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Rethink the News

Perspective matters.

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

2018
September
11
Tuesday
David Clark Scott
Editor & product manager

The outcome of Friday night’s Ocean Springs, Miss., high school football game rested entirely on the shoulders of the homecoming queen.

That’s right, Kaylee Foster was crowned at halftime and then kicked the extra point in overtime to lead the team to victory, 13-12.

Kaylee’s success isn’t unique. Tiaras and football pads are becoming a thing in America.

Last fall, North Carolina kicker Julia Knapp was crowned homecoming queen and the offensive player of the game. In Grand Blanc, Mich., last year linebacker Alicia Woollcott was the second high school football player in her state to be voted homecoming queen. In the past year, at least five states have celebrated these queens who wear football jerseys.

While fewer US teens are playing high school football, the number of girls donning cleats is rising. It’s still a small number. But kudos to the young women redefining gender stereotypes. "Don’t feel sorry for me and don’t help me up when I get knocked down, I know what I’m doing and I know why I’m here,” Alicia told her coach.

On a Friday night, with a few seconds left, the game hanging in the balance, every coach wants an athlete who’s poised, consistent, and fearless in the face of adversity. Those are qualities that have nothing to do with gender.

~

Now to our five selected stories, including a fresh look at international justice, progress on sexual harassment in the US, and inspiring reads for September.

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1. Challenge to US sovereignty? In polls public accepts constraints on power.

Justice may be seen as a concept that has no geopolitical boundaries. But today we have two stories on global justice, including this one that rejects putting limits on American safety and sovereignty.

David

Two ways to read the story

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In his first major address as national security adviser, John Bolton came out swinging in defense of a no-compromise adherence to US national sovereignty in global affairs. The target of Mr. Bolton’s comments to the conservative Federalist Society Monday was the International Criminal Court, which he said may soon announce an investigation into alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan. “This administration will fight back to protect American constitutionalism, our sovereignty, and our citizens,” Bolton said. “No committee of foreign nations will tell us how to govern ourselves and defend our freedom.” But Bolton’s uncompromising vision seems to be at odds with the public's. Recent surveys underscore that, if anything, public support for robust US engagement in global affairs – even when it means accepting some restraints on US power – is on the rise. In its annual survey, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs finds a slight upward trend in already two-thirds support for US participation in the ICC. “Americans understand that to work with international institutions,” says the council's Dina Smeltz, “we sometimes have to accept deals and rules that aren’t always going to be the United States’ first choice.”

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Challenge to US sovereignty? In polls public accepts constraints on power.

National security adviser John Bolton’s vigorous defense Monday of national sovereignty in the face of what he views as globalism run amok was enthusiastically received by his immediate audience, the Washington-based Federalist Society.

Ambassador Bolton, the White House’s über nationalist and defender of American hard power, directed warning shots against the International Criminal Court and its purported plans to take up alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan and in third-country “black sites.” Underlying his remarks was what he called President Trump’s reassertion of national sovereignty after years of erosion at the behest of President Obama and other internationalists.

“This administration will fight back to protect American constitutionalism, our sovereignty, and our citizens,” Bolton said. “No committee of foreign nations will tell us how to govern ourselves and defend our freedom.”

But his conservative audience’s response notwithstanding, US public support for Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from multilateralism and collective action on global issues is less clear.

Indeed, some international affairs experts see a growing gap between the president’s anti-internationalist actions – from withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran nuclear deal, and the United Nations Human Rights Council, to funding cuts to UN organizations – and an American public that surveys show favor robust US involvement in addressing global security and economic challenges collectively.

That is not to say Americans favor global government. Yet support for globally addressing issues from security and peace-keeping to the environment and trade seems to have steadily grown.

“If you look at recent polls, you see growing public support for international institutions and multilateral cooperation, even occasionally support for supranational entities or powers,” says Stewart Patrick, director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ program on international institutions and global governance in Washington. “That support does not appear to buy into the absolutist vision of national sovereignty that sees something like the ICC as a grave threat to the US constitution.”

Mr. Patrick – whose 2017 book, “The Sovereignty Wars,” argues that America can both safeguard its national sovereignty and be a robust participant in international institutions and global problem-solving – says most Americans are comfortable with a more elastic conception of national sovereignty that basically says you have to give a little to win a little.

“I think most Americans support the notion that if the US can gain influence by participating in international institutions,” Patrick says, “it’s worth the cost of some measure of freedom of action.”

Patrick worked in the State Department over some of the same years as Bolton, and says he recalls him even then acting to pre-empt any suggestion of US cooperation with the ICC.

Consistent public support

If anything, recent surveys of American attitudes toward international institutions and engagement in global affairs suggest growing support for US involvement, particularly in the UN.

“For a long time the American public has not been on the same page as those in our government and elsewhere with a muscular commitment to national sovereignty,” says Dina Smeltz, senior fellow in public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “On the contrary, the public is much more supportive of a range of international institutions and working with other countries to address global issues.”

That support extends specifically to the ICC, Ms. Smeltz says. Citing results of the Chicago Council’s annual survey of US attitudes on global affairs, set to be published in October, she says this year’s survey shows a slight upward trend in support for US participation in the ICC, which has hovered around 70 percent for over a decade.

SOURCE: Chicago Council Surveys
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

Other surveys confirm this broad support for US global engagement. One study published last year by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed a “dramatic rise” in positive views of the UN over the last decade.

Whereas fewer than half of Americans (48 percent) had a favorable view of the UN in 2007, that had climbed to nearly two-thirds (64 percent) by mid-2016.

Another survey by the Chicago Council last year found that growing numbers of American young people have a tarnished view of US interventionism, particularly of the military variety. But the survey found that Millennials do not equate their views with isolationism or a US withdrawal from global engagement, but rather with a desire for a more humble and realist US role in the world.

‘Americans govern Americans’

In post-speech remarks to reporters Monday, Bolton asserted that the Trump administration will continue with its absolutist view of national sovereignty – and suggested that the president could take further steps to disentangle the US from supranational restrictions, for example a withdrawal from the World Trade Organization. Trump has threatened to pull out of the WTO.

“The Trump administration view is that Americans govern Americans. How’s that for a radical thought?” quipped the former US ambassador to the UN.

Asked specifically about further steps Trump might take to curtail multilateral institutions such as the WTO and US involvement in them, Bolton said, “concern for national sovereignty is extremely important to the administration. How that plays out in future decisions, I’d rather not forecast,” he added, “but I think it is something that goes directly to democratic theory of who governs.”

In his lengthy comments on the ICC, Bolton said the US position should not be interpreted as opposition to justice for victims of atrocities but rather as adherence to the conviction that perpetrators “should face legitimate, effective, and accountable prosecution for their crimes by sovereign national governments.”

He took US rejection of the ICC further than ever, however, announcing that any effort by the court to investigate American citizens would be met with sanctions, travel restrictions, and even criminal prosecution of ICC judges and prosecutors involved in those investigations.

The US has never been a state party to the ICC, established by the Rome treaty in 1998, although the US did sign the statute establishing the court under President Clinton. Bolton said Monday that President George W. Bush’s 2002 authorization for him as then-undersecretary for arms control and international security to “unsign” the Rome statute was “my happiest day in government.”

In bad company

But other international legal experts and human rights proponents take a dim view of the US action, saying it puts the US in a league with the world’s worst violators of international norms against genocide and other crimes against humanity – many of whom also reject the court’s authority and legitimacy.

“The ICC was created to end impunity for perpetrators of the most heinous crimes, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, when nations are unwilling or unable to prosecute,” said Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, in a statement Tuesday. “Despite its complicated relationship with the Court, the US has always stood strong against impunity, and supported the ICC’s jurisdictional mandate involving atrocities committed in Sudan and Libya.”

In his view, he added, “the Trump administration seeks to dismantle completely a legal entity, the sole purpose of which is to bring justice to victims of the most unimaginable atrocities.”    

When asked, Bolton said he strongly supports US participation in multinational security organizations like NATO, which bring together sovereign nations in the pursuit of common defense interests. And while he espoused no enthusiasm for the UN, which he said is good mostly for “wasting” US taxpayers’ money, he added that most UN activities pose no threat to American sovereignty.

But Smeltz of the Chicago Council suggests that even such a neutral position on US multilateral engagement is out of touch with an American public that exhibits enthusiasm for global engagement – even at the price of some measure of national sovereignty.

“What we see is that Americans understand that to work with international institutions and within the multilateral system, we sometimes have to accept deals and rules that aren’t always going to be the United States’ first choice,” she says. “They get that some aspects of multilateralism might constrain us, but they support strong US involvement, and by wide margins, anyway.”

SOURCE: Chicago Council Surveys
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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2. #MeToo and government: State legislatures try more self-policing

Check out our maps of progress being made on sexual harassment by US lawmakers: who’s making changes, what kind, and who isn’t making changes.

David

After the #MeToo movement picked up steam in late 2017, dozens of politicians faced sexual harassment and misconduct allegations. At the national level, the Senate and the House efforts to reconcile two bills updating Congress’s sexual harassment policy have stalled. Statehouses promised change. In early January, three-quarters of state legislative chambers were considering or had implemented changes to their own sexual harassment policies. As of August, about half have taken some action, according to data collected by The Associated Press. These changes, from most commonly implemented to least, include beefing up training about sexual harassment, requiring external investigations, adopting anti-retaliation protections, banning the use of public funds, and banning the use of confidential settlements. Rhode Island Democratic state Sen. Gayle Goldin cosponsored a bill with training and anti-retaliatory components. There were also several proposed bills from a dedicated task force. None passed. One barrier, by Senator Goldin’s account: too few women in the legislature. Sexual harassment is often dismissed as a serious issue by majority-male statehouses, she says. “We are going to see women continuing to push through the electoral process and through our statehouses across this country to address sexual harassment and sexism more broadly…. It really is about thinking, ‘How do we stop baking … inequality and oppression into everything?’ ” – Rebecca Asoulin

SOURCE: Data analysis by The Associated Press
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Rebecca Asoulin and Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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3. For these tiny islands, decolonization dispute gets day in international court

Who really owns the Chagos Islands, a remote outpost in the Indian Ocean? A decades-old territorial dispute is now in a new judicial arena.

David
Mike Corder/AP
Protesters gather outside the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Sept. 3. Judges at the United Nations' highest court are listening to arguments in a case focused on whether Britain illegally maintains sovereignty over the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, including Diego Garcia, where the United States has a major military base.

Two ways to read the story

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Sabrina Jean’s father was 17 in the late 1960s when he boarded a boat for Port Louis, Mauritius, for medical treatment. It was a journey of more than 1,000 miles from his home in the Chagos Islands, a British territory smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean. But when he tried to return, he was turned away – and would never live in the Chagos again. The islands had been caught up in a cold-war security deal to create a US military base, which operates there to this day. And the Chagos’s small population – people one British official in the 1960s called “Tarzans and Man Fridays” – was forcibly removed. Last week, the International Court of Justice held hearings for a sovereignty dispute over the Chagos, with allegations that Britain unlawfully separated the islands away from Mauritius, a former British colony, just before independence. For Chagossians alive today, and their descendants, the case offers hope they could go home. But its influence could go beyond the islands. “If Mauritius wins, it will assist in furthering arguments around the global right to self-determination and decolonization,” says Allan Ngari, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.

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For these tiny islands, decolonization dispute gets day in international court

In the memories of the elders, passed down over bowls of coconut and octopus stew in the shacks of the Mauritian capital, Port Louis, the Chagos Islands were paradise.

They spoke of palm trees bowing their fronds over white sand beaches, and Indian Ocean water so brightly turquoise it hurt your eyes. They spoke of their neat, thatched cottages and the Saturday evening sega dances, a blur of whirling skirts and beating drums.

Karen Norris/Staff

What they didn’t speak of, because they hardly needed to, because everyone listening already knew, was how the story ended.

The Chagos were still paradise. It was just that now, that paradise belonged to someone else.

Between 1968 and 1973, the entire population of the Chagos Archipelago, a freckled spattering of islands equidistant from east Africa, India, and Malaysia, were forcibly removed to make way for a US military base. Today, some two dozen massive military cargo ships bob in the blue waters off the largest island, Diego Garcia. The base, meanwhile, is a coastal American city in miniature, complete with beach BBQ, windsurfing regattas, and coconut bowling tournaments.

But now, Chagos’ original residents and their descendants have renewed reason to hope they might soon go home.

Last week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the main court of the United Nations, heard arguments about who has the legal right to the islands. On one side was Britain, which formally controls the territory and leases Diego Garcia to the United States for its base. On the other was Mauritius, itself a former island colony of the British, which alleges the Brits snatched the territory from it unlawfully on the eve of its independence – and which has promised to let the Chagossians return.

“Mauritius fully supports their immediate right of return,” Anerood Jugnauth, Mauritius’ former prime minister and president who now heads its delegation to the ICJ, said at the hearing. “But as long as our decolonization is not complete, we are not able to implement a program for resettlement.”

The right to go home would help bring closure, many Chagossians say, to a fight for recognition and basic rights that has sprawled across five decades and two continents, and pitted them – a dwindling group of fewer than 2,000 original islanders and their descendants – against some of the world’s most powerful countries. But the battle at the ICJ could also help set a broader precedent for other countries fighting twenty-first century decolonization battles.

Although the ICJ’s decision is not legally binding, “if Mauritius wins, it will assist in furthering arguments around the global right to self-determination and decolonization,” says Allan Ngari, an international law expert and senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in South Africa. “It has the power to say, before the eyes of the law there are not big states and small states – everyone is equal.” And that, he says, could be important in cases before the court over sovereignty issues in the future.

Reuters/File
Diego Garcia is the largest island in the Chagos archipelago, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The island is the site of a major United States military base, on land leased from the British. In early September, the International Court of Justice held hearings in a dispute over the Chagos's sovereignty.

A population problem

For Chagossians, that equality has been a long time coming.

The islanders, or Ilois, descend from enslaved and indentured Africans and Indians who were brought to the archipelago in the late 1700s to harvest coconuts on French plantations. Over time, the islands became a kind of floating company town, and a distinctive society developed, with its own French-based creole, warbling music, and coconut-heavy cuisine.

More than 1,000 miles away lay colonial Mauritius, which administered the distant Chagos on behalf of the British. Sabrina Jean’s father was 17 in the late 1960s when he boarded a boat to Port Louis for medical treatment, as islanders often did when they needed facilities more advanced than the Chagos’s small hospitals could provide. But when he returned to the dock a few weeks later to sail home, he was brusquely turned away. The Chagos were closed, port officials explained. No one would be allowed to return.

“He was stuck,” says Ms. Jean, now a prominent activist for Chagossian rights. As it turned out, he would never go home again.

Unbeknownst to the Chagossians, they had been caught up in a cold war security deal between the British and their American allies.

A few years earlier, US military officials had approached the British asking for help setting up a military base in a remote area of the Indian Ocean. The Chagos, they reasoned, would be perfect – isolated but within easy range of potential conflict zones in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

There was only one slightly thorny matter. The islands had a small population of “Tarzans and Man Fridays,” one British official explained in a memo.

And so the US and British officials said there were no permanent inhabitants on the island, only migrant laborers they were sending “home” to Mauritius or the Seychelles.

“To recognize that there are permanent inhabitants will imply that there is a population whose democratic rights have to be safeguarded,” one British brief on the Chagos explained.

Anyway, Britain had a bigger issue. Chagos was part of Mauritius, and Mauritius was about to become independent. So, Mr. Jugnauth told the court last week, the British approached the Mauritians with a do-or-die deal: Let us keep Chagos and take your independence, or the whole colony stays with us.

The Mauritians chose independence.

And so the Chagossians were forced into exile. To get residents off the island, authorities began restricting supplies. In 1971, they rounded up pet dogs and gassed them to death, as detailed in David Vine’s “Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia.” In 1973, the remaining Chagossians were finally boarded onto ships and dropped off in Mauritius or the Seychelles.

“To Mauritians, we were a lower class of human,” says Jean, who was born there after her father’s removal. “In school, kids called us monkeys, they mocked us.”

The US, meanwhile, gave the British a $14 million discount on nuclear ballistic missiles as payment for the lease, and went to work building their base.

“That base has been critical to every major US military intervention or war in the greater Middle East since the 1980s,” says Professor Vine, an anthropologist at American University. In recent decades in particular, Diego Garcia acted as a crucial launchpad for major bombing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and allegedly served as a “black site” for detaining terrorism suspects.

'The chance to go home'

Over the decades, Chagossian advocacy groups won a number of concessions from the British government, including cash settlements and in 2000, the right to British citizenship. But the US has repeatedly maneuvered itself away from the conflict. In the ICJ case, the US sidestepped the issue of Mauritius’s rights to the island, joining the United Kingdom, Australia, and Israel in arguing that the sovereignty of the islands must be decided in negotiations between Britain and Mauritius – not an international court.

But Mauritius – along with 17 other countries and the African Union – argued that the time for those kinds of one-on-one deliberations had long passed. (Ninety-four countries had already voted last June in favor of a UN resolution to take the dispute to the court.)

Mauritius and its allies contend that splitting off the Chagos from the rest of Mauritius violated UN resolutions on decolonization that prohibit governing powers from splitting up territories – including a 1965 resolution specifically asking Britain not to divide Mauritius before its independence. The country’s leaders say they were coerced into accepting the split anyway, in order to gain their independence.

But that’s where the international courts have an unique role to play, says Mr. Ngari of ISS. “International courts can help to redress historic power imbalances” between countries, he notes.

A decision on the Chagos is expected in March 2019. Whichever way it goes, many Chagossians say they only want the right to go back to where they came from – whether that place is officially British or officially Mauritian. And many would be happy to share Diego Garcia with the military base, whose current lease runs until 2036.

“The British dumped us, the Mauritians treated us like animals, we have been left by the world to be forgotten,” says Isabelle Charlot, a second-generation Chagossian and the chairperson of Chagos Islanders Movement, a Britain-based advocacy group. “Now we just want the chance to go home.”

Karen Norris/Staff
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A letter from…

Air Force One

4. All the president’s seatmates: two days in the high-flying bubble

Washington Bureau Chief Linda Feldmann offers an insider’s view of traveling with the president on Air Force One. There are many privileges, but it offers a fairly narrow perspective on events.

David
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Washington bureau chief Linda Feldmann (c.) and the rest of the press pool listen to President Trump aboard Air Force One on their way to Fargo, N.D, Sept. 7.

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Usually, on Air Force One, we in the small traveling press pool at the back of the plane are sequestered from President Trump. But on the trip last week to Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, we had a hunch he’d come back to see us. And he did. Mr. Trump felt good about the rally the night before in Billings, and there was a lot in the news: the anonymous op-ed, Bob Woodward’s book, China tariffs. But he wanted his comments off the record. Fine. At the end, we asked the magic question: Can we put everything on the record? After some back and forth, he settled on, “Yeah, just be fair with me.” And so, we got what we wanted: the president, answering questions, on the record. But there’s more to flying on Air Force One than proximity to the president. Take the hearty, delicious meals, which always seem to involve cheese. There’s also the freedom to stay on one’s cellphone even after takeoff. Also, I must point out: We reporters are not flying Air Force One on the taxpayers’ dime. Our employers pay for the privilege. And thankfully, it is a privilege that Trump has continued.

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All the president’s seatmates: two days in the high-flying bubble

Anticipation was high as we boarded Air Force One last Thursday for a two-day trip with President Trump to Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

The day before, The New York Times had published an anonymous op-ed by a “senior administration official” claiming a “resistance” to Trump policies from the inside. And the day before that, tidbits from Bob Woodward’s book “Fear” had come out, portraying a chaotic White House under an unstable boss.

What would Mr. Trump say to us, the reporters traveling with him – and hanging on his every word?

The president didn’t have to say anything. But chances were high, we felt, that he’d want to come back to the press cabin. Which he did – the next morning, right after takeoff from Billings, Mont. And he did not disappoint. Key quotes from our Q&A session, transmitted by us to our editors and the entire Washington press corps after we landed in Fargo, N.D., created instant headlines. 

“Trump says Justice Department should investigate who wrote anonymous New York Times op-ed,” said the news alert on my phone.

I was about two feet away from Trump when he said that in response to a reporter’s question, and I had that “wow” feeling that comes from seeing news happen right in front of you. When you cover the White House, there’s nothing like up-close, off-camera interaction with the president.

But when I tell family and friends I just spent two days flying around the country on Air Force One, they aren’t just interested in Trump. They also want to know about the plane, the setting for many a historic event and Hollywood film. In fact, there’s more than one Air Force One. We flew in a big one, a Boeing 747, with first-class accoutrements – big seats, a basket of fruit and candy ever present, various toiletries and a big stack of terrycloth hand towels in the restroom.

Linda Feldmann/TheChristian Science Monitor
The Monitor's Linda Feldmann (c.) was part of the press pool aboard Air Force One during President Trump's trip to Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, September 6 and 7, 2018.

Sequestered in the back of the plane, the 13 members of the traveling press “pool” – a rotating group of reporters, photographers, and a TV crew – are kept away from the president and accompanying staff and guests. But flying on Air Force One does have its privileges. Tray tables stowed away for takeoff? Not necessary. Seat belts never buckled? Not a problem. Electronic devices still on? Don’t worry about it.

We pool reporters love that we can stay on our phones well after liftoff, keeping connected with the outside world a few extra minutes. Though once the signal fades to black, we’re truly trapped in the presidential bubble. There’s no WiFi inside the press cabin. 

Then there are the delicious meals, prepared in a galley behind the press cabin. They always seem to involve cheese, and are quite hearty, perhaps to keep the Secret Service agents happy. (This observation goes back way before Trump took office, so no judgment on him.) For dinner on Thursday, we were served steak tacos and tres leches cake, with real silverware, tiny glass salt and pepper shakers, and a cloth napkin wrapped in a paper ring featuring the presidential seal. The next evening, on our way back to Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland, we got heaping plates of lasagne, salad, and tiramisu. 

By now you may be wondering who pays for all this. After previous Air Force One trips, I’ve had readers call me out for flying with the president “on the taxpayers’ dime.” The reality, for all the press on board, is that our employers pay the bill – the cost of the flight, the meals, the ground transportation. It’s expensive, but doable (for us, two or three times a year).

It’s an honor and a privilege to serve in the pool. Our job is to serve as the eyes and ears of the entire White House press corps, and, by extension, the public. The reports that we file are directly transmitted to our colleagues, and not censored by the White House press office. And as much as Trump is known for busting norms, it must be noted that he has continued the practice of bringing representatives of the White House press corps with him on trips. There’s no law saying he has to do that. 

True, Trump uses us as props at events – pointing to the back of the arena and calling us “fake news” or more recently, “fakers” (and even more seriously, “enemies of the people,” though that historically ominous slur usually comes by tweet). This treatment is not a joke, and we don’t smile or laugh. We just do our jobs. 

Linda Feldmann/TheChristian Science Monitor
Dinner is served: The press pool's meal aboard Air Force One on September 6, 2018, included steak tacos and tres leches cake.

But there are plenty of good reasons for the press to stay as close to Trump as possible. Getting to ask him questions tops the list. In all my years of flying Air Force One, I had never had a visit with the president. President Barack Obama rarely came back, but Trump – who is more of a schmoozer than his predecessor – does so regularly.

The night before, at our hotel in Billings, some of us badgered Trump aides to bring him back the next day – or better yet, bring us to the front of the plane, where he has an office and other comforts of home. A few pool reporters under Trump have had that privilege.

… 

Sure enough, the next morning, soon after takeoff, deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley appeared in our cabin and silently swept his hands upward: Rise up! We knew what that meant. I fumbled for my recorder and iPhone, and seconds later, there was Trump. “This will be off the record,” we were told. That means nothing can be quoted, either by name or more vaguely, such as “senior administration official.” Audio was allowed, but no video.

Trump was in good spirits from the rally the night before, and seemed to enjoy the back and forth with us – on China tariffs, the anonymous op-ed, the Woodward book, North Korea, Robert Mueller.

At one point, Trump temporarily changed the ground rules, suggesting an “off the record” comment could be quoted: “I say ‘off the record,’ but you can use it if you want,” he said of the decline in the Chinese stock market.

Then, as we wrapped up, he was asked the magic question. Can we put everything on the record? After some back and forth, he settled on, “Yeah, just be fair with me.” Then he turned to Mr. Gidley for affirmation. Here’s that part of the “gaggle”:  

THE PRESIDENT:  You okay with that, Hogan?  Do I have that?

Q: It’s up to you, Mr. President. (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think we said anything very tricky, Hogan. What do you think?

Q: You said great stuff.

THE PRESIDENT: Huh?

Q: About the country being great. 

And so, we got what we wanted: the president, answering questions, on the record. 

The rest of the day, fundraisers in Fargo, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D., seemed anticlimactic. We also discovered Friday that a hashtag had emerged from the televised Billings rally: #PlaidShirtGuy, a high school student who stood behind Trump making facial expressions that went viral. Eventually, the young man, Tyler Linfesty, was removed from the rally. 

But we in the press pen without telephoto lenses didn’t see that. Thus is life in the presidential bubble – the privileges are many, but the perspective can be narrow.

And what about the future of Air Force One? The current pair, dating to 1987, is being replaced with two new Boeing 747s – and a new look. Instead of the Kennedy-era blue and white color scheme, Trump has ordered red, white, and blue.

“It’s going to be the top of the line, the top in the world,’’ the president told CBS News in July. 

But Trump won’t get to use them, at least as president. They won’t be ready until 2024.

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Books

5. Our staff picks for the best reads of September

Among our 10 best books of September you’ll find inspiration and insight from a top chef who helped feed Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria and the reformation of a white nationalist raised to hate. We also have Doris Kearns Goodwin’s latest on presidential leadership.

David
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Our staff picks for the best reads of September

1.  Rising Out of Hatred, by Eli Saslow
Derek Black was born into a prominent white nationalist family and groomed to become a leader for the next generation of American racists. Instead, as an adult, Black turned away from that legacy of hate and embraced tolerance and inclusion. The story of his transformation is powerful and riveting.

2.  Ninth Street Women, by Mary Gabriel
Biographer Mary Gabriel offers an excellent slice of American cultural history in her book on the abstract expressionist movement focusing on five female artists: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler. Gabriel brings alive an era and an art movement, even as she directs attention to an exceptional group of women.

3.  We Fed an Island, by José Andrés
Andrés, a Michelin-starred, James Beard Award-winning chef with more than 30 restaurants around the world, flew to Puerto Rico four days after hurricane Maria, with a single goal: feed the people. The way Andrés managed to do his work amidst circumstances that caused far larger and better-funded efforts to flounder is at the heart of this book, which is a savory mix of personal narrative and historical context.

4.  Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, by Sarah Bird
Bird takes the bare facts about the historical Cathay Williams (1844-1893), an ex-slave who dressed as a man to join a regiment of black “buffalo soldiers” after the Civil War, and spins them into storytelling gold. Her “Cathy” emerges as a remarkably resilient woman, determined to live up to her “royal African blood,” and insistent on receiving what she’s owed. Bird’s story sheds light on a part of history that was nearly erased from the record books.

5.  How to Invent Everything, by Ryan North
Stranded in a past century? Not to worry! Here’s the entertaining and sometimes even hilarious book that will tell you everything you need to know. North lays out the fundamentals of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, metalworking, and navigation even while explaining how to build an electrical generator, how to distill water, and how an airplane achieves take off.

6.  Transcription, by Kate Atkinson
Innocent and imaginative 18-year-old Juliet Armstrong is pulled into the intriguing world of World War II espionage as a transcriber for MI5’s secret surveillance of British Fascist allies. Fast-forward 10 years after the war, when the more jaded Juliet is creating radio shows for the BBC and her past life comes back to haunt her. This is intelligent historical fiction that entertains with great wit.

7.  Leadership: In Turbulent Times, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Award-winning historian Goodwin looks at the lives of four presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson – all of whom she has previously profiled in stand-alone biographies, seeking out lessons on leadership. What she finds makes for an inspiring read.

8.  The Tango War, by Mary Jo McConahay
As World War II loomed, both American and European leaders turned a nervous gaze to Latin America. Here, countries rich in resources essential to the war effort (including oil and rubber) were also known to have strong fascist sympathies. McConahay tells the lesser-known but fascinating story of the “shadow war” that took place in a continent seemingly far from the fighting.

9. A Mad Love, by Vivien Schweitzer
As a former classical music and opera critic for The New York Times, Schweitzer brings both expertise and passion to her guide to the essential elements of opera. For readers ready to engage with opera more deeply and more enthusiastically, this book will be a delight and an eye-opener.

10.  Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, by Amy Stewart
Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp faces intense media scrutiny in the fourth installment of Stewart’s series about the historic Kopp Sisters. It’s 1916. Constance’s boss, Sheriff Heath, is running for Congress and his opponent is out to make Constance into a campaign liability. The unflappable deputy keeps her focus on righting the county’s wrongs all the way to the climactic election. It’s a refreshing look at a fascinating historical period and the life of an early policewoman, Kopp, whose true-life adventures inspired this series.

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The Monitor's View

Frat houses refine the purpose of brotherhood

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After several high-profile deaths linked to drinking, the association representing college fraternities announced Sept. 4 that it will no longer allow frat houses to serve hard liquor at facilities and events. The ban, expected to go into effect within a year, is designed to return these clubs to their original purpose: to foster “brotherhood, personal development, and [provide] a community of support,” in the words of the North-American Interfraternity Conference. The NIC’s move adds to other recent moves in higher education to persuade students, especially incoming freshmen, that liquor is not a liberator from the stress of making friends or fitting in. The fact that fraternities themselves are taking action hints at a culture shift in Greek life. Students need not only find aspiration toward learning and a career but also inspiration about what constitutes the good life. Brotherhood can be a unifier if it's based on higher pursuits, such as giving and trust. Brotherhood is also a sure way to avoid excessive drinking and the tragedies that come from it.

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Frat houses refine the purpose of brotherhood

At college fraternities across the United States and Canada, the true meaning of brotherhood has just been clarified.

After several high-profile deaths from heavy drinking at parties or initiation rites, the major association representing fraternities announced Sept. 4 that it will no longer allow frat houses to serve hard liquor at chapter facilities and events.

The ban, which is expected to go into effect at hundreds of campuses within a year, is designed to return these private men’s clubs to their original purpose. “At their core, fraternities are about brotherhood, personal development, and providing a community of support. Alcohol abuse and its serious consequences endanger this very purpose,” said Judson Horras, president and chief executive officer of the self-regulating North-American Interfraternity Conference.

The NIC’s move adds to other recent moves in higher education to persuade students, especially incoming freshmen, that liquor is not a liberator from the stress of making friends or fitting into campus life. And the fact that fraternities themselves are taking action – rather than school administrators – hints at a culture shift in Greek life away from the notion that heavy drinking is an obligatory rite of passage.

In recent years, many colleges and universities have tried to regulate fraternities and sororities, such as by delaying the recruitment of freshmen until spring, or have even banned them outright. These measures are designed to prevent deaths from drinking during hazing rituals as well as sexual assaults.

Punitive steps, however, while sometimes necessary, may not be effective if students, both men and women, simply form underground groups off-campus where they can hide destructive behavior. A far more lasting solution is to ensure they are offered healthy pursuits and fulfilling opportunities beyond academic learning.

Restoring the highest meaning of brotherhood (and sisterhood) is a good start. Students must not only find aspiration toward learning and a career but also inspiration about what constitutes the good life.

With so many challenges facing students on campuses, a group of prominent colleges joined together in 2013 and formed the Resilience Project. These schools are pooling ideas on how to assist students in learning from failure and coming out stronger. At Bates College, for example, students are encouraged to discover “purposeful work.”

At Cornell University, fraternities and sororities have emphasized outdoor recreation, such as camping trips. At other schools, frat houses have refocused on volunteering.

Brotherhood can be a great unifier for students if it is based on higher pursuits, such as giving and trust. Forming common bonds is also a sure way to avoid excessive drinking and the tragedies that come from it.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

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

The power that stops violence

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Today’s contributor explores the biblical example of Saul’s transformation and how it speaks to God’s ability to heal violent intent.

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The power that stops violence

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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As the events of 9/11 are remembered, it seems fitting to honor the courage and sacrifice of the first responders, and also to give gratitude for the many times in which such attacks have been prevented. It also seems natural to remember there are still too many places where people’s lives are disrupted by senseless acts of terror. We can all play a part in helping stop such events. However small our efforts may seem, we need to resist the temptation to think they won’t make a difference.

An article published in the Scientific American Mind magazine in 2007 makes the point that terrorists often believe their violent actions are for the greater good – that they are “essentially rational people who weigh the costs and benefits of terrorist acts, concluding that terrorism is profitable.” A little further down the article points out that the writings of some significant terrorists reveal that “intellectualism can coexist with hatred” (Annette Schaefer, “Inside the Terrorist Mind”).

Whether an organization or individual believes it has good motives and aims or not, the influence of hatred or an inclination toward senseless violence is never something that should be tolerated. The question we might ask ourselves is, how can we help keep individuals from falling prey to negative influences that could lead to violent acts?

When hateful thoughts of any kind are present and then indulged, it indicates a misconception and limited view of God. God’s nature is wholly good, as Christ Jesus not only stated but proved through healing. If God is supreme – the only power – then the only basis for hatred must be in a false sense of God and His nature. This limited viewpoint and its negative effects can be seen in the Bible. At one point Saul, who would later be renamed Paul, is determined to stop the Christian movement by violence and coercion. To Saul, Christianity was wrong, and stopping it from spreading was a good thing. However, while traveling, “a light from heaven” caused him to fall to the earth, and he heard the voice of Jesus rebuking him for his malicious intents. The whole encounter can be found in the book of Acts, but the result of the experience was that Saul’s outlook was entirely transformed. His thought had been touched by divine Love through Christ.

Saul’s recognition of Christ, which gave him a clear understanding of God’s power and goodness, not only changed his actions, it changed his aims as well. He became an advocate for the all-loving, all-powerful God and, as Paul, went on to preach Christianity throughout Asia Minor and parts of Europe. That power that transformed him, the Christ, is still available and present – it speaks to everyone, and for those who listen, it brings regeneration to thought and action. Paul assured us that “we have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16).

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, discovered that this “mind of Christ” was not a personal possession for the few but an eternal gift from God to His children, all of us, made in His image. She wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Having no other gods, turning to no other but the one perfect Mind to guide him, man is the likeness of God, pure and eternal, having that Mind which was also in Christ” (p. 467).

In a way, we could take that familiar phrase, “we have the mind of Christ,” and just as easily say the Mind of Christ has us – and has the power and potential to reach the thought of everyone. It has the power to disarm violent thoughts that would lead to violent action, just as it did for Paul centuries ago. Yielding to this one Mind, God, naturally clears out harmful beliefs, including the belief that violence could in some way bring about good.

As we gain an expanded, or more spiritual, view of God, we will begin to see that God is able to bring all into His fold. God can’t be coerced or intimidated to provide good to all; it’s His nature. The conditions of our human life and decisions we’ve made in the past can’t weigh against the reforming power of God’s love.

I think this idea of God’s reforming power is beautifully summed up in the following verse of a poem by Mrs. Eddy titled “Satisfied”:

And of these stones, or tyrants’ thrones,
God able is
To raise up seed – in thought and deed –
To faithful His.
(“Poems,” p. 79)

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Viewfinder

Remembering again

Mark Lennihan/AP
A man looks at the North Pool at the World Trade Center during a ceremony Tuesday marking the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. In the background is the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( September 12th, 2018 )

David Clark Scott
Editor & product manager

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’re working on a story about how Jordan is coping with a cut in US funds for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.

Monitor Daily Podcast

September 11, 2018
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