Amid clouds of dust, border wall prototypes are demolished
By ELLIOT SPAGAT
Wednesday, February 27
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A jackhammer reduced prototypes of President Donald Trump’s prized border wall into piles of rubble Wednesday, a quick ending to an experiment that turned into a spectacle at times.
The four concrete and four steel panels, spaced closely together steps from an existing barrier separating San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, instantly became powerful symbols associated with the president and one of his top priorities when they went up 16 months ago.
For Trump’s allies, the towering models were a show of his commitment to border security and making good on a core campaign promise. For detractors, they were monuments to wasted taxpayer dollars and a misguided display of aggression toward Mexico and immigrants seeking a new home in the United States.
Within about two hours, a hydraulic jackhammer on an excavator leveled seven prototypes. Concrete slabs crashed in small clouds of dust, steel panels were knocked over, and an owl flew out of a steel tube atop one panel just before it thundered down. The last prototype standing took a little more time to destroy.
U.S. officials say elements of the prototypes have been melded into current border fence designs and they were no longer needed.
Public access to the prototypes was blocked from the San Diego side, turning an impoverished Tijuana neighborhood into a popular spot for journalists, anti-wall demonstrators and curious observers. People climbed piles of trash against a short border fence that has since been replaced to get a clear view from Mexico.
Artists projected light shows on the walls from Mexico, with one message reading “Refugees Welcome Here” next to an image of the Statue of Liberty and another showing a silhouette jumping on a trampoline with a caption that read, “Use in Case of Wall.” Demonstrators craned their necks for a view when Trump toured the prototypes 11 months ago.
Removal of prototypes made way to extend a second-layer barrier of steel poles topped by a metal plate rising 30 feet (9.1 meters) from the ground, the same design being used elsewhere on the border. The new barrier vaguely resembles some of the steel prototypes but looks nothing like the solid concrete panels, which were widely panned because border agents couldn’t see what was happening on the other side.
The nearly $3 billion that Congress has provided for barriers during the first half of Trump’s term requires that money be spent on designs that were in place before May 2017, effectively prohibiting the prototypes from being used and denying Trump bragging rights to say he built his wall. It’s unclear if the restriction would apply to the billions of dollars that Trump wants to spend by declaring a national emergency on the nation’s southern border, which the House of Representatives voted this week to block.
The eight prototypes, which cost $300,000 to $500,000 each to build, vary by slopes, thickness and curves. Bidding guidelines called from them to withstand at least an hour of punishment from a sledgehammer, pickaxe, torch, chisel or battery-operated tools and to prevent use of climbing aids such as grappling hooks.
The guidelines also required they be “aesthetically pleasing” from the U.S. side. One had two shades of blue with white trim. The others were gray, tan or brown — in sync with the desert.
The Department of Homeland Security redirected $20 million from its budget in February 2017, a month after Trump took office, to pay for the prototypes and smaller mock-ups built farther from the border that have also been dismantled. Open bidding generated a wide range of ideas, some of them whimsical or far-fetched. One bidder wanted a wall large enough for a deck that would offer tourists scenic views of the desert.
Bidders met fierce criticism from wall opponents. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico said any Mexican companies that expressed interest were betraying their country.
The government rigorously tested the designs and, according to a summary from the Government Accountability Office, found that the concrete walls posed “extensive” construction challenges and the others posed “substantial” or “moderate” challenges. Six of the eight would require extensive changes to accommodate drainage.
A Customs and Border Protection report, first reported by KPBS of San Diego, showed that each prototype could be breached using several different techniques but the heavily redacted version that was made public did not say how long it took.
Ross Wilkin, a Border Patrol spokesman, noted that authorities never claimed the prototypes would be impenetrable and that they simply wanted to know how much time it took to crack each one.
The appeal to private industry for ideas was a new approach to building barriers and provided many lessons to guide construction, he said. Authorities learned that certain materials were unsuitable for quick repairs and that combining different surfaces, like bollards topped by plates, were more effective.
A steel model with vertical U-shaped indentations could be jammed with pieces of wood and become a ladder, Wilkin said. Prototypes with exposed fasteners — like screws or bolts — could be broken with the right tools.
“They were tested and evaluated,” Wilkin said. “They’re not required anymore. It’s time for them to go.”
The new barrier replaces a steel-mesh fence that runs more than 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the Pacific Ocean, which worked like a fortress when it was built a decade ago but is now regularly breached with powerful battery-operated saws recently made available in home improvement stores. It will then extend another mile or so over the prototype site. SLSCO Ltd. of Galveston, Texas, won the $101 million contract in December and started work last week.
Work on replacing the first-layer barrier, also with steel bollards and metal plates up to 30 feet high, runs the same length as the second layer and is nearly finished.
Illegal crossings have fallen dramatically in San Diego over the last 25 years as the government erected barriers and added agents. In the Tijuana neighborhood near the prototypes, Guillermina Fernandez briefly turned her patio into an informal restaurant about 15 years ago, once serving 200 sandwiches on a single order from a smuggler who fed his customers.
Smugglers dug small holes under the old fence for migrants to pass. Campfires warmed them while waiting for an opening to dart past border agents.
“It looked like a party here,” said Fernandez, 54, who, like some neighbors, built her shack of plywood scraps on squatted land that she and her husband later bought.
Residents complain that outsiders illegally dump trash on their dirt roads that lack street lights. They tout one benefit of the new wall: The poles allow the Border Patrol’s bright lights to seep in and provide some visibility at night.
AP writer Jill Colvin in Washington and photographer Gregory Bull in San Diego contributed to this report.
Opinion: THE SQUIRMING BUDDHA
By Robert C. Koehler
The world hemorrhages. Refugees flow from its wounds.
Is there a way to be innocent of this?
People are washed ashore. They die of suffocation in humanity-stuffed trucks. They flee war and politics; they flee starvation. And finally, we don’t even have sufficient air for them to breathe.
For words to matter about all this, they have to express more than “concern” or even outrage – that is to say, they have to cut internally as well as externally. They have to cut into our own lives and personal comfort. They have to cut as deep as prayer.
“Wonderful column, Bob. It brings up the post-Katrina images of armed citizens blocking a bridge so that our own refugees could not infest their neighborhoods.”
These are the words of my sister, Sue, who emailed me last week in response to my column about the refugee crisis and the global shock over the picture of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body, which washed ashore in Turkey after his family’s boat capsized during the short crossing to the Greek island of Kos in their attempt to flee to Germany. As she let her personal feelings wash ashore as well, I thought about where I had not gone with that column: into the realm of personal responsibility for the larger welfare of the human race.
“I thought,” she went on, “of offering to open my home, and then the multiple worries, inconveniences, fears, etc., etc. sounded in, trumpets shooting fire as ‘practical arguments’ shot down compassion.
“What in my life today, in myself, in my community, in my culture, prepares ME, not some other person in some border area trying to live his or her own complicated life, what prepares ME to take in a refugee?”
This is where I felt the cut of razor wire.
“My bigger TV? The little glider in my backyard? Any of my stuff? My careful savings in order to have enough to pay my quarterly estimated taxes and what’ll come due next April? My love of poetry and Shakespeare? … I look around at my conservative neighbors, who and wherever they are, and I wonder just how very different I am — not in what I believe but in what I will actually do.
“I’d contribute money — and occasionally do — but to which Band-Aid?”
I open this door of uncertainty not to pretend I have answers but precisely because I don’t.
Sue concluded: “I really and truly do not know how to work effectively for the changes that are needed. I know it is not ‘up to me’ — thank goodness for that — but my day-to-day life just leaves me so unfit for much more. Even taking the time for this email effort at dialogue means that I’ve blown the window of time I had to maybe catch up on my paperwork, a daily and weekly depressing dilemma for me. I’ve never fit in solidly with collective humanity, and that I have not remedied this in any realistic way, I can truly attest, is a failing.”
I confess not knowing what to say in response. I think about the words of Somali-British poet Warsan Shire: “no one leaves home unless/home is the mouth of a shark …” I think about the refugees in my own city, Chicago, standing at intersections holding signs that plead for help. Help means money. Maybe it also means eye contact. Sometimes I don’t even have any of the latter to spare.
But no, that’s not quite it. Eye contact can be the beginning of God knows what. A dozen years ago I gave eye contact to an old friend, a Guatemalan who had fled U.S.-sponsored hell in his native country in the 1980s. I’d written about him when I was a reporter. We were friends, but I hadn’t seen him in a long time.
Then, there he was. It was 2004, a year into George Bush’s occupation of Iraq. We were at the Federal Building, at the end of a march protesting the war. When I saw him, my blood ran cold because I could tell in an instant that his life had collapsed. I could tell that he was destitute and homeless and utterly lost and the last thing I wanted to give him was eye contact, but I did. And with it I offered him the mirage of hope.
We talked. I invited him for dinner. He was a skilled carpenter and did some work for me. Eventually, a few months into our re-connection, I invited him to move into my house. He lived there for almost five years.
This was not an easy situation. His spiritual wounds were deep; he treated them with alcohol. I know that I helped him, but I don’t think I would be so open again. I’m careful about the eye contact I dole out, but I cannot sever myself from a sense of responsibility to others in need.
Once I found a $10 bill in a parking garage. As I exited the garage, I passed a man panhandling for spare change and kept on walking, but half a block later, stopped, paralyzed with guilt. Whose money had I just found? I returned to the panhandler, reached into my pocket and dug out a dollar in change. I was still $9 ahead. As I continued to my destination (a movie theater), I felt my inner Buddha squirming inside me with disappointment. I had selfishly kept the bulk of my lucky find, to be squandered, no doubt, on junk food. And suddenly I knew the title of my autobiography, if I ever wrote it: The Squirming Buddha.
I hate the idea of razor wire on national borders. I am torn apart by the suffering of refugees and the bombastic manipulation of politicians, who try to turn the planet’s most vulnerable into national enemies. But like my sister I don’t trust or understand my relationship with collective humanity. Who are we in relation to others? What do we owe them? What do we owe ourselves? How do we unite in all our flawed humanity? Let the dialogue begin.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at email@example.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
Why Wikipedia often overlooks stories of women in history
Updated February 26, 2019
Less than a third of biographical entries on Wikipedia are about women.
Tamar Carroll, Associate Professor of History, Rochester Institute of Technology
Lara Nicosia, Liberal Arts Librarian, Rochester Institute of Technology
Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Rochester Institute of Technology provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Movements like #MeToo are drawing increased attention to the systemic discrimination facing women in a range of professional fields, from Hollywood and journalism to banking and government.
Discrimination is also a problem on user-driven sites like Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the fifth most popular website worldwide. In January, the English-language version of the online encyclopedia had over 8.2 billion page views, more than 2000 percent higher than other online reference sites such as IMDb or Dictionary.com.
The volume of traffic on Wikipedia’s site – coupled with its integration into search results and digital assistants like Alexa and Siri – makes Wikipedia the predominant source of information on the web. YouTube even started including Wikipedia links below videos on highly contested topics. But studies show that Wikipedia under represents content on women.
At the Rochester Institute of Technology, we’re taking steps to empower our students and our global community to address issues of gender bias on Wikipedia.
Signs of bias
Driven by a cohort of over 33 million volunteer editors, Wikipedia’s content can change in almost real time. That makes it a prime resource for current events, popular culture, sports and other evolving topics.
But relying on volunteers leads to systemic biases – both in content creation and improvement. A 2013 study estimated that women only accounted for 16.1 percent of Wikipedia’s total editor base. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales believes that number has not changed much since then, despite several organized efforts.
If women don’t actively edit Wikipedia at the same rate as men, topics of interest to women are at risk of receiving disproportionately low coverage. One study found that Wikipedia’s coverage of women was more comprehensive than Encyclopedia Britannica online, but entries on women still constituted less than 30 percent of biographical coverage. Entries on women also more frequently link to entries on men than vice-versa and are more likely to include information on romantic relationships and family roles.
What’s more, Wikipedia’s policies state that all content must be “attributable to a reliable, published source.” Since women throughout history have been less represented in published literature than men, it can be challenging to find reliable published sources on women.
An obituary in a paper of record is often a criterion for inclusion as a biographical entry in Wikipedia. So it should be no surprise that women are underrepresented as subjects in this vast online encyclopedia. As The New York Times itself noted, its obituaries since 1851 “have been dominated by white men” – an oversight the paper now hopes to address through its “Overlooked” series.
Categorization can also be an issue. In 2013, a New York Times op-ed revealed that some editors had moved women’s entries from gender-neutral categories (e.g., “American novelists”) to gender-focused subcategories (e.g., “American women novelists”).
Wikipedia is not the only online resource that suffers from such biases. The user-contributed online mapping service OpenStreetMap is also more heavily edited by men. On GitHub, an online development platform, women’s contributions have a higher acceptance rate than men, but a study showed that the rate drops noticeably when the contributor could be identified as a woman through their username or profile image.
Gender bias is also an ongoing issue in content development and search algorithms. Google Translate has been shown to overuse masculine pronouns and, for a time, LinkedIn recommended men’s names in search results when users searched for a woman.
What can be done?
The solution to systemic biases that plague the web remains unclear. But libraries, museums, individual editors and the Wikimedia Foundation itself continue to make efforts to improve gender representation on sites such as Wikipedia.
Organized edit-a-thons can create a community around editing and developing underrepresented content. Edit-a-thons aim to increase the number of active female editors on Wikipedia, while empowering participants to edit entries on women during the event and into the future.
Later this month, our university library will host its second annual Women on Wikipedia Edit-a-thon in celebration of Women’s History Month. The goal is to improve the content on at least 100 women in one afternoon.
For the past four years, students in our school’s American Women’s and Gender History course have worked to create new or substantially edit existing Wikipedia entries about women. One student created an entry on deaf-blind pioneer Geraldine Lawhorn, while another added roughly 1,500 words to jazz artist Blanche Calloway’s entry.
This class was supported by the Wikimedia Education Program, which encourages educators and students to contribute to Wikipedia in academic settings.
Through this assignment, students can immediately see how their efforts contribute to the larger conversation around women’s history topics. One student said that it was “the most meaningful assignment she had” as an undergraduate.
Other efforts to address gender bias on Wikipedia include Wikipedia’s Inspire Campaign; organized editing communities such as Women in Red and Wikipedia’s Teahouse; and the National Science Foundation’s Collaborative Research grant.
Wikipedia’s dependence on volunteer editors has resulted in several systemic issues, but it also offers an opportunity for self-correction. Organized efforts help to give voice to women previously ignored by other resources.
Wade banks in straightaway 3 to lift Heat past Warriors
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
Thursday, February 28
MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade jumped onto a courtside table and thumped himself on the chest three times. He took a victory lap, waving a towel. He got mobbed by teammates.
He’s been part of games that meant more.
But bigger moments — there haven’t been many, if any, than this one.
Wade’s one-legged, off-the-glass, straightaway 3-point heave as time expired lifted the Miami Heat to a 126-125 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, a game where the Heat wasted every bit of a 24-point lead and had to rally from four points down in the final minute.
“I’ve been in this position so many times and so many times you don’t make the shot,” Wade said. “And the one I make is a one-legged flick from my chest. It’s crazy. Great to do it in front of fans.”
Kevin Durant made one of two free throws with 14 seconds left, putting Golden State up by two. The Heat had no timeouts, no way to set up a play, and there was no way anyone could have drawn up what happened.
Wade brought the ball up, drove into the lane, stutter-stepped and lost the ball for a brief moment. He gathered it and shoveled it to Dion Waiters, who was double-teamed and couldn’t get off a shot. Waiters tossed it back to Wade, who shot-faked Durant in the air and then had his first try blocked by Jordan Bell.
Wade caught the rebound with about a second left.
Off the glass, for the win.
From there, bedlam.
The fans erupted in cheers. Some of the Warriors watched the replay on the overhead screens with a look of disbelief, and after a moment Warriors star Stephen Curry came over to offer congratulations after presumably their last head-to-head meeting before Wade retires after this season.
“I told Steph, ‘I needed this one on my way out. Y’all get enough,’” Wade said. “But it was cool. I think the one thing cool for me was I’ve got younger teammates that heard about some of the things you do but don’t always get an opportunity to see it.”
Wade scored 25 points to help Miami snap a six-game home losing streak.
“Sometimes you just need to be lucky,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after giving Wade a long bear-hug in a jubilant postgame locker room. “We’ve had so many of these breaks go against us.”
Goran Dragic led the Heat with 27 points. Josh Richardson added 21, and Miami made 18 3-pointers.
Klay Thompson scored 36 points for the Warriors. Durant added 29 and Curry scored 24 for the Warriors, whose lead over Denver atop the Western Conference dropped to a half-game.
Golden State rallied from 19 down to win 120-118 at home on Feb. 10, and dug its way out of an even bigger hole this time — but couldn’t finish it off. Wade’s 3-pointer with 15 seconds left got Miami to 124-123, and he came up with one more when the Heat needed it most.
“Dwyane just hit an unbelievable shot,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It was going in as soon as it left his hand.”
Dragic had 25 points by halftime, getting 20 of those in the second quarter alone — setting Heat single-quarter and any-half records for a reserve. He had 11 points in a span of 69 seconds in the second quarter, and a pair of free throws with 2:59 left in the half put Miami up 69-45.
Against most teams, even in the first half, a 24-point lead might have been enough.
The Warriors, of course, are not most teams.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Durant and Thompson helped Golden State get the lead down to 74-59 by halftime. The Warriors cut the lead to seven on two separate occasions in the third quarter, and kept whittling away in the fourth — getting within six when Draymond Green rattled in a 3-pointer from the right corner with 8:20 left, then 106-103 when Curry connected from deep on the next possession.
The Warriors led for all of 1:14 in the second half. Wade didn’t let them leave with the lead.
“There is something special about him making a play like that, this his last year in this building,” Curry said. “I’d much rather see him jumping on the scorer’s table when we’re not on the court. Deep down, it was cool to see even though we lost.”
Warriors: DeMarcus Cousins (load management and Achilles recovery) got the night off, and the Warriors said he will play in Orlando on Thursday. … Wednesday was the sixth anniversary of Curry’s career-high 54-point game at Madison Square Garden, and the third anniversary of his game-winner from about 40 feet to win at Oklahoma City.
Heat: Wade, who has exchanged jerseys with an opponent after almost every game this season, kept this one as a keepsake. … Miami was without Hassan Whiteside (hip strain) and James Johnson (shoulder sprain). Justise Winslow (knee) and Derrick Jones Jr. (flu) … The 74 first-half points tied the second-most in Heat history. Miami scored 75 against the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 19, 1997, and 74 against Dallas on Nov. 11, 1999. … Udonis Haslem checked in during the third quarter, playing at home for the second time this season.
Wednesday marked exactly one year since Wade hit a winner to beat Philadelphia, also in Miami.
Golden State remains one win shy of finishing with a road record over .500 for the sixth consecutive season. That would extend the longest current streak in the league, one that Toronto would match with two wins in its final 11 road games. Before this six-year road run of success, the Warriors had a road record over .500 in six of their previous 65 seasons.
Warriors: At Orlando on Thursday night. Golden State has won 11 straight over the Magic.
Heat: At Houston on Thursday night. Miami topped the Rockets 101-99 at home on Dec. 20.
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