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Rethink the News

Perspective matters.

Reducing news to hard lines and side-taking leaves a lot of the story untold. Progress comes from challenging what we hear and considering different views.

2018
February
20
Tuesday
David Clark Scott
Editor & product manager

More than 100 Parkland, Fla., students went to lobby Florida lawmakers today (and we’ll be reporting on the student-led effort to stop school shootings in our next issue). US history suggests that after a spasm of grief and anger, political inertia returns. But there are hints that the response to this shooting may be different.

For American gun owners, including Scott Pappalardo of Scotchtown, N.Y., this has been a week of soul-searching.

Mr. Pappalardo, who is a proud bearer of a Second Amendment tattoo, posted a video this weekend that has more than 19 million views. Cradling his cherished AR-15, Pappalardo takes a few minutes to explain why he can no longer keep it. Then, he asks: “Is the right to own this weapon more important than someone’s life? I don’t think so.” He turns and cuts the rifle in half with a chop saw.

“This was a personal choice,” he adds, explaining that he “can’t live knowing” that if he sold his gun, someone might use it in a mass shooting. “I’m not saying this is for everyone and this is the answer to solve all the problems....”

Democracy is based on individual choices. Progress is born out of an openness to reexamine old positions, and ask oneself, What can I do to be a part of the solution?

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Now to our five stories for today, selected to illustrate possible paths to progress when it comes to trusting the FBI, finding hope in Tunisia, and helping absentee students get back to the classroom.

1. What Romney-Trump saga says about Republicans’ high-wire act

Our first story looks at why Republican “Never Trumpers,” faced with political realities, are finding room for some compromise and grace.

David
 

The 30 Sec. ReadCall it “Never Trump-ism” meets reality. During the 2016 campaign, Mitt Romney was a full-blown Trump critic, regularly denouncing then-candidate Donald Trump, whose personal conduct and style contrast starkly with Mr. Romney’s. But President Trump is now in the White House, and Romney is running to be the next Republican senator from Utah. So, the two have buried the hatchet – at least for now. Similar scenarios have played out again and again as Republicans with reservations about Trump realize that to be a GOP standard-bearer in the Trump era means choosing when to disagree and when not. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who called the Trump White House an “adult day-care center,” is reportedly rethinking his decision to retire from the Senate – and wooing Trump to get his backing. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was a Trump antagonist, until they decided to work together on key issues, even playing golf together. “You see Romney trying to establish that [middle] ground,” says a former GOP strategist. “Others have, too. But what they’re struggling with is a sense of letdown from the Never Trumpers, if they don’t take on Trump on every front, every day.”

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1. What Romney-Trump saga says about Republicans’ high-wire act

President Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement tweet to Mitt Romney on his US Senate bid from Utah should come as no surprise.

Nor should Mr. Romney’s gracious reply to Mr. Trump. After all, the two men need each other.

As much as Trump is a maverick, he needs establishment Republicans like Romney to vote for his agenda in Congress and keep a fractious GOP together. And Romney needs that stamp of approval from the president, given Trump’s strong grip on the party’s base.

But don’t expect the Romney-Trump mutual admiration society to last. Because we’ve seen this movie before: Trump feuds with a high-profile mainstream Republican politician, they later decide to patch things up and work together, then an inevitable conflict arises and drama ensues.

Call it “Never Trump-ism” meets reality.

Romney is practically Republican royalty, as the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, former governor of Massachusetts, son of the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, and uncle of the current GOP chairwoman. During the 2016 campaign, Romney was a full-blown “Never Trumper” – regularly denouncing Trump, whose personal conduct and style contrast starkly with Romney’s.

But Trump is now president, and he and Romney play for the same team, the GOP. So the two have buried the hatchet, at least for now.

Similar scenarios have played out over and over again among Republicans leery of Trump, particularly in the Senate, where the party’s super-slim majority means every vote is crucial. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who once called the Trump White House an “adult day care center,” decided to retire from the Senate, but is now reportedly rethinking that decision – and wooing Trump.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was a Trump antagonist, until they decided to work together on key issues – even playing golf together. Now they’re on the outs again over a disagreement on immigration policy. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has delivered full-throated denunciations of the president from the Senate floor, and is retiring in January, but he still votes with his party – and therefore Trump – almost all the time.

“Being anti-Trump doesn’t mean being anti-Trump on everything,” says Dan Schnur, a former top aide to Republican Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2000.

Choosing when to disagree

Even the leading Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, agrees with Trump on some things, Mr. Schnur notes. So to be a Trump-era Republican standard-bearer, even one with significant reservations about Trump, means choosing when to disagree and when not.

“You see Romney trying to establish that ground,” says Schnur, who teaches at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California. “Others have too. But what they’re struggling with is a sense of letdown from the Never Trumpers, if they don’t take on Trump on every front, every day.”

At the heart of this challenge lies an important fact: Most Republican voters support Trump, particularly dedicated Republicans who are more likely to vote in primaries. Even in Mormon-dominated Utah, where independent candidate Evan McMullin won 21.5 percent of the vote in the 2016 election to Trump’s 45.5 percent, Trump’s overall job approval today is in the mid-40s – and much higher among Republicans.

Across Republican America, GOP candidates for the Senate, in particular, face the same reality. It’s Trump’s party, and they go against him at their peril. Senator Flake has a dismal job approval rating in Arizona. He’s a conservative, so Democrats don’t like him. And he’s vocally anti-Trump, so he has alienated many Republicans. Had he chosen to run for reelection, he may well have lost in the primary.

In Tennessee, Corker announced last September that he would not run for reelection, but is now reportedly reconsidering. The challenge lies in the campaign of conservative Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is showing no inclination to drop out – and has reportedly received encouragement from Trump. Corker supporters maintain that the seat could be lost to the likely Democratic nominee, former Gov. Phil Bredesen, if Corker’s not on the ballot in November.

But if Corker does jump in, he could spark an ugly and expensive Republican primary, with gender also in the mix – all of which could harm the GOP’s effort to hold the Senate. Corker is chairman of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but that may not be enough to win over Tennessee Republicans. With few exceptions, members who decide to leave can’t unring that bell.

Romney’s trajectory

Romney’s life as a Never Trumper has followed a different trajectory. He seemed to come to terms with Trump’s victory soon after the election – at least enough to join Trump for dinner and discuss the job of secretary of State. Since then, Trump and Romney have kept their distance, with Trump reportedly encouraging Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah to run for reelection. When Senator Hatch announced his retirement, it wasn’t clear how Trump would feel about his former antagonist trying to position himself as one of 100 in the Senate.

But on Monday evening, Trump answered that question with a full-throated endorsement. Romney “will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!” Trump tweeted.

Romney has made clear he’s taking nothing for granted, and intends to run a hyper-local campaign. The chairman of the Utah GOP raised eyebrows last week when he essentially accused Romney of being a carpet-bagger – like Hillary Clinton, when she ran for the Senate from New York in 2000. Party chair Rob Anderson later apologized.

But Romney got the message. In his reply tweet to Trump Tuesday morning, he thanked the president, then quickly pivoted to the people he aims to represent in Washington.

“I hope that over the course of the campaign I also earn the support and endorsement of the people of Utah,” Romney tweeted.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans are looking forward to welcoming a Senator Romney.

“I think he’d be terrific,” says Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. “He’s a well known quantity. I think he’d find it a little bit of a culture shock dealing in a collegial body like the Senate where it’s not built for speed, shall I say. If he wins the election I’ll look forward to serving with him.”

Staff writer Francine Kiefer contributed to this report.

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Patterns

Tracing global connections

2. Israel and Iran: A long-running rivalry moves to center stage

In this week’s Patterns column, we see an old conflict between Israel and Iran heating up in Syria – and a new mediator is emerging to fill the diplomacy vacuum left by the US: Russia.

David
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking Feb. 18 at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, holds up what he says is a piece of an Iranian drone shot down in Israeli airspace.
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Lennart Preiss/MSC Munich Security Conference/Reuters
 

The 30 Sec. Read“Do not test Israel’s resolve.” That was the message from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Iran last week. The conflict between these powers is not new. But it is taking on new importance amid international tensions over Syria’s future. If “red lines” were crossed, Mr. Netanyahu said, Israel would go after not only Iran-allied Hezbollah fighters, but also Iranian installations and assets in Syria. Last week, for the first time, the Iranians sent a drone into Israel. Israel destroyed it, and mounted an airstrike in which one Israeli F-16 was shot down by Syrian Air Defense Forces. The Israelis retaliated against Syrian and Iranian positions, taking out close to half of President Bashar al-Assad’s air defenses. That appeared to be simply a warning ­– but one intended not just for Iran. Among the many imponderables is an entirely altered balance between Russia and the United States in the wider Middle East. Russian President Vladimir Putin sees himself as the key mediator in future steps in Syria. President Trump’s policy remains a work in progress, with one exception: his belief, in sync with Israel’s, that Iran is the overriding threat to stability.

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2. Israel and Iran: A long-running rivalry moves to center stage

It was, as intended, a moment of high drama at last weekend’s international security conference in Munich. Holding up a fragment from an Iranian military drone shot down by his air force, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked out at Iran’s foreign minister and warned: “Do not test Israel’s resolve.”

The conflict between these rival powers is not new – with roots going back to the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the Shah of Iran, a key United States ally and the only Middle East leader at the time with close ties to the Israelis. But it is taking on new importance, with new potential perils, as a result of the war across Israel’s border in Syria, and the web of international tensions now surrounding that country’s future.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the military clash that followed the drone incident of a week ago was that it took so long to happen.

The real turning point in Iranian-Israeli tension came three years after the Islamic revolution, with Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Israel’s aim was to expel armed Palestinian groups from across the border. Yet once Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization were pushed out, a new – and, over time, more powerfully armed – adversary took their place: the Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah, not just inspired but armed and financed by Iran and by the Iranians’ closest Arab ally, Syria.

Since the outbreak of the war in Syria, the situation has been getting inexorably more fraught. As the regime of President Bashar al-Assad moved to crush its opponents, the outside world’s focus has rightly been on the horrifying extremes to which he and, since 2015, his Russian allies, have been ready to go: the air strikes against civilian areas, the deliberate targeting of international aid teams and of hospitals, the use of chemical weapons. Yet also key to changing the balance of forces in Mr. Assad’s favor has been military and financial backing from Iran, and thousands of Hezbollah fighters who have crossed in from Lebanon.

From the start of the Syrian war, Israel was set on avoiding direct involvement in the fighting. It stopped short of any action, for instance, to take out the Syrians’ air-defense network. But with the Assad regime gradually reasserting its grip on the country, the Israelis have been focused on countering what they see as the main threat to their own security: a strengthened and more assertive alliance between Iran and Hezbollah. The Iranians have established a military presence in Syria. They’ve also been equipping Hezbollah with more advanced, powerful and longer-range missiles potentially capable of reaching major towns and cities throughout Israel.

There has been only scant media reporting on the Israeli response. But over the past year or so, it has intensified. With frequent reconnaissance overflights, the Israelis have been hitting Iranian weapons depots. They’ve been identifying supply convoys to Hezbollah and, with a mix of air power and special-forces operations, disrupting, intercepting or attacking them. Diplomatically, Prime Minister Netanyahu has drawn on his personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and even closer ties with Donald Trump, to ensure political cover for what Israel views as an indispensable national defense priority.

But it’s a delicate balance, on all sides, and we’ve now seen evidence of just how delicate. For the first time, the Iranians sent a drone into Israel. It was intercepted and destroyed by Israel, which then mounted an air strike against the base from which it had been launched. Two Israeli F-16 jets were locked on to by Syrian air defenses and one was shot down – the first such loss since in several decades. The Israelis retaliated with further attacks against both Syrian and Iranian positions, and took out something like half of Assad’s air-defense system.

At least for now, neither Israel nor Iran seems eager for a wider war. Israel’s military establishment well knows, both from the 1982 war and a prolonged attack aimed at weakening Hezbollah in 2006, that it can be a lot easier to get into a conflict in Lebanon than to get out of it.

Still, in his Munich speech, Netanyahu was explicit in saying that if Israel’s “red lines” were crossed, it would go after not only Hezbollah, but Iranian installations and assets in Syria.

That appeared, at least at this stage, to be a warning rather than a declaration of war. But if so, it was intended not just for Iran to hear.

Among the many imponderables is an entirely altered balance between the old cold war adversaries, America and Russia, in Syria and the wider Middle East. After decades in which the US was the overwhelmingly dominant political and military player, Mr. Putin has used military intervention in Syria to reassert Russia’s role. As was made evident by a crisis phone call between him and Netanyahu after the Israel-Iranian air clash, he sees himself as the key mediator in whatever comes next. President Trump’s Middle East policy remains very much a work in progress, with one visible exception: his belief, entirely in sync with Israel’s, that Iran is the overriding threat to stability in the region.

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3. How narratives on Mueller probe were shaped by Comey-Clinton

Coming soon: An inspector general’s report on the Hillary Clinton email investigation that could support – or undermine – the credibility of the US justice system, specifically the FBI and the Justice Department.

David
 

The 30 Sec. ReadOne of the biggest challenges for special counsel Robert Mueller is the grim prospect that whatever his conclusions in the Trump-Russia investigation, they will likely be met with suspicion by a significant portion of the country. Republicans are increasingly raising questions about bias at the FBI and Department of Justice. Those concerns can be traced to a different, yet not unrelated case: the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State. For the past year, the Justice Department’s inspector general has been conducting a review of the FBI’s investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails. The report, expected to be released soon, could help answer an array of unresolved questions, including whether partisan or other improper considerations influenced FBI and Justice Department officials. It may also shed light on the early stages of what became the Trump-Russia investigation. “The FBI made mistakes in 2016 in connection to the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and Donald Trump is trying to use that as a pretext to obstruct investigations into whether he colluded with Russia,” says Austin Evers, executive director of the watchdog group American Oversight. “No one will come out of this looking good – with the possible exception of Bob Mueller.”

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3. How narratives on Mueller probe were shaped by Comey-Clinton

The challenge facing Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation of President Trump and his associates extends beyond determining whether there was a conspiracy with Russians to meddle in the 2016 election or an attempt to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

In a larger sense, Mr. Mueller must confront the grim prospect that whatever his final conclusions in the Trump-Russia investigation, they will likely be met with suspicion – and possibly rejection – by a significant portion of the country.

Rhetoric surrounding the investigation has grown increasingly bitter as members of Congress promote sharply divergent narratives to explain the unfolding confrontation.

The message from Democrats: Expect nothing less than indictments and/or a Trump impeachment.

The message from Trump supporters: A “deep state” conspiracy is undermining the president and his administration.

Those disparate reactions were on display in the wake of Friday’s 37-page indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations for conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with a wide-ranging scheme to influence the 2016 election.

Trump and his supporters hailed it as vindication, seizing on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s statement that “there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity.”

Democrats saw it as giving significant new weight and legitimacy to an investigation that is still in its early stages – with much more to come. Indeed, the brisk pace of the investigation was underscored by yet another indictment on Tuesday, of a London lawyer charged with making false statements to investigators about work he did with a Trump campaign associate six years ago.

It remains to be seen whether Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators can cut through the fog and fury of Washington politics to reach a sober, credible outcome.

“I don’t know how it is going to work for Mueller, whether his findings are going to be embraced as legitimate or not,” says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington. “I used to be able to say, look at all the facts and you can see if they are persuasive or not. But now people don’t see that as an essential part of being persuasive.”

Partisan bickering on Capitol Hill has largely replaced serious congressional oversight, Ms. Brian says.

“I have lost faith that either the Democrats or Republicans are being comprehensive in their description of things,” she says. “I feel both sides have been telling only part of the story.”

The divergent narratives surrounding Mueller’s investigation were in many ways shaped by a different, yet not unrelated probe: the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State. While Mueller appears to be proceeding in a by-the-book manner, the Clinton case was full of irregularities – which have fed Republican suspicions about bias at the Justice Department and the FBI, and raised questions for many about the genesis of the Trump probe.

The central focus of the Mueller investigation is whether there was a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to undercut Mrs. Clinton’s campaign for president. The investigation is also looking into whether Trump engaged in obstruction of justice when he fired then-FBI Director James Comey, and later reportedly considered firing Mueller.

The special counsel has indicted two Trump campaign officials and obtained guilty pleas from two others. But at least so far, none of the four have been charged with involvement in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to undermine the election.

“I don’t think there is anyone better situated to deliver credible charges – if they should be brought – than Bob Mueller,” says Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, a new watchdog group formed in March 2017 to keep a close eye on the Trump administration.

“Since Bob Mueller was appointed special counsel we have never heard his voice. He’s never given a press conference. You don’t even see pictures of him and his team walking around Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Evers says. “He is the most talked about man in Washington other than Donald Trump, and he never speaks.”

Evers says that Mueller has effectively insulated himself from political flak by concentrating exclusively on the task he was appointed to complete. This gives Mueller the kind of credibility necessary to investigate a president.

“He is doing a masterful job of putting his head down, doing the work, not showing his hand,” Evers adds.

A tale of two investigations

Comparisons between the Clinton investigation and the Trump-Russia investigation were perhaps inevitable.

Both have garnered massive press attention. In the case of Clinton, it forced her campaign onto the defensive and left a dark and distracting cloud hanging over her bid to become president.

In a similar way, the accusations against Trump – regardless of whether they are true or false – have kept his administration off balance, and have left a dark and distracting cloud hanging over his presidency.

But that’s where the similarities end. At least as it stands now, the two investigations have been conducted in sharply different ways.

For example: At least five individuals who made conflicting statements to federal agents in the Clinton email case were granted immunity from prosecution. They included Clinton’s chief of staff. In addition, the FBI agreed to destroy two laptop computers that once held copies of Clinton’s emails.

In contrast, when federal agents working on the Trump-Russia investigation encountered discrepancies in statements made by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser, both men faced felony charges of lying to federal agents.

Both have since pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors. Unlike the Clinton aides who were offered immunity, the two former Trump aides will emerge after their cooperation as convicted felons.

For Tom Fitton, president of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, the two investigations couldn’t be more different.

“With [then-FBI director] Comey, you had serious allegations against Mrs. Clinton that were not seriously investigated or were brushed aside,” he says. “With Trump, you had spurious allegations pursued full-speed-ahead by the Justice Department and FBI.”

Judicial Watch played a leading role in uncovering the Clinton email issue, filing repeated Freedom of Information Act lawsuits over a period of years to force reluctant agencies to release the Clinton emails. The effort may have been decisive in the 2016 election.

“I think the presidency was won or lost based on the Clinton email scandal,” Mr. Fitton says. “And this presidency could live or die based on the Trump-Russia-collusion scandal and how it is handled.”

Accusations of bias

For the past year, the Justice Department’s inspector general has been conducting a review of the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server. The report is expected to be released soon.

It could help answer an array of unresolved questions, including whether partisan or other improper considerations influenced FBI and Justice Department officials.

It may also shed light on the early stages of what became the Trump-Russia investigation, including how and why the FBI began its probe of alleged collusion between then-candidate Trump and the Russian government.

Evers, of American Oversight, acknowledges that the much-anticipated inspector general’s report will bring the Clinton email case back into the news, but he does not believe it will provide new ammunition for Trump and his supporters to undermine the Mueller investigation.

Instead, he says, the report may help place recently publicized FBI text messages into their proper and more benign context.

Those messages, between the FBI’s Counterintelligence Section Chief Peter Strzok and his girlfriend, Lisa Page, a senior FBI lawyer, have raised questions about political bias within the FBI’s leadership.

Transcripts of the text messages, obtained by the inspector general, suggest the two FBI officials had pro-Clinton political views and a strong anti-Trump bias.

Republicans have interpreted some of their private texts as reflecting a “deep state” conspiracy against Trump. In one exchange, Mr. Strzok makes a cryptic reference to an “insurance policy” in the event that Trump won the election.

The inspector general’s report may provide a more detailed explanation of that comment and other texts once the two officials are given an opportunity to put them in context. But some of the text messages may be difficult to explain away.

One particularly troubling text message was sent by Ms. Page in early July 2016.

In his now famous press conference exonerating Clinton in the email matter, then-Director Comey told the American public that no one outside his inner circle at the FBI was aware that he was about to recommend that Clinton not be charged.

“I have not coordinated or reviewed this statement in any way with the Department of Justice or any other part of the government,” Comey told the nation in his July 5, 2016 statement. “They do not know what I am about to say.”

Comey repeated the assertion two days later while testifying under oath in Congress. He said he “did not coordinate with anyone. The White House, the Department of Justice, nobody outside the FBI family had any idea what I was about to say.”

But a text message from Page to Strzok suggests that Attorney General Loretta Lynch already knew what Comey was about to say. The text message was sent four days before Comey’s press conference.

That day, July 1, Ms. Lynch issued a public statement in which she announced that she would accept whatever recommendation the FBI made in the Clinton case.

Lynch’s impartiality had been called into question after it was revealed that she had engaged in a secret meeting on June 27, 2016 with former President Bill Clinton in a private aircraft parked on the tarmac at an airport in Arizona. The secret meeting raised the appearance of a conflict of interest, but the attorney general did not recuse herself from the Clinton case or suggest the appointment of a special counsel. Instead, she said she would leave it up to the FBI to decide how to proceed.

The maneuver was apparently designed to create an impression that Lynch had stepped aside. But she never did.

After Lynch’s July 1 announcement, Page sent a text message to Strzok. It said in part: “it’s a real profile in couragw [sic], since she knows no charges will be brought.”

Questions about Comey’s role

The following day, July 2, the FBI conducted its first, and only, interview of Hillary Clinton in its investigation of her use of a private email system. (In most federal investigations, agents and prosecutors wait until after the subject of the investigation has been questioned to decide whether to file charges.)

It is possible that the Page text message about the attorney general is not accurate or has been taken out of context. The inspector general’s report may help resolve that issue.

Other documents found by the inspector general raise additional questions about Comey’s role in the Clinton email case. The documents include early drafts of what would become Comey’s July 5 exoneration statement.

The FBI director apparently began writing the statement in early May 2016 – two months before his July 5 statement. It suggests he’d made up his mind not to charge Clinton long before agents had conducted more than a dozen pending interviews, including the questioning of Clinton and her chief of staff, who hadn’t yet been granted immunity.

In addition, the early drafts show how Comey’s exoneration statement was edited in ways that watered down the FBI director’s conclusions about the evidence against Clinton. Where he had initially written that Clinton’s actions in transmitting and receiving highly classified information on her private email system were “grossly negligent,” the phrase was changed in a later draft to read that she had been “extremely careless.”

The change carried legal significance because misusing classified information becomes a federal crime if it is done with “gross negligence.”

As FBI director, Comey’s role should have been strictly limited to presenting the bureau’s investigative findings to prosecutors in the Justice Department.

But after public disclosure of the attorney general’s meeting with Bill Clinton, Comey’s status was elevated. The director, who had worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations, found himself in the difficult position of deciding how to proceed in a case involving the person most political observers believed was about to be elected the next president of the United States.

It is unclear what factors weighed on Comey in making his decision not to charge Clinton. There is no evidence that any impermissible factor like politics, or concern that he might lose his job, played a role. But in this area, too, the inspector general’s report may shed new light.

Comey’s actions are potentially important to ongoing investigations because the team of leaders at the FBI and Justice Department who oversaw the Clinton investigation is the same team of leaders who started the Trump-Russia investigation.

The dossier

Republicans are now attempting to refocus public attention onto the role played by the Clinton campaign in helping to launch the Trump-Russia investigation.

In the months leading up to the 2016 election, the Clinton campaign hired an outside firm, Fusion GPS, to assemble an opposition research report containing dirt on Donald Trump. Fusion contracted much of the work out to a former British intelligence officer and Russia specialist named Christopher Steele. His reports were eventually compiled into what’s become known as the “Trump dossier.”

According to congressional testimony by Fusion’s founder, Mr. Steele used his contacts in the intelligence community to deliver the Trump dossier to the FBI. Steele also provided information from the dossier to select members of the US media in an effort to trigger news coverage of the dossier’s allegations against Trump in the months and weeks leading up to the election.

Republicans, led by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, suggest that the FBI relied heavily on Steele’s unconfirmed dossier to obtain authorization from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to spy on an advisor to the Trump campaign, Carter Page. Congressman Nunes suggests the FBI never fully disclosed to the surveillance court that the dossier was paid for by the Clinton campaign.

The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, disputes the allegation that the FBI’s surveillance application was deceptive. Congressman Schiff and other Democrats note that the FBI’s interest in Mr. Page pre-dated the dossier, and that the warrants to surveil him were renewed multiple times. He calls the Nunes effort a distraction and charges that Republicans are trying to protect Trump by seeking to discredit the FBI.

Judicial Watch’s Fitton says he is convinced there is no substance to the charges of Trump involvement with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election. He says the Mueller investigation should be shut down.

“I think the whole structure of the Russia investigation has been compromised,” he says. “Everything that Mueller has done ought to be reexamined.”

Evers of American Oversight concedes that the FBI may not have always acted correctly – but says that in no way invalidates Mueller’s investigation.

“The FBI made mistakes in 2016 in connection to the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and Donald Trump is trying to use that as a pretext to obstruct investigations into whether he colluded with Russia,” Evers says.

“No one will come out of this looking good,” he says, “with the possible exception of Bob Mueller.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to incorporate recent news events.

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4. New Arab Spring? In a Tunis suburb, another kind of revolution stirs.

In parts of Tunis, unemployed youth are threatening another revolt if the economy doesn’t improve. The 2011 Arab Spring raised hope for better lives, but as hope fades, political anger now rises.

David
Oussama Marassi and his wife, Aya Manzalee, live in Douar Hicher on the outskirts of Tunis, Tunisia. In marginalized neighborhoods like this one, the conditions that led to Tunisia’s 2011 revolution – unemployment, marginalization, urban migration, and police harassment – persist.
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Taylor Luck
 

The 30 Sec. ReadIt was no surprise that in January, Douar Hicher was a hot spot of violent protests that erupted across Tunisia over a government decision to raise prices and taxes on basic goods. In this marginalized, crowded Tunis suburb, unemployment is rampant and opportunities appear out of reach, the same conditions that led to Tunisia’s 2011 revolution. Officials refer to Douar Hicher as Tunisia’s “Paris suburbs.” Some residents refer to it as “the real Tunis.” Hundreds of thousands live in similar communities in Tunisia and across North Africa. Experts warn that these populations, after having their hopes raised by the Arab Spring, may represent “the greatest political threat” to their governments. The government must find a way, the experts say, for the young people of Douar Hicher to be included in decisionmaking about their future and provided with the means to lift themselves out of poverty. “Our problem isn’t politics or freedoms: It is unemployment and marginalization,” says a political activist, who, like many, lacks electricity or running water. “Seven years after the revolution, and either our politicians still haven’t learned that, or they just don’t care.” 

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4. New Arab Spring? In a Tunis suburb, another kind of revolution stirs.

Here in Tunisia’s own “Paris suburbs,” the unemployed, unrepresented, and unheard young men who led the Tunisian revolution have a message that is both simple and provocative.

“We don’t want freedoms, we want jobs,” says Yassin Ben, 24.

In neighborhoods like this one at the edge of the capital, Tunis, the very same conditions that led to Tunisia’s 2011 revolution – unemployment, marginalization, urban migration, and police harassment – persist.

Economic experts warn that the government must find a way for the young people of Douar Hicher and neighborhoods like it across the country to be included in the decisionmaking about their future and provided with the means to lift themselves out of poverty.

It was no surprise that Douar Hicher was one of the hotspots of violent protests that erupted across Tunisia in January over a government decision to raise prices and taxes on basic goods to meet a rising budget deficit.

“Our problem isn’t politics or freedoms: it is unemployment and marginalization,” says Oussama Marassi, a humanitarian and political activist, who like many residents is without electricity or running water.

“Seven years after the revolution, and either our politicians still haven’t learned that, or they just don’t care.”

“The reality is that the problems that sparked the revolution have not gone away. In many cases for these marginalized communities, they have gotten worse,” said Romdhane Ben Amor of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, or FTDES.  “These communities are socio-economic time-bombs.”

There are several similar communities in Tunisia, such as Hay Tadhamin, and hundreds of thousands live in similar conditions across North Africa in the suburbs of Cairo, Algiers, and Rabat and Casablanca in Morocco.

Experts warn that these populations, after having their hopes raised by the Arab Spring, may be the ones to carry the next stage of popular protests and insurrection, and represent the greatest political threat to their governments.

The urban migration wave

Douar Hicher began as a collection of illegal settlements in a wave of urban migration in the 1980s, as impoverished families from neglected rural towns and villages built homes on government farmland at the edge of Tunis. The families were later granted public housing in the 1990s.

Since the 2011 revolution, urban migration from rural areas has increased dramatically. The population of three-square-mile Douar Hicher grew from 80,000 to more than 100,000 between 2014 and 2017 alone.

According to a 2014 World Bank report, some 90 percent of rural families in Tunisia report that members have migrated to urban centers. Many end up in Douar Hicher.

Young men bring their families and soon their extended families – all in search of jobs – adding makeshift stories of cheap cement and cinderblock atop already crumbling public housing. Officials refer to Douar Hicher as Tunisia’s “Paris suburbs,” the impoverished French communities of disenfranchised North African immigrants that are hotbeds of discontent and fertile recruiting grounds for extremists.

“Everyone who wants to find work comes to the capital; and everyone who comes to the capital ends up here,” says Majed Hamouda, secretary-general of the Manouba governorate, which governs the enclave.

“The government cannot simply keep up with this exceptional, unplanned population growth.”

Government bureaucracy

The major draw to Douar Hicher – in addition to its unregulated plots of land and rent as low as $80 per month – is the location of garment and plastics factories in the area’s industrial zone at the southeast edge of the neighborhood.

However, six of the 12 factories have shut down since the 2011 revolution, and the few jobs that go around pay little; an average of $7 to $10 a day.  

Residents who have ideas for small businesses languish in the near-endless bureaucracy of the central Tunisian government.

Fawzi Khimiri, 42, who works odd jobs as a carpenter and construction worker for $5 a day, has been waiting for over three years for the government to approve his permit to open a newspaper and telephone card kiosk.

“We want to live clean, law-abiding lives, but the system is not allowing us to do so,” Mr. Khimiri says.

Youth unemployment across Tunisia stands at 35 percent, but experts say in neighborhoods like Douar Hicher that number is higher than 50 percent. School drop-out rates are higher here than elsewhere in the capital; drug and alcohol abuse is widespread.

To make ends meet, many Douar Hicher residents collect discarded water bottles to sell to recycling companies for 6 cents per pound, others rummage through trash bins for stale bread, which they dry out in the sun and sell as animal feed. Chickens walk along the street.

“This is the real Tunis,” Khimiri says, pointing to unpaved, muddy streets. “Forget all the villas and cafes in La Marsa,” he says, referring to the popular vacation destination, “this is how Tunisians really live.”

‘Politicians used us’

Politicians have made little headway in marginalized neighborhoods such as Douar Hicher. Here, “politician” has become a dirty word – a synonym for thief, liar, and traitor.

“We went to the streets in hope of a job, of a decent life, dignity, and the chance to raise a family of our own,” says Ben, who was 17 when he headed to the streets as the revolution ignited. “Instead it has gotten worse for us. The politicians used us.”

Fewer than 3 percent of Tunisians under the age of 30 are members of political parties, according to FTDES, a Tunisian nongovernment organization and research center. That number is even lower in neighborhoods such as Douar Hicher.

Local representatives of secular Nidaa Tounis and Islamist Ennahda, the two coalition parties that control the government, are jeered by locals and treated as government “spies.”

In recent years, jihadist groups such as Ansar al Sharia used Douar Hicher as a recruiting grounds, drafting dozens of young men eager for money and purpose, sending them off to fight in Libya and Syria. Residents have since soured on the jihadists, but the “terrorist” label has stuck for many.

Omar Ouchtati was one of many residents arrested for suspected terrorist ties. He spent three years in prison, where he says he was beaten on a regular basis. Now Mr. Ouchtati cannot travel outside Douar Hicher without security permits. Other young men say they are the target of “round up the usual suspects” practices by the police, who they claim take them into the station on a near-daily basis.

“The police’s presence is creating terrorism,” Ouchtati says. “They have imprisoned us in our own homes and neighborhoods.”

A way forward?

One government official believes he has the answer.

Manouba governor Ahmed Samawi has an “open-door policy,” hosting daily meetings with young Douar Hicher community leaders, and passes their requests on to the central government, advocating on their behalf. 

“As soon as we start treating these young men as a threat, that is when they become a danger to our society,” Mr. Samawi says from his office, a ceramic-tiled former palace of the Bey [monarch] of Tunis. “But if we treat them as part of the solution and not part of the problem, then they transform from a burden on society to a society’s strength.”

Families and activists come in and out of Samawi’s office, bearing requests for health insurance, to fix a collapsed roof, or find work for young men. During two separate visits to the governor’s office, this reporter noted no fewer than 20 young men and women meeting with the governor.

Yet Samawi is one man, and the highly centralized Tunisian government has yet to form a strategy to include disaffected young men and women into the young democracy’s future.

“People say Tunisia is a model of progress, but we say it is a model of disaster,” says Mr. Marassi, the political activist. “One percent are living like kings, and the rest are trying to find a way to live to see tomorrow.”

“That is a rotten foundation destined to collapse.”

( 1281 words )
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5. One city’s less punitive approach to school absenteeism

In Albuquerque, N.M., school officials are finding that one solution to absent grade-school students is specific outreach to impoverished families. And that may include helping parents understand why a culture of attendance leads their children to success later in life.

David
 

The 30 Sec. ReadFor many years, the focus on attendance in US schools was on reducing truancy, which can be seen as more serious than repeatedly being absent. But researchers have recently emphasized that it doesn’t matter whether a student’s absence is excused or not; missing class puts them at risk of falling behind. In Albuquerque, N.M. – and communities across the United States – reducing chronic absenteeism is becoming a priority. Schools are starting to track attendance student-by-student, and are being more vocal about the problem. But it’s a complex one to solve. At the elementary level, students largely rely on their parents to get them to school, and poverty can influence that. Of the Albuquerque school district’s nearly 91,000 students, 69 percent were considered economically disadvantaged during the 2016-17 school year. Partnering with parents is one way schools are attacking the problem. And they are also being understanding. “We are not blaming,” says Ulrike Kerstges, principal of Alamosa Elementary school in Albuquerque. “It’s not, ‘Get your heinie over here or else,’ it’s, ‘How can we help you?’ ”

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5. One city’s less punitive approach to school absenteeism

Danielle Burnett, a truancy prevention social worker in Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico, spends her days figuring out why students miss school. Her job is to identify the underlying reasons and help families change course.

Some students don’t show up because their parents can’t afford school uniforms. Ms. Burnett can get these students vouchers for free pants and tops. 

Many parents keep their children home for minor colds or stomachaches. Burnett encourages them to send kids to class unless they have a fever or are throwing up, and she reminds them that the school nurse can help with health decisions.

Sometimes it’s simply a matter of educating parents about the importance of attendance. In the early grades, parents can be lulled into thinking class time isn’t that important – even though these grades lay the foundation for students’ literacy and math skills for the rest of their lives.

“The culture of attendance is huge,” Burnett says. “If parents weren’t taught that it’s important, then their kids are not going to be taught that.”

A communitywide effort to reduce chronic absenteeism is underway in Albuquerque — and in many other places in the United States – as what was once a hidden problem has been brought into the spotlight. Schools historically tracked “average daily attendance,” counting the total number of students present on any given day. This masked the fact that a single group of students tends to account for the vast majority of daily absences. In Albuquerque and elsewhere, schools are starting to track attendance student-by-student – and are being more vocal about the problem. But it’s a complex one to solve. 

“In a community like Albuquerque, where you’ve got such high poverty rates, there’s a different standard around how quickly we can move the needle on chronic absenteeism,” says Angelo Gonzales, executive director of Mission: Graduate, an organization advising the school district. He adds that all the factors associated with poverty make quick solutions difficult. 

At Alamosa Elementary School in Albuquerque, N.M., the number of students who were chronically absent from the start of the school year through mid-January is 5 percentage points below last year’s rate overall.
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Tara Garcia Mathewson/The Hechinger Report

For many years, the attendance focus in schools in the US was on reducing truancy, which can be seen as more serious than chronic absenteeism. But researchers have emphasized more recently that it doesn’t matter whether a student has an excused absence or not; missing class puts them at risk of falling behind.

Reducing chronic absenteeism has increasingly been at the heart of school improvement strategies over the last few years. In 2016, the Obama administration highlighted it with a report that it called “an unprecedented look at a hidden educational crisis.”

Thirty-six states will soon consider the broader problem of chronic absenteeism as part of their school accountability frameworks, according to a roundup of state plans created by FutureEd, a Georgetown University think tank. 

“This work really takes everyone,” says Daphne Strader, Albuquerque Public Schools’ director of coordinated school health, who works to reduce various barriers to learning, including frequent absenteeism.

The poverty connection 

At the elementary level, students largely rely on their parents to get them to school, and educators know that the consequences of poverty have a lot to do with student absenteeism. Of the Albuquerque district’s nearly 91,000 students, 69 percent were considered economically disadvantaged during the 2016-17 school year. At Alamosa Elementary School – where district social worker Burnett spends half her time – all 548 students were, according to Johanna King, Albuquerque Public Schools’ communications director.

“There are just so many other factors that these families have to deal with,” says Carrie Ramirez, an Alamosa first-grade teacher. Ms. Ramirez has seen students struggle with embarrassment when their absences mean they can’t keep up with peers.

This is only the second year Alamosa Elementary has been tracking attendance student-by-student. And a core element of its initiative is raising awareness about the problem. About one in four students has missed more than 10 percent of school days so far this school year, according to data Burnett tracks. Researchers say that hitting this threshold triggers a cascade of negative effects. Missing that much school – roughly two days per month – hurts a student’s chances of reading on grade level, passing classes, and graduating.

Besides the 26 percent of Alamosa students who are already chronically absent, Burnett’s data show that another 27 percent are considered at risk of becoming so.

Under the guidance of Mission: Graduate – an initiative of the United Way of Central New Mexico that brings together schools, government agencies, businesses, nonprofits, and community members to collectively work toward common education goals –  Albuquerque Public Schools is drawing on best practices for improving attendance. Instead of focusing exclusively on students who miss the most days of school, the district has a three-tiered strategy, with all students getting some type of targeted attention.

At the first tier, schools are supposed to be fostering a positive culture of attendance for all students and collecting consistent data to track absenteeism. The second-tier prioritizes prevention, and school attendance teams tailor special initiatives for groups of students who miss school regularly. The third tier is the most individualized. Students who routinely miss school get individual assessments and attendance success plans geared toward their unique needs and circumstances.

Besides the districtwide focus, Alamosa is among 10 elementary schools getting additional grant funding from the United Way. This comes with extra support and data-tracking to combat and monitor chronic absenteeism.

These efforts are starting to produce results. School attendance data show that the portion of Alamosa students who were chronically absent from the start of the school year through mid-January is 5 percentage points below last year’s rate overall.

Bonuses for attendance provide a major incentive for students, even those who might only miss a day here or there. Students who don’t have any missed days or tardies don’t have to wear their uniforms on Fridays. Entire classes that have perfect attendance for a given week get a popcorn party.

“I have parents saying ‘My kid is dragging me to school on time,’ ” says Ulrike Kerstges, Alamosa Elementary’s principal. “They want to earn the dress-down day and the popcorn.”

Replicated elsewhere

Attendance Works, a national nonprofit that has led the charge to reduce chronic absenteeism, advocates a strategy similar to the one Albuquerque has designed. Cecelia Leong, associate director for programs, said this comprehensive focus on building awareness, prioritizing prevention and designing case-by-case interventions is a critical shift for school districts, which have traditionally responded only to students with the most frequent absences and the most severe challenges, like homelessness, chronic illness, and family dysfunction. Those students, Ms. Leong says, deserve attention, but without pairing that work with prevention on a larger scale, schools and districts cannot have a major impact on overall chronic absenteeism numbers.

It’s like public health, Leong explains. A widespread focus on prevention can reach far more people and improve outcomes overall.  

She has seen progress in school districts that have good data systems, committed leadership, and a comprehensive strategy for addressing chronic absenteeism. Districts in Grand Rapids, Mich., and New Britain, Conn., as well as schools in New York City and Meriden, Conn., are among the success stories Attendance Works cites nationwide. John Barry School (grades pre-K to 5) in Meriden, for example, reduced its chronic absenteeism rate from 21 percent in the 2014-15 school year to 9 percent in 2015-16. 

Leong is convinced it will take creative, comprehensive solutions to make a dent in the chronic absenteeism problem nationwide.

And the stakes are high. “It’s really hard to achieve your mission as a school district to educate children if they’re not there,” she adds.

At Alamosa Elementary, parents have to be partners in prioritizing attendance, and administrators try to emphasize this collaborative spirit. Dr. Kerstges, the principal, says it’s important to talk to parents early, when their children have just a few absences instead of dozens. And it’s important to be understanding.

“We are not blaming,” Kerstges says. “It’s not, ‘Get your heinie over here or else,’ it’s, ‘How can we help you?’ ”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.

( 1348 words )
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The Monitor's View

‘Black Panther’ challenges limits on identity

 

The 30 Sec. ReadConsider what the new superhero film “Black Panther” does for black identity as well as women’s identity – and even for the cool factor of science and engineering. Mothers and fathers across the racial spectrum report children excited to put their 3-D glasses on and feel the Dolby percussion as they’re transported to the good-versus-evil battles over the make-believe, high-tech (and ahead-of-the-world) nation of Wakanda. The black cast delivering that story is not what kids seem to be talking about. But the cultural impression being absorbed is that the story is driven by strong black characters. The wrong kind of obsession with racial identity can create social divides. But perhaps what this movie illustrates best is the potential for infinite expressions of a deeper identity. The color of one’s skin defines one aspect of identity, but it does not limit expression of individuality, creativity, or intelligence. Nor should it limit what one can imagine for one’s self. Ultimately this is just a Marvel Comics fantasy. But the imagination is sometimes where barriers fall first.

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‘Black Panther’ challenges limits on identity

As the new art of photography delighted Americans in the 19th century, Frederick Douglass seized hold of it as “the revenant” of black culture. The former slave, writer, and statesman believed photography could highlight “the essential humanity” of its subject, create a historical thread of dignity for future generations, and transcend stereotypes.

While Douglass may not have foreseen photography’s evolution into the blockbuster movie, he might approve of what the new Marvel superhero film “Black Panther” does for black identity as well as women’s identity – and even for the cool factor of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Mothers and fathers across the racial spectrum report children excited to put their 3-D glasses on and feel the Dolby percussion as they’re transported to the good-versus-evil battles over the make-believe, high-tech nation of Wakanda. The black cast delivering that story is not what the kids seem to be talking about. But the cultural impression being absorbed is that the story is driven by strong black characters.  

The wrong kind of obsession with racial identity can create social divides. But perhaps what this movie illustrates best is the potential for infinite expressions of a deeper identity.  The color of one’s skin defines one aspect of identity, but it does not limit expression of individuality, creativity, or intelligence. Nor should it limit what one can imagine for one’s self.

Witness the king with superpowers and a soft heart, who freezes when he sees the love of his life and who longs to save his nemesis; the nerdy princess who invented practically every high-tech device advancing her nation; the warrior women whose physical strength is matched only by their powerful integrity.

There have been many films and stories with black characters at the center, but nearly always they are surrounded by the richer, more powerful white world. This mirrors the experience certainly of many African-Americans who are daily conscious of living in a white-dominated world.

But this movie is different. The nation of Wakanda is secretly a civilization vastly ahead of the rest of the world, posing as a poor country because it doesn’t want to put its resources and cultural values at risk. And the story sets up no “other” to exclude; no one is dehumanized, and no race represents the enemy.

Ultimately this is just a fantasy. But the imagination is sometimes where barriers fall first. It’s important that people of color can be the rich beneficiaries of an imagined world, reflecting that “essential humanity” Douglass longed to preserve. 

( 410 words )
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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Take your prayers to the finish line

 

In today’s column, a woman shares how she prayed – and was healed – after she experienced a frightening pain in her side.

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Take your prayers to the finish line

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Several years ago, I ran my first 5K Turkey Trot with a large group of family and friends. “You got this,” they assured me as we gathered at the starting line. I appreciated the encouragement I encountered along the course, especially near the end when I was tired and running uphill: “Keep it up. Finish strong!” I pressed on to the top, and with the end in sight I renewed my resolve and crossed the finish line.

I thought about this event a few months ago when I woke up with a severe ache in my side. At first I thought I had slept in a weird position and a little stretching would work out the kinks. But when I couldn’t lift my leg or bend over to put on my shoes, I feared it could be something more serious. I needed healing.

As a spiritual thinker and a student of Christian Science, it was normal for me to pray to God for help. So I stopped what I was doing and started to pray with an idea from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, that grounds my thinking in God and helps me feel closer to Him. It reads, “The starting-point of divine Science is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all, and that there is no other might nor Mind, – that God is Love, and therefore He is divine Principle” (p. 275).

I thought back to running the 5K and realized that this kind of prayer, like a run, provides a clear starting point (God) and a clear path (spiritual reasoning). In this case, the passage pointed me to the idea that God is the only true power and creator.

However, I promptly got distracted from my prayers by other activities. At the time, my daughter was visiting me with her three young children, and I needed to be at the top of my game.

I didn’t sleep very well that night and struggled out of bed early the next morning with the pain even worse. I was starting to feel immobile, and it was scary. I wondered how long it was going to last.

This got me thinking about what I was really praying for. A Bible verse from the book of James came to mind: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss” (4:3). Thinking about God as Spirit and as All, I realized that this infinite Spirit couldn’t know or create matter. So what I actually needed to ask for was not for God, Spirit, to fix a material body, but for me to have a clearer understanding of my part in God’s complete and loved spiritual creation. I needed to continue the prayer I had started the day before and, as in the 5K, take it to the finish line.

Since my small house was beginning to bustle with the day’s activities, I decided to go out for my morning run and get some alone time with my heavenly Father to continue my prayer. I took it slow, and as I moved along I reasoned that since God is the only real creator, He is my only true source, my originator. And since God is Spirit, I must be spiritual.

I thought about another one of my favorite prayers, which is actually Mrs. Eddy’s answer to this question posed in Science and Health: “What is the scientific statement of being?” The passage begins, “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter” (p. 468). As I considered this radical statement that true substance isn’t material, another thought hit me: Matter has no ability to impact God’s spiritual creation – including me, and everyone!

Whoa! This revelation stopped me in my tracks. I was wowed by the implications of this simple spiritual fact, which through prayer we can discern with our inherent spiritual sense – even when the scene around us indicates otherwise. The impact was powerful. My thought completely shifted from fear to freedom. I stood there basking in that light for a moment and then finished my run.

I spent the rest of the week with complete mobility in all activities with my guests. The pain has not returned since.

The Bible’s book of Hebrews says: “Let us lay aside every weight ... and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (12:1). It’s always the right time to take our prayer to the finish line.

Adapted from a testimony published in the Christian Science Sentinel, Feb. 12, 2018.

( 750 words )
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Pitching in

Students sweep up ash in their schoolyard in Payung village in North Sumatra, Indonesia, Feb 20 after the eruption of Mt. Sinabung.
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Ahmad Putra/Antara Foto/Reuters
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( February 21st, 2018 )

David Clark Scott
Editor & product manager

Bonus story: Our Winter Olympics coverage continues today with a Cinderella story about five Korean women, known as the “Garlic Girls,” who’ve already knocked off some of the world’s top curling teams.  

And come back tomorrow. We're working on a story about ethnic diversity at the Winter Olympics. Exhibit A: Alex and Maia Shibutani, the “Shib Sibs,” who on Monday became the first skating pair of Asian descent to win an Olympic medal in ice dancing.

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