Driftless trips these days. Bigger fish would probably require a harder hit and a bigger knife, but I don’t kill the bigger fish. I release them. I draw the line at one hand-span, one and a half years of growth. Bigger and smaller I release. I still release many more fish than I kill. 

The line is arbitrary, gray. I know it. For now, I’m just trying to own the contradiction. 

A DEEP DIVE INTO MATISSE’S ‘THE RED STUDIO’ ~ NYT

In a coming exhibition, MoMA will feature the artworks within this famed painting. Two of them will be on public view for the first time in 50 years.

Henri Matisse, in “The Red Studio,” from 1911, painted a show of his own work. The surviving paintings and sculptures depicted will be shown as a group at MoMA in May. The work was a radical way of depicting three-dimensional space.
Henri Matisse, in “The Red Studio,” from 1911, painted a show of his own work. The surviving paintings and sculptures depicted will be shown as a group at MoMA in May. The work was a radical way of depicting three-dimensional space.Credit…The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

By Robin Pogrebin

Sept. 12, 2021

When Henri Matisse painted “The Red Studio” in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux in 1911, he not only let the viewer into his work space, with its box of crayons, ceramic plate and grandfather clock. He also captured tiny versions of his own paintings propped against the walls, and his sculptures perched on stools.

Now, for the first time since they left Matisse’s studio, those pieces of art will be displayed alongside “The Red Studio” at the Museum of Modern Art in an exhibition that opens next May.

“You will see ‘The Red Studio’ and you will also see in real life the paintings and sculptures that he miniaturized and reproduced in the painting itself,” said Ann Temkin, MoMA’s chief curator of painting and sculpture, co-organizer of the exhibition. “This is one of the great artists playing with the concept of art within art, presenting his own work within his own paintings. He painted a show of his work and we’re realizing it.”

Temkin collaborated on the exhibition with Dorthe Aagesen, chief curator and senior researcher at the SMK, the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen, which owns three of the paintings — “Le Luxe II” (1907-08), “Nude With a White Scarf” (1909) and “Nymph and Faun” (1911). After the show closes at MoMA on Sept. 11, 2022, it will travel to the SMK for four months, starting that October.

Henri Matisse, “Le Luxe II,” 1907-08, depicted in “The Red Studio” will be shown at MoMA.
Henri Matisse, “Le Luxe II,” 1907-08, depicted in “The Red Studio” will be shown at MoMA.Credit…The National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen. Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“It’s a key to understanding what Matisse was aiming at in that important moment in his career,” Aagesen said. “We’re reconstructing every move that led to the creation of that painting.”

This is the first time these works will be shown as a group — the last time they were all together was in Matisse’s studio, when he painted them in this masterwork.

Of the 11 pieces created between 1898 and 1911 that are represented in the picture, two are privately owned and will be on public view for the first time in more than 50 years. One was destroyed many decades ago (“Grand Nu à la Colle”). The other eight are in museum collections in Europe and North America.

Also featured will be Matisse paintings and drawings that relate to “The Red Studio” — namely “The Studio, Quai Saint-Michel” (1917) and “Large Red Interior” (1948) — as well as archival materials such as photographs, catalogs, letters and press clippings.

The exhibition exemplifies how a generation of scholars is moving away from big retrospectives toward digging into more focused topics that pay attention to a specific moment in an artist’s career.

“You don’t want to gather things that have been gathered together all over again,” Temkin said. “You also want to introduce audiences to close looking, the idea that you can spend a lot of time thinking about one work of art and have a deeper experience.”

The painting was unusual for its time — representing identifiable objects awash in a flat monochrome surface of Venetian red, combining the figurative with the abstract and dismantling the illusion of depth.

“He’s leaving his own artworks to be revealed, but everything else in the room is covered by this red,” Temkin said. “It’s a very radical way of depicting a three-dimensional space he was standing in as a two-dimensional picture, taking a very traditional subject from centuries of art history — the artist’s studio — but creating an absolutely modern pictorial space.”

“Any depiction of a studio is by definition a meditation on what you do as an artist,” Temkin added, calling it “a revolutionary moment in the tradition of studio paintings because of the way it transforms that tradition.”

The red, as it happens, was an afterthought; Matisse finished the painting before deciding to cover it in that color, an evolution revealed by research over the last 20 years. A section of the exhibition will explore that conservation history.

“He had a whole painting made and then it was a late-stage decision that he would add this red,” Temkin said. “The idea of the artist’s process is that when you start you may not know where you’re going. You may think you do, but the painting takes over — and on some level the artist is listening to the painting or following the painting’s instructions about what to do next. This is an exceptional case of a painting becoming a different painting in the process of making.”

Six feet tall by seven feet wide, the canvas was among a series of works commissioned by Matisse’s early patron, Sergei Shchukin, a Russian textile businessman, for whom the artist made his “Dance” and “Music” paintings.

Yet Shchukin declined to acquire it for reasons unknown (he did purchase the painting’s predecessor, “The Pink Studio”). “He may have told Matisse he liked his paintings with figures better, but at the same time he bought other paintings without figures, so I think he was just being tactful,” Temkin said. “But if you think of what this painting must have looked like in 1911, you can imagine it was incomprehensible.”

“No one had made a monochrome picture before,” she added. “Here he jumped into a territory of abstraction and a plane of color in a way that was certainly unrecognizable.”

So Matisse kept the painting for more than 15 years, during which it traveled to the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition in London in 1912 and to New York, Chicago and Boston for the 1913 Armory Show.

“The Red Studio” was eventually bought in 1927 by David Tennant, the founder of the Gargoyle Club in London, where it hung in the mirrored ballroom until the early 1940s, after which it was purchased by the Bignou Gallery in New York, and then acquired by MoMA in 1949. Finally, in the 1950s, people took notice.

Matisse’s “Young Sailor II” (1906), one of the paintings shown in “The Red Studio.”
Matisse’s “Young Sailor II” (1906), one of the paintings shown in “The Red Studio.”Credit…The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“This painting that for several decades had not been fully appreciated — suddenly art history caught up to it,” Temkin said. “So you have somebody like an Ellsworth Kelly or a Mark Rothko or any number of artists in Europe and the U.S. seeing this painting as such a landmark.”

“It’s a really beautiful example of how art history is full of works that are ahead of their time and that find their place several decades after they were actually made,” she continued. “It’s the exact same thing that happened to Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’: They were made in the teens and ’20s and completely ignored and scoffed at as the work of an old Impressionist whose eyesight wasn’t very good anymore. And then when Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman started making color fields, there was interest in the ‘Water Lilies’ 30 or 40 years later.”

Although “The Red Studio” was made 110 years ago — and the show has been in the works for four years — Temkin said it has particular resonance in today’s world, when the pandemic has prompted reassessment and introspection.

“Here is an artist going outside his comfort zone,” the curator said. “It’s Matisse attempting something even he did not completely understand. And that is such a model for art making in any field.”

HST WORLD VIEW

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The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy.

We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone.

Hunter S. Thompson
September 12, 2001