French mayor wants Mont Blanc climbers to pay €15,000 rescue and funeral deposit

(CNN) — Anyone wanting to summit Europe’s tallest peak, Mont Blanc, may soon have to put up a €15,000 (about $15,300) deposit to cover possible rescue and funeral costs under plans announced by a local mayor fed up with the “contempt” of risk-taking climbers.Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, a town on the French side, says too many unqualified climbers are gambling with their lives on the mountain, where recent hot weather has made conditions more treacherous. “The municipality of Saint-Gervais plans to take measures adapted to the irresponsibility of some and the risks they make rescuers run,” Peillex said in a statement on Twitter. According to the mayor, the €15,000 deposit corresponds to the “average cost of a rescue (€10,000) and to the funeral costs of a victim (€5,000).””It is unacceptable that it is the French taxpayer who bears these costs,” Peillex said, adding that those who make the climb now do so “with death in their backpack.”‘Russian routlette’Due to the “extremely dangerous” conditions along the Couloir du Goûter — a particularly challenging section also known as the Corridor of Death — Peillex said reaching the summit of Mont Blanc via a popular path known as the Voie Royale, or Royal Way, was strictly advised against. Climbing Mont Blanc has been made riskier by large rockfalls and a period of drought and heat waves, he added. The mayor accused around 50 “pseudo-mountain-climbers” who traversed the route in July of “playing the latest fashionable game: Russian roulette!”His statement said gendarmes in a helicopter used a megaphone to make a group of Romanian hikers turn back from an attempt to summit Mont Blanc using a megaphone on July 30. On the Italian side of the mountain, the mayor of the ski resort town of Courmayeur, Roberto Rota, has described Peillex’s deposit plan as “surreal.”In comments confirmed by his press office, Rota told the daily Corriere della Sera that “the mountain is not a property.””We, as administrators, can limit ourselves to reporting sub-optimal routes’ conditions, but asking for a deposit to climb to the top is surreal,” he said. “The decision to close a path, a route, is made if there is an objective risk.” Top image credit: Philippe Desmazes/AFP via Getty Images

K2 just had its busiest climbing season ever

Hong Kong and Islamabad (CNN) — The world’s second highest mountain, K2 in Pakistan, has welcomed a record-breaking number of climbers this year amid a post-pandemic surge of summit fever. Some 207 permits were issued for ascending K2, says Sajjid Hussain, a tourism official in Gilgit Baltistan, the region bordering China which is home to the Karakoram Mountains, a range containing all five if Pakistan’s peaks over 8,000 meters (26,000 feet).K2, which reaches 8,611 meters above sea level, is considered by many mountaineers to be more technically challenging than Everest. But temperate weather during July, typically the best time of year to summit the peak, plus the relative ease of travel compared to previous years and a stable political situation in the country, is believed to have contributed to the record number of ascents. Another factor was the pent-up demand that grew during the pandemic. With some of the world’s highest peaks off-limits or difficult to access due to Covid-related border closures, many climbers have spent the past two years saving money and prepping for a return to the mountains.While K2 is more physically difficult to ascend, it is significantly cheaper than Everest. Permits to climb the world’s highest mountain cost $11,000 per person, and would-be climbers also need to calculate the costs of travel to and from Nepal, clothing, equipment, food and hired guides and Sherpas.Meanwhile, a K2 climbing permit — which often covers the other four “eight thousander” peaks nearby — can be had for $7,200 for a group of seven people.The number of permits wasn’t the only record set this year.Mirza Ali, founder of Pakistan-based mountaineering company Karakorum Expeditions, tells CNN that a record 20 women have summited K2 so far this summer. Among that group are Samina Baig, the first Pakistani woman to make it to the top, and Jenn Drummond, the American on a quest to become the first woman to climb all of the seven second summits,” the second-highest mountains on every continent. K2 was the final mountain that Drummond needed to climb in order to set her historic record.

Buncombe resident awarded $50K after sheriff's deputy Asheville gas station strip search

A Black Buncombe County resident has been awarded $50,000 after a federal judge found a white sheriff’s deputy violated his constitutional rights during a strip search at a highway gas station.In his Aug. 3 decision U.S. District Court Judge Martin Reidinger said a jury had found that Deputy Jeff May had “gone rogue” and violated plaintiff Marcus Hyatt’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure during the 2018 traffic stop on Smokey Park Highway in Asheville. The judge added that Hyatt was not wrong to fear the deputy would attempt to frame him by planting evidence. Race played a role in the case with accusations by plaintiffs that Hyatt was targeted because he was Black. The defense denied those allegations, pointing to bodycam footage that showed the officers being polite and checking on the comfort of those they detained.More:Black plaintiff, girlfriend say Buncombe deputies owe $500,000 because of ‘illegal’ strip searchMay made untrue statements about the smell of crack cocaine and falsified a field drug test to get a search warrant, said Reidinger, chief judge for the U.S. District Court of the Western District of North Carolina in Asheville. That led to Hyatt being ordered to strip naked in the gas station bathroom and “expose his most private areas to the officers,” said Reidinger, he said.No drugs were found during the stop and search, which lasted more than three hours and ended with Hyatt’s release without charges.The judge said his decision was based on “May’s unlawful search and seizure, the humiliation and degradation that Plaintiff Hyatt suffered as a result of the unreasonable strip search and the fear and anxiety caused by Defendant May’s actions in displaying a weapon and in fabricating evidence in order to obtain the search warrant.”Related:Attorney: Black passenger illegally frisked by white ranger in Great Smokies, jailedClaims in the lawsuit against other deputies participating in the traffic stop and strip search were dismissed by the judge. Those included claims by Hyatt’s now ex-girlfriend Ashley Barrett, who will receive none of the award. Reidinger also dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims against Quentin Miller, the county’s first Black sheriff, and former Sheriff Van Duncan. Hyatt was in a car being driven by Brandon Pickens, who was also strip searched but was not part of the civil suit.Hyatt and Barrett in April 2021 had asked for a combined $500,000 for what they said were the wrongs committed against them, including “physical injury, personal humiliation, mental anguish and suffering.” More:Attorney: Sex-trafficking lawsuit alleging APD deputy chief’s coverup is on a fast trackMiller and the deputies had said the strip search by Deputy J.D. Lambert “was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, balancing the need for that particular search against the invasion of personal rights that the search entails.”Defense attorney Adam Peoples responded to Aug. 4 questions from the Citizen Times saying Deputies Jake “J.D.” Lambert and Katie Beth Lewis “are grateful to finally be cleared of all liability.””As for Jeff May, we maintain that the jury got it wrong, and we are investigating options to set the record straight,” the attorney said.A decision to appeal must be made in 30 days. Peoples declined to answer other questions, including whether Lambert and May still worked for the sheriff’s office. By the time of the 2021 trial, Lewis was no longer a deputy. At that time, May and Lambert were members of the Buncombe County Anti-Crime Task Force.A Citizen Times public records request for an employee database showed as of Aug. 2 May was a detective with an annual salary of $57,491. Lambert was not shown in the database. which was created using information provided by a public records request.Lambert, who participated in the strip search, was also sued by Hyatt. But charges against him were dismissed after it was found by the jury and judge that he was not aware of May’s untrue statements about the cocaine smell or field test.Sheriff’s spokesperson Aaron Sarver declined to respond to questions about the deputies’ employment status and whether May would receive help paying the $50,000 for which the court said he was individually liable. Sarver said he was consulting with County Attorney Curt Euler.Hyatt and Barrett’s attorney Brian Elston said his clients were pleased with the ruling and not disappointed that the damages were significantly lower than what they had sought.More:Hung jury in deputy’s Asheville assault trial; unclear if new trial will happenMore:Fired Asheville officer, former Madison deputy, hired by another law enforcement agencyMore:Former sheriff deputy, wife found guilty on 1 charge, innocent of rest in child abuse case”What we had asked for was for the court to find that what happened to our client was wrong and to hold someone accountable, and that is exactly what happened. And that is worth more to my client than any amount of money than he could have received,” Elston said.The attorney said they appreciated the judge’s consideration and respected his “well-reasoned and thorough” ruling that spanned 63 pages.Elston said they were discussing filing motions to recover costs and attorneys’ fees in addition to the $50,000.Reidinger made the decision following the 2021 trial in which a jury reached a verdict on several issues but deadlocked on others. The plaintiffs and defendants agreed for Reidinger to decide the remaining questions.The judge said the jury had already found that May acted outside of his duty as a deputy obtaining a search warrant for the strip search “based on information he knew to be false.””And he conducted that search while displaying a weapon,” he said, something to which Hyatt testified. “In short, the jury found Defendant May to have ‘gone rogue,'” Reidinger said.In one of the more striking statements in the ruling, Reidinger said Hyatt’s fear that drugs would be planted on his clothing once it was removed was “legitimate.””After all, Plaintiff Hyatt had been detained for approximately three hours by this point, with the officers finding no illegal substances or items during multiple searches. Further, Defendant May had already made false statements regarding the smell of crack cocaine and finding a substance in the vehicle that tested positive for cocaine.”Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Got a tip? Contact Burgess at, 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times. 

Required Reading

I’m back after my break, so this edition will include some links I bookmarked over the last few months. Enjoy, and glad to be back.

If the financial barriers sound exhausting, there are physical tolls as well. It is physically demanding to be “on” lecturing at the front of a classroom for 18 hours each week. There are no TAs to do the grading. There is no break in the day (add meetings, 12 to 15 office hours per week, and an explosion of student email to those six three-hour courses), and there are no future escapes to dream about: no monthly dinners out at a restaurant, no annual coastal vacations, and no semester-long sabbaticals to conduct research or design a new course. All of your research, grading, course prep, and service work have to happen late at night, because there is no time during the day for anything but that 6–6 load.The actual instructional work adjuncts perform is harder due to the low levels at which they routinely teach. Introductory students have more needs than majors. NTT faculty in the humanities, for example, are often charged with the task each semester of teaching eighty intro students how to write. That is simply more taxing than teaching sixteen upper-level majors and eight graduate students something in your scholarly field while advising three to four doctoral students, the typical instructional load for a faculty member on the tenure-track at a research university.Unlike most tenure-track faculty, who slow down post-tenure to explore a hobby unrelated to their work, adjuncts must perform in perpetuity at the very highest level so their contracts will be renewed. Every position requires new syllabi. Very little can be reused from year to year. There can be no parental complaints, no failed teaching experiments, and no devastating student course evaluations. To enhance your value, you take on extra unpaid and underappreciated departmental, institutional, and professional service, which further constrain your schedule. That service, which should feel like a meaningful contribution to the field, ends up feeling like a waste when it remains invisible and undervalued in fields that promote scholarly publication above all.

There is a common, surprisingly straightforward formula for übernovels: Write a historical novel, a contemporary literary novel, and a science-fiction novel, and make them sections of a larger novel. These sections need not be part of the same story; one series of events might be followed by another series of events in a completely different setting and time, and the threads between them might be subtle—sometimes a theme, or maybe just a name, or perhaps simply the fact that the events of the novel are housed between the same two covers. (Part of the allure of these novels is the opportunity to divine the unstated connections.) Unlike autofiction, which seeks to reveal the hidden depths of an individual life, these books seek to dramatize many lives while surfacing the submerged links that tether the past (or versions of the past) to many possible futures. The resulting stories might not be impossible to film, but they would be incredibly expensive to film well, and their authors aren’t constrained by such quotidian concerns as budgets and actor availability.

Self-storage is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, with rents and occupancy rates at a record-high, according to market research by IBISWorld. Its proliferation, it would seem, goes hand in hand with the growing housing crisis and the tumultuous nature of most people’s lives under neoliberal capitalism, only heightened over the course of the last two years. Practically speaking, storage units hold items for people during times of transition: relocating to a different city, changing homes following a break-up or a divorce, a loved one’s death.

But just because pigeon nests look useless to us does not mean they are useless to pigeons. Most humans, as non-birds, have no relevant expertise in evaluating whether a nest is good or bad. “There’s this idea that the whole group of pigeons and doves are notoriously not the best nest-makers, but that’s putting our own human constructs on it,” said Carlen, now at Washington University in St. Louis, who is one of the few humans actually qualified to judge a pigeon nest.To appraise whether a pigeon nest is good or bad, you must try to understand the nest from the perspective of a pigeon. As Carlen sees it, a pigeon nest has one ultimate goal: to create an area where the egg will not roll away. 

There are several primary ways that the New York Times typically leverage the opinions of supposed crime “experts.” 1. Reporters often cite “experts” without providing readers meaningful context on who those individuals are or what conflicts of interest they might have, including their connection to police. 2. The “experts” are often referred to as a group, generating a weird kind of unaccountable anonymity that also serves to suggest some sort of consensus when there isn’t one. (For example, many articles support otherwise unsupported claims by prefacing them with “experts say” or “analysts say.”)3. Reporters routinely use “experts” to offer opinions that have no basis in fact or that are false as a way of avoiding providing evidence.  4. In articles about safety and crime, the Times routinely tilts its “expert” roster toward experts with experience in carceral bureaucracies and away from experts in public health, education, poverty, housing, urban planning, environmental justice, medicine, etc. 5. More brazenly, the Times also tilts its “expert” roster toward those with pro-incarceration ideologies. These pro-cop “experts” often justify and normalize state violence, and they almost always suggest the need for more resources for the profitable punishment bureaucracy in response to social problems cops and prisons can’t solve.

An interesting fact about another well know, popular American poet, Emily Dickinson, was that she had a lot of bird references, comparatively speaking … [she] mentions birds in 220 of her 1,800 poems. “Mostly she mentions them as contributions to the texture of the poem, as an analogue, a simile, a comparison, a detail, or a member of a list. Apart from her 150 uses of the word “bird,” she names the robin 38 times, the boblink 12, the sparrow 9, the jay 7, the hummingbirds 5, and so forth on down through the crow and the oriole 4, the bluebird, the phoebe, and the wren 3, the blackbird 2, while there is just one mention of the nightingale.”

The Quietly Gripping Art of Peter Hujar

By the time Peter Hujar died in 1987, ten months after being diagnosed with AIDS, he didn’t have many gallery showings, rarely got lucrative commissions, and had just one publication to his name: Portraits in Life and Death. That book was a selection of 40 photographs — 29 of them portraits of friends, including photos of Susan Sontag and William Burroughs, the remaining 11 taken on a Fulbright in the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo over a decade prior. The choice to combine in a single volume his sharp photographs of friends — who, if not necessarily young in age, all exuded smartness, juvenescence, and vitality — and macabre photographs of skeletons — some erect in a row and others supine — was certainly an odd choice. 

But that penchant for morbidity wasn’t even the reason why Hujar didn’t attain fame for his body of work, technically masterful and poignant as it was, during his lifetime. “Peter Hujar has hung up on every important photography dealer in the Western world,” author Fran Lebowitz, a close friend, said by way of explanation at his funeral. He blew off artists like Cecil Beaton and Peter Max at parties, and reportedly once swung a bar stool at two gallery owners who met with him to explore the possibility of showing his work. He was irreverent to those in the art world whom he did not respect, and as such, Hujar remains less well-known than contemporaries such as Nan Goldin, a good friend, and Robert Mapplethorpe, an artistic rival. Hujar was an embodiment, in some ways, of Mapplethorpe’s aesthetic opposite: Where Mapplethorpe’s portraits appeared as classical figures, naked and highly choreographed idealizations of the human form, Hujar’s portraits seemed to convey something direct about the subject and their character, even inasmuch as they were putting on a performance for the camera, too. 

At his last show at the Gracie Mansion Gallery in 1986, Hujar showed 100 photographs that he priced at $600 apiece. Only two sold. Now, four of his photographs made between 1973 and 1984 will be auctioned at Swann Auction Galleries in August as part of its fourth annual LGBTQ+ Art, Material Culture, and History sale.