2019
April
10
Wednesday

Last week I shared with you all what I thought was one of the most important shifts in American politics during the past 20 years: how white liberals have dramatically changed their views on race and immigration.

Why are “political correctness” and the wall such charged topics? Because of this “Great Awokening.”

So it was with interest this week that I read an open letter to fans by Kyle Korver, one of the top white American players in the National Basketball Association. His message? Working in an environment where three-quarters of his colleagues are black has changed his outlook on white privilege.

As a white man, he has the privilege of opting out of the race conversation. His black teammates don’t. And this can lead to a bland acceptance of inequality, he says. It is the wish, he says, “that everyone would stop making everything ‘about race’ all the time.”

The letter is important because it is an elegant example of a broader shift in thought that is convulsing America – and the world. Our conversations about race and immigration are at the heart of polarization from Australia to Germany. Understanding why that conversation has shifted so dramatically in recent years is essential to finding new ground for moving forward together.

Now onto our five stories today. We have an on-the-ground view from one of Syria’s Christian communities, we explore one university’s efforts to change the diversity debate, and we show how shoes from Massachusetts can change lives in Venezuela.  

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Breakthroughs

Ideas that drive change

1. A black hole, once a mathematical curiosity, is brought to light

In a remarkable scientific achievement, we now have an image of a black hole, for the first time seeing an object math predicted even though its existence initially strained human understanding.

Mark
Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)/National Science Foundation/Reuters
The first ever image of a black hole – taken using a global network of telescopes, conducted by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project – marks a milestone not just in black hole astronomy but for the study of gravity itself.

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An international team of astronomers unveiled today what you might think is an oxymoron: an image of a black hole.

Taken by the Event Horizons Telescope, the snapshot of a black hole some 55 million light-years away shows a glowing swirl of radiation around an unfathomably dark disc. The disc is the shadow of the event horizon, the point of no return for light and all other information.

The technique used to image the black hole’s shadow marks a milestone not just in black hole astronomy but for the study of gravity itself.

“This is going to open up a whole set of tests of general relativity that have never been possible up until now,” says astrophysicist Christopher Impey, the author of the 2018 book “Einstein’s Monsters.”

The image also represents a physical realization of an object that, despite its monstrousness, has long existed only in the realm of pure mathematics.

“The fact that this was calculated so many years ago,” says University of Arizona astrophysicist Lia Medeiros, “and the fact that we actually observed it, and it was exactly what we had predicted, is incredible. It really makes me believe in humans as a species.”

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A black hole, once a mathematical curiosity, is brought to light

Blue Marble, meet Black Shadow.

In what Carlos Moedas, the European commissioner of research, called “a huge breakthrough for humanity,” the Event Horizon Telescope team revealed the first-ever image of the “shadow” of a black hole.

The color-shifted image, an ethereal swirling glow encircling a stark black disc, shows millimeter-wave radiation surrounding a black hole at the center of M87, a galaxy more than 50 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo.

Created using data from eight radio telescopes around the earth run by a global consortium of scientific institutions, the Event Horizon Telescope’s image could prove as much of an iconic image of a black hole as the 1972 photo taken from Apollo 17 is of our planet. A milestone in black hole astronomy, it is the first direct visual evidence of an object once thought to be an mathematical artifact, a glitch in Albert Einstein’s geometric model of gravity, the general theory of relativity.

“We have transformed a mathematical concept, the event horizon” said Goethe University Frankfurt physicist Luciano Rezzolla during the press conference in Brussels, “into a physical object.”

The technique used to image the black hole’s shadow will allow for many more observations of this black hole and of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our own galaxy – observations that could reveal new findings about the workings of gravity itself.

“This is going to open up a whole set of tests of general relativity that have never been possible up until now,” says astrophysicist Christopher Impey, the author of the 2018 book “Einstein’s Monsters: The Life and Times of Black Holes. “This is the first time you get to test general relativity and the ultimate regime of superstrong gravity, where space and time are heavily, hugely distorted.”

Jeenah Moon/Reuters
Dan Marrone speaks during the unveiling of the first image of a black hole at a press conference in Washington April 10.

Even though black holes are the most extreme known objects in the universe, humans first thought of them not by actually detecting them but by imagining them. The first to consider such an object was the English polymath John Michell in a 1784 essay. He wrote in passing that, according to Newtonian physics, which depicts gravity as a force and light as a particle with mass, there could exist a “dark star,” a body so massive that any light particles, if they got close enough, would fall into it.

Working independently 12 years later, the French scholar Pierre-Simon Laplace gave the idea a more thorough mathematical treatment. He correctly calculated the relationship between the mass of a body and the point of no return for light that surrounds it, which today is called the event horizon. Even though Laplace employed two ideas now understood to be false – Newton’s theories of light and gravity – he was pretty close.

“He actually got the right answer for that,” says Cornell University astrophysicist Dong Lai, an expert on black holes. “This sometimes happens in physics. If you make two mistakes, you can get the right answer.”

Michell’s and Laplace’s speculations were abandoned in the 19th century, following Thomas Young’s 1801 discovery that light travels as a wave, leaving no known way for the force of gravity to interact with it. And in any case, even if such “dark stars” existed, there was no known way at the time for astronomers to detect them.

But the idea resurfaced in physics in 1916, when Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity. He conceived of gravity not as a force, as Newton did, but as a consequence of the way massive objects curve space and time.

“One really has to use the theory of general relativity to really appreciate the true meaning of black holes,” says Dr. Lai.

Einstein himself didn’t initially notice the possibility for black holes in his equations. And when the German physicist Karl Schwarzschild wrote to him that year to raise the possibility of black holes and calculating the radius of their event horizons, Einstein initially dismissed black holes as a mathematical anomalies.

Lia Medeiros, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, likens the math of black holes to dividing by zero. “That thing your math teacher told you not to do in high school? We do it all the time,” she says.

The output of this illicit mathematical operation is an extremely distorted pocket of space-time such that even light, the fastest thing there is, gets trapped.

That’s what creates the black hole’s shadow, says Dr. Medeiros, who worked on the University of Arizona’s Event Horizon Telescope team. The black hole at the center of M87 is surrounded by a glowing disc of hot gas and other material that heats up as it plummets into the black hole. Some of the light from the disc, following the curvature of space created by the black hole, bends around it, creating an outline of the event horizon. The rest of the light falls in, leaving a dark, circular void.

“You essentially sequester off a little piece of the universe,”  says Dr. Impey. “You pinch off a piece of space-time so that it’s invisible and hidden from view.”

Mainstream scientists began taking the idea of black holes seriously again in the 1960s, using X-ray detectors on a sounding rocket to detect emissions from the first known black hole, Cygnus X-1, in 1964. So far, only “40 or 50 very good cases of black holes” have been detected, says Dr. Impey, even though they are thought to be very common and lie at the center of every galaxy.

“It’s been very hard work to find black holes,” says Dr. Impey.

But this latest image confirms the power of theoretical astrophysics. The shape of the black hole’s shadow matches theoretical predictions made 40 years ago by astrophysicists Jim Bardeen and Jean-Pierre Luminet.

“The fact that this was calculated so many years ago,” says Dr. Medeiros, “and the fact that we actually observed it, and it was exactly what we had predicted, is incredible. It really makes me believe in humans as a species.”

The image, say observers, heralds a new era in the study of general relativity. Will Einstein’s model, having held up spectacularly against every test imaginable in Earth’s gravitational field, hold up to tests performed in a gravitational field more than two trillion times the mass of our sun?

“That we’re looking at black holes, for me, is super exciting, says Dr. Medeiros. “We’re probing extreme gravity in a way that’s never been probed before.”

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2. In northeast Syria, a Christian community fights for survival

Amid Syria's crisis are countless untold stories. This is the story of the Assyrian Christians, who, against daunting odds, are struggling to keep an ancient community and faith alive.

Mark

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Before the start of Syria’s crisis in 2011, Assyrian Christians who trace their roots to the Assyrian Empire of ancient Mesopotamia numbered about 30,000, concentrated in the northeast. In 2015, ISIS attacked multiple Christian villages, taking some 257 women hostage and destroying several churches in their path.

What remains today in the region is a small core of dedicated but mostly old or aging Christians who have stayed put or returned to ensure the community’s survival. They face difficult odds. While the immediate threat from Islamic State jihadists has diminished, other challenges remain: a lack of youth, an exodus of thousands to foreign countries that is unlikely to be reversed, and an Assad regime that poses a threat.

Marlen Kalo’s cheerful smile contrasts sharply with her negative predictions. “Christians have no future in Syria,” she says. “The majority have been displaced. Those who stayed are a tiny minority. We hope that those living abroad consider coming back here and help us rebuild our country so that it is better than before. If the Christians come back, we will have a future. Otherwise we won’t. I don’t think they will come back.”

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In northeast Syria, a Christian community fights for survival

Sunset plunges the village of Tell Tamer into total darkness on this March evening. In this remote area of northeast Syria, power cuts can drag out for days.

In the windows of the local church, the somber light of candles is reflected as Assyrian Christians gather to bid farewell to yet another member of their dwindling community.

Every member counts.

Before the start of Syria’s crisis in 2011, Christians made up 10 to 12% of the country’s 18 million people. Assyrian Christians – an ethnic as well as a religious community that traces its roots to the Assyrian Empire of ancient Mesopotamia – numbered about 30,000, concentrated in the northeast, primarily here in Tell Tamer and Qamishli.

What remains today in the region is a small core of dedicated but mostly old or aging Christians who have stayed put or returned to ensure the community’s survival.

They face difficult odds. While the immediate threat of the Islamic State jihadists has diminished, other challenges remain: lack of youth, an exodus of thousands to foreign countries that is unlikely to be reversed, and an Assad regime that poses a threat both direct and indirect, as a catalyst to Sunni fundamentalism that has targeted Christians in Syria and Iraq.

A swirl of hope and pessimism

Marlen Kalo is a middle-aged woman whose cheerful smile contrasts sharply with her negative predictions.

“Christians have no future in Syria,” she says outside the church. “The majority have been displaced. Those who stayed are a tiny minority. We hope that those living abroad consider coming back here and help us rebuild our country so that it is better than before. If the Christians come back, we will have a future. Otherwise we won’t. I don’t think they will come back.”

Inside, Rev. Boghos Ichaya presides over the candlelit wake that has gathered dozens of elderly Christians. They sit quietly along two rows of wooden chairs, exchanging the occasional whisper.

His parish, Reverend Ichaya says, does not exceed 400 individuals, mostly natives of Tell Tamer and other villages flanking the Khabur River, where Assyrians have long raised livestock and tilled the land.

“The majority of the people from this area have left,” he confirms. “After the ISIS attacks, almost everybody left. Some of those who stayed in Syria have returned. Of those who went abroad, no one is back.”

In 2015, ISIS attacked multiple Christian villages, taking some 257 women hostage and destroying several churches in their path. The captives were later released in exchange for hefty ransoms – to the tune of “millions” according to several accounts – to which the expat community generously contributed.

‘An original people of Syria’

Among those kidnapped by ISIS was Somo Suleiman, a stately woman who describes the entire experience with the casualness of someone with nerves of steel. While others recall the deafening gunfire of the militants’ arrival, she simply remembers making tea in her native village of Tel Shamiran when she “stumbled upon” three bearded militants in her courtyard.

First they searched her house, unconvinced that she was living alone. Then they ushered her to another house, from which she was driven off with other captives southward to Al-Shadade.

“We were all women,” she recalls. Multiple times ISIS floated the idea of conversion. Multiple times she declined.

“We spent eight months in Al-Shadade,” she continues. “They dealt with us honorably, always knocking on the door and telling us to cover up.”

The day of their release came as a complete surprise, marked by acute disbelief followed by tears of joy and prayers of thanks. Like many others, including her cousin Yuniya Sulaka, she settled in Tell Tamer, determined to keep the community alive on its ancestral land.

“Assyrians are an original people of Syria,” the cousins stress.

With most of their relatives now living happily in Australia, Ms. Sulaka, 55, second-guesses their decision to stay put. “There is nothing for Christians here,” she says glumly. “We are not even living in our own homes.”

Many of the Christian youth have fled this part of Syria, unwilling to risk conscription into the Syrian army or the Kurdish military factions that have fought ISIS and who have the upper hand in the region. Some have joined Christian forces such as the Sutoro, which is aligned with U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, and the Sotoro, which has a foothold in the city of Qamishli and is allied with the Syrian regime. Others are self-organized as village watchmen.

No place like home

Shadiya Maroghe fled the area in 2013 when Jabhat al-Nusra – an Al Qaeda-inspired group that laid the foundations for the rise of ISIS in Syria – kidnapped a number of Assyrian girls, sparking an exodus to Germany and Sweden as well as to Kurdish-held cities like Hassakeh and Qamishli. She lived with her in-laws in a regime-controlled, predominantly Christian suburb of Homs city until five months ago, when she decided to return.

“There we had better services,” she says, drinking tea in her kitchen, where the only light comes from a phone screen and a small lantern. “But no matter how tough it is, your land will always be the prettiest. Every day we hold prayers at the church, and every Sunday we observe mass. The problem is that Christians have nothing to come back to here.”

She works as a cleaner to provide for her sick husband, a former driver who has suffered three heart attacks in the course of the war, her blind sister-in-law, and her five children who are still too young to work.

“I have no adult boys who could help move this family forward,” Ms. Maroghe explains just as the lights come back on, revealing Christian motifs on her wall and a porcelain Virgin Mary on the shelf.

While ISIS sleeper cells are likely to remain a problem in Syria for a long time, Ms. Maroghe says she now feels relatively secure in the region. “No one has bothered us after ISIS,” she notes.

‘We were asking for a new Syria’

Gabriel Gawrieh, a prominent Assyrian Christian based in the nearby city of Qamishli, believes the safety of his community – and indeed of all ethnic and religious components of Syrian society – can be guaranteed only through secular governance. He was an early backer of pro-democracy movements and nonviolent protests against the authoritarian regime of President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.

“We were asking for a new Syria, but the regime and its allies consider all opposition to be terrorists,” he says, sitting in the same office from which he was arrested, along with a brother and a colleague, in December 2013. He credits pressure from the international community for his release. “We were terrorized by ISIS but have also been terrorized by the regime.”

The Syrian regime, he notes, has long presented itself as a protector of Christian and other minorities, securing the loyalty of parts of the community by preying on their fears of ISIS and other jihadist groups or co-opting them into formal institutions to give them a semblance of religious freedom in exchange for staying out of politics.

The reality, he says, is that the minority has had little room to maneuver, well aware that the price of dissent runs the gamut from enforced disappearances to detention and outright death. While some Christians might welcome the regime and its army, he believes forces loyal to Damascus are just one militia among many.

“I sincerely believe that most Christians are not with the continuation of a dictatorial regime,” he says. “But there is fear of an even more negative alternative. If the regime stays in place, you will see even more radical groups rise, especially in the absence of reconstruction.” 

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A deeper look

3. For state schools, diversity isn’t just about fairness. It’s also about the bottom line.

Why is diversity at top public universities so important? That is a much debated point in admissions departments and courtrooms. Now one institution with a history of discrimination is trying to reframe the question.

Mark
MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN/STAFF
Stewart Lockett, who will graduate in May, is the first black student body president at Louisiana State University in nearly 30 years. A growing number of African Americans and Latinos are staying at the state’s flagship campus in Baton Rouge for all four years.

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Each state likes to think of its premier university as a shining example of its public higher education system. At Louisiana State University, where black students made up just 12% of the student body despite being 44% of the state’s graduating high schoolers in 2015, that messaging is more complicated.

But several signs suggest the paradigm may be shifting on this historic campus. University leadership has invested in diversity by forming strong recruiting bonds with communities of color and using holistic admissions. They’ve also pushed to desegregate student groups, including Greek life. Louisiana on the whole is actually improving while some nearby states regress. Flagship universities in Alabama and Missouri, for example, are enrolling fewer African American students and face a widening gap between the percentage of black students graduating from high school and the percentage entering state colleges. 

For Stewart Lockett, LSU’s third-ever black student body president, there’s more work to do, but the future is starting to look brighter. “I’m not going to lie,” Mr. Lockett says. “It’s been a huge shift, and we’re really proud of it.”

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For state schools, diversity isn’t just about fairness. It’s also about the bottom line.

A few weeks after Stewart Lockett made local headlines for becoming the first black student body president at Louisiana State University in nearly 30 years, the 21-year-old settled into his new office and began looking through the files that previous presidents had left behind. 

He found old notes of inspiration and campaign buttons that promised to “Unite LSU” and “Put Students First.” He pulled out a student government flyer from five years earlier. It showed the 100 or so young people who’d served on the body that semester. Mr. Lockett reached for a different flyer, then another. Every year, in every photo, nearly every student was white. 

For years, LSU was the state’s whitest public university. But Mr. Lockett could feel things changing. Even as flagship state-funded universities elsewhere have grown less diverse, LSU has made small but important gains.

Last fall, after the university’s admissions team worked to craft a more intentional recruiting plan, officials say they enrolled the most diverse freshman class in LSU’s nearly 160-year history. Though minority students here still report high rates of discrimination, a growing number of African Americans and Latinos are staying at the state’s flagship campus in Baton Rouge for all four years. 

In mid-January, as Mr. Lockett returned to the office for his final college semester, he fished out the old campaign flyers and compared them with the photo he now uses as his computer background. His student government is about half white, with a mix of black, Latino, and Asian students rounding out the team.

“I’m not going to lie,” Mr. Lockett says, his eyes squinting as he grins. “It’s pretty cool. It’s been a huge shift, and we’re really proud of it.”

MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN/STAFF
Students walk through campus between classes at LSU. The university has been working to diversify its student body to better reflect the state’s demographics.

Each state likes to think of its premier university – the flagship institution – as a shining example of their public higher education system. School officials often portray them as beacons of affordability and excellence, boasting the best professors, top-notch research facilities, and the highest graduation rates. These taxpayer-funded institutions also strive to be drivers of societal and economic equality. As such, they are important barometers of progress. 

At Louisiana’s flagship, the university is far whiter than the state it serves, according to a Hechinger Report analysis of the most recent national data. In 2016, 44% of Louisiana’s high school graduates were black. But that fall, black students made up just 13% of LSU’s freshman class. The 31-point gap is one of the three widest in the nation, tied with the University of South Carolina for second place, and behind Ole Miss, with a 39-point gap.

Although the numbers are bad, Louisiana is actually improving while some nearby states regress. Flagship universities in Alabama and Missouri, for example, are enrolling fewer African American students and face a widening gap between the percentage of black students graduating high school and the percentage entering state colleges. 

LSU President F. King Alexander says these universities are charting their own demise. Children of color make up the majority of public school students under age 18, and their share of the population will only grow, even as the total number of college students is projected to drop by 15% over the next decade. At the same time, state budget cuts mean public institutions must rely more heavily on revenue from tuition and fees than on taxpayer dollars. State data shows LSU’s undergraduate enrollment has declined each of the last three years to 25,235 last fall. 

EDDY PEREZ/COURTESY OF LSU/FILE
LSU President F. King Alexander interacts with students on move-in day at the start of the school year in August 2016

“If we don’t pay attention to demographic trends, many of our institutions are going to be left out in the cold for decades,” Dr. Alexander says. To remain financially viable in the long term, as well as fulfilling its mission of serving all the state’s residents, he knows his school has to enroll a greater number of students who look like Mr. Lockett. 

The road to LSU

Long before Mr. Lockettknew where he’d go to college, he knew what he wanted to study. 

“I was really good in physics,” he says. “My friends would get annoyed because I would do really well in the class. My teacher specifically made the class hard, and she told my mom, ‘He should definitely look into something in the STEM majors.’ ”

Mr. Lockett researched science and technology fields and decided on bioengineering, a discipline that combines science and math to study living things. LSU was one of only three schools in Louisiana that offered the major. 

LSU is, by many standards, the best public school in the state. It has the state’s largest university endowment and the highest graduation rate for both black and white students. Its football, baseball, and basketball teams are perennial national contenders, and its faculty includes internationally renowned researchers.

The university was just an hour and a half away from Mr. Lockett’s home in New Iberia, a midsize Cajun town that is roughly half black and half white. But Mr. Lockett says his guidance counselors never encouraged him to apply to LSU. Instead, he says, they gave him brochures for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a nearby institution whose population is a fifth African American, and they told him about Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically black school in New Orleans, “because I was pre-med, and I was black.”

MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN/STAFF
Students walk through the campus quad between classes

Mr. Lockett knew Xavier was ranked first in the nation for the number of African Americans it sent to medical school, but he didn’t want to be “the typical student.” He wanted to meet people from different backgrounds, pursuing other majors, so he ignored his counselors’ advice and decided to visit LSU and Tulane University in New Orleans. 

He admired Tulane’s reputation, but he didn’t feel at home when he toured in 2014. Tulane didn’t seem as connected to the Louisiana community, he says, and the student body appeared overwhelmingly white. The freshman class was only 3% black. 

Mr. Lockett had grown up hearing about LSU. His mother attended for a year in the late 1970s before deciding the university wasn’t right for her. She transferred to Southern University, a historically black university in Baton Rouge, where she met Mr. Lockett’s father and earned a degree in marketing. But Mr. Lockett’s older brother had enrolled at LSU in 2010, liked the school, and was close to finishing his bachelor’s in electrical engineering when Mr. Lockett visited in the spring of 2014. 

He had never seen anything quite like the school’s 2,000-acre campus, but what impressed him most were the students. Everyone seemed to be smiling. LSU was far whiter than Mr. Lockett’s hometown, but the flagship felt blacker than Tulane, he thought. At LSU, he’d be one of 3,000 black undergraduate students – part of “a community within a community.”

Historic struggle with diversity 

Black students spent decades pushing to form that community at LSU. They have been applying for enrollment here since at least 1938, when the Supreme Court ruled in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada that states that did not provide graduate programs for African Americans must admit black students into white schools. Dozens of young black people tried to enroll in LSU’s law, medical, and undergraduate programs, but administrators successfully blocked their entry, relying on the “separate but equal” doctrine, a precedent set in Plessy v. Ferguson, a Louisiana case. Over time, after African Americans successfully gained entry to flagships elsewhere, LSU administrators relented and, under court order, allowed a handful of black students to enroll.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Prospective students and parents take a tour on campus at LSU.

Before Mr. Lockett, only two African Americans had ever led the student body. The first, Kerry Pourciau, attended LSU with white supremacist David Duke. Ms. Pourciau took office in 1972, two years before the U.S. Department of Justice sued Louisiana, accusing the state of operating separate higher education systems for black and white students, a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

But four decades later, when Dr. Alexander became president, black students made up less than 11% of LSU’s student body. And flagship universities across the country have struggled to diversify their ranks. Since 2010, more than a third of state flagship universities have posted declines in the percentage of African American freshmen they enrolled. “Universities need to quit worrying about U.S. News and prestige and start worrying about their mission,” Dr. Alexander says. “I’ve got way too many of my colleagues that are chasing things that mean nothing. They end up reducing opportunities that they are supposed to be providing for their state.”

LSU long remained the state’s whitest school, in part because admissions requirements eliminated most black students from consideration. Since 2001, when standardized test requirements were first imposed at the flagship, LSU has rejected any applicant who earned less than a 22 on the ACT. The average score for black students in Louisiana last year was 17.3. 

The university is also one of the most expensive in a state where 1 in 3 African Americans live below the federal poverty line. Statewide budget cuts have forced college administrators to find other sources of money. Since the Great Recession, tuition has risen at a higher rate in Louisiana than in any other state. LSU now costs $28,600 a year – $844 more than the annual median income for black families in Louisiana. 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Student government president Stewart Lockett (c.) speaks from the back of the room at a meeting of the student government executive team at LSU. His team is the most diverse in the university’s history.

A leader’s goal

Almost as soon as Dr. Alexander arrived in 2013, he began pushing the university to do better. He’d worked the previous eight years as president of California State University, Long Beach, an institution where the population was less than 20% white, and he’d grown up hearing stories about how his grandfather helped desegregate Kentucky schools in the 1960s. Dr. Alexander believed diversifying was the right, moral move. He also saw a financial imperative. The state has cut its contribution to LSU in half since the recession. Nationwide, Dr. Alexander says, the only real gains in enrollment were going to come from underrepresented communities. 

Early in his tenure, the president worked on a summit addressing black male achievement, joined the 100 Black Men civic organization, and began serving as the faculty liaison to the university’s branch of the NAACP. After only four black students rushed a fraternity or sorority in the fall of 2013, Dr. Alexander urged Greek leaders to “be forward thinking.” 

The number of black and Latino students crept up in the years after Dr. Alexander took over. When Mr. Lockett enrolled in 2015, he was in the first undergraduate class to have at least 3,000 black students – a total that made up 12% of the student body. 

But the university’s overall enrollment, which has jumped up and down over the last decade, began to decline the next year.

Dr. Alexander said the university could push harder and, in 2017, when he went looking for a new chief enrollment officer for undergraduate admissions, he chose Jose Aviles, a Latino who had been the first in his family to attend college.

MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN/STAFF
‘You can’t just set up a table. It’s about making relationships, being visible in some of these rural communities or in New Orleans....’ – Jose Aviles, head of enrollment at LSU

Enrollment dropped by more than 700 students from 2016 to 2017, and when Dr. Aviles arrived on campus that fall, he says he found “great anxiety” about the numbers. But LSU’s admissions team had the same problem he’d seen at other institutions. They didn’t know “how to do the work of diversity.” 

As part of its desegregation lawsuit, the federal government required LSU to submit proof of its minority-recruiting efforts for 20 years. University officials submitted as evidence ads they’d placed in newspapers and on radio stations. They hired “other-race” liaisons and sent generic letters to black students who’d performed well on the ACT.

But Dr. Aviles had learned in five years of diversifying campuses in New York and Delaware that brochures are not enough. 

“You can’t just set up a table,” he says. “It’s about making relationships, being visible in some of these rural communities or in New Orleans, communities that are really going to need a significant presence from our end in order to provide students that clear understanding of not just that we want them but that there is a picture of success for them here.” 

In the past, Dr. Aviles says, LSU’s admissions team had skipped schools with low performance scores. Recruiters rarely made trips to the state’s far reaches, to schools where few, if any, students might be considering the state flagship. “We have to roll up our sleeves and get into these schools,” Dr. Aviles says. Traveling to distant parts of the state might be more expensive, but he argues it will cost the state more if young people there don’t earn degrees and can’t join the middle-class workforce.

Last year, as LSU’s admissions team worked to craft a more intentional recruiting plan, the university decided to try something that many other flagships already do. Instead of eliminating students who scored too low on the ACT, admissions officers evaluated students using what’s known as “holistic admissions.” In that type of review, university staff consider recommendations, essays, and other information to decide whether a student might do well at LSU, even if the student performed poorly on a standardized test. 

MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN/STAFF
Jose Aviles, LSU’s chief enrollment officer for undergraduate admissions, sits in on a meeting of one of his teams.

“We deepened what we understand as merit, who deserves the opportunity to participate,” Dr. Aviles says. “If you’re just selecting students on board scores, those things alone are not enough to determine whether a student can be successful on your campus or not. Resilience or grit – students who are going to get up every day no matter how many times they are knocked down – you can look for that.”

Some schools, including the University of Florida, haven’t made any meaningful diversity gains since adopting holistic reviews, and some researchers have found the practice is more likely to benefit poor white students than Latinos or African Americans. 

But Dr. Aviles and Dr. Alexander say the new policy, coupled with expanded scholarship offerings and a push to recruit in neglected communities, is paying off at their school. Among the 5,809 freshmen LSU enrolled last fall, 433 were admitted by exception. A third of those were from low-income families, and more than half came from rural districts. The number of black students in the freshman class jumped from 587 in 2017 to 889 this fall, a 51% increase. The number of Latinos rose, too, from 313 to 421, a 35% gain. 

Getting more black and Latino students on campus was important progress,
Dr. Aviles says, but if university officials want to retain minority students, they have to show that opportunities exist here for Latinos and African Americans. Students need to believe they can rush any fraternity, run for homecoming queen, or serve on the student government. 

‘He was the best candidate’

When older students began asking Mr. Lockett to run for student body president, many did so, he says, because they thought his win “would be great for the campus.”

Mr. Lockett “wasn’t just the best black candidate,” says Drake Boudreaux, a 2017 graduate who helped recruit him. “He was the best candidate overall in his class. He’s really charismatic and super passionate. You can tell when he’s talking to people that he cares about them.” 

But Mr. Boudreaux, who is white, and others recognized the potential impact of Mr. Lockett’s win. “He had this diversity factor that I think a lot of people at the university were really yearning for,” Mr. Boudreaux says. “It made him even more of an attractive candidate. He brought a whole slew of unique experiences that made him refreshing.” 

Mr. Lockett came from a small town and wasn’t “obnoxiously wealthy,” Mr. Boudreaux says. Most past presidents have been in fraternities or sororities; Mr. Lockett isn’t. Even his bioengineering major made him diverse: Many students come to school politics from the humanities departments. 

Still, Mr. Lockett knows what his victory meant in a state that once fought to keep students like him out of LSU. He understands why black parents pull him aside after panels or school tours to ask for “the real story.” They want their children to feel safe. They want to know if LSU is a different university than the one that existed when they were young. 

Mr. Lockett tells them “straight up.” He has loved his time at LSU, but he knows other students haven’t had the same experience. In a campus survey conducted during his sophomore year, a quarter of the black respondents said they did not feel “part of the family” at the university, and another third said they didn’t feel part of the community. The majority of black employees and students said they had sometimes felt uncomfortable on campus because of comments about their race. Nearly half of the Latino students and employees reported discomfort due to race-related comments. 

One Friday early this semester, Mr. Lockett steps outside his office to talk to the dozen black and Latino students planning multicultural events and new legislation aimed at better serving the university’s minorities. 

Two of the students – Lauren Roach and Priscilla Velazquez – say they joined student government in part because of Mr. Lockett’s election. The women now lead the organization’s diversity committee, but both say they’d initially felt alone at LSU. 

MELANIE STETSON FREEMAN/STAFF
Junior Priscilla Velasquez, the student government’s assistant director of diversity, studies at her desk

Ms. Roach, a junior studying digital advertising, grew up in Prince George’s County in Maryland – “where African Americans were always in the majority,” she says. She’d fallen in love with LSU because of its award-winning gymnastics program and its Manship School of Mass Communication, but she’d been surprised to find so few black students when she arrived. 

“I didn’t feel like I belonged here,” she says. 

Ms. Velazquez, a junior kinesiology major from the outskirts of Dallas, says she also struggled to adjust after leaving a majority Latino high school for a predominantly white university. 

“When I came here my freshman year, I didn’t have a community,” she says. “I’m Mexican, and until this past summer, I didn’t have a professor who looked like me. I felt like you were either white or you were black, there was no in between.”

Mr. Lockett will graduate in May, but he hopes to use his final months on campus working so future students don’t feel what Ms. Roach and Ms. Velazquez did their freshman years. 

As lunch nears, Mr. Lockett goes to meet with a reporter from the student paper. The interview turns toward his push for a new building to replace the 60-year-old Middleton Library, which has water damage from a leak.

“I’m very serious about academics,” Mr. Lockett says. “So it’s a little personal for me.” 

He doesn’t bring it up during the interview, but the library is named after Troy Middleton, a former university president who once bragged that LSU had done more to promote segregation than any other Louisiana institution. In a folder labeled “Negro problem” are dozens of letters Middleton sent, promising community members he would keep black students out. “I do not want Negro students at LSU,” Middleton wrote to a Shreveport admiral in 1956. 

Eventually, Mr. Lockett tells the student reporter, he hopes the library will be demolished and replaced with something nicer, a building with collaborative space, where everyone feels welcome. 

This story about diversity on college campuses was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Meredith Kolodner contributed to this report.

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4. India, Chile, and Jordan: a renewable power trifecta

Three developing nations are leaders in the race to find clean energy sources. We wanted to look at the lessons each offers about how to pivot efficiently away from fossil fuels.

Mark

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In 2017 the world’s emerging-market nations marked an important transition: They added more clean energy than fossil fuels to their electric generating capacity. Chile, India, and Jordan topped the list in that trend, tracked in a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

It’s not just that the cost of renewable energy is falling. It’s also government policies “that let the trends materialize in the market,” says BNEF senior associate Dario Traum. Chile and Jordan dived into renewables partly as a way to enhance their energy security after crises that affected their fossil fuel imports.

India is striving to give more people access to electric power and has fused environmental goals on top of that. Setting a clean power target has signaled to private investors that the state would underwrite some of the inherent risk of development, says climate policy expert Kanika Chawla in Delhi. “Using public money to de-risk private investment is a really good way” to boost investment, she says. “This would work in emerging economies around the world.”

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India, Chile, and Jordan: a renewable power trifecta

Solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal vents – all three are technologies that were once solely the province of wealthy nations. Now they have been swiftly adopted in developing countries as costs have plummeted. In fact, global emerging economies added more clean power capacity than fossil fuel generation for the first time in 2017, according to a new annual survey conducted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Chile, India, and Jordan topped the list in that survey, with all three countries experiencing significant renewable energy booms. Each country has unique challenges that complicate their transition to clean energy, and fossil fuels still account for the bulk of their energy consumption. But Dario Traum, a BNEF senior associate and project manager at the Climatescope clean energy index, finds their respective strides encouraging.

“Governments [are] recognizing [and] leveraging the evolving technology landscape by putting in place the right mechanisms that let the trends materialize in the market,” says Mr. Traum.

As the expansion of clean energy technologies becomes more feasible, it is also becoming more urgent. A report released by the United Nations last year stated that countries need to significantly change their energy creation and consumption habits in order to stave off the worst outcomes of climate change, including rising sea levels and more extreme weather patterns. Studies also show that climate change will more severely impact developing countries because of their locations and lack of adaptability.

But market analysts like Mr. Traum are quick to point out that clean energy is more than an environmental good. By investing in renewables, a country invests in its future, he says. Renewables can also create jobs or establish energy sovereignty. These economic and political benefits are partly why they are increasingly cost-effective and available.

“More and more countries are realizing that there’s not much value in getting in on a technology that not only has considerable environmental impact but [is] also increasingly being challenged on economics,” says Mr. Traum of fossil fuels.

Chile, Jordan, and India are winning global acclaim for their efforts in sustainability. But until recently, all three were highly dependent on fossil fuels.

Chile’s pivot to renewable energy sour­ces was unusually rapid. The country spent much of the 20th century drawing power from its massive dams and natural gas from Argentina, but a severe drought and a gas shortage plunged Chile into an energy crisis in 2004.

“[The Chilean government] started looking for ways of being more self-sufficient in terms of energy, because we couldn't just rely on oil that we didn’t have, or on rain that we didn’t know when it [would fall],” says Aldo Madariaga, a researcher at the Center for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies in Santiago, Chile.

By leveraging its sun-drenched deserts and coastal winds, Chile increased the percentage of its energy created by renewable sources from 5 percent to 18 percent in five years. Its government is aiming for 70 percent by 2050 – a target many energy experts expect Chile to reach far sooner than that.

Much of the boom was overseen by the country’s former president, Michelle Bachelet, who won the Champions of the Earth award from the United Nations in 2017 for her environmental preservation efforts and her long-term energy plan.

“She's not responsible for the moment or for building the conditions, but she was able to channel this in the right way and during her government it became a priority,” says Mr. Madariaga.

While Chile was nudged by external forces, India’s impetus has been largely from within.

The country’s booming population presents several challenges, including energy access. When Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, he started a project to electrify villages that wrapped up last year. And in response to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, Mr. Modi also significantly raised the country’s renewable energy targets from 20 gigawatts to 175 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2022.

Kanika Chawla, a climate policy researcher at a think tank in New Delhi, helped author a report showing that the prime minister would create 1.1 million jobs by raising that goal.

“I think that the administration saw an opportunity to both signal climate leadership, but also use it as an opportunity to sort of accelerate the program at home that does respond to domestic priorities as well,” she says.

Setting that target helped renewables proliferate by signaling to private investors that the state would underwrite some of the inherent risk of development.

“Using public money to de-risk private investment is a really good way to – without distorting the market – bring in much more appetite from different types of investors and companies into the sector,” says Ms. Chawla. “This would work in emerging economies around the world.”

India still relies upon fossil fuels for the majority of its energy production, and is not projected to meet its 175 gigawatts target by 2022, but Ms. Chawla is optimistic. She says the renewable energy market is “robust” and does not need state policies or subsidies to ensure its continued growth.

Jordan started from a similar place as Chile in terms of its energy sources. Historically, Jordan imported around 97 percent of its energy, but repeated bombings of portions of the Arab Gas Pipeline during the 2011 Egyptian protests forced a change.

“The gas pipeline explosion served as a wakeup call to Jordan that it needs to change its energy topography,” says Ayah Alfawaris, an energy professional based in Leeds, Britain. She has worked extensively in Jordan.

Since then the country has found new domestic pockets of gas to meet its need, but it also started subsidizing private developers who wanted to build wind farms in rural towns and place solar panels on mosques. The current goal is to have 20 percent of the country’s energy sourced from renewables by 2020.

Ms. Alfawaris thinks Jordan will fall short of that goal but is still optimistic about the long-term view.

“Jordan was not afraid of making mistakes and fixing them,” she says in an email to the Monitor. “Many amendments and improvements to the renewable energy law, regulations and directives have taken place to ensure the success of the sector.”

For BNEF associate Mr. Traum, seeing countries like Jordan take the first step to sustainability is thrilling.

“[In 2017], for the first time, installation of renewables topped fossil fuels in the emerging world. It’s major for all things climate change because ... seeing installations of fossil fuels decline is a good sign about the last carbon that we’re going to have to be dealing with down the line.”

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Difference-maker

Drivers of change

5. Walking in their shoes: a Venezuelan expatriate’s humanitarian feat

Sometimes, being overwhelmed by shoes can be an act of love. Far away and not knowing how to help those in her native Venezuela, a Massachusetts woman started with sneakers – lots of them.

Mark
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Martha Convers (c.) poses with volunteers Mario Lopez and Blanca Figueredo at Ms. Figueredo’s house in Worcester, Massachusetts, where they store footwear before shipping it to Venezuela.

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From safety and confidence at school to rugged treks to work, daily life in Venezuela, as elsewhere, calls for sturdy shoes. But amid the current political crisis it’s not uncommon for a pair of sneakers to cost more than a month’s salary. Inflation has hit 1 million percent in the country’s free-falling economy.

So Martha Convers, a deeply concerned Venezuelan expatriate, ships shoes. Besides working as a real estate agent and Zumba instructor, the Framingham, Massachusetts, woman – in the U.S. since 2004 – has a special side gig: Shoes for Venezuela. She started the volunteer donation campaign in November 2017. Her latest Zumbathon, in January, drew a crowd of 200. The haul from that fundraiser launched a shipment of about 1,500 pairs.

Recipients include schools, nursing homes, churches, and nonprofits. With food and other necessities scarce – Venezuela’s contested president, Nicolás Maduro, continues to crack down on international aid – shoes can seem like a luxury, Ms. Convers says. Grassroots efforts like hers from the diaspora help remind Venezuelans they are not forgotten. “At this point, I don’t think this is a political matter,” Ms. Convers says. “It’s a humanitarian matter.”

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Walking in their shoes: a Venezuelan expatriate’s humanitarian feat

Norman Canaie noticed that some of his students at a public high school in Caracas, Venezuela, came barefoot – if they came at all. So last year, Mr. Canaie handed out armloads of donated shoes to his pupils most in need. He made sure to save a pair of white Nikes for a student who had dropped out, ashamed of his tattered sneakers.

The new pair brought the student back to class.

“The children were overwhelmed with the shoes,” says the English teacher in a phone interview. “They’re always asking me if there are more shoes coming.”

Martha Convers arranged the shoes’ 2,000-plus-mile journey from suburban Framingham. Besides working as a real estate agent and Zumba instructor, she has a special side gig: Shoes for Venezuela

Since moving from Venezuela to the United States in 2004, Ms. Convers has watched her country devolve into political chaos. But she repurposed her despair. She started the volunteer donation campaign in November 2017 and estimates she’s shipped at least 3,000 pairs of shoes to the country. Recipients include schools, nursing homes, churches, and nonprofits. With food and other necessities scarce, receiving a pair of shoes can seem like a luxury, Ms. Convers says. 

The political upheaval

Venezuela’s contested president, Nicolás Maduro, continues to crack down on international aid. This has heightened a standoff between Mr. Maduro and legislative leader Juan Guaidó, the self-declared acting head of state. As the relentless political crisis fails to address staggering poverty, inflation, and shortages of vital items like food and medical supplies, grassroots efforts from the diaspora like Ms. Convers’ are sprouting up. They help remind Venezuelans they are not forgotten.

“At this point, I don’t think this is a political matter,” Ms. Convers says. “It’s a humanitarian matter.”

Venezuela boasts the world’s largest oil reserves. But experts say chronic political corruption and economic mismanagement have choked the country’s prosperity, as have U.S.-enforced sanctions more recently. Food and medicine are scarce while crime is rampant. When Mr. Canaie, the teacher from Caracas, buys groceries, he camouflages his purchase in a second bag so others aren’t tempted to steal. Nearly 9 out of 10 Venezuelans live in poverty.

It’s not uncommon for a pair of sneakers to cost more than Mr. Canaie’s monthly salary. Inflation has hit 1 million percent in Venezuela’s free-falling economy.

These turbulent conditions have meant an exodus of 3 million Venezuelans since 2015, the largest in Latin America’s recent history. For some time the diaspora has sent money and necessities to family members. In 2018 Venezuelans abroad remitted $2 billion, which amounted to 1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. 

Even though personal shipments are precarious, sometimes it’s the best option.

“People prefer to send stuff rather than money, because the value of the currency changes on a regular basis,” says Manuel Orozco, director of the migration, remittances, and development program at the nonprofit Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, expects personal shipments to increase if the political stalemate leaves Mr. Maduro in power. “And they benefit the regime – helping feed and maintain those that remain and lining the pockets of customs and other officials that let it pass through,” she writes in an email. 

Mr. Maduro has denied that a humanitarian crisis exists. He has also refused international aid, though his stance appears to be shifting after a recent meeting with top Red Cross representatives. Mr. Maduro tweeted April 9 about Venezuela's readiness "to establish cooperation mechanisms for international assistance and support."

In February, a showdown at the Venezuela-Colombia border over stockpiled U.S. aid descended into violence. (Relief operations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross refused to engage, warning against politicizing aid.) Ms. Convers hopes to direct her next shipment to Venezuelans who routinely cross the border into Colombia for work.

The Monitor spoke with some nonprofits shipping goods into Venezuela that do not mark their boxes as aid.

“It’s always this balancing act of still trying to serve more, while still kind of flying under the radar,” says Sean Lawrence, chief operating officer for Giving Children Hope in Buena Park, California. 

Complications with international aid in recent weeks prompted some nonprofits like Giving Children Hope to alter the frequency and routes of their shipments. One of the charity’s Venezuelan contacts who coordinates the donations faces threats, Mr. Lawrence says.

Watching Venezuela from afar

On a recent afternoon at her Framingham real estate office, Ms. Convers still sports her silver Nikes from a morning Zumba class. She’ll teach another session later – after a quick wardrobe change and back-to-back meetings.

Her focus narrows to her smartphone screen as she scrolls through videos. Unsettling scenes of Venezuela emerge six days into the country’s worst blackout. Her thoughts race to family there. The power outage upsets her chance for updates via WhatsApp.

“You wonder for them.... It’s not only me; it’s my friends. All my friends here are concerned with their families, especially since we cannot communicate,” she says.

Ms. Convers left Venezuela 15 years ago when Mr. Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez was still in office. She’d started going to demonstrations as violence crept into her Margarita Island hometown.

“ ‘Why are you throwing tear gas to us if we’re just protesting? We’re still in a democracy,’ ” she confronted a policeman at a 2003 protest. She still recalls the smell and the burn.

On two occasions, she says, thieves put a gun to her 6-year-old daughter’s head. They demanded cellphones and wallets. Her husband accepted a job offer in the U.S. soon afterward.

Ms. Convers assumed an organizer role within the Massachusetts diaspora in July 2017, when she helped get out the vote for an opposition-led referendum. Her ERA Key Realty Services office let her use the space for ballot casting. The agency continues to support her efforts and houses a shoe collection box.

Mr. Canaie, who knew Ms. Convers from church, told her his students weren’t coming to class because they didn’t have shoes. She was also aware that scores of Venezuelans made rugged treks to neighboring countries for work. When Ms. Convers made a call for shoe donations, 200 poured in within a month. She has since overseen four shipments of gently used sandals, sneakers, slip-ons, and more in a range of sizes.

She gently deflects the credit.

“I just think that I am a tool for God to be used on this,” she says. “What can I say – I have a wonderful team of volunteers.”

The boxes are packed by volunteers in Massachusetts, many of whom still have family affected by the crisis. Volunteer Rita Álvarez has offered up space in her garage for shoe storage.

“A box can be put here, and a box can be put there. Everybody pitches in however we can,” she says.

Some of Shoes for Venezuela’s fundraising comes from Ms. Convers’ Zumbathons, where money collected at the dance sessions is put toward shipments. Her latest Zumbathon, in January, drew a crowd of 200. The haul from the fundraiser launched a shipment of about 1,500 pairs soon after.

Another helper drives the shoes down to Miami. Arranged by a courier service, the boxes are loaded onto a boat headed for a Venezuelan port city.

Ms. Convers admits that starting Shoes for Venezuela brought a steep learning curve. Sometimes requests for shoes over social media are overwhelming. Given that she’s operating on a volunteer basis with limited resources, she says there’s just so much she can do. She plans to register her initiative as a nonprofit.

Ms. Convers loves receiving photos confirming the boxes’ final destinations, even if not every destination responds. Regardless of whether the shipments become increasingly uncertain under the current regime, she says she won’t stop. 

“We have to believe in God and have faith.”

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The Monitor's View

Putting the global back into the global economy

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Two years ago, the global economy was in “synchronized growth,” as the International Monetary Fund put it. More than 70 percent of economies were on a healthy upswing. In recent months, more than 70 percent have been in a slowdown. The IMF calls this a “synchronized deceleration.”

It would be easy to focus only on the IMF’s concern about declining growth. Its real worry is that nations are becoming less synchronized on how they run their economies. They are cooperating less when it is clear that past cooperation for the greater good was able to lift billions out of poverty.

IMF director Christine Lagarde has asked nations to come together on the most important drivers of prosperity, such as better protection of intellectual property and coordinated efforts against cross-border corruption. Many countries, for example, are dealing with aging populations and stagnant productivity. Solutions are more readily available with greater collaboration.

The global economy is at a “delicate moment,” says Ms. Lagarde. “Let us work together to do something worthy to be remembered.” In this new world, no economy is an island, able to think of only itself.

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Putting the global back into the global economy

Two years ago, the global economy was in “synchronized growth,” as the International Monetary Fund put it. More than 70% of economies were on a healthy upswing. In recent months, more than 70% have been in a slowdown. The IMF calls this a “synchronized deceleration.”

It would be easy to focus only on the IMF’s concern about the declining rate of growth, which may be about 3.3% globally this year compared with 3.6% last year. The IMF’s real worry, however, is that nations are becoming less synchronized on how they run their economies. They are cooperating less when it is clear that past cooperation for the greater good contributed to lifting billions out of poverty. At recent summits, both the Group of Seven and the Group of 20 “clubs” of wealthy nations have been hard-pressed to agree on much in specific detail.

In a recent talk, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde asked nations to come together on the most important drivers of prosperity, such as debt reduction, better protection of intellectual property, and coordinated efforts against cross-border corruption. Many countries, for example, are dealing with older populations and stagnant productivity. Solutions are more readily available with greater collaboration.

Major economies are also now in major trade disputes. China and the U.S. are trying to rebalance their trading relationship. Britain cannot decide whether to stay in the European Union. And more countries are involved in disputes at the World Trade Organization.

Such frictions, which create market uncertainty, are a big reason for the economic slowdown. Yet it is the existing global cooperation that is helping prevent a recession.

More than 40 countries, for example, have agreed to penalize companies that pay bribes to gain business abroad. Central banks are coordinating better on when to raise interest rates and by how much. And institutions like the IMF are shining a bright light on countries with a high debt load – and offering help to reduce it. In addition, countries are trying to solve one big problem: International corporations are parking income in low-tax areas.

The global economy is at a “delicate moment,” says Ms. Lagarde. “Let us work together to do something worthy to be remembered.” In this new world, no economy is an island, able to think of only itself.

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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.

Hope and healing for the environment

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Scientists point to depleted resources and devastating weather events as evidence of climate change. In this podcast, the Monitor interviews a Christian Science practitioner and teacher about how a spiritual perspective can nurture hope and healing in our communities and environment.

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Hope and healing for the environment

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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(For those accessing Lauren and Kari’s interview through The Christian Science Monitor’s website, please click here.)

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Head space

Maxim Marmur/AP
A worker cleans the statue of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin ahead of Cosmonautics Day in Moscow April 10. Cosmonautics Day is April 12 and marks the day in 1961 that Gagarin became the first man to fly in space, orbiting Earth once before making a safe landing.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( April 11th, 2019 )

Thank you for joining us today. Tomorrow we’ll be taking a deeper look at a story that generated significant discussion among our readers: What does the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal say about the advantages and moral dilemmas of the wealthy? We’ll examine the stereotypes with an author who conducted in-depth interviews with 50 wealthy New Yorkers.

Monitor Daily Podcast

April 10, 2019
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