2019
March
01
Friday

Last year, President Trump ordered his staff to grant son-in-law Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance. That’s perfectly legal – presidents are the top rung of the classified-information ladder.

But some top White House officials were very concerned about the president’s move. That’s because the CIA was worried that Mr. Kushner’s business ties to foreign governments and leaders might make him vulnerable to manipulation.

How do we know this? The short answer is that first The New York Times, and then The Washington Post, reported the story. But the longer answer is that someone from Mr. Trump’s inner circle probably wanted us to know. It’s no accident the Times and Post produced similar pieces. And behind that is a larger point that bears repeating: The sheer amount of stuff we’ve learned about the workings of the Trump administration is extraordinary. Journalists and historians will mine this record for decades to come.

Add it up. First, it’s the daily reporting from a White House that leaks like an aged FIAT’s water pump. Then there are all those tell-all books, from journalists and former White House officials. Finally, there are the investigations. This week’s public testimony from Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, is but a taste of what empowered House Democrats aim to produce.

Nixon’s Watergate tapes were a granular record that is still producing bestsellers. Similarly, a vast archive of Trump material will be a gift to political scientists and historians into the next century. Which college will first offer a major in “Trump studies”? It’s coming, sometime soon.

Now on to our five stories for the day.

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1. In failed Hanoi summit, a silver lining: The drama phase is over

For this story our reporter talked to Victor Cha, President Trump's first choice as ambassador to South Korea. His main insight, shared by others: Real diplomacy requires “spade work.”

Peter
Leah Millis/Reuters
President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pose before their meeting during the second US-North Korea summit at the Metropole hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 27.

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President Trump is generally winning praise among foreign-policy experts and a bipartisan collection of US leaders for balking at North Korea’s demands at the Hanoi summit. But at the same time, the abrupt conclusion without any deal underscores the reality that diplomatic breakthroughs are hard to secure.

“This is what can happen when a president is eager for doing summits quickly,” says Victor Cha, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “There’s not enough spade work that’s done at the working level.” Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un were unable to accept each other’s terms. The two sides failed to agree even on a definition of “denuclearization.”

But for some analysts, the Hanoi summit was a positive, in that it marked the end of the high-drama phase of diplomacy and the start of the real work. “It was successful in shedding clarity and realism on this very complicated issue,” says Katharine Moon, an expert in the US-Korea alliance at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Hanoi, she says, was “a start rather than a debacle. Diplomacy will continue.”

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In failed Hanoi summit, a silver lining: The drama phase is over

The courtship between President Trump and Kim Jong-un that hit a snag in Hanoi Thursday confirms a truth about world affairs: Showy symbolism is easy, diplomacy is hard.

Mr. Trump is generally winning praise among foreign-policy experts and a bipartisan collection of US leaders for balking at North Korea’s demands for quick and substantial sanctions relief in exchange for little in the way of denuclearization.

That Hanoi was not a repeat of Singapore, the two leaders’ first summit last May, where Mr. Kim achieved optics parity with the US president while giving very little, assuaged many worried at the prospect of a second symbolic win for the North.

But at the same time, the abrupt conclusion of the Hanoi summit without any deal underscores the reality that diplomatic breakthroughs – especially on the scale of denuclearizing a historical adversary and removing the threat it poses to the world – are much harder to secure than a feel-good summit.

“This is what can happen when a president is eager for doing summits quickly,” says Victor Cha, senior adviser and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “There’s not enough spade work that’s done at the working level” and what remains is “the hope that the two leaders can overcome any obstacles at the working level.”

At Hanoi, fresh demands

Despite the bonhomie between a US president and a brutal, nuclear-armed dictator that had been on display in Singapore, the two leaders were unable in Hanoi to accept each other’s terms for a deal – and apparently even surprised each other with fresh demands.

The White House says North Korea wanted full sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling its main (but not by any means its only) nuclear facility at Yongbyon. North Korean officials disputed that, saying Kim sought relief from the most recent sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. A senior State Department official said the North also rejected the US demand for a complete freeze on its weapons program.

The two sides failed to agree even on a definition of “denuclearization,” while the North continued to balk at furnishing a complete declaration of its nuclear facilities and weapons sites – a demand nuclear-policy experts say has to be at the foundation of any denuclearization deal.

While there was widespread relief that the president didn’t “take a bad deal,” Dr. Cha says, concern remains that failure at the summit level is harder to overcome than when it’s just part of the “spade work” of working-level diplomacy.

“When diplomacy at the leadership level fails, there’s not really a whole lot of rope after that,” he says.

What must follow the failed summitry is a return to the basics, some Asia and nuclear experts say.

“Real diplomacy is the only way to effectively address the threat from North Korea” and to get to where “the two sides are ready to announce an agreement that includes concrete, verifiable concessions on North Korea’s nuclear program,” says Michael Fuchs, a former deputy assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs. “Let the real negotiators from both sides get to work,” adds Mr. Fuchs, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington. “Until then, no more reality TV summitry.”

Start of the real work

Indeed, for some analysts, the Hanoi summit was a positive, in that it marked the end of the high-drama phase of diplomacy and the start of the real work.

“It was successful in shedding clarity and realism on this very complicated issue for the three main countries involved – the United States, North Korea, and South Korea,” says Katharine Moon, a professor of Asian studies and expert in the US-Korea alliance at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

The summit was “clear recognition that the charm offensive has no place in this, and the working-level people have to be in charge,” she says. Recognition of that leads Professor Moon to declare Hanoi “a start rather than a debacle. Diplomacy will continue.”

Some supporters of Trump’s signature style of diplomacy say the president knows exactly what he is doing – that he learned from decades of business deal-making that you sometimes walk away to eventually get to a deal you can accept.

Sources close to the White House say Trump’s national-security advisers are convinced Kim desperately wants sanctions relief to keep his regime afloat. Now that Kim knows Trump won’t go for just any deal, they add, the North Koreans will get serious about negotiations.

That may be, but others say Trump’s Singapore approach of granting Kim substantial concessions for little in return – followed by a second summit without even an interim deal – has left him “boxed in” by a situation favorable to North Korea.

Indeed, the Defense Department is preparing to announce that the US will no longer hold the large-scale military exercises it has conducted each spring with South Korea, according to reports from the Pentagon Friday. 

‘Freeze for freeze’

“In some ways we are worse off than we were before because what we’re left with now, essentially, is … a situation where the North Koreans have stopped nuclear-missile and nuclear-weapons testing – a freeze – and we the United States have frozen our military exercises” with South Korea, says Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia at CSIS and an Asia diplomat in administrations of both parties.

That’s essentially the “freeze for freeze” that China and Russia proposed to the US in 2017 and which the Trump administration rejected at the time as “absolutely unacceptable and insulting,” Dr. Green says.

The problem is that even with its testing freeze, North Korea will be advancing its weapons and missile programs and building up its stockpile of fissile materials for building even more nuclear weapons. Moreover, if Trump does decide to break out of the “box” he’s in and resume military exercises with South Korea, Green says, he will be “blamed” for antagonizing the North and potentially scuttling diplomacy.

Wellesley’s Moon says if there was any big loser out of Hanoi, it was South Korea. She notes that the country’s president, Moon Jae-in, invested heavily in diplomacy with the North to encourage getting a deal out of Hanoi. With no deal in sight, Mr. Moon will have to reassess his economic engagement with the North, she says.

And beyond that, the Wellesley professor says that, despite the positive turn of actually getting diplomats in charge of the US-North Korea diplomacy, the Trump administration now faces a ticking clock that doesn’t leave unlimited time for hard diplomacy.

“Trump doesn’t have a whole lot of time, with 2020 coming up,” Moon says. “If he’s going to meet Kim again and aim for a deal, it can be at the latest next fall or winter.

“After that,” she adds, the presidential campaign will mean “he probably can’t be focused on a foreign policy issue, even this one.”

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2. It’s not a bust, ‘it’s a rescue’: Florida sting shows shift on trafficking

To shut down a sex trafficking ring that involved Asian immigrants across several Florida counties, police implemented a new and promising approach – one that sees the women as innocents who had been enslaved, not prostitutes.

Peter

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After using hidden cameras to film hundreds of men receiving illicit sex inside a Jupiter, Fla., massage parlor, Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies decided to make their move. But instead of a bust, Sheriff William Snyder had a different take: He called it a “rescue operation.”

An eight-month investigation had uncovered a clandestine operation that trafficked Asian women. The investigation spanned four counties, two states, and involved more than 200 alleged johns, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Mr. Kraft has pleaded not guilty to soliciting a prostitute.

The US has long struggled with how to de-fang trafficking rings where captives are forced to perform illicit activities. But a growing number of cases from Los Angeles to Boston suggest a shift in how law enforcement is investigating and prosecuting commercial sex establishments, particularly those that engage in what one prosecutor called “modern-day slavery.”

The phenomenon is hidden in plain sight, involving some 9,000 largely shabby-looking parlors across 1,000 cities, according to Polaris, a nonprofit that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline. “These types of places are in big towns and small towns across America, in strip malls next to places that we all patronize,” says attorney Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, of the Prince George’s County Human Trafficking Task Force in Maryland. “That’s what the [Jupiter case] suggests – that people are opening their eyes to what’s hidden in plain sight.”

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It’s not a bust, ‘it’s a rescue’: Florida sting shows shift on trafficking

After using hidden cameras to film hundreds of men receiving illicit sex inside a Jupiter, Fla., massage parlor, Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies decided to make their move.

But instead of a bust, Sheriff William Snyder had a different take: He called it a “rescue operation.”

An eight-month investigation had uncovered a clandestine operation that trafficked Asian women, most of whom had come to the United States legally in search of work. The investigation spanned four counties, two states, and involved more than 200 alleged johns. Eleven alleged owners and hundreds of men have been charged with crimes ranging from trafficking to solicitation.

One of them raised the nation’s eyebrows: Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots. Mr. Kraft has pleaded not guilty to soliciting prostitution.

The US has long struggled with how to de-fang trafficking rings where captives are forced to perform illicit activities.

But a growing number of cases from Los Angeles to Boston suggest a shift in how law enforcement across the US is investigating and prosecuting commercial sex establishments, particularly those that engage in what one prosecutor called “modern-day slavery.”

“South Florida is a hotbed as far as verified sex trafficking cases, which has led to a heightened awareness in terms of law enforcement,” says Charles Bender, the founding CEO of Place of Hope in Palm Beach Gardens, a faith-based organization that helps sex trafficking victims re-establish their lives. “This is a serious subject for them, and that is why you are seeing them take the time to figure out what in the world was happening.”

The phenomenon is hidden in plain sight, involving some 9,000 largely shabby-looking parlors across 1,000 cities, amounting to a $3 billion industry, according to Polaris, a nonprofit that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Gauging the number of victims is difficult, given not only the clandestine nature of the work, but a fear-enforced silence. For example, only one of the Jupiter victims is talking to police.

Nevertheless, “regardless of who the perpetrators are, and of what took place, there are victims here of human trafficking, and we need to focus on who the actual traffickers are – and how do they get away with trafficking people,” says Mr. Bender.

That appears to be happening. Authorities in California, Minnesota, Utah, and Washington have all landed large trafficking cases recently. Massachusetts authorities recently charged a woman with running a sex trafficking operation that involved six illicit massage parlors in Boston’s northern suburbs.

To be sure, human trafficking cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute – and experts say law enforcement may need to further involve health regulators and tax authorities to curb the practice. But Mr. Kraft’s alleged involvement in Jupiter has given a glimpse into who drives the demand, and the vulnerability of those supplying the services.

“From my experience, most of the men are relatively affluent, educated, career-oriented, and a lot of them are family men,” says attorney Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, a member of the Prince George’s County Human Trafficking Task Force in Maryland. “In order to pay $100 or more for commercial sex services four times a month, you’ve got to have disposable income and the ability to conceal it so that your significant other won’t be wise to it.”

She and other law-enforcement experts hope the Jupiter case shows trafficking can, and does, happen all over the US.

“These types of places are in big towns and small towns across America, in strip malls next to places that we all patronize,” says Ms. Mehlman-Orozco. “That’s what the [Jupiter rescue mission] suggests – that people are opening their eyes to what’s hidden in plain sight.”

SOURCE: Polaris, US Census Bureau
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
SOURCE: Polaris, US Census Bureau
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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3. Why protests are roiling Serbia anew, 20 years after Milošević

The Monitor has an enduring interest in the Balkans. One of our reporters was jailed there during the area's ethnic conflicts of the 1990s. Now some Serbians are protesting creeping authoritarianism and corruption for the first time since the fall of Slobodan Milošević.

Peter
Goran Tomasevic/Reuters
People in Belgrade, Serbia, attend a protest rally marking one year since moderate Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanović was killed.

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Critics had been increasingly taking Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to task for autocracy and restricting freedom of the press when he declared last December that a freer press isn’t guaranteed, “even if there were 5 million people in the street.” But his words became a dare.

For 12 consecutive Saturdays since then, “1 of 5 million” protestors calling for Mr. Vučić’s resignation have spread from the streets of Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, to more than 40 cities and towns. In Belgrade, they routinely march past government buildings and the Serbian public broadcaster RTS, which has barely covered the protests. “If [Vučić] wants to talk to us, he needs to come to the streets,” university student Jelena Anasonović, one of the protest organizers, tells the Monitor.

The protests represent Serbia’s largest street movement since 2000, when a popular uprising toppled Slobodan Milošević. Vučić is a former ultranationalist who served as one of Milošević’s information ministers during the wars that rent Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s. Critics resent how he’s consolidated power and that his conservative party presides over all but three municipalities.

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Why protests are roiling Serbia anew, 20 years after Milošević

Serbia’s last mass movement ousted the autocrat Slobodan Milošević almost 20 years ago. But over the last several months, antigovernment protests have jolted the Balkan nation again. Demonstrations in support of an opposition politician who was badly beaten have grown into nationwide marches against the policies of the Serbian government. Today's demonstrators are hoping to push the current president along the same path as Milošević: out of power.

Q: Why are the protests happening?

For 12 consecutive Saturdays, tens of thousands of protesters have marched against Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, calling for his resignation. The demonstrators claim he and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party have muzzled media freedom and spurred political violence. The peaceful protests have spread from the streets of Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, to more than 40 cities and towns.

Mr. Vučić, whom critics call increasingly autocratic and corrupt, said in December that a freer press isn’t guaranteed, “even if there were 5 million people in the street.” The protesters have co-opted that statement, arguing that one demonstrator can make a difference. This is how the “1 of 5 million” protests got that name.

The demonstrators have taken Vučić’s words as a dare. In Belgrade, they routinely march past government buildings and the Serbian public broadcaster RTS, which has barely covered the protests. “If [Vučić] wants to talk to us, he needs to come to the streets,” university student Jelena Anasonović, one of the protest organizers, tells the Monitor.

Q: What sparked the protests?

On Nov. 23, masked attackers beat opposition politician Borko Stefanović. The next day at a press conference, Mr. Stefanović held up his shirt from the attack, sparking a “No more bloody shirts!” slogan. That slogan was used on Dec. 8 at the first Belgrade protest.

Students initially organized the protests with the support of opposition politicians. But the movement has broadened, attracting a diverse citizenry as it accumulates grievances against the state.

Solidarity protests have recently sprung up in ethnic Serbian enclaves of northern Kosovo. In January, protesters gathered for a special rally marking one year since moderate Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanović was killed. His murder remains unsolved.

Opposition politicians in support of the “1 of 5 million” events are attempting to gain public trust and distill their demands. Some have boycotted parliament in solidarity with the protesters. Alliance for Serbia, a coalition of opposition parties, has drafted an “Agreement With the People” that includes a fight for press freedoms as well as free and fair elections. Protesters at the Feb. 16 Belgrade march were given copies of the agreement to sign and place in boxes on the street.

Q: Why is media freedom in Serbia so pressing?

A recent report from Freedom House, a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Washington, downgraded Serbia from “free” to “partly free.” International observers see the state’s intimidation of press as a symptom of a backsliding democracy. Serbian journalists and media outlets have faced arbitrary tax investigations, limited ad revenue, and discrediting in government-allied media. Outlets critical of the ruling party have been either “shouted down by [Vučić] personally during press conferences, or ... torn apart for days by tabloids and on social media,” reports Una Hajdari for The New Republic.

In December Milan Jovanović, an investigative journalist, survived an arson attack on his home. The mayor of his town, belonging to Vučić’s party, is suspected of inciting the attack. And N1, an independent TV station in the Balkans, has received death threats against its Serbian journalists. Vučić has called the news outlet “antigovernment.”

Q: Where does Serbia stand in terms of joining the European Union?

Serbia is technically in line to join. It has already benefited greatly from the EU, its key trading partner. But Serbia stands to gain an even stronger economy as well as democracy through integration.

Serbia’s EU entry has stalled in negotiations limbo, with the biggest roadblock being its relationship to Kosovo. Serbia still does not recognize its former province that declared independence a decade ago. The 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia – then Yugoslavia – responded to waves of violence against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Vučić’s close ties with Russia have also complicated his moves to gain approval within the bloc.

Q: How did the Serbian government get to this point?

The protests represent Serbia’s largest street movement since 2000, when a popular uprising toppled Slobodan Milošević. Vučić is a former ultranationalist who served as one of Milošević’s information ministers during the wars that rent Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s. Vučić has been president since 2017 after three years as prime minister and has renounced his previous extreme views. Yet critics resent how he’s consolidated power and that his conservative party presides over all but three municipalities.

Though he’s open to snap elections in light of the protests, Vučić has also said he “will not give in to ‘blackmail from opposition politicians,’ ” reports Maja Živanović of the news website Balkan Insight. Vučić’s newly launched countrywide tour, dubbed the Future of Serbia, is seen as a response to the unrest. The campaign also appears as preparation for potential early elections.

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4. Whose Key West? Climate change is driving up the price of paradise.

Around the world, island communities are scrambling to cope with the threat of rising seas. Florida's Key West aims to prove that adaptation is possible. But at what cost? This is the first installment of an occasional series on “Climate Realities.”

Peter

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Anita McGee works seven days a week as a parking attendant in downtown Key West, Fla. She’s lived here for three decades. But since her landlady died this past year, she has been unable to find a new apartment that she can afford. “I don’t want to be pushed out,” she says. “This is home.”

Finding housing is becoming increasingly difficult for many of the people who live and work in this island paradise. The finances of living with hurricanes has played a large role in the rising cost of living. And with storms intensifying and sea levels rising, those expenses are only soaring higher, pushing housing out of reach for many.

Key Westers are proud of their ability to adapt. They see their low-lying island as a sort of measuring stick for resilience. If they can weather the storm of climate change, perhaps there’s a path for other vulnerable coastal areas. The question is whether it can be done in a way that doesn’t squeeze out the cashiers, waiters, and parking attendants like Ms. McGee who help make this place paradise.

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Whose Key West? Climate change is driving up the price of paradise.

On a map, Key West is just a speck of land surrounded by water. Tourists from the mainland drive for hours over the aptly-named Overseas Highway to reach this vacation paradise at the tip of the Florida Keys. The island’s remoteness and sparkling waters entice more than 3 million visitors a year, and buoy residents’ fierce love for the place.

But being out in the middle of the ocean is as much a danger as it is a draw. With an average elevation of 4.7 feet above sea level, Key West is particularly vulnerable to threats from the ocean. That isn’t lost on homeowners, as many know the flood risk of their homes down to the inch.

Key West is on the front line of climate change. The island serves as a sort of measuring stick for resilience. Islands and low-lying coastal areas around the world face looming displacement as seas rise and storms intensify. If the community there can weather the storm of climate change, perhaps there’s a path for other vulnerable coastal areas, too.

“We should do what we can to make our time on this beautiful little rock last as long as possible,” says Alison Higgins, sustainability coordinator for Key West. “As the canary in the coal mine, if we’re not willing to make changes, why should anyone?”

City officials and homeowners have already been adapting infrastructure to keep flooding at bay, with an eye toward Key West’s long-term habitability. But such changes come at a price. And with an already high cost of living driving demographic changes in the Keys, that raises questions about who gets to stay.  

Living with water

Waters are already creeping higher in the Florida Keys. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tidal gauge in Key West has logged about 9 inches of sea-level rise over the past century. As a result, flooding has slowly become more of a norm.

A few times a year, some residents awake to find seawater in the street. That happens during the highest tides. These so-called king tides now rise high enough to bubble up through low-elevation storm drains. Businesses near those low spots keep sandbags at the ready to keep this nuisance flooding at bay. One CVS store relocated after the merchandise on its lowest racks got wet too many times.

The city has invested in infrastructure designed to alleviate nuisance flooding. One-way valves on storm drains block seawater’s easiest path into the streets. Injection wells divert water underground when rains exacerbate flooding during a king tide.

Alfredo Sosa/Staff
An injection well installed by the city helps control flooding on the streets in Key West, Fla., when king tides and rainstorms coincide.

These measures have made a difference, but projections for sea-level rise suggest that the problem could continue to swell. Today’s king tides reach nearly 2-1/2 feet. Scientists estimate that waters could rise 6 to 10 inches above 1992 levels by 2030. Higher seas means bigger king tides and higher storm surge during hurricanes – another source of flooding.

The city has taken steps to elevate portions of Key West, including a community park, a fire station, and some roads. Last year Monroe County, which includes all of the Florida Keys, made plans to raise more roads in anticipation of future sea-level rise – a project that could cost more than $3 million per mile.

But these city and county infrastructure projects can only do so much, says Ms. Higgins. “You raise a road, and that just pushes more water somewhere else, which is usually into the private properties.”

Price of a slice of paradise

The cost of adapting a home to keep flooding out isn’t pocket change. Just ask Peter Batty.

Mr. Batty elevated his Key West home last year. It cost him about $175,000, “part of the price of living in paradise,” he says.

That’s the high end of what raising a home here could cost, as Batty's four-bedroom house is heavy concrete and was resting directly on the ground. Frame houses that already have a crawl space beneath them for leverage could cost between $20,000 to $30,000 to raise because it’s a simpler job.

Batty didn’t plan to raise his home when he bought it in January 2017. But building codes, renovations, and hurricane Irma conspired to give him that nudge.

In Key West, any home built before Dec. 31, 1974, doesn’t have to be brought up to code unless the owner spends more than 50 percent of the house’s value on renovations. Batty had already planned some alterations to the home before Irma ripped the roof off in September 2017, pushing his costs over that threshold.

Batty had raised his house an additional 2 feet 2 inches to surpass the base flood elevation established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Alfredo Sosa/Staff
A painter works on a building in the old part of the city on Jan. 17, 2019 in Key West, Fla. Homes built before 1974 are exempt from many of the newer building codes designed to mitigate flooding. But extensive renovations can trigger those codes to come into effect.

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston sees these building codes as helping build resilience into the community, a natural extension of the hurricane abatement efforts that have always been a part of the city’s planning efforts.

“We have had [some of] the strongest building codes in the United States for years,” she says. “So I see this it is an extension of that. We've gone from wind to water now.”

Raising their houses isn’t the only price Key West homeowners pay for living surrounded by water. If they have a mortgage and are at a high risk of flooding, they usually are required to purchase flood insurance. And, with most of the island at a low base flood elevation, that can get expensive.

On top of flood insurance, mortgage-holding homeowners are also often required to carry separate homeowners and wind insurance policies. The three can add up.

“It is not unheard of that those bills, cumulatively, exceed your mortgage,” says Steve Russ, who is vice president of the board of directors for the grass-roots organization Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe County. “The impact of insurance costs have driven people that I know out of the Keys.”

Elite escape or Key West for all?

Renters are faced with their own set of challenges.

Anita McGee works seven days a week as a parking attendant in downtown Key West. She’s lived here for three decades. But since her landlady died this past year, she has been unable to find a new apartment that she can afford and that will accommodate her two dogs, Tetris and Taffy.

“I should be able to have a place to live and all that,” says Ms. McGee. “Most people should that work hard and are responsible and try to stay with everything and keep everything together in their lives.”

Owning a home is out of the question for McGee and many other service or hourly workers in Key West. Rents are also perilously high. The majority of renters are classified as overburdened, spending more than a third of their paychecks on rent.

Alfredo Sosa/Staff
Anita McGee works as a parking attendant in Key West, Fla., Jan. 17, 2019. She is struggling to find an affordable apartment to rent for herself and her two dogs, Tetris and Taffy.

That financial challenge is putting the squeeze on the city’s workforce. Some hotel workers are provided living quarters, but many of the cashiers, waiters, and parking attendants who keep the vibrant tourist economy going in Key West struggle to find affordable housing. Teachers, police officers, firefighters, and others in the community also struggle to make ends meet, creating staffing challenges.

Some people filling those gaps commute from other parts of the Keys or even make the three-hour-plus drive from the mainland. In 2016, about 38 percent of firefighters throughout the Keys lived on the mainland.

Hurricanes further threaten the tenuous housing situation for Lower Keys residents. Many low-income workers own or rent trailer homes that are particularly vulnerable to high winds, heavy rains, and storm surge. In the wake of a destructive hurricane, the cost of rebuilding can make its way into rental rates, deter some from rebuilding, and prompt some property owners to sell.

Many buyers coming into Key West are looking for vacation homes. This further squeezes the housing market by driving up home prices and reducing the housing stock.

In the past year, Key West home prices have risen 12.2 percent, according to Zillow. And as wealthier buyers of vacation homes supplant permanent residents, the demographic makeup of the island has shifted. United States Census data from 2000 shows that 8.3 percent of the city’s housing units were vacant for seasonal or recreational use. In 2010, that number rose to 13.7 percent.

Local government agencies are exploring the possibility of building resilient affordable housing complexes. But there’s a major roadblock: The state has a cap on development in the Keys to ensure efficient evacuation along the single highway in the event of a hurricane. The Keys are on track to hit that limit by 2023.

There is already workforce and affordable housing, and more in development, but with high demand, there’s a wait. McGee says she’s been on a waiting list for about a year.

Rising waters, rising costs

The cost of living in the Keys is likely to continue to rise with the changing climate. By midcentury, about 2,300 Lower Keys homes could start to see high-tide related property damage, according to calculations published by Florida International University researchers in 2011. By the end of the century that figure could triple.

To compound the economics, FEMA is set to release a draft of new flood maps for the area later this year. The revision will be based on updated elevation data, recent storm data, and improved modeling technology. FEMA does not include sea-level projections in its mapping, but recent storm intensification and sea-level increases will likely be incorporated. The new maps are expected to rezone many properties to lower base flood elevations, increasing flood insurance costs and requiring new buildings to be elevated even more than current codes.

Sea-level rise may already be happening in Key West, but city officials say that it’s happening slowly enough that there’s still time to adapt.

It remains to be seen what the true cost of adaptation will turn out to be long term.

“Even with no climate change issues, we would still have higher cost of living and affordability issues,” Higgins says. “We just have the extra layer on top.”

But the culture in Key West could also add an extra layer of resiliency for the community.

“Being at the end of the earth, we’re very self-sufficient,” says Mayor Johnston. “We’re a very independent, hardy lot. We rally around each other, we take care of each other, we make sure everybody’s OK. And that’s how we make it. You’ve got to be that kind of person to fit in here, too.”

This story was produced with support from an Energy Foundation grant to cover the environment.

 

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Difference-maker

Drivers of change

5. How one woman is taking an after-school program to the big leagues

Giving children opportunities to learn outside of school is a known key to their future success. One teacher’s efforts to keep her own students off street corners has now grown to reach 3,000 D.C.-area kids.

Peter

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Julie Kennedy was working at an elementary school in Washington in the 1990s when she noticed that a number of her fifth-grade girls were hanging out on street corners after school.

A soccer player, Ms. Kennedy invited them to join her for a match after class. The students kept coming back – even well into the winter. So Kennedy turned to her love of poetry.

So was born DC Scores, which partnered a few years ago with D.C. United, a major league soccer team. It now has grown to 3,000 students, boys included. It still focuses on soccer and poetry, but also emphasizes service.

“You don’t need any particular body type or skill set, or really even equipment, to play soccer. You don’t need anything for poetry besides a pencil and something to write on,” says Bethany Rubin Henderson, who became chief executive in 2014.

Each child at DC Scores is part of a neighborhood team. “Those authentic relationships, those bonds, that trust, that encouragement – that’s really what we are about,” she says. “We use that neighborhood team model because it reinforces those values, those tools, those skills that we are teaching the kids.”

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How one woman is taking an after-school program to the big leagues

Schoolteacher Julie Kennedy was working at an elementary school in Washington in the early 1990s when she noticed time and again that a number of her fifth-grade girls were hanging out on street corners after school.

A soccer player, Ms. Kennedy invited them to join her for a match or two in the hours following class. Her informal after-school program was a hit, and the students kept coming back – even well into the winter. So Kennedy turned to her love of poetry, inviting the girls to join her for some creative writing.

This is how DC Scores, an after-school program in Washington, got its start. Officially launched in 1994, the nonprofit has grown from its small group of girls to now involve 3,000 students – boys included – each day. It still focuses on soccer and poetry, and as part of its diverse offerings that have become a signature blend, it also emphasizes service. The range of programming helps children build confidence and have the tools needed for future success.

Bethany Rubin Henderson has been the organization’s executive director since 2014. She brings a background in law, experience in government initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper, and an aptitude for Ultimate Frisbee. She’s credited with an expansion of DC Scores that has brought the organization’s benefits to more children in need.

Vanessa Lenz/Courtesy of DC Scores
Bethany Rubin Henderson worked on My Brother’s Keeper – and has an aptitude for Ultimate Frisbee.

“We are about giving [children] chances to succeed, and soccer, poetry, and service learning projects are such great on-ramps for that,” Ms. Henderson says. “We really focus on building the team around those kids that helps them stay on track.”

Owing to its success, the DC Scores model has been replicated in cities across the United States since the late 1990s through America Scores. This separate nonprofit works on curriculum development and fundraising, and Henderson has been its president for the past two years.

DC Scores offers programming free of charge to children in 69 schools and recreation centers in Washington. The objective is to meet the children where they are, with no barriers to access in the way of transportation and cost. In fact, Henderson says, the organization has significantly increased the number of aftercare seats in the District of Columbia, which does not have universal aftercare programming.

Each school commonly has four DC Scores coaches – two for soccer and two for poetry and service – who are frequently school staff members the nonprofit hires for a “second shift.”

DC Scores works with children in communities confronted with “disproportionate challenges,” Henderson says, such as high rates of poverty and violence. And in the schools that the nonprofit works with, roughly three-quarters of the children are not on grade level in reading or math, according to the organization.

“Many of our kids aren’t lucky enough to have consistent, safe people in their home environment. And our coaches are those people,” says Henderson. The youths “are being mentored by an adult who understands their environment, an adult they bump into in the halls or on the streets or at the corner store. They are being mentored by an adult who knows their peers.”

One of these coaches is Mark “Popsie” Lewis, who has been with the organization since 2009. “I see a lot of kids that gain confidence starting with our classroom setting during poetry and community service learning classes, [and] that confidence transfers to the soccer field and a lot of times into their daily routine and life,” Mr. Lewis says in an email interview. “DC Scores allows kids to have fun in a safe space while experiencing growth.

Neighborhood teams

The activities take place year-round: The fall includes 12 weeks of soccer, poetry, and creative writing; winter has six weeks of soccer and nutrition programming; the spring consists of 12 weeks of soccer and service; and summer features eight weeks of soccer and arts enrichment.

All participants engage in each of the main components of the program, Henderson says, which helps build a variety of skills. And there aren’t prerequisites.

“You don’t need any particular body type or skill set, or really even equipment, to play soccer. You don’t need anything for poetry besides a pencil and something to write on, [and] service learning is about agency. They create something from nothing,” she says.

Each child at DC Scores is part of a neighborhood team. This fosters strong bonds among the participants, Henderson says. 

“Kids join their DC Scores team. That same team plays soccer [and] writes and performs original poetry and spoken word together,” she says. “And that same team takes those issues they were talking about and turns them into action.”

Henderson recounts seeing a young man bragging about the soccer skills of a teammate, who in return praised the young man’s poetry.

“Those authentic relationships, those bonds, that trust, that encouragement – that’s really what we are about,” she says. “We use that neighborhood team model because it reinforces those values, those tools, those skills that we are teaching the kids.”

The organization’s service component is distinctive. Participants explore issues in their community, conduct research, plan a project, execute the work, and reflect on the results. Service projects tend to vary by age group and involve issues that are meaningful to the children, ranging from cleanup projects to community gardens, food drives to immigration marches. Some youths have gone as far as organizing a sexual assault education program, while others have visited a senior center to teach residents how to email and text-message their friends and loved ones.

Before coming to DC Scores, Henderson held a variety of positions in the social, for-profit, and public sectors. She began her career working for the City of New York and practiced law for a number of years. In 2008, she founded City Hall Fellows, a college service corps program designed to prepare young people for engagement in civic leadership. She was also a White House fellow, serving during the Obama administration and working not only on My Brother’s Keeper but also on other projects including the 2013 Youth Jobs+ initiative. 

“I think of myself as a lawyer by training, a social entrepreneur by trade,” she says, noting that at the conclusion of her White House service, she wanted to return to a job at the local level. “I really missed working directly where policies become programs.”

As an athlete herself – Henderson competed nationally in Ultimate Frisbee in college and afterward – she was struck by the model of DC Scores. “It was a really great opportunity to work on issues I care about at the local level using intervention tools and techniques that I really believe in,” she says.

Henderson sees the effect that DC Scores has on its participants, and she sees youths continuing to come back to the program. According to data from the nonprofit, after a 12-week DC Scores period, 83 percent of participants had improved their aerobic capacity, and 99 percent were confident they would graduate from high school. After a year, 96 percent could identify something they were good at.

D.C. United

Several years ago, Henderson brokered a new partnership between DC Scores and D.C. United, a Major League Soccer franchise. As D.C. United’s “official community partner,” DC Scores youth participants attend games, meet players and coaches, and see their poetry printed in game-day programs. “For our kids, that’s really powerful,” Henderson says. “It connects them to something bigger than themselves.”

The partnership has also elevated the nonprofit’s brand profile, which has contributed to the tripling of participants over the past six years. During that same period, the organization’s waiting list has doubled. “There is more demand just in the district than we can meet,” she says. 

The D.C. United partnership has helped make fundraising easier for the nonprofit. The organization’s $2.5 million annual budget is supported by government funding, donations from individuals, and grants.

Andy Bush, chief revenue officer for D.C. United, sees the collaboration as a win-win. While the team has worked with DC Scores for some time, officials are now trying to deepen the relationship.

“We will be using our new stadium to help promote all the amazing work they do,” says Mr. Bush in an email interview. “Every transaction in our stadium will give fans the opportunity to donate and support DC Scores.”

He is keen on what DC Scores has done for young people in the nation’s capital. “They very much integrate into the schools [that] need the most help and they don’t give up,” he says. 

He describes Henderson as an “incredible and diverse thinker, and completely committed to raising the profile of the organization.”

For Henderson, the mission of DC Scores is also personal. She has her own elementary school-age children, and she sees the opportunities available to them in comparison to what program participants have growing up.

“It’s night and day, and it’s not fair,” she says. “Every kid should have the same opportunity.”

• For more, visit dcscores.org.

Three other groups that engage children

UniversalGiving helps people give to and volunteer for top-performing charitable organizations around the world. All the projects below are vetted by UniversalGiving; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the listed cause. 

Stone Soup Leadership Institute develops initiatives and educational tools to enable young people to become community leaders. Take action: Sponsor an underserved youth so he or she can attend a summit organized by this group.

Giraffe Heroes Project encourages people to stick their necks out for the common good and gives them tools to solve public problems. Take action: Financially support this organization’s involvement with children. 

• BRAC USA aims to empower those dealing with poverty, illiteracy, disease, or social injustice. Take action: Pay for a safe space for a Rohingya child who has been forcibly displaced. 

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The Monitor's View

Why Ukraine may elect a jokester

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Ukraine’s democracy is caught up in war, poverty, and corruption, but since 2015 its people have been united in one thing. They have laughed over such troubles by watching a TV sitcom, “Servant of the People.” It stars a comedian who plays a teacher propelled into the presidency after a student puts a video of his anti-establishment tirade on YouTube. The fictional president’s honesty and humility become an asset to him as a leader.

The comedian, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is now a real-life candidate for president. In fact, he is the front-runner in the polls for a March 31 election. If he wins, the victory may show how humor can allow an entire nation to reflect on their woes. In Ukraine, where distrust of the political elite runs high, Mr. Zelenskiy’s popularity can be attributed to the fact that the humor in his show has been an emotional release. The leveling effect has helped reduce fear of the powerful oligarchs.

The laughter reverses a collective dread of corrupt politics. In many democracies, anti-establishment candidates have lately gained office. But perhaps none has risen so fast and so far by using humor as Zelenskiy. His show starts by appealing to popular cynicism. But it offers a touch of unifying hope.

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Why Ukraine may elect a jokester

Ukraine is entering its sixth year of a low-level conflict with Russia in which more than 10,000 people have been killed. More people live in poverty today than before a pro-democracy revolution in 2014. And the current president, Petro Poroshenko, recently tried but failed to declare martial law nationwide. He is also caught up in the country’s latest corruption scandal.

Yet since 2015, Ukrainians have been united in one thing. They have laughed over such troubles by watching a popular TV sitcom, “Servant of the People.” The series, which was picked up by Netflix, stars a comedian who plays a teacher propelled into the presidency after a student puts a video of his anti-establishment tirade on YouTube. The fictional president’s honesty and humility become an asset to him as a leader.

The comedian, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is now a real-life candidate for president. In fact, he is the front-runner in the polls for a March 31 election, leading Mr. Poroshenko and another established politician, Yulia Tymoshenko. If he wins, the victory may show how humor can allow an entire nation to reflect on their woes and enable them to work together. 

In Ukraine, where distrust of the political elite runs high, Mr. Zelenskiy’s popularity can be attributed to the fact that the humor in his show has been an emotional release. The leveling effect of the political jokes has helped reduce fear of the powerful oligarchs. The laughter reverses a collective dread of corrupt politics.

Even on the campaign trail, Zelenskiy uses humor as a great equalizer to remind people that they are in charge. “You yourselves know what to do,” he says. He also asks people to propose candidates for his hoped-for presidential cabinet.

Ukrainians may be ready for a “fresh face,” as Zelenskiy calls himself, even if he has no experience as a policymaker. Besides being trusted for his humor, his other great appeal is a promise to tackle corruption – a common topic in his show. He pledges to serve only one term and to lift immunity from prosecution for top officials.

In many democracies, anti-establishment candidates have lately gained office or prominence. But perhaps none has risen so fast and so far by using political humor as Zelenskiy. His show starts by appealing to popular cynicism. But it offers a touch of unifying hope. His comedy has forced a new self-awareness in Ukraine, the kind that may work against the self-interests of those in power.

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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.

Find refreshing rest

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When employment concerns kept today’s contributor from sleeping soundly, a more spiritual view of “rest” brought peace and restful sleep – and resolution to the work challenges soon followed.

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Find refreshing rest

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Difficulty in getting sufficient sleep for whatever reason is of concern to many. Studies have resulted in estimates that between 50 million and 70 million Americans have sleep-related problems. In the town of 50,000 where I live, there are several sleep clinics.

My heart goes out to those who struggle with this problem. There was a time when I frequently experienced interrupted or fretful sleep because of employment concerns. I was director of a cooperative graduate education program between two universities, when, with little notice, one of the universities withdrew from the agreement. Without the program to manage, I ended up losing a third of my income, which seemed devastating to my family. I also felt some resentment toward an administrator at the university that had dropped its support. My efforts to reestablish the program or replace my lost income through other means were unsuccessful.

I decided to do something I’ve found helpful on other occasions: humbly pray for direction that would restore my peace. The need for peaceful rest has been recognized since biblical times, and the Bible gives hints on how to meet this issue. King Solomon, for instance, advises one to “keep sound wisdom and discretion.... When thou liest down ... thy sleep shall be sweet” (Proverbs 3:21, 24). And Christ Jesus invites all to “come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

One way I like to think of “rest” is as being mentally still in order to feel God’s love, which calms fearful, anxious thinking. This kind of rest comes from being refreshed by spiritual views of God and His creation, which includes everyone. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, notes, “The consciousness of Truth rests us more than hours of repose in unconsciousness” (p. 218).

Christian Science explains that Truth is a Bible-based name for God. It follows, then, that it’s the consciousness of Truth, God, that brings the rest and peace promised by Jesus to anyone feeling weary and burdened. So I’ve found it helpful to ask myself, Am I being receptive to God’s ministrations of goodness and love for all His children, who are made in His spiritual likeness?

In other words, it’s a state of consciousness receptive to God’s messages of love and truth that brings real rest and refreshment. When we open our thought to divine Truth with a willingness to receive fresh spiritual ideas, new and reassuring ideas do come. And they give us a gratifying sense of rest and security in the knowledge that we are preserved and protected in the ever-present love of God, who is Love itself. Resting in this consciousness of Truth is a healing, spiritual activity.

As I earnestly studied the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings, it became clear that as the creation, or spiritual expression, of the divine Mind, God, we can never be deprived of the inspiration and ideas we need to peacefully move forward. Praying this way brought a calm assurance that the needs of both the affected students and my family would be satisfied, although I did not know how. With this sense of peace and purpose, the fear and resentment lifted, and I was able to sleep restfully again.

The following week I was invited to attend a meeting at my state’s department of education. This meeting led to contacts with officials who were significantly interested in the success of the cooperative graduate program. Very soon thereafter the program was reinstated, along with my position, which I held for several more years. I saw this experience as an affirmation of God’s love and care for all.

Science and Health explains, “It is not well to imagine that Jesus demonstrated the divine power to heal only for a select number or for a limited period of time, since to all mankind and in every hour, divine Love supplies all good” (p. 494). Understandingly trusting God, and praying earnestly for His direction, meets our daily needs, and likewise gives us a peaceful sense of rest and refreshment.

Adapted from an article published in the Feb. 4, 2019, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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Viewfinder

Preserving an ancient harvest

Juan Carlos Toro
David Díaz Moreta, Lucas Díaz, and Manuel Díaz, three generations, stand (from l. to r.) in one of the corrales de pesca – fishing pools – in which they trap fish in Chipiona, in southern Spain. Residents have built such pools here for thousands of years, piling rocks that are then held together by the ostiones, or large oysters, that attach to them. As the tide falls, fish are left stranded, becoming an easy catch. By the 1970s the privately owned pools had nearly disappeared because of a 1969 law prohibiting private ownership of the country’s beaches. However, owing to the effort of the 500-member association of tide pool fishermen, known as Jarife, this cultural and historical activity has been preserved for future generations. (For more images, click on the blue button below.)
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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( March 4th, 2019 )

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