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2019
January
31
Thursday
Yvonne Zipp
Deputy Daily Editor

College acceptance letters are generally cause for celebration. But one young woman’s has prompted rejoicing on both sides of the Atlantic.

For more than a decade, the Monitor has followed the story of Olga Thimbela, a South African woman who, at the height of the country’s AIDS epidemic, took in six orphaned children and raised them as her own.

A housekeeper with no formal education, Olga fought to make sure those six children – as well as her own – stayed in school. Last year, Olga’s oldest daughter, Naledi, passed her high school exit exams with flying colors, qualifying to attend university.

There was one problem. She owed her high school $208 in fees. Until that was paid, the school wouldn’t release her transcript and she could not apply to college, her mother’s dearest wish. After the Monitor wrote about Naledi’s, and her mom’s, achievement and the new barrier they faced, emails came flooding in.

The message: “Can I help?”

Thanks to people’s generosity, Naledi not only paid her debt but was able to buy a laptop, apply to college, and pay the registration at the University of the Free State.

“Today, as I write this message, she is settling into her dorm, hanging posters, and choosing classes.... In February, she’ll start her degree in agricultural sciences,” writes Ryan Lenora Brown, our South Africa bureau chief.

The Monitor tries to, as Ryan puts it, draw the world in close. “My job reminds me constantly of how mean the world is, but also how much kindness it contains, stubborn and resilient, kindness that reaches across oceans and borders to ask, How can I help? What can I do?”

From all of us, thank you.

Now, here are our five stories of the day.

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1. In frigid heartland, an outpouring of warmth

As extreme cold grips the Midwest, communities are rallying around their unsheltered residents. But will this acute outpouring translate into long-term support for efforts to curb homelessness?

Yvonne
Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer/AP
Robert Bestfelt (l.) and Troy Dear keep warm inside Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky in Covington, Ky., Jan. 30. Cold shelters have opened across the Midwest as temperatures have plunged well below 0 degrees F.

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As bitter cold descends on the upper Midwest – rendering some areas colder than the North Slope of Alaska – attention has turned to the region’s most vulnerable populations. In Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and other Midwestern cities, nonprofits, government agencies, and concerned individuals are rallying around the unsheltered. With many shelters overwhelmed with people in need, a network of police stations, libraries, and park facilities have become temporary warming centers. In Chicago, Vernell Jones sought shelter in a police station at the suggestion of a man singing for money at the airport. The man gave him $5 train fare to make sure he was able to get there. The outpouring of aid has been gratifying, homeless advocates say, but they hope that the heightened attention to the issue might buoy support for efforts to address the chronic problem of homelessness that persists throughout the year. “In this emergency moment, [the city and social service providers] are doing a really good job,” says Doug Schenkelberg, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “I really wish that the city would bring that same sense of urgency 365 days a year.”

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2. In frigid heartland, an outpouring of warmth

Four shirts under a leather jacket has been enough to keep Vernell Jones, a young Chicago man, warm through most of the winter – but not this week.

As Mr. Jones sits slumped in a chair at the Pacific Garden Mission, a homeless shelter in Chicago’s South Loop, he says the frigid weather finally forced him inside. He spent Tuesday night stretched out on the floor of a police station as temperatures in Chicago sank to near-record lows.

“I couldn’t sleep outside,” he says. “It was too cold.”

In the morning a Catholic Charities van brought him here, where he hopes not only to stay warm but “to get back on my feet as well.”

As bitter cold descends on the upper Midwest – rendering some areas colder than the North Slope of Alaska – attention has turned to the region’s most vulnerable populations. Across the Midwest, the universal advice has been to stay inside, but that’s a challenge for those who lack a home. In response, Chicago, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and other Midwestern cities are stepping up services, opening additional warming shelters, and trying to find creative options to help individuals get out of the cold.

The outpouring of support for the homeless – both officially, from nonprofits and government agencies, and privately, as individuals offer up meals, coats, cash, and even hotel rooms – is gratifying, say homeless advocates. They hope it will mean most people stay safe. But they still worry about the risk to those individuals who, for a variety of reasons, won’t get off the streets. And they say that the spotlight turned on the homeless by this week’s extreme weather needs to be more evident during the rest of the year, when the problem is still acute, if not quite as immediately life-threatening.

“In this emergency moment, [the city and social service providers] are doing a really good job,” says Doug Schenkelberg, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

“Where we get frustrated,” he says “is that when the emergency passes, and in a couple days when the temperature goes back up, there will be fewer shelters beds, there will be fewer resources, and the sense of urgency about homelessness will fade. Yet the people that are being served right now with this scaled-up capacity will still be homeless and will be back on the street. I really wish that the city would bring that same sense of urgency 365 days a year.”

An ‘extreme’ situation

In Chicago, where temperatures dropped to -21 degrees F. before dawn on Thursday morning, many shelters are staying open 24 hours per day and not turning away anyone from their doors. The city designated five municipal buses to act as warming centers in an effort to bring shelters to those who might not otherwise seek them out. A network of police stations, libraries, and park facilities also double as warming centers. And the ride service Lyft announced it would offer free rides to warming centers in a number of cities hit by the cold.

Most homeless people seemed to have found shelter in time for the onset of frigid temperatures Tuesday evening, but a few stragglers were still trickling into Pacific Garden Mission on Wednesday.

“The situation outside is extreme,” says the Rev. Philip Kwiatkowski, president of the Pacific Garden Mission, a nondenominational shelter that houses 500 people on a typical winter tonight. By midweek, those numbers swelled to 700 or 800, mostly men, as homeless people who normally shun shelters seek a refuge from the cold.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” says Karsten Walker, another new arrival, who spent the previous night at a different shelter that sent guests out at 5 a.m., into the pre-dawn cold. He sat in a Starbucks until he found his way to Pacific Garden.

Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer/AP
Whitney Lee, one of 75 homeless people to stay overnight at Gabriel's Place, smiles at the community center, in Avondale, Ohio, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. Ms. Lee was given some new clothes Wednesday and said she has been homeless since being released from prison in November.

One of the challenges when the weather gets this extreme is reaching those residents who, for a variety of reasons, refuse to go to a shelter. Some believe the shelters are dangerous and fear for their safety. Others chafe at the rules many shelters impose, particularly if they’re required to go to a single-sex area and be separated from a partner. And some worry about leaving behind belongings they may have in a tent encampment, for instance.

Relief on the street

A good portion of the people Milton Alvarez talked to Tuesday night told him they were planning to stay in their encampments. Mr. Alvarez, a street-medicine outreach professional for Chicago’s Night Ministry, stayed out late Tuesday, checking in on all his van’s regular Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday stops, since he knew it would be too cold the next couple days to make his usual rounds.

He and his Night Ministry colleagues were offering information about the weather predictions, the dangers of staying outside, where to find shelter, and what other options there are. They also distributed blankets, coats, socks, hand warmers, sleeping bags, thermal tops, and gift cards for Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts.

“There were a good amount of people who weren’t really aware of the weather. And there were a balanced number of people who were going to stick it out, and were planning to stay in their encampments.... There’s only so much we can do to prepare them for exposure to the elements,” says Alvarez. “Usually we have a set schedule, but [Tuesday] was anyone we saw, no matter who, we were going to prepare them for what was to come.”

About 40 people from one encampment along Interstate 94 in Chicago were able to find refuge at the Amber Inn, south of downtown, crowding into rooms paid for by a private benefactor. But many say they plan to go back when the weather warms.

“It was a place without any restrictions,” says Willis Norwood, who lived in a tent with his wife. In shelters, he says, “It’s almost like you’re in jail.”

An enduring problem

In Minneapolis, which prides itself on its ability to handle cold, the 30-below temperatures were challenging even some of the most stalwart of residents.

The homeless shelter at First Covenant Church in Minneapolis, usually open from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., extended its hours for much of this week as an additional warming space for the homeless.

At St. Stephen’s Human Services, outreach teams spend shifts checking to see if those who are unsheltered need emergency care. This week, says John Tribbett, the street outreach program manager for the nonprofit, the priority is to distribute warm weather gear and make sure people aren’t in danger of frostbite.

Frostbite “is an ongoing issue every time, every winter, in a place like Minnesota. This is historic cold,” says Mr. Tribett. “We were out [Wednesday] morning and the sun was shining, but we were still looking at about 27 degrees below zero, regular temperature, and I believe it was pushing -50 with the windchill.”

At YouthLink, another Minneapolis nonprofit, cots are set out in the drop-in center for the 20 or so young people staying at the shelter for the night. YouthLink typically serves as a resource for young people ages 16-24 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, when the temperature drops below -10 degrees F., as it has all week in Minneapolis, the center opens 24/7 to youth at night. Games and movies are available in the evening, and everyone is in bed by 11 p.m. In the morning, staff will work with each individual to assess their situation and find them stable housing.

“We get attention now,” says Bob Nelson, the director of operations at YouthLink. “But we have kids all winter long that are looking for a place to stay, and 0 degrees is also cold as well.”

An outpouring of aid

Daniel Gumnit, chief executive of People Serving People, the largest shelter for children and families in the region, says he’s been gratified to see how many agencies have come together around the issue. On Tuesday, his organization hosted the governor, the mayor, the chair of the board of county commissioners, and others to talk about how to best coordinate services and help the homeless during the cold. “That’s a powerful thing,” he says.

Along with the official outpouring of aid, there are countless stories of individuals reaching out. Most nonprofits say they’re seeing an increase in donations, both of money and of coats and clothing.

Back in Chicago, Jones was at the airport the day before heading to Pacific Garden Mission and saw a man in a wheelchair who was singing for money. The man suggested the police station as a temporary shelter and gave Jones $5 for the train fare. At the station, a police officer roused him during the night and presented him with a supper of a Big Mac, fries, and a drink.

“That was nice of him,” Jones says. “I didn’t expect that.”

Correspondent Richard Mertens contributed reporting from Chicago; staff writer Amanda Paulson from Boulder, Colo.; and staffer Bailey Bischoff from Washington. 

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A deeper look

2. ‘We’re all border counties now.’ Sheriffs’ new role as immigration experts

In swaths of the South and West, sheriffs are the primary local law enforcers. With more attention to border security, one result may be heightened interest in their powerful but largely overlooked role.

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As Terrell County sheriff for 13 years, Clint McDonald had four deputies to help him cover a 2,400-square-mile county in Texas. There also were more than 100 Border Patrol agents when he retired in December 2016. He says there are now fewer than 40. “It’s really difficult to cover that much territory and assist the Border Patrol on the front line when you don’t have enough people,” says Mr. McDonald, executive director of the Southwestern Border Sheriffs’ Coalition. As border security and immigration have become the foremost political and policy issue of the Trump administration, the reaction from sheriffs has been as mixed – and polarized – as the general public’s. Many have called for tougher enforcement and more security, while others have said these are issues that should only concern border sheriffs. The result has been a lot more attention on sheriffs as immigration policymakers. “Everyone wants to talk about the wall. They’re not talking about a solution to the problem,” says McDonald. “We have to get past that somehow ... because these sheriffs on the border need help today.”

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‘We’re all border counties now.’ Sheriffs’ new role as immigration experts

Every president introduces their own tastes and traditions to the White House, and President Trump seems to have one for midwinter.

In each of the past three years, that has been when the sheriffs visit. National Sheriffs’ Association leaders made one of the very first official visits to the Trump White House in February 2017. They discussed immigration and border security, and a year later they were invited back to discuss gun and drug crime and, again, federal immigration policy.

This year’s roundtable occurred in early January, with border security the sticking point in the now temporarily lifted government shutdown. And as border security and immigration have become the foremost political and policy issue of the Trump era, the reaction from sheriffs has been as mixed – and polarized – as the general public’s. Many have called for tougher enforcement and more security, while others have said these are issues that should only concern border sheriffs. A longer-term result, some experts say, could be a heightened interest in the powerful but largely overlooked role of sheriffs generally.

“There’s always been some aspects of immigration enforcement devolved to the local level, particularly for border counties,” says Mirya Holman, a political scientist who studies sheriffs at Tulane University in Louisiana. “Now there’s a lot more attention on sheriffs as immigration policymakers.”

Border county sheriffs feeling strain

Operating in thousands of counties across the country, from the urban to the rural, sheriffs’ duties vary dramatically by jurisdiction, ranging from running jails and guarding courthouses to policing roads and investigating felonies. Part law enforcement officer and part politician, they are held accountable by voters in elections – elections that incumbents almost always win. A 2012 survey found that some 99 percent were men and 95 percent were white.

And for large swaths of the country, particularly along the southwest border, the county sheriff’s office is the principal law enforcement agency. Even with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers empowered to operate up to 100 miles from the physical border, border county sheriffs say they’re feeling the strain.

As Terrell County sheriff for 13 years, Clint McDonald had four deputies to help him cover a 2,400-square-mile county and 60 miles of Texas-Mexico border. There also were more than 100 Border Patrol agents when he retired in December 2016. He says there are now fewer than 40. 

“It’s really difficult to cover that much territory and assist the Border Patrol on the front line when you don’t have enough people,” says Mr. McDonald, executive director of the Southwestern Border Sheriffs’ Coalition.

Members of the 31-county coalition released a letter earlier this month describing Mr. Trump’s demand for a $5 billion border wall as “a lightning rod of division” and “not a cogent public policy position.” Building and repairing physical barriers is an important component of improving border security, added the letter, signed by Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot of Arizona, but only part of the solution. Focusing on a wall detracts from a meaningful debate on the other improvements that could be made.

“Everyone wants to talk about the wall. They’re not talking about a solution to the problem,” says McDonald. “We have to get past that somehow and determine what we’re going to do and do it, because these sheriffs on the border need help today.”

No longer only a border issue

Alongside the debate over how to tighten southern border security is a debate over the degree of the security problems that exist. Trump has often described the border as being in “crisis,” and suggested he may declare a national emergency to build the wall. Larger numbers of migrants than normal have also traveled to the border, mostly from Central America, in 2018 and sought to enter the United States legally by claiming asylum. 

Illegal border crossings have dropped significantly in recent years, however. More than 1.6 million illegal border-crossers were apprehended in 2000, then another 1.3 million in 2001, according to CBP statistics. Last year 396,579 people were caught crossing the border illegally, a modest increase from 310,531 in 2017. The opioid epidemic in the US started by the overprescription of legal pain medications has been exacerbated by illegal opioids trafficked over the southern border, analysts say, though most evidence suggests they come through official ports of entry.

Then there is the perception of security. Residents of border cities in Texas have disputed characterizations of the border as a region in crisis, but residents of rural border areas have taken a different view.

Those are the areas where migrants actually cross illegally, and they can burglarize homes and steal vehicles, says McDonald. Migrants have knocked down fences and killed livestock on her family ranch in recent years, Pat Ozuna told the Los Angeles Times.

“Come spend the weekend [there] and see if you feel safe,” she added.

Immigration is no longer just a border issue, however, and there is much more attention on sheriffs as immigration policymakers, according to Dr. Holman. 

“Prior to 2018 I could maybe name five or six [sheriff] elections where immigration was a major issue, and almost all of them were in border counties,” she says. “In 2018 there were maybe 45 elections ... and others where people have maybe not paid attention to sheriff elections but are getting involved.”

Public safety versus politics

Immigration is as much a public safety issue as a political one, however, and sheriffs across the country have found it a fruitful campaign subject.

In Massachusetts’s Bristol County, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson offered to make inmates in his jail help build a border wall last year, part of a broader prison work proposal he campaigned on before winning a fourth six-year term. He met Vice President Mike Pence last September and announced an effort to crowdfund a border wall.

In Butler County in Ohio, Sheriff Richard Jones, described as a “mini Trump,” received national attention back in 2006 for posting billboards around the conservative county warning businesses against hiring unauthorized immigrants. “Illegal Aliens Here,” read one outside his office, with an arrow pointing to the jailhouse. He has been re-elected three times since then and is reportedly thinking of running for US Senate.

This attention is not entirely supportive of sheriffs with tough immigration policies.

In California’s Los Angeles County, Jim McDonnell became the first incumbent sheriff to lose a re-election bid in more than a century, in large part because the immigrant community was unhappy with how his department was working with federal immigration agencies. Sheriff candidates in Mecklenburg and Wake Counties in North Carolina, home to Charlotte and Raleigh respectively, won elections in November in large part due to pledges to withdraw from the federal 287(g) program, which allows county sheriffs to assist federal agencies in deporting immigrants.

Garry McFadden, the new Mecklenburg County sheriff, said he’d had difficulties investigating crimes in immigrant communities as a homicide detective during a three-decade career with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

“Suspects know they can continue to prey upon those people because they are afraid to report them,” he adds. “My focus is educating people, being inclusive with my community, building trust with my community.”

“I’m going to combat crime, but I don’t think 287(g) is a tool I need to do that,” he continues. “Immigration [enforcement] is not my job.... The border is not my issue.”

‘We’re all impacted’

While police chiefs rarely last more than a few years, county sheriffs can keep their positions for decades. Elected to four-year terms in 45 states, incumbents often benefit from one-party domination and a lack of voter interest in local races.

The same has been true of local district attorneys, but as public concern over criminal justice reform has increased, voters and advocacy groups have begun to focus more on those elections.

That kind of attention could soon turn to sheriffs. Advocacy groups opposing 287(g) played a significant role in the North Carolina sheriff elections last year.

“There’s the potential for communities to elect sheriffs more aligned with their values,” says Jessica Pishko, a visiting fellow at the Rule of Law Collaborative at the University of South Carolina School of Law, who is studying sheriffs. “It’s possible people will want to elect sheriffs that make the kind of immigration moves that people want.”

And sheriffs are making immigration moves. Only 75 of more than 3,000 sheriff offices are participating in the 287(g) program, but participation in it has doubled since Trump took office, according to a Pew analysis, driven largely by rural and suburban counties.

“We’re all border counties now, because what happens in my county also happens in their county,” says Mark Dannels, sheriff of Cochise County on the Arizona-Mexico border. “We’re all impacted in terms of drugs, human smuggling.”

“I’d hope all [sheriffs] would stand together on that front,” he adds. “We shouldn’t be policing for politics, we should be policing for people.”

For now, sheriffs across the country are deciding how they want to involve themselves in immigration enforcement – if they want to at all.

“They’re making difficult decisions about how to cooperate with [federal agencies] and run their jails, what to tell their deputies,” says Holman.

“Sheriffs’ actions on immigration are playing a part on immigration at the national level,” she adds, “but it’s more about sheriffs trying to navigate this difficult policy arena.”

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3. When the economy’s bad and your leader’s an autocrat, do you go?

Turkey’s economic and political slide has moved many to leave, but even when safety is the issue, the ‘stay or go’ debate is an agonizing one.

Yvonne
Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
Bengü Gün, director of the Mixer Art Gallery in Istanbul, Turkey, prepared for a new exhibition Jan. 17. Though Ms. Gun plans to stay in the country, young professionals like her, often bilingual and with degrees from Western universities, are leaving Turkey in increasing numbers amid economic, political, and social turmoil.

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Turkey’s so-called brain drain is accelerating, taking with it an educated and financial elite tired of grappling with chronic uncertainty. Among the leading causes: the unhappiness of life under Turkey’s authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and shrinking economic prospects. But are those reasons enough for Turks to leave their homeland behind? The soul-searching was on display recently in Istanbul as an audience of well-off Turks engaged with four panelists who had lived in Western cities. A young woman says she would want her children “to grow up where honesty is a good thing.” But panelists caution about expectations of instant happiness abroad. And in fact, despite the scale of the exodus, many educated and Western-leaning Turks are choosing to stay, preferring to take their chances of excelling at home and making a difference in their native land. Semih Boyaci, a social entrepreneur interviewed at his Impact Hub-Istanbul, says watching turmoil in Turkey while he was in London was also painful. “When you see bright people leaving, it’s something that doesn’t feel good…. From a country’s point of view, it is losing. [Leaving] is not the way to make it a better place.”

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When the economy’s bad and your leader’s an autocrat, do you go?

The tightly packed audience of well-off and well-educated Turks sat rapt at attention for two hours and forty minutes, without a break, as they heard the pros and cons of joining the growing exodus of their fellow citizens fleeing Turkey.

On everybody’s mind: Are the uncertainty and unhappiness of life under Turkey’s authoritarian and anti-Western president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, combined with shrinking economic prospects and an Islam-oriented retooling of Turkish society, reasons enough to leave their homeland behind?

Turkey’s so-called brain drain is accelerating, jumping 63.5 percent from 2016 to 2017 alone according to government statistics, and taking with it an educated and financial elite tired of grappling with chronic uncertainty.

“I am so unhappy I want to sell my car and move,” says one young woman in the audience. “I don’t have a child, but I don’t feel the motivation to have a child. I would want them to grow up where honesty is a good thing.”

“I want to live in a place that is more civilized,” says another woman. “Every day struggling is hard. I’m tired.”

But from the four panelists, all Turks who have lived in Western cities, speaking at an event billed as an “interactive evening on the question of ‘to stay or to go’ ” conducted by the School of Life Istanbul, come words both of encouragement and caution about the challenges of moving abroad and of raising expectations of instant happiness too high.

Such warnings highlight reasons why, despite the scale of the exodus from Turkey, many young, educated, and Western-leaning Turks are in fact choosing to stay, preferring to take their chances of excelling at home and making a difference in their native land – despite the risks and sense of insecurity – rather than start anew in a foreign place.

Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
Turks work in the offices of Impact Hub-Istanbul on Jan. 16, 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey. It was co-founded three years ago by Semih Boyaci to encourage social entrepreneurship projects, from saving food to urban renewal.

“Even in the most tolerant and migrant-friendly place, you should know you will never be ‘one of them,’ ” Selin Girit, a BBC journalist who spent a decade in the UK before returning to Turkey in 2015, tells the crowd. “You are always the Turk, ‘the other.’ If you jump into an adventure like that, you need to know this.”

“This is not so romantic as people think,” says panelist and Toronto resident Evrim Kuran about her work in dozens of countries. “My advice is: Bury your home in your heart, and then go off and do your thing.”

Though Ms. Kuran is officially part of Turkey’s brain drain, and says her creative work has been enhanced by living outside the country, she says in her case, “my brain never migrated” away from Turkey. Likewise, she adds: “I know a lot of people living here whose brains have already migrated.”

It is those legions of soul-searching Turks, buffeted by a series of political, economic, and social shocks that for them date back to the anti-government Gezi Park protests in 2013 and before, that have made departure numbers spike.

Some 113,326 Turks migrated away from the country in 2017, the latest official figures available and a significant rise over the 69,326 who left in 2016, according to the Turkish Institute of Statistics.

Another measure is the loss of more than 11,000 of Turkey’s millionaires in 2016 and 2017, roughly 12 percent of the wealthy class, according to the annual Global Wealth Migration Review, as first reported by The New York Times.

The Review states that Turkey was the fourth “worst performing wealth market” in the world in 2016, shrinking 6 percent even as the global average grew 12 percent. Istanbul was one of the top seven cities in the world for millionaire exodus – a phenomenon the report says is a “very bad sign” that indicates “serious problems in a country.”

Erdoğan: Buy them a ticket

Yet another measure of falling confidence is that, by mid-2018, the number of Turks who applied to live in the UK under the Ankara Agreement – which requires a significant investment – jumped nearly eight-fold from 2013 to 2017, to 1,190 applications.

“We are looking at numbers very similar to those of countries characterized by wars like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and so on,” Ibrahim Sirkeci, a migration expert at Regent’s University London, told the BBC.

“Turkey has always been a country of insecurity, in many respects, and this is not the first time that Turks are leaving Turkey in large numbers,” says Dr. Sirkeci. Yet Turkey is the only industrialized country from which asylum applications to Europe exceed 6,000, he says, noting that in 2016 the number reached 13,000, and in 2018 went over 20,000.

Turkish media are full of stories about “brain migration,” citing outgoing migrants who “do not feel safe,” the “decline in democracy,” and even an “academic genocide” to explain why qualified citizens are leaving in such high numbers.

And Mr. Erdoğan – whose divisive and heavy-handed policies many blame for their decision to leave – has hardly been supportive.

“Those who say they cannot live in Turkey, or in Istanbul, do not offend our country but offend life itself,” Erdoğan said in a speech last March. “We must collect money to buy these people their tickets and send them on their way. They are a burden to our country.”

That was only one burst in the broader salvo of divisive politics since the 2013 Gezi Park unrest, when Erdoğan called the antigovernment, largely secular protesters “terrorists” who defiled “our mosques.”

Other triggers: A failed coup attempt in 2016 prompted a widespread crackdown, purges, and tens of thousands of Turks forced from their jobs. Turkey also suffered dozens of bombings and shootings from Kurdish and Islamic State militants until early 2017.

Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
Turkish social entrepreneur Semih Boyaci, who plans to stay in the country, in the offices of Impact Hub-Istanbul, which he co-founded, Jan. 16, 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey.

In a 2017 referendum, Turks narrowly voted to give Erdoğan unprecedented powers of an imperial presidency. And Turkey’s struggling economy was hammered further by a weakened currency during a United States-Turkey spat last August.

But many Turks who fit the template of those most likely to depart – often with degrees from Western universities, bilingual, and with good job prospects abroad – are also choosing to stay in Turkey.

The country is losing

“Why invest here? I always thought my own contribution would be higher in my own country, no matter what the circumstances,” says Semih Boyaci, co-founder of the Impact Hub-Istanbul, which focuses on social entrepreneurship. The scores of 20-somethings who work in this energetic, hipster-style place draw their satisfaction from projects as diverse as saving food to urban transformation.

“It makes a big impact on society,” says Mr. Boyaci. “I know there are a lot of hard things [in Turkey] – socially, economically, and politically – but it gives a kind of hope, and also a reason to proceed here.”

“When you see bright people leaving, it’s something that doesn’t feel good,” says Boyaci, who got a master's degree in London and worked there, before returning to Turkey to set up the Impact Hub three years ago.

“Some people think that when they go abroad, all their problems will be solved,” he says. Yet watching turmoil in Turkey while you are away – his experience in London – was also painful.

“I had a perfect opportunity in Europe, but if my country is in a horrible situation, I won’t be at peace,” says Boyaci. “I totally respect individual choices, but from a country’s point of view, it is losing. [Leaving] is not the way to make it a better place.”

‘Nothing is permanent’

Art gallery director Bengü Gün made a similar calculation to stay in Turkey, despite the departure of many artists and buyers. She has been director at the Mixer Gallery since it opened six years ago, and now her space for contemporary art is in the trendy port district of Karaköy.

“Nothing is permanent. So all the people who are not leaving are still considering to go,” says Ms. Gün. “People lost hope, economically as well, not only politically. Mostly in arts, people don’t feel there is freedom of speech, there is big self-censorship with artists.”

Still, events that changed the political scene have often proved useful to artists, because they were “a catalyst to get people to see outside the box,” she says. Likewise, in recent years there has been an increasing appreciation of contemporary art inside the country, which helps sustain some 70 art galleries in Istanbul alone.

Those who have stayed already invested a lot in Turkey, whereas abroad your degree and experience “mean nothing,” says Gün.

Still, the trend is toward an exodus, for those Turks who have the option.

“Last year everyone was talking about this. You would go out to dinner and everyone asks, ‘Do you have a plan B? Are you going to stay here? Is it safe?’” says a 29-year-old, US-educated Turkish woman who asked not to be named. She lives in an upscale area near the Reina nightclub, where an Islamic State gunman shot dead 39 people on New Year’s Eve 2016 – the last such attack of its size in Turkey.

“The shootings and bombings were very effective, because money is one thing, but this is about immediate security,” she says. “If I keep losing my friends, of course it will be uninhabitable for me to live here.... Me and my family love this country and we hope it prospers and gets better, and that’s why we are staying. That’s what we talk about.”

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4. Pioneering spirit: How one school helps Latino students tackle AP tests

Advanced Placements can be more than tests. They can be a way to “elevate the conversation away from a deficit framing” about minority students, says one expert. Instead of talk about all the bad things that could happen to kids, it’s a way to focus on all that’s possible.

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Close to 3 million students take the Advanced Placement exams each year, hoping their scores will help with college credits and applications. While the tests and their prerequisite courses have long been accessible for students in affluent and predominantly white schools, African-American and Latino students have been shut out for reasons ranging from funding formulas to expectation gaps. Some inroads have been made in the United States in the past decade, though, with the number of Latino/Hispanic students passing an AP test increasing by 183 percent – the biggest percentage increase of any demographic. And according to data analysis by the Monitor, students at large, mostly minority high schools are passing AP exams at rates competitive with white peers. One such school is Del Valle High School in El Paso, Texas, where educators credit a competitive culture focused on excellence for a passing rate higher than that of the national average. “Because of all the obstacles we have to overcome, people think of us as trying to catch up,” says Ivan Rangel, an AP teacher at Del Valle for almost 10 years. “But I think we’re pioneering.” 

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Pioneering spirit: How one school helps Latino students tackle AP tests

Ivan Rangel weaves among more than 30 desks in his small classroom as he lectures about Confucianism to his high-level Advanced Placement world history class. The ancient Chinese philosopher valued lifelong learning, says Mr. Rangel, and saw education as the only way to “transform the people.” It is self-cultivation that brings success. Nurture not nature.

The class silently stares as their teacher paces among them in his white Converse sneakers. They are absorbing information that will likely be on their AP test this spring. It is a scene common in highly rated high schools in prosperous areas all across the United States.

But this is not one of those prosperous places. To understand Rangel’s lecture, and the value of self-cultivation in education, these students need look no further than themselves.

The student body here at Del Valle High in El Paso, Texas, is 99 percent Hispanic/Latino. Many students speak limited English, and more than one-third in the school district live below the poverty line. Between classes the hallways roar with students joking with one another in Spanish, and Rangel says many of his students come to school early for WiFi and food – two things they sometimes don’t have at home.

That hasn’t slowed their achievement, however. The students at Del Valle are passing Advanced Placement (AP) tests at a rate that rivals many predominantly white, middle class schools. “Because of all the obstacles we have to overcome, people think of us as trying to catch up,” says Rangel, who has been an AP teacher at Del Valle for almost 10 years. “But I think we’re pioneering.”

In a way, they are pioneers. The number of Hispanic/Latino students passing an AP test in the United States has increased by 183 percent over the last decade – the biggest percentage increase of any demographic. And according to a Monitor analysis of the US Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection, even Hispanic/Latino students at large, mostly minority high schools like Del Valle – those that are often expected to struggle the most – are passing AP exams at rates competitive with white peers.

Del Valle could offer a model for how similar schools can provide their students a strong foundation for higher education. One secret: promoting competition in academics, not just sports.

“The students here are aggressive and relentless about doing well in school,” says Ysleta Independent School District Superintendent Xavier De La Torre. “It’s all about helping kids understand that the trajectory that your life will take is directly tied to how hard you work now, and what you achieve now,” he explains.

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Xavier De La Torre is the superintendent of the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, where a high number of the district's Hispanic/Latino, low-income students are taking and passing Advanced Placement tests.

Talking point: unequal access

AP classes are rigorous high school courses offered in subjects ranging from environmental science and French to calculus and world history. Students are graded just like other classes, but at year’s end, they usually take an AP test, administered by the College Board. Students score between a 1 and a 5, with high scores earning college credit at many institutions.

More than 2.8 million high school students took an AP test in 2018 – almost quadruple the number of test-takers a decade ago. Proponents of the exams say that this is a testament to AP’s increasing value in higher education: students are more likely to be accepted to college, and then succeed, if they have passing AP scores on their application.

But access to AP classes and AP testing results have long been marred by racial and economic inequities. Mostly African-American and mostly Latino high schools face AP opportunity gaps, created by state and local funding formulas, teacher placements, and most importantly, an expectations gap, says Reid Saaris, founder of Equal Opportunity Schools, a group that helps low-income students of color get access to AP classes.

“[E]qually talented black and Latino students are less likely to be given information about the benefits of AP and how to sign up, are less likely to be encouraged by educators to participate in advanced courses,” says Mr. Saaris. “As a country we need to be talking about that.”

To try to better understand this disparity the Monitor took a closer look at US Department of Education data from highly segregated schools – institutions where 90 percent or more of the students are black/African-American, or 90 percent or more are Hispanic/Latino. The number of these intensely segregated, nonwhite schools has more than tripled over the last three decades. Experts point to AP testing as one of the places to better understand segregation's effects. 

Some schools stand out

The Monitor’s analysis of the Civil Rights Data Collection from the US Department of Education shows that large (more than 800 students) and segregated (more than 90 percent of students from one racial category) US high schools produce widely different AP results if sorted by race.

At the 607 large, mostly white schools included in the survey, 18 percent of students on average took an AP exam of some kind at the end of the year. Nine percent of all students passed a test (defined as scoring a 3 or higher, a level at which colleges begin to consider awarding credits).

At the 93 large, mostly black/African-American schools surveyed, 10 percent of students, on average, took an AP exam. Only 1 percent of students scored a 3 or higher on a test, according to the Monitor analysis. 

At the 202 large, mostly Hispanic/Latino high schools in the Civil Rights Data Collection, 20 percent of students took an AP test, on average. Six percent of students passed a test. 

This means that Hispanic/Latino students at mostly Hispanic/Latino high schools are more likely to take an AP test than white students at all-white high schools. Almost all of the Latino and black high schools were “mid-high” or “high” poverty  (which means half or more of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch), and fewer than one-fifth of the mostly white high schools had the same designation.

And some largely Hispanic/Latino school districts stood out from the rest – particularly the Ysleta Independent School District of El Paso, Texas, which had five high schools in the top 10 of all 202 large schools with similar demographics. Ysleta’s high schools suggest that poor, minority students have the ability to master the rigors of AP if they are encouraged to take the courses and taught by well-qualified teachers. 

During the 2015-2016 school year, the most recent data from the Civil Rights Data Collection, Ysleta’s Riverside, Bel Air, Ysleta, and Eastwood high schools all had AP passage rates above the national average of 22 percent. Del Valle's rate was even higher, with 35 percent of the school’s 1,414 Hispanic/Latino students taking – and passing – an AP course. 

The district has a pre-AP track in its nine middle schools, and a curriculum that schedules Algebra I as an eighth grade course, rather than a high school course.

De La Torre says he has focused on recruiting and retaining talented AP teachers since he came on as superintendent four years ago. He requires all AP teachers to attend a summer training in their course areas and he instructs principals to monitor AP teachers’ success in the classroom. In the near future he hopes to start a financial incentive for teachers, giving $5,000 to teachers for each AP class in which 50 percent of students pass the test. 

Teachers, counselors, and the superintendent point to the culture of excellence promoted at Del Valle as a reason for its students' success. The resulting competitive atmosphere, says Yasmin Villa, one of Del Valle’s school counselors, is a tide that raises all boats.

“[T]hey know so-and-so is the valedictorian and they push themselves to get to the top,” says Ms. Villa. “I’ve been here for 5-1/2 years, and I’ve never not seen a super-competitive class.”  

Eduardo “Eddie” Garcia, Del Valle’s valedictorian, says it’s not a coincidence he and his friends hold the top spots in the class. Their daily lunch conversations, he notes, center around grades and how to do better in school. “It’s fun to compete with each other,” he says. 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Eduardo ("Eddie") Garcia is a senior at Del Valle High School in El Paso, Texas, where he is currently the valedictorian of his class. Eddie is a few credits short of being a sophomore in college – thanks to passing scores on AP tests and dual-credit classes – which means he can likely graduate in three years and pay one year less of tuition.

Eddie’s transcript – he says he’s taken all the AP classes that Del Valle has to offer – will boost his college applications, but it will also make college a financial possibility. Eddie is a few credits short of being a sophomore in college – thanks to passing scores on AP tests and dual-credit classes – which means he can likely graduate in three years and pay one year less of tuition.

“I want to save money by getting my [college] credits in high school,” he says. “I enjoy learning, and being here I get the opportunity to take advantage of that.”

A closer look at gains 

The predominantly Hispanic/Latino high schools have seen big improvement in AP passage scores over the last few years. The five top-scoring Ysleta high schools, for example, all had double digit increases between 2009 and 2015.

Some education experts attribute Latino students’ increasing scores to AP Spanish: a test that would be easy for native Spanish speakers. Others suggest students’ improvement is consistent with an overall increase in the number of Hispanic /Latino students. But hundreds of students passed AP math or science at the top 10 scoring Hispanic/Latino high schools (see graph above), and the rate of Hispanic/Latino AP passers is growing at a faster rate than the overall Hispanic student population.

Figures from the College Board show that in recent years the numbers of minorities taking the exam have steadily climbed. In 2007, about 57,000 Hispanic/Latino students sat for a test; in 2017, the corresponding number was about 163,000, an increase of 184 percent. For African-American students this increase was also impressive, from about 14,000 to 30,000 over the same time period, representing a 119 percent rise. 

But not all large, segregated African-American and Latino schools share in the the good news. At Belaire High School in Baton Rouge, La., for example, only two of the school’s 1,113 black/African-American students took an AP course in 2015. Neither of them passed. At Bell Gardens High outside of Los Angeles, 916 of the school’s 3,000 Hispanic/Latino students took an AP test – none of them passed. And at Morgan Park High School in Chicago, 286 black/African-American students took an AP course, and none passed.

African-American students also remain underrepresented when it comes to scoring a 3 or higher, compared with white and Latino student populations. Black/African-American teens accounted for about 14 percent of the US high school class of 2017 but they were only 4 percent of the students who passed an AP test, according to College Board figures.

Some education experts have begun to question the value of AP programs. Some schools have decided to cut their AP offerings altogether, such as the eight elite private schools in Washington that announced their decision to do that earlier this year.

But in many cases, these schools have the resources to develop challenging courses on their own. Their graduates are perhaps more likely to receive tutor assistance to raise SAT scores, or experience outside activities, such as world travel, that could bolster college applications. Students at segregated minority schools have fewer such advantages. 

“We should focus on APs because the national conversation about black and Latino students trends toward the negative. ‘How do we prevent black students from dropping out?’ Or, ‘How do we prevent black students from going to prison?’ ” says Saaris of Equal Opportunity Schools.

“APs are a way to elevate the conversation away from a deficit framing, away from a talk of all the bad things that could happen to kids, and toward a conversation of all that’s possible when you provide equitable opportunities,” Saaris adds.

Back in Rangel’s AP classroom, with 10 minutes left in the period, Rangel announces that grades from a recent homework assignment are posted on the whiteboard in the front of the classroom, and students are welcome to come look when they finish an in-class assignment. 

The students quickly finish their readings and speed walk toward the whiteboard. They elbow and jostle one another to find their own name on the list.

“Erin, what grade did you get?” one students calls to another. It’s difficult to hear Erin’s answer over the other comparison conversations happening around the room, but judging by the column of 100 percents on the grade sheet, it’s likely she did well.

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On Film

5. Our critic’s three can’t-miss movies for January

For January, the Monitor’s critic highlights one of the Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Film, a documentary about three friends and the sport that helps them stave off heartbreak, and also a biopic about the pair he calls “the greatest comedy duo in film history.”

Yvonne
Sony Pictures Classics/AP
Steve Coogan (l.) and John C. Reilly perform as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in a scene from Sony Pictures Classics’ "Stan & Ollie." Beyond being a fun memory jog, writes the Monitor's Peter Rainer, it's also "a rueful and respectful tribute that stands on its own.”
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Our critic’s three can’t-miss movies for January

A few movies caught Monitor film critic Peter Rainer's attention this month, including "Stan & Ollie," a film about screen duo Laurel and Hardy, and a documentary about young skateboarders.

Artists suffer under communism in ‘Cold War’

Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest film, “Cold War,” which he co-wrote with Piotr Borkowski and Janusz Glowacki and which is a nominee for the Oscar for best foreign language film (Pawlikowski also earned a nod for best director), is dramatized in short narrative bursts over a period of 15 years, ranging across Poland, Germany, France, and Yugoslavia. It’s a movie that seems always in the process of finding itself. 

The film opens in 1949 as Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a music conductor and pianist, is heading a team tasked with chronicling authentic regional Polish songs and dances among the peasantry. While holding auditions for a choral and dance performance, he is struck by the effrontery and sheer beauty of the teenage Zula (Joanna Kulig), who soon becomes not only the emerging troupe’s star but his lover, though she is at least 10 years his junior. The stage is thus set for an incendiary, star-crossed romance between temperamental opposites. What saves the movie is the rude, dynamic force of Kulig’s performance. Without ever sacrificing her own singularity, Kulig is like a crammed compendium of movie femmes fatales.

To his credit, Pawlikowski makes it clear that Wiktor and Zula’s problems are as much personal as political. It’s likely that in any era, these two would make a warring, combustible combo. Still, granting this psychological complexity, what struck home the most forcefully for me in “Cold War” is its depiction, insidious and unrelenting, of how artists under communism suffered for their art. At its best, the film is like a bulletin from a benighted world. Grade: B+ (Rated R for some sexual content, nudity, and language.)

‘Minding the Gap’: Boys battle chaos with skateboarding

In the Oscar-nominated documentary “Minding the Gap," skateboarding is more than just a lark for teenagers Keire Johnson, Zack Mulligan, and Bing Liu. It’s a way of escaping from the extreme difficulties of their lives. Liu, whose first feature film this is, has stated that he doesn’t want people to perceive it as yet another skateboarding documentary. He needn’t have worried. 

For the three boys, skateboarding clearly functions as a stay, however momentary, against chaos. (One of the skateboards has the inscription “This device cures heartache.”) And because of this, the gliding, swooping skateboarding sequences often carry a sense of liberation that is both kinesthetically and emotionally powerful.

Liu expends most of the film’s screen time on Keire and Zack. The ambition of “Minding the Gap” – a full-scale portrait of abuse and forgiveness – is a bit beyond the reach of Liu. It may be that only a dramatic film artist could have done justice to this subject. But as a piece of cinematic self-therapy, fragmented though it is, it has few rivals. Grade: B+ (This movie is not rated.)

‘Stan & Ollie’ pays tribute to classic comedy team

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy made up the greatest comedy duo in film history, and one of the nice things about “Stan & Ollie” is that it will prompt audiences who have never seen their movies to discover them. But the film is much more than a mere memory jog. Directed by Jon S. Baird and written by Jeff Pope, it’s a rueful and respectful tribute that stands on its own because of the extraordinary performances of Steve Coogan as Stan and John C. Reilly as Ollie. 

A brief, bitter split between the two is presaged before the film cuts to 1953 when, reunited, their movie careers very much on the wane, they undertake a tour of outlying British music halls hoping that the renewed attention will secure financing for a new movie project: a comedic version of “Robin Hood” that Stan is writing. “Stan & Ollie” mines the dissension between the men, but what makes the movie more than just a revisionist exercise is that it also shows, without undue sentimentality, the love that bound these two men together.

This double-edged approach would not have been possible without the deep understanding and conviction – the deep regard – that Coogan and Reilly have for their characters. Coogan gets to the quick of Stan’s despondency and resilience. Reilly, fitted with extra jowls and padding, is equally strong as Ollie.

I wish the film had been written and directed with a bit more verve. It’s revivifying when the pair’s wives turn up – Shirley Henderson’s Lucille Hardy and Nina Arianda’s Ida Kitaeva Laurel, both excellent – but the film could have employed them for more than momentary comic relief. Grade: B+ (Rated PG for some language and smoking.)

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The Monitor's View

A leadership style that unites Venezuela

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In a matter of weeks, Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó, a first-term congressman, has united a fractured opposition, been elected head of the National Assembly, and become the country’s constitutional leader. Dozens of countries now recognize Mr. Guaidó as president instead of Nicolás Maduro, who still wields power but does not command legitimacy after a fraudulent reelection last year. How did Guaidó do it? He was given a leg up by a mentor, Leopoldo Lopez of the Popular Will party. Yet it is his humility that has helped him unite an opposition splintered by egos. A fresh face with little hint of personal ambition, Guaidó has won the loyalty of most Venezuelans. He has grounded his claim to authority by listening to people and encouraging them to engage in respectful dialogue. He rallies them by challenging the country’s mood of pessimism. His future remains uncertain, but Guaidó may have lifted a style of leadership in Latin America. It is a kind that leads by following the democratic aspirations of others. If any virtue is required for such leadership, it is humility.

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A leadership style that unites Venezuela

Less than a month ago, fewer than 3 percent of Venezuelans knew the name of Juan Guaidó. Yet in a matter of weeks, the first-term congressman and former industrial engineer has united a fractured opposition, been elected leader of the National Assembly, and become the constitutional leader of Venezuela.

Dozens of countries now recognize him as president instead of Nicolás Maduro, the man in the presidential palace who still wields power through a corrupt military but does not command legitimacy after a fraudulent reelection last year and the steady ruin of a once-wealthy economy.

And all of this was achieved by a man, the son of taxi driver, whose friends and associates describe as a humble servant and one who seeks reconciliation by peaceful, democratic means.

How did he do it?

Mr. Guaidó was given a leg up in becoming Assembly leader by his mentor, Leopoldo Lopez of the Popular Will party, who is being held as a political prisoner. Yet it is his humility that has given him the ability to unite an opposition splintered by tactics and egos. Given the tense crisis in Venezuela and the potential for violence, humility may be just the quality the opposition needs. As a young, fresh face with little hint of personal ambition, Guaidó has captured the loyalty of most Venezuelans. Nearly 90 percent of them reject Mr. Maduro’s rule.

Guaidó has grounded his claim to authority by holding town hall meetings across Venezuela, listening to people and encouraging them to engage in respectful dialogue and public reasoning. He rallies them by challenging the country’s mood of pessimism. “The freedom of our country can only be achieved if we overcome despair,” he says.

He has convinced many governments in Latin America and the West that the Constitution allows him to be the lawful president. And he has extended a forgiving hand, in the form of an offer of amnesty, to any military officer who switches sides.

Guaidó describes his swift ascendency by quoting Rómulo Betancourt, the father of the country’s democracy: “When Venezuela needed liberators, it did not import them, it gave birth to them.”

His political career began as a student leader opposing the late authoritarian president, Hugo Chávez. And as a legislator he focused his energy on investigating corruption. Now he is a leader at the center of a national struggle widely viewed as a global contest between the authoritarian model of governance and the democratic model.

His future remains uncertain but Guaidó at least may have established a new style of leadership in Latin America. It is a kind that leads by following the democratic aspirations of others. And if any virtue is required for such leadership, it is humility, or just what the friends of Guaidó ascribe to him.

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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.

Facing perilous predictions with prayer

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In light of forecasts that an increase in extreme weather conditions could become a new normal, here’s an article exploring how a spiritual perspective can empower us to resist fear and open our hearts to God’s goodness.

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Facing perilous predictions with prayer

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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“Expect larger and more violent wildfires – this is the new normal.” In the state of California where I live, we’ve heard this message widely broadcast over the past year.

As if on cue, a large fire recently broke out in a national forest near my home. Because I live in a heavily populated area with drought conditions that have persisted for several years, concern was palpable. In fact, thousands of residents were put under mandatory evacuation orders.

For several days I watched the news (and the smoky skies) constantly – it was almost as though I was hypnotized. On the fourth day or so of this inferno I recognized I had a choice: I could be swept along by the collective fear and devastating predictions, or I could consciously withdraw my thinking from the fearful picture of impending destruction and loss, and instead open my thought to the God I’ve come to know as only good. I chose to put my trust in God’s care for all of us.

From my study of Christian Science, I’ve learned about the power of prayer based on divine Science, the laws of God, to counteract negative predictions. For me that begins with a deeper look at the nature of reality. And to better understand this reality, I’ve turned to Mary Baker Eddy’s book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” which explains that reality is spiritual and eternal, governed and controlled by God alone.

My prayers started from the basis that the spiritual universe, where we actually live here and now, is a God-created universe, and it is watched over and protected by God. As I prayed, I could see that since God is all good and all-powerful, the forces of good are supreme and must prevail; the disheartening and dire predictions were without authority. Not that they were meteorologically inaccurate, but they didn’t hold up to the larger truth of the spiritual reality.

Because so many residences were threatened, my prayer went out to those whose homes appeared to be in danger. I saw that the spiritual fact of God’s presence and power ensured that only good could be expressed. This Bible verse resonated with me: “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Revelation 19:6). With that sense of God’s all-powerful nature, I felt my fear disappear, and even though there were images in the media of fires in people’s backyards, I felt an absolute assurance that everyone was safe because God was there and the only true power.

The fire ended up burning only 18 structures – cabins that were located in the canyon of the fire’s origin. Although unfortunate, it was such a far cry from the huge number of homes that had been directly threatened. Undoubtedly, there were many people praying during that week. The result was minimal damage compared to what had been anticipated.

This experience awakened me to our God-given right to pray – and expect results – in the face of any prediction we hear that isn’t in line with what we know to be true about God’s government of His creation. No situation can stop us from entering our spiritual protest and seeing proof of God’s harmonious reality.

So much of today’s news would focus our thoughts on what seems to be unavoidable disaster. But we can choose how we take in this news. We can be lured into accepting predictions of doom, or we can withdraw from collective fear and say “No!” We can insist that one infinite God, good, reigns. Recognizing this spiritual fact empowers us to resist fear and place our confidence in the Divine. This allows us to expect – and experience – the triumph of good.

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Viewfinder

An anti-coal front

Markus Schreiber/AP
Activists of the environmental organization Greenpeace protest against coal-generated power in front of the Federal Chancellery in Berlin Jan. 31. A government-appointed panel is preparing to offer recommendations, reports The Associated Press, on how “quitting coal can be done without generating drawn-out protests or harming the German economy.” Germany is committed to the goals set forth in the 2015 Paris climate accord, which set a goal of keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( February 1st, 2019 )

Yvonne Zipp
Deputy Daily Editor

Thanks for spending time with us today. Come back tomorrow. We’ll have a report from New Orleans, where the city has responded to football injustice by, in time-honored fashion, throwing a giant party.

Monitor Daily Podcast

January 31, 2019
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