2019
May
29
Wednesday

It was the kind of achievement that should be celebrated – four Arab women summiting the highest mountain in the world last weekend. But Elia Saikaly, the Canadian filmmaker who documented it and has been to Mount Everest eight times, says he is never going back.

Eleven people have died on Everest this climbing season, and by the numbers that is not unusual. What has shocked Mr. Saikaly and others is the sheer number of climbers, particularly those who seemed ill-prepared. When he reached the summit, 50 people were already there. All had to step over a dead body on the way, Mr. Saikaly told the Ottawa Citizen.

Standing on the world’s highest point can be a life-altering experience. “There’s such beauty on one level,” Mr. Saikaly says. But this climbing season in particular, the commercialization of Everest is raising questions about how that goal is being achieved and at what cost. Are too many climbing teams taking too many risks simply to make a profit? Are they recklessly endangering the lives of local sherpas, who often do most of the work?

The Monitor’s Eoin O’Carroll spent 3 1/2 weeks in college at Tengboche Monastery near Everest and watched the abbot there refuse to bless several climbing teams – turning down significant amounts of money.

“Human life is precious” and its goal is enlightenment and helping others, Eoin says, explaining the abbot’s decision. “By taking this huge risk you are potentially squandering it.”

After this season, Mr. Saikaly agrees. “It’s when you get back down that you start asking yourself the question: Is it worth it?”

For our five stories today, we look at how cops find healing on the job, how language influences South Africa’s sense of identity, and whether there is anything in the world cuter than a corgi race.

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Democracy under strain

1. Block the vote? Battle over ballots and the future of American democracy.

Voting rights are a contentious and partisan issue, with blue and red states moving in opposite directions. But a deeper look suggests a more nuanced story. This is the eighth in our ‘Democracy Under Strain’ series.

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AP/File
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a ceremony in the President's Room near the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Aug. 6, 1965.

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Fifty-four years after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, a renewed and intensifying struggle over ballot access and voting power is shaking the structure of American democracy. It began in 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down a key Voting Rights Act provision and freed nine states, most in the South, to change their election laws without advance approval from the federal government. Since then, some Republican governors and GOP-controlled state legislatures have begun tightening access to the ballot box.

They’re passing photo ID laws, cutting early voting hours, and purging voter rolls of infrequent voters, citing the need to defend against fraud. Democratic leaders are angry about the changes, charging that the real aim is to make it harder for minorities and younger people – key Democratic constituencies – to vote. In a larger sense, the battle is part of a broader war between the Democratic coalition of transformation, composed of groups comfortable with rapid racial and cultural change, and the Republican coalition of restoration, reliant on voters who aren’t.

Democrats have a direct political interest in making voting easier for their demographic supporters; Republicans are dependent on white people and older voters who already turn out in large numbers. “Fear of the increasing diversity of America is driving this,” says Carol Anderson, chair of African American studies at Emory University.

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Block the vote? Battle over ballots and the future of American democracy.

President Lyndon B. Johnson used 50 pens to sign the Voting Rights Act into law. Television footage of the Aug. 6, 1965, ceremony shows the president putting each to paper for a moment, scratching perhaps a half-letter, and then swapping the instrument out for new. When finished, he handed the pens to some of the famous figures gathered around him. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy got one. So did the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. So did civil rights activist and future member of Congress John Lewis.

Most pen recipients felt it was one of America’s finest hours. The law put federal muscle behind African Americans’ long struggle for equal voting booth access – and the political power that access bestowed. But Johnson’s own feelings that day were complicated. His daughter Luci Baines Johnson later told journalist Ari Berman, in an interview for his voting rights history “Give Us the Ballot,” that LBJ felt both victorious and afraid.

President Johnson knew he had just transformed the political structure of the nation, in ways both predictable and unforeseen. He could no longer control what would happen, the progress and the inevitable backlash, and how those might balance.

“It would be written in the history books. But now the history had to be made,” Ms. Johnson said.

Fifty-four years later, a renewed and intensifying struggle over ballot access and voting power is shaking the intricate structure of American democracy.

In the short run, the vote – who gets it, who doesn’t, what it’s worth – is almost certain to loom large in the 2020 elections. Top Democratic presidential contenders have all criticized recent GOP-led tightening of some state voting laws, claiming these changes are partly intended to make it harder for minorities to cast ballots.

“You’ve got Jim Crow sneaking back in,” said former Vice President Joe Biden in a speech in South Carolina on May 6, evoking the racial segregation laws of the past.

In the long run, this conflict could redraw the battle lines between America’s two big political parties during a period of rapid demographic change. That’s why Democrats made it their first order of legislative business after retaking the House in the 2018 midterms, passing H.R. 1, a sweeping bill that would establish national automatic voter registration, outlaw the “purging” of voter rolls, and in general ease and expand ballot access while countering some state-imposed voting barriers.

Mark Humphrey/AP
Suzanne Lanier (l.) holds up a sign in the Tennessee House gallery opposing a bill that would impose new restrictions on groups that hold voter registration drives, April 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn.

Voting access is becoming a crucial front in what CNN political analyst and journalist Ron Brownstein has dubbed a broader war between the Democratic coalition of transformation, composed of groups comfortable with rapid racial and cultural change, and the Republican coalition of restoration, reliant on voters who aren’t.

More and more, American electoral politics seems correlated with demographics. The modern Democratic Party is increasingly made up of minorities and young people, and thus has a direct interest in making voting as easy and widespread as possible. Republicans, conversely, are dependent on white people and older voters, demographic groups already more likely to cast ballots. The GOP thus has a direct political incentive to tighten rules and restrict electoral access. 

“Fear of the increasing diversity of America is driving this,” says Carol Anderson, chair of African American studies at Emory University and author of “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy.” 

Many Republicans reject this framework. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has flatly refused to bring to the floor a Senate version of H.R. 1 – or, as he calls it, the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.” 

“It’s an attempt to rewrite the rules of American politics in order to benefit one side over the other,” Senator McConnell said on the Senate floor. The bill is a nakedly partisan attempt to grow Washington’s power over Americans’ political speech and elections, the Kentucky senator charged. It would impose onerous and confusing regulations on states and localities, “while making it harder for [them] to clean inaccurate data off their voter rolls, harder to remove duplicate registrations, ineligible voters, and other errors.”

The larger conservative position is that America has come a long way on voting, thanks to the Voting Rights Act and other massive changes, and the country and its laws should recognize that. This was the view underpinning the majority opinion in Shelby County v. Holder, a pivotal 2013 Supreme Court decision that freed nine mostly Southern states to change their election laws without obtaining advance approval from the federal government.

When the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, voter registration of African Americans in Mississippi was 6.4%, wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion. By the 2004 election, Mississippi’s black registration rate was 76%, 4 percentage points higher than that of white people.

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the opinion. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

The ‘preservative’ of all rights 

Voting is fundamental to the exercise of democracy. If there were no votes, how would the collective will of eligible citizens be expressed? Justice Roberts, in his 2005 Senate confirmation hearing, noted that voting was the “preservative” of all the other American rights. “Without access to the ballot box, people are not in a position to protect any other rights that are important to them,” he said.

Given that, it’s perhaps surprising that the Founding Fathers did not leave behind a bit more instruction on the issue. The Constitution did not guarantee voting rights for Americans. Instead, it allowed the states to set their own voting rules.

At the time of the Constitution’s ratification, most states limited voting to white male property owners. By some estimates, these eligible voters constituted only 6% of the nation’s population. Democracy, indeed.

Suffrage is a “part of the Constitution that has not aged well,” wrote George Mason University political scientist Jennifer Victor in a recent Vox series on the document’s flaws.

Mark J. Terrill/AP/File
A voter fills out a registration form before getting in line at the Los Angeles County registrar's office on Nov. 6, 2018.

Since 1789, periodic waves of reform have greatly enlarged the eligible U.S. voting population. In the 1800s, many states struck the “property owner” requirement, opening up voting to most white males. In 1870, the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution technically gave all African Americans, including former slaves, access to the ballot. In response, Southern states adopted poll taxes and literacy tests, and employed open violence to disenfranchise African Americans and retain white political hegemony.

Some states opened the voting franchise to women in the decades before and after the turn of the 20th century, but women weren’t fully allowed ballot access until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. The most recent reform wave crested with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which banned discriminatory voter qualification practices, and authorized deployment of federal officials to register voters and oversee elections in areas with a history of blocking minorities from the polls.

A key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act ordered states with a poor minority voting record, most of them Southern, to ask Washington for permission before doing almost anything to change voting procedures, from moving a polling place to redrawing legislative districts. It’s this part of the law that the Roberts court deemed no longer necessary and struck down in 2013.

In the context of the long rise of democracy throughout the Western world, the voting record of the United States is mixed. The U.S. was indeed one of the first democratic countries to expand its electorate by knocking down explicit economic barriers to political participation, writes Alexander Keyssar, a Harvard professor of history and social policy, in his book “The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States.” Alexis de Tocqueville and other foreign observers were struck by what they perceived as the nation’s powerful democratic spirit in the early decades of the 1800s.

But the U.S. was also unusual in that it experienced a contraction of voting rights as Southern segregationists essentially negated the 15th Amendment following Reconstruction. 

“Despite its pioneering role in promoting democratic values, the United States was one of the last countries in the developed world to attain universal suffrage,” writes Dr. Keyssar.

A tale of two kinds of states 

Today, the story of voting rights in America is largely a tale of two kinds of states, moving in two different directions.

Some states – mainly but not exclusively blue ones – are adopting measures to make it easier to register and vote. Automatic voter registration, for example, is a system where citizens who interact with government agencies are automatically added to the voter rolls, or automatically have their address or other voter information updated, unless they opt out of the process. Fifteen states covering about a third of the U.S. population, from Vermont and New Jersey to Nevada and California (plus the District of Columbia), now have some form of automatic registration, according to data from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

Bruce Newman/Oxford Eagle/AP/File
A poll worker checks a voter's identification against a list before allowing her to vote in the party primary, June 3, 2014, at the Oxford Park Commission in Oxford, Mississippi.

Other states – mainly but not exclusively red ones – are going in the opposite direction and tightening voting rules. These changes range from strict requirements for photo IDs to cutbacks in the time allowed for early voting to the winnowing of presumed nonvoters from the rolls and other general registration restrictions. Since the 2010 midterms, at least 25 states have enacted tougher ballot laws, according to the Brennan Center.

Some of these changes, in basic form, garner widespread approval among voters. This is particularly true of photo ID. A 2016 Associated Press poll found that 79% of respondents favored requiring all voters to provide some form of photo identification.

Proponents frame many of the changes as a means to defend against fraud. But the days of deceased voters allegedly casting ballots in Illinois’ Cook County, and voter turnout in some Louisiana precincts reaching 120%, are long over. Documented cases of in-person fraud are “super rare,” says Dan Hopkins, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania whose research focuses on elections and public opinion.

One 2014 study in an academic journal, Dr. Hopkins points out, concluded that in the U.S. voter impersonation – the fraud against which photo ID is meant to defend – is reported at about the same rate as instances of alleged abduction by extraterrestrials.

The problem, Dr. Hopkins notes, is America’s long and troubled history of denying racial minorities their right to vote. Today’s new restrictions are inevitably seen in that old context.

Take photo ID. Many Americans see that as an easy hurdle to surmount. Who doesn’t have a driver’s license or a passport or something like that?

Lots of people, actually. And they tend to be those on the edges of mainstream economic society. People of color, poorer people, both young and elderly, tend to be most affected by ID requirements.

The effects of the restrictions can also depend on the way they are set up. Dr. Anderson of Emory University uses the example of Alabama. In that state, you have to have a government-issued ID to vote – but a public housing ID doesn’t count. Seventy-one percent of public housing occupants in the state are African Americans. Also, Alabama has been closing Department of Motor Vehicle offices in black counties.

You create an obstacle, then you create an obstacle to the obstacle, says Dr. Anderson. “We believed we had overcome,” she says. “We haven’t.”

Dr. Anderson says that one of her goals when writing her 2018 book “One Person No Vote” was to counter the idea that many of the new voting restrictions are just reasonable responses to concerns about the integrity of America’s voting systems.

Poor people move often, so they miss the official postcards asking if they wish to remain on the voting rolls. Young people, students, and minorities disproportionately don’t vote regularly. After missing a few ballots, their names start to be crossed out as well.

Right now America isn’t a real democracy, Dr. Anderson says. 

“We came close to being a democracy with the Voting Rights Act,” she says. “But the forces of white supremacy have kept fighting back.”

What happened in Wisconsin

Do voting restrictions actually affect elections? If so, how much?

Dr. Anderson and other fierce critics would certainly say yes. Their Exhibit A is the 2016 presidential election in Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s voter ID law, passed under GOP Gov. Scott Walker, requires all voters to present a driver’s license, state ID, passport, military ID, naturalization papers, or tribal ID to vote. (Other forms of ID are acceptable under certain circumstances.) Voters without proper identification can cast a provisional ballot, which will count if they present the document at a state office within 72 hours of the election.

In 2016, the first presidential election affected by the new law, there were 60,000 fewer votes for president than in 2012, says Dr. Anderson. Sixty-eight percent of the decline was in Milwaukee alone, a heavily Democratic and minority area.

Morry Gash/AP/File
Observers look over test results as a statewide presidential election recount began Dec. 1, 2016, in Milwaukee. Donald Trump won Wisconsin by less than a percentage point over Hillary Clinton after polls had predicted a Clinton victory.

Donald Trump won Wisconsin by roughly 20,000 votes. It was a harbinger of similarly close triumphs in other Rust Belt states that helped provide his margin of victory.

But many political scientists have a more nuanced view on the subject.

Evidence shows that photo ID requirements and other restrictions indeed prevent some voters from casting ballots or going to the polls in the first place, says Dr. Hopkins of the University of Pennsylvania. But studies also show that the magnitude of the effect is not great enough to actually sway many outcomes.

“This is an important issue of voter rights and civil rights. But the levels of disenfranchisement we have seen do not indicate any election we can point to that would have been shifted,” says Dr. Hopkins.

Take Wisconsin. It’s true minority turnout dropped in 2016 relative to 2012. But was that due to voting restrictions, or the fact that Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president, wasn’t on the ballot? How did party mobilization efforts compare for those years? Could there have been some other factor?

Like many states, Wisconsin also has something of a split personality on voting issues. Under a GOP-led state government, it tightened ID laws – but it also allows same-day voter registration.

The way restrictions are drawn up and implemented also matters a lot. What IDs count? The question of whether a student ID is acceptable makes a big difference in heavily collegiate states such as New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

In the short run, new restrictions can sometimes even boost turnout. Studies have shown that they can produce a powerful emotional response among Democrats in general and affected groups in particular, spurring a counter-mobilization that actually leads to higher turnout at the polls. That response might eventually wear off – but long-term effects are difficult to predict. Older voters tend to skew Republican, and as they age they become statistically less likely to have driver’s licenses, passports, or other IDs.

Nevertheless, the partisan intent seems clear. It is Republican governors and legislators who are pushing for and implementing new restrictions. In 2012, Pennsylvania’s Republican state House leaders said publicly that the state’s new voter ID law would “allow” GOP candidate Mitt Romney to take the state. (A state judge later threw out the law as contrary to Pennsylvania’s Constitution.)

President Trump has called for a nationwide photo ID requirement, saying it would ensure only U.S. citizens vote in U.S. elections. (Multiple nationwide studies have found only a handful of documented cases of noncitizen votes.)

“There are sometimes clear political motivations [for instituting voting restrictions],” says Dr. Hopkins.

The disengagement factor

But voter photo ID, “purges” of infrequent voters from the rolls, and other moves are not the only things affecting the voting rates of minorities. At a time when America is rapidly becoming more diverse, it is voters’ own disengagement that may be most slowing the rise of the “transformative” coalition, and maintaining the clout of the “restorative” counterpart.

“It is this broader story of encouraging people to participate that’s the issue,” says Bernard Fraga, assistant professor of political science at Indiana University and author of “The Turnout Gap: Race, Ethnicity, and Political Inequality in a Diversifying America.”

The U.S. has long lagged on turnout compared with other developed nations. In part, this is because registration to vote in the U.S. has traditionally been an individual responsibility. Other nations may vote on weekends, or holidays. According to Pew Research data, 24 nations make voting compulsory, including the perennial top turnout nation, Belgium, which averages close to a 90% turnout.

In U.S. presidential elections, about 50% to 60% of eligible voting-age citizens typically turn out to vote. Midterms attract a turnout of about 40%, while local elections draw even less. Municipal primaries may be decided by as little as 15% of those eligible to vote.

Turnout of minority groups in America is particularly low. Whether it is the barrier of an ID, or simply apathy – a decision to not decide on political choices – minority turnout lags far behind that of white people, says Dr. Fraga.

In 2016, 65.3% of eligible white people said they voted, according to Pew data. Forty-nine percent of black people said the same thing, representing a sharp decline from 2012’s record 66.6% turnout.

Latino turnout lagged behind at 47.6%, according to Pew. A greater number of eligible Latinos have not voted than voted in each presidential election since 1996.

Asian Americans historically do not break the 50% turnout barrier, either. In 2016, their voting percentage was 49.3.

Voter ID and other restrictive policies don’t explain this minority turnout gap, says Dr. Fraga. Some states that have implemented relatively tight laws actually have higher minority turnout numbers.

And the gap has clear electoral effects. If minority turnout had equaled white turnout, given that minorities are preponderantly Democratic, Hillary Clinton would have won the presidency in 2016 instead of being narrowly defeated. Democrats would have regained a majority in the Senate. 

Interestingly, the turnout gap is much smaller in places where minority groups make up a larger share of the population. This may be due to the fact that African Americans or Latinos feel they have the power to affect outcomes in a way they do not in overwhelmingly white areas. Or it may be because political campaigns cater to them and target them more when they might make more of a difference.

“The broad conclusion is, this is a story about engagement, empowerment, and mobilization,” says Dr. Fraga.

A perfect storm 

All of this – sweeping demographic change, voter ID, voter roll “purges,” minority turnout, plus cameo appearances by partisan gerrymandering and the Electoral College – may roll into the electoral storm of the century in 18 months.

That’s because the 2020 presidential election is coming.

The 2018 midterms saw a huge spike in voter interest and turnout. As Dr. Hopkins pointed out in his 2018 book “The Increasingly United States: How and Why American Political Behavior Nationalized,” the old saying that “all politics is local” has now been turned on its head. All politics is now national, focused on the big stories from Washington via social media and nationalized media. Midterm interest was driven by anger toward and defense of President Trump. With the president himself on the ballot next fall, turnout could be off the charts.

It will be a great clash between the transformative coalition of anti-Trump Democrats and the restorative coalition of the pro-Trump base. A recent Fox News poll found that the percentage of voters who say today that they are “extremely” interested in the 2020 presidential election is already higher than the percentage who said the same thing on the day before the 2016 vote. 

Michael McDonald, an election specialist at the University of Florida, is predicting record participation levels. “We are likely in for a storm of the century,” he recently tweeted, “with turnout levels not seen for a presidential election in the past 100 years.”

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2. Trade war roils US, China, but it means jobs for rest of Asia

Trade has long been an engine of rising prosperity for people in Asia’s developing nations. That’s still true, but the region faces a reshuffling amid fears that U.S.-China trade tensions will persist.

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The U.S.-China tariffs and trade disputes are expected to dampen economic growth globally, but there are signs it could be a boon for developing nations such as Vietnam, the Philippines, and even Mexico. That’s because corporations are weighing shifting their supply chains out of China – in part or completely – to evade an expanding regime of tariffs.

“Many companies were already looking into this, and the trade war is giving them the final push to make it happen,” says Jon Cowley, a trade expert at the Baker McKenzie law firm in Hong Kong. A recent survey of U.S. companies operating in China in 2018 found that about one-fifth have moved or are considering moving capacity outside of China. Tariffs were the top reason, followed by rising costs and expectations of slower growth.

Already production in “footloose” industries such as apparel has been shifting. Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist, says that moving production of things like computers out of China is harder because “the Chinese are shoulders beyond what other parts of [developing] Asia can do.”

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Trade war roils US, China, but it means jobs for rest of Asia

The California company Pedego Electric Bikes was long reliant on China as a production center. Now its bike assembly will be 100 percent in Vietnam and Taiwan.

The Taiwanese electronics firm Wistron is also moving its China-based production to new locations – much of it headed for a facility in the Philippines.

Two common themes tie these stories together: First, China has become less attractive for some manufacturers amid the rising tariffs of a U.S.-China trade war. Second, although the dispute can dampen economic growth globally, there are signs it could be a boon for developing economies in Mexico and Southeast Asia, where trade is an especially important driver of prosperity.

From fashion to machinery to electronics, many companies are weighing shifting production and supply chains – in part or completely – out of China to evade the expanding regime of tariffs. Even if a bilateral trade deal is reached, experts say it would be unlikely to fully resolve U.S.-China tensions, so this geographic rebalancing of global manufacturing could persist.

“Many companies were already looking into this, and the trade war is giving them the final push to make it happen,” says Jon Cowley, an expert in trade law with the Baker McKenzie law firm in Hong Kong. 

Old jobs moving ... and new ones growing

Companies with global or regional footprints can evade tariffs by moving final production from China to another jurisdiction. If products are substantially transformed in the final location, the China origin label can be changed. Technology, machinery, and chemical industry firms affected by U.S. tariffs are making such moves, and others are expected to follow as U.S. tariffs broaden, Mr. Cowley says.

Developing countries in Asia are seeing a surge in investment, a further indication that companies are shifting production. Chinese and U.S. equity investment in new projects – known as “greenfield investment” – rose sharply in other developing Asian nations in 2018: China’s nearly tripled, and that of the U.S. surged 71 percent, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

SOURCE: Asian Development Bank "Asian Development Outlook 2019"
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

Such trends are expected to continue as trade wrangling between the U.S. and China becomes the new normal, economists and trade experts say.

“In the long run, if the conflict persists we may see increasing trade and production redirection away from China toward other countries that aren’t subject to the tariffs. The effects of this trade and production redirection will be positive for the rest of developing Asia,” says Abdul Abiad, an economist who directs the research and regional cooperation department at the ADB.

A recent survey of U.S. companies operating in China in 2018 found that about one-fifth have moved or are considering moving capacity outside of China. The top reason cited for doing so: U.S. tariffs on goods exported from China, followed by rising costs and expectations of slower growth, according to the business climate survey released in February by the American Chamber of Commerce in China. 

Of those moving, 40% were heading to developing Asia, 11% to developed Asia, and 10% to Mexico. Mexico’s annual trade surplus with the United States surged by 15% to a record high of $82 billion in 2018, and some Chinese manufacturers have begun relocating to Mexico to escape U.S. tariffs.

“The trade war [and related uncertainty] has made what was a ‘plan B’ for some companies a ‘plan A’ for many,” says Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Shoes more mobile than computers

Already production of shoes, apparel, toys, and other “footloose” industries has been shifting from China to Vietnam and other countries, partly due to rising wages in China, says Mary Lovely, a professor of economics at Syracuse University. 

Moving mid-level manufacturing in items such as computers out of China is harder because it is more knowledge-intensive. With a relatively young, literate, and numerate workforce, “the Chinese are shoulders beyond what other parts of Asia can do,” Professor Lovely says.

Supply chains are “sticky,” and moving them requires a significant investment, Mr. Cowley says. Tariffs are only one variable firms weigh, with others being proximity of markets and suppliers, logistics costs, and workforce reliability. But the longer tariffs are in place, the more willing companies are to bear those costs, he says.

“This entire trade war has spurred more investment” in roads and other infrastructure aimed at paving the way for increased production in Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, he says.

In another key ripple effect, American companies in China are being buffeted by the trade winds – vulnerable to paying more both for imported U.S. supplies and for products exported to the U.S. Raising their sales prices will hurt their competitiveness.

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

This is significant, because majority-owned affiliates of U.S. multinational enterprises in China sell far more goods and services in China’s domestic market – $286 billion as of 2016, the latest year for which data are available – than the U.S. exports in goods and services to China ($170 billion in the same year).

“American companies are selling a lot in China, and those jobs do support jobs in the U.S. Those profits do come to U.S. owners of the businesses,” says Professor Lovely. “It’s very cavalier to say we will let them hang in the wind while we pursue the trade war.”

Global effects of trade war

Overall, trade wars are economically harmful – especially for the countries waging them, economists say. Trade increases a country’s wealth, measured by gross domestic product (GDP). Trade allows resources to move across borders to where they are used most efficiently. When barriers to trade are imposed, such as tariffs – a tax on imports – they reduce GDP.

SOURCE: Asian Development Bank
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff

Both the U.S. and China are projected to face economic damage if current tariffs stay in place for the rest of 2019 and 2020, according to the ADB. China is expected to be hit hardest, with a 1.03% reduction in GDP, while the GDP of the U.S. will be 0.20% lower than if the tariffs were not in place, the ADB estimates. World GDP is also projected to fall by 0.15%.

The loss in GDP will mean job losses – with China expected to lose 1.76 million jobs and the U.S. 194,000 in 2019 and 2020, under the scenario envisioned by the ADB.

“We see a few people helped, a lot more people hurt, and no accountability in what we are doing with this kind of redistribution,” says Professor Lovely.

SOURCE: Asian Development Bank
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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3. Rethinking mental health for cops: When ‘good intentions’ aren’t enough

Police officers are getting more help then ever in dealing with the stresses of their jobs. But it needs to be done right or it risks only reinforcing trauma. The most powerful and effective mental health tool: helping each other.

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Law enforcement agencies are now expected to have some kind of in-house team to help officers manage work stress. It's a far cry from the days when first responders were expected to process traumatic incidents on their own time, if they were able to process them at all.

But as mental health services have improved, another question has emerged: Are first responders receiving the best short-term care?

“It’s an important discussion to be had because I think we’re becoming more educated in policing to understand evidence-based practices,” says Renee Mitchell, of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing.

The Stockton Police Department in California created a wellness program for its officers that is now hailed as a national model. Officers are introduced to the “wellness network” with an eight-hour training during orientation, educated on how stress can affect the mind and body, and taught mindfulness techniques and other methods to keep themselves on an even keel.

For her part, a variety of mental health support options is what Sergeant Mitchell in California wants to see.

“Often [in policing] we don’t realize that just doing something, even though we have good intentions, doesn’t mean that the outcomes are always good.”

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Rethinking mental health for cops: When ‘good intentions’ aren’t enough

Late last month, Fort Worth police officers responded to reports of a quadruple homicide at a home in a quiet suburb, near an elementary school. When they arrived, two of the victims were young children, reportedly killed by the father, who then turned the gun on himself. 

That is when they called Billy Mitchell.

Officer Mitchell and his 40-person support team are trained in a suite of practices known as critical incident stress management (CISM). As the department’s volunteer peer support team, they use CISM to help their fellow officers process traumatic incidents – hopefully mitigating or preventing long-term mental health effects. Their methods are used around the world, including by hundreds of police and fire departments in the United States.

“We were called by my commander because one of the troops, and one of our homicide investigators, was disturbed by the scene,” recalls Officer Mitchell.

Over the following weeks, perhaps months, those peer support officers will talk with their colleagues who had responded to the scene, telling them what psychological reactions to expect, debriefing them together, and seeing that their basic physical and emotional needs are met.

As the stigma around mental health has decreased in society as a whole, so it has for first responders as well. Law enforcement agencies are now expected to have some kind of in-house team helping their officers manage the daily stresses and trauma of their work – not just to maintain a happier workforce and longer careers, but to reduce legal liability for the agency. None of this existed decades ago, when first responders were expected to process traumatic incidents on their own time and in their own way, if they were able to process them at all.

But a new issue has emerged in recent years. Demand for mental health services has increased, and so has scientific research into the effectiveness of various practices. Are first responders receiving what mental health professionals consider the best short-term care after traumatic incidents?

“It’s an important discussion to be had because I think we’re becoming more educated in policing to understand evidence-based practices,” says Renee Mitchell, an executive committee member for the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing.

“Often [in policing] we don’t realize that just doing something, even though we have good intentions, doesn’t mean that the outcomes are always good,” adds Sergeant Mitchell, who also serves in a California police department. 

Do debriefings help?

Debriefings after traumatic incidents, specifically, are a practice that Sergeant Mitchell, and some other researchers and agencies, have concerns about.

She went through a critical incident stress debriefing (CISD) herself after two officers she supervised went through an officer-involved shooting in 2005. In the past year, though, she became aware of numerous studies and meta-analyses – which examine several studies on a single topic – concluding that CISDs are ineffective or possibly even harmful to individuals who participate in them.

Debriefings are typically structured in a specific way, and they can force an individual to relive an event or confront a trauma before they’re ready, or can interrupt their natural coping processes, research has found. In one 2014 study, researchers interviewed firefighters about their CISD experiences.

“I went mainly because there was another guy on the shift that was pretty upset by” an incident – a young child who had drowned in a whirlpool spa – one firefighter told the researchers. “We went to this debriefing, and all they did was tell us about this kid and tell us about his family and all this stuff. I didn’t need to know that. That made it worse.”

The fire service has for the most part stopped using debriefings, according to Richard Gist, a co-author of the 2014 study.

“We’ve gone in very different directions, but it still seems to have a foothold in law enforcement,” says Dr. Gist, a public health psychologist who has worked at the Kansas City (Missouri) Fire Department for 20 years. 

Fire departments and other agencies have instead begun to adopt methods known as “psychological first aid,” which calls for three broad responses to help first responders after critical incidents: recreating a sense of safety, establishing meaningful social connections, and re-establishing a sense of efficacy.

Psychological first aid is “proven to improve outcomes, lessen complications, and shorten recovery times for both the general public and emergency service personnel,” wrote Mike McEvoy, an EMS coordinator for Saratoga County and EMS director for the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, in a 2005 article in Fire Engineering magazine. He noted that one meta-analysis found that CISDs proved neutral when compared with no debriefing at all for the 40 percent of rescuers for whom it was appropriate.

Instead, he argued, “It’s time to expand what we offer our members using what scientific evidence shows is our most powerful and effective mental health tool: helping each other.”

One stress management tool

But others argue that CISD is an effective tool. It was created by a paramedic in Maryland named Jeffrey Mitchell in 1972, who spent 11 years developing the debriefing method before publishing an article about it. CISD “is one tool in the whole field of critical incident stress management,” he says.

Several studies critiquing debriefings, Dr. Mitchell notes, didn’t study the group debriefings of emergency responders he developed and promotes – instead studying debriefings of civilians or one-on-one debriefings of emergency responders.

In the late 1980s, he co-founded the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF), which has become one of the leading organizations promoting and training agencies on CISD and CISM. There are currently more than 1,500 CISM teams around the world who are trained by the ICISF.

The Fort Worth Police Department’s peer support group is one.

“They were the standard, and we wanted to go with what we considered was the best,” says Officer Mitchell, who began leading the peer support group in 2009. The core training “hasn’t changed a whole lot,” he adds, but it works.

Dave Barrows, a former president of the Northern Illinois CISM team, agrees. His team of about 60 people – created in the mid-1980s as one of the first ICISF-trained teams – responds to incidents in a nine-county area around Chicago. In the first four months of this year, his team responded to 32 incidents, a similar figure to last year.

The training has expanded beyond debriefings over the years, and police officers and firefighters they have worked with have later chosen to join his team. “While that’s not a quantifiable, double-blind research study, I think it says a great deal that what we do is effective,” he says.

Commander Barrows’ team does not operate in the city of Chicago. The police department there has been responding to six officer suicides in an eight-month period, and recently released a video series encouraging their officers to seek mental health support. Other police departments around the country have been trying other methods of psychological support for their officers.

The Stockton Police Department in California created a wellness program for its officers several years ago that is now hailed as a national model. Officers are introduced to the “wellness network” with an eight-hour training during orientation, educated on how stress affects the mind and body, and taught mindfulness techniques and other methods to keep themselves on an even keel.

A variety of mental health support options is what Sergeant Mitchell in California wants to see.

“We’re sending [officers] out in the field with guns. And we have [one of] the highest suicide rates there is in any profession,” she says. “We don’t do any research to examine, to evaluate whether our practices work or don’t work. We just adopt whatever the next agency is doing.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that Renee Mitchell supervised two people who went through an officer-involved shooting in 2005.

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4. South Africa has 11 languages. Why the fuss over learning Mandarin?

Learning another language can feel adventurous, or even liberating. But in South Africa, where generations of students were forced to study colonizers’ languages, new Mandarin classes have sparked debate. The country has 11 official languages of its own. Should schools focus on those first?

Mark

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Roughly 1 billion people speak Mandarin Chinese. South Africa would like to add a few more – or a lot.

Four years ago, the government announced it had approved teaching Mandarin as an optional course at public schools. As ties with China grow, it’s a key language to introduce to students, advocates note. And with support from Beijing, it’s relatively cheap.

But South Africa itself has 11 official languages, and Mandarin has stirred up debate about the value of studying foreign languages at the expense of the country’s own. Amid China’s brisk and often brusque rise in influence in Africa, some see echoes of the past, when generations of South African students were forced to learn European languages. Even today, many argue African languages have second-class citizenship. “We are still in that project – of building a nation, of building our social cohesion,” says Nomusa Cembi, from the country’s largest teachers’ union.

Boitshepo, a 15-year-old student, sees Mandarin in a different light. “When you meet people from a different place, the respectful thing to do is to speak to them in their own language rather than make them learn yours,” she says. “And there’s so many people in the world who speak Chinese.”

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South Africa has 11 languages. Why the fuss over learning Mandarin?

Fifteen-year-old Boitshepo already knows the word for “rabbit” in four languages.

There’s the English, of course, and then there’s konyn (Afrikaans), unogwaja (Zulu), and mmutla (Sesotho).

And now, on a bright autumn afternoon in a sun-drenched classroom in South Africa’s capital, she is coaxing her brain to make room for a fifth version of rabbit too. 

Tùzǐ,” she repeats, trying to mimic the rise and fall of the tones her Mandarin teacher has just pronounced. Tù - zǐ.

Like many people growing up in South Africa, which has 11 official languages, Boitshepo sees learning a new one in practical terms. 

“When you meet people from a different place, the respectful thing to do is to speak to them in their own language rather than make them learn yours,” she says. “And there’s so many people in the world who speak Chinese.”

But outside the walls of this classroom, a far more complicated debate is taking place about the value of teaching Mandarin to young South Africans.

Some – including South Africa’s Department of Basic Education – see offering optional Mandarin classes with the same pragmatic eyes as Boitshepo. It’s the world’s most widely spoken language, they note, and South Africa has strong and growing economic and political ties to Beijing. And with the Chinese government offering up teachers and other educational materials, the cost for the government is lower than it would be for almost any other language. (Education departments in Uganda, Kenya, and Zambia seem to agree – with the help of their local Chinese embassies, all three are currently rolling out Mandarin as a foreign language too).

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
Students practice Mandarin during a language class at Willowridge High School in Pretoria, South Africa. In South Africa, which has 11 official languages, critics of teaching Mandarin argue that schools should prioritize teaching the country's own languages.

But for the language’s detractors, teaching Chinese comes laden with dark symbolism. To them, it echoes a painful past across the continent, when generations of students were forced to learn European languages at the expense of their own mother tongues. And they see the rise of the language in schools as a proxy for China’s brisk and often brusque rise in influence in Africa more broadly.

“When colonizers came, the first thing they did was to make us communicate in the language of the master,” says Nomusa Cembi, media officer for the South African Democratic Teachers Union, the largest teachers’ union in the country, which opposes the teaching of Mandarin in public schools. “That’s been our history. So to us, this feels like another form of colonization.”

For Ms. Cembi, like many South Africans, her earliest experiences of language learning took place against the backdrop of apartheid. In the mid-1970s, when she was beginning primary school, students across the country rose up in a massive wave of protests against being taught in Afrikaans – the Dutch-based creole used by the white government. After hundreds of student protesters were killed by police in Soweto, a township outside Johannesburg, the demonstrations exploded, touching off a new protest movement that would not end until apartheid was brought down a decade and a half later.

After apartheid ended, South Africa adopted 11 of its most commonly spoken languages as official languages, each afforded equal status.

“Recognising the historically diminished use and status of the indigenous languages of our people, the state must take practical and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of these languages,” the 1996 constitution explained.

But despite those promises, many say African languages still have second-class citizenship here, relegated to a “second language” in almost every school after third grade (that is, all African languages except for Afrikaans, the first language of South Africa’s mixed-race community known as coloureds and many white South Africans). Most educated South Africans can read and write far better in English or Afrikaans than any other language – even if that language is their mother tongue.

“We are still in that project – of building a nation, of building our social cohesion,” says Ms. Cembi. “Rather than teaching Chinese, we need to be focusing on teaching each other our own languages.”

Ryan Lenora Brown/The Christian Science Monitor
Students attend a Mandarin class at Willowridge High School in Pretoria, South Africa. Willowridge is one of fewer than 150 South African public schools that now offer Mandarin classes in collaboration with the Chinese government.

But the Department of Basic Education here, as well as other proponents of the language, say the fear of Chinese influence is overblown. 

In 2015, when the department announced it had approved the teaching of Mandarin, the plan called for training 200 local teachers per year. Four years later, however, fewer than 150 public schools have begun to offer the language – of approximately 25,000 in the country – and many teachers are Chinese. The department did not reply to multiple requests for comment about how many local teachers have been trained.

Even at schools that offer Mandarin, meanwhile, it is not tested as part of the national high school exit exams, placing it below the two South African languages in which a student must display proficiency in order to graduate.

For instance, at Willowridge High School, where Boitshepo studies, Mandarin classes meet after school hours, once a week, for an hour and a half. Their instructor is a bubbly recent university graduate from China named Chen Ruoxin, who is employed by the Confucius Institute. (The Beijing-funded culture and language institutes have come under increasing scrutiny on campuses in several Western countries over concerns about transparency and stifling academic debate.) She laughs easily, doesn’t assign homework, and says her main goal is for her students to “learn the language so they can appreciate the culture behind it and know more about the world.”

For China, language teachers like Ms. Chen – who says she sees her classes as “making an exchange” between cultures – are ideal ambassadors of a country working actively to soften its sharp image globally. In many African countries, for instance, China has a dubious reputation among local populations for extracting natural resources and meddling in media and government.

“In the last decade, China has been trying to put on a softer face to the world,” says Yu Shan Wu, a research associate at the Africa-China Reporting Project at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and an expert on South Africa-China relations. Cultural diplomacy – particularly via language – is one obvious way to do that. 

At Willowridge, the five students in Ms. Chen’s intermediate Mandarin classes are excited recipients of that diplomacy. They speak gleefully about one day studying abroad in China or going into business with Chinese colleagues.

“I love the culture and the language. It’s really beautiful,” says a ninth grader named Lethabo. “And the dumplings. I also really like the dumplings.”

An eighth grader named Saarah is even more matter-of-fact. “A fifth of the world speaks Mandarin,” she says. “Sooner or later, we’ll all have to learn this language.”

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5. It’s a stumpede! Corgis hit the racetrack in California.

Who doesn’t need a little more joy in their life? Our reporter, who once was owned by a corgi, checked out a race where stubby-legged dogs go zooming (or not, their choice) down the track Seabiscuit once ran. She found a goofy good time, with lots of human and canine smiles.

Mark
Jenna Schoenefeld/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Corgis race after the gate is raised for the semifinals during the 2nd Annual Corgi Nationals at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, May 26. The pups scramble for 125 feet toward the finish line, where their humans hold toys and treats.

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It was a veritable stumpede: Some 100 adorable, furry low-riders vied for a trophy at the second Corgi Nationals at the Santa Anita racetrack on Sunday.

The rules are simple. Starting boxes hold 10 corgis, each sporting a colorful, numbered jersey. When the cover is lifted, off they go for 125 feet, with someone waiting to coax them to the finish line – shaking Frisbees, pompoms, squeaky toys, and of course, treats.

It’s a fun, family affair, with dogs running in circles after they reach the finish line – or never getting that far, as was the case with most of the corgis in the senior class, who just sat there when the gate opened.

Last year, Tiffany Jensen’s dog, Shortstack Wiggle Butt, simply ran around the starting box and back to his dad when the gate opened. This time, Ms. Jensen trained Shortstack to chase a motorized cart on her ranch in Porterville.

“I feel amazing! I’m literally about to cry,” said Ms. Jensen, giving her little guy a well-deserved tummy rub after Shortstack made it to the finals.

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It’s a stumpede! Corgis hit the racetrack in California.

Move over Indy 500, the racing corgi dogs are here. In a new Memorial Day weekend tradition, 100 of these adorable, furry low-riders vied for a trophy at the second Corgi Nationals on Sunday.

The official winner was Emmet of Pasadena, whose owner helped him “train” for the event by setting up pillows to simulate a starting gate. The real winners? Pretty much everyone who turned out to watch the stubby-legged competitors scramble their way down the same track Seabiscuit once thundered across. Cuteness and pervasive joy were the order of the day for both the dogs and the roughly 2,000 fans gathered at the Santa Anita racetrack near Los Angeles.

“They’re so cute! My heart was melting,” exclaimed Alan Leung, a graduate student who came to the races with a friend who owns a corgi. He admitted he was now a corgi convert.

Jenna Schoenefeld/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Widget looks up at his owner Scott Tripp during the 2nd Annual Corgi Nationals at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., on May 26.

“Every time I see one I swoon,” said Katherine Lewis, who repeated “they’re so adorable!” and “Ohhhh,” as she wandered among the crowd of owners, leashes, and pooches. Her husband, toting their baby in a Snugli, vouched for her love affair with the big dogs with little legs and natural smile. He recalled a date where they went to see a movie that included Queen Elizabeth and her famous corgis.

“She actually was brought to tears right there in the theater.”

Corgis have a huge following on social media, and gatherings have become somewhat of a phenomenon in Southern California. In 2012, Kelly and Dan McLemore wanted to get to know other corgi owners and organized a beach day for owners and pets alike. Fifteen people came. Now 14,000 to 15,000 enthusiasts attend the spring and fall beach bashes, which include corgi limbo contests, costumes, food trucks, and specialty vendors.

“It’s a place for all of us to come together and share in our weird corgi obsession,” says Ms. McLemore, of So Cal Corgi Nation.

The McLemores were inspired to organize a corgi “stumpede” by the Wiener Nationals for dachshunds, which take place at the Los Alamitos Race Course not far from Los Angeles. Last year, more than 5,000 people attended the first Corgi Nationals at Santa Anita, at the foot of the stunning San Gabriel Mountains. Contestant slots for this year’s races sold out in less than 90 seconds, says Ms. McLemore. “They went like wildfire.”

The rules are simple. Starting boxes hold 10 corgis, each sporting a colorful, numbered jersey. When the cover is lifted, off they go for 125 feet. Someone has to be at either end, one to place the corgi in the box and the other to coax their pet to the finish line by whatever means works – yelling their canine’s name, or shaking frisbees, pompoms, favorite squeaky toys, and of course, treats.

Jenna Schoenefeld/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Corgis race toward the finish line during the 2nd Annual Corgi Nationals at Santa Anita Park May 26. Ten corgis race at a time, with one person helping them start and another one at the finish line, shouting encouragement and holding treats and toys.

It’s a fun, family affair, with dogs running in circles after they reach the finish line – or never getting that far, as was the case with most of the corgis in the senior class, who just sat there when the gate opened.

After the qualifying heats – and hat contest – on the grassy infield, the race shifts to the main dirt track for the semi-finals and finals. An announcer gives second-by-second commentary, while a Jumbotron captures every detail of the race, then replays it in slow motion.

Participants from the inaugural Corgi Nationals are wiser the second time around. Tiffany Jensen laughs that last year, her dog, Shortstack Wiggle Butt, simply ran around the starting box and back to his dad when the gate opened. This time, Ms. Jensen trained Shortstack to chase a motorized cart on her cattle ranch in Porterville, where he ran three miles a day.

Jenna Schoenefeld/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Bradley Taylor (c.) and Jessica Wick (r.) pose with their corgi Emmet after Emmet won the 2nd Annual Corgi Nationals at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., May 26. When asked what was next for Emmet, Mr. Taylor said, ‘We're going to play ball!’

“I feel amazing! I’m literally about to cry,” said Ms. Jensen, after making it into the finals, and giving her little guy a well-deserved tummy rub.

Alas, Shortstack did not run away with the trophy or flower wreath. That honor went to Emmet, who beat the others by at least a two-corgi length. When interviewed on-camera in the winner’s circle, happy owner Bradley Taylor said he was completely surprised by the win, commenting that his dog simply likes to start off fast.

“What’s next for Emmet?” the announcer wanted to know.

“We’re going to play ball!”

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The Monitor's View

A coup against corruption in Romania

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If one country in Europe has been ground zero for a campaign against corruption by the European Union, it has been Romania. The former communist bloc nation has seen its ruling elite prevent judges and prosecutors from rooting out graft. Last Sunday and Monday, Romania delivered three dramatic blows against corruption. It is on its way to becoming a poster child in the EU on how to clean up government.

The most visible blow was the imprisonment of the country’s most powerful politician, Liviu Dragnea, after his conviction for padding government payrolls. As head of the ruling Social Democratic party, he pushed for changes that weakened the justice system in its ability to put corrupt officials – like himself – behind bars. A second blow was an overwhelming vote in a referendum in favor of rolling back those changes. And finally, in voting for the European Parliament election, Romanians dealt a strong blow against the Social Democrats. The party won less than 24%, nearly half of what it got in 2016.

All this would not have been possible if Romanians had not taken to the streets at key moments to protest corruption or the efforts to protect the corrupt.

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A coup against corruption in Romania

If one country in Europe has been ground zero for a campaign against corruption by the European Union, it has been Romania. The former communist bloc nation, which joined the EU in 2007, has seen its ruling elite prevent judges and prosecutors from rooting out graft. The EU, along with the United States, has demanded that this strategic ally on the Black Sea avoid internal turmoil caused by sleazy politicians.

Last Sunday and Monday, Romania delivered three dramatic blows against corruption. It is on its way to becoming a poster child in the EU on how to clean up government.

The most visible blow was the imprisonment of the country’s most powerful politician, Liviu Dragnea, after his conviction for padding government payrolls. He was given a 3-1/2 year sentence. As head of the ruling Social Democratic party, he pushed for changes that weakened the justice system in its ability to put corrupt officials – like himself – behind bars.

A second blow was an overwhelming vote in a referendum in favor of rolling back those changes. The referendum was organized by President Klaus Iohannis, who has been a strong voice for open and transparent governance.

And finally, in voting for the European Parliament election, Romanians dealt a strong blow against the Social Democrats. The party won less than 24%, nearly half of what it got in 2016. It now faces a difficult future, especially without its strongman, Mr. Dragnea, in charge.

All this would not have been possible if Romanians had not taken to the streets at key moments to protest corruption or the efforts to protect the corrupt. Those protests were as significant as the ones that helped fell the communist regime a quarter century ago. The country’s former lead prosecutor, Laura Kövesi, says her anti-graft efforts in recent years were made easier because Romanians are changing the culture of corruption, especially by resisting petty demands for bribes.

While the EU now has a better chance of influencing Romania in further pushing back corruption, the people themselves have clearly showed their preference for clean governance.

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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.

Staying ‘in a place of love’

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When a co-worker’s animosity affected today’s contributor to the point of illness, she turned to God in prayer. The idea that we are all precious children of God, divine Love, opened the door to harmony and healing.

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Staying ‘in a place of love’

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In her memoir, technology pioneer Ping Fu shares a moving account of how an uncle provided a lifeline of love and encouragement when she was sent away as a child for “reeducation” during China’s Cultural Revolution. She faced extreme ridicule and bullying from militant Red Guards, but her uncle, who was able to briefly visit, gave her such reassurance when he said, “Know that you are precious. You don’t need to earn it; this is your birthright” (Ping Fu and MeiMei Fox, “Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds,” p. 67). The book goes on to say that later he also encouraged her to “stay in a place of love toward other people, rather than sinking into resentment or fear” (p. 68).

Reading Ms. Fu’s account and her uncle’s words has caused me to reflect on a time when I became afraid of another’s antagonism. This experience was nowhere near what Ms. Fu faced, but it’s been a foundational one for me because it taught me how to “stay in a place of love” and conquer fear when confronted with negativity.

I was working at a small bookstore, and I so loved it! But when I found out that a co-worker had suddenly started to disparage me to other staff members, I became fearful of his animosity, and it affected me to the point of illness. I felt so out of it – in bed a lot during the day, tossing and turning at night, with a fever and heavy flu-like symptoms.

Finally, late one night I turned to God in prayer. I also called a Christian Science practitioner – someone who is available full time to help people seeking healing – to pray with me. She agreed to help and also said, “There is no battle.”

I instantly felt free from fear. I knew she wasn’t ignoring my struggle but was pointing me to a spiritual reality that could help me break through it. These few words helped me realize the supremacy of divine Love, God, who defines our true nature. In light of God’s supremacy, I could see that fear and animosity have no actual authority. Christ Jesus demonstrated this healing truth, embracing everyone’s true being as the expression of God’s love.

Well, as I continued to pray that night, a fresh appreciation for my co-worker dawned in my heart. I spent some lovely moments valuing the God-derived qualities he expressed, such as creativity. Up until then, I’d pretty much stereotyped him as just a crusty guy. It was so freeing to drop that unloving stereotype and simply love him as an individual, spiritual expression of God.

Then I had a peaceful sleep. When I woke in the morning, the fever had lifted and I was up and going again. I returned to work, and the issues with the co-worker that had loomed large were no longer present; we moved forward harmoniously in our work together.

The only “enemy” we really face is the persona of an unloving self. But this persona is not anyone’s true identity. Whether it’s manifested as derisive sociopolitical discourse, extremes of hate speech, or harsh suggestions from an inner critic, we can bravely call out negativity and hatred as false narratives. Everyone’s true voice, identity, and inclinations are divinely derived from the pure Love that is God.

These are lessons I have learned from reading the Bible and “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science. For instance, Science and Health says: “Human hate has no legitimate mandate and no kingdom. Love is enthroned” (p. 454). Destructively critical and hateful attitudes – from the slightest to the most extreme – aren’t excusable in any of us. Divine Love is tirelessly on the job, mercifully exposing and nullifying these false modes of thought and behavior, bringing out the true, loving nature of us all.

It’s not easy to always love everyone. But I keep praying for God’s grace to illuminate any dark corners where fear, indifference, anger, or other unloving thoughts lurk – to free me from these unnatural tendencies and let my naturally loving, Godlike nature shine brightly to help others.

Each of us can pray to see our whole human family as embraced in the universal light of Love, as precious spiritual expressions of the one Divine Being. In this way we experience healing and feel God’s love moving us forward in harmony.

Adapted from an article published in the May 27, 2019, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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Viewfinder

Sky gazing

Michael Probst/AP
A girl lies back on her horse between fields on the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany, May 28.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( May 30th, 2019 )

Thank you for joining us today. Tomorrow staff writer Story Hinckley will look at the fallout from 2018’s “year of the woman” in politics. It will certainly reverberate into 2020, though maybe not in expected ways.

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May 29, 2019
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