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About 1,000 protest President Joe Biden's visit to Idaho

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — More than 1,000 protesters gathered in Boise, Idaho, on Monday morning ahead of a visit by President Joe Biden to express their displeasure about his coronavirus plan, the election and other issues.

Biden was headed to Boise as part of a swing through three Western states to promote his administration’s use of a wartime law to aid in wildfire preparedness, survey wildfire damage and push his economic agenda. He was expected to arrive at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise late Monday morning to meet with fire officials.

Lisa Mitchell, 65, of Middleton, Idaho, said she was protesting because she doesn’t believe the 2020 election was valid.

“I’m here to support Trump and stand for freedom,” said Mitchell, who was wearing a “Trump Women 2020” sticker. “He is in there illegally.”

Though some of former President Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters believe his continued claims that the presidential election was stolen, there is no evidence of widespread fraud and Republican and Democratic election officials certified the election as valid. Courts have also repeatedly rejected lawsuits claiming the election was tainted.

About a half-dozen Boise police officers were stationed at the entrance to the National Interagency Fire Center, with other law enforcement officers patrolling the area on motorcycle. The National Interagency Fire Center is generally closed to the public and the protesters were gathered outside the NIFC complex entrance.

Many of the protesters carried expletive-laden signs or waved U.S. flags hung upside down as a signal of distress.

Biden also planned stops in Sacramento, California, and Denver during the two-day trip.

The administration activated the Defense Production Act last month to boost supplies from a U.S. Forest Service firefighting equipment supplier. Wildfire activity has been growing increasingly extreme across the West. Scientists say climate change has made the region much warmer and drier in recent decades and that it will continue to make wildfires and weather more extreme and destructive.

Chris Burns, a 62-year-old from Boise, said he attended the protest because, “I’m against everything Biden is for.”

Burns was especially displeased with the president’s sweeping new vaccine mandates for 100 million Americans announced on Thursday. The vaccine requirement says that all employers with more than 100 workers must require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly. Workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid will also have to be fully vaccinated, as well as employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government.

“He’s acting like a dictator,” Burns said.

Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the United States and the state’s health care system is in danger of buckling as the delta variant sends COVID-19 case numbers skyrocketing. One in every 210 Idaho residents tested positive for COVID-19 within the past week, and the average number of daily new cases has increased by nearly 70% in the past two weeks.

Idaho reached a record high with 613 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the most recent numbers available from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Last week the state gave hospitals in northern Idaho permission to operate under “crisis standards of care,” a health care rationing measure intended to ensure that scarce resources such as hospital beds are first given to those most likely to benefit or survive.

Still, opposition to wearing masks, social distancing and getting vaccinated remains high across the deep-red state.

“I don’t think anybody should be forced to put something in their body,” said 46-year-old Caldwell resident Michelle Ballon, holding a sign calling forced vaccines “medical rape.”

Several far-right groups have leveraged Biden’s trip as a way to show their opposition to his administration. Idaho Liberty Dogs, a far-right group that often shows up to protests and other events heavily armed and in militia-style clothing, promoted an “Unwelcoming of Joe Biden in Boise” protest. Miste Gardner-Karlfeldt, the director of the anti-vaccine group Health Freedom Idaho, also urged followers to protest Biden’s arrival.

Some members of the “People’s Rights” organization founded by anti-government activist and far-right gubernatorial candidate Ammon Bundy also said they planned to protest Biden’s arrival. Idaho GOP Rep. Tammy Nichols urged residents to attend a “Trump Rally” at the National Interagency Fire Center.

And Dan McKnight, a military veteran and founder of “Bring Our Troops Home,” an organization that advocated for the end of the war in Afghanistan, promoted a protest called “Biden Killed Americans.”

Several of Idaho’s GOP gubernatorial candidates also seized on Biden’s trip as a way to try to distinguish themselves in the crowded field. Ed Humphreys, a GOP gubernatorial candidate who has made fighting against vaccine mandates part of his campaign, announced last week that he would host a “Traitor Joe is not welcome in Idaho rally.” Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is also running for governor and has argued against masking rules and other efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus, called on incumbent Gov. Brad Little to “uninvite” the president.

Little also announced last week that he was working with the state’s attorney general to fight Biden’s vaccine mandate through the legal system.

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Advocates, 2 women sue in bid to close Nevada legal brothels

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A national advocacy group and a Nevada lawyer have filed a sweeping federal lawsuit aimed at convincing a judge the nation’s only legal brothels are dens of illegal sex trafficking and unconstitutional slavery.

The case filed Friday in Las Vegas by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation names the governor, state attorney general and city and county officials as defendants, along with a brothel in Nye County and hip-hop music figure Jamal “Mally Mall” Rashid.

Rashid, 46, is serving a 33-month federal prison term after pleading guilty to operating a prostitution business disguised as a Las Vegas escort enterprise. Attorneys who represented him in that case did not immediately respond to a message about the lawsuit.

Representatives of Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, state Attorney General Aaron Ford, Las Vegas and Clark County declined to comment. Officials in Nye County and the Chicken Ranch brothel in Pahrump did not immediately respond to messages.

The lawsuit seeks to abolish Nevada’s legal prostitution statutes as unconstitutional and a violation of federal anti-trafficking laws. It asks the court to order reimbursement to victims of “all profits and unjust enrichment obtained as a result.”

Plaintiffs Angela Williams and Jane Doe claim they were defrauded and coerced for years in Nevada’s legal sex industry, including escort agencies, strip clubs and the brothel about 60 miles outside Las Vegas.

The lawsuit alleges they amounted to indentured servants in violation of the 13th Amendment ban on slavery.

“Nevada does not enforce its limited regulation of prostitution, permitting de facto prostitution to exist through escort bureaus and entertainment by referral service, failing to implement or enforce laws limiting prostitution advertising and failing to prevent the resultant debt bondage in legal brothels,” the lawsuit declares.

The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they have been victims of sexual crimes, but Williams’ Reno-based attorney, Jason Guinasso, has said she gave consent to be named in lawsuits and news reports.

Williams, originally from Houston, claims she was sex trafficked in Nevada from 2006 to 2017 and once worked for one of Rashid’s licensed escort companies.

Guinasso represented Williams in a previous federal lawsuit that invoked sex trafficking laws in a bid to close legal brothels in Nevada. That case was dismissed in October 2019 by U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Reno.

Guinasso also previously represented a Nevada group, “No Little Girl,” that led an unsuccessful campaign in 2018 for a ballot measure to end prostitution in Nevada’s Lyon County.

Nevada has about 20 legal bordellos in seven rural counties, where brothel owners argue that state regulation and mandatory health screenings make the women they hire safer than those involved in illegal prostitution.

Prostitution is not legal in the state’s two most populous counties, Clark and Washoe, or in the cities of Las Vegas and Reno.

In a statement about the lawsuit, National Center on Sexual Exploitation attorney Christen Price said Nevada’s legal prostitution system “inherently contributed to the sex trafficking of these plaintiffs for both the benefit of sex buyers who flock to Nevada and for the profit of Nevada and its tourism industry.”

“Compelling someone to engage in prostitution violates federal law, which bans sex trafficking, including coercing people into commercial sex acts,” she said.

The lawsuit asserts that Nevada’s illegal sex trade generates billions of dollars a year from tourists confused by the rules, dwarfing business at legal brothels.

Local and state governments benefit by collecting entertainment taxes from legal escort agencies, it said.

“Nevada’s legalized prostitution system increases the demand for sex,” Guinasso said in a statement. He characterized workers at legal brothels as victims of “debt bondage.”

Art festival verve continues to grow

ELKO — The seasons are changing and so is Elko as color and creativity envelop the community during the first Elko Art Festival. The event started Sept. 8 with a kickoff reception and continued through Sunday.

Two years ago Reno artist Matt McDowell was commissioned to paint a mural on the Thunderbird Motel during the Elko Mural Expo. It portrays a traveler resting after journeying in the West using a 1950s cartoon style. Now McDowell is working for the Elko Art Foundation, painting a larger piece on the Frontier Building on Idaho Street.

“It’s twice as big,” said McDowell of the new mural.

His current vision is a different kind of western theme using imagery and symbolism to represent many cultural and historical aspects of our region.

“On the left the first thing you will see is a rock cairn,” McDowell said. “For a long time explorers would stack rocks to remind themselves of where they had been. It deals with memory and direction. The bighorn skull represents the state animal, but also shows prominence through age and beauty even after things have come and gone. The heart represents the city’s motto, which is ‘The Heart of Northeast Nevada.’”

Across the street on the Wright Motor Building, Bryce Chisholm of AbcArtAttack was painting an entirely different scene representing the community using his characteristic rainbow color scheme.

Two years ago he created artwork with a Basque theme on the Living Stones Church building.

“I am really happy to come back and do another mural in Elko,” Chisholm said. “It’s a great community with people supporting me. I always hope my bright colors make [people] smile. That’s a big goal of ours is to make people happy as they walk by.”

Chris Vidas, a local miner and artist, was working on the Family Resource Center. This is his first time painting a mural in Elko.

“I have loved art since I was a little kid,” said Vidas.

Creating art makes Vidas’ soul come alive.

“I went home yesterday tired.”

“You should have seen him last night in that mode of relaxation because this is his passion,” said wife and helper Shelli Vidas.

He portrayed “family” on his wall with several generational palms overlapping. He feels strongly about community and togetherness.

Chris Vidas has been an Elko resident since 2001.

“I was in the military, in the National Guard, and I was deployed to defend the Elko Airport when 9-11 happened.”

He spent about a year defending his country on the local level. Before that he was in the U.S. Army for about 12 years and saw two tours.

According to Shelli, who was employed at the time in the newly built airport terminal, it was a great comfort to have National Guard there. Alas, it was there they met.

Rondee Graham, a Carlin resident, was happy to be working on her first mural on the Rodeway Inn.

“I am a member of the Elko County Art Club,” said Graham.

She got involved after seeing a post on Facebook about the upcoming festival.

Graham studied art at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

Her image is based on a movie theme involving actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator.”

“I am a fan of the movies and I have wanted to do something with this image. I have held it for five years,” said Graham.

As she talked, a few splashes of rain fell, but not enough to dull her excitement, joy and community spirit.

National Basque Festival 2021:

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Elko remembers Sept. 11 at City Hall ceremony

ELKO – Elkoans gathered Saturday morning to remember the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, at City Hall.

About 60 people watched a ceremony hosted by the Gaspar J. Salaz Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2350 to pay tribute to the lives lost on that day and during the Iraq/Afghanistan War.

“We are here to remember the 2,996 killed in the attack on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the aircraft that was brought down in the field of Pennsylvania,” said veteran and VFW member Mike Musgrove. “We are here to honor 6,800 soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who lost their lives in their service to their country during the global war on terrorism.”

He included 3,846 American contractors who “also gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan,” asking for a moment of silence for all.

Tera Hooiman sang the National Anthem at the start of the ceremony, which concluded with a wreath placed next to the 9/11 memorial in front of City Hall by representatives of the VFW, American Legion and POW/MIA Elko Awareness Association.

The sculpture, titled “Freedom,” is made of steel retrieved from the site of the World Trade Center towers and distributed to the City of Elko and other municipalities across the country for memorials.

A three-foot I-beam was transformed into boxes unfolding into two doves on a square granite base that represents the footprint of the towers.

American Legion Post 7 Commander Ron Petroski served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy. After 9/11, he was deployed on multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Speaking at the ceremony, Petroski said the purpose was to honor those who died in the terror attacks.

Toni Milano / Toni R Milano 

The Gaspar J. Salaz Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2350 Color Guard and members participated in the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks Saturday morning at Elko City Hall. 

“As a veteran who served his country bravely and honorably, today is more about Sept. 11 than ourselves, so let’s honor those [people],” he said. “We come to honor and remember those lost in a senseless act of terrorism trying to save lives, lest we not forget them.”

Petroski had been out of the Navy for four months before Sept. 11 occurred, and he said he could see the towers collapse from his home. He went back into the military and served four years in Iraq, Afghanistan and twice in the Persian Gulf.

Toni Milano / Toni R Milano 

Kenny Adams, POW/MIA Elko Awareness Association director, and Lee Foster, POW/MIA chaplain, stand next to a wreath presented by their association and members of the American Legion and VFW Post 2350.

“It’s the love of our country,” he said. “What we’ve got to keep going.”

VFW post commander Michele Milam and former VFW Post Commander Merlene Merck recalled memories of that day.

Milam was a junior in high school, and she would go on to serve in the Navy in 2005 in two deployments. Merck was in the midst of her 12th year in the Air Force when 9/11 occurred.

“I was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base. I was a cook,” Merck said. “Since 9/11 happened, I’ve been to Oman twice and Iraq. I never got to Afghanistan, but I did have several friends that did go for joint service. We were deployed quite a bit for our unit.”

To be at the 20th-anniversary ceremony Saturday morning was “humbling and sad,” said Merck. She said it was important to remember those events and that it was vitally important for the younger generations who do not remember that day or were not yet born, including her children.

“Those things they don’t remember, they don’t understand what it’s like to see something like that right on our own soil,” she said. “They don’t see why we break down and cry; why we come over here and why we do our remembrance.”

Monuments and ceremonies preserve the history of events such as Pearl Harbor and 9/11, Merck added.

“You tear down these monuments, and you get rid of history. History is bound to repeat itself,” she said. “We have to keep reminding our kids that, yes, these things happen, yes, they are horrible, but we can’t let it happen again.”

Merck said she was happy to see young people attending Saturday morning’s memorial.

“It’s an honor to be out here to teach our young kids and to see so many young kids out here to witness this because we just can’t forget,” she said.

The VFW thanked Chip Stone for the sound system for the ceremony.