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Rethink the News

Perspective matters.

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

2018
June
11
Monday

Perhaps you’ve seen it by now. The picture has certainly made the rounds on social media. There is President Trump, arms folded, chin tilted defiantly, sitting in a chair. And standing opposite him, leaning forward in unmistakable agitation, are Western leaders including, conspicuously, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Taken at the Group of Seven meeting in Quebec last weekend, the photograph is an uncanny portrait of the Trump presidency. To critics, it portrays a man determined to undermine the post-World War II global order. To supporters, it shows a president who won’t be cowed.

The internet, of course, has had a grand time with the photo, including turning it into the "Last Supper." The Atlantic, in all seriousness, compared it with the masterworks of Caravaggio and Edgar Degas. Even China got into the act, posting the photo alongside another from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting, where attendees including Russia apparently had a perfectly lovely time. “Unilateralism is strong on the surface, but in reality it’s difficult to sustain,” an editorial in the Global Times scolded.

Yet perhaps the picture works best when paired with the scenes from Singapore. German staring contests and Chinese lectures on multilateralism are unusual byproducts of American foreign policy. But so are presidential summits to denuclearize North Korea. The real portrait this week is of the potential and peril of one-man diplomacy. 

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Here are our five stories for today, including changing views of unity in Europe, a small-town take on Trump talk, and how the silver screen led to a golden age for dinosaur hunters. 

1. On sidelines of summit, North Korea’s neighbors watch raptly

The United States-North Korea summit Tuesday in Singapore will very much be a two-man show. That has turned the countries with the most at stake into onlookers hoping their interests won't be forgotten. 

Mark
A man watches a news broadcast about President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea June 11. Final preparations were under way in Singapore for Tuesday's historic summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim.
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Ahn Young-joon/AP

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When President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un first sit down for their much-awaited summit on Tuesday, they (and their interpreters) will reportedly be the only ones in the room. But the whole world, it feels like, will be watching – and nowhere more than in North Korea’s neighborhood. Japan, China, South Korea, and Russia, which shares an 11-mile border with North Korea, have done more than wait as Washington and Pyongyang negotiated this meeting. They’ve been key to shaping it: from South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose efforts to improve inter-Korean relations got the ball rolling, to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has met with Mr. Kim twice. But the flurry of diplomatic activity in the run-up to Tuesday’s meetings highlights widespread uncertainty in Northeast Asia over the region’s future, thanks to Mr. Trump’s go-it-alone rhetoric, an increasingly assertive China, and North Korea’s nuclear threat. What does each country have at stake, and will the hard-to-predict Trump and Kim consider their concerns?

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On sidelines of summit, North Korea’s neighbors watch raptly

When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew to Washington last week, he delivered an urgent message to President Trump ahead of tomorrow’s unprecedented US-North Korea summit: Don’t forget about us.

For Mr. Abe, the visit was a last-ditch attempt to ensure that any deal Mr. Trump reaches with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un doesn't harm Japan's interests. But Trump’s off-the-cuff negotiating style — and his growing disregard for many of Washington’s closest allies — makes it difficult to predict what any such a deal might include.

Japan isn’t the only East Asian nation anxious about the one-on-one meeting between Trump and Mr. Kim in Singapore on Tuesday. China, South Korea, and Russia have all tried to influence the strong-headed leaders before they sit down together for the first time.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Kim in Pyongyang last month and invited him to Moscow. Chinese President Xi Jinping has met with him twice in China. And South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has met twice with Kim and three times with Trump, has reportedly lobbied for a trilateral meeting in Singapore to discuss a formal end to the Korean War.

“Everyone in the region wants the summit to go well,” says Wang Dong, an associate professor of international studies at Peking University in Beijing. “If the talks fail, we could quickly go back to the kind of escalation we saw last year.”

But the flurry of diplomatic activity in the run-up to Tuesday’s summit highlights the widespread uncertainty felt in Northeast Asia over the region’s future. Trump’s bellicose rhetoric and go-it-alone attitude have American allies on edge, to say nothing of China’s growing influence and the North Korean nuclear threat. Whatever happens when Kim and Trump meet on Tuesday could go a long way in determining the balance of power in the region for years to come. Here’s a look at what countries there have at stake.

Japan: still within range

Trump’s “America First” approach to foreign policy and his eagerness to make a deal with Kim are a worrisome combination for Japan. Among the country’s biggest fears is that Trump could accept a limited agreement that addresses North Korea’s nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, but, in exchange, reduces the American military presence in East Asia. Doing so would allow Trump to say that he had kept his promise to protect the US, but it would come at a cost to Japan, which is in range of North Korea’s short- and medium-range missiles and has long relied on the US as a bulwark against China.

Another key issue for Japan is the fate of at least a dozen Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.  Japan's foreign ministry regards the abductions as “a critical issue concerning the sovereignty of Japan,” and has said that any normalization of relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang can only happen after its resolved.

After discussing the abductions with Trump at the White House on Thursday, Abe struck a hopeful tone during a press conference. He said that Trump “fully understands” the need to bring home the abductees, adding that Trump “is one of the leaders who understands the issue the most.” For his part, Trump has pledged to raise the issue with Kim.

South Korea: no longer 'driving?'

It’s safe to say that Tuesday’s historic summit wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for Mr. Moon. Since taking office in 2017, South Korea’s president has made negotiations with North Korea a focus of his administration, vowing to take the “driver’s seat” in improving the world’s relationship with Pyongyang.

He has strongly advocated for the meeting and remained diplomatic when Trump abruptly cancelled it in late May, seemingly without notifying Moon first – although the pair had met with in Washington two days before. While the summit was back on days later, the episode led many in Seoul to call into question Trump’s commitment.

For Moon and his supporters, the No. 1 goal for the summit is to reduce to threat of conflict on the Korean peninsula. Their hope is that Trump and Kim can agree to a plan that allows North Korea to denuclearize in return for normalized ties with the US. Humanitarian and economic steps could follow. Trump hasn’t ruled out taking this kind of incremental approach; he said on Thursday that he didn’t think it would be a “one-meeting deal.” But it’s unclear how patient he’s willing to be.

In addition to discussing denuclearization with Kim, Trump has also left open the possibility of declaring an end to the Korean War. The 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice. Yet a formal peace treaty would need to involve not only the US, which fought on the South’s side during the war, but also China, which fought on the North’s. The most that could happen in Singapore is a declaration of intent, leaving the negotiating and signing of a treaty for later.

China: hoping for a trade thaw

A peace declaration is just one of several outcomes of the Trump-Kim summit that China would happily accept, especially if it were to lead to a reduction in the number of American troops in South Korea. Trump has reportedly sought options for bringing home some of the 28,500 soldiers stationed there, but the White House has denied reports of it planning to use troops as bargaining chips.  

China is also hoping that the summit leads to an easing of the international sanctions that have been imposed on North Korea. While Beijing has for the most part reluctantly enforced them, it has never fully supported the idea that sanctions alone would curtail Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. Trump has said that he would stop using the phrase “maximum pressure” to describe the sanctions, even though he insisted that they would remain in place.

Should Trump agree to ease sanctions, Beijing is likely to be very willing to help North Korea rebuild its economy. China already accounts for 90 percent of the North’s trade, making it well positioned to benefit from any future reforms. Beijing is eager to help Pyongyang develop along the same lines as China's own state-controlled market economy, and, in doing so, help prove its validity as an alternative to American-style capitalism.

“North Korea has demonstrated a strong interest to pivot to economic development,” says Zhao Tong, a nuclear policy analyst at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing. “China will be more than happy to facilitate that strategic transition, but a precondition to doing that is a better North Korea-US relationship.”

Russia: a likely winner

The bottom line for Russia, which shares an 11-mile border with North Korea, is stability. A conflict on the Korean Peninsula could send thousands of refugees across the border and into one of the poorest regions of Russia. (The same goes for China, which could see millions of refugees cross into its territory if war broke out.)

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Trump for what he called a “courageous and mature” decision to meet with Kim. He has also said Moscow has “big hopes” for the success of the meeting and for its potential to defuse regional tensions.

Despite Mr. Putin’s optimistic words, some Russian foreign policy analysts warn that the summit is likely to end in failure. They cite, among other things, both leaders’ mercurial personalities. But Artyom Lukin, an associate professor of international relations at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, says that “whether the summit succeeds or fails, Moscow could gain advantages either way.”

If Kim and Trump reach a deal that enhances regional security, Russia could decide to move ahead with plans to build a gas pipeline and extend the Trans-Siberian Railway across the Korean Peninsula. If they fail to reach a deal, Professor Lukin says, the Kremlin could then decide to take advantage of what little leverage it has over North Korea.

“In particular, Russia might use its leverage with North Korea as a bargaining chip in dealing with the US,” Lukin says. “Putin is very skillful at using international crises to advance Russia’s national interests.”

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Patterns

Tracing global connections

2. Italian euroskepticism pushes case for a different kind of union

Despite the fireworks at last weekend’s Group of Seven summit, the greatest threat to the European Union comes from within. Events in Italy are raising the question, How united do we really want to be?

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Italy is the European Union’s fourth largest economy. It was a co-founder of the European Economic Community, the precursor of the EU. It was also a founding member of the euro. But now Italy is home to a new, unabashedly euroskeptic government. And that is putting the EU into its most serious political crisis in years. The challenge from Italy is part of growing pressure for a looser form of union, in opposition to the EU’s defining, Franco-German vision of an ever more closely integrated bloc. Not only has Italy had to absorb the largest number of arrivals during a surge of refugees beginning in 2015 – more than 600,000 – it has been among the last major EU economies to begin growing since the financial crisis. At least for now, the new Italian government has shelved talk of pulling out of the European currency. But remaining on the agenda are major increases in social welfare spending and tax cuts, in defiance of the eurozone’s financial rules. If the government does go ahead with those policies, Italy could still end up crashing out of the currency zone.

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Italian euroskepticism pushes case for a different kind of union

The European Union, the alliance of nearly 30 countries stretching across the continent, is facing its most serious political crisis for years.

And here’s what is truly extraordinary. The main challenge may not be the unraveling of Europe’s decades-old partnership with the United States, so dramatically on show at last weekend’s Group of Seven meeting of the world’s major democratic economies. Nor even Brexit: the decision by Britain, with the EU’s second-largest economy, to leave the union over the next couple of years. Both issues will surely figure at an EU summit this month hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, not least because the Trump administration followed its broadside on the G7 host nation, Canada, with a further hint at possible new tariffs on Germany’s car exporters. But neither poses a structural threat to the EU.

Instead, the key danger signal comes from Italy, where a combination of economic stagnation and the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees in the past few years has led to a new, unabashedly Euroskeptic government.

Italy is the EU’s fourth-largest economy. Unlike Britain, a latecomer and always a more reluctant member, it was a co-founder of the European Economic Community, the precursor of the EU. It was also a founding member of the euro – the shared EU currency introduced in 2002 and now used by 19 of the 28 member states. But as the latest election results made clear, many Italians have become persuaded that their country has been getting a raw deal from the EU.

The EU is not about to fall apart. It is the world’s largest tariff-free trading area, a key not just to frictionless trade but to the operation of a complex web of supply and manufacturing chains crossing Europe’s borders. Some members – especially the main economic power, Germany – have benefited from it more than others. But none can make a credible argument they’d be better off outside.

The challenge from Italy, however, is part of growing pressure for a looser form of union, in opposition to the EU’s defining, Franco-German vision of an ever more closely integrated bloc in which centrally mandated policies – whether on accepting refugees, or framing national budgets – are binding on all member states regardless of their circumstances.

The economic constraints have been felt especially by countries that are part of the single currency: the eurozone. When it was created, in the image of the German mark, the political impetus to do so was so great that little heed was paid to the starkly different economic conditions in member states. In effect, all of them have had to follow Germany’s tight fiscal and monetary policy model, even if hit with market shocks like the 2007-08 financial crisis.

In Italy, the EU has run into a perfect storm. Not only has the country had to absorb one of the largest number of arrivals during a surge of refugees beginning in 2015 – more than 600,000. It has been among the last major EU economies to begin growing since the financial crisis. It also needs to manage a major divide between its relatively prosperous north and southern regions where unemployment among young people is stuck at well over 30 percent. 

At least for now, the new Italian government has shelved talk of pulling out of the European currency and reinstating the old lira. Though that would restore its control over the levers of monetary and economic policy, it would also invite a run on its banking system and risk killing the still-fragile shoots of recovery. But remaining on the agenda are major increases in social welfare spending and tax cuts, in defiance of the eurozone’s financial rules. If the government does go ahead with those policies, depending on the EU response, Italy could still end up with a banking crisis and crash out of the currency zone anyway.

President Macron is keenly alert to the potential impact of the Italian political shift, as well as a surge of populist Euroskepticism in newer, East European member states such as Poland and Hungary, where the main driver has been the arrival of refugees from the Middle East.

He has been seeking to persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel to join him in a major reform initiative to address both the pressures of immigration and the economic disparities within the union. He wants a far better funded EU currency system, with a centrally run budget sufficient to provide support for less economically robust states on the southern rim of the EU.

Mrs. Merkel has come around to the idea of some form of Franco-German reform plan. She has signaled openness to allowing countries like Hungary and Poland to opt out of accepting further refugees by contributing to other forms of EU support for them. Yet it remains unclear whether she will be ready to accept anywhere near the scale of money Macron has said will be needed for effective eurozone reforms. That would mean taking on a longstanding reluctance within Germany to commit a major chunk of money to helping what it views as the less economically self-disciplined member states in the south.

What still seems to be a taboo is a significant loosening of the union – the suggestion by more radical reformers to allow individual countries greater financial and monetary leeway, and greater autonomy in other policy areas as well. This kind of “multispeed” EU was what the then-British Prime Minister, David Cameron, tried and failed to sell to fellow EU leaders before the referendum that decided on Brexit, convinced that it would help take the wind out of anti-EU campaigners’ sails.

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3. How net neutrality rollback will test rural, low-income schools

With the end of net neutrality Monday, rural schools are expected to have trouble getting good internet access. The search for solutions is just beginning. 

Mark
A third-grade student at Meeker Elementary School in Greeley, Colo., uses a computer during a math class. The end of net neutrality June 11 means some schools could see changes in their internet access unless they negotiate better deals with service providers.
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Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

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Teachers use the internet in class to increase student engagement, connect with others around the globe, and usher students into an increasingly digital world. That’s why schools are concerned when they hear the list of possible impacts from the June 11 reversal of net neutrality: price hikes, limited access, slow loading speeds for sites that can’t pay higher rates in order to be prioritized. In particular, educators from rural and low-income schools – most of whom have only recently secured reliable broadband access – are now strategizing how to sidestep potential setbacks. For many of these schools, the answer lies in sharpening their negotiating skills with providers and banding together in larger networks. “Our school systems are cash-strapped already,” says Kimberly Longey, a resident of a small community and chief operating officer at Free Press, an open internet advocacy group. “If they have to pay a premium to access content to provide even just a basic educational environment, never mind trying to strive for excellence ... that content is very likely to go.”

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How net neutrality rollback will test rural, low-income schools

Bringing the internet to the remote Mohawk Trail Regional School District in Western Massachusetts has been an ongoing battle. The district spans about 250 mostly forested square miles, and local schools only secured broadband three years ago. Even so, educators have already used the new connection to reshape their teaching and content.

“There's all kinds of educational information that is being resourced through the internet now... There are teachers who have established relationships [through Skype] with other classes both within the Western Massachusetts area and as far away as Vietnam,” says Michael Buoniconti, the district's superintendent and founder of the Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition.

“If you were to take away the internet right now, I think that it would cripple what we're trying to do here,” he says.

Despite a successful Senate vote to challenge its repeal, net neutrality officially ends as a federal regulation on Monday. In response, educators from rural and low-income schools – most of whom have only recently secured reliable broadband access – are now strategizing how to prevent unreliably slow internet connections and heightened costs. For many of these schools, the answer lies in sharpening their negotiating skills with providers and banding together in larger networks.

“We are saying to [school districts] over the longer term, you need to have a plan in place to ensure that your teachers and students aren't disadvantaged by this and... part of that plan has to be... being strategic about the broadband agreement that you're entering as a school district,” says Reg Leichty, a founder and partner at Foresight Law and Policy and an advisor to the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN).

Without net neutrality – which broadly ensures that internet providers offer the same quality service to users regardless of what sites they access online – school districts could see higher prices and slowdowns for some sites, particularly those that aren’t supported by major companies like Netflix or Google, analysts say.

Vulnerable schools need a plan 

Much of the initial discussion last December – after the decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to repeal net neutrality – centered around the vulnerability of certain schools, says Ron Reyer, the director of technology for the Bethel Park School District in Pennsylvania.

“People were more worried about this when it comes to small and rural schools where the choice of providers is not nearly as wide,” says Mr. Reyer.

In the 2013-2014 school year, 7,156 or about 53 percent of public school districts were located in rural areas, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES defines rural locations as at least 2.5 miles from an urban cluster and 5 miles from any urbanized area. In the fall of 2013, 9,132,607 or about 18 percent of students enrolled in public elementary, middle, and secondary schools attended rural districts.

When Reyer first heard about the FCC’s decision, he thought back to 2015 when his district and a network of others in the area successfully negotiated for net neutrality in a contract with their internet provider – months before the policy was first introduced federally. More recently, he took action, and published a series of tips through the CoSN that directed school districts to try similar approaches.

That guidance will help some districts. In Western Massachusetts, despite their improved internet access, Superintendent Buoniconti’s schools are under severe financial strain. Budget cuts are an annual occurrence, he says, and the district’s enrollment has shrunk by 40 percent in the past 15 years – in part because the recent broadband expansion in schools hasn’t yet extended to many households.

Families have moved out of town because their children couldn’t access the internet outside of school to do homework, says Kimberly Longey, a local resident and chief operating officer of Free Press, an open internet advocacy nonprofit. And with analysts expecting the repeal of net neutrality to raise costs for service, schools in these small Massachusetts towns could struggle.

“Our school systems are cash-strapped already. If they have to pay a premium to access content to provide even just a basic educational environment, never mind trying to strive for excellence ... that content is very likely to go,” says Ms. Longey.

Other possible impacts

Price hikes aren’t the only possible outcome of repealing net neutrality, says Mr. Leichty, the CoSN advisor. Providers could create a so-called “two-lane” internet system in which companies that can afford to pay higher fees can receive faster service. The result could be comparably snail-paced loading speeds for some crucial online educational platforms – including videoconferencing and digital testing – that don’t have substantial financial backing.

Those losses of online resources are exactly what Reyer has been working to prevent. He and other school administrators have encouraged schools to include stipulations for a free and open internet environment directly into contract agreements with providers.

“By default [rural school districts] have less negotiating power because they have less choice. But that doesn't mean that they can't ask their vendor to review and sign off on some kind of a net neutrality document,” he says.

Teamwork is key

But for Reyer’s school district, successfully negotiating with internet providers also required teamwork. His mid-sized suburban district joined forces with several others in the area to form a coalition called an “Intermediate Unit” – a name specific to Pennsylvania – that could collectively bargain like a union.

The full effects of ending net neutrality won’t become clear until weeks, or months after June 11, says Leichty, and two state legislatures – Washington and Oregon – have already instituted their own net neutrality measures in place of the national regulations. But should network inequities threaten Buoniconti’s districts, he is committed to working with other vulnerable schools to fight for a solution together. Successfully lobbying for broadband through the Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition was just the first step toward securing equal, accessible internet in the region.

“The point of my stepping forward in this is that I recognized that we couldn't fix ourselves,” he says. “This is something that we need: collaboration, teamwork, and support from the larger community.”

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A letter from …

New Boston, N.H.

4. Authoritarianism or bluster? In one town, two takes on Trump talk

When the president said last week that he could pardon himself, he set alarm bells ringing in some quarters. But his supporters have remained consistent: They look at what he does, not what he says. 

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In the picturesque southern New Hampshire town of New Boston, a few Republicans express unease with President Trump’s brash – critics would say authoritarian – rhetoric in relation to the Russia investigation. But most cast it aside as bluster. “Trump’s biggest problem is keeping his mouth shut,” says John Young, who owns a garden shop here. Nearly all agree there are far more important priorities. There’s North Korea. There’s illegal immigration. There’s the “broken health-care system” – and more. Mr. Trump’s supporters see their president tackling all these priorities, and they like that he’s shaking up the status quo. Indeed, for many die-hard Trump fans, the president’s aggressive statements in response to the special counsel are necessary counterpunches against those who are trying to take him down. “I think they see this as something that needs to be done,” says pollster Andrew Smith of the University of New Hampshire in Durham. “[They] wanted one person to come in from outside and shake up the system…. If he’s got to assume some powers to do that, then so be it.”

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Authoritarianism or bluster? In one town, two takes on Trump talk

Tending to his garden shop that’s brimming with bright marigolds and purple petunias, John Young has some choice words when it comes to President Trump and the ongoing Mueller investigation.

“Trump’s biggest problem is keeping his mouth shut,” he says.

But Mr. Young and his wife Rita, former apple growers who voted for Mr. Trump back in 2016, also sympathize with the president’s efforts to push back against an investigation they see as overblown and lacking merit.

“I really believe the Russia thing will end up being nothing,” Mrs. Young says firmly. “It’s a bunch of poppycock.”

In this picturesque southern New Hampshire town, where 53 percent cast ballots for Trump in 2016, some Republican voters express unease with the president’s brash – critics would say authoritarian – rhetoric about the unconstitutionality of the special counsel or his ability to pardon himself. But most cast it aside as bluster.

Nearly all agree there are far more important priorities than putting the Trump team’s dealings with Russia under a microscope.

There’s North Korea, and the possibility of finding a path forward on one of the most intractable international threats. There’s illegal immigration, and the red tape of legal immigration that makes it difficult to get badly needed migrant farm workers. There’s the “broken healthcare system” – some residents here say Obamacare priced them out of the market, causing them to lose their coverage – and more.

Trump supporters see their president tackling all these priorities, and they like that he’s shaking up the status quo. Indeed, for many die-hard Trump fans, the president’s aggressive claims to power are just necessary counterpunches against those who are trying to take him down. 

“I think they see this as something that needs to be done,” says Andrew Smith, director of The Survey Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, which has been tracking New Hampshire voters’ views of Trump in public opinion polls every three months. “[They] wanted one person to come in from outside and shake up the system….  If he’s got to assume some powers to do that, then so be it.”

New Hampshire, like the nation itself, displays a stark partisan divide over the Mueller investigation, with 91 percent of Democrats seeing it as “a very serious matter that should be fully investigated,” according to an April poll conducted by The Survey Center. But two out of three Republicans in the state see it “mainly as an effort to discredit Trump’s presidency.”

At lunchtime, Dave Flynn and his window-washing crew roll into New Boston for sandwiches at Dodge’s Store – a fixture of the town of since the 1800s, with just the right kind of porch for hanging out and catching up on politics and local scuttlebutt.

Mr. Flynn says business is good – people can afford the “luxury” of having all their windows cleaned, a $250-$300 job – and he couldn’t be happier with Trump.

“LOVE HIM!” says Flynn, who is based in a nearby town.  

“I hope he doesn’t get impeached,” chimes in Matt Tierney, while fellow employee Corey Levesque crows about the extra $40 he gets every week now, thanks to Trump’s tax cuts.

Flynn calls the Mueller investigation a huge waste of taxpayer money. “I’m a businessman. If I had an opportunity to do something that would make my business bigger and better and it was in Russia, I’d do it,” he says.

Even if it turns out there was collusion, Flynn adds, there are more important issues. “There’s people who are starving and need to eat, who don’t really care if he did [collude with Russia] or not.”

New Boston is far from being deep-red Trump country. Priuses coexist with rumbling pick-ups here, and the quaint local shops in this town of 5,500 offer everything from bags of cow manure to diamond rings. The library is advertising both a GOP meet-and-great with a female Navy Reserves captain running for Congress, as well as a discussion of MSNBC host Chris Matthews’ book “Bobby Kennedy: A raging spirit.”

Across New Hampshire, Republicans are more lukewarm about Trump than elsewhere in the country. While a Gallup poll earlier this month revealed that 87 percent of Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing as president – the highest own-party approval rating for any president at the 500-day mark since President George W. Bush after 9/11 – Trump’s job approval was at 79 percent among New Hampshire Republicans in Mr. Smith’s poll. The president had an even lower net favorability rating of 60 percent, down from 73 percent in February.

“[New Hampshire] Republicans like the job he is doing – but they don’t [necessarily] like him,” says Smith. “They like him less than they like the job he is doing as president.”

That’s the case for Rod Towne, a Republican and member of the New Boston Board of Selectman who says he agreed that the status quo needed to be shaken up, but couldn’t bring himself to vote for Trump, whom he describes as arrogant.

Still, Mr. Towne isn’t overly concerned that Trump’s claim to be able to self-pardon hints at dictatorial ambitions. “He may think it inside,” he says. “[But] I have great confidence in our system.... It’s worked in some of the worst times the country has seen.”

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5. How Hollywood gave science the ‘Jurassic Park generation’

Entertainment often shapes public perceptions. In this case, a blockbuster science fiction film opened the door to science for a whole new generation of paleontologists.

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Twenty-five years ago, tens of millions of people flocked to movie theaters to see the latest hit film: “Jurassic Park.” The movie, which premièred on June 11, 1993, captured the imagination of children and adults alike, and left a legacy in the scientific field that inspired it. Dinosaur paleontology had just undergone a scientific revolution. The film revealed scientists’ revised view of dinosaurs as active, intelligent animals to the public. Moviegoers were fascinated and wanted to learn more about the real thing. That energized public interest in dinosaur paleontology continues to influence the field today. For some, the film had a very personal impact. “People don’t believe me when I say it, [but] I became a paleontologist because of ‘Jurassic Park,’ ” says Thomas Adams, curator of paleontology and geology at the Witte Museum in San Antonio. And he’s not alone. The surge of scientists entering the field over the past 25 years has helped usher in a wave of new discoveries. In what has been called a “golden age” of dinosaur research, about 50 new dinosaur species are identified each year.

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How Hollywood gave science the ‘Jurassic Park generation’

Like many children, Jordan Mallon had lots of ideas about what he wanted to be when he grew up. He harbored dreams of being a professional hockey player or perhaps an artist, and he was fascinated by dinosaurs.

Then, in the summer of 1993, Jordan’s father took him to see “Jurassic Park.” After the credits rolled and the lights came up in the movie theater, 11-year-old Jordan could see his future before him. That night, he said to his mother, “Mom, I want to be a paleontologist.”

“That was a turning point. That movie really struck a chord with me,” recalls Dr. Mallon, now a dinosaur paleontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. “I didn’t change my focus. Never did I ever waver.”

After “Jurassic Park” premièred June 11, 1993, tens of millions of people flocked to movie theaters to see the captivating creatures that once roamed the planet. The film ignited a firestorm of public interest in dinosaurs and, by extension, paleontology. This newfound popularity set off a sequence of events that would ultimately bring a flood of new scientists, kick off a golden age of dinosaur discoveries, and forever change paleontology. 

“Paleontology as a field owes a huge debt of gratitude to ‘Jurassic Park.’ I think our field would be very, very different today if ‘Jurassic Park’ had never happened,” says Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. In 2013, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology presented filmmaker Steven Spielberg with an award to recognize the effect the movie has had on the field. 

Twenty-five years later, the “Jurassic Park” franchise is still captivating audiences. The fifth film in the series, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” is set to première June 22. 

Revolutionizing dinosaurs

It’s hard to imagine now, but dinosaurs were once seen as sluggish, stupid monsters that were coldblooded evolutionary losers not worthy of study because they had no descendants alive today. In fact, for years the beasts were seen as so boring that when a young Jack Horner, a paleontologist who ultimately advised “Jurassic Park” filmmakers, told a professor that he wanted to study dinosaurs, he was laughed at. 

But a “dinosaur renaissance” in the 1960s and ’70s gave rise to a new scientific view of dinosaurs as active and intelligent animals that were warmblooded relatives of modern-day birds. It was that new understanding of dinosaurs that set the stage for Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel, “Jurassic Park.” The film adaptation brought the vision of dinosaurs as dynamic creatures to life in the public eye with groundbreaking computer-generated imagery.

“They really seemed like they were alive, like they were real animals,” says Thomas Cullen, a postdoctoral research scientist at The Field Museum in Chicago.

These silver-screen dinosaurs were no longer creatures emerging from the mist of imaginative mysticism or just boring old bones in museums. Instead, they were animals grounded in the reality of natural history that warranted fascination in their own right.

“They weren’t monsters and they weren’t cartoons,” says Victoria Arbour, a postdoctoral fellow at the Royal Ontario Museum and University of Toronto. “[The film] really emphasized dinosaurs as real living creatures that were animals that lived on Earth.... That really inspired me to view them as things that we could learn more about how they lived.”

Victoria Arbour works at an excavation in southern Alberta.
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COURTESY OF DAVID EVANS/ ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

Beyond child’s play

These charismatic, prehistoric movie stars energized hordes of moviegoers to learn more about real dinosaurs. Museums saw an influx of visitors to their dinosaur exhibits.

“One of the best things that ‘Jurassic Park’ did for the field was instill or feed this inherent curiosity that we have about dinosaurs,” says Mary Schweitzer, a paleontologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. 

And the film stirred intrigue in people of all ages, says Matthew Carrano, curator of Dinosauria at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington. “Now adults are as interested as kids. That is a whole demographic change.”

The paleontological community saw an opportunity in this newfound popularity to connect the public with science. Documentaries, television shows, books, and other scientific materials abounded.

Before the film, “it was a fair bit of work to maintain your interest [in dinosaurs],” Dr. Carrano says. There was only a handful of books and toys out there, and museum exhibits had largely gone without updates for half a century. 

“I would go to the library, and I would read the same books over and over and over,” recalls Carrano, who was in graduate school when “Jurassic Park” came out. But the film’s popularity changed this in a way that persists today. “I can certainly see how different things are. Now, there’s perhaps 50 new books a year, conservatively.”

All this material in turn generated more excitement, and that fed back into the scientific community. Scientific studies about dinosaurs received more press, paleontologists published more papers, universities began offering courses focused entirely on dinosaurs, and many museums hired dinosaur specialists for the first time. 

For some dinosaur fans, paleontology’s new position in the spotlight played a key role in turning a childlike fascination into a more serious interest.

Andrew Farke discovered the allure of dinosaurs as a 4-year-old and was known in his small South Dakota hometown as “the dinosaur kid.” So when “Jurassic Park” came out when he was 12, the paleontological discussions that followed crystallized his interest.

“It was about that time that I transitioned from being a casual dinosaur fan – I read lots of books – to really thinking that I wanted to be a paleontologist,” recalls Dr. Farke, now curator of paleontology at the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, Calif.

The young Farke began to write to paleontologists with his own ideas about how dinosaurs may have looked, moved, and eaten. “I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the start of my professional colleagues and friends,” he says.

In this scene from the 1993 movie ‘Jurassic Park,’ Dr. Alan Grant, played by Sam Neill, runs from dinosaurs on the loose.
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UNIVERSAL PICTURES/AP/FILE

A golden age for dinosaur science

“Jurassic Park” made not only dinosaurs cool, but also the scientists who have devoted their lives to studying them. The film offered a fresh view of scientists whom children like Farke might look to as role models.

“In a lot of movies, scientists are either evil, or they’re these emotionless, really sterile people,” says Sarah Werning, an assistant professor of anatomy at Des Moines University in Iowa. But in “Jurassic Park,” the scientists were people whom the audience could identify with. Their awe was something the audience shared. 

The film includes the strong female characters of scientist Ellie Sattler and Lex, the computer-whiz granddaughter of the theme park’s owner (portrayed by Laura Dern and Ariana Richards, respectively).

“Having both a male and a female paleontologist in the movie was really important,” says Dr. Arbour, the postdoctoral fellow. And it wasn’t just Dr. Sattler’s presence in the film that made a difference, she says: “She’s presented as very normal. It’s not weird that she’s a woman and doing science. They didn’t make a big deal about it. She was just there, and she was smart, and people respected her.”

The surge of scientists entering the field who were touched by “Jurassic Park” helped usher in a wave of new discoveries. From 1984 to 1994, about 15 new dinosaur species were named each year. That number has risen to about 50 with no sign of slowing down. Some have dubbed this a golden age of discovery.

“ ‘Jurassic Park’ came out of a scientific revolution in dinosaur studies, and then it feeds back into one,” Carrano says.

With new specimens flooding in over the past quarter century, dinosaurs have proved to be an incredibly diverse group that continually surprises. While some are behemoth carnivores, others are herbivores. Dinosaurs come in all shapes and sizes, too. Some have armorlike scales and clubs for tails, while others have horns or frills or feathers. The relationship between birds and dinosaurs has been better documented as well. Current scientific consensus is that birds are a group of theropod dinosaurs (so not all dinosaurs died out in the end-Cretaceous mass extinction).

The popular press and the public have eaten up these discoveries. 

A gateway to science

Michelle Stocker grew up with the excitement around “Jurassic Park,” but it wasn’t until after she became a professional paleontologist that she really felt the influence of the franchise.

“It’s the way that much of the public sees paleontology and dinosaurs,” she says. And scientists make use of that. Museum curators can anticipate visitors’ questions and design displays to answer them. Paleontologists can also hold outreach events linked to the latest movie in the franchise. 

“It’s the point of entry for talking about the science that we do with so many people,” says Dr. Stocker, a paleontologist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg.

Still, some paleontologists see the dinosaur frenzy stirred up by the “Jurassic Park” movies as a “double-edged sword,” says Ali Nabavizadeh, an assistant professor of anatomy at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, N.J., because the dinosaurs aren’t all depicted accurately in the films. “It hypes people up about dinosaurs, but then the kids start believing certain things about how a dinosaur looks or how dinosaurs lived that are not necessarily true.”

The original film largely depicted the animals based on scientific models that were current in the early 1990s. But the filmmakers did take some creative liberties. For example, the movie-star raptors were actually large versions of Deinonychus, not Velociraptor. The real Velociraptor was closer to the size of a turkey.

Some of the original “Jurassic Park” dinosaurs are now outdated, too, thanks to new scientific discoveries. With the view back then of dinosaurs as particularly agile and energetic, it wasn’t a stretch to imagine a speedy Tyrannosaurus rex that could run down a Jeep with three tasty humans in it. But subsequent research found that the body mechanics of T. rex was such that a quick-footed human could probably outrun the dinosaur. 

The latest criticism comes from scientists irked that dinosaurs now known to have had feathers (like Velociraptor) haven’t gotten an updated look in the most recent films. 

But paleontologists can also leverage those inaccuracies to explain to the interested public how they know what they know – or don’t – about how a dinosaur looked and acted from examining fossils.

In that sense, dinosaurs can be a gateway to science more generally. “If you use dinosaurs correctly, you feed the hunger for how we do science,” says Dr. Schweitzer at North Carolina State.

That’s just what happened for Rowan University’s Dr. Nabavizadeh as a child. After seeing “Jurassic Park” as a 6-year-old, “the excitement I got in seeing the dinosaurs alive and in the flesh made me start to wonder, was this really what they looked like?” he says. “How can we tell anatomically? Were there special features that we don’t know about just from the bones?”

Something similar happened for Thomas Adams, although he was no longer a child in 1993. Dr. Adams was 25 and managing record stores when the film came out. All the hubbub prompted him to change careers.

“People don’t believe me when I say it, [but] I became a paleontologist because of ‘Jurassic Park,’ ” says Adams, who is now curator of paleontology and geology at the Witte Museum in San Antonio. 

Adams had disliked school in his youth, but “Jurassic Park” sparked a kind of academic curiosity he had never experienced before.

“I found that if you have this passion for something, everything else you learn is so important and so relevant to what you’re doing that it makes it fun to learn,” Adams says. “I rediscovered learning.”

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The Monitor's View

The source of Jordan’s river of discontent

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For nearly a week in early June, tens of thousands of Jordanians took to the streets in protests. Initially, they focused on economic issues such as a proposed income tax. But they ended up venting public frustration with wasta – a term that refers to the common use of nepotism and cronyism in daily life, especially in hiring. Many demonstrators held up loaves of flatbread with the words “corruption = hunger.” The protests were the largest in Jordan since the Arab Spring in 2011. But this time they were better organized and more unified and diverse. Union workers, middle-class professionals, and rural people turned out in many cities. The entire region has taken notice. The protests have led to a new urgency among political leaders to bring greater transparency, accountability, and political participation in government, particularly among marginalized youth – a third of whom are unemployed. Yet the first step may have already been taken. Citizens have, as King Abdullah wished for last year, risen up to “reject and spurn” wasta.

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The source of Jordan’s river of discontent

In an interview last year, King Abdullah of Jordan admitted he can do only so much to end a deep cultural practice known in Arabic as wasta. The term refers to the common use of nepotism and cronyism in daily life, especially in hiring. One in 3 Jordanians, for example, works for the government, plum work often gained through favoritism, such as a tribal connection or even bribery.

Wasta,” the monarch said, “cannot be rooted out without first being categorically rejected and spurned by citizens.”

In early June, the king, who inherited his own job, almost saw his wish come true. For nearly a week, tens of thousands of Jordanians took to the streets in protests that, while initially focused on economic issues such as a proposed income tax, ended up venting public frustration with wasta and the lack of a meritocracy in business and government.

Many demonstrators held up loaves of flatbread with the words “corruption = hunger.” Others demanded a special commission to go after the corrupt. In a country where 70 percent of people are under age 30, the message was not lost.

“Young people no longer see themselves as subjects pleading for a gratuity,” one columnist wrote in The Jordan Times. “They consider themselves as the taxpayers who pay the salary of all public officials and, understandably, they want good value for their tax money.”

The protests were the largest in Jordan since the Arab Spring in 2011. This time, however, they were better organized and more unified and diverse. Union workers, middle-class professionals, and rural people turned out in many cities, sending shock waves across the region.

In Jordan itself, the king appointed a new prime minister and canceled recent austerity measures such as a reduction in energy subsidies. He also quickly arranged for $2.5 billion in aid from Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies.

The common model of state patronage in the Middle East, which often relies on wasta, has mainly benefited the elite, bloated the public sector, and created economic stagnation. In April, the International Monetary Fund warned the Arab world – which has the highest rate of youth employment – that it must find jobs for 27 million young people entering the workforce in the next five years.

“More than 60 percent of [Arab] citizens perceive that connections – or wasta – determine whether or not you find a job,” said IMF chief Christine Lagarde. “The public dissatisfaction that is bubbling up in several countries is a reminder that even more urgent action is needed.”

Earlier this year, the World Bank issued a report, “Eruptions of Popular Anger: The Economics of the Arab Spring and Its Aftermath,” which warned that perceptions of wasta and corruption are negatively associated with “subjective well-being.” It found that a “broken social contract, not high inequality” was the main reason for the Arab Spring.

The protests in Jordan have led to a new urgency among political leaders to bring greater transparency, accountability, and political participation in government, particularly among marginalized youth – a third of whom are unemployed. Yet the first step, as the king pointed out, may have already been taken. Citizens themselves have risen up to “reject and spurn” wasta.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

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

Taking the side to end conflict

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This contributor learned how letting God guide us gives us practical ways to resolve divisive issues, which helped her avoid a repeat of a racially motivated altercation.

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Taking the side to end conflict

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I sat across from two of my favorite teachers, and I was certain they had chosen the wrong side – against me! Unless I changed my viewpoint, they would not allow me to go on an upcoming school-sponsored camping trip.

This happened years ago, following an incident when a group of girls – apparently motivated by race-based hatred – had pushed and grabbed me and three other girls at the school I attended as a preteen. I was able to break free and put myself in front of two of the other intended victims in an attempt to protect them. The attackers then grabbed my legs and lifted me as if to throw me over a nearby railing, but they were stopped by teachers who came to intervene.

Surely I was on the right side! I asked the teachers, “Why am I being singled out for doing the right thing?” They explained that while it was good that I had protected the girls, they had heard me reply to the perpetrators’ threat of future attacks that I’d fight back for our protection.

The teachers maintained that the way I could help prevent fights was to refuse to fight. To me, that sounded convoluted. However, I finally agreed I would go about my school days and the camping trip without expecting there’d be a fight.

Most important, I set about doing that by trying to follow what I was learning in the Christian Science Sunday School I attended. For instance, Christ Jesus indicated we are to put God first and not only love our neighbor as ourselves but also love our enemies, be merciful, and do good even in unfair situations (see Luke 6:27-36). Our desire to do that (and doing it) are our means of availing ourselves of God’s power to help and heal, as Jesus did.

I did go camping that year and wound up having so much fun! Initially a few of the girls started taunting calls outside my cabin. Instead of responding in kind, I treated the girls as if they had come by for a friendly visit and invited them in. The tone turned positive, even friendly, and there weren’t any more taunts. In one activity, I was paired with one of the group’s leaders, and we both enjoyed it! We didn’t become close friends, but we were congenial and laughed together. There were no attacks at camp, and I was not involved in any more race-related incidents for the remaining two years I attended that school.

While the stakes of conflicts between tribes or nations are much larger, this experience provided foundational lessons for me about peacekeeping and ending strife – specifically, the value of letting God, good, guide our thoughts, which silences fear. Christian Science explains that divine Love, another name for God, is supreme, with no opposing sides. So if we would be peacemakers, we can’t approach conflict resolution from the basis that someone has to be right and someone else has to be wrong. Hostility – whether political, religious, or economic – is the result of the belief that there are many minds with selfish, conflicting opinions.

The remedy to prevent or stop conflict, then, is in holding to and demonstrating the reality that there is one all-acting Mind, God, who is divine Love itself, and who is the actual creator of each of us. The discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, explained: “God is the divine Mind. Hence the sequence: Had all peoples one Mind, peace would reign” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 279). Putting thought on the side of God, the supremacy of Spirit, reveals that power is not in aggression.

Of course, peacemaking does not ignore or excuse wrong. For true peace it’s imperative for those who commit or perpetuate wrong to stop, change their ways, and make reparations for wrongdoing.

Peacemaking is not pacifism. The change that took place in my experience started with actively letting go of my personal attempts to settle disputes as I defined justice. Instead, I had to see that peace was the natural result of genuinely desiring to honor God as universally good, and letting my actions reflect divine Love, which silences the animosity, pride, or vengeance that leads to fighting.

All who take God’s side in thought against self-will, injustice, division, and oppression by yielding to the supremacy of Spirit become part of a standing army for peacemaking and the ending of conflict.

Adapted from an article published in the Jan. 8, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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Tilting toward a high-stakes poll

Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wave Turkish and Justice and Development Party (AKP) flags during an election rally in Nigde, Turkey, June 11. Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for June 24. Constitutional amendments made last year will give the president more executive powers.
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Murat Kula/Presidential Palace/Reuters
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris and Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( June 12th, 2018 )

Thanks for joining us today. Please come back tomorrow when staff writer Simon Montlake looks at how a college program in a Connecticut prison is changing inmates’ sense of possibility.  

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