2018
August
14
Tuesday

Monitor Daily Podcast

August 14, 2018
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TODAY’S INTRO

Monitor Daily Intro for August 14, 2018

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Tiger Woods finished second Sunday, yet seemed happy. Uncharacteristically, he waited to give a big hug to the winner. Mr. Woods played well, which may be part of his joy. But the other part might just be who won the PGA Championship.

Brooks Koepka won his third major tournament in two years – and is one of the best young players in the game. In a sense, Mr. Koepka is Tiger 2.0. Koepka’s a true athlete, mentally and physically imposing, in a sport that once had a reputation of not being populated by athletes. Woods changed that perception. He made workouts cool. Heck, he made golf cool. Koepka could have been a pro baseball player, like his dad, but he chose golf – and a generation of athletes who grew up watching Woods have made a similar choice.

Sports embodies continual progress, always pushing the boundaries of time and space. Woods redefined the limits of what was possible in his chosen sport.

Thanks to injuries (and "incredibly bad" life choices), Woods hasn’t won a major tournament in a decade. He’s healthy now and displaying his old magic. But his comeback quest is made all the more difficult because of his influence on the sport. Woods is now challenging younger players who modeled their game after his, those whom he inspired as children. And the game of golf is all the better for it.

Now to our five selected stories, including a closer look at fostering innovation in education, law enforcement, and the movie business.

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What sanctions on Turkey say about current US brand of diplomacy

How do you modify the behavior of a global ally? The Trump administration is using the same form of punishment on a friendly nation that’s used on international foes. Will that work?

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American Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor, stands accused in Turkey of spying on behalf of the leaders of a failed 2016 coup. The United States considers the charges baseless. But when President Trump imposed toughened steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, a NATO ally, over the pastor’s detention, it was at least unusual, say experts on sanctions. What Mr. Trump’s action reveals, they say, is an administration that remains suspicious and dismissive of diplomacy, while putting more faith in the impact and effectiveness of blunt-force tools to get results. “This is the kind of thing that normally would be resolved quietly behind closed doors,” says George Lopez, an expert in economic sanctions at Notre Dame. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is showing no signs of bowing to US pressure. On Monday he compared the US action to shooting “bullets into the foot of your strategic partner,” and announced a boycott of American electronics products. Professor Lopez says the unilateral actions on both sides will do nothing to resolve the conflict. “Sanctions are only effective when you have the effective diplomacy and international engagement to go along with them,” he says.

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1. What sanctions on Turkey say about current US brand of diplomacy

President Trump has proven to be a fan of economic sanctions and penalties.

They’re useful as a tool to try to modify the behavior of adversaries like Iran, Russia, and North Korea, or as a “national security” defense against a range of trading partners.

But now the president has gone a step further, slapping toughened steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey over the NATO ally’s detention and trial on espionage charges of a US citizen, evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson.

Such use of economic punishment to try to influence the actions of a friend and ally is at least unusual, experts in international sanctions say, if not unprecedented.

What Mr. Trump’s action reveals, they say, is a president and an administration that remain suspicious and dismissive of diplomacy, while putting more faith in the impact and effectiveness of blunt-force tools to get results.

Moreover, the Turkish economy is already precariously weak and vulnerable to external blows. So the punitive steps suggest that Trump – far from seeking to avoid deepening an ally’s woes while trying to resolve a diplomatic dispute – senses weakness and is zeroing in on Turkey’s economic vulnerabilities to force a response, analysts add.

“This is really a unique case. For one thing I can’t think of another instance where sanctions were imposed for the treatment or release of a single individual,” says George Lopez, an expert in economic sanctions at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. “But this is the kind of thing that normally would be resolved quietly behind closed doors, especially given that this is a NATO ally we’re talking about.”

Noting that Trump announced his intention to double the tariffs on Turkey over Mr. Brunson in a tweet, Professor Lopez says the president clearly wanted his followers to know he was acting unilaterally on behalf of the pastor.

“This has been catapulted to a crisis that didn’t need to be,” Lopez says. “But I get the feeling this is a topic the administration likes.”

Worsening US-Turkish ties

US relations with Turkey have been rocky for years, but took a sharp dive in 2016 after a failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Mr. Erdoğan claimed was fomented by a Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gülen, living in exile in Pennsylvania. Turkey has unsuccessfully sought Mr. Gülen’s extradition.

Upon taking office, Trump initially expressed admiration for Erdoğan’s strongman leadership style. But ties frayed further as Turkey deepened relations with Russia and Iran, and clashed with the US over its alliance with Kurdish fighters in the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The United States included Turkey in the list of countries hit earlier this year with tariffs of 10 percent on aluminum and 25 percent on steel. Trump then announced in his tweet Friday that he had authorized a doubling of the tariffs in Turkey’s case. The new higher tariffs will effectively price Turkey out of the US market, economists say.

Enter the case of Mr. Brunson. The evangelical pastor stands accused of spying on behalf of the 2016 coup leaders, charges the US considers baseless. But although Turkey holds in detention as many as a dozen US citizens – including NASA physicist Serkan Golge, who was convicted and imprisoned on similar charges – Brunson is the only detained American on whose behalf Trump has spoken out publicly and taken action.

Even Trump didn’t appear to take a keen interest in the Brunson case until Vice President Mike Pence, a favorite with US evangelicals, pressed the president on the pastor’s plight, some Washington sources say.

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP
People wait at a currency exchange shop in Istanbul, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. The Turkish lira has nosedived in value in the past week amid concerns over Erdoğan's economic policies and after the United States increased sanctions on Turkey.

In the view of some experts, it is not so much the threat or use of economic pressure on a friend and ally that is so unusual, but rather the very public way Trump has moved against Turkey.

“There are several reasons to believe that sanctions or the threat of some form of economic action could be more effective when used versus a friend than versus an adversary,” says Randall Newnham, a specialist in the role of economic aid and sanctions in foreign policy at Penn State Berks in Reading, Pa.

“Friends generally have strong economic ties, so you’ve got something to sanction,” he says. “There’s probably a close political relationship the ally doesn’t want to disrupt, and then the friendship probably means there’s a level of trust and familiarity to work with towards some resolution.”

One example Professor Newnham cites is US punitive action in the past over Israel’s settlement construction. Another example is reduction in the 1990s of US aid to Colombia over the South American nation’s shortcomings in a bilateral anti-narcotics campaign.

Reminiscent of 19th-century competition

But the glaring difference in the Turkey case is how publicly and seemingly without much discussion or planning Trump took his action.

“Usually this type of pressure on an ally would be carried out in a much more subtle way,” Newnham says, “but here we have the president doing this in a tweet and off the top of his head.”

The Turkish ambassador to Washington did meet with national security adviser John Bolton Monday, but neither side announced any progress towards Brunson’s release.

Noting that Trump seemed almost to delight in Turkey’s economic tailspin – in his tweet last Friday, Trump announced his higher tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum “as their currency … slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!” – Newnham says the approach is in some ways more reminiscent of how trade and diplomatic relations were carried out in the 19th-century world of competing (and often warring) nation-states.

“These days your aim isn’t usually to humiliate the other side, but this approach would seem to make it very hard for a strong-willed leader like Erdoğan to back down,” Newnham says.

Indeed Erdoğan is showing no signs of bowing to US pressure. At a fiery press conference Monday, the Turkish leader compared the US action to shooting “bullets into the foot of your strategic partner.” He also announced a boycott of American electronics products.

No unilateral way out of conflict

No one outside Turkey is claiming that the country’s economic tailspin is anything other than Erdoğan’s doing. A recent economic boom was largely fueled by foreign borrowing – largely in dollars – and propped up by Erdoğan through the 2016 reelection campaign, in part by his refusal to raise interest rates.

“There’s no question that Erdoğan has put himself in a box,” Notre Dame’s Lopez says. But he adds that Trump’s action has only given Erdoğan a convenient scapegoat to use with Turks. “These sanctions give him the old rally-around-the-flag song to sing to his public,” he says.

That may serve Erdoğan’s immediate purposes, but Lopez says the unilateral actions on both sides will do nothing to resolve the conflict between two allies.

“Sanctions are only effective when you have the effective diplomacy and international engagement to go along with them,” Lopez says. But noting that the US does not even have an ambassador in Ankara at the moment, he adds, “What we’ve learned by now is that this administration is not very good at making the connection between the economic action and the international political work that has to accompany it if it’s going to have the outcome you want.”

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Teen activists’ power play: Unite on gun control, then get out the vote

Student activism is growing, but it's not happening in a vacuum. Young people say that to make lasting changes, they have to speak with a united voice.

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After traveling to more than 20 states to speak with fellow young people about gun control and voting, student activists ended their summer tour in Newtown, Conn., on Sunday. The tour – featuring students from Parkland, Fla. – started in Chicago and ended in Newtown, highlighting other cities that have been affected by random or daily gun violence. Despite having different connections to such violence, teens from the three cities say they are doing what has never been done before: creating a unified front against the National Rifle Association. Central to these efforts is young voter registration, a goal of the summer tour and something some polls show is on the rise. Hope Hottois, who attended the rally on Sunday, was planning to register anyway, but she chose to do so with the gathered community. “When [the school shooting at] Sandy Hook happened here I was only 12. It was hard to process what was going on,” she says. “But now I’m 18. I’m coming into my own and I’m finding my own voice.”

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2. Teen activists’ power play: Unite on gun control, then get out the vote

From a distance it almost looked like a summer fair. Food trucks served nachos and ice cream, young families played corn hole, and a local band played music over a loudspeaker.

But a booth in the center of the field labeled “Voter Registration,” with its volunteers in neon yellow shirts, hinted that the event was something else.

Student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., wrapped up their summer-long March for Our Lives: Road to Change national tour in Newtown, Conn., on Sunday after visiting more than 20 states across the United States.

The tour began in early June in Chicago, where 174 people under the age of 17 have been shot and killed since September 2011, before ending in Newtown, where 20 first graders and six educators were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The two cities are intentional bookends for a tour aimed at registering and motivating young Americans to vote.

Despite having different connections to gun violence, young people from these three cities say they are doing what has never been done before: creating a unified front against the National Rifle Association (NRA). 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Audience members react to speakers at a March for Our Lives rally, on Aug.12, 2018, as the Road to Change summer bus tour arrives at its final stop in Newtown, Conn.

“I think that when there's 50 different people saying 50 different messages, it's so confusing to choose one that we think is most important,” says Jackson Mittleman, a rising senior at Newtown High who lost a friend in the Sandy Hook shooting and is now co-chair of the Jr. Newtown Action Alliance. “But if we all start talking about background checks at same time, the country is going to pay attention to background checks.”

After 17 people died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting on February 14, gun control supporters – including activists like Jackson with their own pre-established groups – rallied behind the Parkland students. They witnessed newfound attention from the American public and media because for the first time the victims were the spokespeople, rather than parents or community members, says Saul Cornell, a legal historian at Fordham University in New York who focuses on gun control and attended the rally on Sunday.

“If you’re pro-gun, you have the NRA, gun ranges, gun stores.... If you are a small, organized group you will beat a larger more diffuse group,” says Dr. Cornell. “There’s no question the needle has shifted because of these kids. You can see the changes.”

A spike in voter registration 

Voter registration has increased among 18 to 29 year olds in at least 35 states since the Parkland shooting, the political data firm TargetSmart found in a July analysis. Politically competitive states saw the greatest increases, with young voter registration growing by more than 16 percent in Pennsylvania, more than 11 percent in Virginia, and almost 8 percent in Florida. Jackson tells a cheering crowd in Newtown that voter registration in Connecticut has gone up 200 percent since the last election.

“Parkland students have used this issue to have a greater conversation about the importance of politics among young people in a way that very few people have in recent time,” says John Della Volpe, director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, whose work focuses on Americans between the ages of 18 and 29. “They have transcended politics, they have transcended culture.”

Still, there is an underlying bitterness in Chicago and Newtown – not at the Parkland teens specifically, but at a country that just now started listening. To some teenagers in Chicago, the issue feels race-based: gun violence has always been a part of their lives, but it took a shooting in a wealthy, white suburb to call attention to young gun deaths. The demographics in Newtown are relatively similar to Parkland, making the frustration more diffuse.

“Why was Sandy Hook not enough?” says Momo Burns-Min, a rising junior in Weston, Conn., as her eyes scan the hundreds of people swarming the event’s humid tent. She was in fifth grade when the Sandy Hook shooting happened and she remembers having to color snowmen for four hours while her school was in lockdown.

“I’m so honored to be in the generation of these Parkland kids,” says Momo, “but at the same time, why’d it take this long?”

Still, they see themselves as teammates, and natural friendships have formed between the Newtown and Parkland teens. In an area behind the tent reserved for Newtown and Parkland families, students in dark blue “March for Our Lives” shirts and orange “Sandy Hook Promise” shirts laugh, hug, and take selfies.

“Something that really surprised me was how much these kids are like us,” says Isabella Wakeman, a board member for the Jr. Newtown Action Alliance. “[T]hey're not this big star on a pedestal… That was really surprising for me to see that we can actually make a really personal bond, and not just a bond as an activist.”

At the event, two teenage boys tell Cameron Kasky, an outspoken student from Parkland, their own story. “We go to a conservative Catholic school and they were not supportive of a walk-out, but we did it,” says one of the boys, a look of pride on his face.

Parkland students David Hogg and Emma González arrive shortly before the speakers begin. “Our eyes started watering when we saw her,” says Jessie Braden, a rising junior from Weston, Conn., referring to Ms. González. The audience claps and cheers when the teens enter.

Cameron, Emma, and David look tired. They have just come from a closed door meeting with the families of Sandy Hook victims and they are wrapping up a nationwide tour with almost daily events, where students come to them for encouragement – to share the weight of their own history with gun violence. 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Megan Scribner (c.) gets emotional during speeches by students at the March for Our Lives rally in Newtown, Conn., on Aug. 12, 2018. She participated in a walk out at her school in support of gun control after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

“Both Parkland and Newtown are two ordinary, isolated towns that never have had to cross paths,” says Jaclyn Corin, a rising senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and March for Our Lives organizer. “We were brought together, however, not only because we have experienced the same deplorable pain, but also because of the same monumental strength that arose from the victims and survivors in the aftermath of both tragedies.”

A promise for further involvement

When it is time for Jackson and co-chair Tommy Murray to speak to the crowd, Tommy asks the audience members to raise their right hand and promise to vote to end gun violence. It’s difficult to find someone in the audience not raising their hand.

And there is reason to believe they are telling the truth. Young Americans are more likely to vote when they believe their political involvement will actually have an impact, says Mr. Della Volpe, and since the 2016 election, more young Americans agree that their political involvement has tangible results – a reversal of an apathetic trend that began around 2013, after the economic recession and years of political gridlock. 

“We see the relevancy of politics changing in the eyes of young people,” says Della Volpe. “There haven't been a lot of ‘wins’ recently when it comes to [gun reform].... But the Parkland students have had successes so far. You can see the tangible successes.”

On March 9, less than one month after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed new legislation that raises the state’s minimum age to buy shotguns and rifles from 18 to 21 and bans bump stocks. The Parkland students and other young activists at the rally say they will continue their get-out-the-vote efforts this fall ahead of the 2018 midterm elections to support candidates who favor gun control. 

An April poll by Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) found that 64 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 believe the country’s gun control laws should be more strict – a 15-point increase from a 2013 IOP poll after the school shooting in Newtown. The most interesting part of this increase, says Della Volpe, is that it has occurred across the political spectrum, among both young Democrats and young Republicans.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Hope Hottois, who turned 18 in March, registers to vote at the March for Our Lives rally, on Aug.12, 2018 in Newtown, Conn.

At the voter registration booth in the center of the rally, a young woman hands her clipboard to a volunteer, who offers to check over her registration form and congratulates her on this coming-of-age event.

“I was going to register anyway but it was pretty cool to do it here with the community,” says Hope Hottois, who turned 18 in March. Coming to the rally today was so important to Ms. Hottois that she drove to Newtown alone from her home in Monroe, Conn.

“When Sandy Hook happened here I was only 12. It was hard to process what was going on,” says Hottois. “But now I’m 18. I’m coming into my own and I’m finding my own voice.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the first name of Momo Burns-Min. 

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Thin blue line

America confronts a police shortage

Desperate for officers, a Georgia police chief hits the road

A shortage of police officers has the potential to help reshape law enforcement as we know it. Policy is one thing. But the character and caliber of the people entering the profession will likely be the key catalysts for change. This is the first of a three-part series.

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US policing is facing two existential questions: Who will police America? And how? Whether in Atlanta or Los Angeles, brass are shuffling schedules, burning overtime, and watching response times rise as the numbers of qualified recruits have slowed to a trickle. That has left hundreds of openings at some big city departments. More than 80 percent of US police departments are operating below budgeted “authorized force.” While trying to fill 10 open officer positions this spring, Floyd County (Ga.) Police Chief Mark Wallace had 12 decent prospects. Two showed up for the test. One bombed – badly. The remaining candidate ultimately didn't take the job. Multiply that scenario by 17,985 police departments nationwide and you have a sense of the recruitment challenge facing America’s police chiefs. “It’s scary: I see a time when nobody wants to do this work,” says Mr. Wallace, a 38-year veteran. But the dogged former homicide detective says he won’t quit looking for the next generation of Rome’s protectors. That’s why he folded his frame into his cruiser and headed south to Fort Benning in a long-shot bid to personally recruit retiring infantry planning their civilian lives.

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3. Desperate for officers, a Georgia police chief hits the road

Before he became chief of the Floyd County Police Department last December, Mark Wallace investigated a murder where a man killed his elderly neighbors “just to get himself out of hock.”

Recently, a 911 call from the other side of the spectrum reached Chief Wallace’s dispatcher: a mom requesting an officer to talk to her 7-year-old, who refused to go to school.

Decent pay, sometimes quirky but always critical work, and keys to a take-home cruiser are among the perks to being a Floyd County Police Department officer – 53 deputized men and women patrolling 500 square miles of Appalachian highlands.

Cons include dropping $85 on a new pair of trousers every few months to replace those torn by briars. “The woods are where the bad guys tend to hide,” says Wallace, a 38-year-veteran.

It is all part of the excitement here on the cusp of Mayberry and “CSI.”

Like thousands of small-town and big-city police chiefs across the US, Wallace says his biggest challenge isn’t busting counterfeiters or conducting manhunts – at least not of the traditional sort.

While trying to fill 10 open officer positions, Wallace had 12 decent prospects. Two showed up for the test. One bombed – badly. The remaining candidate ultimately didn’t take the job. Multiply that scenario by 17,985 police departments nationwide, and you have a sense of the recruitment challenge facing America’s police chiefs.

“It feels like a ‘Book of Eli’-type situation,” says Wallace, referencing the apocalyptic neo-Western. “It’s scary: I see a time when nobody wants to do this work.”

But the dogged former homicide detective says he won’t quit looking for the next generation of Rome’s protectors.

That’s why Wallace folded his frame into his cruiser and headed south to Fort Benning in a long-shot bid to personally recruit retiring infantry planning their civilian lives.

The expedition, he says, gave him cautious hope – that solutions to a policing crisis may ultimately be rooted in the very people who are now considering the calling. These are a “new breed” of officers that "follow new rules," as one potential recruit, an Army Ranger, puts it at the job fair.

Patrik Jonsson/The Christian Science Monitor
Floyd County Police Chief Mark Wallace, show in his office in Rome, Ga., says his biggest challenge is finding the the next generation of officers to protect Rome and the 500 square miles of Appalachian highlands his 53 officers patrol.

Who will police America?

US policing is facing two existential questions: Who will police America? And how?

Whether in Atlanta or Los Angeles, Reno, Nev., or Rome, brass are shuffling schedules, burning overtime, and watching response times rise as the numbers of qualified recruits has slowed to a trickle. That has left hundreds of openings at some big city departments. More than 80 percent of US police departments are operating below budgeted “authorized force.”

Consider a confluence of forces: a wave of retirements from the last big recruiting push 20 years ago, a tight labor market that offers less dangerous opportunities at higher pay, and a social media environment where officers say they whipsaw between being portrayed as heroes and villains.

Millennials especially are steering away from lifetime careers like policing, opting instead for shorter experiences. Consequently, the US also has a shortage of truckers, commercial fishermen, and garbage collectors, all of which are more dangerous professions per capita than being a police officer.

Yet policing is in a particular pickle. Social media and the burgeoning use of body cameras has exposed the profession to unprecedented transparency – while also helping police departments defend against false accusations.

Ultimately, negative images of police have not impacted the positive view many Americans have of their own corner cop, according to Gallup, which last year noted a 19-point year-over-year jump in support for police by 18-to-34-year-olds. Yet Pew found last year that scandals have changed how people view the institution itself, with six out of 10 saying that cases of black people killed by police officers are evidence of a broader problem.

Those realities are forcing a rethink of benefit structures and standards, including whether tattoos and prior drug use should be automatic disqualifiers. The process also is turning a sharper eye on what a police officer ultimately represents in American society.

“The role of police has changed fundamentally in very recent years,” says Sarah Charman, a University of Portsmouth sociologist who conducted a five-year study of police recruits in Great Britain. “We are asking police officers to be something and portray something and symbolize something that doesn’t exist in the reality of their role. They are supposed to be heroic crime fighters yet they get heavily involved in social work, safeguarding, and mental health services.”

Through Freedom of Information Act requests to six city departments in Texas and Oklahoma, the Monitor obtained recruitment numbers from the past five years. The numbers offer a snapshot, not only in the total number of recruits, but, more telling, the percentage of those recruits accepted into the academy. (See graphic.) Nationwide, less than 10 percent of applicants go on to become officers. As the years go by, the gap can result in hundreds of officers missing from the streets of cities. For example, in Houston, Police Chief Art Acevedo estimated he needed at least 1,500 more officers.

SOURCE: Austin Police Department, Corpus Christi Police Department, Dallas Police Department, Houston Police Department, San Antonio Police Department, Oklahoma City Police Department
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Jacob Turcotte and Henry Gass/Staff

Changing standards

Take Portland, Maine, a colonial brick port city on the rim of Casco Bay that boasts “quality of life that is off the charts,” says Police Chief Michael Sauschuk.

That New England idyll alone, he says, used to make it easy to recruit new officers.

Today, however, a 116-member department is at its lowest staffing levels ever.

With the national picture just as dire, Mr. Sauschuk joined a nascent movement among America’s law enforcement leaders: As of this year, an applicant who used to smoke pot can now work as a police officer. “At this point, [past drug use] is not the end of the world,” as long as applicants are honest about it, says Sauschuk. “The moral and ethical aspects of the process are far more important than if someone smoked a joint four years ago.”

Sauschuk says he has seen a shift in policing across his own career arc.

“I was hired in 1997, and let there be no mistake, we thought we were doing the right thing by trying to arrest ourselves out of problems,” he says in a phone interview. “But the truth is, you can’t. The vast majority of the time, we are dealing with people who are having a tough day at 3 o’clock in the morning. The career is in the service realm. You’re helping people day to day, trying to put people on the long-term road to health and wellness.”

He says such policing has created a virtuous circle in Portland, building goodwill that, in turn, make the streets more peaceful and the job less dangerous. He also hopes it makes the idea of being a cop more attractive to nontraditional hires.

“I’ve got people in black and white cruisers on the street who are attorneys that passed the bar – and we’re lucky to have them – but we also have blue-collar guys, former mechanics, that have won Officer of the Year,” says Sauschuk. “People will respect you for the work you do. I’m proud to see the profession evolve.”

‘He is the reason I'm still interested in being a cop’

In Rome, where parts of the Reese Witherspoon comedy “Sweet Home Alabama” were filmed, human resource director Daryl Bowie has noted a lingering sense that becoming a cop might not be worth the hassle.

“I think [coverage of disgraced police officers on social media] has had an impact” on attitudes among recruits, says Mr. Bowie. 

That backdrop is a big reason why Wallace for the first time took recruiting on the road, and why he aimed for a place where he “gets to shake hands with heroes”: Fort Benning, the heart of the US infantry as well as the Armor School. The storied installation sprawls across 182,000 acres of the Georgia “gnat belt.”

“We’re trying to find qualified candidates, good character, and we’re looking for diversity,” says Wallace. “The Army has all that.”

He is far from alone in his thoughts, however. Set up inside a strip-mall, the fair bustles with employers and troops in camouflage. There are tattooed and goateed combat veterans, still young but eyes wizened beyond their years. “I’m tired of carrying a gun for work,” says one multiple combat veteran when asked if he’d consider policing as a job.

The hours slide by. Then, a bell rings and a whoop goes up. Floyd County is the first to hit the event’s hiring board: a 19-year-old named Jessica. But Wallace watches as she is steered not toward the Police Department but the even-more-shorthanded Sheriff's Department.

At the fair, recruiters like Richard DeMarco from Orange County in Florida, whose 1,500 sheriff’s department force is 200 bodies short, crane their neck as Miguel Sanchez makes his way through the crowd.

A military careerist who spent part of his time in the military space program, Mr. Sanchez is an expert on battlefield surveillance. He says he can see settling his young family into a small town like Rome.

But ultimately he shakes his head. “Unfortunately, what I’m seeing is a catastrophic loss of rapport” between police and their communities – the kind, he knows from personal experience, that can be ruinous for soldiers in a war zone, and disastrous for cops on the homefront.

Such grim feedback is one reason why chiefs like Wallace are starting to consider diversity as integral to the profession’s survival – a chance to widen the recruit pool and infuse the profession with new thinking. Women, for example, make up about 12 percent of the US police force (up from 2 percent in 1970).

“It is a new type of police culture: a different style, attuned with the public, which shows more compassion and integrity,” says Dr. Charman, the sociologist.

Soldier Alexandria Disqus chats amiably with Wallace about Rome, how nice it is, starting pay. An officer-in-training at the fort, she’s at the fair doing low-key security. But his pitch caught her ear.

Before joining the Army, Ms. Disqus spent six months as a police cadet in Buffalo, N.Y. She saw all types of officers, some of whom left her disillusioned. But a key memory is of the officer who got off at 3 p.m. and promptly drove down to the local rec center to play basketball with the young men who lived in the low-income communities he patrolled.

“He was amazing, and he is the reason I’m still interested in being a cop,” she says. After talking to Wallace, she said she’d give Rome a look – one day.

Rethinking the profession

A few days later, Wallace smiles at the prospect of his daughter’s coming graduation from the University of Georgia. But when asked about the road trip, he sighs. “I’m not sure it was worth the time,” he says.

Recruiters say privately that they are praying for an economic downturn or a decline in military spending, both of which would boost the cop pipeline. But the future of policing – and who will do the job – also will depend on new framing of the role of police. That work has largely not yet been done, policing expert David Kennedy has said.

“For police, the hardest thing is to reconceptualize the profession,” says Nelson Lim, a recruiting expert at the RAND Corp. “Do we celebrate the people who chase the bad guy, kick the door down, and shoot? Or do we celebrate the people who can help eliminate the need for those tactics altogether?”

Wallace’s department faced that choice this spring.

When two of his officers disarmed an angry man without a shot fired, it made laudatory headlines. They became the cops who didn’t shoot.

Wallace acknowledges an internal struggle: whether to applaud the duo publicly and send a broader message on use-of-force shifts in society – or quietly put a letter of commendation in their file for their bravery and cool-headedness.

“When your job is to preserve the safety, security, and — crucially — liberty of a community, each individual encounter is conducted against the backdrop of those broader, overarching goals,” he says. The shifting dynamics between job safety and community values “has definitely started to enter the recruiting equation.”

Staff writer Henry Gass contributed to this report from San Antonio.

SOURCE: Austin Police Department, Corpus Christi Police Department, Dallas Police Department, Houston Police Department, San Antonio Police Department, Oklahoma City Police Department
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Jacob Turcotte and Henry Gass/Staff
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Difference-maker

Drivers of change

Changing trajectories: In D.C., a push to unlock children’s potential

Washington, D.C., can be a contrast between a center of power and needy neighborhoods. Our reporter looks at how one woman leads an effort that’s leveling the playing field for young people in the city.

David
David Karas
Robin Berkley discovered a passion for working with young people and is now executive director of the nonprofit Horton’s Kids.

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When Robin Berkley was working at EducationCounsel, a consulting firm in Washington, she was hesitant to take on tutoring responsibilities because of frequent travel obligations for her job. But as she started tutoring a young boy named Devin, her career focus started to change. Ms. Berkley met Devin through Horton’s Kids, a Washington nonprofit that facilitated the tutoring sessions and works with youths from the Wellington Park neighborhood, one of the city’s most violent, under-resourced communities. Berkley began as a volunteer for the organization in 2011, and in a sign of just how much her focus has changed, she’s served as the group’s executive director since 2014. “What is happening in Wellington Park is systemic and is multi-generational,” she says. “If you don’t disrupt that in a positive way, you’re going to keep wasting incredible talent.” The Horton’s Kids approach has yielded results: Participating children are twice as likely as their peers to graduate from high school, according to the organization’s records. The annual Horton’s Kids fundraiser is at Nationals Park and involves members of Congress, among others.

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4. Changing trajectories: In D.C., a push to unlock children’s potential

After earning her master’s degree, Robin Berkley spent more than a decade working on education policy and programming. But her focus started to change when she met a young boy named Devin.

Her job at the time was with EducationCounsel, a consulting firm in Washington. Once a week after hours, she’d walk from her office across the National Mall to tutor Devin. And she discovered a passion for working directly with some of the youths she served through her policy efforts.

“I just got really moved by working with children and getting to go from the 50,000-foot ether, where you’re basically trying to support, inform, and influence people at the state level, to seeing the end result,” Ms. Berkley says.

She met Devin through Horton’s Kids, a Washington nonprofit that facilitated the tutoring sessions for Devin and works with other youths from the Wellington Park neighborhood, one of the city’s most violent, under-resourced communities. She began as a volunteer for the organization in 2011 and has served as its executive director since 2014.

Founded in 1989, Horton’s Kids seeks to empower young people in Wellington Park, each year serving some 500 children in K-12 through academic support, youth development programs, and assistance with basic needs. The organization aims to alter the trajectory of youths growing up in a community in which, according to the nonprofit, 80 percent of adults lack a high school diploma and the average annual household income falls below $10,000.

“What is happening in Wellington Park is systemic and is multi-generational,” Berkley says. “If you don’t disrupt that in a positive way, you’re going to keep wasting incredible talent.”

So Berkley and her team have designed services around the needs of children in Wellington Park, which she acknowledges are many.

“The average kid coming out of Wellington Park is humming at a higher level of base stress than the average person, and certainly much higher than the average [child],” she says, noting that such stress can have a snowball effect on learning and development. “We’ve really tried to be thoughtful about how we can cut off some of these challenges and mitigate them as soon as possible.”

The programs that Horton’s Kids offers don’t have any selection criteria: Children can decide what to attend and what supports they need. Key to the organization’s service delivery is its Community Resource Center, which is based in the neighborhood and designed to be a one-stop shop for youths. The space, which has bulletproof glass for safety, provides consistent access to fresh produce, other healthy food, books, and computers – the only source of such necessities for some children and families. Various partner organizations also deliver services from the center.

‘An extension of the home’

“I think it really boils down to the power of being on-site,” Berkley says. “The fact that kids walk by us on their way home from school has made it very easy and convenient for kids to come in. We like to think of ourselves as an extension of the home.”

Children can choose between two levels of support. All participants can receive food, fulfillment of basic needs, access to the library, homework assistance, and the opportunity to take part in many enrichment activities. Some 170 of the current youths, Berkley says, also receive intensive support based on more acute needs, such as assistance with getting to and from a doctor’s office and ongoing case management services.

The entire approach has yielded results: Participating children are twice as likely as their peers to graduate from high school, according to the organization’s records.

At its core, Horton’s Kids is about relationships, Berkley says. And that is borne out in the story of Karin Walser, its founder. One night at a gas station when she was a Capitol Hill aide, several children from a nearby homeless shelter volunteered to pump her gas for some spare change. Rather than giving them money, Ms. Walser said she’d take them to the zoo the following weekend. In the years to come, Walser recruited friends to help take children out for Sunday enrichment activities.

“This became a passion – a shared passion – among a group of young people,” Berkley says. “This was how they spent their free time.”

Horton’s Kids was volunteer-run for its first 12 years. Now it has a staff of more than 20, and in fiscal year 2017 some 466 volunteers participated. Its budget that year was about $2.3 million, with just under half of its revenue coming from grants and more than half coming from corporate and individual donations as well as in-kind contributions.

Annual fundraiser at Nationals Park

The organization also benefits from partnerships with federal agencies and Washington firms that result in both volunteers and donated space for tutoring. Its annual fundraiser is at Nationals Park and involves members of Congress, among others.

One Horton’s Kids supporter is Joseph Davis, a partner at the international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. He’s also chair of the firm’s Greater DC Community Foundation advisory committee, whose mission is to support educational and enrichment programs for underserved youths in the Washington area.

Last year, the foundation selected Horton’s Kids as its principal grantee, which means the nonprofit will receive the majority of the foundation’s grant money for at least the next several years. Currently, it’s also a partner in hosting Horton’s Kids events, assists with supplying volunteers, and works on bringing children to the firm for various learning opportunities.

In an email interview, Mr. Davis discussed the importance of the nonprofit’s work.

“Horton’s Kids serves some of the most at-risk children in the District. It provides a place of safety and learning, but it is much more than that,” he says. “The staff knows every child who comes to the center and participates in its programming, and makes an effort to consider all of the needs of the children and their families. [The organization’s] holistic and individualized approach to addressing the challenges these kids face is extremely impressive and effective.”

Davis also recounts meeting Berkley and the impression she made. “Robin was a terrific advocate for the children that Horton’s Kids serves,” he says, “and her obvious passion and dedication to those children played a major role in our decision to select Horton’s Kids as our principal grantee.”

Doing better in school

In comments made by youth participants and provided by Horton’s Kids, several note how the program has helped them improve their academic performance. (Last names of participants have been omitted to protect their privacy.)

“Being a part of Horton’s Kids has helped me to read more at school and get my grades up,” says Kenziya, a fifth-grader. She not only appreciates the homework help she receives, but also enjoys the field trips she’s taken thanks to the organization.

Alexis, who is in sixth grade, comments on how she has grown from her participation. “Being a part of Horton’s Kids has helped me to become strong and brave because it feels like I’ve got a family here,” she says. “It also provides safety.”

Much like the organization’s founder, Berkley has formed her own relationships with some of the children through the organization, starting with Devin. Although she had been hesitant at first to take on tutoring responsibilities because of frequent travel obligations for work, she quickly found herself becoming more and more involved in his life. Today, Devin is 13 and has become her godson.

“I know the children in our program, and I know how special they are,” Berkley says. “I want them to have every opportunity [for] success just like my own kids. That’s kind of what drives me.”

For more, visit hortonskids.org.

Three other groups helping children

UniversalGiving helps people give to and volunteer for top-performing charitable organizations around the world. All the projects below are vetted by UniversalGiving; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the listed cause.

BRAC USA aims to empower people dealing with poverty, illiteracy, disease, or social injustice. Take action: Contribute funding to train teachers for children abroad who otherwise would not be going to school.

Nepal Orphans Home attends to the welfare of children in Nepal who are orphaned, abandoned, or not supported by their parents. Take action: Help provide more wardrobe cabinets for the youths at Papa’s House.

OneSky emphasizes a nurturing approach and early education to unlock the potential of vulnerable young children. Take action: Sponsor care for a baby or toddler at a Chinese orphanage.

MoviePass saga shows promise, pitfalls of reinventing cinema-going

MoviePass hoped to fundamentally change the movie theater experience by using a Netflix model: one monthly fee for unlimited movies. The start-up stumbled, but it still may prove disruptive to the movie business.

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On Aug. 2 MoviePass told its users, “We’re still standing.” The question is for how long. MoviePass hoped to redefine moviegoing. But the service, which allows users to watch multiple movies per month for a flat monthly fee, has run into a series of problems that has left many wondering about its viability. Over the past year, MoviePass has made major policy revisions, from limiting the number of movies users can watch per month to not reimbursing cancellations of yearlong passes. On Friday, the service crashed for the third weekend in a row, hours after limiting subscribers to only two films. “We had to right the ship as far as the amount of money we were burning,” CEO Mitch Lowe explained. Some say that even if MoviePass fails it will have succeeded in disrupting the movie industry. “If it ends tomorrow, in spite of all the problems ... I will be sorry if it does go down the tubes,” says Margaret Riley, a retired educator. “For an avid moviegoer like me, it really did provide a service.”

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5. MoviePass saga shows promise, pitfalls of reinventing cinema-going

By the time you read this sentence, MoviePass could be gone – or completely transformed. That’s how quickly the subscription service is announcing changes to its business model.

Called “Netflix for cinemas,” the service allows users to watch multiple movies per month, for a flat monthly fee. MoviePass aimed to fundamentally change the moviegoing experience with its subscription model. The hope was that viewers would be inclined to see a wider variety of films, not just “tentpole” movies, and that it would force the theater industry to change the way it does business by empowering moviegoers. At its peak, some 3 million people subscribed to the service, but it has recently run into a series of problems that has left many wondering about its viability. 

At the end of July, two outages left customers unable to use their debit card-like passes, staring at an app showing no movie times, and tweeting furiously. The company had run out of cash to pay for tickets and needed to take out a $6.25 million loan. The ordeal left its parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc.’s stock closing at 5 cents, suggesting that the market thinks the end of MoviePass is nigh. In 2017, it peaked at $8,225 per share.

MoviePass sent out a series of emails apologizing and announcing changes. On July 31, users were told they would not be able to see certain blockbusters in opening weeks and the price would increase from $9.95 a month to $14.95. Then they scrapped those changes, announcing that starting Aug. 15, users could see three movies a month instead of one a day. 

On Friday, the service crashed for the third weekend in a row, hours after limiting subscribers to only two films. CEO Mitch Lowe confirmed that users would only be able to choose between two movies a day, saying: “We had to right the ship as far as the amount of money we were burning.”

Multiple law firms have filed or are investigating class action lawsuits on behalf of Helios investors, alleging the company had made false and misleading statements on MoviePass’s valuation and future profitability.

On Aug. 2, MoviePass told users in a press release: “We’re still standing.” 

The question is: for how much longer?

Users should swipe their MoviePass cards while they still can, says Emory University marketing professor Daniel McCarthy, who specializes in a new approach to valuing companies by looking at customer behavior.

“They’ve announced or actualized a truly astounding number of changes to their terms,” says Professor McCarthy. “I think it's indicative that management at this stage is going off the seat of their pants and there is not necessarily a whole lot of logic going into some of the changes they’ve made more recently.”

Moviegoing enters the subscription economy

Curtis Medina goes to the movies five to eight times a month with MoviePass, estimating he’s saved up to $3,000 on tickets over the past five years. He still has cautious faith about the service’s future.

“The idea of having a service that no matter how the rest of your life is you can depend on going to see a movie whenever you want is awesome,” says Mr. Medina, a resident of Missoula, Mont., and Myrtle Beach, S.C. Without MoviePass, he says, movies are too expensive for him. Medina says he sees it as a champion for the average moviegoer.

The subscription-service economy has been growing 200 percent annually since 2011, changing everything from music (Spotify) and TV (Netflix) to grooming (Dollar Shave Club) and clothes (Stitch Fix).

“You don’t need to own a car. You don’t need to own movies. You can just tap into services to get what you need…. [Subscription] really changes the economic calculus that you have to put into thinking about what it is that you want,” says Tien Tzuo, the CEO of Zuora, which sells software geared for subscription-based companies.

“We think we’re witnessing the beginning of the end of ownership,” says Mr. Tzuo, who coined the term “subscription economy” in 2007. As industries wade into subscription offerings, failure is to be expected, he adds. 

Over the past year, MoviePass has made major policy revisions to its terms of service every other month, frustrating users. It says its constant self-transformation is typical of an industry disruptor. McCarthy says it’s a sign of trouble.

Subscription models for movies have existed for years internationally, mainly run in-house by theaters in Europe. MoviePass, founded in 2011, made headlines in August 2017 when it lowered its monthly unlimited rate to $9.95. Its base grew from about 20,000 at the end of 2016 to more than 3 million as of July 2018.

Can MoviePass spur movie attendance? 

US movie attendance has declined since peaking in 2002, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. MoviePass got users to the movies more often, especially during the week and in the middle of the day, and to movies they previously would have passed on. Supporters say people still want the movie theater experience – just not at its current price tag. MoviePass claims that its users represent 6 percent of all US ticket sales.

“We do want to go out,” says Medina. “We do want to see [movies]. We just needed a better business model.... [MoviePass] cuts out the question of whether or not it’s going to be worth it to go out.” 

After adjusting for inflation, average ticket prices have slightly increased since the early 1980s, as tracked by the National Association of Theatre Owners. The current national average is $9.16. 

SOURCE: NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF THEATRE OWNERS (NATO)
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Rebecca Asoulin and Karen Norris/Staff

MoviePass pays full price for tickets, so if a subscriber sees more than one movie a month at the average cost, the company loses money. McCarthy says MoviePass’s monthly rate is egregiously underpriced and the only option for survival is to raise prices – even at the risk of losing a chunk of its customers.

Movie exhibitors, who blame MoviePass for devaluing tickets, are setting up their own services. In June, AMC announced it would offer its own subscription service, Stubs A-List, at $19.95 a month for any three AMC movies per week. Last November, Cinemark launched its MovieClub service, a loyalty program with one free ticket a month. Sinemia brought its program from Europe to the United States in May, with options ranging from one to three tickets a month.

Margaret Riley, a retired educator who lives in Durham, N.C., became a MoviePass subscriber in 2014, paying $19.95 a month initially and $39.95 at its peak. She now pays $6.95 a month for the yearly plan and sees 10 to 12 movies each month. Eighty-five percent of subscribers see three movies or fewer each month, making Ms. Riley and Medina superusers. 

[Editor's note: The original version of this article misstated the price Margaret Riley initially paid for her MoviePass subscription.]

The recent changes to MoviePass frustrate Riley, who paid a year’s membership in advance. 

“For those of us who appreciate a good deal, we were willing to muddle through.… If it ends tomorrow, in spite of all the problems, I will say I’ve been glad to have had a MoviePass and I will be sorry if it does go down the tubes,” she says. “For an avid moviegoer like me, it really did provide a service. It might have been flawed, but it was a valuable service for me.”

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An alignment for peace in Afghanistan

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There have been no strategic breakthroughs on Afghanistan, America’s longest war. Yet recent moves by the United States, the Taliban, and the government in Kabul may offer hope for a settlement, some diplomats say. The US was able to boost diplomatic efforts this year after bolstering its support for Afghan government forces in 2017. That brought the Taliban to the table, albeit briefly, in June. The Taliban has continued to talk. Some experts found the insurgents talking in new ways about what could be elements of a settlement. They were, for example, willing to envision the possible continued presence of international forces. There is much work needed before that conversation can turn into a serious process. There will be plenty of skeptics and opponents to a peace process. Yet there is also a hunger for peace, evident in US and allied politics. It is worth the demanding diplomacy to move toward a negotiated peace for a country that has suffered too many decades of war and for the US, which has committed so much to Afghanistan since 2001.

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An alignment for peace in Afghanistan

Over the past year, the long war in Afghanistan has seen no strategic breakthroughs. And in fact, a major battle is now being waged in the city of Ghazni. Yet, according to some diplomats, recent moves by the United States, the Taliban, and the elected government in Kabul may offer the best hope yet for a settlement.

Such optimism rests on the US maintaining its current approach. This includes strengthening the Afghan government and its security forces while eliminating any terrorism threat, especially from the Afghan branch of Islamic State (ISIS). It also means strengthening international support for a peace deal, notably by pressing Pakistan to play a constructive role.

The US was able to increase diplomatic efforts to find a path to peace this year only after bolstering its military presence and support for Afghan forces in 2017. It is working closely with President Ashraf Ghani, who has made courageous gestures toward the Taliban and a peace process. The Taliban reciprocated in June, accepting the first truce since the fighting began in 2001. It lasted for only three days, but the break in fighting was widely welcomed by Afghan civilians and rank-and-file Taliban.

Combat resumed quickly, but the Taliban continued to talk about negotiations through various channels, including to former US officials. Those experts found the insurgents talking in different, more acceptable ways. The Taliban representatives, for example, were willing to envision the possible continued presence of international (read US) forces, and talked about the threat to Afghanistan posed by ISIS. Other specialists say some of the Taliban have also moderated their views on social issues such as education for girls and women.

In June and July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent important diplomatic signals. While reiterating a firm US commitment to the Afghan government, he said the US “will support, facilitate and participate” in peace talks that are Afghan-led, a shift from envisioning only Afghan-Afghan talks, which had been the US formulation before. He also said that talks could include discussion of “international forces and actors” (e.g., US forces), which is a prime Taliban concern. Then, at the end of July, the senior US diplomat leading the work to find a pathway to peace, Alice Wells, secretly met in Qatar with a senior Taliban official.

There is still much work needed before that conversation can turn into a serious process. The Taliban continue to insist that they will only talk to the US. The US insists that an agreement can only be worked out between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The real breakthrough will be getting the two sides into the same room, even with the US participating.

Several factors can help. The temporary truce revealed a strong desire for peace. It showed that the Taliban leadership in Pakistan can exert discipline among their forces in Afghanistan, even if there are internal divisions. Also, informed observers say the Taliban are impatient with Pakistani meddling, and that they may be feeling a squeeze on financial resources flowing from Gulf Arab funders and the drug trade.

The US and Mr. Ghani have mobilized international support from the region and the Islamic world for a peace process. Importantly, the Afghan armed forces are more capable than ever before and have added punch provided by targeted US capacities and support. This makes a big pro-Taliban shift on the battlefield less likely.

There will still be plenty of skeptics and opponents to a peace process, from Pakistan’s leadership, which seeks an outcome it can manipulate, to factions within the Taliban and the Afghan government, who worry they may lose in a negotiated solution. There are also skeptics in the US who want tough “trust and verify” measures if a process begins. Yet there is also a hunger for peace evident in US and allied politics. The strategic US objective, however, remains avoiding the re-creation of an ungoverned space in Afghanistan from which terrorists can operate internationally.

Ironically, this concern could be an area for confidence building. The US, the Afghan government, and the Taliban are all fighting ISIS forces. There is a potential for “deconflicting” efforts by the three against ISIS. This common purpose could facilitate wider dialogue.

The bottom line: It is worth the demanding diplomacy to move toward a negotiated peace for a country that has suffered too many decades of war and for the US, which has committed so much to Afghanistan since 2001.

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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.

The intermediate way

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At a time when extreme reactions to news reports and emotional highs and lows seem inevitable, today’s column explores how the radical idea that God is good and is supreme brings a spirit of calm and grace.

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1. The intermediate way

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I remember a time when I was about 12 years old, when my friends and I had spent the day riding our bikes on dirt mounds. By the end of the day, we’d taken several tumbles and were covered in dirt. One of my friends had some fake blood that he’d been planning to use as part of a Halloween costume, and we decided to apply it to our dirty, scraped-up selves. We thought we looked really gruesome – like battle-tested action heroes.

We decided it would be really funny to see how our moms would react. So I opened the door and said in my best woe-is-me voice, “Mom, I fell off my bike.” There I was, waiting for her to scream and come running to me, arms outstretched, sobbing, “Are you OK?” Well, she took one look at me, and without missing a beat said in the most matter-of-fact voice, “Make sure your bike is OK, and then go get yourself cleaned up.”

It was so disappointing! She’d totally seen through me. I’d been looking for something really extreme and dramatic, and what I got was an unmovable solid rock called Mom.

Sometimes it feels as if there is an unseen mischievous boy acting behind the scenes, trying to get extreme reactions out of us – a political action feels so off base that it enrages; self-righteousness brings division rather than unity to religious worship; violent weather keeps us fixated on reports of damage; chills or fevers convince us we are ailing. Much of the world, it seems, is in need of that unmovable mom-like ability to look beyond the drama to see good.

And in the broadest sense, this is what Christian Science is all about – never losing sight of the radical spiritual fact that God, good, reigns supreme, irrespective of the turmoil we see around us.

Matthew’s Gospel in the Bible tells of a time when Christ Jesus was on a boat with his disciples during a violent storm (see 8:23-27). Jesus was asleep, when the disciples woke him up and essentially said, “Hey, come look at how threatening our storm is!” But Jesus demonstrated an intermediate way – the certainty of knowing the harmony of God cannot be disrupted – and basically replied, “No, you look at my peace and how possible it is not to lose sight of good.” Then he stilled the storm.

Don’t all of us know what it feels like when we let ourselves get taken for a ride by emotional tsunamis? There’s no sense of God’s grace, no assurance of the presence of good, no gift of harmony in that moment.

Christian Science explains that the nature of mortal thought is to go to extremes. We’ll find ourselves less used by this inclination if we’re willing to be more alert to it. As Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Human concepts run in extremes; they are like the action of sickness, which is either an excess of action or not action enough; they are fallible; they are neither standards nor models” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 353).

And in correspondence with a student of the Science of Christ Mrs. Eddy discovered, she wrote of taking “the temperate line of conclusion and action which is the only right one” and bringing forth the meekness and temperance that the Apostle Paul said are “the fruit of the Spirit” (see Galatians 5:22, 23). She added, “This state of growth is when a student becomes what Jesus demanded – ‘wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove’ ” (Mary Baker Eddy to William G. Nixon, June 30, 1890; N00034, © The Mary Baker Eddy Collection).

None of this implies a lack of feeling. Spiritual progress deepens our yearning to love, increases the compassion we feel for others, and heightens our hatred of evil. The goal is certainly not some limbo state of emotional blandness.

Rather, it seems to me that Mrs. Eddy is describing a mental position that knows its Redeemer, that knows how the story turns out, so it doesn’t get pulled way up and brought way low by mortality’s plot lines. It is this intermediate way, this understanding of God’s allness, that brings grace into our lives and is greatly needed in this world of ours.

As God’s children, we are all capable of seeing through the misperception that there is something more powerful than good, of stepping back mentally from the adrenaline of mortal thinking and affirming the unshakable, health-giving presence of God, divine Love. Understanding the ever-operative nature of this Love is holding to the intermediate way, and it brings hope and progress.

Adapted from an editorial published in the August 2015 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

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Viewfinder

In Italy, a fallen span

Antonio Calanni/AP
Cars are blocked on the Morandi highway bridge after a section of it collapsed, in Genoa, Italy, Aug. 14, during a sudden and violent storm. Some 30 people were reported killed. Work on the bridge’s foundations was reportedly being done. And political fallout is already stirring. An engineering professor warned in 2016 that the structure was showing signs of deterioration, reported Euronews. But a transportation official maintains that the disaster could not have been foreseen.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’re working on a story about “Crazy Rich Asians,” the first major Hollywood movie starring Asians in 25 years. Does this signal a shift within the movie industry?

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