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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
October
03
Wednesday

What country would not join an alliance of “goodwill powers”? That is the question France’s foreign minister essentially posed to the world in a little-noticed speech at Harvard University last week. Jean-Yves Le Drian proposed a global alliance of goodwill powers to “revive multilateralism, which has been the way of doing things since the end of World War II.”

If that sounds vague, it is. There’s no sense of what this might look like, who might join, or what it might do. It is also expressly a rejoinder to the “us first” approach of America’s President Trump and others, such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. Yet it is not exclusionary. “It’s not against anybody,” Mr. Le Drian said, adding that, “Goodwill is just goodwill. It’s open to anybody.”

Whether anything comes of the proposal is anyone’s guess. But the way Le Drian is approaching the issue is significant. Among many in the West, it is now no longer a given that working together across borders is a good thing. Global alliances can be seen as inefficient, ineffective, and unfair. In short, goodwill has eroded.

Refocusing international cooperation on the power of working together for everyone’s benefit is perhaps the best way to rebuild it. 

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Here are our five stories for today, which examine a drop in drinking from a global perspective, a new kind of civic activism percolating in East Jerusalem, and why artificial intelligence is no cure-all for our biases.  

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1. All for one? How five key undecided senators may approach Kavanaugh vote

The fate of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination comes down to a handful of senators. How they vote will depend on the FBI investigation, but also on the dynamics of their states and their own identities.

Mark
Andrew Harnik/AP
From left, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska, Sen. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia, Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) of Indiana spoke with reporters on Capitol Hill in January. Members of the so-called common sense coalition have become critical votes in the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

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In a narrowly divided Senate, five undecided lawmakers – three Republicans, two Democrats – hold tremendous power in the high-voltage battle over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. There are clear political incentives for them to band together. But while they have been unified in their desire for a fair process, these senators are also navigating different political landscapes at home, and each has his or her own unique “brand” to protect. For Maine’s Republican Sen. Susan Collins, what matters most is a thorough and fair process. For Arizona’s Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, it’s a question of morality and a goal of restoring civil discourse. Lisa Murkowski (R) of Alaska has been focused on the need to believe women who have come forward to talk about sexual assault. Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – who are both on the ballot this fall – are known for their willingness to buck their own party. But would Senator Manchin want to tip the scale for Mr. Kavanaugh? “He likes to be a compromiser,” says longtime congressional observer Ray Smock. “I think that he would hate to be the deciding vote.”

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All for one? How five key undecided senators may approach Kavanaugh vote

As the hours ticked by on the Kavanaugh hearing last Thursday, Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine was holed up in her Capitol office, watching.

Her aptly named “hideaway” is down a hall that’s off-limits to reporters, and up on the third floor via a tiny, paneled elevator – making it an ideal place to host the few undecided senators who will determine whether Brett Kavanaugh ascends to a seat on the Supreme Court.

Shortly after the hearing ended, Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeff Flake of Arizona, along with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joined Senator Collins there. For 30 minutes, they huddled away from colleagues and the media, discussing ways to use their leverage to get more information. By the end of the next day, all had backed a plan spearheaded by Senator Flake to give the FBI up to one week to investigate sexual-assault allegations against Judge Kavanaugh from his high school and college years.

These four senators – along with another undecided, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) of North Dakota – hold tremendous power in the high-voltage battle over Kavanaugh’s confirmation. In a narrowly divided Senate, Republicans can afford to lose only two of their members if all Democrats vote against. 

There are clear political incentives for them to band together – and, if possible, to avoid the excruciating prospect of casting the 51st vote in favor or against. But while they are unified in their desire for a fair process, these senators are also navigating different political landscapes at home, and each has their own unique “brand” to protect. 

Below are thumbnail sketches of the forces and motivations that may propel these senators, as they head toward a career-defining vote that could cement the grip of conservatives on the court for decades to come.

Susan Collins

The moderate from Maine is famous for doing her homework. Those who know her say her approach to Kavanaugh is no different than for any other high court nominee. “She’s a stickler for data and information and trying to weed out things impartially,” says Lance Dutson, a former Collins staffer and a GOP strategist in Maine.

Collins puts a premium on a thorough and fair process, and her swing-vote status allowed her to help push a reluctant GOP leadership to hold last week’s hearing and now this week’s FBI investigation.

Before the explosive sexual-assault allegation by Prof. Christine Blasey Ford, Collins looked to be leaning toward confirmation, calling Kavanaugh “clearly qualified.” Though she favors abortion rights, she said she found Kavanaugh convincing in his explanations to her that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” She voted to confirm him as a federal judge in 2006.

But Collins is under tremendous political pressure, with progressives raising more than $1.75 million to donate to a potential opponent in 2020 should she vote to confirm. Thousands of coat hangers have been sent to her office in Maine, as a gruesome reminder of the days before abortion was legalized.

Two years is an eternity in politics, yet some say if she votes no on an issue so important to Republicans, she’ll almost certainly face a primary challenge from a more conservative candidate. On the other hand, if she votes yes, she could lose crucial support from women voters, in a state where independents outnumber either party.

“There’s always this discussion” about high-wire votes, says Mr. Dutson. “Her political career is not based on any one vote in Washington. Her political insulation comes from the diligence of her work for the people of Maine.”

Jeff Flake 

Most analysts agree Flake has the least to lose politically with this vote – because he is retiring at the end of the year. True, this staunch GOP critic of President Trump appears to be testing the waters for a possible presidential bid. But his future may be more assured on the lecture circuit, promoting a return to civil discourse and a willingness to work across the aisle, as he did with his 2017 book: “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.”

It was Flake who, on Friday, upset the apple cart just as the Senate Judiciary Committee was set to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor, with a final vote expected early this week. Instead, he and his good friend, Sen. Chris Coons (D) of Delaware, worked out a deal to delay the process by up to a week so that the FBI could reopen its background check on Kavanaugh.

The Arizonan’s brand as the “conscience” of conservatism was on display in a talk with Senator Coons on Tuesday at the Atlantic Festival in Washington. While empathizing with the judge’s vigorous defense of himself in his opening statement at the hearing, he criticized the sharp, partisan tone of Kavanaugh’s interaction with senators. “We just can’t have that on the court,” he said – though later clarified that he did not mean that to refer specifically to Kavanaugh.

Flake has clearly struggled with this vote. He told reporters he had a sleepless night after Thursday’s hearing. He has heard stories of sexual assaults from many women, including two who confronted him in the Capitol Friday morning. He looked visibly pained at Friday’s committee hearing. On Wednesday, he decried President Trump’s mockery of Professor Ford’s testimony as “appalling.” Collins and Murkowski also condemned it.

Flake says he is awaiting the results of the FBI report, but he seems inclined to support Kavanaugh absent corroborating evidence to back up the sexual-assault allegations. “I want to support him. I’m a conservative, he’s a conservative judge,” he told reporters Friday.

Lisa Murkowski

Along with Collins, the Alaskan is one of the few Republican moderates left in the Senate. Last year, both bucked their party and voted to block the GOP repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Murkowski owes little to the Republican machine, having won her 2010 campaign as a write-in candidate after losing the primary to a tea-party challenger.

She and Collins are very close, and like her Maine colleague, she favors abortion rights. The Alaskan clearly believes the sexual-assault allegations have changed the nature of the confirmation debate.

“We are now in a place where it’s not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified,” she told The New York Times last week. “It is about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed.” Murkowski recently told Alaska Public Media that she herself had had a #MeToo moment, though she declined to elaborate further.

Murkowski “can’t shake the fact that she’s a woman who, like a lot of other women, didn’t like what they heard from Kavanaugh – and I think that probably drives part of her vote,” says Jennifer Duffy, a Senate expert at the independent Cook Political Report.

Alaskans have a strong independent streak and Murkowski is cut from the same cloth. The state’s governor (an independent), and its lieutenant governor (a Democrat) have come out against Kavanaugh, as has the influential Alaska Federation of Natives. The Native community helped push Murkowski over the finish line in the 2010 election.

Of the three undecided Republicans, some experts believe she may be the one most inclined to vote against Kavanaugh.

Joe Manchin

Unlike any of the undecided Republicans, this Democrat faces the voters in a month. In the state that Trump won by the widest margin of them all – 42 points.

Manchin has worked hard to present himself as Mr. West Virginia, a friend to coal and not beholden to either party. He has largely succeeded. Polls show the well-known former governor is leading by an average of more than 9 points over challenger Patrick Morrisey, the state’s Republican attorney general, who is from New Jersey.

In the Senate, the conservative Democrat often reaches across the aisle, and he heads up the centrist Common Sense Coalition with Collins. Manchin has voted with Trump 61 percent of the time, according to the nonpartisan tracker FiveThirtyEight. That includes voting to confirm the president’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

A poll last week commissioned by the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), which supports Kavanaugh’s confirmation, showed 58 percent of West Virginia voters support elevating Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court; only 28 oppose. The majority of independents and women in the state favor his confirmation. Most West Virginians are also opposed to abortion rights, with a related question on the ballot this fall.

“Joe Manchin always puts the state ahead of the party, and I think he’s quite proud of that brand,” says Stephen Skinner, a Democratic strategist and former state legislator. If Manchin votes for Kavanaugh, it might “dampen enthusiasm” on the progressive side, but those voters “have nowhere else to go” in West Virginia. Indeed, 43 percent of voters in the JCN poll said that if Manchin backs Kavanaugh, it would “make no difference.”

But would Manchin want to be the senator that tips the scale for Kavanaugh? “He likes to be a compromiser,” says longtime congressional observer Ray Smock. “I think that he would hate to be the deciding vote.”

Manchin is keeping his cards close to his vest, not announcing a decision until he has to. In the meantime, he’s focused on the issue of most importance to his voters: healthcare.

Heidi Heitkamp

Like Manchin, Heitkamp also is heading into an election, also in a state that Trump won – by nearly 36 points. And both are being targeted by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network in ads that challenge them to "stand with President Trump" on Kavanaugh, while liberals try to "ruin a good man with smears."

But it’s looking more and more like Heitkamp can vote against Kavanaugh if she pleases, because she’ll have nothing to lose, says Dianne Bystrom, director emerita of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University in Ames.

Heitkamp is trailing Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer by 10 points in the latest poll by NBC/SRA, and Republicans are increasingly confident they’ll flip this seat. Congressman Cramer is well known because North Dakota only has a single House seat, which makes him a statewide figure – and one that Trump has stumped for.

Like Manchin, Heitkamp touts her independence, having strayed from her party to vote with the president to confirm Gorsuch and pass the controversial Keystone pipeline.

But “there’s this sort of false narrative, that if she votes ‘yes’ on Kavanaugh, suddenly that’s going to make Republicans vote for her,” says Ms. Bystrom. “I don’t think that’s going to change who is going to vote for her and who isn’t, and it’s going to make women voters really angry” if she backs the judge.

If she were advising Heitkamp, says Bystrom, she would suggest she argue that she’s not against a conservative justice, just this one, because of the many questions that have been raised.

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2. Presidential tax-paying and the public trust: Why fairness matters to Americans

How much do presidential tax returns matter? A New York Times report is bringing the question back to the surface. 

Mark

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Paying taxes is something voters – taxpayers themselves – watch critically and can relate to and understand. After all, the entire system rests crucially on self-assessments. Few returns are audited. Most Americans are willing to pay their fair share if they think others are (roughly) paying a fair share, too. Blatant cheating at the top can collapse this agreement. Look at Greece, where widespread political corruption has fed a culture of tax avoidance that costs the government revenues equal to 6 to 9 percent of the country’s GDP. This is the context for The New York Times’s massive investigation of the “tax schemes” President Trump participated in during the 1990s – actions that included instances of fraud, and greatly increased the fortune Mr. Trump received from his parents, according to the Times. Richard Nixon’s experience is a good case study in the reaction of voters to perceived manipulation of the tax system by high-ranking US politicians. “Make sure you pay your taxes. Otherwise you can get in a lot of trouble,” he told journalist David Frost in one of their famous post-presidential interviews.

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Presidential tax-paying and the public trust: Why fairness matters to Americans

Richard Nixon released his tax returns to try and prove he wasn’t a crook. It didn’t work out, quite – the numbers showed he’d taken big deductions that looked bad in the light of day.

Jimmy Carter released his full tax returns to bolster his image as a plain man of the people. They revealed his biggest assets as a family peanut business and a small amount of stock, both of which he put in blind trusts when he won.

George H.W. Bush released his tax returns because that was the political norm by the time he became president. They showed he was rich – but also generous, as he and first lady Barbara Bush donated 62 percent of their $1.3 million income to charity in 1991.

Gerald Herbert/AP/FILE
Copies of President George W. Bush's and first lady Laura Bush's 2005 tax returns, provided by the White House, are shown in Washington on April 14, 2006.

How presidents treat their tax obligations as citizens can symbolize their character and their attitudes toward the business of American government as a whole.

It is also something voters – taxpayers themselves – watch critically, and can relate to and understand. After all, the entire United States tax system rests crucially on self-assessments. Few returns are audited. Most Americans are willing to pay their fair share if they think others are (roughly) paying a fair share too.

Blatant tax cheating at the top can collapse this agreement. Look at Greece, where widespread political corruption has fed a culture of tax avoidance that costs the government revenues equal to 6 to 9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

This is the context for The New York Times’ massive investigation of the “tax schemes” President Trump participated in during the 1990s – actions that included instances of “outright fraud,” and greatly increased the fortune Mr. Trump received from his parents, according to the Times.

According to John Dean, who was Nixon’s White House counsel and is now often critical of Trump, it may take a while for the details of the Times report to register with voters, but it won’t be good for the president when they do.

“Nixon did not have Trump’s wealth but most Americans felt his tax cheating was bad ... Few Americans want a tax cheat as President,” Mr. Dean tweeted in the wake of the Times report.

Nixon’s experience is in fact a good case study in the reaction of voters to perceived manipulation of the tax system by high-ranking US politicians.

In November 1973, Nixon was trying to get the press off the developing Watergate scandal and the “Saturday Night Massacre” of Oct. 20, in which the president fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox and the attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned rather than be parties to that action.

Some limited candor might help, Nixon and his advisers thought. So on Nov. 17, 1973, the president held a question-and-answer session with newspaper editors at Disney World. Dogged by queries about his personal finances, Nixon fought back, saying he’d earned every cent received in public service.

“People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook,” Nixon said.

Days later he released his tax returns to try and prove this point. The documents did quiet some of the wilder charges against him, such as questions about the financing of his houses and suspicion that he was financially tied to billionaire Howard Hughes. But they showed that Nixon had made aggressive use of deductions, and paid relatively little in income taxes. In particular, Nixon had claimed a $576,000 deduction based on the perceived value of a charitable donation of his vice-presidential papers.

The deduction itself was legal at the time – Dwight Eisenhower had taken a similar course of action. But Nixon had wrongly backdated the timing of the donation. An investigation showed he owed a considerable amount in back taxes, which he paid.

Nixon lost the presidency because of his actions regarding Watergate. But the tax issue left a stain he couldn’t scrub off.

“Make sure you pay your taxes. Otherwise you can get in a lot of trouble,” he told journalist David Frost in one of their famous post-presidency interviews.

As for Trump, the tax issues involved are more complicated, and involve far larger sums of money. No president has been as wealthy as Trump. For that reason alone, the Times investigation is in unexplored American territory.

The paper describes some of the moves to evade estate taxes as “fraud.” Other aspects of Trump’s taxes might just be aggressive moves typical of wealthy Americans. As the response by Trump’s lawyer has noted, the Internal Revenue Service appears to have approved all Trump family tax returns at the time.

The most stinging aspect of the report, for the president, might be its assertion that he received at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire over the years – calling into question his personal branding as a self-made building baron.

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Global report

3. Culture shift: What’s behind a decline in drinking worldwide

In many places around the world, drinking alcohol has long been associated with growing up or simply having a good time. But there's growing evidence that is changing.  

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Since 2000, the number of drinkers in the world decreased by almost 5 percentage points, according to the World Health Organization. Drinking is down significantly in some regions, such as Europe, which has seen a 10 percentage point decrease, with Russia and former Soviet bloc countries leading the trend. Shifts in social norms, as well as an increased understanding of the health and economic impacts, may be driving the decline. Societal tolerance for intoxication appears to have diminished, underlined by the nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court amid allegations of heavy drinking and sexual misconduct. A recent Lancet study made international headlines for concluding that no amount of alcohol is safe, running up against mainstream belief that a small amount is actually healthy. Some drops in drinking rates may be linked to economic factors and alcohol taxes. Across the world, it is young people who are embracing sobriety most enthusiastically. James King, student association president of Oxford’s Linacre College, says the school has tried to welcome teetotalers with alcohol-free initiatives. “The student culture of going out and drinking all the time is slowly changing,” he says.

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1. Culture shift: What’s behind a decline in drinking worldwide

It’s noon at the Westminster Arms, a favorite haunt among British politicians and civil service members. This London pub, just a few blocks from the Houses of Parliament, is a place of dealmaking over power lunches or rowdy happy hours. There is even a bell installed in the wall that alerts officials when it is time to rush back to vote on a bill.

It’s not especially crowded on this rainy Friday afternoon, however. “It used to be that this place would have been packed,” says a policy adviser for the United Kingdom Civil Service who preferred to remain anonymous. He says when he was hired in the ’70s “it was almost illegal” not to migrate here for lunch or after hours, especially on a Friday. But the tradition, common into the ’90s, is fast fading. “It’s alien to my Millennial colleagues to go out for a drink at lunch. I don’t understand it,” he says.

Ben Wright, author of “Order, Order! The Rise and Fall of Political Drinking,” says it’s part of a larger shift in behavior among British politicians, driven by public scrutiny over social media and more women in politics who have upset the “old boys’ club” that dominated British politics, and influenced drinking culture, for 300 years. “There was quite an extraordinary level of daily, on-the-job-drinking that has gone,” Mr. Wright says. Now officials often abstain from drinking heavily on the job for fear of appearing “unserious and frivolous,” he says.

It’s not just British politicians. Since 2000, the number of drinkers in the world has decreased by almost 5 percentage points, from 47.6 to 43.0, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Drinking is down significantly in some regions, particularly in Europe, which has seen a 10 percentage point decrease in the percentage of drinkers, with Russia and former Soviet bloc countries largely driving the numbers down. Across the globe, it is young people who are embracing sobriety most enthusiastically, from Iceland, to Canada, to the UK, to Japan.

SOURCE: World Health Organization
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

The global picture is a mixed bag. Numbers are down in many places because the baseline was so high to begin with. And in other parts of the world, like India and China, drinking rates are up. Global per capita consumption is up too. If globalization has brought more health consciousness to places like eastern Europe, it’s also delivered products once far less accessible.

Vladimir Poznyak, the coordinator of the Management of Substance Abuse department at the WHO in Geneva, says that just as tobacco went from an attractive substance to deeply stigmatized in a short span, so too could alcohol. Already societal tolerance toward intoxication has gone down. A study in the Lancet this summer funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation made international headlines for concluding that no amount of alcohol is safe – running up against mainstream belief that a small amount is actually healthy.

But Dr. Poznyak says that persisting attitudes and lifestyle changes require government intervention. “You can’t expect rapid cultural changes if there will be no measures introduced by governments that make healthier choices easier for a person to make,” he says.

To that end, the WHO just launched last month a new initiative called SAFER, which calls on governments to adopt policies to help reduce harms associated with alcohol use, such as enforcing bans or tax increases.

More Russians say nyet

Such measures have been credited for widespread drops in alcohol use in Russia, a notoriously hard-drinking country where common stereotypes revolve around vodka toasts and drunken, wintry revelries. Some of that culture is rooted in history. Russia is part of northern Europe’s pre-industrial "vodka belt," where growing-seasons were short, winters long and dark, and there was little to do for much of the year. Russian drinking traditions are mainly male-oriented; statistics show that women, whose responsibilities in past times never paused, drink far less than men to this day. The Soviet system did little to curb heavy drinking, perhaps seeing it as a useful outlet. When reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to enforce a complete prohibition on alcohol production and sales in 1987, the policy backfired so disastrously that his successors – until recently – have shied away from tackling the problem.

The government of Vladimir Putin has improved controls over alcohol production and distribution, banned sales to minors, limited locations where alcoholic drinks can be sold, toughened penalties issued by police for driving under the influence, and introduced a massive public education campaign to warn about the dangers of drinking. It led Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova to claim earlier this year that Russian alcohol consumption has fallen by 80 percent in the past five years.

While those numbers are criticized as wildly exaggerated – especially since they don’t account for unregulated alcohol consumption of samagon, or moonshine, available on the black market – a decline is clear. According to WHO figures, per capita consumption decreased from 18.7 liters in 2005 to 11.7 liters in 2016. There has also been a decline in Russian mortality due to alcohol intoxication. Anecdotally, Russians say they see people around them drinking less. Dmitry Movchan, deputy chief doctor at the Marshak Clinic, a private Moscow clinic that treats alcoholism and drug addiction, notes a decline in patients who turn to the clinic with alcohol problems.

SOURCE: World Health Organization
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

Tatiana Lysova, an expert with the Levada Center, Russia’s only independent public polling agency, says two groups of Russians have reduced their alcohol intake. One is the working class population facing declines in real incomes and the rising price of quality, retail alcohol. Rates are harder to quantify, because they might be turning to cheaper samagon. They could also return to drinking when their household economies improve.

That’s a risk factor in the UK too. Aveek Bhattacharya, a policy analyst at the London-based Institute of Alcohol Studies, says modest overall declines in drinking among Britons since 2005 can be most clearly linked to economic factors such as the 2008 recession, as well as higher alcohol taxes. This may help explain why low-income and blue-collar respondents actually report drinking less than those in professional occupations – contrary to abiding stereotypes. But he also cautions that modest wage growth and a recent drop in the real cost of alcohol when adjusted for inflation could reverse these trends.

The other group is highly educated and high-income Russians, who could be eschewing alcohol more permanently as they become more health conscious, says Ms. Lysova. “In this [group] people may have really changed their lifestyle due to the public campaign that stresses health concerns and makes it seem prestigious to cut down or quit,” she says.

Mikhail Popov, a Moscow-based, middle-aged businessman, says he sees a marked difference in his drinking as a young man during the USSR’s collapse and the social breakdown of the 1990s and that of his 22-year-old son in 2018. “He might have a few beers with friends once in a while, but that’s it," he says.

In Japan, ‘nominication’ loses popularity

Differences between generations are not limited to eastern Europe. Japan’s hard-drinking happy hours are notorious fixtures of work life. Sometimes called “nominication” (“nomi” meaning drink and “nication” stemming from communication), the sessions are seen as a pathway for colleagues who don’t express themselves in the workplace to talk more openly, even foster team spirit.

But they aren’t as popular as they once were, says Naoko Kuga, an analyst at the NLI Research Institute in Tokyo. She owes that to the nation’s protracted economic downturn, the aging population, and a growing health consciousness among the working population. “It seems young people these days are less willing to go to ‘traditional nominication,’ in which they spend hours drinking with their boss, for the sake of good relations,” she says.

Shuji Tamada, a publishing company employee in the western city of Nara, says after work, he and his wife prioritize their three children. Unlike his parents’ generation, he says he pays far more attention to his own health and makes family-friendly lifestyle choices for his family. That might include going to restaurants, shopping, or traveling.

“In a full-fledged consuming society, there are a variety of pleasures other than drinking,” Ms. Kuga says.

In Japan, a survey by the National Tax Agency showed the nation’s alcohol consumption in 2016 had declined 13 percent from its peak in 1996. This is particularly pronounced among young people. According to a study by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, in 1996, 36.2 percent of those in their 20s had a drinking habit (three days or more per week of 180 milliliters of alcohol). That number fell to 10.9 percent in 2016.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Thorgeir Tryggvason (L.) and Birta Zimsen talk about the drinking habits of teenagers in Iceland, on Dec. 7, 2017 in Reykjavik, Iceland. Iceland has dramatically reduced teen alcohol and drug use by getting children more involved in sports, imposing a 10 p.m. curfew for those under 18, and encouraging more time spent with parents. Thorgeir says he didn't take his first drink until age 20 because he was a serious soccer player. Birta, who was voted Miss Tenth Grade last year, has never had an alcoholic drink and says she isn't interested.

In fact, in many countries it is the youngest citizens who are driving the trends toward greater global sobriety, from Australia to Iceland. According to the British Office of National Statistics (ONS), 60 percent of those ages 16 to 24 surveyed in 2005 said they drank in the previous week. By 2017, that percentage had fallen to 50 percent. They are also reporting that they binge less, says Ben Windsor-Shellard, head of lifestyle and risk factors analysis at the ONS.

More young people are also abstaining altogether now than they did in 2005. At that time, 19 percent of Britons ages 16 to 24 reported not drinking at all. In 2017, 23 percent said they were teetotalers.

Teetotalism rates vary widely between white Britons and those of “other” ethnic origin: 15.8 percent of white respondents said they were teetotalers, while 50.6 percent of those in “other ethnicities” said the same. Mr. Windsor-Shellard says teetotalism rates are highest in London, which is one of the UK’s most ethnically diverse areas.

Teetotalism is finding new space on college campuses, especially with demographic change. At the University of Oxford, it is increasingly embraced as a normal choice.

James King, president of the student association Common Room at Oxford’s Linacre College, says his committee has tried to make non-drinking students feel welcome through new, alcohol-free initiatives including providing more soft drinks at the college bar. “We’re trying to broaden the bar’s appeal as a general social space, rather than as a place exclusively for drinking alcohol,” says Mr. King, a 23-year old PhD candidate in climate science. “The student culture of going out and drinking all the time is slowly changing.”

Yet mistaken assumptions persist, says the WHO's Poznyak. While alcohol is consumed worldwide, a majority abstain from drinking. In 2016, 57 percent of the population over age 15 had not consumed alcohol in the previous year. “In spite of all the changes in marketing, etc., most people don’t drink alcohol at all,” he says. “For many countries, many populations, drinking is not the norm.”

The sense of inevitability can create a vicious cycle, says Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. Drinking among young Canadians continues to go down, for example, but parents too often maintain a “kids will be kids” attitude. They permit young people to drink in their homes or provide alcohol to minors in an effort to keep them safer than drinking outside of parental supervision. “They haven’t realized that it is not inevitable that kids are going to drink,” she says.

Yet given the trend lines – that fewer kids are turning to alcohol, so there’s less need to offer it in a safe environment – the cycle could easily spin in the opposite direction. 

Fred Weir contributed reporting from Moscow and Takehiko Kambayashi from Tokyo.

SOURCE: World Health Organization
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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4. The struggle against a taboo: Jerusalem elections and the Palestinian vote

Not voting can sometimes be just as much a statement as voting. But in East Jerusalem, some Palestinians are starting to say there is a better way to protest and effect change. 

Mark
Dina Kraft
Ramadan Dabash, a candidate for Jerusalem's City Council from East Jerusalem, stands in front of City Hall. If elected he would make history as the first Palestinian from East Jerusalem to be a City Council member.

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Ever since Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, subsequently declaring the whole city its unified capital, East Jerusalem Palestinians have mostly boycotted municipal elections. It’s been an act of protest against Israeli rule. But a growing number of East Jerusalemites are taking Israeli citizenship, an indication they are beginning to see themselves as part of the city’s fabric. And a recent survey suggests that almost 60 percent of East Jerusalem residents believe Palestinians should vote in the city elections. Among the longtime issues they face: overcrowding, high rents, crumbling infrastructure, and a shortage of classrooms. Now Ramadan Dabash, a civil engineer and community activist, is running for office, hoping to be the first East Jerusalem resident to sit on the City Council. “Currently we have no one to speak for the residents of East Jerusalem and the division of resources that we deserve,” Mr. Dabash says. “We, with our very own hands, we can change this situation.... City Hall is a place we need to be so we can put on the pressure and ensure our needs are met.”

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The struggle against a taboo: Jerusalem elections and the Palestinian vote

It’s only a little after 10 a.m., but the sun is already baking the sprawling limestone plaza in front of Jerusalem’s City Hall and Palestinian Ramadan Dabash, a civil engineer, builder, and community activist from traditionally Arab East Jerusalem, is in the midst of making a dent in history.

Mr. Dabash, who was submitting the paperwork inside needed to register his run for a seat on the Jerusalem City Council, takes a brief respite to explain why he is breaking decades of a Palestinian taboo – which has largely held since Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and subsequently declared the whole city its unified capital – to do so.

“We, with our very own hands, we can change this situation – 51 years of neglect of East Jerusalem,” he says. “We need to stop complaining and start doing. City Hall is a place we need to be so we can put on the pressure and ensure our needs are met.”

The burly candidate, who heads a new party called “Jerusalem for Jerusalemites,” then quotes Hillel, the Jewish sage from the first century BC, and his famous call for being proactive: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

Mr. Dabash’s run for a seat at the table of Jerusalem’s governing body, if successful, would make him – and his fellow party members if they also got enough votes – the first East Jerusalem residents to serve on the City Council since Israel annexed their half of the city.

It’s a long shot, but Dabash is hoping his bid galvanizes fellow East Jerusalemites to break with more than 50 years of boycotting municipal elections. The boycott, initiated to protest Israeli rule, is rooted in an argument that to vote would be to recognize Israeli sovereignty. But that, he argues, has kept Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem politically powerless.

East Jerusalem is one of poorest parts of either the West Bank or Israel. According to some estimates, as many as 70 percent of its Palestinian residents live below the poverty line. There is great bitterness over home demolitions that often follow the building of homes – or extensions of homes – without permits that East Jerusalemites claim are nearly impossible to procure from a city that views them as a demographic threat.

Although there have been millions of government dollars invested in building and expanding Jewish neighborhoods in the city – including in East Jerusalem – no plans for expanding or building Arab neighborhoods have been put in place since 1967. Overcrowding, high rents, crumbling and insufficient infrastructure, and a chronic shortage of classrooms are long-time concerns of East Jerusalem residents.

Cracks in the boycott wall?

But as a growing number of East Jerusalemites take Israeli citizenship and send their children to high schools where they can matriculate with an Israeli diploma – indications they are beginning to see themselves as part of the city’s fabric – there appear to be cracks, albeit small ones, in what was once a solid wall of support for the boycott.

The boycott is pushed heavily both by Muslim leaders in the city and by the Palestinian Authority itself. But a survey jointly conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, suggests that almost 60 percent of East Jerusalem residents believe Palestinians should vote in the city elections, while only 13 percent hold firm to the boycott position.

Whether they will actually break ranks to come and vote will be seen Oct. 30, when city elections are scheduled to take place.

“Currently we have no one to speak for the residents of East Jerusalem and the division of resources that we deserve,” Dabash says, arguing for representation for the estimated 37 percent of Jerusalem’s population made up of the city’s Palestinian residents.

Such a sizable potential voting bloc could shift the balance of power in the City Council, where currently a coalition of right-wing Jewish and ultra-Orthodox parties rule. But surveys and possible momentum aside, the pressure not to participate runs deep.

Then there is the practical side – with relatively few polling stations usually set up in East Jerusalem, accessibility is a challenge, especially for those living beyond the Israeli-built security barrier, who can enter the city proper only through checkpoints.

Squeezed on both sides

Aziz Abu Sarah, a Palestinian political and social activist, recently quit his effort to run for mayor of Jerusalem on a decidedly political, anti-occupation platform after being squeezed on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

His decision underscored how difficult it is to break the current paradigm, but Mr. Abu Sarah says he hopes the symbolism of his attempted run will help change the mindset among his fellow East Jerusalemites.

“When you tell certain Palestinians you are running in the city elections they think you are accepting the occupation,” he says. “I was trying to say that you can be a good Palestinian and run in the municipal elections and keep your identity.

“It scared some people, especially Palestinian factions, which freaked out significantly. If they had not seen people buying into our message they would not have reacted with such anger and threats,” he says.

“I think people are getting tired and frustrated from all the slogans of nationalism that lead to nothing and the reality that their life is getting worse,” Abu Sarah adds.

Pushback from Palestinian elements to his run was fierce. There were threats of physical harm to him and to those who planned to run with him.

Polling booths: a symbolic victory

The Interior Ministry originally planned to open only six polling stations in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Just 2 percent of eligible East Jerusalem Palestinians voted in the last municipal elections in 2013. But still, the handful of stations stood in stark contrast to the 187 polling stations in Jewish neighborhoods of the city, and Mr. Dabash decided to protest by appealing directly to the Central Election Commission.

He won his appeal, and there will now be 20 East Jerusalem polling stations on election day. Jewish Jerusalemites of various political backgrounds came out in support of adding the extra polling stations in East Jerusalem.

The combination of this victory on polling stations, together with having Palestinians running for the city council, has researcher Yair Assaf-Shapira at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research cautiously optimistic that this election could bring the long-awaited leap in East Jerusalemites voting.

“We feel like we are on the precipice of something. But we also know that voting is a pragmatic action as well as a symbolic one. Sometimes, at the last minute, even a person who planned to vote, might … return to their roots and decide to honor the boycott,” he says.

He adds that he has heard of Jewish residents of Jerusalem who plan to vote for Dabash because they believe it’s overdue that a representative from East Jerusalem sit on the city council.

To vote, or not to vote

Inas Jweihan, a 22-year-old university student, says she is still making up her mind about voting. She is standing next to a stone wall covered in graffiti. One of the slogans sprayed in black paint reads, “Dignity.”

“Most of us don’t vote,” she says, walking up a steep hill in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Tor. “But I want to feel like I am a human being who also lives here, a citizen who has a right to vote. The neglect of our areas, it bothers me a lot.”

But her neighbor, Muntasir Qaisi, 38, who runs a corner grocery, says he has never voted and does not plan to start now, even with a Palestinian candidate.

“Look at us here, Jews and Arabs living just meters apart and see how different our neighborhoods are. Just look at the trash in the streets,” he says, gesturing outside the doorway. “All elections are just lies. Politicians say they want our votes, but they do nothing for us.”

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5. Think computers are less biased than people? Think again.

Artificial intelligence is often billed as the answer to biased decisionmaking. But as long as people write that code, humans will have to wrestle with their own biases.

Mark

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The explosion of AI-driven technology has been a boon for cash-strapped cities and towns interested in boosting services while tightening budgets. But artificially intelligent systems are built by people. And embedded in the code for these systems lie some very human limitations. Algorithms can be flawed and research has shown that human biases frequently find their way into code. In some cases, AI is being asked to make increasingly complex decisions that can significantly impact someone’s life, such as deciding if someone qualifies for Medicaid or forecasting who might commit a crime. “The problem with the government use of these systems is there is a false sense of objectivity,” says Rashida Richardson, director of policy research at New York University’s AI Now Institute. Government officials need to review AI recommendations and subject the algorithms to formal performance reviews just as they would for human decisionmakers, says Adelaide O’Brien, a researcher who studies government digital transformation strategies. “Human oversight is critical in deploying AI,” she says.

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Think computers are less biased than people? Think again.

From smart trash bins to crime forecasting, artificial intelligence is creeping into our lives in ways we might not even notice.

“Whether you are a resident involved in city programming or just a tourist traveling in a city, a lot of city programs and the ways you interact with municipalities are with AI,” says Rashida Richardson, director of policy research at AI Now Institute, a interdisciplinary research center at New York University studying the social implications of artificial intelligence.

In fact, local municipalities will increase their investment in AI-driven technology to more than $81 billion globally in 2018, according to IDC’s “Worldwide Semiannual Smart Cities Spending Guide.” Municipal spending on AI-driven technology is expected to grow to $158 billion in 2022, the study finds. This technology can range from smart trash bins that transmit a wireless signal to garbage collectors when the bins are full to real-time crime centers that provide instant information to police officers to help identify and stop emerging crime.

The explosion of AI-driven technology has been a boon for cash-strapped cities and towns interested in boosting services while tightening budgets. At its best, AI removes a degree of subjectivity from decisionmaking. But artificially intelligent systems are built by people. And embedded in the code for these systems lie some very human limitations. The issue, says Ms. Richardson, is that often the public doesn’t know what data is being used to make these decisions or even that data is driving these decisions, she says.

In some cases, AI is being asked to make increasingly complex decisions that can significantly impact someone’s life, such as deciding if someone qualifies for Medicaid or forecasting who might commit a crime. Yet, most municipalities lack the technical expertise to understand how the technology actually works or to determine if the algorithm is biased, Richardson says.

Sometimes there are inexpensive, low-tech solutions that might work better. Take the example of AI determining whether a defendant is a pretrial flight risk. If the goal is to make sure a defendant arrives for his or her court date, AI isn’t very effective in achieving that specific outcome, Richardson says.

“There are cheaper methods available, such as texting someone to remind them to appear in court or making people aware of the consequences of not appearing in court,” she says.

The data isn’t always accurate

AI’s ability to predict an outcome is only as accurate as the data it’s modeled on. An algorithm is a series of steps that have a predetermined outcome, Richardson explains. The data could have an error or flaw in it that was created by the developers, and if that flaw isn’t identified or if there isn’t an awareness of the error, then that mistake will be perpetuated each time the algorithm is used.

AI isn’t immune to cognitive biases that can sway decisions, according to a white paper by a group of scientists from the Czech Republic and Germany. Biases such as “confirmation bias” (accepting a result because it confirms a belief) or “availability bias” (giving preference to information and events that are more recent and memorable) can become part of the algorithm, the team finds. For instance, a data scientist developing the algorithm may select data that supports his or her hypothesis and disregard data that confirms an opposite conclusion.

Outcomes also can be biased if the data isn’t based on diverse experiences, says Pradeep Ravikumar, an associate professor in the machine learning department at the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. If, for example, the AI assistant in a municipality’s office of community and human services isn’t asking question tailored to a diverse population, the outcomes could be biased, he says.

Yet, Professor Ravikumar believes that as long as data scientists developing the algorithm understand the social issues at stake and the people using the technology understand how it works, then AI has the potential to make decisions that are less biased than the decisions humans would make.

You can examine AI to see if it’s biased, he says. You can look at what drove a decision and see what needs to be changed for the technology to make a different decision.

AI requires human oversight

However, AI decisions are rarely questioned, Richardson says. “The problem with the government use of these systems is there is a false sense of objectivity,” she says.

AI systems don’t always come under the same level of scrutiny as a person would if they were making these decisions.

“Human oversight is critical in deploying AI,” says Adelaide O’Brien, research director of government digital transformation strategies for IDC Government Insights, a market intelligence firm based in Framingham, Mass.

Government officials need to review AI recommendations and subject the algorithms to formal performance reviews just as they would subject humans to a formal performance review, she says. There also needs to be a clear plan for addressing errors and perceived privacy violations, she adds.

Yet, it’s not just our local governments using AI to make decisions. Corporations and banks are using AI to decide who gets hired, who gets a loan, and whether you qualify for insurance, says Cathy O’Neil, author of “Weapons of Math Destruction,” which looks at the way big data increases inequality and threatens democracy.

“Any time we apply to jobs, our resumes and applications are fed through algorithms which filter out most applications,” Dr. O'Neil writes in an email. “The same [is true] for applications for credit cards, loans or insurance. We have no information about how these scoring systems work, whether they have the right data about us, or any way to appeal a bad score (which we don’t even hear about directly).”

Transparency is essential to preventing bias, says Jouni Harjumäki, a graduate student researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland who is studying ways to prevent discrimination in AI use. Policymakers and legislators need to engage in this discussion as well, he says, otherwise there is no legal obligation or need for companies to be transparent about the way their algorithm makes decisions.

O’Neil agrees that AI needs to be regulated. Algorithms should be tested based on a well-defined, publicly available definition of fairness, she says. “At the end of the day these systems choose the lucky from the unlucky, and it’s a system built by the lucky.”

One way to lessen the consequences of using AI is to let the public know when the technology is being used to make decisions that can affect their ability to get a loan, qualify for health benefits, or even be eligible to post bail after an arrest. Municipal governments should create a database or public listing of the types of decision that are being made by AI to bring more public awareness to its use, Richardson recommends.

“The question,” Richardson says, “is how to mitigate bias because there is no way to prevent it.”

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The Monitor's View

Indonesia’s gift-horse response to post-tsunami aid

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After an earthquake and a tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi last Friday, dozens of countries offered assistance. That included some that are not on the best of terms with the Southeast Asian nation. Yet not until three days later did President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, decide to accept it. That reaction is not uncommon. In 2008, Myanmar’s ruling junta famously refused foreign assistance following a cyclone that killed more than 100,000. Nations sometimes let political considerations override humanitarian instincts. Donor countries can have political motives in offering aid. Indonesia’s response shows the need for “disaster diplomacy,” or managing the humanitarian side of a natural disaster while still dealing with political tensions. Ever since the catastrophic 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the world has been improving its coordination of responses to disasters. The global acceptance of a right to life in the face of a natural disaster – not to mention a right to food and shelter – continues to expand. The imperative to aid others in a crisis is strong. Each new disaster, like the one in Sulawesi, offers a fresh lesson on that imperative.

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Indonesia’s gift-horse response to post-tsunami aid

Within 24 hours after an earthquake and a tsunami struck the island of Sulawesi last Friday, dozens of countries offered assistance to Indonesia. Some are not even on the best of terms with the Southeast Asian nation. Nevertheless, the tragedy has affected more than a million people. The outpouring of compassion showed just how many countries today accept a fundamental right to life in disaster-related situations – a right that can break down barriers between people.

Yet despite these generous offers of aid, Indonesia at first refused them. Not until three days later did President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, decide to accept international aid.

Perhaps he was persuaded after a visit to the tsunami-hit city of Palu and saw the anger of residents over the government’s slow response to the vast devastation from waves as high as 20 feet.

Even then, the choice of countries was “selective,” limited to 10. In August, after an earthquake hit the island of Lombok, the government “strongly” rejected outside aid. The Sulawesi disaster, on the other hand, is far more massive, one that overwhelmed Indonesia’s disaster agency for the first few days. 

“The sense from the teams all working there ... is one of real frustration,” said Jens Laerke of the United Nations humanitarian office in Geneva on Tuesday.

Now India is sending naval ships, Britain has dispatched a team of aid workers, and other countries are helping in the search for survivors and supplying food, water, and other relief. Four days after the quake, the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund finally was allowed to send $15 million in aid.

“Helping each other is an international tradition which we need to appreciate,” said Indonesia’s military minister, Wiranto (who goes by one name), almost apologetically.

Indonesia’s reluctance to rely on other countries for help after a natural disaster is not uncommon. In 2008, Myanmar’s ruling junta famously refused foreign assistance following a cyclone that killed more than 100,000. Pride goeth before a fall and nations often let political considerations override humanitarian instincts. At the same, donor countries can have political motives in offering aid.

Indonesia’s response shows the need for what is called “disaster diplomacy,” or managing the humanitarian side of a natural disaster while still dealing with political tensions – and even political opportunities. This is particularly true in Asia, which is home to more than 40 percent of disasters, such as typhoons and earthquakes, as well as many political fault lines between nations.

Ever since the catastrophic 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the world has been steadily improving its coordination of responses to disasters, such as the deployment of search-and-rescue teams. Sometimes such responses can bring peace to a troubled area. Greece’s offer of aid to Turkey after a 1999 earthquake helped open a door for political cooperation between the two rivals.

Just a few years earlier, the UN General Assembly had declared that the “abandonment of the victims of natural disasters ... without humanitarian assistance constitutes a threat to human life and an offence to human dignity.” In 2005, governments around the world committed in the so-called Hyogo Declaration to take action to reduce disaster risk.

The global acceptance of a right to life in the face of a natural disaster – not to mention a right to food and shelter – continues to expand, especially as media technology better reveals the need of people struck by such tragedies. The imperative to aid others in a crisis is strong, often overriding prejudice or pride. Each new disaster, like the one in Sulawesi, offers a fresh lesson on that imperative.

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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.

Look for the burning bush

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Today’s contributor explores how we can be more open to finding tangible evidence of the presence of God in our lives.

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Look for the burning bush

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Imagine for a moment that you’re by yourself in the desert, and feeling really alone. You see something on fire that, despite the flames, doesn’t burn up. Your first thought might be, “That’s impossible!” Right?

That’s what happened to Moses, according to the Bible. He saw a bush that was on fire but wasn’t consumed. When he saw it, his response was, “I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt” (Exodus 3:3). It turned out to be a divine sign, the start of an ongoing experience of hearing God’s clear guidance, which led to Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery.

Sometimes when we’re feeling stressed, upset, or lacking in direction, a “burning bush” of our own would be really helpful – an assurance that we’re not alone and that God is there with us. But are signs like this available to us? And how can we recognize them?

There’s a book called “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” that, along with the Bible, has been helpful to me in answering such questions. In it the author, Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy, writes about God, divine Spirit, as ever present, everywhere, and discernible to us. As the children of God, we are never separated from Him or the inspiration he sends us.

This understanding makes recognizing the power and goodness of God a daily possibility. We may not see literal burning bushes, but we can expect to see, feel, and experience God’s presence.

Sometimes this happens in unexpected ways. Or ordinary things point to the Divine, to a spiritual reality beyond what we see with our eyes. The important thing is to be open to God’s presence. For instance, on my drives into town, I’ve started asking God to open my eyes to something that will reveal to me His glory. And my prayer has been consistently answered. But I’ve had to be open to it. If Moses hadn’t turned aside to look at the sign God was giving him, he might have missed it.

I’ve had an experience that echoes that, though on a much smaller scale. One cold, dark winter morning, I felt a mental heaviness prevailing as I went outside to feed the horses. Suddenly it was as though I heard a voice telling me to look up. I did. There was the most gorgeous sunrise. In that moment, it deeply spoke to me of promise, of a bright beginning of a new day. More than just optimism, it signaled to me a clear sense of God’s healing power and presence. I’d have missed it had I not obeyed that inspiration to look up.

With this, the mental darkness lifted, and situations I’d been struggling with quickly improved.

There have also been other signs of God’s hand in my life through my practice of Christian Science. I’ve had many wonderful healings through gaining a clearer recognition of God’s reality, including recovery from concussion and sudden deafness. Supply has come in unexpected ways when all reserves had been used up. There have been gifts of joy, inspiration, and contentment received spontaneously from our caring God.

Whether we’re praying about situations of wider concern than our own or just going about our daily routines, as we consciously open our thought to the nature of God as ever-present good we will see more evidences of God’s presence. Goodness is what God is and imparts to us – delighting, reassuring, inspiring, even healing us.

Receptivity to this divine inspiration will give us a deeper look at the peace and tenderness that divine Love is expressing. It will spur us on and enable us to experience God as always close and wonderful. Our own “burning bushes” are there for all of us. Our job is to pause and take a good look!

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Viewfinder

A change in Iraq

Khalid Mohammed/AP
Newly elected Iraqi President Barham Salih inspects an honor guard in Baghdad Oct. 3. He is set to take office after tapping Adel Abdul-Mahdi, an independent Shiite politician and former vice president, for the post of prime minister. The two are now charged with forming a government. Widely seen as a moderate, Mr. Salih is a former prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government. "The selection of the men,” The Washington Post reported, “showed how the sectarian loyalties in Iraq’s Kurdish, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab communities that have prevailed since the U.S. invasion in 2003 are breaking down, giving way to more-pragmatic coalitions that cut across sectarian lines.”
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( October 4th, 2018 )

Thank you for joining us today. Please come back tomorrow when staff writer Ryan Brown looks at the determination of a woman who is overcoming war, economic deprivation, and an intensive crackdown on the media as the editor of South Sudan’s most circulated daily newspaper. 

Monitor Daily Podcast

October 03, 2018
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