2018
September
04
Tuesday

Two years ago this week, Nate Boyer posted a photo to Twitter. In it, the former Army Green Beret stands side by side with then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Mr. Kaepernick had just caused a firestorm by sitting during the national anthem to protest police violence and racial inequality, and Mr. Boyer had wanted to talk to him about it.

After their conversation, Boyer wrote: “Thanks for the invite brother.... Good talk. Let’s just keep moving forward. This is what America should be all about.”

Today, as the Twitterverse explodes over Nike’s decision to have Kaepernick lead its newest advertising campaign, that 2016 photo offers valuable perspective. Kaepernick is the most polarizing figure in American sports. Polls show that black Americans and white Americans, Republicans and Democrats have had wildly different views of his protests. Nike might be making a social statement, a political statement, or just trying to sell more shoes. Regardless, the shoemaker has given us all fresh prompting to choose a side.

When Boyer and Kaepernick talked, they agreed to disagree about the protests, yet each listened honestly to the other and changed. Kaepernick went from sitting to taking a knee at Boyer’s prompting, and Boyer agreed to stand beside a kneeling Kaepernick before one game. In the end, each saw the other as a brother and vowed to keep moving forward. That remains an option for all of us.

Now, here are our five stories for today, including a look at the vision behind NAFTA, an effort to harvest something more from the sea, and a moment of freshness on the French calendar. 

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1. At Kavanaugh hearings, questions on limits of presidential power

The question of how much power a president should have has roiled American politics in recent years. The nominee for the Supreme Court comes to the issue from a unique vantage point. 

Mark
Andrew Harnik/AP
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 4 to begin his confirmation to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.

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Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s experience in the executive branch of government almost equals his time in the judiciary, including positions in the administrations of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Indeed, no high court nominee “has been so completely shaped by the needs and mores of the executive branch” since William Howard Taft, who served a term as president before being nominated to the court, writes Garrett Epps for The Atlantic. Executive power has been growing for decades, with both Congress and the Supreme Court reluctant to intervene – displayed most recently in the court’s June decision to uphold President Trump’s travel ban. If Mr. Kavanaugh is confirmed to replace the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy – often a swing vote on the high court, whom he clerked for – experts say he would likely represent a reliable fifth vote in favor of broad interpretations of executive power. Senators from both parties said Tuesday that they intend to question Kavanaugh on these issues this week. They also pointed to broader trends in executive power – along with the behavior of the current executive in particular – that suggest the expanded vision of executive power that Kavanaugh espouses could soon be severely tested.

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At Kavanaugh hearings, questions on limits of presidential power

In a life spent circling Capitol Hill, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has made a rare foray to the very top.

Born and raised in the D.C. area, Judge Kavanaugh’s legal career has unfolded at the highest levels of the judicial and executive branches, from the chambers of the United States Supreme Court to the halls of the White House. Those experiences have informed much of his thinking in his 12 years on the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, he has said. Critics, legal scholars, and Democratic senators agree, saying those experiences have cultivated an unusually strong view of executive power.

Now a nominee to the high court himself, and facing questions this week from the Senate Judiciary Committee, those views on presidential power will be closely scrutinized.

Kavanaugh’s experience in the executive branch almost equals his time in the judiciary, including positions in the administrations of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, as well as part of Kenneth Starr’s independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton. Indeed, no high court nominee “has been so completely shaped by the needs and mores of the executive branch” since William Howard Taft, who served a term as president before being nominated to the court, writes Garrett Epps for The Atlantic.

Executive power has been growing for decades, with both Congress and the Supreme Court reluctant to intervene – displayed most recently in the court’s June decision to uphold President Trump’s travel ban. In his opinions, scholarly writings, and public comments, Kavanaugh has evinced both consistent support for the courts not interfering with the executive and an expansive view of executive powers.

“The president has grown more powerful over time because the Supreme Court hasn’t stepped in to constrain it,” says Kimberly West-Faulcon, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “But if you have a president who does cross the line and it’s a blatant constitutional line, we want and need a Supreme Court that’s willing to police that president. If we don’t have that, then the whole point of separation of powers has failed.”

If he is confirmed to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy – often a swing vote on the high court, whom Kavanaugh clerked for – experts say he would likely represent a reliable fifth vote in favor of broad interpretations of executive power. Senators from both parties said Tuesday that they intend to question Kavanaugh on these issues. But they also pointed to broader trends in executive power – along with the behavior of the current executive in particular – that suggest the expanded vision of executive power that Kavanaugh espouses could soon be severely tested.

“More and more authority is delegated to the executive branch [by Congress]. Both parties do it,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R) of Nebraska on Tuesday. And as political debates have disappeared from Congress, “the Supreme Court has become a substitute political battlefield.”

In his opening remarks Tuesday, Kavanaugh stressed the importance of an independent judiciary. “I’m not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge… I’m a pro-law judge,” he said, speaking after several hours of statements by senators during a contentious first day of hearings. “As Justice Kennedy showed us, a judge must be independent, not swayed by public pressure. Our independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic. In our independent judiciary the Supreme Court is the last line of defense for the separation of powers and the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. The Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution.”

A ‘unitary executive’

One aspect of Kavanaugh’s views of executive power that has become increasingly accepted is the unitary executive theory, which holds that any agency within the executive branch should be under the direct control of the president.

The theory can be interpreted in several ways, but at its core it rests on the notion that because Article II of the Constitution vests executive power solely with the president, the president should have hiring and firing power over every agency within the branch.

“That means he’s the main guy, and everyone else works for him and has to be accountable to him,” says John Harrison, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

This was an unpopular theory a few decades ago, exemplified by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Morrison v. Olson that the Independent Counsel Statute was constitutional. Justice Antonin Scalia was the lone dissenter in the 1988 case. Since then, both Congress and the high court have warmed to his argument. Congress allowed that statute to expire a decade later, and at an event at Stanford University in 2015, Justice Elena Kagan said that Justice Scalia’s dissent is “one of the greatest dissents ever written and every year it gets better.” 

Independent counsels and independent agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), were created “to insulate them from the person who was elected,” says Professor Harrison. “So the normative argument in favor of a unitary executive against independent agencies is that it enables the one person who was elected nationwide to make policy.”

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, there would likely be a majority of justices supporting the unitary executive theory, experts say. In practical terms that could spell trouble for independent agencies within the executive. Kavanaugh wrote, in an opinion for a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit, that the CFPB was unconstitutional not only because the agency couldn’t be checked by the president, but because it also only had one head. Unlike agencies like the SEC, there weren’t multiple heads who can check each other.

The Supreme Court has moved back and forth on the issue, Harrison adds, favoring a unitary executive in the 1920s before siding more in favor of independent agencies. In the past 15 years, the court has leaned back the other way.

Independent agencies “have been in jeopardy ever since [Justice Samuel] Alito and Chief Justice [John] Roberts were confirmed. I think they are more so now,” continues Harrison. 

Should presidents be granted immunity?

An issue certain to be raised in this week’s hearings is the rarely trod legal ground of executive immunity.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, in his opening statement Tuesday, referenced a law review article Kavanaugh wrote in 2009, in which, citing his first-hand exposure to the daily stresses and pressures of the presidency, he voiced support for Congress passing a law that would make a president immune to criminal or civil investigation while in office.

“This with a president who has declared in the last 24 hours that the Department of Justice shouldn’t prosecute Republicans,” added Senator Leahy, referencing Mr. Trump’s tweet criticizing the Justice Department for prosecuting two GOP congressmen months before mid-term elections.

He then referenced growing legal issues around special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into foreign interference in the 2016 election, including the guilty verdict against Trump’s former campaign manager – who faces another trial this month – and the guilty plea by his personal lawyer last month. “I find it difficult to imagine your views on this subject escaped the attention of President Trump,” Leahy said.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R) of Arizona also read the president's tweet before addressing Kavanaugh.

“That is why a lot of people are concerned about this administration, and why they want to ensure that our institutions hold,” he said. “Many of the questions you will get on the other side of the aisle, and from me, is how you view that relationship, how you view where Article I powers end and where Article II powers begin.”

It has been so rare for the Supreme Court to address the issue of executive immunity that scholars say it is difficult to predict how Kavanaugh, or the rest of the court, may respond to questions related to the Mueller investigation and whether Trump should be immune from complying with it.

“When it comes to when the president can act and what is inside the powers of the president or outside, we just don’t have a lot of settled Supreme Court cases,” says Professor West-Faulcon. This is in large part because the court has often avoided hearing such cases, saying instead that they are issues internal to the executive branch that shouldn’t be reviewed by the judiciary.

One of those few cases is US v. Nixon, the landmark 1974 case in which the court ruled unanimously to require President Richard Nixon to turn over subpoenaed Watergate tapes. He resigned later that summer rather than face impeachment proceedings. A transcript of a 1999 roundtable discussion showed Kavanaugh questioning whether the “tensions of the time led to an erroneous decision” in the case. On the other hand, in a 2016 article he described the Nixon decision as one of “the greatest moments in judicial history.”

While the specific question posed in the case may come before the court again – should Trump refuse to comply with a subpoena from Mr. Mueller, for example – scholars say there is good reason the court should be wary of exercising that kind of intervention.

For one, the court has no power to compel the president to comply with its ruling. It would need the support of Congress, the public, or both, to back its ruling, as was the case with Mr. Nixon. And in many cases, the justices likely also believe Congress and voters are better checks on expanding presidential power than the judiciary.

What some are concerned about, however, is that America may now be nearing another moment – à la Nixon – that would require the justices to break from that traditional deference.

“What makes this particular moment in America different from ones we’ve seen in [the] past, and in the case book, is we’ve never been presented with things involving, potentially, foreign governments involved in domestic politics,” says West-Faulcon. 

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2. Endangered gains? Why some question a trade-treaty rewrite.

President Trump has so far taken a transactional approach to NAFTA. That raises the question of whether the underlying vision of the trade pact had a value – and whether it should be saved.

Mark

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President Trump is seeking to rewrite NAFTA – the free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. Last week, his administration reached a tentative deal with Mexico that incorporates labor and environmental chapters as well as intellectual property protections. And US officials say revisions concerning North America’s highly integrated automobile manufacturing sector would shift some lost jobs back to the US. But talks with Canada have so far failed to bring the top US trading partner into the tentative deal, and Mr. Trump is indicating that’s not necessary. NAFTA, however, was envisioned not just as a commercial pact but also as a strategic and political partnership — one that for over a quarter century succeeded in transforming Mexico and enhancing regional stability. Some regional experts say the US has adopted a transactional and divide-and-conquer tone that makes it seem a less reliable partner and endangers a “spirit of community” from which the US has reaped considerable benefit. Carla Hills, who negotiated the accord under President George H. W. Bush, said last week that “it’s time to modernize” NAFTA, but added: “We live in a world that is highly competitive. We need friends for economic but also for political reasons.”

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Endangered gains? Why some question a trade-treaty rewrite.

When a North American trade agreement was first proposed under President Reagan, it was envisioned not just as a commercial pact among three countries but also as a strategic partnership.

Perhaps most critically, the idea was to anchor a problematic Mexico to its two democratic neighbors to the north, the United States and Canada, and build a prosperous and stable political and economic community.

A quarter century after NAFTA’s creation, the vision has in many respects come to fruition. In addition to building a highly integrated trade zone, NAFTA has played a key role in transforming Mexico from a one-party state prone to economic upheavals into an even-keeled democracy.

Instead of a Venezuela, the US has a stable 21st-century middle-income country as its southern neighbor – one the US and Canada can now count on as an ally and partner.

Now President Trump is seeking to rewrite NAFTA – and if it can’t be revamped to his satisfaction, then scuttle it altogether. As a result, many regional experts and political economists are cautioning that the political gains fostered by the pact could be damaged in the fray of an us-versus-them renegotiation battle that disregards the spirit of community underlying NAFTA’s success.

“Far more than a simple trade liberalization pact that would facilitate the exchange of widgets, there was a sense that, with NAFTA, the US and Mexico were now going to be reliable partners,” says Philip Levy, a senior fellow on the global economy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Noting that as part of its side of the bargain Mexico agreed to “locking in reforms and liberalization,” Mr. Levy says that 25 years later the US can indeed count on not just a stable Mexico but a partnership with both of its continental neighbors.

But he now worries that the fight over NAFTA’s future could set back the hard-won political gains of the pact and prompt both Canada and Mexico to look increasingly beyond a less-reliable US to build other global partnerships.

The tone of the NAFTA renegotiation “has painted the US as an antagonist that has to be handled,” he says. “I think that has damaged the partnership, but we don’t know yet how deep or lasting that damage will be.”

Regaining US jobs

The Trump administration last week reached a tentative deal with Mexico that updates the quarter-century-old NAFTA by incorporating labor and environmental chapters as well as intellectual property protections that were not part of the original pact.

The text of the new trade deal still remains largely under wraps. But the administration has revealed some key revisions concerning North America’s highly integrated automobile manufacturing sector that US officials say would result in a shift of some lost manufacturing jobs back to the US.

Under the new terms, 40 to 45 percent of a vehicle produced in North America would have to be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour. That provision presumably would require auto and auto-parts manufacturers to shift some production back to the US, where average wages are considerably higher than in Mexico.

In addition, the tentative deal would require that at least 75 percent of an automobile’s value be produced in North America (as opposed to, say, China) if that vehicle is to qualify for duty-free importation into the US.

Some US labor advocates who embraced Trump’s longtime characterization of NAFTA as “the worst trade deal ever” are lauding the president for championing US workers in the NAFTA rewrite.

Leaving Canada out?

But some experts say it is not so much the terms of the tentative deal with Mexico as it is the transactional and divide-and-conquer tone of the US approach that endangers a “spirit of community” from which the US has reaped considerable benefit.

Perhaps more than anything else, it is Trump’s stated willingness to conclude a bilateral deal with Mexico that leaves Canada out that alarms supporters of the North American partnership.

And then there’s the zero-sum approach of the White House to the trade talks that some say run counter to what NAFTA is about. On Friday, Trump was quoted as saying in an interview with Bloomberg News that any deal with Canada would be “totally on our terms.” The president condemned the release of what he said had been part of off-the-record comments to Bloomberg, but he then tweeted, “At least Canada knows where I stand!”

Talks with Canada aimed at bringing the top US trading partner into the tentative deal struck with Mexico broke off Friday without success, but the parties agreed to continue talks this week. Trump is under pressure from Republicans to preserve NAFTA as a deal among all three North American countries, but the president showed signs of chafing at the pressure from Congress.

“There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “Congress should not interfere w/ these negotiations or I will simply terminate NAFTA entirely & we will be far better off,” he added.

Carla Hills, who was the US trade representative under President George H. W. Bush who negotiated the NAFTA accord, has been one of the most ardent advocates of preserving the breadth of a deal that from the beginning was about more than regulating imports and exports.

“It’s time to modernize” NAFTA, Ms. Hills said last week on MSNBC. But “let’s keep this partnership together that makes North America the most competitive region in the world,” she added. “We want friends, we live in a world that is highly competitive. We need friends for economic but also for political reasons.”

Sunset clause called harmful

Others say it is Trump’s insistence on some version of a sunset clause in the “new” trade deal that most undermines the sense that NAFTA was also a reliable and settled partnership.

The terms as spelled out in the draft deal “would turn North America from a quasi-permanent free-trade area into a quasi-temporary free-trade area,” says Stan Veuger, a resident scholar in political economy at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

The tentative deal struck with Mexico calls for a horizon of 16 years for the new terms, with provisions for a review of the revised pact every six years.

But those terms are not just problematic for businesses that base their investment plans on longer timelines, Mr. Veuger says. They also raise doubts about the long-term US commitment to the partnership, he adds.

“It just makes the US look like a less reliable partner,” he says. “When the NAFTA partnership seems less than permanent, it undermines part of the purpose of the deal – which after all was to encourage and secure Mexico’s integration into the broader international economy.”

Levy of the Chicago Council says there are already signs that Mexico and Canada are taking steps to diversify their trade and broader economic relations beyond a less-predictable US.

“Both neighbors are looking elsewhere, they went ahead with the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] minus the US,” he says. Mexico is also taking on a leadership role in the Alliance of the Pacific, a grouping of Latin American countries linked by free markets, while Canada last year struck a comprehensive trade deal with the European Union.

Veuger also notes that Canada is deepening its trade relationship with Beijing in part by expanding its oil and gas exports to China.

Shared values

Still, many experts say that while the North American partnership won’t come out of the current shaking of its foundations unscathed, they are confident that the economic ties and shared values are strong enough to withstand the current buffeting.

That perspective may even be holding tight in Canada, which for the moment is Trump’s chief target in his bid to fundamentally redo NAFTA.

“The hardest part of this negotiation [to preserve NAFTA as a three-party deal] will be [US Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer going to Mr. Trump and saying … we haven’t delivered a one-sided crushing defeat for Canada, what we’ve got is an agreement that is good for all parties,” says Gordon Ritchie, a former Canadian ambassador for trade negotiations. “And the question will be whether Mr. Trump can bring himself to agree to that.”

No one yet knows the answer to that question, but Mr. Ritchie asserts that the partnership forged by NAFTA, and the strong US-Canada ties within that partnership, will survive. “I think the relationship between Canada and the US is so close and deep,” he says, “that it will take more than one president to destroy it.”

• Sara Miller Llana contributed to this report from Toronto.

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Patterns

Tracing global connections

3. Brexit, North Korea show how realities follow ‘breakthroughs’

Breakthrough events often promise fresh solutions to entrenched problems. But it’s usually the hard work behind the scenes that determines their success. 

Mark

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Brexit and North Korea have become exemplars of a stubborn law of international affairs: that a “breakthrough” event may pave the way for, but rarely in itself creates, the new reality its cheerleaders foresee. To advocates, Brexit spoke of a Britain liberated, with the promise of rich new trade opportunities worldwide outweighing any short-term economic pain from breaking with the European Union. After President Trump returned from his unprecedented summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he tweeted: “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” But the daunting complexity of redeeming those promises is hitting home. Though the summit communiqué included a commitment to denuclearization, it didn’t say how or when this would happen. British Prime Minister Theresa May initially set “red lines” suggesting a clean break with the EU on trade and immigration, but last month, amid mounting pressure from business and labor unions, she secured a cabinet majority for a softer form of leaving. That angered Brexit supporters. Both initiatives could yet produce results. Still, there’s a shared lesson: that success will require navigating a complex web of political and diplomatic challenges.

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Brexit, North Korea show how realities follow ‘breakthroughs’

Five thousand miles separate Downing Street, home to British Prime Minister Theresa May, and the Ryongsong Residence, the decidedly grander domestic surroundings of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

But both Britain and North Korea have become powerful exemplars of a stubborn law of international affairs: that a single “breakthrough” event may pave the way for, but rarely in itself creates, the new reality its cheerleaders foresee. That’s where the challenges, and complications, begin.

For Britain, the issue is Brexit: the 2016 referendum calling for an end to its decades-long membership of the European Union. In North Korea’s case, it was the unprecedented decision by US President Trump to sit down for a summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June of this year.

After each event, the cheerleaders were in full voice. Ardent advocates of Brexit spoke of a Britain liberated, with the promise of rich new trade opportunities worldwide far outweighing any short-term economic pain from breaking with the country’s largest and closest market. Immediately after returning from the Singapore summit, Mr. Trump tweeted: “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

Now, the daunting complexity of redeeming those promises is hitting home.

Trump cancelled a visit to Pyongyang late last month by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Though the timing was a surprise – the trip had been announced barely 24 hours earlier – the reasoning wasn’t. “I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the president declared.

No plan for 'how'

It was never going to be easy. Though the summit communiqué did include a commitment to denuclearization, it didn’t say how or when this was going to happen, or be verified. And after the televised embrace in Singapore effectively ended the North Korean leader’s diplomatic pariah status, it inevitably became harder to get international cooperation on Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of economic sanctions.

That’s been especially true of China, through which nearly all North Korean trade passes, at a time when the United States is in a tit-for-tat tariff battle to try to get the Chinese to alter their behavior on trade and intellectual property issues. And not only has North Korea balked at starting to dismantle, or even identify, their nuclear sites. US intelligence reports, echoed by a report voicing “grave concern” from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, indicate the North Koreans are continuing their nuclear weapons program.

Britain’s Prime Minister May is also facing hard realities in putting Brexit into practice. She has repeatedly emphasized her commitment to follow through on the referendum result. Aware of the need to keep her party on side, she initially set a series of “red lines” suggesting a clean break with the EU on trade and on another key Brexit issue: immigration and the freedom of EU citizens to settle in Britain.

But last month, amid mounting pressure from business and labor unions to minimize the economic fallout, she secured a cabinet majority for a softer form of leaving. This included a proposal that Britain and the EU would still follow “common rules” for trade in goods and agricultural products, and a “mobility framework” under which EU and British citizens could continue to move for study or work purposes.

Even that may not fly. Britain is due to leave on March 29 of next year, triggering a 21-month transition to ease the process. Not only has Mrs. May’s plan set off a storm of opposition from harder-line Brexit supporters in her own party. It leaves a number of issues unresolved and still must be accepted by openly skeptical EU negotiators, the European Parliament, the leaders of the other 27 member states, and Britain’s own Parliament.

Both the Brexit and Korea “breakthroughs” could yet produce results. On Brexit, optimists argue there is still likely to be at least a framework agreement with the EU before March 2019. All parties, notably Germany and France as core EU powers, recognize that a “no deal” scenario would risk economic disruption and damage not just for Britain but the EU. And while Trump’s statement cancelling the Pompeo visit was downbeat on denuclearization, and overtly critical of China, he did add “warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim,” and said he looked forward to “seeing him soon.”

Still, the shared lesson so far is clear: Success, if and when it’s delivered, will require navigating a complex web of political and diplomatic challenges.

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4. Competing harvests: Offshore wind, commercial fishing seek to coexist

New industries have a way of edging out old ones. As a fledgling offshore wind industry surges to life off New England's coast, fishermen and developers are searching for ways to share the sea.

Mark

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Fishermen have dominated these New England waters for centuries, regularly casting their lines and nets overboard under the rising sun. These days, a new beacon flickers on the horizon during those dark mornings, heralding an emerging presence: offshore wind power. For now, five turbines soaring above the waters surrounding Rhode Island’s Block Island are the sole representatives of the United States’ nascent offshore wind industry. But since this 30-megawatt wind farm spun to life in December 2016, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have set into motion larger projects in nearby waters. And more are in the development pipeline in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. This flurry of activity has sparked agitation among the area fishermen who worry the emerging industry will cut into their own livelihoods. But despite the hostility, some have expressed the desire to find a way to share the seas. And that will to find common ground may be the first step toward coexistence. “We’ve got two renewable resources. One in seafood, and one in wind,” says Eric Hansen, a Massachusetts scallop fisherman. “They shouldn’t have to compete.”

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Competing harvests: Offshore wind, commercial fishing seek to coexist

The Virginia Marise slides away from the dock into the pitch-black night. At 4 a.m., the only light comes from a flood light illuminating the deck of the boat and a handful of streetlights on land that disappear into the darkness as Captain Rodman Sykes maneuvers his boat out of the harbor, the black sky indistinguishable from the black sea.

This is a familiar scene to fishermen like Mr. Sykes. Commercial fishermen have headed out on these New England waters for some 400 years, casting their lines and nets overboard just as the sun peeks over the horizon. But at daybreak on this August morning, there’s a new sight. As the inky-black night gradually fades into the dim gray pre-dawn light, five red flashing lights appear all in a row on the horizon.

Those lights come from the five turbines making up the United States’ first offshore wind farm – the 30 megawatt Block Island Wind Farm. As the Virginia Marise draws closer, and the sky begins to blush pink, the turbines stand out on the horizon. The blades turn slowly in the slight breeze, generating electricity that flows through a cable buried in the seabed to Rhode Island’s Block Island.

The turbines and all the hardware that accompanies them spun to life in December 2016. So far, this is the only offshore wind power in the nation, and with just five turbines, it’s a small installation. But that’s soon to change. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have already selected larger projects which are set to be installed not far from the Block Island Wind Farm. And more are in the development pipeline in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

This flurry of activity has sparked agitation among the fishermen who have long been a fixture on the Eastern seaboard. Could fields of turbines disrupt their operations and the resource on which their livelihoods depend? Meetings with developers and permitting officials have been tense and, at times, explosive. A group of fishermen have even sued the federal government for leasing a tract of seafloor south of Long Island to an offshore wind developer.

But despite the hostility, some fishermen have expressed the desire to find a way to share the seas. And that will to find common ground may be the first step toward coexistence.

“We’ve got two renewable resources. One in seafood, and one in wind,” says Eric Hansen, a Massachusetts scallop fisherman. “They shouldn’t have to compete.”

Eva Botkin-Kowacki/The Christian Science Monitor
From left, scientists Steve Sabo, Brian Jenkins, and Matt Griffin count and measure fish in a survey around the Block Island Wind Farm on Aug. 16.

Winds of change

The offshore wind industry may be just getting started in the United States, but in Europe, it’s been around for a few decades. And it isn’t small. As of 2017, 4,149 turbines were connected to the grid across the continent. So some American fishermen have looked to Europe for clues about what might happen as offshore power picks up on this side of the pond.

Mr. Hansen is one of those American fishermen. He traveled to Britain with the Fisheries Survival Fund in June to see the wind farms for himself and to speak with fishermen.

The relationship between Europe’s offshore wind farms and local fishermen varies from country to country, but in some, like Belgium, fishermen are not allowed to enter wind farms. And even in places like Britain where fishermen can still fish among the turbines, Hansen learned that many choose not to, largely for fear of the damage that could result from tangling with the mechanical giants. Other fishermen have had to navigate around large swaths of turbine-filled ocean en route to fishing grounds, adding valuable time to their trips.

But a deeper concern that arose out of Hansen’s trip abroad was that offshore wind development might proceed without input from fishermen, as that is one gripe cited by European fishermen.

In the US, rapid-fire political activity promoting offshore wind power in recent years fuels that fear. In August 2016, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill requiring electricity distribution companies to buy long-term contracts for at least 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2027. This year, three other states – New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut – passed further legislation to promote and mandate offshore wind power. There’s also federal support for offshore wind, from an endorsement by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to funding for research and development.

SOURCE: US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

That political will is a boon for clean energy advocates. But to fishermen, it’s overwhelming, especially in southern New England, where projects feeding power to four states are planned for the waters between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

“Everything’s on a fast track,” says Fred Mattera, a Rhode Island commercial fisherman and president of the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation. “I don’t think anybody – even myself – can comprehend the dramatic change in the landscape.”

In April, with Massachusetts moving quickly toward offshore wind energy, a national coalition of commercial fishing groups wrote a letter to Governor Baker asking state officials to keep the first project smaller than 400 megawatts, proceed slowly, and set up a system for the offshore wind and seafood industries to communicate and exist side by side.

But since then, power utilities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York have all forged ahead with offshore wind contracts in southern New England waters. If all goes as planned, those projects will add 1490 megawatts of offshore wind power.

“It’s important that we get it right on these next projects,” says Aileen Kenney, senior vice president of development at Deepwater Wind, the developer behind the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm. Deepwater Wind was awarded all but one of those new contracts. The plan is to scale up slowly, moving next to a 15-turbine project generating power for Long Island, says Ms. Kenney.

Setting precedents

It’s crucial that fishermen are part of the conversation now, before turbines go into the water, Mr. Mattera says. It’s about setting a precedent. What happens now will set the stage for the relationship between the industries going forward. If one developer ignores fisheries’ concerns in favor of profit, he says, others might, too.

“We’re not saying no, we’re not trying to stop it,” Rhode Island lobsterman Lanny Dellinger adds. “We’re trying to have a reasonable outcome in this that allows fisheries to survive.”

The Block Island Wind Farm was a good start, Mr. Dellinger says, thanks to the state’s permitting process. The Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP) requires extensive stakeholder engagement for any development in state waters, and a Fishermen’s Advisory Board was established to ensure the fishing industry’s voice is heard. Dellinger is the chairman.

“We brought the fishermen in from the very start, and made the developers sit down and work with these guys to work out where they could coexist,” says Grover Fugate, executive director of the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council, which is in charge of the Ocean SAMP implementation.

But the projects currently on the table are all in federal waters, and therefore under federal jurisdiction. At that scale, the voices of individual fishermen and local fishery alliances can be easily missed. State agencies could still influence the permitting process, as federal actions that affect coastal use are required to be consistent with the state’s coastal management program.

But fishermen may now have a stronger voice of their own on the national stage. In June, a group of fishing industry associations and commercial operations came together to form the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA). The alliance’s outlined goals are to make offshore wind development and fisheries more compatible going forward, and to promote collaborative scientific research on the effects of offshore development on fisheries and fish populations.

Even when channels for inter-industry dialogues are established, finding common ground on specifics might not come easily. It’s tricky for the layout of a wind farm, for example, to be ideal for both industries. To capture the most wind energy, turbines should be organized somewhat randomly, explains Deepwater Wind's Kenney, so turbines don’t block the wind for other turbines. The difference in revenue can be significant, she says. But that doesn’t work so well for fishermen, particularly fishermen who trawl for squid and other fish using nets towed behind their boats.

Getting answers

As the fiery August sun appears over the Virginia Marise, illuminating the haze on the horizon, Captain Sykes and his two crew members drop the massive trawling net into the water. The five turbines turn slowly in the breeze, standing like silent sentinels watching over the dragging operation.

This isn’t an ordinary morning for the fishermen. They trawl for just a fraction of the time they normally would, and after they hoist the net out of the water and dump its wriggly contents out, they step back.

Three scientists step in, picking up fish of all shapes, sizes, and sorts. All the northern sea robins go in one basket, the black sea bass in another; butterfish, squid, scallops, and every kind of flounder each get their own container, too. Then they get counted, weighed, and measured.

Eva Botkin-Kowacki/The Christian Science Monitor
Rodman Sykes, captain of the fishing vessel the Virginia Marise, oversees a research trawl survey on his boat near the Block Island Wind Farm on Aug. 16.

Once a month, Sykes takes a break from his typical trawl to bring scientists out on the Virginia Marise to survey the waters around the Block Island Wind Farm and in two nearby control areas. This project started in September 2012, two years before construction began.

A big concern for fishermen is how little is known about how offshore wind farm construction and operation will affect fish populations. So in an attempt to start answering some of those questions, Deepwater Wind commissioned INSPIRE Environmental – an independent research consultant – to work with local fishermen to design and execute a fish survey. That’s why Sykes and the scientists set out to the turbines together.

The process started with “lots and lots of meetings with fishermen,” says Drew Carey, chief executive officer of INSPIRE Environmental. The goal was to make sure the study’s results would have significance for the fishing industry, and that they would trust the data.

That’s why Sykes got involved. “I felt from the start that it was important that one of the Point Judith fishermen should do it,” he says. “The fishermen have more faith in the information we gather ourselves.”

Other preliminary research found a flurry of fish activity around the base of the turbines, suggesting they may serve as artificial reefs. As a result, some recreational fishermen actually seek out the turbines.

But a line of just five turbines will only begin to answer fishermen’s questions. And with dramatic variation in the seafloor and ecosystems from site to site, fishermen have called for more long-term, baseline research before turbines go in so they can better assess changes.

“There are a lot of unknowns that we would like to get some answers to before the whole Eastern seaboard is populated by wind turbines,” Hansen says. “A lot more research needs to be done.”

This story was produced with support from an Energy Foundation grant to cover the environment.

SOURCE: US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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5. That summer’s-end feeling of ‘back to work’? The French have a word for it.

The French will tell you their year does not really begin Jan. 1. It starts with the rentrée – “the return.” The end of the summer holidays brings a reset button for the whole nation.

Mark
Ludovic Marin/Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron visits a secondary school in Laval, France, at the start of the school year on Sept. 3. Mr. Macron and his education minister were on hand to welcome students and their (voting) parents back to school.

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Suddenly, in France it’s not summer. Instead, this week marks the rentrée, which literally means “the return.” But when it refers to the end of the summer holidays, it signifies nothing less than a national fresh start. Because French life does not match the calendar year. The annual cycle begins with the rentrée. So the plumber you’ve been trying to reach for days rings you back on the first Monday in September. All the shops are open again. The fliers encouraging you to join a gym appear under car windshield wipers. There’s a new sense of purpose in the air. The rentrée scolaire – the new school year – is a big enough deal that President Emmanuel Macron made sure he was on hand at a provincial high school on Monday morning. Mr. Macron’s own rentrée politique is proving a little fraught this year, but if he has any time to read he has plenty of titles to choose from: the rentrée littéraire has unleashed a flood of new books. After the long summer holidays, the normal rhythms of French life have reasserted themselves.

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That summer’s-end feeling of ‘back to work’? The French have a word for it.

Everyone comes home from their summer holidays. But no one comes home quite like the French.

There is even a special word for it – la rentrée – which at any other time of the year would simply mean “the return.” But this week, the first week of September, it signifies a key social phenomenon in France, a national fresh start.

Because the long summer vacation that lulled the whole country into a state of suspended animation is over. Come the end of August, everyone plugs themselves back in to the active rhythms of daily life. Suddenly, there is a charge in the atmosphere, and a new sense of purpose.

La rentrée – not the New Year – is the time for France’s good resolutions: on Monday night someone had stuck fliers under the windshield wipers of all the cars in my street advertising a local gym.

It’s also the time to get things done. I got a call from my building’s plumber on Monday morning. I had telephoned him twice in the middle of last week with an urgent request, but got no further than his answering machine. Only on the first Monday in September was he back at work and ready for action.

He was not alone. Around my neighborhood the cobbler, the hairdresser, the tailor, the baker, and the vegetable store took down the notes they had left saying “Back on 3rd September,” rolled up their shutters, and got down to business again.

Forty percent of French businesses close in August, many of them for the whole month. Even big companies, tied into global supply chains that pay no heed to French idiosyncrasies, work with skeletal work crews.

The length and depth of the summer calm, though, gives la rentrée added oomph, and nowhere is this clearer than at school. The rentrée scolaire is a big enough deal that President Emmanuel Macron and his education minister made sure they showed up at a provincial secondary school on Monday morning to welcome students and glad-hand their (voting) parents.

Mr. Macron has not made himself terribly popular with schoolkids: He pushed through a law earlier this year banning the use of mobile phones in schools from today onward. But another innovative government scheme launched this semester – to create a choir in every school by the start of the next school year – has drawn less fire.

The rentrée politique is more drawn out, and more complicated. After nearly three weeks at a 17th century fortress on the Mediterranean coast, Macron faces what political analyst Alain Duhamel describes as a rentrée incandescente. His high-profile and very popular environment minister has just resigned, accusing the government of using him to greenwash its agenda. And long-planned reforms to the way income tax is collected look as though they may be called off at the last minute because the system is not ready for them.

No such fate threatens the third dimension of the rentrée phenomenon, the rentrée littéraire, which takes up almost as much ink in the French press as the newly published books themselves.

So much is being made of the 567 novels being released this month, including 94 first novels, that one would think no other books saw the light of day in France at any other time of the year. In fact, more books are published in every month except September, but they do not attract anything like the same fanfare.

Why not? Because the big French literary prizes are awarded in the late autumn; to be in the running with a fresh book still generating buzz, you have to publish now, at the rentrée littéraire.

“The rentrée littéraire in September is aimed at the prize committees,” says Pierre Dutilleul, head of the French publishers’ association. “A Goncourt prize and the right buzz can sell half a million books,” especially in the run-up to Christmas, the top month for book sales, Mr. Dutilleul adds.

That can change an author’s life. Some of the other alterations made to mark the rentrée, allegedly in the spirit of innovation, are perhaps of less lasting import. TF1, the most watched TV channel in France, is very proud of the studio it has built for its national news programs, unveiled a week ago. The major novelty is that the presenter now sits to the right of the screen, instead of the left.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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The Monitor's View

Where are we headed? Answers may lie in the past.

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Among the trends in US higher education: Areas of study that lead to jobs in booming industries, such as health care and STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), are seen as the ticket to “success.” That thinking can devalue degrees in the humanities. History major? Why look at the dusty past when the sciences are all about the future? But there’s pushback along these lines: While occupational and technical job skills are likely to be overtaken quickly in the future, the “thinking skills” learned when studying the humanities can last a lifetime. A nascent upturn in interest in history shows students may be buying that argument. At Yale University, the top major declared by members of the class of 2019 is history; that hasn’t happened for a generation. Why the shift? With political divisiveness running rampant, perhaps students may be seeking a way to view events from a broader perspective. That’s not just a valuable skill greatly needed by the upcoming generation. It’s one needed from all citizens, in all times.

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Where are we headed? Answers may lie in the past.

The trend lines in higher education seem clear: 

1. As costs soar college is becoming less and less affordable. 

2. And since college is so expensive, today’s students feel impelled to emerge with a degree that leads to an immediate – preferably high-paying – job.

That means old-fashioned degrees in the humanities – English, philosophy, foreign languages, history, etc. – are out. Areas of study that lead to jobs in booming industries such as health care (nursing is a perennial safe choice), and STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), are seen as the ticket to financial stability and success.

Students can’t be blamed for wanting to make sure they’ll be able to pay off the tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt that many of them will carry off campus with them. And they have every right to pursue a passion to work in health care, STEM, or any other vocation that calls to them.

But college students may have learned the lessons of the Great Recession of 2008 too well. 

Interest in majoring in the humanities fell dramatically. History majors, for example, became a rare species of scholar: After all, who’d want to look at the dusty past when the sciences are all about the future? By 2017 only a little more than 1 percent of college students listed history as their major, according to a Department of Education survey. The historical norm had been about 2 percent.

In response, history departments took to writing apologias for their field. For one thing, they point out, those with history degrees don’t do all that badly in finding work at wages competitive with those with other degrees – and often in quite interesting positions beyond academia, such as in law, journalism, and public service, for example.

While occupational and technical job skills are likely to be overtaken quickly in the future, the “thinking skills” learned when studying the humanities can last a lifetime, they say.

“Historians are trained to treat what they read critically. This means not just reading, looking at or listening to a source – whether a newspaper report [or] a medieval charter ... but questioning it,” writes Alice Taylor, who teaches medieval history at King’s College London. “A history degree trains you to ask questions of your material: Where does it come from? Who wrote it, designed it, wanted it? Who paid for it and why? ... In a world where fake news can influence elections, the methods of the historian – what history degrees train their students to acquire – are needed more than ever before.”

A nascent upturn in interest in studying history shows students may be buying her argument. At Yale University the top major declared by members of the class of 2019 is history; that hasn’t happened for a generation.

Why the sudden change? No one knows, but theories abound. With American culture in an uproar and political divisiveness rampant, students may be seeking a way to view events from a broader perspective. How did we get here? Have similar situations happened in the past? How did society deal with them then?

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” the saying goes. Knowing what has happened before doesn’t provide all the answers, but it’s a start.

Or as Winston Churchill, a historian who made so much history himself, put it: “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

This long-range view is not just a valuable skill greatly needed by the upcoming generation, but by all citizens in all times.

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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.

‘Canceled,’ or welcomed home?

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Instead of writing off as irredeemable those who have done wrong, today’s contributor explores how acknowledging God’s grace and love for all empowers efforts to correct and heal.

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‘Canceled,’ or welcomed home?

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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I was recently reading how a lot of high-profile people have been “canceled” this year. This trendy notion of canceling someone whose expressions you disagree with means making a public statement of withdrawing support from that person. It is mostly connected to social media, and is directed at those whose political, artistic, or other views are seen as unacceptable. It’s sometimes described as a cultural boycott, depriving someone of attention, status, or prestige.

It’s certainly important to be alert to inappropriate, offensive behavior. But these days, the rush to find fault with, insult, and blame others has reached a deafening crescendo that goes even beyond canceling someone on social media. This got me thinking: Is dismissing or overtly rejecting someone a healing response? What if we considered a different approach, one in which what we “cancel,” reject, and dismiss isn’t each other, but every statement, intent, or act that would stain and darken our world?

In my own life I’ve consistently seen the value of a spiritual response to challenges of all kinds. For instance, there was a period in my life when I was active in occasionally speaking about Christian Science with groups of men and women in prison. I often found many of them quietly yet clearly rediscovering their own spiritual worth and that of their fellow inmates. Once, though, as I walked into the meeting room of a women’s prison, I found each of the inmates wearing a required badge that said “Offender.” I understood why the badges were necessary, but it felt as if these women had been “canceled,” seen as irredeemable.

But that evening, when I shared a story from the Bible, something remarkable happened. The story was Christ Jesus’ allegory of the prodigal son who asks his father for his inheritance early. He proceeds to waste it, ends up destitute, and finally, in humility, returns home to beg his father to let him stay as a servant. But his father openly celebrates his son’s return, observing, “My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (see Luke 15:11-32).

One woman in the group said, through tears, that she was just like the son who had wasted everything and that she might as well be dead. But another then spoke up about the father in the parable, who runs to meet his son returning home. This inmate said, “That father is our God in heaven, honey, and He’ll never drop you. He’s ready to welcome you home, right now!” It was a powerful, holy moment that defined the rest of that evening – and has stayed with me over the decade since.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, New King James Version). To me, this doesn’t mean passively tolerating or appeasing people’s attitudes or actions no matter what. Rather, I see it as encouragement to see my fellow men and women as God, our loving creator, made and maintains us – in His spiritual image (see Genesis 1:26, 27). It’s true that God never drops any of us. No one is beyond the possibility of redemption, because we are made to express God’s purity, goodness, and love.

Referring to God as divine Love, The Christian Science Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote: “Love never loses sight of loveliness. Its halo rests upon its object” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 248). If we awaken to the fact that the halo of infinite Love’s approval is always resting upon us, we can discover that our transgressions and ills – even criminality, addiction, illness, and hate – do not cancel our innate spiritual innocence, purity, freedom, and love. In fact, it’s the other way around. As Mrs. Eddy also wrote, “By the love of God we can cancel error in our own hearts, and blot it out of others” (“No and Yes,” p. 7).

Simply isolating people – whether on social media or in person – cannot correct the root of whatever may be wrong. Ultimately, heartfelt prayer is needed to lift our view to realize our and others’ nature as the recipients of God’s grace rather than as flawed personalities. This understanding helps us be more effective at canceling problems, not people, and reflecting to all the warm welcome of God’s healing love for each of us.

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Viewfinder

Tallying losses, hoping for recoveries

Ricardo Moraes/Reuters
A Sept. 3 aerial view shows fire damage to the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. The status of some 20 million items across a range of collections – from fossils and Egyptian and Greco-Roman artifacts to a large meteorite and a 200-year-old collection of Brazilian birds – remains unknown.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( September 5th, 2018 )

Thank you for joining us today. Please come back tomorrow when we take on a subject to warm your third-grade-gym-class heart – dodgeball. In South Sudan, a traditional variant on the game is actually giving young women new opportunities and confidence. 

Monitor Daily Podcast

September 04, 2018
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