David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

When it comes to immigration, what makes you feel safest?

The US Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a federal law to require the deportation of immigrants who commit crimes of violence was too vague. It’s the latest example of how federal, state, and city governments are taking different approaches on how to improve security.

While US-Mexican border detentions are at a 47-year low, in recent months they’ve jumped from 23,555 in February 2017 to 36,369 in February 2018. The president recently ordered the National Guard to help beef up border security. Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico sent troops. But California is still negotiating its terms of engagement.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has filed a lawsuit against California’s “sanctuary” law, which limits the participation of state and local police in federal immigration enforcement.

But a rising number of California cities are siding with President Trump. On Monday, Los Alamitos joined at least nine other Orange County cities opposing the state “sanctuary” law.

Unfortunately, this discussion is often framed in extremes, rather than nuance. One Orange County politician said: “Our communities are safer when we work with each other and trust each other, not when we operate under a police state.” An opponent argued: “Nobody is above the [federal] law….”

Rule of law, trust, security, freedom, compassion. None of these principles work in a vacuum. California offers a window on a healthy democratic struggle to see these values rebalanced and reflected in their government.

Now to our five selected stories, including a look at ingenuity in Puerto Rico, the bitcoin quest for global trust, and why Americans are surprisingly supportive of paying taxes. 

1. Russia wants US military out of Syria, but still sees key US role

Russia may resent and object to the US military presence in Syria. President Trump says he’s ready to pull troops out. But there’s a growing realization in Moscow that a path to a lasting peace needs US diplomatic cooperation.


Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 5 Min. )

The Kremlin was serious, Russian analysts say, when it hinted its forces in Syria would return fire on US targets should any missiles endanger Russian lives. So when Friday night’s US-led missile strikes on alleged Syrian chemical weapons sites went off without military response from Russia – thanks in large part to behind-the-scenes coordination between US and Russian military “deconfliction” teams – a bullet was dodged. Moscow remains convinced that the US has no coherent endgame for Syria, and that its continued occupation of about a third of Syrian territory, together with its allies, has no purpose other than to play the role of spoiler. But bringing a lasting political settlement to the Syrian civil war may yet require US involvement. Experts say that the Russian-led peace process, which excludes the United States and its allies, is not going well. That likely means that a return to the previous Geneva process, which involved the West directly, will be necessary. “It's becoming clear that there can be no workable settlement for Syria without direct agreement and cooperation between the US and Russia,” says Vladimir Sotnikov, an independent Middle East expert.


Russia wants US military out of Syria, but still sees key US role

Whatever the message the US hoped to send Russia with its carefully orchestrated missile barrage Friday on alleged chemical warfare sites in Syria, it doesn't seem to have changed any minds in the Kremlin.

Moscow remains convinced that the US has no coherent endgame for Syria, and its continued occupation of about a third of Syrian territory, together with its allies, has no purpose other than to play the role of spoiler, analysts here say. And in the aftermath of the missile strikes, Moscow will continue to back the increasingly successful military campaign to restore all of Syria to control by Bashar al-Assad's central government.

But while Russia regard the US as a trespasser in the region militarily, it still needs Washington's help to end the conflict through diplomacy. The Kremlin continues to pursue a peace process excluding the United States and its allies that they initiated together with Iran and Turkey last year, but experts say it is stumbling. That likely means that a return to the previous Geneva process, which involved the West directly, will be necessary.

“It's becoming clear that there can be no workable settlement for Syria without direct agreement and cooperation between the US and Russia,” says Vladimir Sotnikov, an independent Middle East expert.

Hassan Ammar/AP
A Syrian soldier on Saturday films the damage of the Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, near Damascus, Syria, which was attacked by US, British, and French military strikes to punish President Bashar al-Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians.

Avoiding a military conflict

Analysts say that Moscow was serious when it hinted that it would strike back against US warships in the Mediterranean or other launch platforms if any Russian lives were endangered by US missiles. But despite Donald Trump's tweets – “get ready Russia, because they will be coming” – they say that the exchange of explosive declarations last week turned out to be mostly theater.

Kremlin-connected analysts say that US and Russian military “deconfliction” teams that have been quietly coordinating on the ground in Syria for months worked together to ensure that Russian air defenses would be switched off that night and no cruise missile trajectories came near any Russians.

“Russia's official reaction is to denounce these strikes as illegal and wrong,” says Pavel Zolotaryev, deputy director of the official Institute of USA-Canada Studies (ISKRAN). “They came just before a team of inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] was to begin its work at the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma. The fact that US leaders weren't ready to wait for inspectors to do their job indicates they wanted to make a military statement, and didn't want it to be clouded by whatever the inspectors might find.

“Luckily, the Pentagon and Russian Ministry of Defense were in close contact, and made certain there would be no complications. So, the strikes had a mostly political and symbolic character. Yet they have introduced new tensions into the US-Russia relationship, which was already very bad,” he adds.

A top Russian military official is now suggesting that Moscow may equip Syria with its second-to-latest anti-aircraft system, the S-300, to deter future strikes by the US and its allies. “A few years ago, taking into account a pressing request from some of our Western partners, we abandoned the supplies of the S-300 missile systems to Syria. Considering the latest developments, we deem it possible to get back to discussing this issue,” said Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian general staff.

The (non-)threat of sanctions

This fresh source of tensions comes amid a widening storm of tensions between Russia and the West. The row with Britain over Russia's alleged involvement in the nerve-agent poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter continues to boil. Mutual rounds of diplomatic expulsions have slashed the physical infrastructure of relations to the bone, leaving Russia and the US in particular almost incapable of carrying out normal contacts.

And the US, which earlier this month slapped sanctions on a list of Putin-connected “oligarchs,” floated the idea of introducing more, though the White House has taken it off the table for now. The earlier round of sanctions caused the ruble to slide and the Russian stock market to tumble. New measures may hurt even more wealthy Russians active in the West and, ironically, actually help the Kremlin by compelling them to bring their money home to Russia.

The method of squeezing tycoons who are close to Putin in the hope they will force him to change course, seems to ignore the reality that Putin's main accomplishment after coming to power almost two decades ago was to restore the primacy of the state. It was tried in the first round of anti-Russia sanctions following the annexation of Crimea four years ago and has yet to show any results.

“We've gotten used to living with sanctions,” says Mr. Sotnikov. Russia's economy, which slipped into recession following the first wave of sanctions and plunging oil prices four years ago, racked up 2 percent growth in 2017 and seems on track for at least that much this year. “There are areas of solid business cooperation between the US and Russia, which go on despite all these tensions, and it would be a shame if they were harmed.”

Mukhtar Kholdorbekov/Reuters
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (l.) speaks with other participants during the international meeting on Syria in Astana, Kazakhstan, in March.

A diplomatic role for Washington

The larger question about Syria is whether Russia and the US can cooperate in the endgame and bring a lasting political settlement to the brutal, seven-year-long civil war. Experts say that the Russian-led “Astana Process,” so named for the Kazakhstan capital where the talks have been held, is not going well.

“The military situation in Syria is far better than it was a year ago. But, despite these meetings with Turkey and Iran, a political settlement looks no closer,” says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow-based foreign policy journal. “Russia's relationship with these two partners, Turkey and Iran, is very difficult, as are the relations between them. Putin puts a lot of effort into trying to keep his relations with [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan on track, but it's clearly very hard to do.”

Turkey issued a statement of support for last weekend's US missile strikes, while Iran appears disappointed with Russia's failure to deter them, Mr. Lukyanov says.

That's partially why the US and other Western nations will need to be brought back in to the process, to balance the demands of all the regional players. But that remains difficult while Russia and the US each continue their military campaigns.

“Things are certainly more complicated in the wake of these strikes. Russia is now worried that they may be repeated at any moment,” says Sotnikov. “But communication is still going on between us and the Americans in Syria – it's actually quite effective – and so there is hope that this dismal picture can be changed for the better.”

Share this article


2. Anxiety? Pique? For some, Tax Day brings sense of civic duty.

Scratch the surface of American attitudes about paying taxes, and what we learned was a bit counterintuitive. This is not the Boston Tea Party, rather it’s taxation with representation. Most folks see taxes as a democratic duty and an obligatory step to a better world.

Matt Rourke/AP
A mail carrier collects last-minute tax returns outside the main post office in Philadelphia several years ago.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 5 Min. )

With the midterm congressional elections coming into view, Republicans are touting lower taxes as a big win they’ve scored for the voting public. Yet the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed by President Trump last year, is proving to be a test for the notion that tax cuts are always popular. More Americans disapprove of the law than like it. That reflects deep partisan divides, plus some doubts about whether individual taxes will really go down. But another factor may be more basic. Voters largely view taxpaying as a civic duty, and their views on fiscal policy often hinge on a sense of national or community priorities, not just the near-term effect it will have on their bank accounts. “We’re a community,” says Sue Sedlazek, a resident of Leesburg, Va. “We all benefit by paying in for services.” That sense of civic responsibility represents something widely shared across the nation, and it’s essential to the health of a democratic government, says researcher Vanessa Williamson. “People’s attitudes about [paying taxes],” she says, “are really the core of their attitudes about democracy.” 


1. Anxiety? Pique? For some, Tax Day brings sense of civic duty.

Today is tax day in the United States and, of course, not many people would call that a fun thing. But here's a twist to consider: The vast majority of Americans view paying taxes as an act of civic virtue, not of onerous government coercion.

Yes, Americans often voice concerns about how their money is spent. Yes, they have doubts about whether taxes are fairly apportioned across the population. But research shows that for most people, the primary feeling about taxes isn't generally one of rebellion against their own burden.

"I take my lumps and pay," says Sue Sedlazek, a longtime resident of Leesburg, Va. 

For Ms. Sedlazek, this stoic attitude is backed by something deeper. "We're a community," she says. "We all benefit by paying in for services."

That notion of communal duty is echoed in the views of many taxpayers across America. Yet it may seem surprising, given the "tax revolt" theme that has surfaced so often in US politics since the 1970s. Tax cuts, pushed most often by Republicans, have been a recurring agenda item at the federal level. And heading into this year's midterm elections, congressional Republicans are banking on their 2017 tax-cut package as a key selling point to voters.

"We tend to underestimate the extent to which Americans view paying taxes as a civic responsibility," says Vanessa Williamson, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, and author of the 2017 book "Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes."

From her survey-based research, she says: "It's not just something that's widely believed, it's actually deeply believed."

This may be part of the reason why President Trump and Republicans have struggled in their efforts to win public support for the tax cuts passed in December. Voters aren't just thinking about what might benefit their own bank accounts in the short term. They're looking at a bigger view of the nation's needs for the longer run.

This communal spirit, Dr. Williamson says, represents something essential to the health of a democracy. After all, taxation without representation stirred a rancor that helped spark the American Revolution. What followed in the past two centuries has been a nation, and a global movement, toward government by the consent of the governed.

"People's attitudes about [paying taxes] are really the core of their attitudes about democracy," Williamson says. "The second you ask people about taxes, it taps into their concerns about whether the government works on their behalf."

Her research found a broadly shared sense of civic duty. Yet of course, US voters also have their share of frustrations. While the gripes vary from person to person, two concerns that stand out in polls are fairness and fiscal responsibility.

In a March poll by Quinnipiac University, 47 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the Republican tax plan (with 38 percent saying they approve), and one reason seems to be concerns about fairness. Nearly two-thirds think the law will give the most benefits to the wealthy, rather than other groups, according to a February Quinnipiac Poll.

Some 53 percent of Americans described their own federal tax burden as "about right" in an October CBS News poll (40 percent said "more than fair share"), but 58 percent in that poll said taxes on the wealthy should go up, and 56 percent said the same for corporations.

On fiscal responsibility, it's notable that a majority of Americans in the CBS poll (54 percent) thought cutting taxes would help grow the economy. Yet they also showed a cautionary streak: Some 63 percent said they were very or somewhat concerned about budget deficits, and 70 percent said other issues were more important than a tax cut and reform bill.

"I worry ... that we're kicking the can down the road" as the national debt rises, says Sedlazek in Leesburg, who is now a yoga instructor. She pauses as a neighbor offers drinking water for the two dogs she's walking. "We're not investing in the things that we should," she says, citing education among her big priorities. But as someone who also has a master's degree in business administration, "I don't want wastefulness either."

Indeed, official forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office show rising federal deficits. That's something of concern for all taxpayers, whatever their political leanings, says Angie Schmidt Whitney, who works in experiential learning and career planning near her home in Big Lake, Minn.

"[The tax cuts] all expire in 2025 anyway, so this is super short-term," she says. "Part of me says 'Well, that's not really a tax-plan change when you're really only talking a short period of time.' "

For their part, fans of the tax cuts aren't necessarily thinking of the tax policy just from the standpoint of their personal ledger.

"Although I'm personally probably going to take a hit, I think it's good for business and it's good for the economy, and good for the stock market," says Mark Harrington, a corporate lawyer who lives in Newport Beach, Calif. Some provisions, he notes, may encourage companies to bring money back home from overseas, stimulating investment in the US.

Although the law helps high-earning Americans in general, its benefits are limited for people in some professions, including lawyers. Meanwhile, a cap on deducting state-level taxes and mortgage interest is a financial penalty (compared to the prior code), a change that especially affects people from states like California where both taxes and property values are high.

States like California are a reminder that sharp divides remain among Americans on the optimal level of taxes – typically with rifts between liberals who favor more public services and conservatives who prefer smaller government.

Tax revolts aren't a thing of the past. But Brookings researcher Williamson finds that, in general, the public appears to have grown more open to raising taxes in the new millennium.

"Times have changed," she says. Where about 1 in 5 tax-boosting ballot initiatives passed in the 1970s and 80s, the approval rate has been about 1 in 2 over the past 15 years, she says.

One reason may be that, after rounds of tax-cutting in some states, voters are growing more concerned about shortfalls in public services than about their tax bills. At the federal level, too, Americans are generally paying much lower effective tax rates now than in 1980, when Ronald Reagan's election provided a mandate for tax cuts.

Back then, about 7 in 10 Americans saw their taxes as too high, according to polling by the General Social Survey.

Today, with a generally strong US economy, schoolteacher Jeff Vogel in St. Cloud, Minn., says he's less concerned with getting a tax cut than with how fiscal policy will affect future generations. "Yes, [the tax-cut law is] going to benefit me, but ... I'd like to see it work towards bettering our grandchildren in terms of paying down the national debt to building up the infrastructure."

In Leesburg, resident A. Harris, a musician and voice teacher, is getting ready for a singing performance. He also takes a sober view of the tax issue. "Nobody likes to pay taxes," he says. "I want to pay as little as I can."

But he cites all the public goods and services that benefit him and his family, from schools and parks to the US military. "While it's painful [to pay], the alternative is probably going to be more painful."

"If you don't agree with that there are about 200 other countries you can move to," Mr. Harris says.


3. For Tunisia, democracy is messy, but also charged with hope

Democracy is messy. Self-government opens space for arguments, for many voices to be heard. It also brings civic engagement and leadership accountability. Tunisia may be learning that Winston Churchill was right: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”


Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 9 Min. )

Seven years after the Arab Spring, many Tunisians are seeing the revolution as the easy part. One activist who was wounded in the demonstrations against the dictatorial then-president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, says what is most painful for him is watching his country descend into polarized politics and name-calling. “We went to the streets giving our lives for a dignified life, freedom, and social justice,” he says in Tunis, Tunisia. “Is this what we really revolted for?” Yet democracy is faring far better here than elsewhere in the post-Arab Spring world. Tens of thousands of Tunisians are running in municipal elections in May. In Egypt in March, authoritarian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was reelected with 97 percent of the vote. Turnout was 41 percent. Tunisians are also learning to disagree civilly, and to mobilize against policies they oppose. “In the old days, we would be afraid to speak our mind or about politics in our own home,” says an activist in her late 20s. “This new generation … they go to the streets and protest immediately to make their voice heard and make change.” Tunisians say this is what democracy, and the revolution, is all about.


For Tunisia, democracy is messy, but also charged with hope

Tarek Dziri cannot forget Tunisia’s revolution for a single minute.

Mr. Dziri was 26 years old and a new father, working as a chef in the town of Al Fahs, 40 miles south of the capital, when riots broke out in central Tunisia in December 2010 against the country’s dictatorial then-president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

On Jan. 12, 2011, Dziri and his friends decided to join the protest movement and demonstrate in front of the Al Fahs police station to denounce the killing of innocent civilians. Police officers fired on the young men; one bullet hit Dziri’s shoulder, and a second lodged in his lung.

When police came to the local hospital that night, ostensibly to arrest him but most likely to “finish the job,” Dziri says, a quick-thinking nurse smuggled him out in an ambulance and transferred him to Ben Arous hospital near the capital, an hour’s ride away. The ordeal left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Seven years since the revolution felled Mr. Ben Ali, things have changed for both Tunisia and Dziri, not all for the good.

Now in a wheelchair, Dziri has been unable to secure work. Government funding for him to complete medical treatment in France has stopped; so, too, has the $175 monthly stipend to pay for medical supplies and painkillers. A bullet from the Ben Ali regime still sits next to his heart.

But even more painful, he says, is watching his country descend into polarized politics and name-calling, old regime figures slowly returning to power, and the government ignoring the pleas of the working class, all in the name of the revolution.

Among the Ben Ali-era officials who have been restored to positions of authority: current President Beji Caid Essebsi, Finance Minister Ridha Chalghoum, and Defense Minister Abdelkarim Zebidi. Senior members of the security services who carried out Ben Ali’s shoot-first tactics remain in their posts to this day.

Meanwhile, coastal elites who benefited from Ben Ali’s system of corruption have been granted amnesty under a reconciliation law passed by a parliament that included many former Ben Ali partners and allies.

Also, parliament dealt a blow to the Truth and Dignity Commission for reconciliation, refusing to extend its mandate in March, which effectively ended its ability to refer cases to the courts.

“We went to the streets giving our lives for a dignified life, freedom, and social justice,” Dziri says from Tunis, the capital, “and now politicians who were never with us in the first place are profiting.

“Is this what we really revolted for?”

Taylor Luck
Tarek Dziri, a pro-democracy activist who was paralyzed after being shot by Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali regime forces during the 2011 protests that eventually brought down the Tunisian strongman, at a Tunis apartment on February 6, 2018.

To be sure, democracy is faring far better in Tunisia than elsewhere in the post-Arab Spring world. Tens of thousands of Tunisians have declared their candidacy for municipal elections in early May.

That contrasts sharply with Egypt, where democracy is in retreat: In late March, authoritarian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi secured a second term with 97 percent of the vote amid turnout of just 41 percent.

Nevertheless, freedoms and democracy are failing to heal old wounds in Tunisia, as decades-old social and economic grievances, inequality, and corruption persist.

The transition from a dictatorship has been sobering. Tunisians are learning that democracy is messy and divisive and that in politics progress is slow, compromise hard, and social and economic justice a long-term battle rather than a protest slogan.

Revolution, they say, was the easy part.

Consider Tunisian Amel Dhaffouli. Now in her 30s, she was one of the first to protest in her hometown of Sidi Bouzid, where the revolution was ignited after a young fruit vendor set himself alight in protest against police humiliation in late 2010.

In the years since, Ms. Dhaffouli and her friends and relatives have yet to find work in Sidi Bouzid, which, like most communities in Tunisia’s interior and southern regions, was deprived of investment and development in the five-decade rule of Ben Ali and his predecessor, Habib Bourguiba. Unemployment there hovers around 30 percent, twice the national average.

Suicide is on the rise in the town of 50,000. In January, 33 residents attempted suicide, the highest number of any area in Tunisia and nearly equaling the 39 suicide attempts in the rest of the country collectively, according to the independent Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights.

In a bid to bring attention to their plight, Dhaffouli and fellow Sidi Bouzid residents decided to launch a hunger strike in the capital in February. It was one display of many. The government reports 13,000 protests ranging from work stoppages to hunger strikes, most economic-based, in 2017 alone.

Passersby stepped over the Sidi Bouzid protesters’ sleeping bags in downtown Tunis, barely noticing the five fasting young Tunisians who once led their revolution.

“We had hoped for social justice and economic equality,” Dhaffouli says, “not for corrupt political parties and a government that works in the interest of lobbies and wealthy businessmen and -women.

“Things are worse off now than the days of Ben Ali.”

Partisan scramble

Governing Tunisia these days is a coalition of the Islamist Ennahda party, which was outlawed and repressed during Ben Ali’s era, and the secular Nidaa Tounes, a grouping of liberals and leftovers from the Ben Ali regime. A power-sharing arrangement was struck in 2015 after polls gave them the two largest blocks in parliament.

Yet, while the Ennahda-Nidaa coalition maintains stability at the top of Tunisia’s government, insiders and analysts say beneath the surface is a partisan scramble for control over independent institutions.

Tunisia’s electoral commission, judicial appointments, and anti-corruption commission – all nominally independent – have reportedly been stacked with political appointees, and wielded as tools to settle old scores and intimidate rivals, insiders say.

“This government is more interested in personal gains than improving the lives of marginalized Tunisians who led the revolution,” says Hamma Hammami, secretary-general of the opposition Popular Front, which led nationwide protests against rising prices in January.

Charging this hyperpartisan atmosphere is the media. Although Ben Ali’s ouster led to an explosion of new news outlets, political parties and donors have since bought up radio stations and newspapers, many of which now serve as nothing more than partisan mouthpieces.

“When election season rolls around, the media suddenly demonize the Islamists, young people will be portrayed as thugs, and terrorism is suddenly an imminent threat,” says Abderrahmen Ben Hassene, a history teacher and former revolutionary. “They use fear each election cycle to distract us from our real priorities: social and economic reform. And it works every time.”

But political parties are not the only groups benefiting from Tunisia’s post-revolution transition. Powerful lobbies have risen from the ashes of the Ben Ali regime to become players and kingmakers, including unions, manufacturers, landowners, and influential businesspeople.

Even unlicensed and unregulated importers and merchants who avoid tax and customs duties – the gray economy – reportedly back politicians and political parties in an effort to block any legislation that would tax them. The underground sector accounts for a staggering 45 to 50 percent of Tunisia’s gross domestic product, according to Oxford Business Group.

Fear of general strikes by government workers has left Tunisia unable to scale back what economists consider a bloated public sector, saddling the government with struggling state-owned companies churning out items ranging from matches and cigarettes to natural gas and cement.

Tunisia’s 104 public companies, whose labor force has grown 50 percent since the revolution as politicians have doled out jobs as a solution to unemployment, cost the Tunisian government some $1 billion in 2015 and have accumulated losses of $2.72 billion.

Government gridlock

Contributing to government inaction is perhaps the country’s greatest achievement: the 2014 Constitution.

The Arab world’s most progressive constitution, it was drafted and ratified by a 217-member Constituent Assembly of post-revolution lawmakers and leaders. It enshrines the freedom of belief and conscience and ensures human rights, legal and economic equality between men and women, the right to a clean environment, and gender parity in elected bodies.

Yet the political system it created has struggled to put those ideals into practice. Critics say it barely functions at all.

The governmental system was a compromise. On one side were Islamists and leftists who feared a return to a one-man dictatorship, and on the other, unions and businesspeople who preferred a strong executive branch.

The result: a parliamentary government and a partially weakened presidency. As in many semi-presidential systems, the prime minister is head of government and the president head of state. But whereas the presidency in many other parliamentary systems is largely ceremonial, in Tunisia the president is a semi-independent executive with vaguely defined powers who approves laws, handles foreign policy, and appoints judges and national security and diplomatic figures – all on recommendations from the government.

This has led to chaos. It is at times unclear where policy is made and who carries it out. The government, beholden to its fragile coalition in the parliament, does not have the independence or stability to push through badly needed economic, political, and social reforms such as tax reform or an overhaul of the Ben Ali-era police. Tunisia has seen seven governments in seven years.

“We have all the polarization and infighting of a congress, but without the strong, functioning central government like the US or Europe,” says Mohsen Marzouk, a former adviser to Mr. Essebsi, who resigned from Nidaa Tounes to form his own party following government inaction.

“The government is too weak to pass through any reforms or meaningful changes Tunisia needs,” says Mr. Marzouk. “We have gone from the dictatorship of one man to the dictatorship of political parties, and it has been a disaster.”

The nation’s security services are also the target of scrutiny. An alarm was raised in January over the handling of recent economic protests, which resulted in more than 900 arrests and the harassment of journalists, as a “return” to a police state.

But human rights advocates say the concerns resulted more from the actions of individuals than from a systematic policy, the result of an old-school security establishment trying to adapt to a new era, struggling to uphold both law and order as well as new democratic values.

It is a herculean task. Tunisian security forces monitor 700 miles of Mediterranean coastline and defend against Islamic State and Al Qaeda on Tunisia’s borders with Algeria and Libya while also dismantling homegrown terrorist cells and providing security to the 13,000 peaceful protests held last year.

When protests against prices descended into nationwide riots this January, several Al Qaeda militants infiltrated Tunisia. Though they were later killed in a shootout with security services, the lesson was clear.

“Terrorists are just waiting for us to fail, waiting for the second that we are under stress or distracted to take advantage and attack,” says Col. Maj. Khalifa Chibani, Interior Ministry spokesman. “It is something that is always in the back of our minds; the threat is always there.”

‘Manich Msamah’

Between the crises are glimmers of hope.

When the government proposed the administrative reconciliation law granting amnesty for officials and citizens who benefited financially from the Ben Ali regime, young activists, many of them former revolutionaries, returned to the streets in force. The movement unified leftists, nationalists, Islamists, and residents of marginalized outer regions for the first time in years.

Under the slogan Manich Msamah, or “I do not forgive,” thousands of young Tunisians used slang, football chants, rap, drums, and folk songs in protests bordering on festivals of defiance. Peaceful protests rolled on throughout the summer of 2017. Dziri, the injured revolutionary, took part in his first protest since his injury.

The law eventually passed in September, but it was watered down three separate times to encompass, in the case of civil servants, only those who did not gain financially from the corruption. Rather than a defeat, young revolutionaries saw it as a triumph, the shot in the arm the revolution needed.

“In the old days, we would be afraid to speak our mind or about politics in our own home,” says Azza Derbali, a translator and Manich Msamah organizer in her late 20s. “This new generation that grew up with the revolution, they go to the streets and protest immediately to make their voice heard and make change.”

Tunisians say this – being able to disagree civilly, to make one’s voice heard, to peacefully organize, protest, and pressure – is what democracy, and the Tunisian revolution, is all about. It may also be Tunisia’s saving grace.

“If I could go back in time and see those people in the streets in 2010, I would do it all over again,” says Dziri.

“My body may heal or it may not. But our fear has been broken forever.”

Karen Norris/Staff

4. Puerto Rico reforms its schools, and the public wants its say

Our reporter found an emerging spirit of ingenuity (often born of desperation) among Puerto Rican parents and teachers trying to save their schools after being battered by hurricanes, shrinking government funds, and poor student performance.

Alfredo Sosa/Staff
Students in seventh and eighth grades play on the covered court at the Escuela Rafael Hernández in March in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. The rural school is slated for closure this summer. Puerto Rico is enacting school reforms that aim to consolidate schools and add pilot charter schools and vouchers.

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 7 Min. )

How much say should the public have in education reform? That’s a question being explored in Puerto Rico right now, where the government is offering solutions to a troubled school system, and parents and educators are pushing back. For its part, the education department is closing schools (283 of them) and enacting a pilot for the use of charter schools and vouchers. Parents and educators are concerned about privatizing education – and the potential lack of access closures cause for students with few resources and routes for travel, particularly in rural areas. All involved agree that reform of the financially strapped system is needed, especially now. “This is a very difficult moment. We’re very tired after the hurricanes. We are living days within days,” says Ana Maria Garcia Blanco, director of a nonprofit focused on spreading the Montessori model to public schools on the island. “Suddenly Puerto Ricans are more poor than we were in September. In the midst of all the trauma, to be questioning our schools has been very hard.”


Puerto Rico reforms its schools, and the public wants its say

It’s 9:15 am on a recent Thursday, and Raul Rosario Ramos’ class of second-grade students is practically glued to the blackboard. Mr. Rosario likes to think he makes mathematics fun, but the kids are scooched up close for another reason: the room is so dark it’s hard to see the lesson.

“When it rains like this, we have to adjust,” Rosario says. His students at the Escuela Rafael Hernández have been rearranging their desks depending on the weather and time of day ever since they came back to class in November following hurricane Maria. Half the school is still without electricity and almost one in three students didn’t return to school following the storm.

But, in early April, teachers and students learned that the lengthy power outage is no longer their biggest challenge. The school was listed as one of 283 public schools slated to close at the end of the academic year.

“The parents are organizing to fight the closure,” says social studies teacher Luis Rios Rivera. It’s the third time the school has been threatened with closure in two years, teachers say – most recently, the week following Maria. “They tried to use the storm as an excuse, but we fought them. They’re trying to use the number of students as a reason, but we’ll keep fighting because we’re the only school in the area,” he says. “It’s a pity, but we’ll see if God agrees.”

Alfredo Sosa/Staff
Second-grade students attend class in the dark at the Escuela Rafael Hernández on March 15, 2018 in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s public school system is in need of an overhaul. That’s one point on which teachers and government officials can agree.

Educational performance has lagged compared to other US districts for decades, with Puerto Rico ranking dead last in fourth-grade and eighth-grade math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests in 2017. And the overwhelming economic crisis that has rocked the island for the past 11 years has led to austerity measures, which have affected education budgets and accelerated an exodus of families moving their children to the mainland US.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria exacerbated the already problematic situation, pushing another estimated 27,000 students out of the Puerto Rican schools between August 2017 and January 2018.  

What’s contested here is what a revamped public school system should look like. In late March, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed a bill that will begin a trial implementation of a charter school system. Starting next school year, 10 percent of public schools will become charter programs, and vouchers will be available to 3 percent of students on the island to use in private schools. A teachers’ union quickly responded by suing the island’s department of education over the constitutionality of using public funds for private, or what they describe as privately administered, schools. 

While the government moves forward with its plans, education nonprofits, parent-teacher associations, and teachers’ union members are seeking solutions of their own. From improved teacher trainings to putting forth models with proven track records here, to teaming up with parents and community members to keep kids in local schools – Puerto Ricans are pushing for a larger role in the education-reform conversation. 

'Reform provides options' 

Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Education Julia Keleher strides into a vast conference room on a recent afternoon and sits at the head of a long table surrounded by graphs and charts depicting the school system’s challenges.

Public school teachers recently received their first raise in 10 years (about $1,500), and average salaries are about 28 percent lower than in the poorest-paid public school districts in the mainland US, she says, citing National Center for Education Statistics. Student achievement lags, resources are poorly allocated, and building maintenance has been ignored for too long, she argues. Student enrollment has fallen by 45 percent since 2004.

“The education reform provides options to students and families, options that don’t exist in a historically failing system,” Ms. Keleher says, referring to the move toward charter and voucher options.

“Kids that graduate unprepared to enter the workforce, unprepared to go to college … it’s a civil rights issue,” she says. She’s pushing to close schools with underenrollment and move teachers to other schools where they’re needed more, thus helping her department to better allocate resources. The option to choose a charter over a poorly performing school, she says, "would allow socioeconomic mobility.” 

It’s a compelling argument, but she’s won over few educators and families here. The common refrain on the island is that the department of education is trying to privatize the school system, putting big corporations and the bottom line ahead of the well-being of students. 

“They think that because our island is vulnerable, because it doesn’t have electricity, that we’re going to let them privatize our schools and fire our teachers,” said Mercedes Martinez, the president of the Federation of Teachers of Puerto Rico, one of two teachers’ unions here, at a protest in February.

When asked how she explains to teachers and families how her solutions will improve education, Keleher taps on a giant print-out of a bar graph, raises her eyebrows, and says, “with this.” The graph requires reading a key and footnotes to glean its significance on spending allocations.

The hard numbers represent the problems that need fixing here, but they don’t speak to the central concerns of educators – like the fear of losing their jobs – or the community panic around whether families will need to uproot in order to keep their kids educated if their neighborhood school shutters.

“I’m very worried,” says Ana Maria Garcia Blanco, director of Instituto Nueva Escuela, a nonprofit focused on spreading the Montessori model to public schools on the island.

“I don’t think there has been enough conversation about the pros and cons [of charter schools]. There’s not enough research on what happens to a community when a charter school comes in,” Dr. Garcia says. She first introduced a Montessori model in the public school system here in the early 1990s.

Charter schools are controversial across the US, with proponents espousing their freedom to innovate and critics calling them unaccountable. 

“This is a very difficult moment. We’re very tired after the hurricanes. We are living days within days,” says Garcia. “Suddenly Puerto Ricans are more poor than we were in September. In the midst of all the trauma, to be questioning our schools has been very hard.”

Alfredo Sosa/Staff
Teacher Luis Rios Rivera poses for a photo at the Escuela Rafael Hernández on March 15, 2018 in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. In April, the government announced it plans to close the school. "They’re trying to use the number of students as a reason, but we’ll keep fighting because we’re the only school in the area," says Mr. Rios.

'Unity around our school'

Less than a week after hurricane Maria – once loved ones were accounted for and neighbors had started to lug away the fallen trees blocking the narrow, curving mountain roads here – students, families and staff started showing up at the Escuela Rafael Hernández to clean up the campus of two-story concrete buildings serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. 

By the end of that week, Mr. Rios, the social studies teacher, says the department of education informed them the school would be shut down. The community ignored the decree, with teachers arriving to give half-day classes despite the lack of electricity, and a fourth-grade student going on the radio to plead to keep his school open. 

“There’s a lot of unity around our school,” says Evelyn Ortiz, whose 16-year-old daughter with special needs is studying here. “We’re small in size but this school is our [community’s] heart.” The school lost nearly 50 students following Maria, creating a teacher-student ratio of roughly 1:6 – more attention for students, but an inefficient use of resources in the eyes of the education department. 

“We have a different vision from the government, but we’re not being heard,” Ms. Ortiz says. She fears her daughter won’t be accepted at a charter school due to her learning disabilities and that they’ll have to move as a result. Ortiz and other parents say they will do whatever it takes to keep this school up and running.

“Culturally our public schools are very important for our identity, and historically in the organization of our communities,” says Garcia.

Rios says no officials have come to talk to him or the other teachers following the recent announcement that 283 out of about 1,100 schools would be closed this summer. There are concerns over job retention and retirement benefits, despite Keleher announcing there would be no layoffs.

“No one has told us anything,” Rios says.

If the school indeed shuts down, parents say their kids will be sent to the nearby town of Bayamón. It’s only about 5 miles away, but given the mountainous terrain, it is a complicated, time-consuming commute.

“There is a very limited system for bussing for students on the island,” says Kristin Ehrgood, president of the Flamboyan Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to improve educational outcomes for children in Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. “The most vulnerable communities, in my opinion, are the rural communities. Where, if you close the school, there are implications around how families get kids to the new school. Remember, jobs are scarcer following the storm and paying for gas, or for a car, will be challenging.”

Just outside of San Juan, the capital, third-grade teacher Juveisie De Leon Rosario – unsatisfied with trainings offered by the government – found a Flamboyan Foundation reading comprehension training while looking online and submitted an application for her school, Angel Ramos Elementary. It’s a pilot program, but already the foundation has plans to expand its work next year.

"The university prepares you academically, but you don't talk about how to apply the lessons," says Yenni Martinez, a first-grade teacher who says she'd like to see more discussion around the reforms focusing on effective teacher trainings.

Ms. De Leon says she’s in the minority, but thinks the reform could be good for Puerto Rico. “It will be uncomfortable, it will be challenging,” she says, acknowledging she’s still unclear on exactly what the reform will consist of. 

“Our education system is struggling,” she says. “At this point, I’m hopeful any change will be good.”



5. Why gold-rush age of cryptocurrency may be waning

Currency is often about trust. If people believe the coin of their country has value, it will be accepted as a way to buy stuff. But if not, well, that’s where a new global digital currency is wrestling through trust and identity issues.


Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 4 Min. )

Confused about bitcoin? You’re not alone. But it’s no fringe phenomenon. Cryptocurrency, the computer-software money that was supposed to replace cash, has seen its market value swell. For governments, that has made it worthy of attention. (Another factor: Criminals routinely use cryptocurrency to move money undetected.) For those interested in bitcoin as an investment, its more recent performance – a plunge of 66 percent since late last year (see chart, below) is sobering. Some of the latest losses may stem from fears of a potential trade war with China. But analysts say the biggest factor behind the plunge in cryptocurrencies is, ironically, the prospect of regulation. Governments are doing that by denying that crypto or virtual currencies are currencies at all. In the United States, for example, different federal agencies have different interpretations – all intended to put cryptocurrencies square in their respective purviews: According to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, they’re a commodity. The Securities and Exchange Commission argues that they’re a security. The Internal Revenue Service calls them property. Will all that confusion kill off cryptocurrency? In fact, if done well, regulation could eventually grow the market by giving investors confidence.


Why gold-rush age of cryptocurrency may be waning

Amid some roller-coaster recent weeks in the stock market, most investors may have missed the plunge in another asset: bitcoin.

The cryptocurrency dropped 11 percent of its value in three recent trading days – part of a 66 percent fall in value since December, which is jaw-dropping even by its standards. Although the cryptocurrencies still show a blend of market strength as well as weakness, the shakeup is a sign of changing times.

Some of the latest losses may stem from stock market fears over a potential trade war with China. But analysts say the biggest factor behind the plunge in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is the prospect of government regulation. 

The irony is lost on no one. Cryptocurrency – the computer-software money that was supposed to replace cash – is instead beginning to get reined in by the governments it was built to bypass. Governments are doing it by denying that crypto or virtual currencies are currencies at all. Here's more on what's going on.

If virtual currencies aren't money, what are they?

In the United States, different federal agencies have different interpretations. According to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, they’re a commodity, which is handy because the CFTC regulates commodities. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) argues that they’re a security, which allows it to regulate the trading platforms that handle cryptocurrencies. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calls them property, like stock or real estate, which should be taxed.

The result? After losing in court, trading exchange Coinbase in February said it would turn over to the IRS data on some 13,000 customers who bought cryptocurrencies. 

Is the US the only country cracking down?

Hardly. China, which last year was the global center of the computer generation or “mining” of cryptocurrency, has clamped down so hard that everything cryptocurrency is under assault. India is also clamping down. South Korea, where much of the displaced Chinese crypto industry was expected to go, is toughening its rules on trading.

Why are countries acting now?

Several factors are at work. One is that the market value of virtual currencies has grown so large – more than $300 billion – that governments can no longer ignore them. Another factor is that criminals routinely use them to run scams, steal, and move money undetected.

Is criminal activity up because of cryptocurrencies?

Yes. Criminals are planting software on the computers of unwitting internet users so that their machines help carry out the calculation-intensive mining of cryptocurrencies. Also, scammers are floating new virtual money through initial currency offerings, presumably for a start-up even though the company is nonexistent, regulators allege. ICOs have prompted a crackdown from US states, whose “blue sky” laws can be even tougher than the federal government’s regulations.

In March, New Jersey stopped Bitcoiin, an investment entity, from offering an unregistered ICO, and North Carolina did the same to Power Mining Pool, which was trying to attract investors by claiming its computers were unlocking or mining seven cryptocurrencies. Regulators weren’t sure the computers or the managers even existed.

Are cryptocurrencies threatened?

The established ones – bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple – look like survivors. The technology on which they’re based, called blockchain, promises new money-saving innovations in finance and beyond. And the idea of an all-digital currency also has some popular appeal.

But the currencies are not immune to government action – or even the threat of it. When the SEC warned investors in March that they should deal with only registered online platforms to trade digital assets, the price of bitcoin fell 9 percent.

Will regulation tame the cryptos?

Some observers think the gold rush days of bitcoin are already over. Established companies and exchanges have moved in, allowing investors to buy derivatives of the currencies and hedge against price swings. After speculation drove up the price of bitcoin a meteoric 1,400 percent last year, the cryptocurrency lost nearly two-thirds of its value in January and February. The market has since trended down but at a less volatile pace. In the past month, values have swing between $6,600 and $9,600 – not stellar by its standards.

Still, many experts agree there’s a regulatory vacuum that needs to be addressed.

“Greater assurances are needed that the trades taking place are in fact legitimate and reflect buying and selling by independent actors,” Neil Gandal, lead author of a recent study on bitcoin price manipulation, writes in an email. “Unless and until such oversight is implemented, we cannot trust the exchange rate to reflect only legitimate sources of supply and demand.”

Will regulation kill cryptos?

It’s a fine line. Regulators want to make sure they protect investors from scams, while at the same time allowing the industry to develop and deploy the new technology in interesting ways. Overregulation could move the action elsewhere, which is what happened in China. 

It’s too early to tell who's doing the best job of setting the rules. Nations are taking various tacks.

Venezuela, whose paper currency has been reeling for years, has decided to create its own digital currency, the petro. Switzerland’s economics minister wants his country to become the “crypto nation,” and the Swiss have set up a working group to create a level playing field for the currencies. In the US, CFTC Commissioner Brian Quintenz has suggested that the industry create its own regulatory body, perhaps an international one.

If done well, regulation could help grow the market by giving investors confidence.

On Friday, reports emerged that hedge-fund trader George Soros, who called cryptocurrencies a bubble earlier this year, was now planning to trade them.

[Editor's note:  In the first paragraphs of this story references to recent market action were updated on April 17.]

The price of bitcoin reached its peak in December of last year. Since then, it has shed more than half its value, as cryptocurrencies face rising oversight from national governments.
SOURCE: Coindesk
Jacob Turcotte/Staff

The Monitor's View

India’s swing in favor of girls

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 2 Min. )

Rape remains a particular problem in India, even after mass protests in 2012 over an attack on a young woman in Delhi. Reported rapes of minors have more than doubled between 2012 and 2016; a brutal recent example was the rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim girl at a Hindu temple. Yet India has also recorded many successes for girls and women. One stands out: According to a United Nations report last month, the annual number of child marriages in India has fallen by nearly half in the past decade. And India has begun to assess which of its many approaches against child marriage is working. One successful tactic: giving money to a family if it keeps a girl in school. Another is the use of door-to-door awareness campaigns in which activists talk to families about the consequences of early marriage. Norms are shifting. Success will build on success in India, a country that may now serve as a model for other countries, such as those in Africa, where the rate of child marriages remains too high.


India’s swing in favor of girls

A string of protests has erupted in India over recent days – in the streets, on social media, and, notably, among Bollywood actresses. The immediate focus is the rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim girl at a Hindu temple. The brutal crime has put a spotlight on religious divides and a weak response from politicians and the judicial system. But the protests also hint at a deeper cultural shift.

The size of the protests suggests a strong challenge to India’s historic fatalism about the role of girls and women as weak, submissive, or expendable. Rape remains a particular problem in India, even after mass protests in 2012 over an attack on a young woman in Delhi. Reported rapes of minors have more than doubled between 2012 and 2016. And the killing of female fetuses remains an issue. A recent government report called for a “collective self-reflection” on the country’s family preference for sons.

Yet India has also had several successes for girls and women that may account for the confidence to demand more. One recent success stands out. According to a United Nations report last month, the annual number of child marriages in India has fallen by nearly half in the past decade.

The drop has been so dramatic that it helped result in a global reduction of 25 million fewer marriages than would have been anticipated 10 years ago. And it has forced India to assess which of its many approaches against child marriage is working.

Progress has been uneven in India’s diverse states. And many experts say the statistics may not be totally accurate. Despite laws against child marriage, especially one enacted in 2006, many families find ways to hide the event and avoid reporting it. Laws go only so far in breaking a practice rooted in what many Indians see as an economic necessity in marrying off a young girl and a need to avoid damaging family honor if she is raped or molested.

One tactic that has worked in many places is to give money to a family if it keeps a girl in school. Another is the use of door-to-door awareness campaigns in which activists talk to families about the consequences of early marriage. Some activists also try to convince married girls to legally annul their marriage.

In a sign of shifting norms, India’s top court ruled last year that sex with an underage wife constituts rape. Success builds on success in India, a country that may now serve as a model for other countries, such as those in Africa, where the rate of child marriages remains too high.


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.

It’s never too late to experience healing

  • Quick Read
  • Read or Listen ( 3 Min. )

Faced with joint degeneration in her hands and thinking it was too late to do anything about it, today’s contributor found complete healing and regeneration through a fresh perspective on how God cares for all of creation.


It’s never too late to experience healing

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
Loading the player...

When my daughter was still very young, joint problems developed in one of my hands. As the condition worsened and my knuckles became disfigured, I feared that perhaps it was too late to stop the degenerating process that seemed to have taken root.

As this problem emerged, I became very conscious of a spiritual hunger in me that I had been putting to one side for some years in the face of day-to-day life with school, a career, and then family. But I knew the Bible to be a source of healing, so I turned to the words of the prophet Isaiah and found a comforting message of God’s power to meet our need even when a situation seems beyond hope. Isaiah wrote: “He will not break off a damaged cattail. He will not even put out a smoking wick” (42:3, God’s Word Translation).

I thought of a flower blowing in the breeze until its stem is so weakened that the blossom head droops. And I considered a candlewick burnt until only a single plume of smoke remains to indicate the flame that once had been. These metaphors illustrate what would seem to be past saving. And the tendency may be to hasten the seemingly inevitable – to snap off the head of the flower or to quench the last ember.

But renewal is a reasonable expectation when we understand the healing and saving nature of the divine Spirit, God. For instance, Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy found herself in a dead-end situation in her mid-40s, yet her life turned around so completely that she was still working four decades later, when she founded this newspaper. So it was not mere theorizing when she wrote: “Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 246). (“Man” is used generically here to refer to everyone.)

I turned to God with an honest desire to understand how He made me – not as a deteriorating mortal but as the beautiful and spiritual reflection of divine Spirit. This sparked in me an expectancy of healing.

Science and Health further explains: “The radiant sun of virtue and truth coexists with being. Manhood is its eternal noon, undimmed by a declining sun” (p. 246). The sun is immovably fixed. So its use here as a metaphor for God and His relation to man helped me see that just as the sun only appears to rise and set, degeneration is a mistaken perception of reality. As God’s idea or creation, we neither grow into a perfect and eternal state nor decline from the highest and best expression of God’s beauty and goodness. This is an important part of what it means to be the image and likeness of God, as the Bible says we are.

I saw that at the root of the physical problem was a mistaken view of what I am. But as I prayed with these ideas, I felt that perspective changing, so I was less afraid. I now understood better that our true identity is actually God-given – unchanging, permanent, and spiritual, not confined to aspects, phases, or products of human development. Regardless of how it seemed when I looked at my hands, my true being was actually exempt from the possibility of decay.

At one point I looked down at the disfigurement and said aloud to myself, “That has nothing to do with me.” Nothing had changed physically, but my understanding of my nature had shifted from a material to a spiritual base. When I looked at my hand, it was as if I were looking at a dark shadow made by “a declining sun.” Unafraid, I knew the shadow was without substance or power to harm and would pass off me.

When I woke the next day, my knuckles were perfectly normal, smooth, supple, and painless, restored to normal color and function – in a word, perfect. And in the many decades since, no such symptoms have ever recurred.

The yearning to understand God, the immortal Spirit, as the source and maintainer of us all reveals what it means to be truly and fully spiritual as God’s creation – including experiencing the beauty, grandeur, and fullness of life that we at all times have every right to enjoy.



Celebration preparation

Ahn Young-joon/AP
Workers prepare lanterns at Jogyesa Temple in Seoul, South Korea, April 17 in advance of activities next month to mark the birth of Buddha.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )

In Our Next Issue

( April 18th, 2018 )

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’re looking at the police handcuffing of two black men for refusing to leave a Starbucks. How do American corporations navigate this double standard: African-Americans are targeted for things other people regularly do without consequence.

Monitor Daily Podcast

April 17, 2018
Loading the player...

More issues


Give us your feedback

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.