2022
June
29
Wednesday

TODAY’S INTRO

Global generosity helps reunite a fast-food worker with his family

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

A daughter’s love has a special kind of power. 

Ask Kevin Ford. 

For 27 years, he’s worked as a cook and cashier at Burger King at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas. He never missed a day of work. In May, his employer gave him a token of appreciation – a goody bag of small, assorted gifts. Mr. Ford posted a short video on social media, sharing his genuine gratitude.

The video went viral. Some commenters saw a man full of grace. Others saw a tale of corporate exploitation. Amid the attention last week, his daughter Seryna set up a $200 GoFundMe for a plane ticket to Texas: If “anyone feels like blessing him, he would love to visit his grandchildren.”

What happened next is a study in viral generosity. More than 8,000 people from Australia to the United Kingdom have contributed to this “blessing.” So far, more than $250,000 has been donated.  

On Tuesday, the “Today” show joined the blessing bandwagon. It set up a live family reunion, and tears of joy flowed in their New York studio as Mr. Ford was joined by Seryna and his three grandchildren, whom he hasn’t seen in four years.

“For all those years, you feel unappreciated, but you get up just like everybody else. You do your job, and for somebody to show this appreciation is just overwhelming,” he told the “Today” show. 

“It’s just a whirlwind of love,” Mr. Ford said of the outpouring. “Spread the love. We need it. Every day, we need it.”

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After Hutchinson testimony, will Trump officials remain silent?

Unknown aides have historically been the source of revelations in political scandals. Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony was seen by some as courageous and showing integrity. To others, it’s a case of personal disloyalty.

David
Andrew Harnik/Reuters
Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the Trump administration, testifies during a hearing of the Jan. 6 commission, in Washington, June 28, 2022.

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If Cassidy Hutchinson’s blockbuster assertions Tuesday prove to be a breakthrough in the Jan. 6 investigation, it would not be the first time a high-profile congressional hearing hinged on the testimony of a little-known aide. 

In the Watergate hearings, presidential scheduler Alexander Butterfield first confirmed the Nixon tapes. Lt. Col. Oliver North’s secretary, Fawn Hall, testified that she helped her boss shred documents in the Iran-contra affair. And Linda Tripp, a disgruntled former executive assistant, proved crucial in Bill Clinton’s impeachment. 

Early on, a Clinton lawyer said, “Linda Tripp is not to be believed.” That may sound familiar to Ms. Hutchinson, an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. 

The Jan. 6 committee praised Ms. Hutchinson as a young woman of courage and integrity, who was willing to come froward and tell the truth. By contrast, former-President Donald Trump and his defenders cast her as an ambitious nobody who changed loyalties after being denied a post-White House job, and told the committee what it wanted to hear, without having to withstand cross-examination. 

Either way, her testimony presents a quandary for top Trump officials who have so far declined to testify. 

After Hutchinson testimony, will Trump officials remain silent?

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If Cassidy Hutchinson’s blockbuster assertions Tuesday prove to be a breakthrough in the Jan. 6 investigation, it would not be the first time a high-profile congressional hearing hinged on the testimony of a little-known aide. 

In the Watergate hearings, it was presidential scheduler Alexander Butterfield who first confirmed that President Richard Nixon had been secretly taping White House conversations. Fifteen years later, Lt. Col. Oliver North’s secretary, Fawn Hall, provided testimony that she helped her boss shred reams of documents in the Iran-contra affair. And Linda Tripp, a disgruntled former executive assistant in the Clinton White House, secretly recorded Monica Lewinsky’s confessions of her affair with President Bill Clinton, which proved crucial in his impeachment. 

When Ms. Tripp first began talking, a Clinton lawyer said, “Linda Tripp is not to be believed.” That may sound familiar to Ms. Hutchinson, a 20-something aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who offered the most damning account yet of Donald Trump’s actions in a surprise hearing on Tuesday. The former president took to his social media platform to dispute some of her claims and disparage her as someone he hardly knew, a “third rate social climber” and “bull---- artist.”  He also criticized the committee for not allowing cross-examination.

Aides in Washington often have extraordinary access to the inner workings of government. That was perhaps nowhere more true than the Trump White House, where the reluctance of many veteran Republican staffers to work for the former reality TV star created more job opportunities for someone like Ms. Hutchinson, a first-generation college graduate eager to serve her country. But even by Washington standards, she seems to have played an unusual role for such a young aide, reportedly accompanying Mr. Meadows to high-level meetings and acting as gatekeeper for access to him and, by extension, the president.

The committee praised her as a young woman of courage and integrity, who was willing to come froward and tell the truth. By contrast, Mr. Trump and his defenders cast her as an ambitious nobody who changed loyalties after being denied a post-White House job and saw an opportunity to command the spotlight with exaggerated or false accounts of him and his inner circle. Either way, her testimony presents a quandary for top White House officials who have so far declined to testify – particularly her former boss, Mr. Meadows. 

Mr. Meadows provided more than 2,000 text messages to the committee and was initially willing to appear voluntarily to discuss non-privileged matters, but backed out over what his legal team said was the committee’s refusal to respect executive privilege. Mr. Meadows’ lawyer argued that in order to maintain the constitutional principle of separation of powers, it is essential that not only the president but his top advisers be able to invoke executive privilege. That argument suffered setbacks at the D.C. Circuit of Appeals and then the U.S. Supreme Court. In December, the House indicted the former congressman for contempt of Congress. Ms. Hutchinson testified that both Mr. Meadows and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani sought presidential pardons – an assertion they each denied following the hearing.

“This is explosive stuff,” tweeted Mick Mulvaney, who served as Mr. Trump’s acting White House chief of staff before Mr. Meadows took the job in March 2020. “If Cassidy is making this up, they will need to say that. If she isn’t they will have to corroborate.”

Will her testimony change things? 

Ms. Hutchinson’s lawyers said she felt it was her “duty and responsibility” to testify before the committee. “Ms. Hutchinson believes that January 6 was a horrific day for the country, and it is vital to the future of our democracy that it not be repeated,” they said. The committee had previously interviewed her privately, and showed video clips from those interviews on Tuesday.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Democratic Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, and Republican Vice Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming, listen as Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies June 28, 2022. Ms. Hutchinson testified that both Mr. Meadows and the former president knew that violence was likely Jan. 6 and that some protesters were armed.

Ms. Hutchinson painted a picture of a president with an explosive temper, surrounded by aides who were often wary of confronting him. After Attorney General Bill Barr told the Associated Press in early December 2020 that the Justice Department had not seen fraud on a scale that could tip the election to Mr. Trump, Ms. Hutchinson says she walked into the White House dining room to find a shattered porcelain plate and ketchup dripping down the wall. That wasn’t the only time the president broke dishware, she told the committee. 

But it wasn’t until the last few days before Jan. 6 that she says she got really worried. 

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was spearheading Mr. Trump’s legal challenges to the 2020 election, told her the president and his supporters were planning to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6, when Congress would be counting the electoral votes. When she asked her boss about it, she recalled him saying, “There’s a lot going on, Cass. I don’t know, things might get real, real bad on the sixth.”

She testified that Mr. Meadows was aware in advance that there was a threat of violence, and that this threat was conveyed to the president. Yet on Jan. 6, after being told that some in the crowd were carrying weapons, the president berated the Secret Service for not letting them past the magnetometers. 

“They’re not here to hurt me,” she recalled him saying. “Let my people in.” The committee played police-radio transmissions that identified at least four protesters with AR-15 rifles in the vicinity of the Ellipse where Mr. Trump spoke midday. A senior FBI official testified to the Senate that the bureau did not find any rioters with guns inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, but the Justice Department has charged several people with gun crimes related to that day.

Anna Moneymaker/Reuters
A video of former U.S. President Donald Trump is played as Cassidy Hutchinson, who was an aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the Trump administration, testifies during a House Select Committee hearing to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, June 28, 2022.

The president promised the crowd he would go with them to the Capitol, which sent his security team scrambling to clear a route for the motorcade, according to a chat log the committee said it obtained from the National Security Council. By the time he got in his vehicle, the Secret Service had nixed the idea, Ms. Hutchinson testified, based on an account she said she received shortly thereafter by Anthony Ornato, then-deputy chief of staff for operations. Upon being told that the plan was not possible, she said Mr. Trump grabbed at the steering wheel, then reached for the neck of Secret Service agent Bobby Engel, who asked him to take his hand off the wheel. According to Ms. Hutchinson, Mr. Ornato related all this to her in front of Mr. Engel, who did not dispute any details.

Mr. Ornato and Mr. Engel are reportedly prepared to dispute under oath Ms. Hutchinson’s account of the physical altercation.

Ms. Hutchinson’s lawyers on Wednesday said she stands by her testimony.

A pointed warning

Once rioters breached the Capitol, the former congressional intern said that, as an American, she felt “disgusted.” “It was unpatriotic,” she said. “It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.”

She described Mr. Meadows as displaying no sense of urgency as the chaos unfolded, scrolling through his phone while she raised pressing concerns with him. “I remember thinking at that moment – Mark needs to snap out of this,” she testified.

Later, she says she overheard Mr. Trump and others discussing the protesters’ chants of “Hang Mike Pence.” When White House counsel Pat Cipollone followed up with Mr. Meadows, saying they needed to do more, she recalled Mr. Meadows saying “something to the effect of, ‘You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it.’”

The committee did not ask Ms. Hutchinson if she had taken notes of these conversations, nor did they display any such notes.

The one handwritten note they did share was a message on chief of staff letterhead, which she said her boss dictated to her as a proposed message for Mr. Trump to send to his supporters who had entered the Capitol. White House lawyer Eric Herschmann's spokesman told ABC that in fact he had written it, which critics said raised questions about the credibility of Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony.

On his social media platform, Truth Social, Mr. Trump denied several details in her testimony, such as “throwing food,” pressing for people with guns to watch his speech, grabbing the steering wheel, or endorsing the hanging of Mr. Pence. He called Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony “‘sick’ and fraudulent, very much like the Unselect Committee itself.” 

Many Republicans have panned the committee hearings as neatly packaged campaign fodder, and not traditional congressional hearings with a range of views and cross-examination of witnesses. In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has taken to criticizing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for pulling all his nominees to the committee, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vetoed two of his picks.

But Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony included claims that Republicans ignore at their peril, The Wall Street Journal wrote in an editorial Wednesday, even if the committee’s investigation has been shaped by partisan motivations. 

The committee has largely relied on Republican witnesses, many of whom it interviewed for hours on camera. They have selected short clips to play during the hearings to complement in-person testimony, but have yet to release full transcripts.

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s hearing, Vice Chair Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the committee, issued a pointed warning to Mr. Trump’s allies, who she said had been seeking to influence witnesses. 

While hundreds of witnesses have voluntarily cooperated, some have refused, Chairman Bennie Thompson said.

“If you heard this testimony today and suddenly you remember things you couldn’t previous recall, or if there are some details you would like to clarify, or you discovered some courage you had hidden away somewhere – our doors remain open,” he said.  

Mental health: Is that a job for schools?

In the wake of the pandemic and mass shootings, more funds are flowing to mental health programs in U.S. schools. Our reporter looks at the debate over whether the classroom is the most effective place for bringing healing.

David

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Nearly three-quarters of young Americans say the United States is experiencing a mental health crisis. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy agrees, and is worried about them. 

Researchers point to the influence of social media, changing parenting styles, and a seemingly unstable world as key causes.

In response, federal and state governments are allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to fund everything from training mental health providers to running awareness programs. But should schools be the place for children to receive these services?

Those answering “yes” say that schools are accessible and the least stigmatizing solution. But others raise questions about how many tasks often-overburdened schools can handle. While schools have seen an increase in social workers and counselors compared to pre-pandemic years, most are still understaffed. 

“Things are getting better with mental health resources over the past years,” says Hawa Cabdullahi, a rising senior in a school of 3,000 students in Minnesota. But she adds, “I feel that the main issue is adults not listening or certain people who have the power to change things not wanting to spend the money on it and not wanting to improve the general livelihoods of people who are impacted by mental health struggles every day.” 

Mental health: Is that a job for schools?

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Martha Irvine/AP/File
Second grade teacher Melissa Shugg teaches a lesson at Paw Paw Early Elementary about thoughts, feelings, and actions on Dec. 2, 2021, in Paw Paw, Michigan.

Should mental health concerns be handled by schools? 

Numerous statistics – and students themselves – point to the significant struggles many young people in the United States are experiencing. In an effort to help, federal and state governments are allocating hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding to cover everything from training more providers to running mental health awareness programs. 

Advocates suggest the school building is the most accessible and least stigmatizing place for mental health support. But others are raising concerns about how many tasks often-overburdened schools can handle. 

“You do at some point have to ask some very basic questions about what are the expectations that we have of this thing called school,” says Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow focused on education at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. “No one is suggesting schools should not be concerned about kids’ overall well-being. But is this the proper place in civil society for mental health services to reside?”

The recent expansion of offerings has spurred more discussion about the ethics involved in supporting students – how much schools and mental health should intersect and where the guardrails should be. A school board in Killingly, Connecticut, for example, this year drew the line at allowing the superintendent to establish a mental health clinic in a high school. 

Determining what services to offer in schools is a question that “has to be answered 14,000 times in 14,000 local school districts,” Mr. Pondiscio says, adding that people will disagree on the appropriate use of government dollars for mental health in publicly run schools.

A scramble to help

During the first year and a half of the pandemic, 92 state laws were enacted to address youth mental health through school-based programs, according to an analysis by the nonprofit National Academy for State Health Policy. The federal gun safety bill passed by Congress on June 24 includes related funding. 

President Joe Biden wants to double the number of mental health professionals in schools. Already schools have seen a 65% increase in social workers and a 17% increase in counselors compared to before the pandemic, due to use of American Rescue Plan funds to increase hiring, according to the White House. 

Courtesy of Hawa Cabdullahi
Hawa Cabdullahi, a rising high school senior in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, says she's seen teachers and administrators place a bigger emphasis on supporting student mental health since the pandemic started, but she thinks her school of 3,000 should have more than one staff psychologist.

Even so, most schools are understaffed. The American School Counselor Association, for example, recommends a counselor-to-student ratio of 1:250. The association reports the national average was 1:415 in the 2020-21 school year.

The flurry of recent activity is being driven by experts – and students themselves. The U.S. surgeon general issued an advisory in December 2021 warning of a youth mental health crisis. Nearly three-quarters of young Americans say the country as a whole is experiencing one, according to a spring 2022 survey by Harvard Youth Poll. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns this week debuted a two-part program on PBS, “Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness,” which tells the stories of more than 20 young people in the U.S. 

Various theories circulate among researchers as to why mental health has been declining, including the influence of social media, changing parenting styles, and a seemingly unstable world confronting climate change, social justice, and political polarization. 

Schools are a natural place to address these issues, many Americans say, as mental health services have existed there for years. The National Association of School Psychologists was formed in 1969. School-based health centers that provide pediatric, dental, and mental health services in schools were also started in the 1960s and 1970s. 

“When we ask families and students, overwhelmingly most prefer to receive support in the school building, in part due to proximity and convenience. Students and parents are less likely to miss time from school and work, and a lot of families say it’s less stigmatizing,” says Sharon Hoover, co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health and professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. 

A 2017 study of mental health services in elementary schools by researchers at Florida International University found “school-based services demonstrated a small-to-medium effect in decreasing mental health problems, with the largest effects found for targeted intervention.” 

Dr. Hoover says research supports the establishment of multitiered systems of support in schools. In this model, schools provide such services as universal lessons or wellness checks for all students and more targeted, intensive support for those students identified as needing additional assistance. 

How that looks in schools varies. 

For instance, all students in a school with a multitiered system of support receive “tier one” support, like classroom lessons or assemblies on mental health awareness. A smaller number of students identified as needing “tier two” support might participate in group sessions, led by school counselors, on dealing with grief or stress. An even smaller number of “tier three” students receive more intensive treatment, such as individual therapy with trained school staff, or are referred to an outside provider. 

In a database maintained by the National Center for School Mental Health, roughly 15,000 schools self-report that they have comprehensive school mental health systems. That’s about 15% of K-12 public schools in the United States.

Hawa Cabdullahi, a rising senior in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, has seen her high school, which has 3,000 students, promote mental health support more since the pandemic began. It can take months to get an appointment with the school’s sole psychologist, but teachers now allow students to take walks more during class and accommodate assignment deadline shifts if needed. The school also created a break room for qualifying students to use. 

“Things are getting better with mental health resources over the past years,” she says. “I feel that the main issue is adults not listening or certain people who have the power to change things not wanting to spend the money on it and not wanting to improve the general livelihoods of people who are impacted by mental health struggles every day.” 

“At the table from day one”

Even before the pandemic, increased calls for steps like universal screeners, or well-being checks, were raising concerns about student privacy records. Some parents in Florida worried that their children’s mental health records would be held against them after the state enacted a law in 2018 in the wake of a mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that required informing schools during new student registration if a child had ever been referred for mental health services, according to Kaiser Health News.

“Parents and family members should be at the table from day one with how do students access visits, how do schools get consent for services, how should schools and providers inform families if a student screens positive,” Dr. Hoover says. “Families should have a choice about if and how and where they receive mental health support.” 

Damian Dovarganes/AP/File
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy greets student Jailyn Johnson during a visit to the King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, Dec. 6, 2021. Dr. Murthy discussed the importance of protecting youth mental health during the pandemic.

Informed consent and clinical competence are two ethical issues that mental health providers and families should be aware of when thinking about offering or receiving mental health treatment in a school setting, says Jeffrey Barnett, a professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland. 

School staff need proper training and oversight, he says. For instance, if teachers are administering universal mental health screeners to students, “are they being trained or is it seen as just another task to add to their workload?” He believes students and staff should all be trained in mental health awareness and know what referrals they can make if someone exhibits signs of needing help. 

Asking teachers to take on extra training about mental health and to incorporate more social and emotional lessons is a feature of schooling that’s largely been expanding without enough examination, says Mr. Pondiscio of the American Enterprise Institute. 

“I think there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about mission creep, that we are changing the job of the teacher to be as focused on children’s mental health and well-being as the academics. It’s one thing to have it baked into the pie and another thing to make it a deliverable and a piece of the curriculum as compared to an endemic part of school culture,” he says. 

Dr. Hoover suggests that responding to student needs should be a “public health approach.” That might involve schools providing lessons for everyone on regulating emotions as well as creating calm corners for students within buildings. It also might mean building a wide range of partnerships with people outside schools, including community health providers, faith groups, and other organizations important to youth.

“The mental health of our young children can’t fall on the shoulders of school psychologists, social workers, counselors alone, nor should it,” says Dr. Hoover. “It should really be a shared responsibility of everyone, including families, teachers, and the students themselves. They want to help each other.” 

Drinking water in short supply? There’s a solution in the air.

In places where water is scarce, our reporter finds some novel approaches and innovative technologies that literally pull water out of the air.

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There’s an urgent need for access to water – and innovations are at work to adapt an ancient technology for modern use. Atmospheric water generation is based on laws of condensation: Warm air meets a cool surface and forms water droplets. But these water harvesting systems are still relatively small and expensive, not yet practical for providing large or consistent water supplies. 

Activists, researchers, and the U.S. government are committed to changing that. “In not too long, you will see these machines in areas where we most need them,” says Omar Yaghi, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Dr. Yaghi has invented a lightweight, compact grouping of minerals and organics called metal organic frameworks that are highly absorbent and whose water can be quickly released with nothing more than ambient sunlight. Most atmospheric water harvesters only work in areas with high humidity. But MOFs also work in low humidity – in arid places such as his native Jordan.  

The U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency is working with him and other researchers to develop water systems that can be tapped anywhere, so service members won’t have to rely on supply chains for drinking water. “We’re cautiously optimistic we’re on track” to produce a prototype in two years, says Seth Cohen, a DARPA program manager.

Drinking water in short supply? There’s a solution in the air.

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/File
Skysource Inc. co-founders David Hertz (left) and his wife, Laura Doss-Hertz, pose for a portrait next to the Skywater 300, October 2018 in Los Angeles. The company received the $1.5 million Water Abundance XPrize for developing a machine that makes water from air.

In June, 6 million people in Southern California began unprecedented water restrictions due to severe drought, with lawn watering limited to one day a week in many areas. But that doesn’t apply to David Hertz and his wife, Laura Doss-Hertz. High above the Pacific Ocean, tucked in the steep contours of mountainous Malibu, they supply their house, pool, and network of firefighting hoses with water harvested from the air. 

The couple use their property – dubbed Xanabu – as a demonstration site for atmospheric water generation. Their small farm, where coffee plants and passion-fruit trees are irrigated from well water, is an idyllic spot. Blooming pink, red, and white oleander line the winding driveway, a mass of hot pink bougainvillea climbs their stone chimney, and dramatic views stretch to the ocean and surrounding mountains. Colorful pagodas from the movie set of “The King and I” add a magical touch. 

But there is nothing magic about the science of their water-generating product, called WeDew. It’s based on the laws of condensation – warm air meets a cool surface and forms water droplets. Through their company, Skysource Inc., they’ve taken ancient, passive techniques and used sustainable-energy innovation to increase water output, winning the $1.5 million Water Abundance XPrize in 2018. Out of nearly 100 entries from around the world, theirs was the only one to meet all the criteria: Produce at least 2,000 liters (528 gallons) of water a day, at a cost of less than 2 cents per liter and running entirely on renewable energy.

“All we’re really talking about is very simple,” says Mr. Hertz. He swings open doors to a 20-foot shipping container that holds the air-to-water generator near his house. He likes to remind people that the Earth and its atmosphere are a closed system with a set amount of water that changes form as liquid, vapor, and ice. “There’s six times more water in the atmosphere than all the rivers on the planet,” he says. “The real challenge is how do you capture this available moisture?”

Francine Kiefer/The Christian Science Monitor
David Hertz, co-founder of Skysource Inc., fills a glass with water generated by WeDew, an atmospheric water generator, at his home in Malibu, California, on June 7, 2022. The water generator supplies all of his household water needs, fills his pool, and services the many fire hoses that protect his small farm.

The historic drought in the Western United States is adding urgency to this question. Federal water officials recently warned that major cuts in usage will be required next year for the Colorado River, which serves nearly 40 million people in the West. The 22-year drought, exacerbated by climate change, is the region’s worst in 1,200 years. Globally, 1 in 3 people do not have access to safe drinking water, according to the World Health Organization. 

This urgency is driving support for innovations in atmospheric water generation to address the two biggest hurdles to widespread use: scaling it up, and making it accessible – and affordable – to people in regions that need it most.  

Planning ahead 

Those innovations are being explored at Tsunami Products in Liberty Lake, Washington. Inquiries about its atmospheric water generators shot up 1,500% in the month after The Associated Press published a story about it last October, says Mark Fralich, who handles marketing for the privately owned company. “Inquiries have not let up,” says Mr. Fralich, who is fielding 10 to 50 calls, voicemails, and emails a day, and serving customers from California to Texas to the Cayman Islands and South Africa. The company says its products can be used for homes, offices, schools, and greenhouse irrigation, and as backup water supply.

The plug-in units look like tall air conditioners, pulling in moist air, condensing it, storing the water in an internal tank, and then purifying it. But certain temperature and humidity conditions are needed “to create Mother Nature’s ambient dew point,” says Mr. Fralich. 

The optimal environment is an average temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity that is 80% per a 24-hour day, explains Mr. Fralich. That’s when Tsunami’s smaller unit can produce up to 204 gallons of water per day, and its larger unit can produce up to 329 gallons per day (an American uses an average of 82 gallons per day at home). The units are not cheap, ranging from $35,000 for the smaller one to $65,000 for the larger size. 

One of the people who read that AP story was Jerry Hudgins, a retired software engineer in the Northern California coastal town of Point Reyes Station. Water consciousness is a way of life in this area, where water restrictions are on the books year-round and get tighter when rainfall is even scarcer. Mr. Hudgins bought the smaller unit, installing it on a concrete slab next to his house. He wanted it as a water backup in case of an earthquake and also for the gardening design business of his wife, Suzi Katz. Her demonstration garden covers most of their nearly 1-acre property, and they are concerned that the current drought – and restrictions – will worsen.

Francine Kiefer/The Christian Science Monitor
David Hertz, co-founder of Skysource Inc., stands in front of his WeDew product, an atmospheric water generator that fits inside a shipping container, at his small farm in Malibu, California, on June 7, 2022. The WeDew won an XPrize in 2018 for being able to produce at least 2,000 liters (528 gallons) of water a day, at a cost of less than 2 cents per liter and running entirely on renewable energy.

Mr. Hudgins knows that they live in a less-than-ideal area for maximum water output. They get a fair amount of coastal fog and humidity, but temperatures are cooler than in other parts of California. That makes it harder to condense water. Also, they are not running the system at night to spare their neighbors the noise. So far, he’s generating what he expected – about 50 gallons on a warm day. 

The couple are using utility water to irrigate Ms. Katz’s garden until expected restrictions kick in later in the summer. In the meantime, they’re building up water in their storage tank, which cost extra. Installing the system “was an expensive proposition and it took a lot to set up,” he says. “But ... we would do it again.” 

Practical solutions?

Atmospheric water generation is good for rural areas that are far from water infrastructure, and for use in relatively small amounts, such as for drinking, says Heather Cooley, director of research for The Pacific Institute, a global water think tank in Oakland, California. It takes a lot of energy to bring air to the point of condensation, she says. The industry is in its nascent stage, and several people interviewed for this story warned of charlatans promising the impossible and even fake companies. 

“There are opportunities there, but I also think we need to look at other strategies that are available, and widely available,” says Ms. Cooley. In April, The Pacific Institute published a report on California’s urban water supply. The report found that greater efficiency could reduce use by 30% to 48%, and water supplies could be boosted by more than doubling municipal water reuse and significantly increasing stormwater capture across the Golden State.  

Omar Yaghi, a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, believes that atmospheric water generation is “the way of the future,” putting individuals “in control of their own drinking water.” He sees potential applications in everything from residences to irrigation of small-scale farms. The only thing holding back faster innovation is skepticism, he says. “People who invent game-changing things, the biggest problem they face is always doubt. It’s very easy to say no.”

Dr. Yaghi has invented a lightweight, compact grouping of minerals and organics called metal organic frameworks, or MOFs, that are highly absorbent and whose water can be quickly released with nothing more than ambient sunlight. Most atmospheric water harvesting products only work in areas with high humidity – as in coastal or tropical areas. But MOFs also work in low humidity – in arid places such as his native country of Jordan. 

An MOF device that could produce 500 liters (132 gallons) a day in the desert would be about the size of a small automobile, though not as heavy, says Dr. Yaghi. He’s working on cutting that size in half. “In not too long, you will see these machines in areas where we most need them.”

“We know there’s enough water” 

Dr. Yaghi has the financial support of the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. DARPA is working with him, General Electric, and other U.S. companies and universities to develop water systems that service members could use anywhere in the world, without logistical supply chains. 

“We’ve seen some really encouraging data,” says Seth Cohen, program manager for the Biological Technologies Office at DARPA. “We’re cautiously optimistic we’re on track” to produce a prototype in two years. “We wanted to get past the dehumidification technology. We wanted to go to the next type of technology that we think will be a breakthrough using absorbent materials.” 

Back at his hilltop paradise, Mr. Hertz, an architect by trade, explains how his mobile, shipping-container water generator also produces energy. WeDew doesn’t need diesel or electric power because it runs on biomass – in this case, wood chips from clearing brush. A gasifier superheats the wood chips and converts them into electricity, hot humid air (which condenses to water), and carbon-capturing biochar. He stores the electricity in batteries to power his house, and he uses the biochar to replenish his soil. “It’s a virtuous cycle.” That virtue was recognized in 2020, when Time listed WeDew among the magazine’s 100 best inventions.  

Skysource has teamed up with the United Nations World Food Program to bring WeDew to Uganda and other countries. Now the company is in discussions with the U.N. to serve island nations, where rising sea levels are causing saltwater incursion in fresh water. Closer to home, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is using WeDew in forests in the northern part of the state because of biochar’s fire-suppressing capability, says Mr. Hertz. He says WeDew works optimally for small communities that need clean drinking water, as emergency power and water, or on small ranches like his. 

Like Dr. Yaghi, he’s optimistic about the future of atmospheric water generation. “We know there’s enough water. It’s just a question of how do we appropriate it in a responsible way.”

Catholic nation? The Filipino Church rethinks its role in politics.

Does the Roman Catholic Church still have influence in Filipino politics? The latest election left the clergy wondering how to best instill good governance or integrity in leadership.

David
Eloisa Lopez/Reuters/File
Catholic priests pray over Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo and her running mate Sen. Kiko Pangilinan in a church in Manila, Philippines, April 22, 2022. Despite the endorsement of the church in an 86% Catholic country, Ms. Robredo lost to Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

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Catholic leaders in the Philippines fought hard against Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. during the 2022 presidential race. Thousands of priests, bishops, deacons, and nuns broke from decades of political neutrality to speak out against the son and namesake of the former dictator, and vowed to deliver his opponent “the Catholic vote” on election day – a hypothetically powerful bloc for a country that’s 86% Catholic. 

But it never materialized. In fact, the Filipino Catholic Church-backed candidate won in only 18 of the 86 dioceses across the country.

Now, as Mr. Marcos takes office Thursday, clergy are still grappling with the loss. Many view it as a wake-up call on the church’s waning political influence, and those in the higher echelons of church hierarchy hope to correct course through a slew of new “good governance” programs designed to boost church leaders’ participation in local government, combat misinformation and historical revisionism, and hold elected officials accountable on campaign promises. 

“The church and its leaders became tools of oppression because we were protecting our own interest – our convenience,” says the Rev. Angelito Cortez, a Franciscan priest. “We failed to balance our duty as the moral compass of the society, and the inclusive and all-embracing church.”

Catholic nation? The Filipino Church rethinks its role in politics.

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The Filipino Catholic Church threw everything into the 2022 presidential election. Clergy broke from decades of political neutrality to speak out against the campaign of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the island nation’s infamous dictator. Thousands of priests, bishops, deacons, and nuns endorsed his primary opponent, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo. The top council of laity vowed to deliver her “the Catholic vote” on May 9 – a hypothetically powerful bloc for a country that’s 86% Catholic. 

But it never materialized. 

Weeks before the polls opened, many bishops were preparing for disappointment. In a secret meeting in Manila on April 6, prelates mulled over projections showing the Marcos camp’s huge, consistent lead. The question they faced then is the same they face today, as the son of the late dictator prepares to take office Thursday: What will the church’s role be in a new Marcos era?

Over the past month, bishops, priests, and lay leaders have been grappling with the loss of the election, and reflecting on their responsibility to congregations moving forward. While some view the election results as a signal that the church is no longer relevant in the political sphere, religious leaders are aiming to correct course through a slew of new programs designed to monitor and promote good governance – something many in the higher echelons of the church hierarchy agree has been missing from their 21st-century ministry.

Jayeel Serrano Cornelio, a sociologist of religion at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, says the Catholic Church “misread the real sentiment of the community” and “overestimated its authority” during the recent election. He believes that the church’s political influence can be restored by organizing and mobilizing the community on the local level.

“The Catholic Church has the widest reach and network in the country,” says Dr. Cornelio. “It has the ability to rally the masses and has a consistent stance on social justice, peace, and good governance. That’s an advantage.” 

Lisa Marie David/Reuters
Philippine President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, speaks during a news conference at his headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Philippines, May 23, 2022. The Catholic Church helped exile his father in the 1980s, and spoke out against the candidate in the most recent election.

From revolutionaries to “playing safe”

The best example of the church’s mass-rallying power was in February 1986, when Cardinal Jaime Sin played a vital role in ousting Ferdinand Marcos Sr. by calling on the public to protect two high-ranking military defectors. Millions of people flooded the streets in a dayslong demonstration known as the People Power Revolution. The nonviolent uprising ended the dictator’s 21-year rule, and remains a proud moment for a church that’s been labeled “ultra-conservative.”

But veteran journalist Jose Torres Jr., who’s covered the church since the late 1980s, says Catholic leadership “played politics and played safe” after the 1986 uprising. “In reality, it was not political neutrality,” he says. “It was silence and inaction.”

The Marcos campaign pushed many church leaders and faith organizations to break that silence, collectively endorsing a presidential candidate for the first time since the 1986 snap elections.

The Rev. Angelito Cortez says the bold move was “guided by the prophetic role” of the church to “uphold moral and democratic values.” 

“The church and its leaders became tools of oppression because we were protecting our own interest – our convenience. We failed to balance our duty as the moral compass of the society, and the inclusive and all-embracing church,” says the Franciscan priest. “We needed to come out and guide our community on choosing the right leaders for the country.”

In the junior Mr. Marcos, many saw a candidate who lacked integrity and compassion.

The Rev. Edwin Gariguez says church leaders supported Ms. Robredo “not because Marcos Jr. is the son of the dictator, but because he keeps on denying the atrocities of his father’s regime and refuses to apologize for the abuses,” including torturing tens of thousands of activists, journalists, and others who opposed the regime.

“It is our responsibility and moral obligation to speak truth to power,” he adds. “It’s how the church should use its influence and faculty.”

Wake-up call

Despite the church’s effort to create a “Catholic vote,” Mr. Marcos completed his family’s journey back to the pinnacle of political power. Ms. Robredo won in only 18 of the 86 dioceses across the country.

The loss “shows that the Catholic Church is no longer the moral conscience, unlike in the 1970s and the 1980s,” said Dr. Cornelio, adding that today, the public isn’t accustomed to a church that “meddles with politics.” 

For Bishop Marcelino Antonio Maralit, the head of the Commission on Social Communications of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), it poses troubling questions about the credibility of the church hierarchy. 

“If what we are truly fighting for is the truth and the moral choice,” he wonders, “what happened? Why were we not able to reach and affect the majority of our countrymen?”

Mark Z. Saludes
Bishop Marcelino Antonio Maralit, head of the Commission on Social Communications of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, believes that the result of the 2022 election is a wake-up call for the church leadership. "Maybe we are already disconnected from our people," he says.

He considers the election a wake-up call.

“Maybe we are already disconnected from our people. ... We are not speaking the same language anymore,” he says, adding that the challenge for church leadership now “is not bringing out the message, but bringing in the message. From the people to the hierarchy, not the other way around.” 

But that doesn’t mean they’re backing off the political pulpit. In a pastoral letter following the Marcos win, the CBCP said the role of the religious sector in nation-building does “not end with the election.”

“Let us gradually transform our political culture,” wrote the prelates. “If we maintain a negative view of politics and belittle our efforts, then we shall not reap positive results.”

The way forward

To kick-start that transformation, Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the CBCP, is launching a “good governance” program. The organization will present the details and design of the program before the CBCP plenary in July, but some efforts are already taking shape. 

At the National Social Action General Assembly on June 14, more than 240 social action workers from 71 dioceses resolved to create a “good governance ministry” at the parish and diocesan level. The Rev. Antonio Labiao, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, says the ministry will serve as the backbone of the nationwide movement to encourage church leaders, including lay leaders, to participate in local government.

The sweeping good governance initiative will also include campaigns against misinformation and historical revisionism, officials say, as well as post-election accountability programs that monitor whether elected officials deliver on promises. 

“Another goal ... is to influence politicians and produce good governance champions,” says Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, national director of Caritas Philippines, who acknowledges the program “is a huge undertaking.”

If leaders and the lay faithful can stick with the ambitious programs set forth by Caritas Philippines, political strategist Christopher Dy-Liacco Flores says the church will succeed in creating not only the elusive “Catholic vote,” but also “Catholic candidates.”

As for the incoming Marcos administration, church leaders are approaching the next six years with a spirit of cautious cooperation.

“We can’t stand on extreme sides,” says Bishop Bagaforo. “Cooperating with the government does not mean conniving with them. ... It is how we should manage our responsibility as church leaders to our people, and our obligations as Filipinos to our nation.” 

In Pictures

In Romania, ancestral villages swell each wedding season

In parts of northern Romania, August is the wedding season. Old and new traditions blend as family and friends renew a sense of community and identity.

David
MICHAL NOVOTNÝ
A traditional wedding ceremony takes place in a Romanian Orthodox church in the village of Túr, in the Oaş region of Romania, in August 2021. An average wedding costs around €50,000 ($52,000).

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In the tranquil hills of the Oaş region of northern Romania, where many locals have left to work in western Europe, “most of the year you don’t even have anyone to talk to,” says photographer Remus Tiplea. 

But every summer, like clockwork, that changes, and Mr. Tiplea picks up his camera to work as a wedding photographer during the August crunch. For these villages on the border of Ukraine, neither the war next door nor COVID-19 has disrupted the festivities, which are planned years ahead.

Weddings in Oaş are attended by hundreds, sometimes even a thousand people. There’s a remarkable mixture of tradition and wealth. Guests dress in Romanian folk costumes and the latest Paris fashions. Limousines shuttle between villages, flower shops make endless bouquets, and musicians play until dawn. 

“I learned how to prepare brides from my mother and grandmother, and nobody else knows how to do it,” says Maria Cont, as she braids locks of a bride’s hair into something resembling elephant ears. Later, Ms. Cont will sew decorated ribbons into the updo.

Soon, the buzz will die down again, and as the fall chill sets in, the residents here will once again be left with fewer people to talk to – but plenty of warm memories.

In Romania, ancestral villages swell each wedding season

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In a remote region in northern Romania, the summer heat ushers in the warmth of homecoming. Eleven months of the year residents of the Oaş region work in western Europe, but in mid-August they return to their native villages, on the border with Ukraine and about an hour’s drive from Hungary, to celebrate the wedding season.

Neither COVID-19 nor Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted the festivities, which are planned years ahead. 

Weddings in Oaş are attended by hundreds, sometimes even a thousand people. There’s a remarkable mixture of tradition and wealth. Guests dress in Romanian folk costumes or the latest Paris fashions, eat delicacies, and dance in dry ice fog. 

Every detail is recorded meticulously by photographers. “Elsewhere in Romania people are happy to have the wedding edited down to a short film, but in Oaş we make roughly five-hour movies,” says Claudia Simon, a videographer. 

MICHAL NOVOTNÝ
A bride and a groom, followed by guests and musicians, leave a church after the ceremony. More than 80% of Romanians belong to the Orthodox Church.

No expense is spared. Limousines shuttle between villages, cosmeticians and hairdressers work to the brink of exhaustion, flower shops make endless bouquets, and musicians play until dawn. 

In some cases, wedding customs are passed down through the generations. 

“I learned how to prepare brides from my mother and grandmother, and nobody else knows how to do it,” says Maria Cont, as she braids locks of hair into something resembling elephant ears. Later, Ms. Cont will sew decorated ribbons into the updo. 

After the summer wedding season – filled with the constant buzz of preparations, ceremonies, music, and dancing – life in the hills of northern Romania returns to its tranquil patterns. 

“Seventy percent of the locals work abroad,” says Remus Tiplea, a photographer. “Most of the year you don’t even have anyone to talk to here.”

MICHAL NOVOTNÝ
Bride Mădălina Bosînceanu dances with guests in the courtyard of her parents’ house. The limousine that will take her to church waits in the background. It is difficult for limos to navigate the narrow streets.
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Andreea Avram, dressed in traditional bridal attire, dances in front of her family’s house in the village of Racşa. The wedding season in Oaş starts on Aug. 15, the Feast of the Assumption, and ends three weeks later.
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A bride’s wedding attire can weigh more than 40 pounds.
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Mihai Big prepares to don his costume.
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Jesica Monica Bura (center) poses with her bridesmaids for photographers during wedding events in the home of her parents. Every moment is carefully documented.
MICHAL NOVOTNÝ
Marián and Mădălina Bosînceanu take their first dance as a couple while guests look on. Every village in the Oaş region has a wedding hall that can accommodate hundreds of guests.

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What precedes Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia

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In a couple of weeks, President Joe Biden plans a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia with two main aims: warm up ties between the oil-rich kingdom and an oil-distressed United States, and help pave the way for an expected Saudi recognition of Israel. Yet the warm-up has required more than official diplomacy.

Just as important have been breakthroughs in religious ties between the birthplace of Islam and American Jews. In a June visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh, for example, a group of 13 Jewish leaders met with Saudi leaders in an interfaith dialogue. “The goal of the trip, as expressed by our hosts: ‘We need to learn about you, and you need to learn about us,’” said Eric Goldstein, a Jewish leader in New York.

In particular, the two sides discussed the Charter of Makkah, a declaration on religious tolerance adopted in 2019 by Muslim leaders from 139 countries. The document’s first principle reads: “All people, regardless of their different ethnicities, races, and nationalities, are equal under God.”

If Mr. Biden’s trip is a success, it may be due in large part to a new search for a common command for love and equality that binds the world’s main religions.

What precedes Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia

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A Saudi woman walks with her daughter during afternoon hours in Riyadh, June 28.

In a couple of weeks, President Joe Biden plans a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia with two main aims: warm up ties between the oil-rich kingdom and an oil-distressed United States, and help pave the way for an expected Saudi recognition of Israel. Yet the warm-up has required more than official diplomacy and a difficult recalculation of shared interests between the two countries.

Just as important have been breakthroughs in religious ties between the birthplace of Islam and American Jews. In a June visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh, for example, a group of 13 Jewish leaders from New York met with Saudi leaders in an interfaith dialogue on the similarities and differences between Judaism and Islam.

“The goal of the trip, as expressed by our hosts: ‘We need to learn about you, and you need to learn about us,’” said Eric Goldstein, a prominent Jewish leader in New York.

In particular, the two sides discussed the Charter of Makkah, a declaration on religious tolerance adopted in 2019 by Muslim leaders from 139 countries. The document’s first principle reads: “All people, regardless of their different ethnicities, races, and nationalities, are equal under God.”

The new Saudi openness to both American and Israeli Jews reflects a profound move to shed the country’s past antisemitism, curtail its harsh teachings of Islam, and transform itself for a post-oil, Western-leaning future. Saudi textbooks, for instance, have been expunged of antisemitic tropes. Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, says he wants his country to be “open to the world and tolerant of other faiths.”

Normalizing ties with Jews must “go beyond governments, especially when you’re dealing with a sentiment that’s been embedded,” says Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy for combating and monitoring antisemitism.

In May, the Saudi regime hosted the first multifaith conference inside the country. Titled “Common Values Among the Followers of Religions,” the gathering included a large Jewish delegation. If Mr. Biden’s trip is a success, it may be due in large part to a new search for a common command for love and equality that binds the world’s main religions.

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.

No more panic attacks

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Faced with symptoms of a panic attack when he was home alone, a man found that turning to God, the divine Mind, brought quick and permanent healing.

No more panic attacks

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Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

I was at home by myself when I became overwhelmed by a feeling of mental numbness and almost dread. I felt disoriented, like I was in a fog. But I managed to find my way to the couch where I lay down, feeling an enormous mental weight that I didn’t think I could bear.

I realized I needed immediate help. I had never felt this way before, and though I’ve had other healings through prayer, I didn’t feel as though I had any frame of reference for finding relief in this situation. The idea to contact a Christian Science practitioner came to thought. I sent a practitioner a brief email asking for help and telling him I thought I might be having a panic attack.

Soon I felt my phone vibrate with an alert about an incoming email. It was the practitioner, assuring me of his immediate availability to help and reminding me that I could meekly let God, divine Mind, show me the way forward.

This is such a helpful starting point for dealing with mental health issues in general: knowing that God truly is the one and only infinite Mind, and that He is totally good. We can pray from the basis that as children of God, we reflect this Mind, which can never be panicked, anxious, or consumed with dark thoughts. Divine Mind is full of light, joy, and peace, and this is our only legitimate Mind.

In addition, we can trust that we are never on our own, struggling to find our way out of a scary problem. God’s thoughts are always there to comfort us and show us a way forward.

The practitioner also shared this passage from the textbook of Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy: “Let Christian Science, instead of corporeal sense, support your understanding of being, and this understanding will supplant error with Truth, replace mortality with immortality, and silence discord with harmony” (p. 495). This passage helped me see that instead of scrambling to find the ideas I needed to be healed, I could accept how completely cared for I already was and how dependable God’s care is.

This idea of letting divine Mind inform me, support me, and heal me – instead of it all being on me – came as such a relief. I was still disoriented and overwhelmed, but I also felt so much peace knowing that it was not my personal responsibility to make the panic go away. Soon, the fear started lifting.

Within an hour, I was able to take my dog for a walk. I still felt a little shaky, but I kept turning my thought to God with genuine interest and listening for what He had to say – for a better understanding of how much He loves me. I found myself less and less concerned about what had been happening and feeling more and more full of God’s love.

Within three hours, I felt exactly like myself again. And not only was I completely freed of this panic at that time, but I have never experienced that sort of attack again.

This healing proved to me that no matter what the pattern seems to be with panic attacks, it’s possible to find freedom from this issue – permanently and quickly. The law of Love, God, that freed me is universal. It’s a law for everyone, and it’s consistent.

The ideas that help you may be different from the ones that helped me. But as we go forward, we can lean completely on God, trusting that this law is always operating on our behalf, empowering us to find healing.

Adapted from an article published in the Christian Science Sentinel's online TeenConnect section, May 17, 2022.

Viewfinder

Vigil in San Antonio

Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Reuters
Maria Victoria de la Cruz reacts during a June 28, 2022, vigil for migrants who were smuggled across the border in a tractor-trailer, which was then abandoned in San Antonio, Texas. In all, 53 migrants died.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’ll have a film review of a new documentary about musician Leonard Cohen and his most famous song, “Hallelujah.”

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