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A branch full of yellow aspen leaves lays on the trail at Aspen Corner Tuesday afternoon as families play in fresh snow from a Monday night winter storm. The weather system brought 1.5 inches to downtown Flagstaff, as well as wind gusts of nearly 50 mph at the Flagstaff airport. Low temperatures are forecast to stay below freezing through Friday night as highs return to normal by the weekend. For more photos of the aspens and snowplay, see Page A7 and for an online photo gallery, visit

Micah Sazdanoff, 8, bats away an incoming snowball thrown by his mom, Tanja, during a family snowball fight at Aspen Corner Tuesday afternoon. A winter storm dropped several inches of snow on the mountain overnight.

Indigenous Peoples Day marked with celebrations, protests
  • Updated

FLAGSTAFF — Indigenous people across the United States marked Monday with celebrations of their heritage, education campaigns and a push for the Biden administration to make good on its word.

The federal holiday created decades ago to recognize Christopher Columbus’ sighting in 1492 of what came to be known as the Americas increasingly has been rebranded as Indigenous Peoples Day. The City of Flagstaff made the switch in 2018.

For Michaela Pavlat, cultural interpreter at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, the day is one of celebration, reflection and recognition that Indigenous communities are fighting for land rights, for the U.S. government to uphold treaties, and for visibility and understanding.

“As long as you're on Native land and stolen land, it's Indigenous Peoples Day,” said Pavlat, who is Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians (Anishinaabe). “We have a lot of movement and a lot of issues we're facing in our communities, and you can have that conversation every day.”

Events this year

More than a dozen protesters linked arms and sat along the White House fence line Monday to call on the Biden administration to do more to combat climate change and ban fossil fuels. Others cheered and chanted in support from across the street as police blocked off the area with yellow tape and arrested the seated protesters.

The Andrew Jackson statue at the center of Lafayette Park was defaced with the words “Expect Us” — part of a rallying cry used by Indigenous people who have been fighting against fossil fuel pipelines. Jackson, a slave-owning president, forced Cherokees and many other Native Americans on deadly marches out of their southern homelands.

“Indigenous people have been on the front lines of protecting the land, the people, and it's time for the government and these huge systems to do more,” said Angel Charley, of Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, who was among the protesters.

Indigenous groups also planned protests in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

At the Boston Marathon, race organizers honored 1936 and ’39 winner Ellison “Tarzan” Brown and three-time runner-up Patti Catalano Dillon, a member of the Mi’kmaq tribe. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, said she ran for missing and slain Indigenous people and their families, the victims of the boarding school era and the "promise that our voices are being heard and will have a part in an equitable and just future in this new era.”

Others gathered for prayers, dances and other commemorations in cities across the U.S.

On social media, people posted educational resources that included maps of Indigenous land, ways to support Indigenous communities, and recommendations for television shows and films that prominently feature Indigenous people, like “Reservation Dogs.”

What's new?

President Joe Biden last week issued the first presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day, the most significant boost yet to efforts to refocus Columbus Day in recognition of the Italian explorer's brutal treatment of people who already occupied what came to be known as the Americas.

About 20 states observe Indigenous Peoples Day by law, through proclamation or other action, along with cities and universities across the country.

Oregon recognized Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, months after its Legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill in support of the change from Columbus Day.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers joined the leaders from tribes in the state and issued a formal apology for Wisconsin's role in Native American boarding schools era.

Not just a celebration

The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian on Monday hosted a virtual conversation about mixed Black and Indigenous identity and how the struggles of one side sometimes get overshadowed by the other.

Joy SpearChief-Morris pointed to the Civil Rights movement and the Red Power movement, which included the Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island off the coast of San Francisco more than 50 years ago.

“Both groups supported each other, but we don't really talk about the Red Power movement,” said SpearChief-Morris, who is African American and Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe) from Canada.

The panelists noted that Afro-Indigenous identity goes back generations.

“Everything that we do is to bring about Black liberation and Indigenous sovereignty on this land and to dismantle white supremacy and settler colonialism,” said Amber Starks, who is African American and a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. “And I'd like to add racial capitalism”

Kyle Mays, an assistant professor at the University of California-Los Angeles who is Black and Saginaw Anishinaabe, acknowledged the work isn't easy.

While Indigenous Peoples Day is “cool," he said, “I don't want a day for celebration. I want justice."

Coconino quarterback Enoch Watson (1) hands off the ball to Tyson Fousel (44) Saturday afternoon during a game against Lee Williams a Cromer Stadium.

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Flagstaff Festival of Science presentation examines new possibilities of life in the solar system

Could life exist elsewhere within our solar system, and if it does, where would be the best place to start looking?

The most obvious solution is to look to Mars, our closest and most similar celestial neighbor. A new study at Northern Arizona University, however, asks the question: “What if we were to look a little further?”

In his presentation “Searching for Life in the Rivers and Lakes of the Outer Solar System” at this year‘s Flagstaff Festival of Science, Gerrick Lindberg talked about his research into what it takes for life to form and how this could occur in the outer reaches of our solar system.

With the project, Lindberg and his group are tackling the concept of life as we know it and reevaluating what the essential components of the formation of life are.

“Oftentimes when you hear this idea presented, it will be presented in Earth analogues … but I want to broaden this little a bit to think about how could other places in the solar system be a situation that we could also use to understand the formation of life," he said.

Traditionally, the essential components for the formation of life are thought to be energy, complex molecules and liquid, specifically liquid water.

“Water is an important media to move things around. Based upon the life that we know, it’s hard to imagine how it happens without water,” Lindberg said, “In my approach to this, I’ve relaxed the necessity of water, just because you can imagine other liquids where things can happen and we can see molecules that we might be interested in from our understanding of our life on Earth that could then occur there.”

The impetus of the idea come from the incredible images of Pluto returned by NASA’s New Horizons mission in 2015. Lindberg is an associate professor of chemical physics at NAU who moved to Flagstaff in 2014. Then he met Jennifer Hanley and Will Grundy, two planetary scientists at Lowell Observatory. It was through his collaboration with them that he was introduced indepth to NASA’s New Horizons mission. The incredible results of that mission led to the idea that liquid of some kind could be present on the surface of Pluto.

The images of Pluto captured by New Horizons show features that suggest the presence of flowing liquids. With an average surface temperature between -400 and -360 degrees Fahrenheit, it is hard to imagine how liquid could exist on the icy world.

“If we look at the molecules that are present there, and we have a very good inventory of what molecules are there because New Horizons has spectroscopic instruments that allows us to look at what’s there," Lindberg said. "All of these molecules should be solid at this point.”

Lindberg asserts that the key to determining how liquid could be present on the surface of Pluto lies in a phenomenon known as eutectic behavior. A eutectic mixture is a mixture of two substances whose freezing point is lower than that of either of the two individual components.

Lindberg explains: “If you have this sort of phenomena going on there, we could have mixtures of molecules that all should be solids in their pure forms at the temperatures that we see on Pluto, but maybe when we mix them together we start to see them forming liquids in the conditions that occur on Pluto’s surface.”

In order to predict these behaviors, Lindberg and his group have developed thermodynamic models to analyze the freezing point depressions of different mixtures of the molecules present on Pluto’s surface. These experiments have led them to identify two mixtures that Lindberg predicts could be liquid near Pluto’s conditions -- the first being a mixture of nitrogen and methane, the second a mixture of nitrogen and carbon monoxide.

The catch with these predictions is that they rely on an ideal approximation of molecular interaction.

“The thermodynamic model that we’ve developed hinges on something in thermodynamics called ideal solution behavior. What the ideal solution approximation states is that we are assuming that two different molecules interact with each other in the same way that they would interact with themselves," Lindberg said.

He added: “Two molecules of different types will never interact with each other in the same way.”

To account for these differences in the way that molecules interact, Lindberg and his team utilize a method known as molecular dynamic simulations. This process involves using computer simulations to recreate the interactions between the different molecules in a solution to see how closely their interactions align with the ideal approximation. This allows them to predict more accurately which solutions are likely candidates to exist in a liquid state on Pluto’s surface.

To further analyze how the building blocks of life could form and develop outside of the Earth’s ecosystem, Lindberg looks to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, the only other place in our solar system known to have persistent lakes. These lakes, however, do not consist of water like the ones on Earth, but are instead composed of liquid nitrogen and hydrocarbons, like ethane and methane.

Titan’s lakes are an appealing ecosystem to study because they are home to complex molecules that we don’t see on Earth.

“If you’re on Titan, there are a lot of molecules that exist there that can’t occur here because we have a lot of oxygen in our environment and oxygen likes to react with almost everything," Lindberg said. "Titan is kind of interesting because you get things that stick around and go through all these different processes that you don’t see here. It turns out that lots of molecules have been observed on the surface of Titan, and other places in the outer solar system. Many of these have been implicated in the formation of biological molecules.”

With this information, Lindberg and his team began running experiments to see how these molecules would interact in an environment like the lakes of Titan.

This was done by running molecular dynamic simulations -- much like the ones used in the Pluto research.

Lindberg explained: “We decided to put many of these into models of these Titan lakes to see what would happen.”

When they performed the simulations they began from a totally random mixture of complex molecules and hydrocarbons like those found in Titan’s lakes. What they found was that a number of these complex molecules grouped together into clusters.

“We’re seeing these things really tightly cluster together with each other, and they really like to be separated from the surrounding Titan lake environment. So these are prime locations for thinking about the sorts of chemistries that might be interesting for the formation of even larger molecules that might be relevant for life.”

The research performed by Lindberg and his associates has shown that even on the frigid surfaces of celestial bodies like Pluto and Titan, under the right conditions the building blocks of biological molecules can form. The answer may not be too far off: In 2026, NASA is planning to launch the Dragonfly Mission, which will arrive at Titan in 2034 to search for signs of life on Saturn’s icy moon.

Job quits hit record pace
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — One reason America's employers are having trouble filling jobs was starkly illustrated in a report Tuesday: Americans are quitting in droves.

The Labor Department said that quits jumped to 4.3 million in August, the highest on records dating back to December 2000, and up from 4 million in July. That's equivalent to nearly 3% of the workforce. Hiring also slowed in August, the report showed, and the number of jobs available fell to 10.4 million, from a record high of 11.1 million the previous month.

The data helps fill in a puzzle that is looming over the job market: Hiring slowed sharply in August and September, even as the number of posted jobs was near record levels. In the past year, open jobs increased 62%. Yet overall hiring, as measured by Tuesday's report, declined slightly during that time.

The jump in quits suggests that fear of the delta variant is partly responsible for the shortfall in workers. In addition to driving quits, fear of the disease probably caused plenty of those out of work to not look for, or take, jobs.

As COVID-19 cases surged in August, quits soared in restaurants and hotels from the previous month and rose in other public-facing jobs, such as retail and education. Nearly 900,000 people left jobs at restaurants, bars, and hotels in August, up 21% from July. Quits by retail workers rose 6%.

Yet in industries such as manufacturing, construction, and transportation and warehousing, quits barely increased. In professional and business services, which includes fields such as law, engineering, and architecture, where most employees can work from home, quitting was largely flat.

Other factors also likely contributed to the jump in quits. With many employers desperate for workers and wages rising at a healthy pace, workers have a much greater ability to demand higher pay, or go elsewhere to find it.

The data from August is probably too early to reflect the impact of vaccine mandates. President Joe Biden's mandate was not announced until Sept. 9. United Airlines  announced its mandate in early August, but it was one of the first companies to do so. Layoffs were unchanged in August, the report found.

The government said Friday that job gains were weak for a second straight month in September, with only 194,000 jobs added, though the unemployment rate fell to 4.8% from 5.2%. Friday's hiring figure is a net total, after quits, retirements, and layoffs are taken into account. Tuesday's report, known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, includes raw figures, and showed that total hiring in August fell sharply, to 6.3 million from 6.8 million in July.

The data is "highlighting the immense problems businesses are dealing with," said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, in an email. "Not enough people. Not enough equipment and/or parts. Meantime, customers are waiting for their orders, or waiting to place their orders. What a strange world this is."

Quits also rose the most in the South and Midwest, the government said, the two regions with the worst COVID outbreaks in August.

When workers quit, it is typically seen as a good sign for the job market, because people usually leave jobs when they already have other positions or are confident they can find one. The large increase in August probably does reflect some of that confidence among workers.

But the fact that the increase in quits was heavily concentrated in sectors that involve close contact with the public is a sign that fear of COVID also played a large role. Many people may have quit even without other jobs to take.

The sharp increase in job openings also has an international dimension: Job vacancies have reached a record level in the United Kingdom, though that is partly because many European workers left the U.K. after Brexit.