2018
August
23
Thursday
Noelle Swan
Deputy Daily Editor

“Immigrants are not like puppies.”

That may seem like an odd statement, but to Marion Davis, it’s a sentiment worth repeating.

To be sure, there are complex policy questions around how governments handle both legal and illegal immigration that need to be hashed out. But too often the conversation revolves around stereotypical views of immigrants as either opportunistic drains on society or helpless individuals deserving of pity, says Ms. Davis, communications director for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.

There’s a tendency, she says, to talk about the plight of immigrants and refugees in the same tone that singer Sarah McLachlan uses to advocate for shelter animals.

That likely comes from a place of compassion, adds community organizer Damaris Velasquez, but what newcomers to the United States really need is to be viewed as equals.

Davis and Ms. Velasquez recently sat down with Monitor staffers to share their perspectives on the portrayal of immigrants and refugees in American media.

What gets lost in conversations around illegal immigration, Velasquez and Davis say, is the number of legal immigrants who have become thriving members of our communities.

Amid policy discussions and debates, it is important to remember that “we were all created equally,” says Velasquez. “We are all the same.”

Now onto our five stories for today.

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1. As GOP scandals multiply, Democrats frame careful message on corruption

Cleaning up corruption can be a powerful campaign platform, and recent news has given Democrats an opening. Still, history shows it isn’t always a top concern for voters – and can even backfire.

Noelle

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At the beginning of the year, President Trump had a clear advantage over Democrats on the issue of corruption. Voters saw him as too wealthy to be bought or bossed, an outsider intent on “draining the swamp.” But that advantage has diminished. In the wake of this week’s conviction and guilty plea of Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman and personal attorney, Democrats are now decrying the “cesspool of self-enrichment, secret money and ethical blindness” of Republican-controlled Washington, as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi put it on Tuesday. That includes the indictments of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) of California on campaign finance abuses and Rep. Chris Collins (R) of New York for insider stock trading. Opinions about Trump are so hardened that it may only have a minimal impact on the upcoming midterm elections. But in divided America, elections are often won on the margins. And among “reluctant” Republicans – those who backed Trump in 2016 largely because they didn’t like Hillary Clinton – a “culture of corruption” message could have an impact. “They’re not a majority, but they are more than enough to tip a lot of these close elections,” says John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif.

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As GOP scandals multiply, Democrats frame careful message on corruption

Opinions about President Trump are so hardened that this week’s bombshell conviction and guilty plea of his former campaign chairman and personal attorney may only have a minimal impact on the upcoming midterm elections.

But in divided America, elections are won on the margins – and that is where this week’s news, along with the indictment of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) of California, could move the needle. In swing districts, particularly among “reluctant” Republicans, a “culture of corruption” message could influence voters, though Democrats are being very careful as to how they craft that message.

“The best thing that Trump has going for him right now is the polarization of the electorate. Probably most Republicans are sticking with him,” says John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. But this week’s developments could sway those voters who backed Mr. Trump in 2016 largely because they didn’t like Hillary Clinton, he says. “They’re not a majority, but they are more than enough to tip a lot of these close elections.”

Corruption is seldom a top issue for voters, says Mr. Pitney. It’s usually the economy, and that’s one thing that Republicans have in their favor. “But corruption can matter if people hear enough about it.”

That happened in 1994, when Rep. Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia led a Republican takeover of the House for the first time in 40 years. He had a policy agenda, the “Contract with America,” but he also hammered home various scandals among House Democrats. 

The scandal strategy backfired, though, when House Republicans moved to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1998. Many voters viewed it as overreach for a president’s personal indiscretions, even though Mr. Clinton later admitted to making false statements. The move cost Republicans four seats in that year’s midterms, and Speaker Gingrich resigned – under an ethics cloud of his own.

“That was a complete flop of an effort – and of course, Newt Gingrich paid the price,” says former House historian Ray Smock.

It is not surprising then, that Democratic leaders are laying off the “i” word – impeachment – despite tremendous pressure from progressives and big-money Democrats such as Tom Steyer.

“It’s not a priority,” House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D) of California told the Associated Press after former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted Tuesday of bank and tax fraud and Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney and “fixer,” pleaded guilty to bank and tax fraud charges as well as campaign finance violations.

Mr. Cohen directly implicated Trump as having ordered him to pay two women during the 2016 campaign to silence them about their alleged affairs with Trump. The president is now an “unindicted co-conspirator,” said Senate minority leader Charles Schumer (D) of New York on Wednesday, demanding that the Senate Judiciary Committee immediately pause consideration of the president’s US Supreme Court Nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh – to no avail.

Senator Schumer, too, waves off impeachment talk. For one thing, Democrats fear it will energize the Republican base. For another, they want the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to finish his work and report on Russian interference with the 2016 election and whether there was any collusion with the Trump campaign.

They are more than happy, however, to point to the “cesspool of self-enrichment, secret money and ethical blindness” of Republican-controlled Washington, as leader Pelosi put it in a statement Tuesday. That includes the indictments of Congressman Hunter on campaign finance abuses and Rep. Chris Collins (R) of New York for insider stock trading.

Both men were Trump’s very first congressional endorsers, and while Congressman Collins now says he will not seek reelection, a defiant Hunter is barreling ahead. He’s blasting a Justice Department “witch hunt” and media coverage for his troubles. He and his wife face dozens of criminal charges for misusing more than $250,000 in campaign funds on everything from European vacations to the water bill. Speaker Paul Ryan has stripped him of his committee assignments.

In a Trump-friendly Midwestern district, such as the one that Rep. Cheri Bustos (D) of Illinois handily won in 2016, “we can't just be running on an anti-Trump message, even with everything that happened” this week, says Congresswoman Bustos. What Democrats should do, she says, is continue to emphasize kitchen-table issues, like healthcare costs and low wages, while also pointing out the Republicans’ failure to exercise proper oversight of the administration.

“You barely hear a peep out of them. They are literally rubber-stamping corruption,” she says.

Of course, Democrats are not scandal-free. A new Quinnipiac poll shows incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey suddenly in a horse race now that the Senate ethics panel has “severely admonished” him. In January, the Justice Department dropped bribery and other charges against him after a mistrial. The poll finds that ethics is the number one issue in deciding how New Jersey voters will cast their ballot for US Senate.

Still, acting as a “check and balance” on the president is emerging as a powerful campaign theme, particularly among suburban women, where support for Trump is eroding, says Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. This week’s news about Manafort and Cohen is likely to help outsider and female candidates, whom voters tend to see as “more honest.”

At the beginning of the year, it was the president who had the advantage over Democrats on corruption, says Ms. Lake. Among independents, he had as much as a 24-point lead, her polling showed. Voters saw him as too wealthy to be bought or bossed, an outsider intent on “draining the swamp.” But that advantage has diminished, she says.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of the independent Sabato’s Crystal Ball political forecast, points out that Tuesday’s double-whammy against two former stars of Trump’s inner circle will probably not affect the president’s approval ratings. But that doesn’t mean it won’t matter in the battle for the House, because views of Trump are hardened in a way that is “poor for the president, and for his fellow Republicans.” 

Trump’s ratings are “stuck” in the low-to-mid 40s, he writes, and this week’s news won’t raise them. A threat of impeachment could possibly rally Trump’s core supporters, but Trump and Republicans have a bigger problem than motivating the base, and that is a “persuasion problem with soft Republicans in the suburbs” who don’t like him.

If the political environment is favoring House Democrats, Republicans need something positive to improve Trump’s numbers, says Mr. Kondik in an interview. “This is not that.”

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2. Palestinian refugees: Can Trump 'disruption' solve complex issue?

Efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute have been stymied so long that the Trump philosophy of “disruption” would seem to be a perfect fit. But the complexity and emotion of the Palestinian refugee issue may require a step further.

Noelle
Adel Hana/AP/File
Palestinian girls fly kites during an event at the UNRWA Rimal Girls Preparatory school in Gaza City. The UN agency serves some 5 million Palestinians across the Middle East – including refugees displaced by the war surrounding Israel's establishment in 1948 and their descendants. Palestinian officials have denounced reported US attempts to undercut UNRWA.

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President Trump believes he took the thorny issue of Jerusalem “off the table” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by moving the US Embassy in Israel there. Now he seems to want to do something similar with Palestinian refugees. By cutting aid to the UN agency that administers to them, pressing to sharply cut the number recognized, and demanding Arab countries do more to support them, his administration suggests it can remove the decades-old issue as a peace impediment. Yet even supporters who think a shake up is what the Middle East needs doubt the approach will take the issue off the table – or give Mr. Trump’s anticipated peace plan any greater chances of success. Political realities in the region may mean that addressing sore issues individually may indeed be the way to go, some regional experts say. But it can only work if the aim is not just simply to “disrupt” the status quo. What is needed, says Alon Ben-Meir, an expert in conflict resolution at New York University, is to foster a new “public narrative” about the refugee issue and resolve it through just resettlement and compensation.

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Palestinian refugees: Can Trump 'disruption' solve complex issue?

At his MAGA rally in West Virginia Tuesday night, President Trump told his audience that his decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was a “good thing” for Palestinians because it settled one perennial roadblock to peace and “took it off the table.”

Now it would be the Palestinians’ “turn” to “get something very good,” Mr. Trump said.

The president’s comments on Middle East peace drew none of the raucous crowd response reserved for his promises to “bring back coal” or to end illegal immigration.

But among Middle East experts and Palestinian advocates, the remarks magnified already growing concerns about a similarly problematic piece of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the plight of Palestinian refugees and the question of those refugees’ “right of return” to lands in what is now Israel.

They see Trump aiming to use the Jerusalem model to deal with the equally emotional and peace-stymieing issue of Palestinian refugees. By cutting US assistance and pressing to “disrupt” the traditional approach to Palestinian refugees, Trump may be aiming to take another thorny issue “off the table” before unveiling his anticipated “deal of the century” to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This year the Trump administration has slashed US funding for the United Nations agency that administers to more than 5 million Palestinians registered as refugees who are spread around the Middle East and concentrated in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The agency, known by its acronym UNRWA, saw a first installment in annual US support cut in January from an anticipated $125 million to $60 million. Traditionally UNRWA’s largest donor, the US has now slashed its support from more than $300 million last year to $60 million, according to UN officials.

The reduction in Palestinian assistance is not just a piece of a general objective from the White House to reduce foreign aid, both critics and supporters of the administration say. Rather, they see it as part of a specific effort to up-end the seven-decades-old system that treats Palestinian refugees differently from other refugees and perpetuates their status as a core issue – some say impediment – in any Mideast peace initiative.

“What Trump and his Middle East team are trying to do is remove the question of the refugees from the table as they believe they did with Jerusalem,” says Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations and Middle East expert at the London School of Economics.

“Clearly [Trump] is trying to shake things up and shatter the status quo,” he adds, “but he’s doing it in a way that is vindictive and punitive toward the Palestinian refugees. You don’t disrupt things without laying the foundation for a viable alternative, and that’s not happening.”

Encouraging ‘realism’

The Middle East has been abuzz with speculation over Trump’s strategy concerning Palestinian refugees in the wake of the US aid cut to UNRWA and as Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and special Middle East adviser, has discussed the contours of the awaited White House peace plan with leaders from around the region. But it was the publication this month of one of Mr. Kushner’s emails, in which he addressed the issue of Palestinian refugees with White House colleagues, that drew the spotlight.

“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner said in the email, published by Foreign Policy magazine. Administration officials have not disputed the email’s veracity or the accuracy of it as a reflection of the administration’s outlook on the issue.

Kushner also envisioned the need to reduce the number of recognized Palestinian refugees to a more realistic 20,000 to 30,000, closer to the number of actual surviving refugees out of the initial 700,000 to 750,000 who were expelled or fled from homes and property when Israel was formed in 1948.

Indeed, some Middle East experts see both the US aid cut and Kushner’s “disrupt” comment as elements of a needed effort to jolt the parties to any peace deal and replace the same old approaches to peace with some new thinking.

“Part of the strategy definitely is to encourage more realism among the Palestinians, particularly on the so-called right of return,” says James Phillips, a senior research fellow for Middle East affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “The administration’s move on UNRWA isn’t going to help the peace process in the short term, but I do think it aims to shake things up in ways that put more responsibility on the Arab countries and encourage the Palestinians to compromise,” he says.

Ending statelessness

Others go farther. Elliott Abrams, who served in foreign policy positions under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, said in a Council on Foreign Relations blog post early this year that Trump was on the right track with the cuts to UNRWA and efforts to “upset the apple cart” on Palestinian refugees.

Echoing points the administration makes, Mr. Abrams noted that only Palestinian refugees have a separate UN agency dedicated to them, and that only Palestinians are able to extend their refugee status to descendants – a “right” that has permitted the original refugee population at Israel’s creation to balloon to the current 5.2 million.

Differentiating UNRWA from the UN’s agency for all other refugees, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Abrams said that the “admirable” UNHCR names as one of its core missions “ending statelessness.” UNRWA, on the other hand, sees its mission as “never ending statelessness,” he added.

UNRWA says it educates more than 500,000 Palestinian children in nearly 700 schools, while providing the primary health care for the refugee population. But Abrams suggested the organization had settled into being an employment and patronage agency, and he questioned why wealthy Arab countries don’t do more for the Palestinians they claim to care about.

Mary Altaffer/AP
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, is seen on a video screen in a translator's booth as she addresses a Security Council meeting on the situation in Gaza, Tuesday, May 15, 2018, at UN headquarters.

That last theme was taken up by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, when she used a UN Security Council meeting in July to publicly berate Arab and other Middle Eastern countries for shirking their responsibilities toward Palestinians and failing to encourage compromises in the interest of peace.

“How much have the Arab countries – some of whom are wealthy countries – how much have they given to the Palestinians?” Ambassador Haley said.

Jordan ‘terrified’ by added burden

Mr. Gerges, who is Lebanese-American, says that his contacts with the region underscore how a country like Jordan is “terrified” that White House efforts to “disrupt” the status quo on Palestinian refugees will saddle it with a greater burden it cannot bear.

Jordan’s resources are already stretched by its accommodation of some 750,000 Syrian refugees, and officials say it could ill afford to educate and provide health care for the 2.1 million Palestinian refugees in the country currently aided by UNRWA. Most Palestinians in Jordan have Jordanian citizenship, but many still live in camps administered by UNRWA.

Gerges acknowledges that it sounds reasonable to “disrupt the status quo on issues like Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees when the status quo quite demonstrably has not settled these problems.” But he adds that in reality the Trump moves on both issues have done little to “take them off the table” because they are widely seen as favoring Israel and in particular “a very right-wing perspective within Israel.”

He notes, for example, that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has “taken the [peace process] portfolio away from the crown prince” Mohammad bin Salman, over the king’s discomfort with the tenor of the White House peace initiative and the way the Saudi positions on it have been communicated.

For some regional experts, Kushner’s call for an “honest and sincere” discussion of the Palestinian refugee issue may have been on the right track. But it is likely to go nowhere, they add, if it is linked to a Trump peace plan that almost no one gives very high chances of success.

Changing the narrative

Rather than remaining a perpetual impediment, the Palestinian refugee issue can serve as a step to peace if it is addressed separately from a grand plan imposed from the outside and instead is used to foster a new way of looking at an old problem, says Alon Ben-Meir, a professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and a noted expert in conflict resolution.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that if there is going to be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it will no longer be by taking on all the difficult issues simultaneously,” he says. “The issue of Palestinian refugees is one that can be taken up first to change the public narrative and build the reconciliation that will be necessary for a broader peace.”

But Professor Ben-Meir says the Trump administration’s strategy of disrupting the status quo by cutting UNRWA funding and shifting responsibility to Arab states is not going to encourage the constructive dialogue that is necessary. He says he’s met with Trump administration officials to discuss ideas for resolving the conflict, but does not sense any shift in approach suggesting an incorporation of his views.

Like many other experts with close knowledge of the region, he says the large majority of Palestinians understand there will be no “return” to lands inside Israel. He predicts that an honest public discourse on the issue – plus international commitments of billions of dollars for compensation and resettlement – would result in many “refugees” remaining where they currently are.

Ben-Meir says the governments of the principal parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem incapable of reconciliation right now, which makes the prospects of a comprehensive peace plan so grim. But he says that is why starting out on one central issue offers more promise.

“Let’s get the Palestinian refugees talking in new ways and considering new solutions,” he says, “and I believe it can be a step to a broader peace.”

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3. Turkey blames US for frail economy: good politics, risky policy

Turkey's economic malaise, a product of mismanagement, could worsen if investors continue to see political leaders subscribe to conspiracy theories rather than take responsibility.

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Listen to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Turkey is facing an “economic war” waged by outsiders jealous of the nation’s progress. The lira has lost 40 percent of its value, building projects are out of money, and Turkish companies are burdened by hundreds of billions of dollars in debt. Yet analysts say Mr. Erdoğan is using a diplomatic feud with the United States – a dispute over a detained evangelical pastor held on dubious terrorism charges – to deflect blame for what is a homegrown economic crisis. President Trump, who has called the pastor an “innocent man of faith,” said Aug. 10 he would double tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum. “US sanctions give the markets the message that it is not a good time to invest in Turkey right now,” says analyst Soner Çağaptay, “at a time when Turkey’s economy is already fragile.” Erdoğan’s narrative of blaming outsiders could make a “hard landing” for the economy all the more likely. “To regain the confidence of the financial markets, Turkey has to explain that it understands the core problem that it faces,” says Sinan Ülgen, an analyst in Istanbul. “The window for a soft landing has not totally disappeared, but it is closing down.”

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Turkey blames US for frail economy: good politics, risky policy

Deniz, a retired Turkish-American engineer making a family visit to Istanbul, was discussing Turkey’s plunging lira and crisis-hit economy with a hotel receptionist when the hotel manager interrupted loudly.

“Tell Trump it’s his fault!” the hotel manager exclaimed, echoing the official narrative that outside enemies are to blame.

The lira has plummeted in value as testy US-Turkey relations have experienced new lows over the fate of an American pastor detained in Turkey, resulting in increased trade tariffs imposed by President Trump.

But analysts say Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is skillfully using the crisis and Mr. Trump’s harsh words to deflect blame for what is essentially a homegrown economic crisis.

Turkey’s deep economic malaise and flailing currency are long-standing and largely due to mismanagement by Mr. Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party. But they are exacerbated now by a two-week surge in tension and hostile rhetoric between Trump and Erdoğan, two leaders with authoritarian styles.

In Erdoğan’s parlance, Turkey is facing an “economic war” waged by outsiders jealous of the nation’s progress.

That narrative, analysts say, is making a “hard landing” – and a painful recession – all the more likely by undermining confidence that Turkey’s leadership recognizes its own economic problems and the need for managed austerity, rather than subscribing to political conspiracy theories.

And yet even as Trump vowed Monday to make “no concessions” over his demand for the release of evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson – held for 21 months on dubious terrorism charges, after living for two decades in Turkey – some see signs that both Trump and Erdoğan are still leaving room to eventually make peace.

“Sanctions by the US are helping Erdoğan frame the economic meltdown so that it’s not seen as his fault, but as a direct result of economic sanctions,” says Soner Çağaptay, head of the Turkey Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).

“Turkey’s strategy at this moment is not to escalate [the conflict with the US], but also not to de-escalate – they’re not in a rush,” says Mr. Çağaptay, author of “The New Sultan: Erdoğan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey.”

“Although I don’t think Erdoğan wants a crisis with the US,” he says, “once he’s in it, he also knows he has an economic crisis, and so maybe he is making the best use of it, until the moment comes for a reset with the United States.”

'Not a good time to invest'

Anticipation of an unpopular but inevitable economic slowdown, after years of growth-at-all-costs policies fueled by easy credit and vast government infrastructure projects, is widely seen as the reason Erdoğan chose to call early presidential elections, pushing forward to last June a landmark vote originally slated for November 2019.

Erdoğan won reelection with a 52.6 percent majority and assumed new, near-unassailable powers that had been narrowly approved in a 2017 referendum.

Yet so far this year the Turkish lira has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar, building projects have run out of money, and Erdoğan has refused to let the central bank raise interest rates to curb runaway inflation, as he rails against an “interest rate trap” by imperialist powers. Turkish companies are burdened by hundreds of billions of dollars in debt.

Adding to Turkey’s woes is fallout over the Brunson case, the latest episode in years of deteriorating relations between the two NATO allies. In July, Trump called Mr. Brunson an “innocent man of faith” who should be released immediately. On August 10, Trump said he would double tariffs on steel and aluminum, tweeting that the steel tariff would hit 50 percent and that US-Turkey relations “are not good at this time.”

Erdoğan responded by slapping new duties on American goods, including a 140 percent tariff on US alcohol, 120 percent on vehicles and 60 percent on tobacco – and blaming outsiders.

“US sanctions give the markets the message that it is not a good time to invest in Turkey right now,” Çağaptay says. “They are compounding the impact of the negative downturn in the economy, almost geometrically compounding it, because they come at a time when Turkey’s economy is already fragile.”

Smartly managed cool-down needed

Sinan Ülgen, chair of the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), an Istanbul-based think tank, says that what Turkey needs now “is a period of cool-down, which needs to be smartly managed by the government, if we want to end up in a soft-landing scenario.”

“The alternative is a hard landing, which means a deeper contraction and more costly outcome,” says Mr. Ülgen, adding that he has “not yet” seen signs that officials are taking the correct steps.

“To regain the confidence of the financial markets, Turkey has to explain that it understands the core problem that it faces, as opposed to the current rhetoric that everything is fine, and this is just an attack by foreigners,” says Ülgen. “The window for a soft landing has not totally disappeared, but it is closing down.”

Rhetoric has been fierce on both sides, with no apparent end in sight. A Turkish court last week rejected the latest appeal for the release of Brunson, who was among tens of thousands of Turks arrested in waves after a failed July 2016 coup aimed at deposing Erdoğan.

Underscoring the tension, gunfire was aimed at the US Embassy in Ankara Monday. No one was hurt in the incident; two men were later detained.

“We will not surrender to those who call us a strategic partner and make us a strategic target,” Erdoğan said this week.

“They have dollars, we have our Allah [God],” he said in another speech. “Those who could not influence the will of our country through elections at every instance try another method. Those that could not accomplish provocation through a coup are now attempting a coup through money.”

A promise by gas-rich Qatar to invest $15 billion in Turkey has helped stabilize the lira, but economists say Turkey needs to take many more steps on its own for sustained improvement.

Chance of reconciliation

Politically, Trump and Erdoğan both have a history of taking fierce rhetorical accusations to fever pitch, only to later make up with their foes. For example, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was “little rocket man” with a “small” nuclear button until, after a surprise summit in June, Trump said it was his “honor” to say he expected a “terrific relationship.”

Likewise, Erdoğan eventually came to terms with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the lethal Mavi Marmara ship incident in 2010, in which Israeli commandos killed nine Turks on a protest ship trying to run the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Erdoğan also stepped down from an incendiary clash with Russian President Vladimir Putin after Turkey shot down a Russian jet fighter that had strayed briefly out of Syrian airspace in late 2015.

“I don’t rule out an Erdoğan-Trump make up at all.... Neither has targeted the other in their criticism – that’s really important,” says Çağaptay, the analyst at WINEP. “Both are known for their very personal style of doing politics, neither Erdoğan nor Trump have said anything bad about each other ... which to me suggests that both want and hope for a reset.”

Such a move, he says, would require the release of Brunson, whose freedom Trump states was a quid pro quo he personally agreed on with Erdoğan at a NATO summit last month, when the two men fist-bumped each other for what Trump said was Erdoğan “doing things the right way.”

For its part, the White House successfully pressed for the release of a Turkish activist held by Israel. But Brunson has yet to be freed.

“I think they’re making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions,” Trump told Reuters, in an interview Monday.

“Erdoğan may find some face-saving measure that might not be very convincing to the outside world,” says Çağaptay. “But because his supporters control 90 percent of the media in Turkey, they can write the narrative as they like, so that it doesn’t look like a loss of face for him. It can even look like a win for him, when it is not.”

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4. Want to keep 'em down on the dairy farm? Add robots.

Robots are often considered a threat to workers. But for dairy farmers, robots can relieve a labor shortage and help younger people consider staying on the farm by lifting the no-days-off pressure. 

Noelle

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Automation is changing life on American dairy farms, making it more attractive to a new generation of farmers. For about $200,000 each, robotic milkers offer farmers relief from dairy farming’s most demanding chore – twice-a-day milking – and a degree of freedom that was once unavailable. The robots address two big problems. One is a labor shortage: Few Americans, even in rural areas, want the dirty, low-paid work of milking cows. Farmers have increasingly turned to foreign labor, but the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown has made that harder. The other is generational: As older farmers retire, there often aren’t young people willing to fill their shoes. Robotic milking is encouraging them to take another look. Farmers say it improves farm life not only by making the work easier but also by giving them the flexibility to take a day off or attend a daughter’s soccer game. It allows more time for other chores, including looking after the well-being of their cows. “The cows are so contented,” says Kayla Coehoorn, a young, third-generation dairy farmer. “They’re able to do what they want, when they want. Everything is much more laid back.”

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Want to keep 'em down on the dairy farm? Add robots.

Clad in shorts and rubber boots, Kayla Coehoorn hoses down the concrete in her family’s dairy barn. She scatters sweet-smelling feed. Soon she’ll go outside to help her father chop hay for winter.

One thing she won’t do is milk cows. Ms. Coehoorn manages the family’s dairy herd, which until last year meant getting up at 5 for the morning milking, then milking again in the evening. Her father and grandfather did it before her. It’s a routine still followed on small dairy farms across the country.  

Not here anymore. Last year the family built a new barn equipped with a pair of robotic milking machines. The machines milk cows around the clock, without Coehoorn in attendance and when an individual cow is ready. Coehoorn loves it, and so, apparently, do the cows. Studies suggest that robotics increases milk production and improves cow health. Farmers say they get along better with their cows, too.

“The cows are so contented,” Coehoorn says. “They’re able to do what they want, when they want. Everything is much more laid back.”

Automation is changing life on American dairy farms in ways that are making it more attractive to a new generation of farmers. There’s still plenty of work to do, but for about $200,000 each, robotic milkers offer relief from dairy farming’s most demanding chore – twice-a-day milking – and a degree of freedom once unavailable. 

Robotic milking was developed in Europe more than two decades ago and only recently began to catch on in the US. Fewer than 5 percent of American dairy farms have installed robots, according to one estimate. But the machines are growing in popularity, especially on smaller farms.

“It makes the physical work of a dairy farm more manageable by a family unit,” says Douglas Reinemann, professor of biological engineering systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

New technology has been changing dairy farming since tractors replaced horses after World War II. But the robots address two big problems. One is a shortage of labor: Few Americans, even in rural areas, want the dirty, low-paid work of milking cows. Farmers have increasingly turned to foreign labor, but the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown has made that harder. 

The other problem is generational. As older farmers retire, there often aren’t young people willing to fill their shoes. Robotic milking is encouraging them to take another look. Farmers say it improves the quality of farm life not only by making the work easier but also by giving them the flexibility to get up later, take a day off, or attend a daughter’s soccer game. It allows more time for other chores, including looking after the well-being of their cows.  It makes farming less arduous and more interesting.

“If you have minimal help or all family labor, switching to this system is going to free up your time a lot more,” says Daniel Diederich, a farmer in Hobart, Wis., and one of the first in his area to adopt robotic milking. “It’s going to make people happier and less stressed. Nobody wants to work yourself to exhaustion and then get up the next day and do it again.”

The shift toward robotic milking is worldwide. In Norway, more than 30 percent of dairy farms have installed robots. The farms are smaller than in the US – the average one has 26 cows, compared with 140 in Wisconsin and 234 in the US – but the motives are the same. “Our son gave us a clear message that we had to choose the robot,” one farmer told Norwegian researchers.

Choosing robots may be a case of adopting new technology to please the young, but it’s in service of an old and still powerful ideal: preserving the bond between family and farm. Wisconsin has more farms than any other state, most of them still small, family-sized operations. 

“You may have to work Sundays and holidays,” says Coehoorn’s father, Wayne Nischke. “But everyone’s always here.” 

The machines have enabled Coehoorn to expand the milk herd from 60 to 120 cows and opened the possibility that her husband, who works off the farm, might someday join the operation full-time. Coehoorn, who is eight months pregnant, thinks to the future: “You can bring your children to the barn and not have them sit there for the duration,” she says.

Cows come two or three times a day to a robot, lured by the promise of food. As each one steps up, a laser-guided, stainless steel arm swiftly washes its udder and applies four milking cups. Computers not only control the robots but compile detailed information about each cow. The whole operation takes only a few minutes. Large farms with older technology have milking parlors where a group of 12 or 20 cows enters in a rush and stands while a worker in a sunken pit goes up and down the line, applying disinfectant and attaching the milking machines by hand. On smaller farms, the cows wait in stalls as the farmer lugs the milking machines from cow to cow.

Robotic milking has its drawbacks. It’s expensive. The machines can break down. The night before, a cell phone alert had roused Kayla at 2 a.m.: One of the robots had stopped working. She went to the barn and replaced a rubber cup that had slipped off. It was an easy fix, but it left her exhausted the next day. “It’s still a lot better than milking twice a day,” she says. 

And the machines displace some workers. Although dairy farmers have struggled to find help, many have one or two regular employees they have been able to depend on. Mr. Diederich said he laid off several employees – all non-family help – when his farm went robotic a few years ago, including a husband and wife. “I felt bad,” he says.

Robots won’t save all farms. Almost four years of low milk prices have plunged many dairy farmers deep into debt and exacerbated the financial uncertainty that also helps drive them out of business. Over the past 10 years, the US has lost nearly 17,000 dairy farms, about 30 percent. Meanwhile, the surviving farms get bigger, often by gobbling up the smaller. “I would not paint robots as a panacea,” says Sarah Lloyd, a dairy farmer in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., who helps train young farmers at UW-Madison. "It’s not solving the financial situation in any way or form.”

Still, farmers and dairy experts say robotics can draw more young people back to farm life and offer new possibilities to families facing hard decisions about the future. “Especially in places like Wisconsin or the Northeast, places with a history of smaller farms, this will help maintain that way of life,” says Ben Laine, a dairy economist. “That’s where you see the biggest impact.”

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5. In El Salvador, surfing helps kids catch a wave of opportunity

El Salvador has been gaining a bigger and bigger reputation for violence. But in one part of the country, Marcelo Castellanos has been central to an innovative effort to counter the challenges.

Noelle
Courtesy of Puro Surf
Marcelo Castellanos, who provided the inspiration for Puro Surf Hotel and Performance Academy, teaches a boy to surf.

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El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. On the plus side, it also has some of the best “point breaks” (a surfing term). Marcelo Castellanos has had a vision for how to use the waves as a way to attract outside assistance for the region’s challenges. And so Puro Surf Hotel and Performance Academy opened last year in the Salvadoran town of El Zonte. There’s also now a program of extracurricular activities at the local public school, using revenue from the surfing operation. The program was rolled out by Mr. Castellanos and the nonprofit Glasswing International. The classes are showing results at a school where in some years roughly 50 students drop out, according to Saúl Díaz, the school’s curriculum director. Last year was the first in his four years there that no students dropped out, something he attributes to the programs offered by Puro Surf and Glasswing. Says one parent, Maria Cristina Menjivar de Guerra: “There are older kids that now, you don’t see them on the street anymore because they’re entertained.”

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In El Salvador, surfing helps kids catch a wave of opportunity

Marcelo Castellanos was 15 years old when he first came up with an idea about how to help the impoverished communities on El Salvador’s Pacific coast, where he was spending all his free time surfing.

El Salvador was already recognized for having some of the best “point breaks” in the world, to use a surfing term. And surfers in pursuit of the perfect wave weren’t put off by the country’s recent civil war. So why not use the waves as a way to attract outside assistance? The young Mr. Castellanos emailed an international surfing organization and asked if he could start a local chapter. The group responded politely but asked if he had first spoken to his parents, he recalls with a laugh.

More than a decade later, that once-precocious teen is still up for the challenge of bringing visitors to a country that now has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. This time, he has investors betting that world-class waves, superior surfing instruction, and Instagram-ready accommodations will prove irresistible to surfers and travelers.

And so Puro Surf Hotel and Performance Academy opened this past November in the Salvadoran town of El Zonte. But the idea doesn’t stop there. Together with Glasswing International, a nonprofit organization that supports community development projects throughout Central America, Castellanos has rolled out a program of extracurricular activities for students and parents at the local public school. The activities address priorities outlined by residents, and they’re funded with revenue from the surfing operation.

“I’ve always had a vision of doing something positive for my country,” Castellanos says. “I don’t want to leave anyone behind.”

Community involvement

The son of a locally prominent newscaster, Castellanos grew up privileged in the capital city, San Salvador, but was deeply affected by the poverty he encountered 45 minutes away.

El Zonte, however, doesn’t suffer directly from the gang violence that buffets so much of El Salvador. Still, the lack of opportunities here pushes youths to leave school and home, and makes them vulnerable.

Puro Surf sits atop a cliff whose base is a black-sand beach. Ten-foot waves consistently curl into a perfect hollow that seems to peel its way down the length of the beachfront before crashing with a roar on the rocky shore. Before even breaking ground on the hotel, Castellanos and his business partner, Pedro Querejeta, were pushing ahead with a plan to integrate the community into their venture.

“The social part was new to me,” says Mr. Querejeta, a property developer originally from Miami. “But I knew from experience there’s no business that’s successful if it’s not supported by the community.”

To that end, Puro Surf sought the expertise of Glasswing. The activities that have resulted at the school include clubs for students focused on English, robotics, and musical theater, and financial planning classes for adults.

A lot of businesses manage to tuck the word “sustainable” into their mission statement, but “these guys are all in,” says Celina de Sola, one of Glasswing’s founders. Also, other businesses approach community development as something charitable, and so it’s the first thing they cut from their budget, she says. For Puro Surf, it’s strategic.

A robotic dog project

During a recent visit to the school, the well-equipped computer lab is an inviting 30 degrees cooler than the dense heat outside. Five teenage boys huddle over a robotic dog they’ve built from Lego Mindstorms parts. They trained the electronic puppy to beg, but that was just for fun. Their focus is on a regional competition coming up.

Glasswing’s extracurricular clubs in El Salvador have been shown to have a “statistically significant positive impact” for students, including improved math and science scores and lower absenteeism, according to a study by the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in 2016. And the classes here are showing results, too – a big deal for a school where in some years roughly 50 students drop out, according to Saúl Díaz, the school’s curriculum director. Last year was the first in his four years there that no students dropped out, something he attributes to the programs offered by Puro Surf and Glasswing. “If they want to join the clubs, they have to be in school,” Mr. Díaz says.

Nearby, Maria Cristina Menjivar de Guerra beams as her 7-year-old son stands on an outdoor stage taking cues from the older girls in his glee club. Ms. Menjivar says the school has never had fun activities for children before. And the clubs keep them busy.

“There are older kids that now, you don’t see them on the street anymore because they’re entertained,” she says.

Clubs for both mother and daughter

Menjivar singles out programs for girls and stay-at-home mothers like herself. The girls club, she says, gives her 14-year-old daughter space to bring up issues that are perhaps too awkward to talk about at home. Menjivar started attending the finance club, which inspired her to start a small business selling quail eggs. She’s hoping to make Puro Surf a client since it tries to locally source the produce and seafood served in Covana Kitchen, its open-air restaurant.

These efforts make a difference, Menjivar says. “The biggest worry here is a lack of jobs. The country is in bad shape economically,” she says. Her daughter hopes to improve her language skills with practice in the English club and to be able to find a job in El Zonte in tourism.

If Castellanos has his way, by the time Menjivar’s daughter is looking for a job, El Zonte and the surrounding beaches will be a tourism magnet and an official stop on the World Surf League’s professional circuit. The surf academy is already gaining interest from pro surfers who are seduced not only by 300-foot hollows but also by how easy it is to get to El Zonte. WSL commentator Rosy Hodge told her nearly 70,000 Instagram followers that she had an “epic” time here.

“We’re trying to raise the standards of what can be done in El Salvador,” says Castellanos. “Through surfing, everyone will grow.”

For more, visit purosurf.com.

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The Monitor's View

How generosity can help end Latin America’s biggest crisis

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On an international scale, here is what generosity looks like – and what it can potentially do. Just before he stepped down as Colombia’s president on Aug. 7, Juan Manuel Santos granted temporary residency permits to 440,000 refugees from Venezuela. It was an act of solidarity with innocent people fleeing starvation, violence, and hyperinflation. Since 2015, Colombia has been the largest receiver of Venezuelan refugees – more than 1 million. Venezuela used to be Latin America’s richest country. It also holds the world’s largest known petroleum reserves. Yet years of mismanagement, corruption, and clampdowns on dissent have left it a failed state. Colombia’s generous response could be a result of the lessons it learned during its own crisis. During a half-century of civil war that ended in 2016, millions of Colombians were displaced. Helping Venezuelans may now seem like a natural extension of the compassion shown to its own people. Efforts to help the refugees can be one way to encourage stronger international action toward restoring democracy in Venezuela. In particular, Colombia’s generosity will create hope for Venezuelans that they are not alone. It lays a moral groundwork for an eventual solution to the biggest crisis in Latin America.

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How generosity can help end Latin America’s biggest crisis

On an international scale, here is what generosity looks like – and what it can potentially do.

Just before he stepped down as Colombia’s president on Aug. 7, Juan Manuel Santos granted temporary residency permits to 440,000 refugees from Venezuela, doubling the number given in recent years. It was an act of solidarity with innocent people fleeing starvation, violence, and hyperinflation in their country. Since 2015, Colombia has been the largest receiver of Venezuelan refugees – more than 1 million.

The move sparked Mark Green, the head of foreign aid for the United States, to tweet: “The world owes Colombia a debt of gratitude for welcoming Venezuelans fleeing [the] Maduro regime.” Similar statements have come from United Nations officials. A few days later, the US, which itself is the largest humanitarian donor to the refugee crisis, decided to send a Navy hospital ship to Colombia to provide medical aid to the Venezuelans.

Yet the biggest impact of Colombia’s open-arms policy may be in Venezuela, where an estimated 7 to 12 percent of the population has so far left the country, a migration approaching the flows in Syria.

Perhaps embarrassed that neighboring Colombia was widening its welcome mat, President Nicolás Maduro announced Aug. 17 that he would try to solve the country’s economic crisis. He introduced a new currency that knocked five zeros off the value of the old one, hoping to curb an annual inflation rate estimated at 1 million percent. And he also promised to raise the minimum wage – by 34 times.

Venezuela used to be Latin America’s richest country. It also holds the world’s largest known petroleum reserves. Yet years of mismanagement, corruption, and clampdowns on dissent have left it a failed state. The country’s decline, especially in its democracy, really began to impact its neighbors this year with the flow of refugees. “The capacity of the region is overwhelmed,” says one UN official. Ecuador and Peru have started to restrict the entry of Venezuelans. Last week, Brazil sent its military to the border to quell local violence against the refugees.

Colombia’s generous response could be a result of the lessons it learned during its own crisis. During a half-century of civil war that ended in 2016, millions of Colombians were displaced. Part of the peace process includes generous compensation to the war’s victims. Helping Venezuelans may now seem like a natural extension of the compassion shown to its own people.

Efforts to help the refugees can be one way to encourage stronger international action toward restoring democracy in Venezuela. In particular, Colombia’s generosity will create hope for Venezuelans that they are not alone. It lays a moral groundwork for an eventual solution to the biggest crisis in Latin America.

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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.

Allergies healed

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Today’s contributor was completely and permanently healed of recurring allergies as she learned more about the beauty and grace of God and His creation.

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Allergies healed

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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When I was a teenager, I began suffering from seasonal allergies at the end of each summer. Often when my family and friends were enjoying activities outdoors, I was either trying to keep up and feeling miserable, or cooped up indoors, not feeling much better.

Once when I was with my family and some good friends at a lake, I spent the day inside sneezing and blowing my nose. One of my friends, out of genuine concern, asked why I didn’t take some medicine to control the problem.

I had been raised in Christian Science, and my family had consistently relied on its spiritual approach to healing. I myself had witnessed and experienced countless instances of restoration to health by praying to understand and experience God’s love. But after I’d been praying halfheartedly about the allergies without any results, the thought that something as simple as taking a pill might bring me relief from this suffering was an attractive one.

My parents agreed I could make my own decision about what approach to take, and I decided to take an over-the-counter medicine. I was thrilled when it appeared to work. But I soon discovered it was unreliable. Not only was it ineffective at times, it also made me very tired. When I should have been outside enjoying the freedom I’d looked forward to, all I wanted to do was sleep. And the relief didn’t last all that long, especially after sleeping away part of it.

However, for the next few years I’d take the medicine on and off for some temporary relief on days when the allergy symptoms were at their worst.

Then, a few years after graduating from college, I decided to take a class to broaden and deepen my understanding of God and Christian Science, called Primary class instruction. Although I still hadn’t found permanent relief from the allergies, because of the other healings I’d experienced in Christian Science I felt committed enough to spiritual healing that I felt ready to take this two-week course.

Among the ideas I learned in class was that God, Spirit, is entirely good and created the universe, so everything in His universe is spiritual and harmonious. He didn’t create anything that is material and discordant, so nothing that doesn’t belong to that spiritual universe – that can disturb or disrupt – can truly be part of us as the creation, or expression, of the divine Mind, God.

I saw that I could apply this understanding to the things to which I seemed to be allergic. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy writes: “The only intelligence or substance of a thought, a seed, or a flower is God, the creator of it. Mind is the Soul of all. Mind is Life, Truth, and Love which governs all” (p. 508). She also writes: “What an abuse of natural beauty to say that a rose, the smile of God, can produce suffering! The joy of its presence, its beauty and fragrance, should uplift the thought, and dissuade any sense of fear or fever. It is profane to fancy that the perfume of clover and the breath of new-mown hay can cause glandular inflammation, sneezing, and nasal pangs” (p. 175).

I love nature and have always found spiritual inspiration from hikes in the woods or quiet moments by a pond. I could very clearly see that flowers, trees, and other plants are reminders of God’s beauty and grace, which naturally “should uplift the thought,” not pull me into a state of misery.

Praying with these ideas, I found that the fear of seasonal allergies was soon gone, and I was completely free from any further symptoms. This occurred around 20 years ago, and from then on I’ve never again suffered from allergies. To me this has been proof of God’s love for His creation, in which all His ideas coexist harmoniously with one another.

Adapted from a testimony published in the June 22, 2015, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris and Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( August 24th, 2018 )

Noelle Swan
Deputy Daily Editor

Thanks for spending time with us today. Come back tomorrow when we'll look at how some coastal communities in Texas are faring, one year after hurricane Harvey.

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