Strong Dollar Is Good for the US but Bad for the World

The Federal Reserve’s determination to crush inflation at home by raising interest rates is inflicting profound pain in other countries — pushing up prices, ballooning the size of debt payments and increasing the risk of a deep recession.

Those interest rate increases are pumping up the value of the dollar — the go-to currency for much of the world’s trade and transactions — and causing economic turmoil in both rich and poor nations. In Britain and across much of the European continent, the dollar’s acceleration is helping feed stinging inflation.

On Monday, the British pound touched a record low against the dollar as investors balked at a government tax cut and spending plan. And China, which tightly controls its currency, fixed the renminbi at its lowest level in two years while taking steps to manage its decline.

Somalia, where the risk of starvation already lurks, the strong dollar is pushing up the price of imported food, fuel and medicine. The strong dollar is nudging debt-ridden Argentina, Egypt and Kenya closer to default and threatening to discourage foreign investment in emerging markets like India and South Korea.

the International Monetary Fund.

Japanese yen has reached a decades-long high. The euro, used by 19 nations across Europe, reached 1-to-1 parity with the dollar in June for the first time since 2002. The dollar is clobbering other currencies as well, including the Brazilian real, the South Korean won and the Tunisian dinar.

the economic outlook in the United States, however cloudy, is still better than in most other regions.

loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.

A fragile currency can sometimes work as “a buffering mechanism,” causing nations to import less and export more, Mr. Prasad said. But today, many “are not seeing the benefits of stronger growth.”

Still, they must pay more for essential imports like oil, wheat or pharmaceuticals as well as for loan bills due from billion-dollar debts.

debt crisis in Latin America in the 1980s.

The situation is particularly fraught because so many countries ran up above-average debts to deal with the fallout from the pandemic. And now they are facing renewed pressure to offer public support as food and energy prices soar.

Indonesia this month, thousands of protesters, angry over a 30 percent price increase on subsidized fuel, clashed with the police. In Tunisia, a shortage of subsidized food items like sugar, coffee, flour and eggs has shuttered cafes and emptied market shelves.

New research on the impact of a strong dollar on emerging nations found that it drags down economic progress across the board.

“You can see these very pronounced negative effects of a stronger dollar,” said Maurice Obstfeld, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an author of the study.

central banks feel pressure to raise interest rates to bolster their currencies and prevent import prices from skyrocketing. Last week, Argentina, the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Norway raised interest rates.

World Bank warned this month that simultaneous interest rate increases are pushing the world toward a recession and developing nations toward a string of financial crises that would inflict “lasting harm.”

Clearly, the Fed’s mandate is to look after the American economy, but some economists and foreign policymakers argue it should pay more attention to the fallout its decisions have on the rest of the world.

In 1998, Alan Greenspan, a five-term Fed chair, argued that “it is just not credible that the United States can remain an oasis of prosperity unaffected by a world that is experiencing greatly increased stress.”

The United States is now facing a slowing economy, but the essential dilemma is the same.

“Central banks have purely domestic mandates,” said Mr. Obstfeld, the U.C. Berkeley economist, but financial and trade globalization have made economies more interdependent than they have ever been and so closer cooperation is needed. “I don’t think central banks can have the luxury of not thinking about what’s happening abroad.”

Flávia Milhorance contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.

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Live Updates: Italy Votes in Pivotal Election for Europe

Credit…Alberto Pizzoli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Italian politicians are on a virtual hunt for undecided voters.

Over the summer, as polls suggested that most of those who had not yet picked a side were under 30, party elders took it to the next level: TikTok.

This month, Silvio Berlusconi, 85, who served four times as Italy’s prime minister, landed on the social media platform that is mostly popular among the young, explaining why he was there at his age.

“On this platform, you guys are over five million, and 60 percent of you are less than 30. I am a little envious,” Mr. Berlusconi said, raising and lowering his voice for dramatic effect. “We will talk about your future.”

The video had 9.6 million views, raising eyebrows among some users.

“You are not so stupid that a video on TikTok is enough to vote for you,” said Emma Galeotti, a young TikTok content creator. “You send the message that we, young people, are so malleable and bonkers.”

But Mr. Berlusconi’s communications team did not give up. His profile is brimming with a mix of snapshots from his TV appearances and classic Berlusconi jokes, as well as political messages recorded in his studio, where he is seen wearing classy blue suits — and often ties.

Viewers have taken notice of his cultivated appearance.

“What’s your foundation cream?” one asked. “The cream is too orange, more natural tones are better,” another wrote.

“The rebound was comic or grotesque, but being on TikTok allowed him to be central to the electoral debate,” said Annalisa Ferretti, the coordinator of the social media division at the Italian advocacy group FB & Associati, who noted that the number of people following Mr. Berlusconi’s profile had surpassed 3.2 million in three weeks.

“The problem is that this generation rejects the political class overall,” she said, adding that such social media popularity did not directly translate into votes.

Other politicians have chosen different paths. Matteo Salvini, 49, of the far-right League party, who has been on TikTok for years and has 635,600 followers, uses the platform mostly as a mouthpiece for his meat-and-bone topics — security and immigration.

Giorgia Meloni, 45, the leader of Brothers of Italy and possibly the next prime minister, does not seem to be doing as well on TikTok, despite her successful electoral campaign. She has 197,700 followers.

University students seem to like the leader of the centrist party Action, Carlo Calenda, 49, who posts short political messages, answers questions received on the platform and discusses books, Ms. Ferretti said. But he has only about 24,300 followers.

The center-left Democratic Party is the only party that offers a plurality of voices on TikTok. They post thematic videos with topics discussed by politicians who are the symbol of such issues, like Alessandro Zan, 48, for the civil rights battle. Enrico Letta, 56, a party leader, recently encouraged users to go vote — for whomever they liked. “The others should not decide for your future,” he said.

Despite the efforts of politicians to reach a different audience, abstention still seems to be the main threat to the parties, and to Italian democracy.

“They used to say, ‘Squares are full and the ballot boxes are empty,’” Ms. Ferretti said. “Now it’s more social media is full, and the ballot boxes are empty.”

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Arizona Judge: State Can Enforce Near-Total Abortion Ban

The ruling means the state’s abortion clinics will have to shut down and anyone seeking an abortion will have to go out of state.

Arizona can enforce a near-total ban on abortions that has been blocked for nearly 50 years, a judge ruled Friday, meaning clinics statewide will have to stop providing the procedures to avoid the filing of criminal charges against doctors and other medical workers.

The judge lifted a decades-old injunction that blocked enforcement of the law on the books since before Arizona became a state. The only exemption to the ban is if the woman’s life is in jeopardy.

The ruling means the state’s abortion clinics will have to shut down and anyone seeking an abortion will have to go out of state. The ruling takes effect immediately, although an appeal is possible. Planned Parenthood and two other large providers said they were halting abortions.

Abortion providers have been on a roller coaster since the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing women a constitutional right to an abortion. At first providers shut down operations, then re-opened, and now have to close again.

Planned Parenthood had urged the judge not to allow enforcement, and its president declared that the ruling “takes Arizonans back to living under an archaic, 150-year-old law.”

“This decision is out of step with the will of Arizonans and will cruelly force pregnant people to leave their communities to access abortion,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who had urged the judge to lift the injunction so the ban could be enforced, cheered.

“We applaud the court for upholding the will of the Legislature and providing clarity and uniformity on this important issue,” Brnovich said in a statement. “I have and will continue to protect the most vulnerable Arizonans.”

The ruling comes amid an election season in which Democrats have seized on abortion rights as a potent issue. Sen. Mark Kelly, under a challenge from Republican Blake Masters, said it “will have a devastating impact on the freedom Arizona women have had for decades” to choose an abortion. Democrat Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor, called it the product of a decadeslong attack on reproductive freedom by Republicans that can only be fended off by voters in November.

Masters and Kari Lake, the Republican running against Hobbs, both back abortion restrictions. Their campaigns had no immediate comment.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson ruled more than a month after hearing arguments on Brnovich’s request to lift the injunction.

The near-total abortion ban was enacted decades before Arizona secured statehood in 1912. Prosecutions were halted after the injunction was handed down following the Roe decision. Even so, the Legislature reenacted the law in 1977.

Assistant Attorney General Beau Roysden told Johnson at an Aug. 19 hearing that since Roe has been overruled, the sole reason for the injunction blocking the old law is gone and she should allow it to be enforced. Under that law, anyone convicted of performing a surgical abortion or providing drugs for a medication abortion could face two to five years in prison.

An attorney for Planned Parenthood and its Arizona affiliate argued that allowing the pre-statehood ban to be enforced would render more recent laws regulating abortion meaningless. Instead, she urged the judge to let licensed doctors perform abortions and let the old ban only apply to unlicensed practitioners.

The judge sided with Brnovich, saying that because the injunction was issued in 1973 only because of the Roe decision, it must be lifted in its entirety.

“The Court finds an attempt to reconcile fifty years of legislative activity procedurally improper in the context of the motion and record before it,” Johnson wrote. “While there may be legal questions the parties seek to resolve regarding Arizona statutes on abortion, those questions are not for this Court to decide here.”

In overturning Roe on June 24, the high court said states can regulate abortion as they wish.

A physician who runs a clinic providing abortions said she was dismayed but not surprised by the decision.

“It kind of goes with what I’ve been saying for a while now –- it is the intent of the people who run this state that abortion be illegal here,” Dr. DeShawn Taylor said. “Of course we want to hold onto hope in the back of our minds, but in the front of my mind I have been preparing the entire time for the total ban.”

Republicans control the Legislature, and GOP Gov. Doug Ducey is an abortion opponent who has signed every abortion law that reached his desk for the past eight years.

Johnson, the judge, said Planned Parenthood was free to file a new challenge. But with Arizona’s tough abortion laws and all seven Supreme Court justices appointed by Republicans, the chances of success appear slim.

What’s allowed in each state has shifted as legislatures and courts have acted since Roe was overturned. Before Friday’s ruling, bans on abortion at any point in pregnancy were in place in 12 Republican-led states.

In another state, Wisconsin, clinics have stopped providing abortions amid litigation over whether an 1849 ban is in effect. Georgia bans abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected. Florida and Utah have bans that kick in after 15 and 18 weeks gestation, respectively.

The ruling came a day before a new Arizona law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy takes effect. Signed by Ducey in March, the law was enacted in hopes that the Supreme Court would pare back limits on abortion regulations. Instead, it overturned Roe.

Ducey has argued that the new law he signed takes precedence over the pre-statehood law, but he did not send his attorneys to argue that before Johnson.

The old law was first enacted among a set of laws known as the “Howell Code” adopted by 1st Arizona Territorial Legislature in 1864. Arizona clinics have been performing about 13,000 abortions a year.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Maryland Quietly Shelves Parts Of Genealogy Privacy Law

Maryland set limits on police access to ancestry websites. But state leaders stopped rolling out some of the new law, a Newsy investigation finds.

State leaders in Maryland quietly stopped implementing key parts of a landmark privacy law meant to protect ancestry data online, a Newsy investigation has discovered. 

The law, enacted last year, was seen as a model for other states looking to set standards for when law enforcement can tap into DNA uploaded by Americans researching their heritage.

“States that don’t have a law like ours, it’s kind of the Wild West,” said Natalie Ram, law professor at the University of Maryland.

The state’s law set some of the first limits in the nation on forensic genetic genealogy, a technique used occasionally to help crack the toughest murder and rape cases. 

Authorities take DNA from a crime scene, and if they can’t find a match to known offenders in law enforcement databases, they compare the sample to profiles of millions of Americans whose DNA is online from ancestry research.

“Like where I would go to try to find my long-lost relatives, we would use exactly those same publicly available tools to try to find out, whose DNA is this?” said Ray Wickenheiser, director of the New York State Police Crime Lab System. 

Forensic genetic genealogy has become a more popular practice after 2018, when it was used to help catch Joseph DeAngelo, the notorious “Golden State Killer.”

But unlike a police search of a home or car, there were virtually no standards for when and how law enforcement could dip into genetic genealogy data online. 

Maryland’s law set some of the nation’s first guardrails on the investigative tool. 

“It is comprehensive,” Ram said. “It regulates the initiation of forensic genetic genealogy, how it is conducted.”

Newsy’s investigation found, almost a year after the law became active in October 2021, key pieces of it have yet to roll out. 

The Maryland Department of Health has yet to publish best practices and minimum qualifications for people using forensic genetic genealogy.

In a required annual report, a branch of the governor’s office failed to disclose how often law enforcement accesses ancestry data, as well as the number of complaints. 

The health department also suspended a task force working on the new regulations, without providing an explanation even to members of that task force, including Wickenheiser. 

The Maryland Department of Health would not answer Newsy’s detailed questions about the lack of progress. 

But emails obtained through state open records requests show by March, a decision had been made to stop implementing major parts of the law.

Dr. Tricia Nay, director of the health department’s Office of Health Care Quality, wrote in a March 16 email, “Unfortunately, OHCQ did not receive any staff or funding for this bill, so we are unable to implement it at this time.”

A health department spokesman confirmed there are no funds to support the law this fiscal year, which runs through June 2023. 

That came as news to Ram, who worked with legislators to get the pioneering law on the books. 

“That concerns me,” Ram said. “I’d like to see this law implemented, and I hope that resources are available to do so.”  

The law has faced other challenges, including concern and opposition from a key health department leader.

In an email dated June 13, 2021, Paul Celli, public˙health administrator for clinical and forensic laboratories, wrote: “I am just not sure how to go about getting started on all of this. The bill tasked OHCQ with all this with zero consultation on it … I don’t even agree with most of what’s in it …”

Emails show that by this summer, communication appeared to break down between the Maryland Department of Health and Maryland State Police, another agency also required to help roll out the law. 

“I still don’t know what MDH’s plan is in regard to the regulations. They have gone silent and I’ve tried every avenue available to me to get some resolution without success,” reads a July 13 email from Dan Katz, lab director for Maryland State Police.

Katz declined a request to be interviewed for this story.

Maryland Department of Health spokesman Chase Cook sent a statement responding to Newsy’s findings: “The Maryland Department of Health has actively been working internally and with our partner state agencies on implementation of this law, which we understand has not been implemented anywhere else in the United States. We will provide further updates as they become available.”

For now, ancestry websites are setting their own privacy rules. 

User terms of service for ancestry.com and 23andme.com say they won’t voluntarily share data with law enforcement. 

There are looser restrictions on GEDmatch.com, a free online ancestry database used to find the Golden State Killer.

The site has 1.8 million profiles.

Users must opt out if they don’t want to share data with police.

“For me, it’s critical that Maryland continue this,” Wickenheiser said. “The sooner we can have these discussions and have these laws put in place, the better it is. We want to prevent and solve crime, and we also want to make sure that we respect people’s rights.”

A major test of how things are going in Maryland is just weeks away: The law requires the health department to establish licensing requirements for labs using forensic genetic genealogy by Oct. 1.

Source: newsy.com

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President Joe Biden And First Lady Jill Biden Remember The Queen

The president is among scores of world leaders who are attending her state funeral service on Monday at Westminster Abbey in London.

For U.S. President Joe Biden, it was the crumpets. For his wife, first lady Jill Biden, it was the tea.

Joe and Jill Biden on Sunday helped honor Queen Elizabeth II by sharing memories of their tea time last year when she invited them to join her at Windsor Castle, near London.

The president, who said after that 2021 visit that Elizabeth reminded him of his late mother, recalled Sunday that she kept offering him crumpets. He did not refuse.

“I kept eating everything she put in front of me,” he said. “But she was the same in person as … her image: decent, honorable, and all about service.”

The queen, who was Britain’s longest-serving monarch, died earlier this month after a 70-year reign. President Biden is among hundreds of heads of state and other dignitaries who are in London to attend her state funeral service Monday at Westminster Abbey.

The first lady told The Associated Press in a telephone interview after she and the president attended a reception at Buckingham Palace that “what really impressed me” about the queen was “just how warm and gracious she was.”

“I loved her sense of curiosity. She wanted to know all about American politics and so she asked Joe question after question,” Jill Biden said. She said sitting in Elizabeth’s living room was “almost like being, you know, with your grandmother.”

“And she said, ‘Let me pour the tea,’ and we said, ‘No, no, let us help,’ and she said ‘Oh, no, no, no, I’ll get this. You sit down,'” Jill Biden said. “And it was just a very special moment with a very special woman.”

The Bidens paid their respects to the queen on Sunday by traveling to Westminster Hall, where she has been lying in state, to stand before the monarch’s coffin in the presence of thousands of mourners who had spent hours upon hours waiting to file past.

They then signed condolence books at Lancaster House before going to Buckingham Palace for a reception hosted by King Charles III and other royal family members for the world leaders who flew in for the funeral.

After signing the book, President Biden said his his heart goes out to the royal family because the queen’s death has left it with a “giant hole.”

“Sometimes you think you’ll never, you’ll never overcome it,” said President Biden, who often speaks in very personal terms about loss following the death of his first wife and infant daughter, and later an adult son. “But as I’ve told the king, she’s going to be with him every step of the way — every minute, every moment. And that’s a reassuring notion.”

While standing alongside the coffin on Sunday, the first lady said, she watched a little boy dressed in a Boy Scout uniform come in and give the queen a three-finger salute.

“I mean, it just gave me a lump in my throat,” she said, and showed “how much the people really loved their queen, no matter their ages.”

President Biden wrote in the condolence book that the queen “was admired around the world for her unwavering commitment to service.”

The first lady signed a separate condolence book for spouses and ambassadors, writing “Queen Elizabeth lived her life for the people. She served with wisdom and grace. We will never forget her warmth, kindness and the conversations we shared.”

In the interview, Jill Biden cautioned that there’s a “human piece” to the queen’s death.

Speaking of Charles, she said: “He is the king, but no one should forget, he lost his mother and, you know, Prince William lost a grandmother. Sometimes we tend to forget the really human piece of this and the sorrow that they … have to bear and how they have to grieve in public. But they seem to be doing OK,” she said.

More than 2,000 people were expected at Westminster Abbey for Monday’s funeral.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Ukraine’s Horse Rescuer: ‘This Is My Frontline’

Many animals were displaced and left behind as Russian forces started invading Ukraine. Now, months after the invasion, some horses have been saved.

After months in the middle of a Ukrainian battlefield, several horses crossed to safety Wednesday near the frontline in Kharkiv. 

They will join other survivors of war in a safe haven in Western Ukraine. 

Through more than six months of chaos, Ukraine’s horse owners faced gut wrenching decisions. Many had no choice but to abandon their animals and hope they’d be rescued. 

Taisia Stadnichenko is the head of operations at the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation.  

“I know drivers. I know who needs help. I know how much help we can deliver,” said Stadnichenko.  

That help is still being organized, on a near-daily basis, by Taya Stadnichenko. She’s the self-appointed equestrian 911 operator. 

“I just get a message. If we send car to Russian area to take the horses, our car will not get out. Never,” she said. 

This cry for help is coming from a horse owner in Russian-occupied Kherson, caught in the crossfire. There’s no way for her to help them. 

But even before this week, before Ukraine’s lighting liberation of the Kharkiv region — she managed to lead daring rescues to get some horses from Russian occupied areas out of harm’s way. 

TAISIA STADNICHENKO: People were walking with the two horses the whole night and part of the day. And our trailer was hidden into the forest and it was bombing people. Just five kilometers from the frontline. And we took those horses.

Trapped in battle-scarred Kharkiv, 17 thoroughbreds were unreachable until now. They needed medical care, food, shelter. But Russia heavily mined the area. 

NEWSY’S JASON BELLINI: Are there horses that are suffering, that are dying right now?   

STADNICHENKO: Yes, of course. We have many cases when it’s too late. When people are just waiting, waiting and waiting. And then after it’s too late, they ask us for help. It’s not like a cat or a dog you just put in the car and take with yourself. 

In the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, seized by Russia on the first day of the war, Taya introduces us to Evhen Ramazanov.  

He owns stables and the equestrian training ground. 

He showed Newsy videos he took on February 24. That day his land became the frontline of a warzone. He housed, at the time, 90 horses. Twelve days later, he realized he and his family needed to flee the property, leaving behind the horses. 

“It was like the apocalypse in a movie,” he says. “Fifteen horses were killed. Some from explosions with shrapnel, some from a direct hit and some from dehydration, because there was no water.”

he says the ones that survived miraculously managed to jump over a fence and lead themselves to water.  

Ramazanov wanted to introduce us to Rodeo, the old horse he considers a hero.  

The horses couldn’t stay in the field near the water. Shells were falling all around them. 

“It was a miracle. This Rodeo gathered the entire herd and brought them home, he says. “The horse understood that it was too dangerous to stay there.”

BELLINI: What did you see when you came back? 

EVHEN RAMAZANOV: I don’t know if I can talk about that. But one of the survivors just gave birth. She stayed here all her pregnancy under such horrendous conditions, under the bombing. 

Russian troops commandeered the stables of other horse owners. 

Oliiynichenko Oleksandra said the Russians stole everything in her barn and 13 of the horses she boarded there died.  

“I’ve been here since I was 13 years old. Now I’m 27 years old. I’ve lost everything,” said Oleksandra. 

What she hasn’t lost is her love of horses. She leads many of the rescue operations. 

The biggest challenge ahead is winter, and feeding and housing 5,000 rescued horses, which costs around $200 per month, per horse. That money that comes from donations. 

STADNICHENKO: They are donating from $5 to $500 to $700.  

BELLINI: From around the world?  

STADNICHENKO: From all around the world, from United States, Japan and from everywhere. U.S. equestrian sent veterinary supply donation for about $100,000. It will help about 5000 horses for a few months.   

Before the war, Stadnichenko published photo books of horses. Ironically and no longer, Russia was her primary market. Now her life is devoted to saving the animals she has loved since she was a child.  

STADNICHENKO: Everybody has their own front line. There are people that are caring about people and caring about children. But I care about horses, so I’m focused at them. This is my frontline. 

Source: newsy.com

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Former President Barack Obama, First Lady Unveil White House Portraits

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden invited Obama and the former first lady back to their former home to unveil their official portraits.

Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle returned to the White House on Wednesday for the unveiling of official portraits with a modern vibe: him standing expressionless against a white background and her seated on a sofa in the Red Room wearing a formal light blue dress.

“Barack and Michelle, welcome home,” President Joe Biden said before he invited the Obamas to the stage to unveil the portraits. Some in the audience gasped, others applauded.

“It’s great to be back,” Obama said when it was his turn to speak. He praised Biden — his vice president — as someone who became a “true partner and a true friend.”

The artist whom Barack Obama selected to paint his portrait says the “stripped down” style of his works helps create an “encounter” between the person in the painting and the person looking at it.

Robert McCurdy likes to present his subjects without any facial expression and standing against a white background, which is how America’s 44th and first Black president will be seen here for posterity, in a black suit and gray tie.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden invited Obama and the former first lady back to their former home to unveil their official portraits. It was Mrs. Obama’s first visit since her husband’s presidency ended in January 2017. Obama himself visited in April to help celebrate the anniversary of the major health care law he signed.

The former first lady chose artist Sharon Sprung for her portrait.

The portraits do not look like any others in the collection to which they will be added, in terms of style and substance.

McCurdy told the White House Historical Association for the latest edition of its “1600 Sessions” podcast that his style is “stripped down for a reason.” He’s also done portraits of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and the Dalai Lama, among others.

“They have plain white backgrounds, nobody gestures, nobody — there are no props because we’re not here to tell the story of the person that’s sitting for them,” McCurdy said. “We’re here to create an encounter between the viewer and the sitter.”

He compared the technique to a session with a psychiatrist in which the patient and doctor tell each other as little as possible about themselves “so that you can project onto them.”

“And we’re doing the same thing with these paintings,” McCurdy said. “We’re telling as little about the sitter as possible so that the viewer can project onto them.”

McCurdy works from a photograph of his subjects, selected from hundreds of images. He spends a year to 18 months on each portrait and said he knows he’s done “when it stops irritating me.”

Sprung, who also was interviewed for the podcast, described feeling as though she was in a “comedy sketch” when she met with the Obamas in the Oval Office.

She kept sinking into the couch she sat on while they sat on sturdier chairs. Then the president “flicked” away the printed talking points she had handed out to everyone in the room. Then she just “went still” and had to “gasp for air a little bit” when someone else in the meeting asked her why she paints. Then she started to cry.

“So who knows what put the interview over the top, but that’s how it went,” Sprung said.

She had planned on having Mrs. Obama stand in the portrait, “to give it a certain dignity,” but said the former first lady “has so much dignity that I decided to do it sitting just because … it was too much looking up at her. I’m that much shorter than her.”

Sprung worked on the portrait for eight months, day and night, the most time she’s ever spent on a single painting. She worked entirely from photographs taken in various locations on the State Floor of the White House. Getting the dress just right was the hardest part, she said.

“The color was so beautiful and I really wanted to get the strength of the color and the light,” said Sprung, who has done portraits of the late Rep. Patsy Mink, D-Hawaii, and Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress.

Recent tradition, no matter political affiliation, has had the current president genially hosting his immediate predecessor for the unveiling — as Bill Clinton did for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush did for Clinton and Obama did for the younger Bush.

Donald Trump, who criticized almost everything about Obama and deviated from many presidential traditions, held no ceremony for Obama. So President Biden, who was Obama’s vice president, scheduled one for his former boss.

Obama’s portrait is destined for display in the Grand Foyer of the White House, the traditional showcase for paintings of the two most recent presidents. Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s portraits currently hang there.

Mrs. Obama’s portrait likely will be placed with her predecessors along the hallway on the Ground Floor of the White House, joining Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush.

Both McCurdy and Sprung said it was hard to keep their work on the portraits secret. McCurdy said it wouldn’t have been a problem “if it had not gone on for so long.” Sprung said she had to turn the portrait to the wall whenever someone came into her studio in New York.

The White House Historical Association, a nonprofit organization that is funded through private donations and sales of books and an annual Christmas ornament, helps manage the portrait process and, since the 1960s, has paid for most of those in the collection.

Congress bought the first painting in the collection, of George Washington. Other portraits of early presidents and first ladies often came to the White House as gifts.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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President Biden To Help Unveil Obama White House Portraits

President Biden will be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obama’s vice president.

It’s been more than a decade since President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, welcomed back George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, for the unveiling of their White House portraits, part of a beloved Washington tradition that for decades managed to transcend partisan politics.

President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, are set to revive that ritual — after an awkward and anomalous gap in the Trump years — when they host the Obamas on Wednesday for the big reveal of their portraits in front of scores of friends, family and staff.

The Obama paintings will not look like any in the White House portrait collection to which they will be added: They were America’s first Black president and first lady.

The ceremony will also mark Michelle Obama’s first visit to the White House since Obama’s presidency ended in January 2017, and only the second visit for Barack Obama. He was at the White House in April to mark the 12th anniversary of the health care law he signed in 2010.

Portrait ceremonies often give past presidents an opportunity to showcase their comedic timing.

“I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection. It now starts and ends with a George W,” Bush quipped at his ceremony in 2012.

Bill Clinton joked in 2004 that “most of the time, till you get your picture hung like this, the only artists that draw you are cartoonists.”

Recent tradition, no matter the party affiliation, has had the current president genially hosting his immediate predecessor for the unveiling — as Clinton did for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush did for Clinton and Obama did for the younger Bush.

Then there was an unexplained pause when Donald Trump did not host Obama.

Two spokespeople for Trump did not respond to emailed requests for comment on the lack of a ceremony for Obama, and whether artists are working on portraits of Trump and former first lady Melania Trump.

The White House portrait collection starts with George Washington, America’s first president. Congress bought his portrait.

Other portraits of early presidents and first ladies often came to the White House as gifts. Since the middle of the last century, the White House Historical Association has paid for the paintings.

The first portraits financed by the association were of Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson, and John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, said Stewart McLaurin, president of the private, nonprofit organization established by first lady Kennedy.

Before presidents and first ladies leave office, the association explains the portrait process. The former president and first lady choose the artist or artists, and offer guidance on how they want to be portrayed.

“It really involves how that president and first lady see themselves,” McLaurin said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The collection includes an iconic, full-length portrait of Washington that adorns the East Room. It is the only item still in the White House that was in the executive mansion in November 1800 when John Adams and Abigail Adams became the first president and first lady to live in the White House.

Years later, first lady Dolley Madison saved Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Washington from almost certain ruin. She had White House staff take it out of the city before advancing British forces burned the mansion in 1814. The painting was held in storage until the White House was rebuilt.

President and first lady portraits are seen by millions of White House visitors, though not all are on display. Some are undergoing conservation or are in storage.

Those that are on display line hallways and rooms in public areas of the mansion, such as the Ground Floor and its Vermeil and China Rooms, and the State Floor one level above, which has the famous Green, Blue and Red Rooms, the East Room and State Dining Room.

Portraits of Mamie Eisenhower, Pat Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson and Lou Henry Hoover grace the Vermeil Room, along with a full-length image of Jacqueline Kennedy. Michelle Obama’s portrait likely will join Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush along the Ground Floor hallway.

The State Floor hallway one floor above features recent presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Gerald Ford’s portrait and the likeness of Richard Nixon — the only president to resign from office — are on view on the Grand Staircase leading to the private living quarters on the second floor.

Past presidents’ images move around the White House, depending on their standing with the current occupants. Ronald Reagan, for example, moved Thomas Jefferson and Harry S. Truman out of the Cabinet Room and swapped in Dwight Eisenhower and Calvin Coolidge.

In the Clinton era, portraits of Richard Nixon and Reagan, idols of the Republican Party, lost their showcase spot in the Grand Foyer and were replaced with pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman, heroes of the Democrats. Nancy Reagan temporarily moved Eleanor Roosevelt to a place of prominence in the East Room in 1984 to mark the centennial of her birth.

One of the most prominent spots for a portrait is above the mantle in the State Dining Room and it has been occupied for decades by a painting of a seated Abraham Lincoln, hand supporting his chin. It was placed there by Franklin Roosevelt.

Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s portraits hang on opposing walls in the Grand Foyer.

Clinton’s would be relocated to make room for Barack Obama’s if the White House sticks to tradition and keeps the two most recent Oval Office occupants there, McLaurin said.

“That’s up to the White House, to the curators,” he said.

The association, which is funded through private donations and the sale of books and an annual White House Christmas ornament, keeps the portrait price well below market value because of the “extraordinary honor” an artist derives from having “their work of art hanging perpetually in the White House,” McLaurin said.

Details about the Obamas’ portraits will stay under wraps until Wednesday.

President Biden will be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obama’s vice president. George H.W. Bush, who held Ronald Reagan’s ceremony, was Reagan’s No. 2.

Betty Monkman, a former White House curator, said during a 2017 podcast for the White House Historical Association that the ceremony is a “statement of generosity” by the president and first lady. “It’s a very warm, lovely moment.”

The White House portraits are one of two sets of portraits of presidents and first ladies. The National Portrait Gallery, a Smithsonian museum, maintains its own collection and those portraits are unveiled before the White House pair. The Obamas unveiled their museum portraits in February 2018.

Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, said in an email that a $650,000 donation in July from Save America, Trump’s political action committee, was earmarked for the couple’s museum portraits. Two artists have been commissioned, one for each painting, and work has begun, St. Thomas said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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