2017
August
23
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Monitor Daily Podcast

August 23, 2017
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TODAY’S INTRO

Monitor Daily Intro for August 23, 2017

Does academia have a choice when it comes to censorship?

Cambridge University Press, which publishes China Quarterly, agreed recently to block 300 of its “sensitive” articles in the Chinese market.  A CUP official deemed the move “pragmatic,” as the press faced further action if it did not comply with Beijing’s request. But others saw a win for China’s interest in deploying economic clout to silence certain scholarship (think the Tiananmen Square protests). 

When word got out, academics rushed to remind the world’s oldest publishing house, an arm of one of the world’s oldest continuously operating universities, of the perils of ceding to censorship. CUP, which noted “the recent increases in requests of this nature,” unblocked the articles this week. China’s government has not yet responded.

The dust-up involved a small number of articles. But the outcry was rooted in something much larger: increasing pressure from President Xi Jinping to shut down critics and influence the market of ideas at home and abroad. As Chinese students have flocked to Western universities, for example, chapters of the Beijing-linked Chinese Students and Scholars Association have engaged in what some say are campaigns of harassment and censorship on issues that run counter to Beijing’s agenda. 

Those pressures will continue to intensify. But as one Australian professor told the Financial Times, “you have to stand up for your principles and if that hurts your economic bottom line, then so be it.”

Now, to our five stories of the day. 

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Collisions at sea: What’s behind slew of US Navy mishaps

Readiness is a key feature of military effectiveness. Now questions are being raised about whether demands on the service are being properly matched by resources and training.

Amelia

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A spate of collisions involving US Navy warships has tarnished that service branch’s reputation and called into question the safety of its sailors. The Navy is taking the situation seriously; it relieved the Seventh Fleet’s commander Wednesday. But a question hovers: Why have the collisions occurred? Analysts say there is no indication yet of malicious intent, whether by cyberattack or other means; rather, there is concern that financial constraints, coupled with high demands, are taking their toll on the ability of the military to safely and efficiently execute all that is being asked of it. It’s partly an issue of fewer ships and an intensified climate in the Pacific arena, in particular. “Over the last three or four years, there’s been a realization that the Navy is being stretched pretty thin,” says Bryan Clark, former special assistant to the chief of naval operations, the Navy’s highest ranking military officer. “It can all be taken back to this major root cause, which is supply not being able to keep up with demand.”

Collisions at sea: What’s behind slew of US Navy mishaps

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Calvin Wong/Reuters
Admiral Scott Swift, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, speaks at a news conference near the damaged USS John S. McCain and the USS America at Changi naval base in Singapore, Aug. 22, 2017.

A recent spate of collisions involving US Navy ships from the Seventh Fleet, two of them fatal, has led the Navy to relieve that fleet’s commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, reportedly after his superiors lost confidence in his leadership.

The latest collision, Monday off the coast of Singapore, was between the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain and a Liberian-flagged tanker. Ten sailors were reported missing, and the Navy says divers have located the remains of some of those missing in flooded compartments of the destroyer.

The mishap follows a similar tragedy in June, in which seven sailors died when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant vessel south of Japan. That followed two less serious but nonetheless unusual incidents involving ships of the Pacific-based Seventh Fleet in January and May.

According to analysts, the collisions call into question the Navy’s level of military preparedness and point to potential problems with training, maintenance, and the workload endured by sailors.

U.S. Navy/AP
Damage is visible as the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain steers toward Changi naval base in Singapore following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC. Ten sailors are missing.

What is going on?

It could all be down to coincidence – Monday’s collision, for example, occurred in a heavily traveled shipping lane – and any final conclusions on their cause will have to await the results of multiple investigations. Nevertheless, many analysts agree there may be some systemic problems at work here.

There is no indication yet of malicious intent, whether by cyberattack or other means, according to the Navy; rather, analysts say, there is concern that financial constraints, coupled with high demands, are taking their toll on the ability of the military to safely and efficiently execute all that is being asked of it.

“Over the last three or four years, there’s been a realization that the Navy is being stretched pretty thin,” says Bryan Clark, former special assistant to the chief of naval operations, the Navy’s highest ranking military officer.

“It can all be taken back to this major root cause, which is supply not being able to keep up with demand,” adds Mr. Clark, who is now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a public policy research institute based in Washington, D.C.

Long-term review

It is hard to deny that the collisions have tarnished the reputation of the Navy as well as called into question the safety of its sailors. And the organization is taking the situation seriously.

Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, imposed an immediate operational pause following the McCain collision and ordered a longer-term review. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Admiral Richardson said there was “great cause for concern that there’s something out there that we’re not getting at.”

Eugene Hoshiko/AP
The damaged USS Fitzgerald is docked at the US naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, June 18, after colliding with the Philippine-flagged container ship ACX Crystal off Japan the day before. Seven sailors died in the collision.

“We need to get at this, get it done,” Richardson said, “so that we can get the lessons learned, act on those root causes, and move forward.” And, he added, the investigation is to consider “every possibility,” including cyberattack or any other kind of intentional action.

The removal of Vice Adm. Aucoin, reportedly just weeks from his expected retirement, could raise suspicions he is taking the fall for issues with far deeper cause. But Bryan McGrath, deputy director of the Center for American Seapower at the Hudson Institute in Washington, says he supports the decision, citing the Navy’s history of responsibility and accountability as one of its foremost strengths.

“Vice Adm. Aucoin is a fantastic guy, a great naval officer, a combat hero – one of the best people in the Navy,” says Mr. McGrath. “But nobody is more connected to these incidents than him. He’s the first place where training, maintenance, and operational tempo all come together.”

It is in these areas – training, maintenance, and operational tempo – that many observers find fault with the current condition of the Navy.

Fewer ships, more demands

The number of ships has diminished in recent decades, falling from 375 in 1996 to 275 in 2016, and yet the demands have, if anything, increased. In particular, the Pacific arena has intensified, as China has flexed its maritime muscle and North Korea has bandied around threats of ballistic missile strikes.

As CSBA senior fellow Clark puts it, the region consequently has become “the canary in the coal mine” for any problems that may be manifesting themselves in the Navy at large.

While there is near-unanimity among analysts that no definitive conclusions can be drawn in advance of the verdict of the Navy’s investigations, there is also broad consensus that a lack of funding is likely to be the primary culprit.

Coming in for particularly scathing criticism is the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), something McGrath describes as “a deal with the devil,” apportioning blame equally between Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the White House.

The BCA was an effort to address the nation’s deficit by imposing budget caps on both defense and nondefense parts of the discretionary budget for 10 years.

“It vastly curtailed the amount of money available,” says John Schaus, a fellow in the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. That meant, for the Navy, that it had to choose between fundamental priorities such as buying new ships, paying its personnel, and maintaining its equipment.

U.S. Navy/AP
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam sails in the South China Sea. On Jan. 31, 2017, the Antietam ran aground while it was anchoring near Yokosuka base, the home port of the Navy’s Japan-based Seventh Fleet.

'Stretched very thin'

All in all, the strain under which the Navy has been operating these past years makes for little surprise when accidents occur, analysts say. Yet​ to have two such fatal incidents with two US destroyers, and in such quick succession, is “unprecedented,” says Rockford Weitz, director of the maritime studies program at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, outside Boston.

Dr. Weitz adds that on the one hand, the accidents are understandable, bearing in mind that the Malacca Straits and the Singapore Straits, close to where the McCain collided with the tanker, are some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Yet he concedes that another piece of the puzzle is indeed the Navy being both “cash-strapped” and “stretched very thin around the world.”

And the Navy is not the only branch of the military to be suffering. Clark, for example, points to a series of aviation accidents that has plagued the US Marine Corps in recent years.

“We’re now in a position where military readiness is not where it needs to be,” says McGrath of the Hudson Institute. “The Joint Chiefs consistently go to Capitol Hill and talk about current readiness and how the force is fraying, but perhaps they’re making the case too respectfully. It’s time for them to make the case more directly and bluntly.”

Jacob Turcotte/Staff

Has deepening war among Republicans begun to take a toll?

President Trump's hostile attitude toward the media is well known, even if it's intensifying. But his harsh take on key members of his own party has left many people wondering about the path forward.

Amelia

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Can President Trump govern successfully, despite growing alienation from his own party? He has succeeded against all odds as a political force in America. But after his raucous speech in Arizona Tuesday night, Mr. Trump is wading ever-deeper into uncharted waters. In a 77-minute stem-winder, Trump threatened to shut down the government if Congress didn’t fund the wall. He hinted at a pardon for the controversial former sheriff of Arizona, Joe Arpaio. Most shockingly, he implicitly attacked the state’s two senators, who are public Trump critics but also help make up the Senate’s slim two-seat Republican majority. Never before has a president intentionally disavowed members of his party before they abandoned him, historians say. And so the potential for intraparty stalemate looms – alarming party regulars, but not those looking to break the Washington establishment. “He seems on a collision course with his own party,” says historian David Pietrusza. “Many of his more convinced followers – and some not so convinced – welcome this, as so many voters cheer any opposition to the so-called swamp.”

Has deepening war among Republicans begun to take a toll?

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Rick Scuteri/AP
President Trump gestures to the crowd while speaking at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017.

Donald Trump has succeeded against all odds as a political force in America. But after his raucous campaign-style speech in Arizona Tuesday night, in which he implicitly attacked the state’s two Republican senators, President Trump is wading ever-deeper into uncharted waters.

Never before has an American president intentionally disavowed members of his party before they abandoned him, historians say.

And thus a critical question emerges just seven months into Mr. Trump’s presidency: Can he govern successfully, despite growing alienation from key members of his own party?

Republicans will have to pass legislation on their own, probably with some Democratic votes, and trust that Trump is willing to sign it – even if it doesn’t meet his demands, such as funding of the border wall, says presidential scholar Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“At the end of the day, he [will] sign something that keeps the government open and functioning, otherwise there will just be too much wailing and gnashing of teeth,” says Mr. Jillson, referring to two critical legislative actions looming – the raising of the debt ceiling and the funding of the government into the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

But in the current state of Trump-GOP tension, passing larger initiatives such as health and tax reform and funding for infrastructure may well be too long a throw, he adds.

In a 77-minute stem-winder Tuesday night, Trump seemed to be channeling his populist-nationalist former chief strategist Steve Bannon as he came out with one eye-popping statement after another: He threatened to shut down the government if Congress didn’t fund the wall. He said the North American Free Trade Agreement would probably be terminated. He hinted at a pardon for the controversial former Arizona sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

And perhaps most shockingly, he went after the state’s two Republican senators, though not by name: John McCain and Jeff Flake. Both have run afoul of Trump – Senator McCain in his surprise, decisive vote against consideration of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act; and Senator Flake, who recently published an anti-Trump book, “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.”

The shock comes not in Trump’s upset, but in his decision to go after two senators who help make up the Senate’s slim two-seat Republican majority – despite apparent warnings by presidential aides not to attack them. Senator Flake is up for reelection next year, and faces a primary. If he loses the primary, Democrats could take the seat, political analysts say. McCain faces a serious health challenge, and Trump did not acknowledge that or wish him a speedy recovery. Nor did he bring up Monday's Navy accident on the USS John S. McCain, named for the senator’s father and grandfather, that killed several sailors.

Trump even appeared to mock his own aides: “Please, please, Mr. President, don’t mention any names,” he said before hinting at criticism of McCain. Then he went on to Flake. “And nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who’s weak on borders, weak on crime, so I won’t talk about him,” Trump said.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, a New York Times story reported that the relationship between Trump and the Senate GOP leader, Mitch McConnell, had deteriorated to the point where they had not spoken in weeks also certainly fueled the president’s fiery rhetoric.

“McConnell, in private, doubts if Trump can save presidency,” read the headline.

That schism alone could be enough to sink Trump’s agenda. On Wednesday, McConnell did damage control, releasing a statement saying he and Trump have shared priorities.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we are committed to advancing our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation,” McConnell said in a statement.

The White House also issued a statement, saying the two men “remain united on many shared priorities, including middle class tax relief, strengthening the military, constructing a southern border wall, and other important issues” and would be holding previously scheduled meetings on these issues after Congress’ August recess.

Still, the president’s relationship with other Republicans has been increasingly rocky. His ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan have been transactional at best since Trump launched his political career. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska has been a “never Trumper” from Day One, though has consistently voted with his party when it mattered. Others have grown increasingly bold in questioning Trump’s fitness for office, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee and Senator Susan Collins of Maine.

But Trump is undeterred, and seems energized by the conflict – the upstart president versus the “swamp.”

During his speech Tuesday, Trump called on Senate Republicans to get rid of the filibuster and thus the need to garner 60 votes for most legislation. Senator McConnell has rejected that idea forcefully, looking ahead to a time when Republicans will inevitably be in the minority again and will need legislative tools to combat the Democrats. Trump has no interest in such far-sighted planning.

And so the potential for intra-party stalemate looms – a source of alarm to party regulars, but not those looking to break the Washington establishment, foremost among them Trump supporters.

“He seems on a collision course with his own party,” says historian David Pietrusza. “Many of his more convinced followers – and some not so convinced – welcome this, as so many voters cheer any opposition to the so-called ‘swamp.’”

Mr. Pietrusza identifies a series of 19th -century presidents he calls “accidental” – John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, and Chester Arthur, all of whom assumed the highest office after their predecessors died.

“All failed to hold their party’s trust,” he says. “And all were denied nomination for another term.”

Pietrusza notes that the power of the president has increased greatly since the 19th century, but concludes that when it comes to guiding an agenda through Congress “declaring war on one's own party in the Congress is definitely a fool's errand.”

Like many aspects of Trump’s presidency, the intra-party feud is unprecedented. But no one can predict with absolute certainty that, going forward, Trump won’t be able to make something of his time in office. On national security policy, in particular, he has wide-ranging powers. And after all, he has gone farther in his political career than most predicted, perhaps even he himself.

For Europe’s left, rising discomfort over Venezuela stance

For leftist leaders who vocally admired the Chávez experiment, pressure is rising to acknowledge the meltdown that has occurred in its wake.

Amelia
Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro speaks at a rally against US President Trump in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 14.

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Jeremy Corbyn, the old-school leftist who shocked Britain when he won control of the Labour Party in 2015, called Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez an “inspiration” in 2013, “to all of us fighting back against austerity and neoliberal economics in Europe.” Now, as the late Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, uses increasingly dictatorial means to maintain power, that sort of warm language is coming back to haunt Mr. Corbyn and European leftists like him who have lauded chavismo, Chávez's ideology. And some on the left are calling for a more cleareyed assessment in Europe of what is causing the unrest in Venezuela – and driving a flow of refugees to flee as far as Spain. “I think the left internationally is very confused around the question of Venezuela,” says Mike Gonzalez, a British historian and a former professor of Latin American studies at the University of Glasgow. “It is very distressing to lots of people who have given their lives and hopes and commitments to that hopeful process of change to come face-to-face with reality,” he says.

For Europe’s left, rising discomfort over Venezuela stance

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An inspiration, a hero: these are the words leftists in Europe lavished on the late Hugo Chavez for his “Bolivarian revolution” in Venezuela.

For British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and left-wing parties like Syriza and Podemos in southern Europe, Chavez’s ascendance was long the clearest challenge to inequality in Latin America, neoliberalism in Washington, and austerity at home.

Today, it's a decidedly foggier picture.

A humanitarian crisis is enveloping Venezuela. The country is turning increasingly dictatorial under President Nicolás Maduro. And that has placed those like Mr. Corbyn who praised chavismo, Chavez's ideology, into a political minefield. Now, some on the left are calling for a more clear-eyed assessment in Europe of what is happening in the troubled nation.

“I think the left internationally is very confused around the question of Venezuela,” says Mike Gonzalez, a British historian and a former professor of Latin American Studies at the University of Glasgow. “It is very distressing to lots of people who have given their lives and hopes and commitments to that hopeful process of change to come face-to-face with reality,” he says.

Asa Cusack, managing editor of the Latin America and Caribbean Center blog at the London School of Economics, wrote in a recent Guardian piece: "For many academics on the left, broadly supportive of chavismo's aims, this democratic slide has been a cause for much heartache and soul-searching.”

'By all sides'

Clashes between protesters and security forces have left more than 120 Venezuelans dead since March after Venezuela’s supreme court attempted to dissolve the opposition-controlled congress. Largely seen as a power grab, Maduro held a vote in July to form a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution. On Friday, the body acted to take over congress, effectively putting all power under the executive. In the meantime, food and medicine shortages worsen and thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing and seeking asylum.

It's put the international left in an uncomfortable position.

Mr. Corbyn, the old-school leftist who shocked Britain when he won control of the Labour Party in 2015, called Chavez an “inspiration” in 2013, “to all of us fighting back against austerity and neoliberal economics in Europe.”

Now the opposition leader is under pressure to clarify his stance. Speaking at an event earlier this month, when pressed on Maduro’s actions in Venezuela, he responded: “What I condemn is the violence that's been done by any side, by all sides, in all this.”

When he later criticized President Trump’s placing blame on “both sides” in the Charlottesville white supremacist march, his right-wing opponents lambasted him. Tory MP Andrew Rosindell told the Daily Mail: “Jeremy Corbyn is being totally hypocritical. He refuses to condemn his extremist far-left comrades in Venezuela and then attacks Donald Trump for using exactly the same words to avoid attacking the far right in the US.”

Dr. Cusack says he supports the fact that Corbyn’s statements on Venezuela have underlined that both sides have resorted to violence – which he says the media fails to report – and that Corbyn urged a peaceful solution even as many have simply assumed that Venezuela is condemned to civil war.

But being explicitly critical of Maduro – even distinguishing between Chavez’s successes (and failures) and Maduro's democratic backsliding – puts Corbyn in a political bind. “Partly why he can’t go down that road is because it will be used as a stick to beat him with.”

Hard truths

Such associations have dogged other leaders in Europe, from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who attended Chavez’s funeral in 2013, to Spain’s left-wing Podemos, whose leaders served as advisers to Chavez.

On Facebook, Podemos founder Pablo Iglesias earlier this month called for dialogue between both sides. “Neither chavismo nor anti-chavismo will cease to exist and hopefully the leaders of both sides understand that the worst agreement is preferable to conflict,” he wrote.

Critics panned his comments as false equivalence, particularly as Venezuelans have become the No. 1 group seeking asylum in Spain, surpassing Syrians and Ukrainians.

Indeed, the Venezuelan crisis is as polarizing outside of the country and the ideological cleavages run deep. Some on the right are using events in Venezuela to tar socialism broadly, says Cusack, which he calls “overblown.” At the same time, some on the left seek to defend Venezuela’s path at all costs. Mr. Gonzalez addressed such people in a piece entitled “Being Honest about Venezuela” that he penned this month in The Jacobin. “Others on the Left have chosen to say nothing or ignore the complex reality” in Venezuela, he wrote. “Whatever their motives, their silence amounts to complicity with a new ruling class that hides behind the language of socialism.”

His criticism has garnered praise – and backlash from leftist true believers who accuse him of being an agent of the CIA. But he says the international left has a job before it. “The Left outside Venezuela can help rebuild the movement,” he summed up in The Jacobin, “by participating in an honest accounting of what went wrong.”

So far, however, they are not taking cues from their leadership. French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy recently condemned Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the French leftist who almost upset the French presidential election, for refusing to condemn Maduro or admit the mistakes of Chavez before him.

In an opinion piece this month he wrote: “Like Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, and Jeremy Corbyn in Great Britain, Mélenchon and his ‘rebellious’ followers seem to believe that bloody hands can be excused in the struggle against ‘imperialism.’ ”

In Rio, a bid to preserve a darker side of Brazilian history

To inform the future, it's important to understand the past. In Rio de Janeiro, there's an app for that – a techie answer to surfacing a history that has literally been paved over but should not be forgotten.

Amelia
Renata Brito/AP
Gabriele Roza, who helped develop the "Museum of Yesterday" app, walks in the renovated port area of Rio de Janeiro. The app seeks to educate visitors about local history and Rio's role during colonial times, slavery, and even recent corruption investigations.

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Rio de Janeiro’s port is home to the Museum of Tomorrow, a flashy addition before the 2016 Olympics. But now, it’s also home to the “Museum of Yesterday” – which fits in your pocket. The app, created by a local journalism nonprofit, is a virtual walking tour inspired by Pokémon Go. But its purpose is much weightier: to educate visitors about the area’s role in dark chapters of history, particularly slavery, whose footprints here have sometimes literally been buried from view under new construction. It’s estimated that 4.7 million Africans were brought to Brazil from the transatlantic slave trade – more than 10 times as many as those brought to the United States – and some 2 million docked in Rio and the surrounding region. Slavery was abolished in 1888, making Brazil the last country in the Americas to do so; today, more than half of the population identifies as mixed-race or black. “In order to understand racial divides today, we have to look at the legacy of slavery – Brazil didn’t get this way out of nowhere,” says Gabriele Roza, a university student who helped develop the app. 

In Rio, a bid to preserve a darker side of Brazilian history

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Just as rush hour begins in Rio de Janeiro’s Port Zone, bordering the city’s bustling downtown, Gabriele Roza looks kitty-corner across a busy street. Between buses and taxis rushing through the intersection, she points to a small plaza: half a dozen buildings fan out, all tagged with graffiti and some with broken windows. They’re a reminder of the city’s uncomfortable history – although there’s no way to tell at first glance. 

“This was the main area of resistance,” Ms. Roza says. “This is where Africans and their descendants would do things that were banned.” From capoeira martial arts to samba to candomblé religious traditions, some of the modern-day cultural hallmarks of Brazil were fostered clandestinely behind these walls during the days of slavery.

There’s not much sign of what this region used to be: the largest slave port in the Americas; a gruesome slave market; the center of economic activity for not just colonial Brazil, but the entire Portuguese Empire.

Renata Brito/AP
Remnants of a house that was used as a slave deposit in the late 18th century stand in the port area of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 9. Before abolishing slavery in 1888, becoming the last country in the Americas to do so, Brazil was the world's largest slave market.

Until now. As Roza looks at her cell phone, a flashing icon appears. Click, and a photo with text pops up: She’s standing in what was called the “Casa de Zungu,” the app explains, where cheap angu, a dish made of corn, was sold to dockhands and freed slaves. Today, one restaurant in the small plaza has continued the tradition, keeping angu on the menu.

It’s part of a new augmented reality app called the Museum of Yesterday: a deliberate contrast to the flashy Museum of Tomorrow, built ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics. Its creators, local journalism nonprofit Agência Pública, describe the app as a combination of journalism, art, and technology, inspired by Pokémon Go.

For years, many Brazilians have said the country’s story of slavery is being buried from view – literally, in Rio, where new developments have hidden key historical sites. The consequences of that ‘invisibility,’ they argue, are felt today, in the diverse country’s urgent debates about racial inequality, with mixed-race and black citizens disproportionately impacted by poverty and violence.

The Museum of Yesterday app is trying to make that invisible history visible. As users walk through Rio’s Port Zone, icons on its map flash at points of interest, and users can “unlock” information: old photos and illustrations, informational text in English or Portuguese, recordings of old newspaper ads for slaves, and other scenes of everyday life during the 18th and 19th centuries.

“In order to understand racial divides today, we have to look at the legacy of slavery – Brazil didn’t get this way out of nowhere,” says Roza, a member of her university’s black student group who conducted research for the app.

Legacy of yesterday

Activists, educators and historians have long been troubled by the lack of recognition the area gets for its historical significance – which they say is emblematic of Brazil’s current-day struggle with racial inequality. Civil society is left with the responsibility of keeping the neighborhood’s dark history alive and in the public’s consciousness.

“It’s never been a big priority by the government to preserve this part of history and culture of Brazil,” says Mariana Simões, a manager at Agência Pública. “It’s sad that we don’t have a lot of resources devoted to this, and that there are few initiatives that are trying to bring more visibility to this history.”

It’s estimated that 4.7 million Africans were brought to Brazil from the transatlantic slave trade – more than 10 times the number brought to the United States – and some 2 million docked in Rio and the surrounding region. Today, more than half of Brazil’s 200 million people identify as mixed-race or black. But only 5 percent of companies were run by Afro-Brazilians in 2014, and in 2015, only about 20 percent of deputies in the lower house of the legislature were black or mixed-race. Seventy-two percent of residents in Brazil’s low-income favela settlements identify as black, and three-quarters of those killed by police are black men.

Anna Jean Kaiser
The Pedra do Sal, or Salt Rock, in Rio's Port Zone is a stop on the Museum of Yesterday tour. The space has been an informal center for samba since the musical genre was invented by Africans in Rio. Today, crowds flood the plaza and granite slope every week for live samba sessions.

“The port breathes black history and culture, but for the government and others throughout history to erase this – it’s as if the story isn’t legitimatized, as if it never existed, and as if there are no problems to address today because of this legacy,” Roza says.

“It’s our history, so we’re trying to grasp it, reconstruct it and remember it,” she adds. “These initiatives to rescue history end up coming from social movements, the black movement and academic groups.”

A central city

Ms. Simões says the Port Zone was an obvious choice for a history-driven augmented reality app.

“So much of Brazil’s history is in this region – colonization, slavery, the seat of the Portuguese royal family in Brazil, even modern-day corruption,” she says, referring to a $2.5 billion infrastructure project for the area ahead of the 2016 Olympics, which is now part of the nation’s largest-ever corruption investigation. The app has five different tours, including one focused on corruption and another on samba.

Lately, improvements have brought much more visibility and foot traffic to the neighborhood, she says, but there hasn’t been much attempt to do its history justice – which makes it the perfect time and place for an app to “put history in your hand.”

Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1888. Since then, however, many accuse the country of deliberately covering up that legacy: in Rio, for example, slave wharves were filled in with landfill, the names of streets and plazas were changed, and the world’s largest known mass grave for enslaved people was built over with houses. 

But in recent years, some of this history has been unearthed. A family living on top of the cemetery rediscovered the mass grave in 1996, and made it into a small museum. Before the Olympics, a massive revitalization project unearthed the Valongo Wharf, where enslaved people disembarked after the Middle Passage. The wharf’s remnants, a focus of the Museum of Yesterday tour, gained World Heritage status last month from UNESCO, which called them “the most important physical trace of the arrival of African slaves on the American continent.”

'Open your eyes'

Just a few blocks past the Valongo Wharf lies the Valongo slave market – today, an unassuming plaza.

“Open your eyes and ears to realize what’s in front of you: a shop for slaves!” the app says as users approach the site, which functioned as a slave market for more than 100 years. “These were warehouses of people … sitting on benches or lying on the ground, chained up and waiting for buyers.”

Users also see the roots of samba music at sites like Pedra do Sal, a granite mountainside that was once a community for escaped slaves, and the hangout spot for sambistas after slavery was abolished – there are still free samba performances here every week. Near the slave market, users pass the Casa Tia Ciata: a small museum that’s homage to a candomblé priestess who’s credited for being a leader of the samba resistance movement. 

Since the app’s launch a month ago, there have been more than 2,500 downloads. Agência Pública is hoping to expand its reach by holding workshops for professors, teachers, and tour guides to encourage them to incorporate the technology into their work.

“The app is meeting a demand; people are interested,” Simões says. “Brazilians are definitely curious to know more about their own history.”

‘Young workers, come home’: recruiters try appealing to roots

It doesn't seem to jibe with the "go West" model of American dreaming. But employers seeking fresh talent are finding the pull of home to be a powerful recruiting tool, even in areas where new frontiers aren't immediately obvious. 

Amelia

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It’s an age-old story: People with talent and drive leave the farm, or the small metro, to seek their fortune in the big city. But these days, some cities, states, and individuals are trying to counter those “brain drain” patterns. Workers with skills and experience are being lured back to their places of origin – with part of the sales pitch being the appeal of hometown ties. Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Cleveland hold events to showcase job opportunities to successful transplants who might move back. In the Northeast, recruiter Ed McKersie has launched Live and Work in Maine, a program that gets funding from the state government. Among those drawn by his efforts is Nic Graves, who moved his family back for a sales job after years in Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and California. It’s economic development for Maine. It’s reconnecting with family and community for Mr. Graves. “You really get a chance to know faces and get engrained in the community,” he says. “In bigger cities the faces kind of blend together.”

‘Young workers, come home’: recruiters try appealing to roots

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Jessica Reilly/Telegraph Herald/AP
Chris Schroeder applies an acrylic adhesive while assembling a pipette rack at IBI Scientific, a lab-equipment manufacturer in Peosta, Iowa. Skilled workers often in short supply in the current economy, including in states like Iowa where educated residents often leave for school or career opportunities in big cities. Some locales are trying to lure more of those people back.

Alana Greer was sure she’d never return to Miami.

“I was very anti-moving home for a really long time,” says the civil rights attorney, who graduated from Harvard Law School and worked in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., before resettling near her childhood home in Coral Gables. “But I can’t imagine myself anywhere else right now.”

Ms. Greer is co-founder of the Community Justice Project, a nonprofit law firm that works with grassroots groups on racial justice issues. She says she can bring local knowledge to her work – and build something new – in a way that wouldn’t be very easy elsewhere. 

Miami isn’t a “small” city by any stretch, but its footprint in industries that define more globally renowned metros – media, tech, finance – leaves a lot of room for growth. That growth can be helped by people like Greer, namely, top-flight young workers who leave to go to school and establish careers, then come home.

It’s a trajectory that businesses in areas of the country with a dearth of young talent, from Maine to Detroit, are working to cultivate. For companies, a workforce made up of returned locals has advantages: They bring skills and experience that they may not have had access to had they stayed, but having friends and family nearby makes them more likely to stick around. “It’s less risky to bring somebody back than someone with no ties,” says Ed McKersie, a recruiter in Maine and the founder and president of ProSearch, a staffing firm based in Portland. “They certainly know what they’re getting themselves into.”

In a national context, too, recruiting people with local roots could act as a counterweight to increased economic segregation of talent and education into a few, hyper-privileged locales – a trend that many have argued is increasing the country’s social inequality.

“What many communities need most is not just financial support, but talent and energy,” the author J.D. Vance, who relocated from Silicon Valley back to his home state of Ohio this year, wrote in a New York Time op-ed in March. 

'Live and work in Maine'

Mr. McKersie has grappled for years with the challenge of luring prospects to Maine. The state nicknamed “Vacationland” swells with millions of tourists during the summer months, but its year-round population is small and, on average, the oldest in the nation. A super-low unemployment rate (3.5 percent in 2016) hints at an acute need for working-age talent.

“I think the biggest challenge is perception,” he says. “In our efforts to market it as a great place to unwind, people got the message that there isn’t a lot going on. There are world-class companies here, a lot of employers who are having difficulty recruiting locally because the pool is relatively small. As the economy grows we have to recruit outside the state.”

In 2015, McKersie launched Live and Work in Maine, a program that gets funding from the state government. He uses social media and leverages relationships with the state’s universities to identify far-flung candidates with local ties. It’s a promising strategy, he says, because those recruits “certainly know what they’re getting themselves into,” including the region’s notoriously harsh winters.

Those didn’t deter Nic Gallant, who moved back to Maine with his wife this past January. “I wouldn’t recommend it,” he laughs.

Mr. Gallant grew up in Mapleton, a rural town in the northern part of the state. He left after college and built up his career in D.C., Chicago, and California before being recruited by McKersie’s firm to work as a sales training manager at Certify, a Portland-based software company.

“What they were looking for and my background were sort of a perfect match,” he says. “I had gone out and built this experience elsewhere, and they wanted someone with that experience who was also willing to move back to Maine.”

The Gallant family recently bought a house near Portland, something that was out of their reach in San Francisco or D.C. Being home, Gallant says, has been “a breath of fresh air. Both of our families live in Maine, and it’s an opportunity to spend more time with those who we are closest with.”

Because of Portland’s small size, about 67,000 people, “You really get a chance to know faces and get engrained in the community,” Gallant says. “In bigger cities the faces kind of blend together.” 

Countering social segregation

Getting people to follow Gallant’s lead is a high priority for cities and states across the US. In addition to its recruiting efforts, Maine offers student loan reimbursement for graduates of the state’s university system who elect to live and work in the state. Lawmakers in Connecticut have proposed a similar program. Rust belt cities like Detroit and Cleveland hold events to showcase work opportunities to successful transplants who might come back for the right job. The 43North competition offers generous grants to tech startups – as long as they are willing to relocate to Buffalo, N.Y.

They’re efforts to rebalance a lopsided talent distribution. Migration patterns show that people with college degrees are far more likely to move across state lines than their less-educated counterparts. That’s long had the effect of draining talent from rural areas into cities, but it’s starting to affect certain regions of the country as well, particularly the Midwest and parts of the Northeast. 

Many, including Mr. Vance, argue that this increases economic segregation and even political polarization. “The brain drain also encourages a uniquely modern form of cultural detachment. Eventually, the young people who’ve moved out marry – typically to partners with similar economic prospects,” he writes. “They raise children in increasingly segregated neighborhoods, giving rise to something the conservative scholar Charles Murray calls ‘super ZIPs.’... There have always been regional and class inequalities in our society, but the data tells us that we’re living through a unique period of segregation.”

Mr. Vance stops short in his writing, and his actions, of advocating that successful people compromise their futures by moving back to save their hometowns for the sake of it. He relocated his family to Columbus, a thriving college town, not a desperate part of the Rust Belt. Still, he pinpoints the selling point that people like McKersie, in Maine, are trying to leverage: “Part of me loves Ohio simply because it’s home.”

Greer, in Miami, says that level of comfort has allowed her to throw herself into her social justice work more fully than she could elsewhere. “Having no winter is a very big deal,” she laughs. “But also being around family, friends who understand me on a different level and who challenge me. I’m bringing my full self to the work, not just my work self, and that’s a very important part of growing my career.”

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Afghanistan’s deeper challenge

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It became clear early in the 16-year Afghanistan War that rampant corruption in the country significantly affected US efforts to bring stability. Today, President Trump’s blueprint explicitly rejects “nation-building” as a goal. But longtime Afghanistan-watchers say that building confidence in government and rule of law can be one of the most effective antiterror strategies. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made anticorruption a priority when he came to office. And new signs of progress have emerged, such as the convictions last week of a highly ranked general and a key businessman in an Afghan anticorruption court. The burden of corruption on hopes and aspirations can feel heavy indeed. Ill-gotten gains may seem the way of the world. But moral courage and truth rise up, sometimes where we least expect them. And when they do, as many tyrants have found, human history takes a turn for good.

Afghanistan’s deeper challenge

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai visits the Amani High School in Kabul in 2014.

As President Trump launched a “new strategy” in Afghanistan this week, there are signs of progress on an issue he did not target but that is perhaps even more important to Afghanistan’s future – the battle to ease the burdens of corruption.

Last week, a highly ranked general and a key businessman – Gen. Mohammad Moeen Faqir and Abdul Ghafar Dawi – were tried, convicted, and sentenced in an anticorruption court. “These cases show that money and power are not a guarantee,” Attorney General Farid Hamidi told The Washington Post. “We still do not have complete justice in Afghanistan, but we no longer have complete impunity.”

The burden of corruption on hopes and aspirations can feel heavy indeed. Ill-gotten gains may seem the way of the world. But moral courage and truth can find space, sometimes where we least expect them. And when they do, history can turn.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made anticorruption a priority when he came to office. For instance, he has established anticorruption courts tasked with issues ranging from bribery and tax collection to false licenses and the rights of retirees.

“This is the most progress they’ve seen in a long time,” says Earl Anthony Wayne, a former deputy ambassador to Afghanistan and global fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington. 

It became clear early in the 16-year Afghanistan War that rampant corruption in the country significantly affected US efforts to bring stability. President George Bush’s efforts to stifle the nation’s drug economy backfired, and President Barack Obama’s repeated calls on then-President Hamid Karzai to crack down on corruption fizzled.

President Trump’s blueprint for America’s longest war explicitly rejects “nation-building” as a goal. It involves a mini-surge of US troops, an end to arbitrary time limits for deployment or withdrawal, and a notice to Pakistan that supporting terrorists will no longer be tolerated. But longtime Afghanistan-watchers say that building confidence in government and rule of law can be one of the most effective antiterror strategies. 

“Helping foster the development of accountable institutions that are responsive to the people and subject to a relatively equitable rule of law is critical,” says Sarah Chayes, senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Instead, we empowered and reinforced a mafia government, racked by cronyism.” Her book on the costs of corruption, “Thieves of State,” is based on her 10 years working in Afghanistan, including as an adviser to the US military.

Some of the push for serious anticorruption measures is coming from donors impatient with seeing billions in aid landing in corrupt private hands. But worldwide, a new generation of young people – frustrated with seeing their futures siphoned to Swiss bank accounts or expensive cars – are pressuring governments from the street. April’s anticorruption protests in Romania were organized by high school students. On March 26, anticorruption protests broke out in more than 90 Russian cities, with heavy representation among youth. A grade-schooler addressed protesters in the Siberian city of Tomsk.

“These protests on the street are very helpful, but what is more important is that civil societies develop the technical skills to understand what corruption is – and convince partners in the private sector that a corruption-free international market is much better for them,” says Peter Eigen, the founder of Transparency International, a leading anticorruption nongovernmental organization. 

Mr. Eigen, who worked with President Ghani on corruption issues at the World Bank in the 1990s, says that Ghani has the background to develop credible institutions and resources to deal with corruption.  

“There is a possibility to change things,” he adds. “But it will take a very strong coalition between a locally based civil society – not just do-gooders from Germany and the US – to deal with corruption and lift the standard of integrity. The national government cannot be the leader. It has to be in cooperation with an organized civil society that is becoming stronger and stronger, with more wisdom and more courage.”

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.

Hatred is not us

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Sometimes we may find ourselves feeling dislike or even hate for someone. But we are all capable of thinking and acting in accord with what God has created us as – the reflection of divine Love. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” the Apostle Paul wrote (Romans 8:16). It’s not right to tolerate or ignore hate-fueled actions. But recognizing that hatred is inconsistent with this true, spiritual identity can quiet fear, awaken thought to what’s right, and enable healing and reformation.

Hatred is not us

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Around the world and throughout history, hate has reared its ugly head. But we don’t need to accept this as an endless, inevitable cycle. Looking more deeply at what we truly are reveals a path out of hatred for victims and perpetrators alike.

It’s ironic, perhaps, that this essential element in healing hate was articulated so simply, so profoundly, by someone who had just been convicted of a hate crime.

“That is not me,” said Kayla Norton earlier this year, after a judge sentenced her to 15 years in prison for shouting racial slurs and threatening violence at a child’s birthday party. “That is not me.”

Ms. Norton was not denying what she had done. She was refusing to associate herself with something that, at least in hindsight, felt so completely foreign to her.

How often do we find ourselves thinking the very same thing – if not in response to some racial slur we let slide, then maybe some lesser expression of contempt for a neighbor, a co-worker, a family member, a politician?

“For the good that I would I do not,” wrote Paul the Apostle, expressing the mental struggle we all face at one time or another, “but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19).

Paul’s answer to this paradox begins with an inspired affirmation of his innate, if latent, Christliness – our true nature as the creation of God, divine Spirit. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” he wrote later, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16, 17).

Whenever we feel ourselves disliking or even hating someone, what’s actually happening is that we’re seeing ourselves in the opposite way of how Spirit knows us, and therefore believe ourselves incapable of being the genuinely loving individuals that God, divine Love itself, has created us as. When this happens, sometimes all it takes is a heartfelt “That is not me” or the divine assurance that we are children of God to rouse our thought, quiet our fear, and at least begin the process of healing and reformation.

This also works when confronting the hatred we see expressed in others. In Norton’s case, one of her victims, who spoke at her sentencing, leaned toward Norton and said, “I forgive ... you. I don’t have any hate in my heart.” This isn’t to say we tolerate or ignore hate-fueled actions. But we can affirm everyone’s true, spiritual identity and acknowledge, “That is not you. You are a child of God.”

We can all find opportunities to put these ideas into practice, either in the form of an earnest “That is not me” or an equally sincere “That is not you” – or perhaps even both. The effect, although maybe not immediately obvious, can be far-reaching. “Jesus, what precept is like thine,” begins one of my favorite hymns. “Forgive, as ye would be forgiven; / If heeded, O what power divine / Would then transform our earth to heaven” (Mary A. Livermore, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 163, adapt. © CSBD).

Adapted from an article originally published at Communities Digital News, March 4, 2017.

Viewfinder

Calling all buses (and bugs)

Valentin Flauraud/Keystone/AP
A 'land art' painting of a Volkswagen Bus, by French artist Saype, took over a hill in Château d'Oex, Switzerland. The artwork, covering nearly 5,000 square yards, was produced using more than 100 gallons of biodegradable paint made from natural pigments, water, and a milk protein. The artwork is aimed at welcoming attendees of a VW festival here this coming weekend.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )

A look ahead

Thanks for joining us today. Tomorrow, we'll home in on an eye-catching shift in the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia is making a full U-turn and aligning itself with Shiite-dominated Iraq.

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