2018
November
06
Tuesday

Church. Church. And now this: a gym attached to a former school. “Which precinct?” the poll worker asks. I can never remember my precinct, so I point to the one with the long line. She chuckles. Of all the places I’ve voted, this is the biggest – so big that it houses two voting lines: Precinct 1 (the busy one) and Precinct 2 (where hardly any voters seem to show up).

There’s something soothing about a polling place, as if after all the frenetic campaign debates and attack ads the nation lets out a collective sigh of relief. Democrats, Republicans, and independents gather here, not to yell, but to cast their ballot. Election officials are helpful, even smiling. I still remember the dignity and kindness of election officials in the small Pennsylvania church where I voted years ago.

By now, the line stretches out the door. A man with a blue paper steps in front of me. He hasn’t voted for so long he’s had to fill out the blue form and have his identity checked. By the time I finish, 80 people have voted and the polls haven’t been open an hour. Is it a strong turnout? “Steady,” the poll worker says. “Precinct 1 always turns out.” I wonder how many elections have taken place within these gymnasium walls and what issues past voters grappled with: Vietnam? Watergate? 9/11? Somehow, the nation got through the vitriol of those years to reach a better place. If Precinct 1 is any indication, there’s reason to believe we will do so again.

Here are our five stories for today, including a look at how Monitor writers are seeing the election across the country.

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1. Now, the tally: A midterm election as fraught as any in modern times

Feelings about President Trump – both positive and negative – are fueling unusually intense interest in today’s vote. As many see it, the nation’s values and very identity are on the line.

John Minchillo/AP
Voters cast their ballots at the Glen Echo Presbyterian Church polling location in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday. Across the United States, voters headed to the polls in one of the most high-profile midterm elections in decades.

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President Trump frequently says that while he’s not on the ballot, he really is. And that’s true, in a broad sense. If Democrats retake the House, they’re likely to launch investigations that will tie up the White House for the remaining two years of Mr. Trump’s current term. If educated white women, turned off by Trump’s persona, continue to move toward the Democrats, a great party realignment may result. Pundits will surely interpret, and probably over-interpret, the 2018 results as a harbinger of the 2020 presidential race (which begins in earnest Wednesday, and is likely to make 2018 look civil and restrained by comparison). In that context, Tuesday’s vote is a resumption of electoral struggle – the first chance for Democrats to respond to the shock of Hillary Clinton’s loss at the ballot box, the first chance for Republicans to defend the man who now dominates their party and is bending it to his own positions. Voter interest in the midterms has soared to unprecedented levels. “It’s not unusual to see this much hyper-enthusiasm for a midterm on one side. It’s really unusual seeing it on both sides,” says Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University.

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Now, the tally: A midterm election as fraught as any in modern times

Two years into a tumultuous presidency, United States voters on Tuesday go to the polls in a midterm vote as pressured and contentious as any the nation has experienced in modern times.

If the old political truism was “all politics is local,” now all politics is national – at least as long as President Trump is in office and pushes to make it so. His controversial actions have thrilled supporters and hardened opponents against him, exacerbating existing partisan splits into a kind of continental divide of polarization.

The White House and a portion of Senate seats aren’t on the ballot, but much else in American politics is. And the anger and exaltation Mr. Trump has unleashed have made voters eager to demonstrate their feelings about his policies and conduct – with the midterms their vehicle at hand. Sixty percent of registered voters say they’re using their vote in 2018 to send a message, according to a recent Gallup poll. That’s the highest such percentage of all recent midterms.

Trump has encouraged this focus. At rallies, he frequently says that while he’s not on the ballot, he really is. And that’s true, in a broad sense.

If Democrats retake the House, they’re likely to launch investigations that will tie up the White House for the remaining two years of Trump’s current term. If educated white women, turned off by Trump’s persona, continue to move towards the Democrats, a great party realignment may result. Pundits will surely interpret, and probably over-interpret, the 2018 results as a harbinger of the 2020 presidential race (which begins in earnest Wednesday, and is likely to make 2018 look civil and restrained by comparison).

In that context, Tuesday’s vote is a resumption of electoral struggle, the first chance for Democrats to respond to the shock of Hillary Clinton’s loss at the ballot box, the first chance for Republicans to defend the man who now dominates their party and is bending it to his own ethno-nationalist positions. Voter interest in the midterms has soared to unprecedented levels.

“It’s not unusual to see this much hyper-enthusiasm for a midterm on one side. It’s really unusual seeing it on both sides,” says Jeffrey Engel, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University.

Few precedents in history

If there’s a historical precedent to today’s vote, it might be the 1946 midterms. The president at the time – Harry S. Truman – was very unpopular, with an approval rating in the low 30s. It was the first midterm after the end of World War II and the death of F.D.R., so voter interest was high. The incumbent Democrats suffered large losses and Republicans seized control of both the House and the Senate.

But the 2018 midterms are singular in their emotional saturation. Fear is the dominant feeling on both sides. Trump has campaigned on stoking anger and fear about immigration, Nancy Pelosi, trade deals, NATO, and more. False statements – the border wall is being built, the GOP tax cut was the largest in history – are a staple. Democrats, for their part, have emphasized fear of Trump – warning that his loose relationship with the truth and authoritarian tendencies are eroding the foundation of American democracy itself.

Trump’s message is nostalgic – let’s go back to the way things used to be. The Democratic message is more oriented towards the future – let’s keep going towards change that is remaking our society. 

Since 1945, whenever US elections have been framed as the future versus the past, the future has won – with one exception, according to Professor Engel. That exception was 2016.

“Does the United States look forward or look back? That’s the question, both for this election, and the next one,” he says.

A 'blue wave'?

As voters head to the polls, the range of possible outcomes remains wide. Democrats have a good chance to take control of the House, according to many polls and data projection websites such as FiveThirtyEight. The Republicans’ chance of keeping their House majority is being calculated at about one-in-eight. That’s equivalent to a batter whose average is .123 – getting a hit is rare, but far from impossible.

If Democrats take the House, and Republicans maintain their hold on the Senate, Congress will remain jammed in gridlock and highly unlikely to move big pieces of legislation. The biggest change might be an explosion of Democratic-led investigations into Trump administration activities. Many congressional Republicans worry that the White House has not yet come to grips with how disorienting a surge in House subpoenas would be, and the extent to which investigations might come to dominate the second half of Trump’s first term.

It is also entirely possible that one or the other party wins both congressional chambers. A normal polling error in either direction could produce such an outcome. That would be a surprise, but far from an unprecedented event.

If the GOP maintains its House and Senate majorities, Trump is likely to read the outcome as a triumph for his style of politics and governance and behave accordingly. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation could become a casualty. Democrats would be plunged into despair and might engage in bitter internal recriminations that could rip the party apart.

If Democrats win the Senate as well as the House the “blue wave” narrative will dominate cable news postmortems. This would be a seismic shift in US politics, turning Trump into a lame duck in an instant and raising questions about his ability to win reelection two years hence.

The media whirlwind of Trump era

All these scenarios assume that the trench now dividing American politics remains as wide as ever after two years of the wild Trump presidency, in which outrage and scandal succeed scandal and outrage, in a whirl that moves so fast the phrase “news cycle” seems quaint. Today we’re living in a news blender, a news whirlpool, a news cyclone. Remember the North Korea summit? Remember Stormy Daniels? Remember the op-ed from an anonymous administration official outlining alleged Trumpian dysfunction? Remember Brett Kavanaugh, even? It all seems, somehow, very long ago.

Trump was a highly polarizing figure in November 2016, and he remains a highly polarizing figure today. His approval and disapproval ratings are close to what they were early in his administration. That’s despite the fact that the nation is enjoying a roaring economy – and the special counsel has been investigating possible Trump campaign links to a foreign power.

“One of the remarkable things about Trump is that very few minds have changed about him since before he was elected,” says Gary Jacobson, emeritus professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego.

In that sense, today’s midterms are just a preview of what’s to come – batting practice before the epic clash that will be Trump’s reelection effort over the next two years.

Permanent realignment?

If there’s one big thing we might learn from the midterm results, it’s the extent of an ongoing realignment in US politics. Underneath the stable top lines of the polls, there’s an ongoing demographic shift. In 2016, working-class white males heavily backed Trump, helping power his victory. In 2018, that trend is being matched by the reactive movement of white college-educated females into the Democratic Party.

In a recent CNN poll of generic congressional preferences, college-educated women preferred a Democratic candidate to a Republican one by a hefty 18 percentage points.

Their animosity toward Trump could move them permanently away from the GOP, particularly if the party morphs into a more ethno-nationalistic entity, in the president’s image.

Younger voters are also now heavily Democratic, and that preference may stick as they get older. Voters who were young during President Reagan’s “Morning in America” years tend to be more Republican, and the reverse might be true for the era of “Make America Great Again” red hats.

“People tend to display the imprint of the politics that existed when they were coming of age,” says Professor Jacobson. “That’s likely to affect party alignment for years to come.”

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A letter from

Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood

2. A community finds that healing requires more than just voting

How should a community respond to a violent hate crime? Sentiment in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill suggests that politics and elections are a vital yet insufficient means to address society's ills. Love is needed, too.

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This story was supposed to be about the election. I’d set out to ask the residents of Squirrel Hill if the Oct. 27 murders of 11 people at a local synagogue made politics feel utterly trivial to them – or if it made voting seem even more important. The answers – at least from those I speak to – seem to be yes, and yes. Partisan wrangling in Harrisburg and Washington pales beside a hate crime committed so brutally, so close by. At the same time, they tell me, the political nature of the act in some ways made voting seem more vital, more visceral. But then, inevitably, they add: Voting is just one thing. They tell me that what really matters now in this time of anger and hate is to do something meaningful for the person next to them. Over and over, they bring up the need to add a little more love to the community, to the country. “Just try and be kind to people,” says Curtis Welteroth behind the counter of Classic Lines Books, blocks from the synagogue. “Just offer a hand, offer a hug. Try to stop the spread of this.”

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A community finds that healing requires more than just voting

When the gunshots came to her neighborhood, Kristen Keller turned to books.

It makes sense: She’s a librarian. Has been for 12 years, at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill. She’s the type of person who quotes Mr. Rogers, who will tell you a volume’s author even if you don’t ask.

So when a man came to the synagogue a block from her home and shot and killed 11 people, Ms. Keller, naturally, responded with books. A collection on community and coming together that would also feature titles dealing with grief, fear, and death. Anything that might help kids and parents and anyone else to make sense of what had happened, what they were going through.

“Books,” she tells me, “can put things into words that we can’t come up with ourselves.”

This story was supposed to be about the election. I’d set out to ask the residents of Squirrel Hill if what happened on Oct. 27 made partisan politics feel utterly trivial to them, or if it made voting seem even more important.

The answers, at least from the people I speak to, seem to be yes, and yes. Partisan wrangling in Harrisburg and Washington pales beside a hate crime committed so brutally, so close by. At the same time, they tell me, the political nature of the crime in some ways made the act of voting seem more vital, more visceral.

But then, inevitably, they add: Voting is just one thing. They tell me that what really matters now in this time of anger, hostility, and hate is to do something meaningful for the person next to them. Over and over, they bring up the need to add a little more love to the community, to the country.

“Just try and be kind to people,” says Curtis Welteroth, whom I find behind the counter of Classic Lines Books. It’s a warm, homey store along the business strip of Forbes Avenue, just steps from the Carnegie Library and blocks from the Tree of Life synagogue.

“Just offer a hand, offer a hug,” he says. “Try to stop the spread of this.”

Deluge of books

Right after the shooting – after she had tried and failed to explain to her 10-year-old daughter, who had heard the gunfire from their backyard, why someone would hate her just because she’s Jewish – Keller turned to her library. She set up an Amazon wish list of about 30 titles, ranging from picture books like Carin Bergen’s “All of Us” to young adult novels like Jacqueline Woodson’s “Harbor Me.”

By Thursday, she had received about 75 donated books. By Friday it was nearly 250.

On Sunday, as we sit in the library’s back yard, at a round metal picnic table painted playground green, she tells me the tally is at around 500.

“There’s sadly not a book in our collection for parents about how to talk to your kids after your neighborhood has been shattered by violence,” Keller says.

Her son Jonah, who’s 14, and who rubs her back when she falls silent, tells her she should write one.

Keller shakes her head. “I’m not the expert here. I don’t want anybody in the world to be the expert on that.” She pauses. “I’d rather think that nobody ever had to be.”

A resumption of life

While Keller was putting her collection together, her neighbors were coming up with plans of their own.

Sunday morning, Daniel Hayashi is sitting on a street corner, strumming his guitar, a table of T-shirts on display before him. In the days after the shooting, he’d gotten a call from his dad, who lives across the street from the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill.

It turned out his father had ordered 750 shirts printed with a reworked version of the Pittsburgh Steelers logo, so the yellow star became a Star of David. Next to the graphic were the words, “Stronger than hate.” The family donated half the shirts to the JCC.

“I think this is his way of coping,” Mr. Hayashi says of his father who, while not Jewish, was a regular at the center.

By the time I catch up with him, Hayashi is almost out of stock. People keep coming: couples who buy matching pairs, soccer moms who pick up shirts for the whole family, even a pair of little kids, no more than nine, who have to fish dollars out of their pockets to pay for their purchase.

In Hayashi’s mind, the shooting is symbolic of a need to come together. “Not in such a way that, you know, everyone is going to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ into the abyss,” he says. “More like we need, as a society, something to bring us together.”

Not long after Hayashi packs up his operation, the corner of Forbes and Murray avenues comes to life. Kids stand in line to get their faces painted and crowd around a man making balloon animals. Parents snap photos of a group of teenagers banging away on drums and guitars, a product of the local Sunburst School of Music.

Jessica Mendoza/The Christian Science Monitor
Heather Graham stands on the corner of Forbes and Murray Avenues in Squirrel Hill, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. Behind her, families take part in Community Day, which Ms. Graham organized to help the community come together after a gunman shot and killed 11 people at the nearby Tree of Life synagogue Oct. 27.

At a yoga studio around the corner, folks take free lessons or use the space to stretch, cry, regroup.

The idea had come from Heather Graham, who owns the European Wax Center on Forbes. Ms. Graham had lived two doors from Bernice and Sylvan Simon, a couple who were killed in the shooting. For more than three years, she had shoveled their driveways in the winter, waved hello to them on their way to synagogue on Shabbat.

After learning what happened to them, she and her fellow business owners decided they would put together a community day, something family friendly and full of life. Something safe.

There was some concern that the effort would come off crass, opening businesses after a tragedy. But joy beats grief every time.

Focus on politics

And Graham didn’t stop at community action. Though she had always planned to cast her vote, this time – for the first time – she looked up every candidate on her ballot. Went through their platforms, read through their histories.

“I wouldn’t have normally done that. I probably would have just pressed the ‘vote for all one party,’ ” Graham says. “Now I feel like I probably should have been doing this my whole life.”

Later that afternoon, as festivities wind down outside the library, Keller admits she hasn’t been to the memorial at Tree of Life of yet. Her husband and son went, but she can’t. Not yet.

(I get it. I had paid a visit that morning, and I – who’d never been to Pittsburgh, never even crossed into Pennsylvania, before this trip – felt the heavy weight of it.)

For now, Keller is focused on what she can do. On Tuesday, she says, she and her family will head to their polling place together, as they always do. They will go before school, because she wants her children to see the process. Jonah, she tells me, had pointed out that by the next midterm election, he’ll be able to vote with them.

“I think every election gives us the possibility to change the course of history – or the course of what’s happening right now,” Keller says. “And maybe that will make a change. I hope.”

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3. First Muslim women head to Congress, balancing symbolism and service

It'd be easy for a Palestinian-American woman to cast herself as primarily an opponent to the current administration. But she sees herself – and what she can do – as much more than that. 

Paul Sancya/AP
Rashida Tlaib, Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, attended a rally in Dearborn, Mich., Oct. 26. She is running unopposed and is set to become the first Palestinian-American woman in the US House of Representatives. As a state legislator, she focused on poverty and inequality.

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It seems that the less a candidate looks like the old guard, the better. Rashida Tlaib, an unopposed Democrat for US Congress in Michigan, presents a clear political contrast to President Trump: she’s a Muslim civil rights lawyer and mother of two, raised by Palestinian immigrant parents in a majority-minority community in Detroit. She’s not only likely to become one of the first two Muslim American women in the House, but also the first Palestinian-American woman. But once she arrives on Capitol Hill, she will have to balance the pressures of a symbolic candidacy with the nitty-gritty of serving her district. It’s a scale model of the challenge facing Democrats of her generation, who are navigating what it means to embrace diversity as inseparable from party ideology – and a distinct shift from the approach employed by her Arab-American predecessors in government. “We grew up in a period of time when it was about how ‘melted’ you were in the melting pot,” says Jim Zogby of the Arab American Institute. “She’s become a story.”

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First Muslim women head to Congress, balancing symbolism and service

Rashida Tlaib never set out to be a “new face” of the Democratic Party – but on the cusp of her election to the US House of Representatives, she can hardly avoid the label.

It helps that she’s practically a shoo-in, running unopposed as a Democrat in a district that hasn’t elected a Republican in nearly three decades. But mostly, she has the political moment to thank. Not long ago, her profile – a Muslim civil rights lawyer and mother of two, raised by Palestinian immigrant parents in a majority-minority community in Detroit – might have been seen as too far a reach for Congress. But in 2018, that kind of background seems quintessential, almost de rigueur, especially among Democratic candidates. 

This is, after all, shaping up to be another Year of the Woman, and it seems that the less a candidate looks like the old guard on Capitol Hill, the better. 

It’s also Democrats’ first real shot at taking back power – and defining their image – in the Trump era. And in nearly every way, Ms. Tlaib (pronounced tah-LEEB) presents a clear political contrast to President Trump – who, Democrats pointedly note, has banned travel from certain Islamic nations, mocked a woman testifying about sexual assault, and stoked racial tensions with statements denigrating immigrants and minorities. 

Which means that the stakes surrounding the midterms are particularly high for Tlaib. She’s not only likely to become one of the first two Muslim-American women in the House – a distinction she’s poised to share with Ilhan Omar, who is running as the Democratic nominee for Minnesota’s very blue 5th district – but also the first Palestinian-American woman. 

“I know that I, in many ways, am not just representing [Michigan’s] 13th congressional district but also people of [my] faith,” Tlaib says. “Anything I do will be a reflection on all of them.”

Alongside profiles by The New York Times and Politico, Tlaib has made headlines in The Times of Israel and the Turkey-based Hurriyet Daily News.

“She’s become a story,” says Jim Zogby, president of the nonprofit Arab American Institute (AAI) in Washington. “She’s got an Arab name. She speaks the language. She’s close to the traditions and heritage. And she is, at the same time, a classic American political figure.”

Jessica Mendoza/The Christian Science Monitor
Rashida Tlaib, Democratic candidate for Congress in Michigan's 13th district, fields calls at her campaign office, on Sept. 11 in Detroit. ‘I know that I, in many ways, am not just representing the 13th congressional district but also people of [my] faith,’ Ms. Tlaib says.

Yet Tlaib has faced criticism for receiving the bulk of her contributions from out-of-state donors, many of which came after President Trump enacted his travel ban. And once she arrives on Capitol Hill, she will have to balance the pressures of her symbolic candidacy with the nitty-gritty work of serving her majority-black district. 

It’s a scale model of the challenge facing many Democratic leaders of her generation, as the party embraces its increasing diversity as inseparable from its ideology, while still addressing voters’ kitchen-table concerns. 

“It’s not an either-or. You can represent the people who voted for you, while also bringing attention to the needs of whatever your affinity group is,” says Aubrey Westfall, a political scientist at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., and co-author of “The Politics of the Headscarf in the United States.” “But you can’t forget your constituents.” 

 All part of the same fight

When Tlaib sweeps into her campaign office in an old brick building in northwest Detroit, she looks like the busy working mom she is: bags looped over her shoulders, no obvious makeup, hair a little awry. Her smile is warm if a little harried. 

But she’s used to the hustle. The eldest of 14, Tlaib spent her childhood as a third parent to her siblings, changing diapers, cooking meals, and “being that kind of go-to person for a lot of the family,” she says. Because they spoke Arabic at home – her dad came to Detroit by way of Jerusalem and Nicaragua, and her mother immigrated from the West Bank – the job of interpreting school forms and other documents often fell to Tlaib. Some nights she wouldn’t get to her own homework until the wee hours.

She grew up watching store clerks pick on her mother because of her accent, as her parents struggled to raise the family on her father’s salary. 

At the same time, she recalls African-American teachers talking about marching with Martin Luther King Jr., and Latino classmates confiding to her that they were undocumented. 

In her mind, those experiences were linked to what she saw when she visited her mother’s family in the West Bank. There, separate lines and colored license plates segregated Palestinian residents from their Israeli neighbors. “My passion for social justice and my drive is rooted in Palestine – but it very much was watered and seeded … in Detroit,” Tlaib says. “I just didn’t like anybody thinking that they were less-than.” 

By the time she began her work in activism and politics, Tlaib’s philosophy was grounded in the idea that the various struggles of minorities, women, immigrants, and working-class families are all part of the same fight. 

During her three terms as a state legislator, she focused on poverty and inequality, sponsoring laws that criminalized mortgage fraud, required employers to keep the identities of alleged victims of sexual harassment confidential, and waived driver’s license fees for the homeless. 

After term limits prevented her from running again in 2014, she turned to work as a civil rights lawyer at the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice. She became known for her public opposition to tax breaks for wealthy corporations and her crusades against toxic waste dumping in the Detroit River and deportations of undocumented immigrants. In 2016, she got herself kicked out of a ticketed Trump event in Detroit for heckling the then-nominee.

Through it all, Tlaib has put her heritage on display. At her watch party for the Democratic primary election in August, Arabic songs thumped alongside hip hop and other kinds of music. After she won, her mother, Fatima, draped a Palestinian flag around her shoulders. Her team celebrated by dancing the dabke, an Arabic folk dance. 

“I have a shirt that actually says, ‘Unapologetically Muslim,’ ” Tlaib says, grinning. “There’s this sense of being very proud, of like, ‘Yeah, that’s who I am.’ ” 

‘Why does it have to be you?’

Yet for all the fanfare that came with her primary victory, Tlaib has already begun to see the tensions of her position come into play. 

Over the summer, after shifting her position on Israel and the Palestinian territories to a one-state solution, she lost the endorsement of the Jewish advocacy group J Street, which until then had contributed to her campaign. 

Some critics, noting her ties to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and to controversial Muslim American activists like Linda Sarsour and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), have accused her of promoting extremism. 

Not long ago, such attacks might have been politically fatal. Arab Americans from a range of backgrounds have for decades sought and won office at all levels across the US. But Tlaib’s predecessors, while not hiding their heritage, didn’t make it a big part of their campaigns.

“We grew up in a period of time when it was about how ‘melted’ you were in the melting pot,” says Mr. Zogby at the Arab American Institute. 

Indeed, Tlaib’s mother, who came to the US at a time when assimilation was key for immigrant families, doesn’t understand why her daughter puts herself in the line of fire. “My mom still feels like, ‘Well, don’t get in any fights with Trump,’ ” Tlaib says. “ ‘Why does it have to be you? Let somebody else do it.’ ”

But times are changing. Tlaib – along with other Democratic rising stars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, both of whom are expected to win House seats on Tuesday – is part of a class of candidates that is ideologically further left, more activist in its approach to politics, and more inclined to connect personal struggles to political vision. And though Tlaib is in her early 40s, her appeal to a young, mostly non-white constituency is clear. 

Sumaiya Ahmed Sheikh, executive director of the Michigan Muslim Community Council, calls her “Rashida from the block.” “She does not shy away from her identity,” says Ms. Sheikh, a community organizer in her 20s who’s worked with Tlaib for years. “She is a Muslim American Palestinian woman, but she’s also a Michigander, she’s a Detroiter, she’s from southwest. It’s really inspiring.”

Jessica Mendoza/The Christian Science Monitor
Husain Haidri talks about Rashida Tlaib's candidacy with Michigan Muslim Community Council executive director Sumaiya Ahmed Sheikh, on Sept. 10. ‘That someone that does share my values is able to effect actual change in Congress or in politics overall, that's a really hopeful thing for me,’ says Mr. Haidri.

Still, some say embracing identity politics could come at a cost for Democrats where it matters: practical governance. Conservative journalist Matthew Continetti recently warned that it would “bring into office radicals empowered by the election returns and unaccountable to party authority,” sowing the same kind of discord among Democrats that Republicans saw within their ranks after Tea Party candidates rose to power during the Obama administration. “A Democratic victory soon would be followed by Democratic infighting,” Mr. Continetti wrote in National Review.

Tlaib, at least on the outside, appears unruffled by the looming challenge. She expects some skepticism, and plenty of resistance. But it’s nothing she hasn’t experienced in two decades of activist and political work. 

“All I can do is primarily focus on the issues here at home,” she says. 

And she’s still moved by the gravity of the opportunity before her. 

“My mom [said] this could have never happened in Palestine,” Tlaib says, gesturing to the room around her. “It only could have happened here, for her daughter to be a member of the United States Congress.”

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4. Voice of a nation: How Juba Arabic helps bridge a factious South Sudan

Juba Arabic isn’t just the language spoken by more South Sudanese than any other. It is a tongue that has grown up alongside the country, the witness and stenographer to its difficult history.

Pete Muller/AP/File
Fans cheered at the first national soccer match to be held after South Sudan became an independent nation in 2011. Language has been a battleground in South Sudan, a country with five dozen of them.

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In much of the world speaking two, three, even four languages is unremarkable. Arubans swap between Dutch, Spanish, English, and the creole Papiamento. South Africans tack up “Beware of Dog” signs in three languages. But in South Sudan, some five dozen languages are spoken, a dizzyingly diverse array. South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, won independence in 2011 after five decades of off-and-on conflict, only to fall into its own civil war. Language, like almost everything here, has been a battleground – especially Juba Arabic, which began life as a dialect of Arabic brought by troops and traders and travelers in the 19th century. “Juba Arabic started as the language of outsiders, of our colonizers,” says Bernard Suwa, a pastor and translator. “But we killed it and made something new of it.” It is the country’s most-spoken language, yet it is often shunned, seen as a reminder of a messy past. But today many embrace Juba Arabic as a unifier, something unique to this fractured country. And as South Sudan tries to uphold its latest peace agreement, common ground will be all the more important, they note. “Juba Arabic is our melting pot, but people don’t always see that,” says Mr. Suwa.

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Voice of a nation: How Juba Arabic helps bridge a factious South Sudan

By the time he was a young man, Dedy Seyi’s head was crammed with languages. 

In the refugee camp where he lived in northwestern Kenya, he spoke at least four every day. There was Kakwa, his mother tongue, shouted across scratchy cellphone lines to South Sudanese family back home and scattered around the region. With Kenyan and Somali friends in the camp, he chatted in Swahili, and in the high school where he taught, he switched into an English as crisp as the queen’s. 

But the language he loved best was one he spoke mostly to himself.

Rabuna, Abuna fi sama, de akil al bi saadu gisim, he would whisper each night in Juba Arabic, hands clasped over his dinner plate. Kede ita bariku, be isim Yesuwa Masiya, Amen.

Almighty God, our Father in heaven, this is food to nourish the body. Bless it in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Mr. Seyi hadn’t always spoken Juba Arabic this way, in a quiet, unanswered whisper. 

When he was growing up in the town of Yei, the Arabic-based language was everywhere. It was the language of haggling over tomatoes and shouting about football scores, the language of folktales and Bible stories he swapped with friends and the news updates blasted from microphones by self-appointed town criers, who carried news from the front lines of the country’s slow-burn civil war. 

“In a place like South Sudan, you have all these different languages hovering around you,” Seyi says. “So you need a way to talk to people across those barriers, and Juba Arabic was how we did that.”   

Pete Muller/AP/File
A laborer moves a box through a tight alley in the Konyo Konyo market of Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Buyers and sellers in the country haggle over goods in Juba Arabic, an Africanized version of Arabic that has morphed into its own distinct language.

In much of the world, that kind of linguistic toggling is so unremarkable, so drearily normal, that it barely even seems worth remarking upon. Arubans swap between Dutch, Spanish, English, and the creole Papiamento. South Africans tack up “Beware of Dog” signs in three languages (Beware! Pasop! Qaphela hlokomela!). Some 200 million of Indonesia’s 260 million people speak more than one of the country’s 746 languages.

But in South Sudan, a place fractured by war and ethnic politics, a common language felt to Seyi like something much bigger than an easy way of communicating. It was a nod to a shared history, a sliver of common identity in a place where identity had, most often, been a thing used to tear people apart. 

Juba Arabic, after all, wasn’t just the language spoken by more South Sudanese than any other. It was a tongue that had grown up alongside the country, the witness and stenographer to its difficult history. A dialect of Arabic that slowly morphed into its own distinct language, it had much the same origin as the country – a messy, plucky thing pulled up from the wreckage of conquest and colonialism. 

“Juba Arabic started as the language of outsiders, of our colonizers,” says Bernard Suwa, a pastor and translator best known for a popular Juba Arabic hymn book called “Shukuru Yesu.” “But we killed it and made something new of it.” 

And that, he notes, is the history of South Sudan writ small. A brutal history reimagined. A place pulled out of the wreckage of a difficult past. 

But like almost everything in South Sudan, language is a battleground here. In a country with five dozen of them, Juba Arabic might be some people’s idea of a shared identity. But for others, it’s a nod to a history better forgotten.  

“English will make us different and modern,” one government official told the BBC shortly after the country’s independence, when the country announced that English – not Juba Arabic or any other local language – would be the language of the new government. “From now on all our laws, textbooks, and official documents have to be written in that language,” said Edward Mokole, an official at the Ministry of Higher Education. “Schools, the police, retail, and the media must all operate in English.”

Andreea Campeanu/Reuters/File
Students attend a public school in Gudele, on the outskirts of Juba, South Sudan. Lessons are taught in English.

Juba Arabic, meanwhile, would stay where it had always been. Officially, that was nowhere. 

Unofficially, though, it was everywhere. 

Could it bring a fractured nation together?

***

In July 2011, after five decades of off-and-on war, South Sudan split off from Sudan to become what is still the world’s newest country. That same year, Joseph Abuk, one of the country’s leading actors and playwrights, was invited to participate in a Shakespeare festival in London. 

There was only one rule: He had to translate and perform his chosen play in one of his country’s national languages. 

In South Sudan, that left him with a vast set of options. “All indigenous languages of South Sudan are national languages and shall be respected, developed and promoted,” declared the country’s Constitution. That meant any of the 60-plus languages floating around the country were legitimate choices. 

There was Dinka, the language of the country’s largest ethnic group. Or standard Arabic – widely spoken, if sometimes begrudgingly, after a half century of rule by the Arab north. Or Nuer. Or Bari. Or Zande. South Sudan’s languages, in fact, sprawled across three of the continent’s four language groups – a dizzyingly diverse array. But for Mr. Abuk, the choice was obvious. 

“It must be Juba Arabic, because it is the language that is everyone’s and no one’s,” he reasoned. Like most Juba Arabic speakers, Abuk had learned another language first. But when he was a young child, in the 1950s, his family moved from the countryside to Juba, the sleepy regional capital of southern Sudan. To Abuk, the place was a revelation. The first time he got in a car, he thought he was standing still and the trees on either side of the road were sprinting past. “I had never been in something that moved so fast,” he says. In his neighborhood, kids spoke in a strange jumble of words he didn’t recognize. 

Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters/File
South Sudan Theatre Company directors Joseph Abuk (r.) and Alfred Ngbangu (c.) watched as their actors rehearsed a play for the World Shakespeare Festival.

“That was how I learned our brutalized Arabic, this language we Africanized after the Arabs gave it to us,” he says. Sixty years later, when it came time to pick a South Sudanese language to perform Shakespeare in, the choice was obvious.

“It’s the language that connects us whether we are Dinka, Nuer, Bari, whatever,” he says. “And this was a time when we needed languages that could be bridges.” 

For the play, he chose a lesser-known Shakespearean epic, “Cymbeline,” a knotty drama about a British insurgency against Roman colonialism that seemed to hold a mirror to South Sudan’s own history of exploitation and redemption. 

And then he set out on his translation, a painstaking two-month exercise in which he says he relied “not on a dictionary, but on my childhood.” Though there had been scattered attempts to standardize Juba Arabic over the years, mostly by missionaries, the language was still largely oral, so there was little literature that Abuk could study as a guide or a dictionary to help conjure up the right word. 

For that reason many wondered if the translation would work, says Esther Liberato, one of the actresses in the company and now the head of the drama department at the University of Juba. 

To South Sudanese, Juba Arabic was a language for deciding the price of vegetables and haggling for a taxi. And Shakespeare was, well, Shakespeare. But when she first read through the translation, Ms. Liberato was stunned. Not only was Juba Arabic roomy and expressive enough to accommodate Shakespeare, suddenly it felt as if his plays belonged to her.

Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters/File
Actors with the South Sudan Theatre Company rehearse a play for the World Shakespeare Festival, which was held in London in 2012. The company performed ‘Cymbeline’ in Juba Arabic.

“We saw then that our language, our Juba Arabic, can be the language of Shakespeare,” she says. “That was not a small thing.” 

In May 2012, the South Sudan Theatre Company flew from the tented airport huddled at the edge of Juba to London. There, their version of “Cymbeline” was set to debut at the World Shakespeare Festival alongside translated Shakespearean epics from 36 other countries. 

“Played with this much heart, even Shakespeare’s most rambling romance becomes irresistible,” wrote The Guardian in its four-star review of the play. “Juba Arabic ... brings the high and mighty right down to Earth, since courtiers and shepherds share the same language. It’s also the neutral lingua franca among South Sudan’s various tribes and this is whole-hearted, full-bodied populist theatre that sides with people over state.” 

For the performers, too, the play was a revelation and an affirmation of dignity.  

“For the first time, white people clapped for us,” Abuk remembers. “We were not just a country of babies swatting flies off their faces. We were a place with its own culture and history.” 

***

Every language tells the story of its speakers, but perhaps none so obviously as creoles, mixed languages formed by local reengineering of a foreign tongue. They are languages of collision, defined by their sudden, often violent formation. Most of the dozens of distinct creoles in the world today are also the oral histories of empire.

Adriane Ohanesian/Reuters/File
The South Sudan capital of Juba, shown here at sunset, has a population of 230,000.

They were born during the brutal era of slavery, conquest, and empire-building that radiated out from Europe and the Middle East from the 1600s to the 1900s. They formed when the languages of conquest collided with the people who were conquered: The colonial subjects bent and warped the dominant tongues into ways of speaking all their own.

“If you follow the history of the world, it’s similar everywhere – one language prevails at the expense of others,” says Salikoko Mufwene, the Frank J. McLoraine distinguished service professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago and an expert on creoles. “But the language, very often, wins only a Pyrrhic victory. It prevails, but it is transformed.” 

In Haiti, as plantation slavery boomed in the 17th and 18th centuries, French bent and cracked into Kreyòl Ayisyen. In Sierra Leone, freed American slaves and local inhabitants hammered English into Krio. And in southern Sudan in the 19th century, simplified forms of Arabic became the lingua franca of the jihadiya, the Ottoman Empire’s African slave armies, as well as traders and travelers, and eventually, ordinary people looking for a way to communicate across ethnic and geographical boundaries. 

One European travelogue of the region written in the 1920s provided snippets of dialogue that might be useful in the region: 

El abiad auz shuf afiyal ala-shan dugi-hum bundukia – The white man wants to find some elephants to shoot.

Ana t’aban wa mush auz rua foq el sicca bita afiyal – I am very tired and do not like running in the tracks of elephants. 

By the early 20th century, however, southern Sudan had been slotted snugly into the British Empire, and in 1928 English was declared the official language. Schools could teach in local vernaculars, but not in the region’s version of Arabic. Then, as now, it was shunned as a debased tongue. 

Sudan’s independence from Britain in 1956 forced another change on the south. Its rulers in Muslim, Arabic-speaking Khartoum, 1,200 miles north of Juba, forced schools to switch to standard Arabic. Livid over the imposition of what felt like a foreign culture – and a foreign language – southerners began a war for independence that would continue, off and on, for the next five decades.

***

As a young teacher in the 1980s, Moses Mading was inspired by Sudan’s draconian language policies to join the southern liberation struggle. “When you learn a language, you learn your culture,” he says. And if you forgot a language, he reasoned, you forgot your culture, too.

Pete Muller/AP/File
A man wears a shirt based on South Sudan's flag at a soccer match in Juba, South Sudan, in July 2011.

Three decades later, Mr. Mading is the director general for national languages in South Sudan’s Department of Education, where he oversees a project to transition primary school instruction from English to local South Sudanese languages. 

But Juba Arabic, he says, isn’t a part of that fight. “It’s not a priority,” he says. “First we need to develop our ethnic languages.” 

For Mading, like many South Sudanese, Juba Arabic is still Arabic – and therefore a relic of a painful past he’d rather move on from (“Arabic is a dangerous language,” he says). But to proponents of Juba Arabic, that’s a simplistic read of the history. 

“Juba Arabic is our own invention. It doesn’t belong to anyone else,” says Abuk, the dramaturge. 

Since 2013, meanwhile, South Sudan has been at war with itself, a conflict that has re-exposed and deepened old ethnic fault lines, themselves intimately tied to language.

“The problem is that our patriotism is to tribe and not to country,” says Mr. Suwa, the pastor and translator. “Juba Arabic is our melting pot, but people don’t always see that.” 

Still, languages hardly need official recognition to function. 

“If you come to a place, you must learn to speak the language of that place, and Juba Arabic is the language of this place,” says Lucia Marten, pouring out tiny cups of spicy, tooth-achingly sweet tea at her small shop in the Malakia neighborhood of Juba. “Here people will not understand you if you speak in the language of your tribe. It is this one [Juba Arabic] that brings us all together.”

Even in the corridors of power here, where English should be king, Juba Arabic is never far offstage. It is the language of lunchtime gossip and hallway chatter in government offices. And when President Salva Kiir returned from a recent round of peace talks in Khartoum in August, he addressed the crowd who had gathered to meet him at the Juba Airport not in English, but in Juba Arabic.

Michael Onyiego/AP/File
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (c.) attends an event in Juba, the capital, after a trip abroad.

To many, the questions about Juba Arabic’s future role here have become all the more urgent in the wake of those peace talks. As part of the final peace agreement, the warring factions agreed, among other things, to a kind of ethnic federalism, which will divide the country into administrative units based largely on tribe.

“Every inch of South Sudan has to be marked as part of one tribal homeland or another,” wrote the Ugandan political commentator and scholar Mahmood Mamdani in a recent New York Times op-ed. “The result will be the disenfranchisement of a large section of South Sudan’s population.” 

Though finalized, many still fear the peace agreement, like others before it, will dissolve before it is ever implemented. 

Those fighting for Juba Arabic, meanwhile, are cleareyed. No one sees a common language as the thing that will end the fighting, or stop the bloody political rivalry at the highest levels of leadership here. But languages, they note, do have a power that government mandates and peace treaties don’t. They are alive. They are embedded. They quite literally help people understand each other. And that may be as good a starting place as any for this long-fractured country. 

My people, if you speak, they say you are bad, raps Kalisto Daduyo – better known by his stage name One Pound – in Juba Arabic on his track “Expensive Things.” They don’t know that you’re speaking the right words/ They don’t know that your words are the ones that will save the people.

***

In April 2005, Seyi saw a knot of people jostling for space around a billboard in Kakuma, the refugee camp where he lived. 

When he got closer, he realized they were straining for a look at a list of names that had just been posted – the recipients of a scholarship he had applied for three months before, to attend university in Canada. He shuffled forward with the crowd, craning to see it. 

Suddenly, his eyes snagged on a name. Dedy Seyi. 

The scholarship also came with another prize. Canadian residency. His ticket out. The world, it seemed, was billowing open. And Seyi charged in.

But as the years in Canada unfurled, Seyi found himself quietly desperate, in the same way he had been as a teenager in the camp, not to lose his Juba Arabic.

But this time, he was thinking on a bigger scale. Earlier this year, with a small group of friends, he started the first Juba ­Arabic-language newspaper, Salaam Junub Sudan. 

“That word, salaam, it’s a greeting, and it also literally means ‘peace,’ ” he says. “So the idea is that the barriers will fall away when people use this language, when they read this paper.” 

In August, between overnight shifts at the pet food warehouse where he works, he edited and printed 75 copies of the first issue. 

It wasn’t much, but it was a start. 

“For a long time, we’ve kept this language at bay,” he says. “But I thought, let’s embark on this. Let’s treat this language as a thing that’s important, because it is.” 

Nancy Acayo, Samir Bol, and Silvano Yokwe contributed to this report. Support for the story was provided by the International Women’s Media Foundation. 

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Breakthroughs

Ideas that drive change

5. Open SESAME: Where scientists break down atoms – and barriers

The Middle East is often portrayed as a region locked in perpetual turmoil. But in the foothills of western Jordan, scientists from all over the region are setting aside national politics to work together.

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In what is being hailed as a breakthrough in science diplomacy, a particle accelerator in Jordan is bringing together scientists from across the fragmented Middle East to work together, to better understand their shared past, and to find solutions for their common future. At the UNESCO-supported SESAME, or Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, researchers from Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Palestinian territories, Pakistan, and Turkey have been finding common ground. Many of these nations have poor relations, are in a state of frequent conflict, or in some cases have no diplomatic relations at all. But rather than viewing each other as political foes or even academic competitors these researchers have come to accept each other as colleagues and collaborators. The various research projects shed light on member nations’ shared heritage and common challenges. In the words of Egyptian infrared beamline scientist Gihan Kamel: “It is as if we are opening a door to infinite possibilities, while looking at our common history and future.”

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Open SESAME: Where scientists break down atoms – and barriers

Three scientists in white lab coats huddle as a faint red beam of energy the diameter of a small coin streams into the square trailer.

In a graceful, almost choreographed movement, they check computer readouts, adjust the beam, and jot down notes as data splashes out in charts of red, green, and blue on the monitors.

They barely speak a word, for good reason – they speak different languages. But here they have no need for their mother tongues.

“We come from many countries,” Messaoud Harfouche, an Algerian beamline scientist, says as he checks a monitor. “But we all speak the language of science.”

In what is being hailed as a breakthrough in science diplomacy, a particle accelerator in Jordan is breaking down atoms and barriers, offering scientists from across the fragmented Middle East the chance to work together, to better understand their shared past, and to find solutions for their common future.

At the UNESCO-supported SESAME, or Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, researchers and scientists have spent months learning from each other since the particle accelerator became fully operational this spring.

Nestled among pines and olive trees in the foothills of western Jordan, a nondescript warehouse houses a concrete-enclosed loop nearly 150 yards long. Inside the ring, electrons circle at nearly a million times per second, approaching the speed of light, being fed off into separate beamlines housed in trailers extending off from the main loop like off-ramps.

This synchrotron is similar in principle to more famous particle accelerators such as CERN near Geneva or Fermilab in Illinois. Yet while those accelerators are devoted to probing the fundamentals of physics, the synchrotron at SESAME is for practical research and analysis of items ranging from 4,000-year-old human remains to modern soil samples.

On the premises at any given time are researchers and experts from Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Palestinian territories, Pakistan, and Turkey.

Many of these nations have poor relations, are in frequent conflict, or in some cases, have no diplomatic relations at all. But rather than viewing each other as political foes or even academic competitors these researchers have come to accept each other as colleagues and collaborators.

Common ground

Politically speaking, the barriers are great: Israel and Iran have no diplomatic ties; Turkey is locked in a dispute with Cyprus; and Israel and Palestinian groups exist in a seemingly endless cycle of conflict.

Jordan, the host country which donated the land and facility, is one of the only states that has friendly relations and full ties with all.

Organizers say this is by design; SESAME’s main aim is to encourage scientists from across borders and faiths to meet and cooperate, even when their leaders refuse to do the same.

“SESAME is built on the philosophy of science diplomacy; to have experts from different countries and backgrounds to meet under the roof of science to work together, experiment together, and publish research together,” says Dr. Giorgio Paolucci, scientific director at SESAME.

Currently, the synchrotron at SESAME is running two separate beamlines used for infrared X-ray and X-ray fluorescence analyzing subjects such as molecules and ancient statues. The center is set to have a total of six beamlines, including tomography and material sciences, online by 2022.

The various research projects shed light on member nations’ shared heritage and common challenges.

A Cypriot team of biological anthropologists are working with Arab researchers to scan bones and teeth from 4,000-year-old remains from Cyprus, Turkey, and Iran to examine the common diet, environment, migration, and social structures of ancient communities in the eastern Mediterranean region.

At the same time, a Palestinian team is examining soil samples to detect pollution threatening Palestinian and Israeli communities alike, while a Pakistani team is exploring common risk factors for a potentially fatal pregnancy disorder known as eclampsia.

Iranian researchers are scanning 1,000 year-old pages of poetry and Koranic verses to determine the ancient paints and colors used by renowned calligraphers in the region and ways to best preserve the parchments’ shiny gold and vibrant blue, green, and red hues – a breakthrough which would benefit archivists and museums across the region.

Egyptian infrared beamline scientist Gihan Kamel sorts through the various samples she is rotating in and out on a half-hour and hourly basis: a small bag of ancient teeth from Turkey, slides of placenta, segments of a Nabatean sandstone statue from Petra, and 800-year old pages of the Koran.

“Here we are able to analyze and X-ray samples from across so many fields; biology, chemistry, archeology, cultural heritage,” Dr. Kamel says. “It is as if we are opening a door to infinite possibilities, while looking at our common history and future.”

Fostering collaboration

But SESAME is doing more than just allowing a safe space for scientific minds to meet.

By approving multi-disciplinary projects requiring a wide range of experts, it is encouraging scientists and experts to rely on each other to share their expertise. An archaeologist will be in the need of a physicist and a geologist, a biologist would need a chemist and a beamline expert.

“Often you don’t find all the expertise in one country and you are forced to turn to people from different countries to cooperate,” says Walid Zidan, SESAME administrative director. “And we happen to have them all right here at this center.”

With the vast majority of light synchrotrons located in the West and none in Africa or West Asia, SESAME provides a valuable tool for institutions and researchers who would otherwise be unable to afford the money, time, or red tape to secure visas to carry out their work in Europe or the United States.

It is democratizing science, giving access to some of the latest research tools to a region that once carried the light of science and reason while much of the Western world was in darkness, but now faces barriers – logistical and political – to fulfill its potential.

“While each of us have advanced centers at home, none of us have facilities like this,” says Neama Imam, an Egyptian physicist who also works with Egypt’s Atomic Energy Authority.

“Here what takes us a half-hour to complete would take us 24 hours in our home countries – if we could do it all.”

SESAME is the only option for users such as Iranian researchers, local universities, Arab museums, and environmentalists, who either have limited diplomatic access to visas or inadequate funding to go abroad.

Less than a year in operation, the center’s work has attracted many; SESAME has received 60 proposals for projects from researchers across the world at the synchrotron for 2019.

But the center is not without its challenges; due to intense electricity needs and maintenance, SESAME costs more than $6 million to operate each year. Although the member nations pay a segment based on their GDP, many are behind on their payments.

Then there is the question of regional politics, which had previously delayed and threatened to derail the project since its inception in 2003.

But no matter the political temperature or rhetoric, organizers say SESAME will remain a space for scientists to meet and work together, even when politicians try to divide them.

 “When we talk about X-rays and atoms, we are speaking the language that unites us,” Dr. Harfouche says.

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated the length of the storage ring at SESAME. It is 133 meters or 145 yards.]

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The Monitor's View

Ukraine needs the long arm of the law

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The killing last Sunday of an anti-corruption activist in Kiev, Ukraine, along with dozens of other attacks, shows that the West now needs better tools to influence Ukraine and other countries in the global fight for clean governance. Indeed, Ukraine has become a test case of whether foreign pressure can help end entrenched corruption in a sovereign country. Corruption on a grand scale is often a source of civic unrest, terrorism, drug trafficking, and many other problems that can cross borders. Yet even as corruption seems to be advancing, so is popular indignation. “People around the world … no longer accept grand corruption as an inevitable fact of life,” writes United States federal Judge Mark Wolf in the journal Daedalus. (Judge Wolf has been the leading advocate for the creation of an international anti-corruption court.) The desire for honest, transparent, and accountable government knows no bounds. The people of Ukraine want and need help to oust corrupt leaders. With activists willing to sacrifice for this cause, the rest of the world can do more.

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Ukraine needs the long arm of the law

Far more than the people of Ukraine took notice on Sunday when a young and prominent anti-corruption activist, Kateryna Handzyuk, died in Kiev after an acid attack.

While protests were quickly held in five cities demanding her killers be held to account, it was the strong reactions in Washington and European capitals that mattered more – mainly because Ukraine has become a test case of whether foreign pressure can help end entrenched corruption in a sovereign country.

Ever since a pro-democracy revolution four years ago, Ukraine has been on the front line of the West’s struggle with Russia and its brand of authoritarian rule. Kremlin-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine are trying to split the country. Yet the West has also withheld critical financial aid to the government of President Petro Poroshenko until it implements anti-corruption reforms, such as starting a special court to deal with high-level graft. It would be useless to let Ukraine enter the European Union, as it wishes to do, if it is rotting within from greedy officials.

The killing of Ms. Handzyuk, along with dozens of attacks on similar activists, shows the West now needs better tools to influence Ukraine and other countries in the growing global fight for clean governance. Corruption on a grand scale like that in Ukraine is often a source of civic unrest, terrorism, drug trafficking, and many other problems that often leap across borders.

Yet even as corruption seems to be advancing in many countries, so has popular indignation. “People around the world, particularly young people, no longer accept grand corruption as an inevitable fact of life,” writes United States federal Judge Mark Wolf in the latest edition of the journal Daedalus.

Since 2014, Judge Wolf has been the leading advocate for the creation of an international anti-corruption court. Such an impartial tribunal, similar to the current International Criminal Court (ICC), would put a country’s officials on trial if that country is unwilling or unable to make good-faith efforts to probe and punish them.

The impact of such a court on corruption, contends Wolf, would be “even greater than the ICC’s impact on violations of human rights.” One example of how the long arm of the law can reach across borders is a unique legal tool in the United States, the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The US has used the law to prosecute foreign businesses and officials, not just Americans. The act has spurred many countries to adopt international codes aimed at curbing corruption.

The desire for honest, transparent, and accountable government knows no bounds. The people of Ukraine want and need help to oust corrupt leaders. With activists willing to sacrifice for this cause, the rest of the world can do more.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

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

The power of Christ is with us today

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Today’s contributor explores an account in the Bible where Jesus calmed a stormy sea – and the contemporary lessons it offers of peace for our own lives and communities, even in the midst of the storms of politics.

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The power of Christ is with us today

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Today the stormy sea of personal political opinions, fake news, political jockeying – along with conditions elsewhere in the world – have turned me more than once to the Bible for guidance and peace.

One account that seems particularly appropriate is the time when Jesus’ disciples were caught in a stormy sea of their own – a literal one (see Mark 6:45-52). Despite doing their best to control the ship, things weren’t looking very good. Their human efforts, while intelligent and good, were unable to control the situation they were in.

Then, Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the sea. In their state of fear, at first they thought he was a spirit, but Jesus declared, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.” If they hadn’t recognized him at this point, they must have known him from what happened next: The storm ceased and the sea became calm.

To me, this is more than just an account of Jesus doing something remarkable – it’s also symbolic of how the Christ, as an ever-present divine influence, comes in our hour of need to deliver us. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains Christ as “the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 332). That the Christ-power is still with us today is evidenced in Jesus’ own words when he said to his disciples, “Lo, I am with you alway” (Matthew 28:20).

While news reports of political polarization and divisiveness may be alarming, instead of dwelling on them, we can affirm in prayer that the peace of Christ is with us “voicing good,” revealing the presence of divine intelligence, order, and harmony. Christ voices the truth that our real nature is Godlike – spiritual, upright, and pure. This truth has given me a deeper confidence that good will prevail, and it’s also inspired me to pray earnestly for all of humanity, that everyone may feel the goodness and grace of God’s love for His children. Such prayer has helped me feel compassion even for those whose political views are totally opposed to my own.

This reliance on God’s love and care for all of us has guided me through many different kinds of turmoil, including political issues in the town where I live. There was a time many years ago when there seemed to be rampant dishonesty in a major department of town government. Even when called to account, the individuals responded with arrogance.

During this time, I studied the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings for inspiration and guidance. This statement from Mrs. Eddy’s “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896” gives an idea of some of the truths I was praying with, which enabled me to support a right outcome to our town’s challenge: “The divine ruling gives prudence and energy; it banishes forever all envy, rivalry, evil thinking, evil speaking and acting; and mortal mind, thus purged, obtains peace and power outside of itself” (pp. 204-205). It took a little while for the situation to be resolved, but truth did prevail and that department of our town government was permanently transformed.

Each of us, in our prayers to see the power of Christ walking on whatever stormy sea humanity happens to be sailing upon, can insist that the peaceful influence of Christ is operating in our lives and in governments around the world. Through this divine power, the divine Truth that Jesus proved, the turbulent seas of this troubled time can be pacified.

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Viewfinder

Young resister

Murad Sezer/Reuters
An ethnic Uighur boy living in Turkey takes part in a protest against China in Istanbul. Supporters of China’s Muslim Uighur minority also protested in Geneva, where the United Nations was conducting a human rights review. Advocacy groups want the UN Human Rights Council to press Chinese authorities on issues such as the use of mass detention centers in the western Xinjiang region, where many Uighurs live, The Associated Press reports. China has been charged with trying to strip the Uighurs of their religion and ethnic identity.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris and Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( November 7th, 2018 )

For more Monitor perspective on world events, click here. And don't forget to join us tomorrow when, in addition to coverage of key United States election results, we look at a community in the US state of Georgia that has gone out of its way to welcome – and protect – its growing refugee population.

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