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3 groups; many videos; many interpretations of DC encounter

A group of five black men shouting vulgar insults while protesting centuries of oppression. Dozens of white Catholic high school students visiting Washington for a rally to end abortion. Native Americans marching to end injustice for indigenous peoples across the globe who have seen their lands overrun by outside settlers.

The three groups met for just a few minutes Friday at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, an encounter captured in videos that went viral over the weekend — and again cast a spotlight on a polarized nation that doesn't appear to agree on anything.

At first the focus was on a short video showing one of the high school students, Nick Sandmann, wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat and appearing to smirk while a crowd of other teens laughed derisively behind him as a 64-year-old Native American, Nathan Phillips, played a traditional chant on a drum.

Pull back further and a different view emerged, however, in a separate video showing members of a group calling itself the Black Hebrew Israelites taunting everyone on the mall that day, calling the Native Americans who had gathered there for the Indigenous Peoples March "Uncle Tomahawks" and "$5 Indians" and the high school students "crackers" and worse.

It was an ugly encounter of spewed epithets but one that nevertheless ended with no violence.

Still, the videos were all over social media, again appearing to illustrate a nation of such deep divisions — racial, religious and ideological — that no one was willing to listen to the others' point of view. Add to that the political tensions spilling over from a government shutdown that has gone on for a month and the stage was set for a viral moment. But in this case it didn't tell the whole story, all the parties involved agree.

"I would caution everyone passing judgment based on a few seconds of video to watch the longer video clips that are on the internet, as they show a much different story than is being portrayed by people with agendas," Sandmann, a junior, said in a statement released late Sunday.

Sandmann's statement seems at odds with some video from the confrontation that showed students from his school, Covington Catholic High in Park Hills, Kentucky, laughing at Phillips' Native American group and mockingly singing along with him, as well as interviews with Phillips who said he heard the students shout "Build that wall!" and "Go back to the reservation!"

The fullest view of what happened that Friday afternoon came from a nearly two-hour video posted on Facebook by Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan. It showed members of his Black Hebrew Israelite group repeatedly interacting with the crowd as people from the Indigenous Peoples March and the high school students vigorously argued with them for a few minutes.

Sandmann said in his statement the students from his all-male high school were waiting for their buses near Banyamyan's group when the latter started to taunt them. One of the students took off his shirt and the teens started to do a haka — a war dance of New Zealand's indigenous Maori culture, made famous by the country's national rugby team.

Phillips, an elder of the Omaha tribe, and Marcus Frejo, a member of the Pawnee and Seminole tribes, said they felt the students were mocking the dance and walked over to intervene.

Phillips and Sandmann locked eyes, their faces inches apart. Both said their goal was simply to make sure things didn't get out of hand.

The high school students felt they were unfairly portrayed as villains in a situation where they say they were not the provocateurs.

"I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination," Sandmann said in his statement.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington apologized for the incident, promising an investigation that could lead to punishment up to expulsion if any wrongdoing by the students was determined.

The Indigenous Peoples Movement felt the encounter was a reminder the U.S. was founded on racism and President Donald Trump's presidency is rekindling hatred based on skin color.

"Trump has riled up a reactionary voting block that reminds us that we are a nation founded on patriarchy, genocide and racism. Trump is clearly giving these archaic instincts license, encouraging the kind of aggressive goading that I witnessed," movement spokesman Chase Iron Eyes said in a statement.

Trump himself weighed in with a tweet Monday night as some news reports questioned whether the early criticism of the students was warranted. The president tweeted, in part: "Looking like Nick Sandman & Covington Catholic students were treated unfairly with early judgements proving out to be false - smeared by media. Not good, but making big comeback!"

Banyamyan posted his own reaction on Facebook, referencing the dozens of high school students in their Make America Great Again gear coming over to his group of five and chanting. In a rambling video, he also praised Phillips and compared Sandmann to the devil.

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
Rhonda Capron pays tribute to Siouxland's MLK connection

SIOUX CITY -- Every time she came to visit Marguerite Cordice, Rhonda Capron was called a "celebrity."

"After I told Marguerite I'm on the Sioux City City Council, she recognized me from TV," Capron, a City Council member who also owns Rhonda's Senior Support Services, explained in a Monday morning interview with the Journal. "From that day forward, I was a celebrity in her eyes."

But it was Cordice who had a life that deserved to be celebrated.

Cordice, the widow of John Walter Vincent Cordice Jr., the surgeon credited for saving the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. following a 1958 assassination attempt, died Jan. 17 in Sioux City, at the age of 97.

"Incredibly, Marguerite's funeral (at St. Thomas Episcopal Church) took place Monday, or the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.," Capron said. "There may not have been a Martin Luther King Day had it not been for Dr. Cordice.

"The civil rights movement may have changed forever had Martin Luther King Jr. died 10 years earlier," she added.

Capron remembered her friend Monday night while speaking at Sioux City's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ.

On Sept. 20, 1958, King was attacked by a woman wielding a paper knife in Harlem. A medical team that included Aubre Maynard, Farrow Allen and Cordice, the chief surgeon, operated on King.

One of the most acclaimed African-American surgeons of his time, Cordice subsequently became the subject of "When Harlem Nearly Killed King," a 2002 book written by investigative journalist Hugh Pearson.

It was when Cordice was working at New York's Harlem Hospital that he met his future wife, the former Marguerite Smith, who was a hospital administrator. The two were married in New Jersey in 1948.

"As soon as you heard Marguerite's voice, you knew she was a New Yorker," explained Capron, who first met Cordice in 2018. "She was proud of it."

Cordice was also proud of her celebrated husband, who died in 2014 at age 95, as well as their three daughters, including Michelle, who moved to Sioux City as a Morningside College student and married George Boykin, a Sioux City civil rights leader and a 30-year member of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors.

Both John and Marguerite Cordice retired to Sioux City many years ago to be close to family.

"Marguerite was very modest and respectful of her family's role in civil rights," Capron said. "Family meant everything to her."

Capron said Cordice was able to say goodbye to her three daughters, three grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild before her death.

"Marguerite was as sharp as a tack right until the end," Capron said. "She died the same way she lived: with dignity and love in heart.

"It was because of Dr. Cordice that MLK survived a stabbing in 1958," Capron said. "The civil rights movement would've changed forever had MLK died on Cordice's operating table."

And what about Capron's late-in-life friend?

"I will always remember Marguerite Cordice and I know she was greeted by some wonderful people in heaven."

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Sandra Pearson directs the MLK Choir as it sings the Negro National Anthem during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration held Monday at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Sioux City. The annual celebration of the life of the slain civil rights leader was hosted by the Sioux City NAACP.

Trump's solution hangs in limbo

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's proposal to break through the budget deadlock appeared to be gaining little traction Monday, as another missed paycheck loomed for hundreds of thousands of workers and the partial federal shutdown stretched into its fifth week.

Despite the fanfare of the president's announcement, voting in Congress was not expected to unfold until later in the week. Even then it seemed doubtful that legislation based on Trump's plan had any chance of swiftly passing the Senate. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority but would need Democrats to reach the usual 60-vote threshold for bills to advance.

Not a single Democrat publicly expressed support for the deal in the 48 hours since Trump announced it. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer's office reiterated Monday they that are unwilling to negotiate any border security funding until Trump re-opens the government.

"Nothing has changed with the latest Republican offer," said Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman. "President Trump and Senate Republicans are still saying: 'Support my plan or the government stays shut.' That isn't a compromise or a negotiation — it's simply more hostage taking."

While the House and Senate are scheduled to be back in session today, no votes have been scheduled so far on Trump's plan. Senators, who will be given 24-hour notice ahead of voting, have yet to be recalled to Washington.

McConnell spokesman David Popp said Monday that the GOP leader "will move" to voting on consideration of the president's proposal "this week."

Trump, who on Sunday lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accusing her of acting "irrationally," continued to single her out on Twitter.

"If Nancy Pelosi thinks that Walls are "immoral," why isn't she requesting that we take down all of the existing Walls between the U.S. and Mexico," he wrote Monday. "Let millions of unchecked 'strangers' just flow into the U.S."

House Democrats this week are pushing ahead with voting on their own legislation to re-open the government and add $1 billion for border security —including 75 more immigration judges and infrastructure improvements — but no funding for the wall.

Trump later tweeted: "Democrats are kidding themselves (they don't really believe it!) if they say you can stop Crime, Drugs, Human Trafficking and Caravans without a Wall or Steel Barrier. Stop playing games and give America the Security it deserves. A Humanitarian Crisis!"

Trump on Saturday offered to extend temporary protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and those fleeing disaster zones for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion for his border wall. Democrats said the proposal for a three-year extension didn't go far enough, and that Trump was using as leverage programs that he targeted. Meanwhile, some on the right, including conservative commentator Ann Coulter, accused Trump of offering "amnesty."

"No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer," Trump tweeted Sunday, in response. He noted that he offered temporary protections for the immigrants in question, but added: "Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal, whether on immigration or something else."

That statement led some to suggest that Trump might be open to including a potential pathway to citizenship for the young "Dreamer" immigrants in a future proposal to end the standoff.

Asked in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" whether Trump's Saturday proposal represented a "final offer," Vice President Mike Pence said the White House was willing to negotiate.

"Well, of course," Pence said. "The legislative process is a negotiation."

Marguerite Cordice

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Briar Cliff Brandon Oswald hits the ball during a volleyball team practices in Sioux City, Iowa on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. Sioux City Journal Photo by Justin Wan

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Housing program helps workers find homes in rural Nebraska

WAKEFIELD, Neb. -- Like many young couples, Adrian and Maria Ruiz wanted to own their own house.

Renting a home eight miles away in Emerson, they searched for a home in Wakefield, where Adrian works, but with no luck.

"Nothing was available in Wakefield. We wanted to live here and wanted our children to go to school here. Ever since we had our son, we really knew we wanted a house. My goal was to provide that for my family," said Adrian Ruiz, a production supervisor at food processor Michael Foods.

They were looking into buying a home about 10 miles away in Wayne, but fortunately for them, they were able to take advantage of a new Nebraska program created to help families like theirs find affordable homes and also help rural communities like Wakefield increase housing opportunities for people who live and work there.

On Thursday, Adrian and Maria hosted about 100 people at their home, where local leaders celebrated the completion of the house, the first in the state to be finished utilizing Nebraska's Rural Workforce Housing Fund. Among the guests for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony was Gov. Pete Ricketts, who came to see the results of the Nebraska Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act, which he signed into law in 2017.

"I'm pleased with all the great work being done here," Ricketts said before Adrian and Maria gave the governor and other dignitaries a tour.

It's the first of many new homes that leaders in Wakefield and nearby Wayne hope to build through a revolving loan fund of more than $1.6 million they established using the Rural Workforce Housing Fund, a $7 million state fund that provides matching grants to non-profit development organizations to create housing options for workers.

Wakefield and Wayne both are short on housing in the $80,000-$150,000 range. As a result, workers commute from as far away as Norfolk and West Point. Eventually, some find jobs closer to their homes after tiring of the long drive to work, leaving employers constantly in the hiring mode.

"We've had employers tell us that the retention rate would be higher if there was more housing here," said Megan Weaver, executive director of the Wayne Community Housing Development Corporation, which applied for the housing grant and administers it. "In these small communities, if you don't have some kind of incentive for people to live here, they're going to go live somewhere else."

Wayne and Wakefield raised $750,000 in local matching funds, including $370,000 from the Wakefield City Council, $237,500 from the Wayne City Council and $25,000 from Wayne County. Michael Foods, Enel Green Power, which developed the Rattlesnake Creek wind farm in the area, and a number of banks and other local employers also contributed. On May 1, Weaver was notified that Wayne Community Housing would receive $639,000 from the Rural Workforce Housing Fund and a $250,000 grant from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority.

The program was perfect for the Ruiz family. Developed for middle-income families, its aim is to help people who don't qualify for housing assistance but lack $20,000-$40,000 for a down payment. The couple received a no-interest loan for a down payment through the program and secured private financing for the remainder of the $185,000, three-bedroom home.

The blue-and-white home was built on a lot that had been the site of a dilapidated house that the city of Wakefield had bought and demolished. The program will lead to both new and refurbished homes in Wakefield, city administrator Jim Litchfield said.

"I think a lot of good projects are starting, and we need to continue moving forward," Litchfield said.

The Ruiz house is just the start. Utilizing the program funds, three other houses are or will soon be under construction in Wakefield and four other homes are being rehabilitated. In Wayne, the program has led to the construction of a triplex, and two single-family homes are planned.

The revolving-fund program will ensure that both towns will be able to add housing in the future.

Anyone who lives in a small town will tell you how big a deal that is. Jobs draw people to a community, but those workers need a place to live, too. Available quality housing helps employers attract and retain workers, Weaver said.

This program will help keep families like Adrian and Maria Ruiz in Wakefield. They'll shop here. Their children, Adrian and Isabella, will go to school here. When they moved into their new house on Dec. 20, Adrian Ruiz said, it felt like they were home.

"It's just a great feeling now being part of the community of Wakefield,"  he said. "Now maybe we can give something back."

Given the chance to buy a home, more families like them are likely to do the same.