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2018
October
22
Monday
Kim Campbell
Education Editor

Before a pivotal election in Afghanistan on Saturday, there were signs that the effect of this one might be different.

Women candidates weren’t backing down, even in the face of threats from the Taliban and the killings of at least 10 people running for office. And young politicians, both men and women, were taking up the mantle of helping the country make progress and battle corruption.

When election day finally arrived after a three-year delay, so did a telling outcome: About 4 million Afghans voted for new members of parliament.

Citizens faced obstacles including long waits, technology glitches, and attacks by the Taliban. Dozens of civilians and security forces are estimated to have died at polling places.

But that didn’t stop people from exercising their precious right to vote. The turnout, close to half of all those registered, suggests that many people weighed the risks and were guided by the imperative to make their voices heard.

As Jalalabad resident Zamir Ahmad Khaksar, told The New York Times: “I would come to vote even if bullets were raining in the city just to have a proper parliament.”

Analysts are unsure how far Afghanistan can get without reconciling with the Taliban. But as the weeks-long process of tallying the results got under way, one candidate, Zakia Wardak, tweeted, “Our counting has begun. Although many challenges, Im hopeful.”

And now here are our five stories for your Monday. 

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1. Does US quitting the INF treaty rekindle big-power arms race?

President Trump has pulled the United States from a number of agreements he says are bad deals. But withdrawing from the INF – an arms control treaty with another nuclear power – would mark a first.

Kim

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President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty banning land-based medium-range missiles in 1987. At the time, the INF was seen as a key factor in reducing cold war tensions, slowing a destabilizing arms race, and solidifying transatlantic security relations. Arms control experts say Russia has been violating the treaty for years, and over the weekend President Trump said he would withdraw from what he considers another bad deal. Administration officials say leaving the treaty will free up the US to counter Russia in Europe and China in the South China Sea. But for many arms control experts, the US move portends something else: an unintentional return to the big-power arms race of the cold war. For Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association in Washington, the overriding concern is that jettisoning the INF will turn out to be a harbinger of White House intentions to do away with the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. “If that happens, then we’re talking an unconstrained international arms race that would leave America and its allies and everybody else less secure,” he says.

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Does US quitting the INF treaty rekindle big-power arms race?

An administration with little love for treaties and the limits they place on the exercise of American power is about to scrap another one – this time the Reagan-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

President Trump told a campaign rally over the weekend that he intends to pull the United States out of what is known simply as the INF treaty, and this week he has dispatched his national security adviser, John Bolton, to Moscow to inform Russian President Vladimir Putin of the US decision.

Spurred on by Mr. Bolton – the preeminent hawk in the White House and a longtime critic of the treaty signed with Russia in 1987 – Trump says he’ll withdraw from what he considers another bad international deal for the US, one he and arms control experts agree Russia has been violating for years.

“We’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and do weapons and we’re not allowed to,” Trump said in Nevada Saturday.

Leaving the treaty will free up the US to counter Russia’s treaty-violating arms deployments aimed at Europe – and to respond to a Chinese buildup of intermediate-range nuclear-tipped missiles aimed at the South China Sea, administration officials say.

But for many arms control experts, the US move portends something else: a return to the big-power arms race of the cold war years and to the diplomatic tensions, particularly in Europe, that deeply marked that era.

“Donald Trump came into office with a disdain for international institutions and multilateral cooperation, and now those impulses are being encouraged by John Bolton in the area of arms control,” says Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington.

Eyes on New START

The overriding concern Mr. Kimball sees is that jettisoning the INF treaty will turn out to be a harbinger of White House intentions orchestrated by Bolton to do away with the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. Without renewal, that treaty would expire in 2021.

“If that happens, then we’re talking an unconstrained international arms race that would leave America and its allies and everybody else less secure,” says Kimball. “I don’t think that’s necessarily what Donald Trump wants, but he’s blundering into that direction with the path he’s taking with withdrawal from INF.”

When President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF treaty, which banned land-based medium-range missiles (with a range of 500-5,500 kilometers), it was seen as a key factor in reducing cold war tensions, slowing a destabilizing arms race, and solidifying transatlantic security relations.

Today some arms control experts say that a treaty that was once useful has been rendered a fiction by Russian violations through deployment of prohibited tactical nuclear weapons – intended, the US contends, to intimidate former Soviet states that now align with the West, a number of them NATO members.

“The INF Treaty is dead – it’s dead because Russia killed it,” says Franklin Miller, a former special assistant on arms control to President George W. Bush and now an expert on nonproliferation policy issues at the Scowcroft Group in Washington.

Saying, “you can’t call it an existing viable treaty if the Russians have been violating it for a number of years,” Mr. Miller argues that by staying in the INF the US is achieving “unilateral restraint – not arms control.”

US will get the blame

Still, he agrees with many of his colleagues in the national security community who say that the manner in which the Trump administration has gone about announcing its intentions to withdraw from INF will only hurt the US. It will assign responsibility for failure of an arms control accord to the US, they say, and solidify the global view of Trump’s America as a unilateralist superpower.

“If I were in government still, I would not have rolled [the decision] out this way,” Miller says, adding he would have worked to “put it on the Russians,” where he says it belongs.

Others are less careful in their assessment of the administration’s move.

“We’ve been effectively played by the Russians” to appear to the world like the power that killed an arms control treaty “that the Russian military never liked,” says Richard Burt, who was ambassador to Germany and the chief US negotiator for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed with the Soviet Union in 1991. “The fact of the matter is that the US is going to get the blame for ending the treaty, not the Russians – and that’s the Donald Trump ‘art of the deal,’” he says.

Yet while Trump may be happy to withdraw from what he considers to be one more bad deal for the US, it is really Bolton who is the mastermind behind the decision, others say.

“This is coming from John Bolton, who has never met a treaty that he liked,” says Ellen Tauscher, a former undersecretary of State for arms control and international security under President Barack Obama. And while she agrees that Russia has been violating the INF for years, she says that killing it is just a step in a piece of a larger design from Bolton – whom she notes was behind the abrogation of the ABM Treaty in 2002.

“In the end, this is about not extending the New START Treaty,” she says.

Emboldening Russia

What worries some officials and experts alike is that an end to the treaty will only embolden an already scofflaw Russia to throw any caution to the wind and deploy growing numbers of the presently illegal medium-range missiles – further fueling tensions in Europe.

Indeed, Russian officials met Trump’s announcement of his intention to withdraw the US from the treaty with warnings that such a move risks setting off a new round of arms deployments in Europe. Replying to accusations that Russia is violating the treaty, the officials countered that it is in fact the US that is violating the treaty’s terms – through deployment of missile-defense systems in Poland and Romania that Russia says can be converted to missile launchers, and a growing use of what it calls “strike drones” that can serve as short- or medium-range missiles.

“On the contrary … we have provided evidence that it was the United States which has been eroding the foundations and main provisions of this treaty,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.   

In the meantime, some experts say, the US simply does not need to abrogate the INF treaty in order to address the growing challenge of China’s land-based nuclear-tipped missiles. In their view, the future of deterring China and its arms buildup aimed at the South China Sea will be more effectively handled with air- and sea-deployed missiles, which are not affected by the INF treaty and its ban on certain land-based missiles.

Some officials are pointing out that Trump in his weekend remarks underscored his openness to – even his preference for – reaching a new agreement on medium-range nuclear missiles with both Russia and China. The suggestion, officials say, is that the president may be taking a tough line on INF to jar the Russians and Chinese into going for a three-way deal.

‘Sleepwalking’ into an arms race?

Yet the over-arching concern of many arms control experts is that the US decision on INF will set the stage for mounting tensions and unbridled efforts by the major powers to out-arm each other with nuclear weapons.

“We could end up sleepwalking into a new international arms race,” says Ambassador Burt, now a managing partner in security issues at McLarty Associates in Washington. Already, he notes, both the US and Russia are spending more than $1 trillion “on a new generation of nuclear arms systems.”

Still, more cautious observers like Miller note that New START remains in effect until 2021 – and many things, including another US presidential election, will happen before then.

“I wouldn’t make any … predictions that this will affect New START,” Miller says. Noting that Putin, a “serial violator of arms treaties,” has kept Russia in compliance with New START suggests that he sees it as operating in Russia’s interests.

“How we respond [on INF] could affect the Russian response in the future,” Miller says, “but I wouldn’t make any leaps of faith at this point.”

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A deeper look

2. He’s no saint – but Roger Stone insists he’s innocent of Russia collusion

Under scrutiny from special counsel Robert Mueller, the man many call a linchpin tells the Monitor, “I’ve never done anything that is outside the norm of what political operatives do.”

Kim
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Political consultant Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Trump, spoke to reporters in 2017 after appearing before a closed House Intelligence Committee hearing investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

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In recent months, former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone has come under an investigative microscope by federal agents and prosecutors working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Many of Mr. Stone’s current and former associates have been questioned about him, and some have been called to testify before a grand jury in Washington. It remains unclear what evidence – if any – the special counsel possesses linking the notorious GOP campaign operative to the Trump-Russia matter. But the investigation gained a major boost last month when former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort entered a plea agreement with Mr. Mueller. One theory from the political left has Mr. Manafort and Stone, who were once business partners, serving as a kind of dream team of collusion. Manafort, through his prior work in Ukraine, had trusted contacts in Russia. Stone’s expertise would have been useful in identifying which of the Democratic documents allegedly hacked by the Russians were most damaging, and helping time their release to maximize the political harm to Hillary Clinton. Stone dismisses the suggestion. “It is a fairy tale,” he says, in a wide-ranging, two-hour interview at his Florida home. “It is a left-wing conspiracy theory.”

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He’s no saint – but Roger Stone insists he’s innocent of Russia collusion

Roger Stone has spent a lifetime cultivating a reputation as a political street fighter of the first order – a no-holds-barred conservative campaign operative fluent in the dark arts of electoral persuasion and deception.

He is an American Machiavelli with a tattoo of Richard Nixon’s smiling face positioned at the center of his back, a brand he wears as a badge of honor.

“Politics isn’t bean bag. This is a rough-and-tumble game,” Mr. Stone told the Monitor during a wide-ranging, two-hour interview at his home here. “But I’ve never done anything that is outside the norm of what political operatives do.” 

Nonetheless, among Democrats, Stone is Lucifer incarnate, a dirty trickster who exploits divisions and stokes fear to gain political advantage for conservative candidates.

In perhaps his most ambitious project, Stone began working as far back as 1988 to convince a flashy, combative New York City real estate developer and eventual reality TV star to run for president of the United States. The rest, as they say, is history.

Except the story isn’t quite over.

Now, Stone, who spent much of his life as a political hit man, finds himself in the crosshairs of special counsel Robert Mueller.

The special counsel’s office is investigating whether Stone might be the elusive smoking gun that proves collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians who allegedly hacked emails and other documents from the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and released them publicly via WikiLeaks.  

The disclosures in the final months of the presidential election were more than just embarrassing; they were devastating to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and helped propel Donald Trump into the White House.

It certainly sounds like the kind of work Roger Stone might embrace. And some of Stone’s own actions and statements in the run-up to the 2016 election suggest he might have had inside information. But that doesn’t make it true, Stone says.

“There is no proof that would stand up in court, and there is no witness who can provide such proof, because it simply doesn’t exist,” he says, seated in a home library jammed with books about Nixon and politics, and adorned with a large blue and yellow campaign poster: “Win with Nixon.”

“I am not sure how much more categorical I can be.”

Target: Stone

In recent months, Stone has come under an investigative microscope by federal agents and prosecutors working on Mr. Mueller’s team. Many of Stone’s current and former associates have been questioned about him, and some have been called to testify before a grand jury in Washington.

It remains unclear what evidence – if any – the special counsel possesses linking Stone to the Trump-Russia matter. The special counsel’s office does not comment on such things. But the investigation gained a major boost last month when former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort entered a plea agreement with Mueller that requires his full cooperation with prosecutors and agents – including those investigating Stone.

Mr. Manafort was convicted of eight counts of bank fraud and tax evasion related to money he received from 2010 to 2014 as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. He was facing additional charges in a second trial and decided instead to plead guilty to all charges and cooperate.

At age 69, Manafort might spend the rest of his life in prison. Prosecutors could recommend a lighter sentence, but that would depend on the value of Manafort’s cooperation. That dynamic creates a strong incentive for Manafort to provide substantial assistance to prosecutors.

Andrew Harnik/AP
Members of the defense team for Paul Manafort depart federal court following a hearing in the criminal case against the former Trump campaign chairman in Alexandria, Va., Oct. 19, 2018.

If Stone is worried, he betrays no hint of it. “He knows nothing whatsoever of my activities,” Stone says of Manafort.

One theory from the political left has Manafort and Stone serving as a kind of dream team of collusion. Manafort, through his prior work in Ukraine, had trusted contacts in Russia, and Stone’s expertise would have been useful in identifying which of the stolen DNC documents were most politically damaging, and helping set the sequence and timing of their public release to maximize the political damage to Mrs. Clinton.

Guccifer 2.0

In July, 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted by Mueller for allegedly hacking the DNC’s computer network, extracting emails and other documents, and arranging for the stolen information to be released publicly on WikiLeaks.

Stone is not identified by name, but he acknowledges that his activities are portrayed in paragraph 44 of the indictment. 

“On August 15, 2016, the Conspirators [Russian intelligence officers] posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person [Roger Stone] who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump,” the indictment says.

The indictment quotes a Twitter message from Guccifer 2.0 to Stone: “thank u for writing back… do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?”

The indictment continues: “On or about August 17, 2016, the Conspirators [Russian intelligence officers] added: ‘please tell me if i can help u anyhow… it would be a great pleasure to me.’ ”

Guccifer 2.0 reached out to Stone again on September 9, 2016, and asked him about a campaign strategy document stolen from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and posted online. “[W]hat do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats [sic] entire presidential campaign,” the indictment quotes Guccifer 2.0 as asking.

According to the indictment, Stone responded: “Pretty standard.”

Stone says his contacts with Guccifer 2.0 were “benign,” and he questions why the special counsel’s office decided to include it in the indictment. “Read the actual content of the exchange,” Stone says. “It doesn’t point to any wrongdoing on my part.” 

Stone’s view of Guccifer 2.0 and the alleged DNC hack is substantially different than the version of events put forth by Mueller’s team. Stone does not believe Guccifer 2.0 was the creation of Russian intelligence officers and he does not believe that the DNC was actually hacked. He cites an outside study that suggests the stolen material could not have been hacked and transmitted overseas at the rate that the actual stolen documents were lifted from the DNC computer system. Instead, he says, it is more likely the material was downloaded to a device inside the DNC offices and walked out the front door.

Stone also dismisses suggestions that he and Manafort conspired to use the stolen DNC documents to help President Trump win the election. “It is a fairy tale,” he says. “It is a left-wing conspiracy theory.”

Manafort and Stone

Manafort and Stone are lifelong friends. “He was an usher at my wedding,” Stone says. “We were friends going back to college and the Young Republicans [in the 1970s].”

The two were business partners in the 1980s and ‘90s in a well-known Washington lobbying firm, Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly. But according to Stone, after the firm split up, he and Manafort lost touch for many years.

Their paths crossed once again during the Trump campaign. But it is unclear how closely they worked together.

Stone had been instrumental in convincing Trump to run, but he left the campaign in August 2015, as it was just getting started. Stone clashed with Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and decided he could be more effective supporting Trump from the outside.

Manafort was hired by the campaign on March 28, 2016. He was brought in specifically to help fend off an attempt by supporters of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to use “Trojan delegates” to hijack the Republican presidential nomination during the party’s national convention in Cleveland.

Manafort’s role was to outmaneuver any potential defectors and secure the nomination for Trump. He had done the same thing for Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bob Dole, among others.

Stone was working on the same project, but from outside the campaign. Stone’s side of the operation was to gather evidence of irregularities during the local selection of convention delegates. “We found a ton of them,” Stone says. 

But the information was never needed. Manafort shut down the delegate revolt and Trump’s nomination went forward.  

Some see the Trump delegate operation as evidence of a Stone-Manafort partnership that might have continued working on side projects, like the stolen DNC emails, through the rest of the election season.

Stone dismisses it. “I can’t speak to Manafort and Russia, although I am aware of no contacts between him and Russians,” he says. “And this idea that me and Manafort are talking every day is quaint, but not exactly true. I hear from him very little after he joins the campaign.”

Bill Clinton’s ‘son’ 

Stone says Manafort had no idea what Stone was doing during the final months of the campaign season – with one exception. “I kept telling him that Danney Williams was a real story and people would find it interesting. And he kept saying, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ ”

Mr. Williams was the subject of a short documentary produced by Stone in 2016 about the light-skinned son of an African-American prostitute in Arkansas who claims former President Bill Clinton is his father.

The film, “Banished: The Untold Story of Danney Williams,” is a classic Roger Stone political hit. It suggests Mr. Clinton once supported Mr. Williams and his mother financially, but stopped when he ran for president – and that Williams was prevented by Mrs. Clinton from having any contact with the man he says is his father.

The film was released in October 2016, roughly a month before the election. Stone says 38 million people have viewed it on various internet platforms. Political analysts saw it as an attempt to undercut African-American support for Mrs. Clinton.

Stone says he was busy with two other time-consuming projects during the closing weeks of the 2016 election. One involved trying to head off what he saw as the possible rigging of the election, via electronic voting machines that lacked a corresponding paper trail.

Stone sought to conduct exit polling that could be compared to actual vote totals in districts using those machines. He says all he wanted to do was verify election results at the precinct level. But most of those districts happened to be Democratic, and Stone was sued for allegedly attempting to intimidate and suppress Democratic voters. The resulting litigation cost $250,000, he says.

Stone’s other major project was promoting his 2015 book, “The Clintons’ War on Women.” He calls the 464-page tome “the definitive ‘oppo’ dump” on Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton.

If you want to sell a political book on Mrs. Clinton, you need to do two things. First, you must be provocative. Second, it helps to have inside information – or to at least give potential book buyers the impression that you have inside information.

The combination of these two factors may go a long way to explain why it now looks to some observers like Stone was a Trump-Russia insider.

The Florida Speech 

During that same period, Stone was also actively following a hot story line in Republican circles: what happened to the 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails that had been deleted or otherwise lost prior to an FBI investigation into her use of a private email system while serving as secretary of State.

In an Aug. 8, 2016 speech to a Republican group in Broward County, Fla., Stone was asked what he thought might be a possible “October surprise” after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had hinted about the future release of Clinton and DNC emails.

Stone replied: “I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation.”

He added: “But there is no telling what the October surprise might be.”

Stone’s suggestion of communication with Mr. Assange raised questions about possible collusion on the stolen DNC emails. Stone later backtracked, saying he had not communicated directly with Assange, but instead had done so through an intermediary.

“It is through Credico,” he says, referring to Randy Credico, a comedian and left-wing radio talk show host in New York City, who was a supporter of Assange, and who had hosted Stone on his show.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
New York radio host Randy Credico speaks to members of the media in Washington, on Sept. 7, 2018, after he appeared before the grand jury in the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Credico is an associate of Roger Stone, who was an adviser to President Trump.

Stone says he initially thought Mr. Credico had been in direct contact with Assange. He says it now appears that Credico’s contacts with Assange were through a WikiLeaks lawyer who is a friend of Credico’s.

“I hate to be in a position of defending Credico,” Stone said. “All he said consistently was that [WikiLeaks] had this information, that it would be devastating, and that it would change the race.”  

Reached by the Monitor, Credico denies that he was an intermediary for Stone. “He had me as the fall guy. He invented himself into the story, or he got something from somebody else. I don’t know.”

There is one aspect of Stone’s Aug. 8 comment that is frequently overlooked – the prediction that the next batch of WikiLeaks documents would relate to the Clinton Foundation. That turned out to be wrong. None of the WikiLeaks documents released prior to the election were tied to the Clinton Foundation.

Stone says he got bad information from a source at Fox News. 

But the glaringly false prediction suggests that perhaps Stone wasn’t as well-connected as he implied in his speech. 

What if Stone was just guessing? What if he was trying to appear more plugged in than he really was for the sake of selling a few more books?

 “If you go back and look at the substance of my tweets, as Assange himself has said, I never wrote or said or tweeted anything that WikiLeaks hadn’t already said themselves,” Stone says.

“It really is pretty simple,” he explains. “I set a Google News alert for Julian Assange. I read every interview he gave. He gave a lot of interviews, many times in obscure publications. And I followed the WikiLeaks Twitter feed.” 

“If you look at the substance of my tweets, they are very vague – [using terms like] ‘bombshell,’ ‘devastating,’ ‘will roil the race,’ ‘it’s coming,’ ” Stone says. 

“So, yeah, I am punking, and bluffing, and posturing,” he says. “That is called politics. That is how it works.”

This is politics

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide who regards Stone as a mentor, agrees that Stone often works hard to appear more connected to certain controversies than he really is. 

“Roger was doing what Roger does – bravado. It is part of Roger’s shtick, trying to say he was part of the [stolen] email stuff,” Mr. Nunberg says. “He had no connection.”

Michael Caputo, another longtime Stone loyalist and Trump campaign aide, says he’s seen no evidence Stone colluded with Russians. He says it is Stone’s reputation as a political pugilist that appears to have drawn Mueller’s spotlight.

“Roger Stone gaslights people for a living. He is a provocateur. That’s what he does,” Mr. Caputo says. “He jams up Democrats, tries to freak them out, and he does it all the time. He is very successful at it.” But that doesn’t make Stone a co-conspirator, he says.

“I think Roger Stone is the last gasp of the Russia collusion narrative,” Caputo says. “The last gasp.”

The Podesta tweet

A few weeks after Stone’s speech to Broward Republicans, Manafort was forced out as chairman of the Trump campaign. The action came amid media reports about alleged shady dealings involving Manafort’s work years earlier as a political consultant in Ukraine.

Two days later, on Aug. 21, 2016, Stone sent a message on Twitter: “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s [sic] time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary.”

Many of Stone’s critics view his tweet as evidence that he had inside information that whoever hacked the DNC would soon release emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Indeed, Mr. Podesta’s personal emails were eventually released by WikiLeaks in October. And that, they say, may be evidence of collusion with the Russians.

But Stone says his tweet was meant to point out the hypocrisy of Democrats who were criticizing Manafort’s political consulting in Ukraine, but staying silent about the business dealings in Russia of John and his brother, Tony Podesta. Those dealings would soon come to light, Stone believed, and the Podesta brothers would soon be facing the same scrutiny as Manafort.

Stone insists that his tweet was referring to both Podestas. But he says his often-quoted tweet has frequently been edited by others – including in a House Intelligence Committee report – in a way that makes it look like he had inside information that John Podesta’s emails were about to be released. 

“It is not a reference to his emails being acquired and published. I [had] no advance knowledge of that,” Stone says.

Stone is one of more than a dozen named defendants in a civil lawsuit filed by the DNC.  The suit quotes several of Stone’s predictive statements and tweets as evidence of his involvement in the alleged Trump-Russia conspiracy.

Matt Rourke/AP
Campaign chair John Podesta on board Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign plane en route to North Carolina's Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Sept. 27, 2016.

In mid-September 2016, Stone told a Boston radio station that WikiLeaks would “drop a payload of new documents on Hillary on a weekly basis fairly soon.”

On Oct. 2, 2016, Stone tweeted: “Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks.”

The following day, Stone tweeted: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon.”

Four days later, WikiLeaks released 2,000 of John Podesta’s stolen emails. New batches of Podesta emails were released steadily through the November election, the DNC lawsuit notes, “just as Stone had predicted.”

A Russian offering dirt 

Another chapter of the Stone saga emerged earlier this year, when details were revealed about a Russian national who offered to provide Stone damaging information on Mrs. Clinton in exchange for $2 million.

The meeting took place in May 2016, at a café in Sunny Isles, a neighborhood north of Miami known locally as “Little Moscow.” The Russian, who identified himself as Henry Greenberg, showed up in a Trump T-shirt and a red Make America Great Again hat.

“He says, ‘I have access to this devastating information on Hillary, and I think it could change the whole campaign.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’d have to see it to see if it’s real.’ He said: ‘That’s going to cost you $2 million,’ ” Stone says. “I just laughed at him.”

Stone told Greenberg that he didn’t understand anything about Trump. “[Trump] won’t even pay for polling, let alone opposition research,” he says he told Greenberg.  

“So, I really can’t help you. I have no interest.” The meeting ended.

Stone says he forgot about the meeting until he was reminded of it by Caputo, who was preparing for an interview with prosecutors about the Trump-Russia affair.

It was Caputo who had asked Stone to meet with Greenberg. After the meeting, Caputo sent a text message to Stone, asking how it went. Stone replied that it was a waste of time. Caputo then asked, how crazy was the Russian?

Stone replied: “Very crazy.”

When Caputo met with prosecutors, he was shown a copy of that text message, and asked about the “Russian.”

Caputo said he told them he had assumed Greenberg was an American of Russian descent – but that the prosecutor became visibly upset and insisted that Greenberg was not a US citizen. Caputo says he thought it was odd that the prosecutor would know so much about Greenberg.

Later, Caputo hired two investigators, one in the US and one in Russia. They discovered that Henry Greenberg had a criminal record in Russia and in the US. More important, he had worked as an FBI informant for a number of years, according to federal court documents. Despite his criminal convictions he’d been granted 14 visa waivers by the FBI to enter the US, Caputo says.

Although Stone says he had forgotten about the encounter with Greenberg, he now sees the meeting and the offer of dirt on Mrs. Clinton in a different light. “I think it is an attempt to plant faux evidence of Russian collusion,” Stone says.

At least two other persons associated with the Trump election effort were approached by individuals believed to be working in an undercover capacity for US officials: Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

Stone’s meeting with Greenberg happened in May 2016 – roughly two months before the FBI says it started its Trump-Russia investigation. 

“It is my view that Henry Greenberg contacted me in order to get to the Trump campaign and to implicate us in some kind of collusion activity,” Caputo says. “I believe the FBI put him up to this.”

Caputo has reported the Greenberg incident to the inspector general at the Department of Justice. He has received no reply.

Banned by Twitter    

Although Stone functioned for much of his career as a lobbyist and political consultant near the center of American political power, these days his efforts are largely directed away from the political establishment.

He has been banned for life from Twitter for unleashing a series of offensive comments about various CNN personalities, some of which cannot be reprinted in a family publication.

Stone’s main focus now seems to be writing politically provocative books and updating content to his websites, The Stone Zone and Stone Cold Truth. And he provides regular political commentary on InfoWars, the alt-right website run by controversial conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Stone and his lawyers are also gearing up for a potential legal showdown with the special counsel’s office.

In June, Stone’s grandson, Nick Stevens, set up a GoFundMe site to help raise money for his grandfather’s legal expenses. So far, the site has raised $3,353 of a $100,000 goal. In addition, a Roger Stone Legal Defense Fund has been set up online to accept donations.

Stone says his legal expenses might reach $2 million, and that a fight in court could leave him and his family bankrupt.

He is already under some financial strain. Stone is subject to a $1.48 million federal tax lien related to the tax years 2006 to 2011. He says he is currently under a negotiated payment plan and has never missed a payment.

As for allegations of Trump-Russia collusion, Stone says he believes the charges were a diversionary tactic by Democrats and the Clinton campaign to draw attention away from the damning content of the DNC emails and to transfer blame instead to the Russians ... and to Trump.

The greatest dirty trick of all time 

It is a tactic that could have come right out of Stone’s own playbook for political warfare. But the Democrats, he charges, were willing to go much further. Stone says that members of the Obama administration used their government power to conduct surveillance of the Trump campaign. 

House Republicans are investigating allegations that the FBI used shoddy information to obtain a warrant to spy on Mr. Page, a former Trump campaign aide, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Stone and his lawyers believe that he, too, was subject to some kind of surveillance effort beginning as early as May 2016.

“If I am a dirty trickster, that means that I can recognize one when I see it,” Stone told the Monitor. “And the use of the surveillance authority to spy on Trump would have to go down as the greatest dirty trick of all time.”   

Stone is a Nixon acolyte. He was the youngest member of the White House staff caught up in the Watergate scandal that drove his hero and mentor from office in disgrace.

Nixon ultimately went down for two reasons, Stone says. “His people get caught infiltrating the DNC, and planting bugs that never really work.”

He then argues: “What have the Obama people done? They are using the power and authority of the state to justify legally the surveillance of Trump’s campaign.”

“That is an abuse of power that makes Watergate look like – pardon me – a fourth-rate burglary.”

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On the move

The faces, places, and politics of migration

3. How Syrian refugees strain – and strengthen – Jordan

What role does culture play in a nation's ability to handle a huge influx of refugees? Jordanians say their hospitality stems from their Bedouin roots and ancient desert customs. This piece is the second in a series. 

Kim
Taylor Luck
Syrian and Jordanian students exercise at the Al Hussein Secondary School in Amman, Jordan. The influx of Syrians since 2012, including 130,000 students, has put Jordan’s schools and infrastructure under stress.

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The influx of 1.3 million Syrians since 2012, including 130,000 students, has put Jordan’s cash-strapped schools, hospitals, and infrastructure under tremendous stress. International donor fatigue is leaving the kingdom to face these challenges alone. But in the noisy hallways and crowded classrooms of Al Hussein Secondary School in Amman, something else is happening. Jordanian and Syrian students are bonding. Students no longer ask each other “Where are you from?” United Nations officials say Jordanians’ empathy is rooted in history; many present-day Jordanians are themselves descendants of waves of Circassians, Armenians, Chechens, and Palestinians. Perhaps nowhere in Jordan has that hospitality been more tested than in the town of Mafraq, a desert trading outpost 10 miles south of the Syrian border. Between 2012 and 2014, Mafraq saw its population grow from 90,000 to more than 200,000 as refugees became a majority. Mafraq, like much of Jordan, has been through many stages of the Syrian crisis: emergency, solidarity, hardship, acceptance. “Now we are in the final stage: coexistence,” Mousa Shantawi says from behind the counter of his downtown supermarket. “We no longer notice who is Syrian or who is Jordanian any more. We are changed.”

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How Syrian refugees strain – and strengthen – Jordan

Down to one janitor, four administrators, and a handful of teachers for more than 1,000 students, administrator Manal al Adwan says she is fighting “an uphill battle” each day to keep Al Hussein Secondary School running.

Children from 7 to 17 swarm the narrow hallways, whose purple paint has faded and chipped; groups of girls clog the stairways as young boys burst into classrooms mid-lesson.

The school used to have 700 students. It now also copes with 500 more – refugees from Syria – and Al Hussein has been forced onto a two-shift system, rotating Jordanian and Syrian students in and out in half-days to relieve the overcrowded classrooms.

With only one day off a week to set their syllabus, grade papers, and invent ways to educate Syrian children who have been out of school for years, teachers are exhausted.

“We spend every spare second to come up with ways to counsel traumatized children and teach students who don’t even know the letter A,” says Yasmeen Shalash, who teaches religious studies at Al Hussein. “We barely have time to see our own families.”

The strain shows in the school’s fabric too. Desks are cracked, chairs are broken, faucets in the bathrooms leak.

Al Hussein is typical. The influx of 1.3 million Syrians since 2012, including 130,000 students, has put Jordan’s cash-strapped schools, hospitals, housing, roads, and water networks under tremendous stress. And international donor fatigue is leaving the kingdom to face these challenges alone.

But despite cuts in services and increased competition for jobs, Jordanians have until now remained sympathetic to their neighbors’ plight, carrying the added burden with few complaints.

And in Al Hussein’s noisy hallways and crowded classrooms, something else is happening. Jordanian and Syrian students are bonding through sport, studies, and music. Students no longer ask each other “where are you from?”

“Teachers and students here treat us as if we are part of Jordan,” says Haya al Qarah, a 17-year-old at Al Hussein studying for her university entrance exam. Haya, like many girls who arrived from Syria’s rural south, comes from a family that expects girls to leave school at the 10th grade and marry.

But after five years in Jordan, where women’s education is part of the culture, Haya and her teachers helped change her family’s mind. The teenager is now set to become the first woman in her family to go on to university, where she hopes to study literature.

An economic burden

That success comes against the backdrop of considerable hardships for Jordanians, who face an 18.7 percent unemployment rate and a rising cost of living. Many say the influx of Syrians, who now make up about 15 percent of the population, is to blame.

For gynecologist Anwar Malkawi, the sudden influx of tens of thousands of Syrians into northern Jordan has meant three things: longer night shifts, longer day shifts, and more difficult cases. The Mafraq Women’s Hospital where he works near the Syrian border has seen its patient roster increase by 50 percent since refugees began arriving from Syria.

Taylor Luck
Dr. Anwar Malkawi, a gynecologist and surgeon, making his rounds at the Mafraq Women's Hospital in Mafraq, Jordan, Sept. 20, 2018.

“You have to give priority to the urgent and difficult cases, which are most of them,” the harried Dr. Malkawi says between rounds. Treating pregnant Syrian women with complications due to physical trauma or malnutrition, infants with severe birth defects and other cases, Malkawi says he is working in “emergency mode.”

Jordanian public hospitals treat Syrians just as if they were Jordanians. Citizens of both countries can see a doctor and fill a prescription for a few dollars. But with hospital beds filled with Syrians – and surgery waiting lists stretching months into the future – Jordanians who cannot afford to go private are not being treated as well as they once were.

“Poor Jordanians have suffered a lot,” admits Dr. Mabrouk Saraheen, director of the Mafraq Women’s Hospital .   

“Sometimes a doctor would have to tell a Jordanian that he could not admit his wife. They would shout, ‘I am a Jordanian, this is my right!’ ” Dr. Saraheen says, shaking his head. “But we had to give preference to the most severe cases and first cases we saw, no matter their nationality.”

Bedouin hospitality

Despite multiple reasons for resentment, it is difficult to detect envy in Jordanians’ voices when they recount their problems.

“May God heal these Syrians and help them,” says Um Khaled, a mother of four. Despite having previously been turned away for a check-up at Mafraq Women’s Hospital, she says she does not hold it against the Syrians.

“These people are coming from war, and we are blessed with security and stability. We should share our blessings,” she adds.

Where does this remarkable tolerance come from? Many Jordanians say their hospitality stems from their Bedouin roots and ancient desert customs, which dictate that a tribe must take in a weary traveler, no questions asked.

In the harsh desert plains where water is scarce, this hospitality can make the difference between life and death.

United Nations officials say Jordanian’s empathy is rooted in more recent history; refugees have played an integral part in the creation of modern Jordan, and many present-day Jordanians are themselves descendants of waves of Circassians, Armenians, Chechens, and Palestinians who fled to the kingdom in the first half of the 20th century.

“You see the solidarity from Jordanians as they have lived through or witnessed wars and displacement,” says Stefen Severe, UNHCR representative in Jordan. “They share the plight of their neighbors and they feel for them.”

However, aid agencies and UN officials warn that this hospitality has its limits, as they cut their aid to Jordan nearly by half in the face of budget crises brought on by donors losing interest in a conflict nearing its eighth year.

“We must not take this harmony and hospitality for granted,” Mr. Severe says.

A desert outpost transformed

Perhaps nowhere in Jordan has that hospitality been more tested than in the town of Mafraq.

This desert trading outpost 10 miles south of the Syrian border became a magnet for Syrians fleeing the war in their homeland; between 2012 and 2014, Mafraq saw its population grow from 90,000 to more than 200,000 as refugees became a majority.

Nearby, the UN established the Zaatari refugee camp, which now houses more than 150,000 Syrian refugees.

In the early years the influx was a demographic disaster.

Rents in Mafraq rose by over 200 percent. Many Jordanians – farmers or public sector employees – were priced out of their own city.

Mafraq also became a symbol of the chronic water shortage in Jordan, classified by the UN as the second water-poorest country in the world.

With the increase in demand from Syrians, the town went months without water services; residents were forced to truck in water from wells and private companies, paying as much as half their income to do so.

Manual workers in Mafraq were doubly hit. Syrians, subsidized by foreign aid and lacking legal work permits, were both able and obliged to work in the grey economy for salaries far lower than the legal minimum, driving down wages for farmers, construction workers, electricians, and carpenters.

“We can’t retire, our sons can’t find work, and we can barely make the rent,” Mohammed Mashagbeh says as he places a tiny pot of Turkish coffee on a flame at the coffee kiosk he runs. He works 12 hours a day to supplement his $400 army pension so as to pay his rent and his children’s tuition fees. “We are racing to keep up,” he says.

Local improvements

But the refugees have also brought improvements in their wake. Foreign governments have undertaken public works projects in Mafraq – water and sewage networks have been replaced, roads have been improved.

Today, the main road into Mafraq is wide and freshly paved; roads connect distant villages in the desert; a new bus terminal with shaded benches and parking stands at the center of the city; 16 pristine, white limestone, high-rise apartment buildings tower over the town’s traditional squat concrete homes.

Rents are inching back to pre-crisis levels; the dozens of NGOs working in the nearby Zaatari camp have opened up jobs for residents as drivers, guards, and even humanitarian workers.

Mafraq, like much of Jordan, has been through many stages of the Syrian crisis: emergency, solidarity, hardship, acceptance.  

“Now we are in the final stage: coexistence,” Mousa Shantawi says from behind the counter of his supermarket in downtown Mafraq, as Jordanian and Syrian employees stock the shelves with cereal and cooking oil.

“We no longer notice who is Syrian or who is Jordanian any more. We are changed.”

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4. A new candidate class: Schoolteachers are running for office

Teachers experienced strength in numbers when tens of thousands went on strike this year. Many were emboldened to enter politics. What will they do if elected?

Kim

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A litany of pent-up grievances is propelling a wave of office-seeking educators. And it starts and ends with money: from teachers paying for supplies, and watching their pensions and salaries shrink, to colleagues’ jobs being eliminated. This fall across the country, teacher activism continues past the strikes that took place in several states this year, with record numbers of educators on ballots in the general election. The National Education Association says more than 1,400 are running for seats in state legislatures this November, and several are in races for Congress. The culprits in this dissatisfaction, according to educators and think-tank analysts, are state legislatures instituting supply-side economic strategies that cut taxes and starve public education budgets. Says Meg Wiehe of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, “The average tax cut for a North Carolina millionaire is about $45,000, which is nearly the equivalent to an annual teacher’s salary of about $51,000.” Kentucky high school math teacher R. Travis Brenda won his primary against a rising GOP star. “There can’t be anymore of that ‘do more with less’ the legislature has been demanding of teachers,” says Mr. Brenda.

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A new candidate class: Schoolteachers are running for office

When public school teachers in West Virginia heard last winter that their health insurance premiums would skyrocket, Brianne Solomon wasn’t sure anything could be done about it. Educators like her were grumbling, to be sure, but their union’s clout in this right-to-work state was questionable.

“I have the equivalent of three master’s degrees, and I’m barely making $45,000,” she says. When the state legislature proposed doubling healthcare costs, it erased what Ms. Solomon calls the “consolation prize” of good benefits that she’d depended on while her salary remained static over the years.  

The ensuing walkout by nearly 20,000 West Virginia teachers – the first of seven states to see strikes this year – won a 5 percent pay raise and a one-year freeze on healthcare hikes. And this fall across the country, teacher activism continues with record numbers of educators on ballots in the general election. Solomon has been teaching art and music for 15 years, but today she’s also one of more than 1,400 educators the National Education Association says is running for seats in state legislatures this November. Several more are still on ballots for Congress. 

“I thought, ‘Well, here’s my chance to do something,’ ” Solomon says. “I have emailed my representatives. I have made phone calls. I have attended meetings. But nobody seems to be listening. So I guess I’m just gonna have to replace ’em.”

Propelling this wave of office-seeking educators is a litany of pent-up grievances, encompassing not only teacher compensation but declining funding that directly affects students. The culprits, according to educators and think-tank analysts: state legislatures instituting supply-side economic strategies that cut taxes and starve public education budgets.

North Carolina, one of six states where teachers held strikes before school let out last spring, “is an example of how lawmakers have prioritized tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy over public services,” says Meg Wiehe, deputy director of the Washington, DC-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, and a North Carolina resident. “The big tax-cutting spree started here in 2013, and they’ve continued cutting.”

Ms. Wiehe says many legislators insist they’ve “given more to education this year than last year. But the reality is, we’re still in a worse place than we were, pre-recession,” she adds, explaining that the state will have about $3.6 billion less to spend next year, after five years of reducing taxes.

“The average tax cut for a North Carolina millionaire is about $45,000, which is nearly the equivalent to an annual teacher’s salary of about $51,000,” Wiehe says.

The 2018 PDK poll, which annually measures attitudes toward public schools, found 78 percent of public school parents would support teachers in their own communities if they went on strike for higher pay. Two-thirds of Americans say teachers’ salaries are too low.

In Kentucky, where the teacher pension plan looked to be eviscerated, high school math teacher R. Travis Brenda entered the Republican primary – and, by a razor-thin margin, in May ousted House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell. A measure of Mr. Shell’s stature in the party is that it’s said he’s being groomed to run eventually for the US Senate seat held by majority leader Mitch McConnell.

Shell had introduced a bill to reduce teachers’ pension benefits, a move that sparked the “Red for Ed” movement in Kentucky, with its red t-shirt messaging. “I emailed [Shell] seven times to complain. I got one form letter back,” Mr. Brenda says. “We were never asking for better pay. We were just asking for what we were promised, which was a good retirement.”

Fellow Republicans dubbed Brenda an opportunist for running a pro-public education campaign. “Some of them,” he remembers, “called me a RINO – a Republican In Name Only. But I’ve been a Republican for decades. I haven’t changed, but the party has.”

When Brenda attended a Republican Party candidate training session, “They told me to avoid talking about education, because that’s not one of ‘our’ strong points,” he chuckles. “But that’s what won the election for me.”

Brenda is a moderate who blames the far left and the far right for refusing to work together toward solutions. Being a math teacher, he pictures the electorate on a bell curve: “I think most of the people in our country are more toward the middle, and I think most of them would be willing to sit down and compromise on a lot of these issues. But “there can’t be anymore of that ‘do more with less’ the legislature has been demanding of teachers,” he says.

Sean O’Leary, senior policy analyst at the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, points out that part-time legislatures typically attract candidates that have flexible occupations: insurance agents, realtors, other small-business owners. “If you get teachers in there, you’ll have a new perspective,” he says, “a perspective legislatures are not used to seeing.” Only 10 states have some form of full-time or mostly full-time legislatures.  

Back in North Carolina, “State legislatures are making our public schools places for the “have-nots” and not places for everybody,” says Carla Fassbender, a sixth-grade math teacher running for state representative. She blames market-oriented legislators fostering privatization and charter schools, because such schools siphon off students from economically advantaged families, leaving the public schools to educate a growing percentage of at-risk youth.

In Greensboro, a few counties away from Ms. Fassbender’s district, former assistant superintendent Ashton Clemmons piggybacks on Fassbender’s argument, and says it’s part of the reason she’s running for state representative in her own district: “Here in our state, privatization and charter schools are a huge factor,” she says, pointing out that the legislature currently allots between $14 million to $16 million to private schools, “but by 2020 it’s supposed to be $144 million in vouchers going to private schools – and 90 percent of those are religiously based.”

Ms. Clemmons, a mother of three young children, has taught early grades and also been principal of two schools. “If 90 percent of these schools have a religious affiliation, how can we say that we have equal access to education? I believe that we say we’re a state and country that provides opportunity for everyone,” she says. “For me, public schools are the only place where we strive to provide opportunity for all.”

Da’Quan Love, a third-grade teacher and candidate from North Carolina’s Wayne County, laments having to work two jobs. “We are sick and tired of not having adequate resources for our students. We have had enough with politicians who haven’t sat in a classroom since 12th grade make decisions that affect our profession,” he says, adding, “The folks who are on the front lines of supporting our children – the people in those classrooms teaching them – have said, ‘Enough is enough.’ If people like us don’t stand up for our kids, then who else will?”

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5. Will increasingly indoorsy Canadians answer the call of the wild?

Nature seems to be playing a decreasing role in many people's lives. But research suggests that our need to connect with the natural world is no less important today than it was for our forebears.

Kim

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Canada is a country defined by its natural beauty, be it rolling rivers and falls, snow-topped mountains, or vast forests. But while Canadians highly value that nature, they also are finding themselves increasingly removed from it. A recent survey published by the Nature Conservancy of Canada shows that the nation is actually staying inside more than ever. In the survey, 94 percent of Canadians say they are aware of the benefits that time in nature brings. Yet 74 percent say it’s easier to stay indoors, and 66 percent say they spend less time outside than in their youth. That mirrors the results of a study published last year which looked at nearly 12,000 adults and children in the United States to understand the profound changes in the American public’s connections to nature and wildlife. “From a sociological standpoint, it’s becoming normal not to have contact with nature. Even when people say it’s really important, and those same people express how little time they spend outdoors, when you ask how satisfied they are, many are satisfied,” says David Case, whose firm coauthored the report. “We don’t have time to interact with nature, and we’ve kind of gotten used to it.”

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Will increasingly indoorsy Canadians answer the call of the wild?

A recent weekend at Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, 45 minutes north of Toronto, is a picture of autumnal bliss. Children inspect caterpillars on the hiking path and chase after the tufts of fiber attached to milkweed seed as families trek through the woods.

No one needs to tell them about the rejuvenating benefits of spending time outdoors, and yet even this crowd says they don’t get outside as much as they want or should.

“I think it becomes more of a hassle to get outside,” says Daniel Kouto, who lives in Toronto. He and his wife work full-time, so once a weekend they make a purposeful effort to take their dog and 1-year-old son out of the city to a forest, lake, or trail to “try to get some air.” But it’s often easier to just stay home.

That disconnect sits at the heart of a study published by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) this fall, which shows that the nation that identifies deeply with the “Great Canadian Outdoors” is actually staying inside more than ever.

In the survey, carried out in partnership with polling firm Ipsos, Canadians say they feel happier, healthier, and more productive when they are connected to nature, with 94 percent saying they are aware of the benefits that time in nature brings. Yet 74 percent say it’s easier to stay indoors, and 66 percent say they spend less time outside than in their youth.

That mirrors the results of a study published last year which looked at nearly 12,000 American adults and children to understand the profound changes in the American public’s connections to nature and wildlife.

Researchers concluded that humans have the same innate affinity to nature and the living world (a theory known as biophilia, popularized by American biologist E.O. Wilson in the 1980s) as they’ve always had. But they’ve come to accept their looser bond with it, says David Case, whose firm, DJ Case & Associates, co-authored the report.

“From a sociological standpoint, it’s becoming normal not to have contact with nature. Even when people say it’s really important, and those same people express how little time they spend outdoors, when you ask how satisfied they are, many are satisfied,” he says. “That is a really dangerous signal ... We don’t have time to interact with nature, and we’ve kind of gotten used to it.”

He says only a shift in thought and expectations can restore that essential connection.

That nature is good for you is no surprise. We grow restless as youngsters cooped up inside. We can actually feel the calming effect during a quiet walk in the woods. This summer, the University of East Anglia in England gathered evidence from 140 studies involving more than 290 million people across 20 countries, from Britain to the US, Spain, France, Germany, Australia, and Japan (where shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” is popular) and confirmed a slew of health benefits, like stress and anxiety reduction, associated with being outside.

In Canada, the NCC kicked off a talk series at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto this month. The inaugural one was appropriately titled “Nature & Me, Relationship status: ‘It’s complicated.’ ” Dan Kraus, senior conservation biologist at the NCC, spoke about the incongruity of a population that prides itself on its pristine lakes, rugged mountains, and vast expanses, but is increasingly sitting behind desks and staring at computer screens.

The danger, he said, is that if modern society can feel disconnected from nature, in reality we are just as dependent on it today as our ancestors. We feel withdrawal symptoms without it, because there is no substitute for the smell of a forest, the sound of a rushing stream.

Many parents worry their children aren’t as in touch with the outdoors as they once were. Even though Nelson Reis and Ilda Coimbra grew up in downtown Toronto, they describe a childhood spent outside. “We didn’t have iPads. We had to entertain ourselves outside,” says Mr. Reis.

Now they have to be more intentional about it – like their Sunday outing to Forks of the Credit. “It’s not as spontaneous as it once was,” says Ms. Coimbra, as their 6-year-old son collects leaves around them. “Parents have to push their kids outside more.”

But like so many other facets of life, parents might be wise to take cues from their kids too – and recognize that nature doesn’t have to be associated with solitude or remoteness, but can be as easy as “out the door.”

During one of the interviews carried out in the “Nature of Americans” survey, a social scientist from the project was asked whether there was a time outdoors she’ll never forget. She said “yes” and her mind raced – to the time she spent with her family in the Florida Keys, at Everglades National Park, and the eagle viewing they did.

When the scientist’s 10-year-old daughter was asked the same question, she answered “yes” too. “And then she goes on to describe a time that she and her brother and a friend went out in the backyard and made this little city with sticks and leaves,” Mr. Case says.

“We define nature and contact with nature as this faraway place,” he says. “And yes, vast areas of wilderness are important for a variety of reasons but just as important is what’s out the back door, what’s down the street.... Kids already understand it. They don’t think of it as far away.”

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The Monitor's View

Why a nuclear arms pact can save Europe

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Mikhail Gorbachev has asked President Trump to drop his call for the United States to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which Mr. Gorbachev himself negotiated with President Reagan in 1987. Mr. Gorbachev’s view matters more than as a first-hand perspective. It reflects a growing sentiment among Russians that they can find a home within Europe. That view – supported by surveys – is a far cry from what at least one adviser to President Vladimir Putin has warned: that Russia’s future holds only separation from the West. Two years after the signing of the treaty, Gorbachev proposed the concept of “Common European Home,” an association between Russia and the EU based on mutual interests of economics and disarmament. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the idea helped set a tone of cooperation between Moscow and Western capitals for nearly a decade – until Mr. Putin took power. The INF dispute is only the latest issue dividing Europe from Russia. Yet its importance should push leaders to heed Gorbachev’s warning about the treaty’s peaceful role – as well as the promise of a greater Europe at peace.

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Why a nuclear arms pact can save Europe

Take it from somebody who was there.

On Sunday, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, asked President Trump to drop his recent call for the United States to leave a nuclear arms treaty that Mr. Gorbachev himself negotiated with President Ronald Reagan in 1987. The pact, which is called the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, has helped keep a relative peace in Europe for more than three decades.

Gorbachev’s view about the treaty’s impact matters far more than as a firsthand perspective from history. It also reflects a growing sentiment among Russians that they can find a home within Europe rather than remain divided over issues such as nuclear threats, the Ukraine conflict, and spy scandals.

In independent polls last spring, Russian attitudes toward the European Union were more positive than negative for the first time since 2014. And more than two-thirds of Russians now seek a dramatic improvement in ties with the West.

Such views are a far cry from what Vladislav Surkov, a top adviser to President Vladimir Putin, warns about Russia’s future with the West. In a magazine article in April, he said Russia must prepare for “a century (or perhaps two or three centuries) of geopolitical loneliness.”

The INF Treaty was designed during the cold war to prevent Europe from becoming a battlefield for “limited” nuclear war. It bans nuclear-capable, ground-based missiles with a range of more than 311 miles. For nearly a decade, NATO has suspected Russia has been cheating on the treaty with upgrades to its missile launchers near Europe. Rather than negotiate a solution, Mr. Trump appears ready to leave the treaty. One possible reason: Trump wants the US to deploy such short-range missiles against China. Yet that choice need not influence the INF’s role in Europe.

Back in 1987, the INF Treaty represented more than just a necessary fix to the dangers and fears that short-range nuclear missiles pose. After two major wars in Europe during the 20th-century, followed by tense standoffs in Soviet-controlled countries during the cold war, the West and the Soviet Union saw a need to reduce all chances of war on the Continent.

Two years after the signing of the treaty, Gorbachev proposed the concept of “Common European Home,” or an association between Russia and the EU based on the mutual interest of economics and disarmament. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the idea helped set a tone of cooperation between Moscow and Western capitals for nearly a decade – until Mr. Putin took power and sought to restore Russian influence and keep a hold on power at home.

The INF dispute is only the latest issue dividing Europe from Russia. Yet its importance as a security issue should push leaders to heed Gorbachev’s warning about the treaty’s peaceful role – as well as the promise of a greater Europe at peace.

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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.

A superpower we all truly have

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Today’s article explores the idea of God as the infinite Mind that sends us inspiration and ideas even when we’re feeling stuck.

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A superpower we all truly have

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Our family loves comics. My husband has hundreds of issues of “Thor,” “Spider-Man,” and “The Fantastic Four.” He often regales us with stories of The Hulk, Dr. Strange, and Superman.

Because of this, many of our dinnertime conversations revolve around our most desired superpower. Would we rather be super strong or intelligent? Fly or be invisible? Or how about being able to burst into flames like the Human Torch or stretch like Reed Richards?

Answers vary depending on the mood or what happened that day at school. But the desire for super intelligence is pretty consistent.

Of course, comic books are not all that we read! We also do serious reading. And recently a statement on intelligence that I read in a favorite book – “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy – got me thinking. It says: “Intelligence is omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence” (p. 469). “Omni” is Latin for “all,” so I thought about intelligence as unending, always present, and supremely powerful.

“Wow ... intelligence really is a superpower!” I thought. Not in the sense of being miraculous or limited to just one or two large-brained people. What really caught my attention was the idea that intelligence is an unlimited source readily available to all of us, right now.

Science and Health uses several synonyms to describe God, one of which is Mind. Therefore, God Himself is intelligence. If God is Mind, and we are His image (see Genesis 1:26, 27), or spiritual expression, then it’s our very nature to reflect the intelligence of the one divine Mind.

Why is this such a big deal? Think of all the wonderful ideas it assures us we have at our disposal! An infinite source of inspiration has all that could possibly be needed to get us through whatever is being asked of us. We just need to be open to that divine inspiration, divine intelligence.

During my junior year in college, I was in danger of flunking one of my civil engineering classes. After failing the midterm, I asked the professor about dropping the course, but he wouldn’t let me, saying that if I did well on my final, I would be okay.

Easy for him to say! As the final approached, I got more and more concerned. I was studying hard but just wasn’t getting the material. Finally, I shut my books and went for a walk around campus.

It was early morning, and few people were awake. It was a great time to commune with God, which has always been a regular practice of mine – especially when I feel stuck.

I wanted a deeper, more spiritual perspective of the situation, so I asked God what I needed to know. Not about fluid mechanics, but about God’s universe and my place in it.

I remembered a line in the Bible that says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). I realized that everyone has the same Mind because it is the one true Mind, God. It was through Mind that Jesus was able to heal and help so many: He was listening to the divine intelligence that reveals the spiritual fact of God’s goodness and care, in any situation.

That morning I caught a glimpse of what it means that there is only one true Mind, which we all inherently reflect. It was not me, or the professor, but God alone that had the intelligence that was needed. He is the Mind – with a capital “M” – that knows, creates, and governs all its spiritual creation. I realized that the divine Mind is always there to guide us, direct us, and supply us with the ideas needed to help others as well as ourselves.

I went to the test confident. My focus was no longer about my grade specifically. Rather, I had a deep desire to glorify God and see evidence of Mind’s presence – not only for me, but for my classmates and professor, too. Everyone is capable of discerning God’s inspiration, after all!

A few days later, grades for the course were posted. Apparently, I did all right on the exam. I received an “A”!

Intelligence is a superpower – God’s real, tangible power – that is there for all of us to express. We only need to be humble enough to yield to it.

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Viewfinder

Megaspan

Kin Cheung/AP
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, being called the world's longest cross-sea project, will have its opening ceremony Oct. 23. Its total length is 55 kilometers (34 miles). The cable-stayed span – completed at a cost of some $20 billion – touches two artificial islands and also meets with a stretch of undersea tunnel.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( October 23rd, 2018 )

Kim Campbell
Education Editor

Thanks for joining us today. Come back tomorrow when we continue our new audio series called Perception Gaps. This week we explore whether Americans are really as politically polarized as we think. 

Monitor Daily Podcast

October 22, 2018
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