2019
June
18
Tuesday
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

What goes on your grill this summer is becoming a moral statement.

America, it seems, has reached a culinary tipping point: The taste, texture, and smell of the plant-based and bovine-based patties are now nearly indistinguishable. See for yourself at Burger King or Wahlburgers. Veggie burgers are no longer just for vegetarians.

Bills to stop plant-based or lab-grown protein from being labeled “meat” or “beef” have been filed in 25 states. The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association calls it a question of integrity. It’s about protecting consumers from confusing nomenclature and deceptive ads. (OK, maybe it’s a little bit about protecting market share.)

They have a point: ”Meat,” according to Webster, is “animal tissue.”  

But producers of these burgers say shoppers aren’t confused. All labels have clear qualifiers (“plant-based” or “meatless” or “vegan”) in front of “meat.”

Food companies have long fought over labels such as “natural” or “organic.” But this quest for the moral high ground goes beyond integrity or free-speech rights. It veers into what food is best for the planet.

Most research says growing vegetables uses less water and produces far less greenhouse gas than raising cattle. But a recent study in France suggests that when meat is omitted, people eat more fruits and vegetables – and that puts the two diets more environmentally on par.

Perhaps what’s needed is more research. Reynolds Wrap just posted a new position: chief grilling officer. The two-week gig pays $10,000 plus all expenses to travel America in search of the best barbecue ribs.

 What if the winning ribs were plant-based?

Now to our five selected stories, including the quest for security in the Persian Gulf, how climate change is reshaping an iconic American park, and a look at whether political pragmatism is a viable path for a Democratic candidate.

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Essay

1. Mohammed Morsi and the fall of Egypt’s ‘honorable’ revolution

The former Egyptian president’s short time in power demonstrated that in an era of political upheaval, honorable intentions are not enough. Flexibility and shrewdness are also needed to build a nascent democracy. 

David
Murad Sezer/Reuters
People flash Rabia signs, Muslim Brotherhood support gestures, as they hold a picture of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi during a symbolic funeral prayer at the courtyard of Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, June 18, 2019.

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Mohamed Morsi was not Egypt’s George Washington. The first democratically elected Egyptian president, Mr. Morsi, who died during a courtroom appearance on Monday, did not manage to transform his nation from a dictatorship into a democracy following the 2011 popular overthrow of authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.

But Mr. Morsi was a Muslim Brotherhood consensus candidate rather than a political star. Facing a judiciary stacked with Mubarak loyalists and a military “deep state,” he ruled as if he held all the cards. He failed to build ties with secularists, nationalists, and leftists. He mismanaged the economy and media relations.

Mr. Morsi had lost control of Egypt’s national narrative when mass protests followed by a military coup finally ousted him in 2013.

But his downfall provided a road map to sharing power for Islamists and democrats elsewhere. In Tunisia, Islamists stepped down from government following protests and formed a coalition with other parties. In Jordan, Kuwait, and Morocco, the Brotherhood has focused on electoral reform and other political common-ground issues.

Mr. Morsi wrongly believed that love of country was all he needed for success. “My country, even if it fought me, is dear to me,” he said, quoting a poem, in his last court appearance. “My people, even if they resented me, are honorable.”

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Mohammed Morsi and the fall of Egypt’s ‘honorable’ revolution

Egypt’s first democratically elected president, who died during a courtroom appearance on Monday, was a figure who did not produce the greatness his era demanded.

Mohamed Morsi will be remembered as the Islamist who could never live up to the task of pulling Egypt from decades of dictatorship into a 21st century democracy following the 2011 popular overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

Never intended to lead his own party, let alone the nation, Mr. Morsi struggled to fit the bill as “Egypt’s George Washington,” and his subsequent persecution following his overthrow by Egypt’s generals in 2013 became a lesson for Arab democrats.  

Guided by the stubborn belief in the righteousness of his cause, Mr. Morsi did little more in his one year in power than prove that mediocrity and good intentions alone in the time of revolution can be fatal.

Party man

A soft-spoken engineer who completed his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California, Mr. Morsi was by most accounts “unremarkable.”

Neither a firebrand nor an innovator, not known for his oratory skills or for having the common touch, he rose through the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, then Egypt’s largest opposition movement, by simply keeping his head down and following orders with unwavering loyalty. He was a party pure-blood; a true believer.

“He is a party man, not a politician,” many of his Brotherhood peers would tell me in private during the country’s 2012 elections.

Mr. Morsi’s rise to the presidency itself was by accident; the Brotherhood’s front-runner candidate, Khairat Al Shater, a gifted politician and firebrand, dropped out weeks before the election after the military and courts annulled his candidacy due to a pre-revolution stint in prison.

The Islamists put forward Mr. Morsi as a party consensus candidate. He had no checkered past and had uttered no controversial statements that would alienate liberals or Christians, but he was also a loyal party member who would stick to the script. He would barely scrape by in the final runoff, with 51.7% of the vote.

From the very beginning, Egypt’s first freely elected president was up against a judiciary stacked with Mubarak loyalists and a military “deep state” that challenged his legitimacy at every move.

Mr. Morsi could not afford a stumble.

But with the Brotherhood controlling Parliament and now the presidency, he would govern as if he held all the cards.

A stubborn believer in majority rule, Mr. Morsi followed a winner-take-all approach to democracy. Although that may work in internal-party politics, it proved catastrophic in governing a country still shaking off the last remnants of a dictatorship.

Time and again, he either refused or failed to build ties with secularists, leftists, and nationalists or allay their fears that the Brotherhood was laying the groundwork for an Egyptian theocracy. In a divided nation, he often appealed only to his supporters.

To the other camps, his acts to “safeguard Egypt’s democratic transition” looked like a dictator’s power grab.

In August 2012, when Egypt’s post-revolution constitution was under attack by the courts and powerful military council, Mr. Morsi granted himself far-reaching powers and purged the military leadership. That November, he mobilized the armed forces to protect the vote on the draft constitution, sparking deadly street violence between Islamists and leftists.

After months of economic mismanagement, a tone-deaf approach to the media, and refusal to adjust his policies, Mr. Morsi had already lost the narrative in Egypt when mass protests erupted over his rule in June 2013. A military coup forced him out of office weeks later.

Mr. Morsi would spend the next six years in jail facing multiple show trials for murder and espionage. It was during the latest session in an espionage trial on Monday that he collapsed and died. He had been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and denied medical treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure, his family said.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an independent investigation into his death and the conditions of his confinement.

Ahmed Omar/AP/File
Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, wearing a red jumpsuit that designates he was sentenced to death, raises his hands inside a defendant's cage in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, in an eastern suburb of Cairo, June 21, 2015.

Islamist roadmap

Perhaps a more politically astute president would have been aware of the pitfalls that awaited him, built bridges with political allies across the aisle, crafted his own narrative, or leveraged his millions of grassroots supporters to head off a potential coup.

But it was the downfall that provided a road map to Islamists and democrats elsewhere.

Two years after Tunisia’s revolution, when leftists and secularists protested en masse against the ruling Brotherhood-inspired Ennahda party, Tunisian Islamists stepped down from the government and formed a coalition with other parties.

The Brotherhood in Jordan, Kuwait, and Morocco have since found common ground with liberals and leftists by focusing on the issues of electoral reform, fighting corruption, and economic justice, avoiding the identity politics that divided them.

Most recently, Algerian and Sudanese democratic activists have refused to leave the streets after toppling their strongmen to ensure their militaries complete the transition to civilian rule.

But such considerations were never at the forefront of Mr. Morsi’s thinking.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Mr. Morsi’s presidency was his steadfast belief that his love for country, much like his love for the party, was all that was needed for success.

In his closing statement in his last court appearance, Mr. Morsi quoted a poem:

“My country, even if it fought me, is dear to me. My people, even if they resented me, are honorable.”

In Egypt’s revolution, perhaps honorable was not enough.

Mr. Morsi’s attempt to be what he saw as honorable, rather than being the charismatic dealmaking politician needed for the moment, was not enough for the delicate transition.

Also, although the Egyptian people’s revolution and calls for democracy and freedom were honorable, they too were unprepared for the cynical counterrevolution and manipulation of political sentiments on the street that led people to call for the military to return – a decision many now regret.

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2. A fighter or a peacemaker? Amy Klobuchar is trying to be both.

The Minnesota senator has passed more bills than any of her 2020 rivals, and has a track record of winning over moderates and conservatives. But that pragmatism may not be what Democratic voters want in a candidate.

David

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Within the Democratic Party, there’s unanimity about the urgency of replacing President Donald Trump. But there’s an internal debate about how best to do that, a debate that could be described as fighters versus peacemakers. The fighters are passionate, even angry, about systemic economic and racial injustices. The peacemakers are more concerned with partisan polarization and the coarsening of national discourse.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is in some ways trying to be both: a fighter who can bring America together, with neither angry speeches nor kumbaya sessions, but with conviction and heart. Ranked the most effective Democratic senator in the 2017-19 Congress, she has one of the strongest records of any Democrat when it comes to winning over moderate and conservative voters. On Tuesday, she released a plan outlining more than 100 “concrete steps” she would take during her first 100 days in the White House.

Like many of her presidential rivals, she’s struggled to stand out in a historically crowded field. Heading into the first Democratic debates next week, her national poll numbers average around 1%. “Some people will find her boring,” says Steve Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. “But Trump may have made boring attractive.”

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A fighter or a peacemaker? Amy Klobuchar is trying to be both.

In a Democratic primary field filled with partisan warriors, Sen. Amy Klobuchar is sometimes cast as too moderate, too “Minnesota nice” to fire up the Democratic base and win back the White House. 

“Some people will find her boring,” says Steve Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. “But Trump may have made boring attractive.”

Within the Democratic Party, there’s unanimity about the urgency of replacing President Donald Trump. But there’s an internal debate about how best to do that, a debate that could be described as fighters versus peacemakers – the Bernies versus the Betos. The fighters are passionate, even angry, about systemic economic and racial injustices that they say President Trump did not cause but has accelerated. The peacemakers are more concerned with partisan polarization and the coarsening of national discourse, which they believe is undermining America’s strengths and ability to surmount the challenges it faces.

Enter Senator Klobuchar, who is in some ways trying to be both: positioning herself as a fighter who can bring America together – with neither angry speeches nor kumbaya sessions, but with conviction and heart.

“[She] is clearly ready to fight and be critical of the president,” says Neil Levesque, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, which hosted Senator Klobuchar for a Politics & Eggs event last week. “But a lot of what she said is ‘We’ve got to bring everyone together.’”

The senator and her supporters argue that you don’t need to be an ideological crusader to beat President Trump. She has one of the strongest records of any Democrat when it comes to winning over moderate and conservative voters; in 2018, she won 42 Minnesota counties that went for President Trump two years prior. And as she talks about civility and needing to bridge America’s divides, she also emphasizes that she’s got a backbone of steel – fittingly for the granddaughter of an iron ore miner in northern Minnesota. 

On Tuesday, she released a plan outlining more than 100 “concrete steps” she would take during her first 100 days in the White House – everything from rejoining the Paris climate agreement to allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada to updating Department of Justice guidelines on enforcing antitrust laws.

“If you’re a progressive, you’d better make progress. You can’t just talk about it; you actually have to get things done,” Senator Klobuchar said to reporters after her Politics & Eggs appearance.

Ranked the most effective Democratic senator in the 2017-19 Congress, she has passed more bills than any other lawmaker running for president – including nearly five times as many as fellow senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

She is currently lagging well behind both of them in the latest Iowa poll, however, with only 4% support in the state that will kick off the Democratic nomination process next February. Heading into the first Democratic debates next week, her national poll numbers average around 1%.

“The odds don’t favor her,” says Professor Schier. “When you have 24 candidates, the probability of anyone who is not already well known nationally [winning the nomination] is pretty low.”

Still, as a Minnesota Vikings fan, she knows things don’t always end up the way they start. And maybe, for once, that could work in a Minnesotan’s favor.

The right kind of fighter?

Senator Klobuchar kicked off her presidential campaign outdoors on a 14-degree day in the middle of a Minneapolis snowstorm. No hat, no gloves. Because she wanted people to know she has grit.

But that image of toughness got the wrong kind of burnishing thanks to a series of stories about her track record as a demanding boss, including a New York Times piece about how Senator Klobuchar – exasperated with an aide who forgot to get her utensils to eat a takeout salad on the plane – ate her salad with a comb and then told the staffer to clean it. The story was based on four former staffers’ accounts, none of whom spoke on the record.

“I know I can be tough; I know I can push people too hard, and I also know I can do better – and I will,” Senator Klobuchar told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in a statement.

Former staffer Zach Rodvold likened working for her to Navy SEAL training. “It’s not intended to be fun. It’s hard,” he told the Star Tribune. “But what you get from it is you become very, very good at what you do.”

It is perhaps ironic that a candidate criticized in the press for being too tough as a boss is conversely being portrayed as not enough of a fighter to go to bat for progressive issues, or to take on President Trump.

But Democratic voters are looking for a particular kind of tough, and New Hampshire resident Marie Duggan for one isn’t sure Senator Klobuchar fits the bill. Back in March, she told the Monitor she could see the Minnesota senator breaking up banks – in contrast to former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, whom she had come to see at Keene State College, where she teaches economics. But after hearing Senator Klobuchar in person later this spring, she was less impressed.

“Amy is obviously a fighter by temperament, but she’s not going to show that to us,” says Professor Duggan, who is still paying off her student debt 18 years after finishing her Ph.D. and feels an urgency about fixing a broken economic system. “For me, a person that’s drowning in the current situation – she didn’t say that she would do anything about it.”

‘So New Hampshire!’

For a candidate who’s been criticized as both bland and overbearing, Senator Klobuchar is surprisingly dynamic and warm on the campaign trail.

“She loves people; she loves talking to people. More importantly, what I’ve observed is she really listens to people,” says Karen Cornelius, one of the senator’s closest friends in law school who is now working as an unpaid special adviser to the campaign in New Hampshire.

She describes a lesser-known side of the senator as a student at the University of Chicago, where she was the smartest member of their four-woman study group but also loved going out and dancing to Prince and Tina Turner. “She’s not what would be described as a nerd at all,” Ms. Cornelius says. “She was a rock star.”

Whereas other candidates on the trail here often begin with their personal story – Mr. O’Rourke launched right into talking about his hometown of El Paso and his views on the southern border crisis before a crowd of people who live within a bike ride of Canada – Senator Klobuchar starts with the people of New Hampshire.

She calls out more than half a dozen attendees, lauds the work of the state’s two female senators, and extols an 11-year-old who asked for her autograph in church on Easter Sunday and then showed up the next day at a town hall meeting in Peterborough, N.H., where he raised his hand during the Q&A. “I’d like to know if you think if Bob Mueller testifies,” she recalls the boy asking, “should he go before the House or Senate first, and should he be at the intelligence committee or the judiciary?”

So New Hampshire!” she tells the crowd.

Not one for soaring rhetoric, Senator Klobuchar instead drills down on issues that New Hampshire voters care about – like the opioid crisis and access to broadband internet.

Iceland, she says, is wired for broadband. “I’ve been there – because that’s a vacation for people from Minnesota,” she jokes.

She pokes fun at President Trump – we have to use humor back at him, she tells the crowd – but also makes serious policy proposals on everything from immigration and infrastructure to mental health. But the tone remains bright throughout, without the Sturm und Drang that characterizes some of her rivals’ stump speeches. She talks about governing from a standpoint of opportunity, rather than chaos and division.

“Anger is not a plan. Anger is not how you govern. Anger is how we got to where we are right now,” says Michael Atkins, a lawyer in Peterborough who came to hear the senator at the Politics & Eggs breakfast.

That said, he and his law firm partner, Jim Callahan, haven’t the slightest concern about whether she’s tough enough to parry President Trump’s jabs.

“I think she’s going to bust an aikido move and deftly avoid it,” says Mr. Callahan, who got interested in Senator Klobuchar after seeing her calm but firm questioning of then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh during last fall’s contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings. “She’ll turn it on its head to her advantage.”

“You don’t have to fight back with insults and the like,” agrees Mr. Atkins. “You should fight back with strength of character.”

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The Explainer

3. Can US protect the Persian Gulf if Iran wants to target tankers?

Securing the shipping lanes in a region as large and important as the Persian Gulf is no easy feat. How does the U.S. do it, especially if Iran is determined to harass tankers sailing the waters?

David

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Tensions between the United States and Iran are rising due to a rash of attacks on a half-dozen oil tankers traveling through the Persian Gulf region over the past several weeks. Most recently, two tankers in the Gulf of Oman were struck by explosions on June 13.

President Donald Trump has blamed Iran for the incidents, and the Pentagon released grainy video footage it says shows Iranian forces removing a limpet mine from the side of one of the ships. Iran denies any role in those attacks, or damage done to four other ships in May.

What makes shipping in the Persian Gulf vulnerable to attack is the Strait of Hormuz, an ocean chokepoint that connects the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean. The V-shaped strait requires tankers to make a sharp turn at a predictable point – making them easy to target with mines, small surface ships, or shore-based missiles or aircraft. Aware that it is no match for a direct confrontation with American military forces, the Islamic Republic has for decades developed a strategy of asymmetric warfare and spent years practicing closing the strait.

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1. Can US protect the Persian Gulf if Iran wants to target tankers?

Tensions between the United States and Iran are rising due to a rash of attacks on a half-dozen oil tankers traveling through the Persian Gulf region over the past several weeks.

Most recently, two tankers in the Gulf of Oman were struck by explosions on June 13. President Donald Trump has blamed Iran for the incidents, and the Pentagon released grainy video footage it says shows Iranian forces removing a limpet mine from the side of one of the ships. Iran denies any role in those attacks or the damage done to four other ships in May.

The exchange comes amid the standoff over the United States’ withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal – the landmark 2015 pact between Iran and six world powers that curtailed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions. Mr. Trump, who had been very critical of the deal, unilaterally pulled the U.S. out in May 2018. He then began a “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic, imposing crippling sanctions in a long-shot bid to force Iran to accept a more restrictive nuclear deal with the U.S.

What makes shipping in the Persian Gulf vulnerable to attack?

The key factor is the narrow confines of the Strait of Hormuz, an ocean chokepoint that connects the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean. About one fifth of the world’s oil is transported through the strait, which is bordered by Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

Jacob Turcotte/Staff

The strait tapers to only 21 miles across at the slimmest point, where shipping lanes in both directions shrink to just two miles wide, largely because the water is too shallow for ships with deep drafts. The V-shaped strait requires tankers to make a sharp turn at a predictable point – making them easy to target with mines, small surface ships, or shore-based missiles or aircraft.

How does the U.S. maintain security in the Gulf?

The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain, maintains a constant presence in the Persian Gulf using patrol vessels, guided-missile destroyers, and mine countermeasures vessels. It is part of a combined maritime force that brings together Gulf partners as well as European and Asian allies. The U.S. also monitors the region with satellites and aerial drones to identify threats.

Yet despite the continual U.S. and allied patrols, more precise reconnaissance is required to prevent what experts view as the main threat to the shipping lanes: mines.

“The biggest threat is the mine threat. Not the limpet mines, but distributing mines in the water. Countermine operations are very difficult for any navy. It’s a painstaking process,” says Dr. Mike Connell, an expert on Iran and the Middle East at CNA, a research organization in Arlington, Virginia.

Preventing the placement of mines in the water or directly on ships would ideally involve maritime patrol aircraft. “The problem is they can’t be everywhere,” says Dr. Connell. “To get that level of precision is difficult. The amount of area to cover takes a lot of reconnaissance assets.”

How could the U.S. bolster Gulf security?

One option is for the U.S. Navy to escort convoys of merchant ships to help defend them from attack. From its current fleet, the U.S. Navy would employ destroyers or cruisers for this job. “A convoy would assemble at a designated place to let the number of available naval escorts spread their defenses across the maximum number of vessels,” says James Holmes, J.C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College. The warships would provide protection against gunfire and missiles aimed at the tankers.

The U.S. Navy provided such escorts during the 1980s Tanker War, when Iraq and Iran were attacking each other’s merchant ships. The escorts could go hand-in-hand with mine-sweeping operations aimed at detecting and clearing mines from shipping lanes.

However, the U.S. Navy has only a limited number of suitable warships available for such escort duty, making it difficult to sustain for long periods. “That’s a hole in the force structure that cries out to be filled,” says Professor Holmes.

In the meantime, U.S. allies could provide additional warships for escorting merchant ships. Saudi Arabia has stepped up security around oilfields, while the United Arab Emirates is working with shipping companies to provide increased protection, according to Reuters.

For their part, shippers do not always view convoys and naval escorts as the best solution to the security threats. Convoys cause delays, inefficiencies, and transaction costs for their business. As a result, shipping firms have taken unilateral steps to bolster their self-defense capabilities. Some are employing armed guards.

How could Iran disrupt shipping in the Persian Gulf?

Aware that it is no match for a direct confrontation with American military forces – U.S. defense spending is roughly 50 times that of Iran’s – the Islamic Republic has for decades developed a strategy of asymmetric warfare and spent years practicing closing the strait.

In the Persian Gulf, that means using everything from swarm attacks with hundreds of speedboats, to anti-ship missiles, submarines, and underwater drones. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) frequently displays its capabilities in military exercises.

Such tactics have proven effective, most famously in a classified $250 million U.S. war game in 2002. In a coordinated assault with swarming boats and missiles, the “enemy” team “sunk” 16 American ships, including an aircraft carrier, before the exercise was suspended.

U.S. strategists have since updated their tactics. But Iran, too, has stepped up its capability, proclaiming the use of high-speed torpedoes and stealth technologies. Yet the core of its tactics in the Persian Gulf are mines, speedboats, and missiles, one official news agency reported last September.

“The IRGC has a successful record in using those techniques, which is why it is directing all its capacities to boosting them,” it said. 

How far can this game of Persian Gulf brinkmanship go?

Both the U.S. and Iran explicitly state that they don’t want war. But the White House portrayed the deployment of a U.S. Navy carrier group to the Middle East in May as pushback against Iran and vowed “unrelenting force” should Iran attack.

Likewise, after adhering to the terms of the nuclear deal for a year after the U.S. withdrew, Iran has started to increase its rate of uranium enrichment and declared it will breach agreed limits on June 27 if nothing changes.

That is one part of Iran’s reaction, while a second is in the Persian Gulf, says Nasser Hadian, a political scientist at Tehran University.

“Tension is going to rise,” says Mr. Hadian. “Iran is certainly not going to close down the Strait of Hormuz; they will ... concentrate on oil and petrochemical ships. They are going to stop them. They are going to inspect them. They are going to create all sorts of problems, and that’s in response to the U.S. policy of sanctions.”

Any actual attacks would be “open and transparent,” he says, and not shrouded in secrecy as the latest tanker explosions were, to make any message of deterrence clear. Pressure will grow too on U.S. allies the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which take a hard line against Iran.

The coming weeks may therefore see a sizable Iranian military deployment along the Persian Gulf and into southwestern Khuzestan province, Mr. Hadian says, to “send a strong signal that our threats are credible.”

“My guess would be, as soon as Iran deployed forces, it doesn’t need to do anything else,” says Mr. Hadian. “That would be good enough to increase tension, thus increasing the oil price, thus changing the calculus of Trump.”

Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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4. Georgia abortion law: Hollywood calls for boycott, but can it leave?

With the film industry heavily invested in Georgia, the state’s abortion bill pits Hollywood values against Southern sensibilities. At stake for both sides: moral imperatives and lots and lots of jobs.

David

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Topographically rich and architecturally intriguing, Georgia is Hollywood’s unlikely gem. It has stood in for New York and Pyongyang, and produced hits like “The Hunger Games” and “Avengers: Endgame.” Just over a decade after lawmakers began offering tax credits to movie production companies, the industry has grown by 4,000% into a $9.5 billion juggernaut that employs 92,000 people.  

Now those 92,000 folks are waiting for the curtain to fall. As the actual off-screen Georgia moves toward criminalizing abortion after roughly six weeks gestation, studio heads are questioning their investment in the state. Of course, Republicans challenging abortion rights in Georgia are taking a huge economic gamble – but unplugging the Peach State presents a challenge for Hollywood, too.

Having built Georgia into a giant movie set, Hollywood has to face difficult questions about heavy investment in a region where social conservatism lies deep in the bedrock. Perhaps the biggest challenge now, says Amy Steigerwalt, a professor of political science at Georgia State University, is “that many if not most of those who would be hurt by a boycott are precisely those that the boycott is intended to support.” 

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Georgia abortion law: Hollywood calls for boycott, but can it leave?

Georgia is constantly on Bryan McBrien’s mind these days, as he wonders how long he can continue to run his business here.

A greensman, Mr. McBrien grows, creates, and delivers backdrop greenery for TV shows and movies. He is one of some 92,000 people working in film and television production in Georgia.

Topographically rich and architecturally intriguing, the state can be – and has been – transformed into almost everything but the high Alps or a Norwegian fjord. It has stood in for New York and Pyongyang. Just over a decade after Republican lawmakers began offering a simple and transferable tax credit to movie production companies, the industry has grown by 4,000% into a $9.5 billion juggernaut. Georgia is the most filmed location in the U.S. and competes with Canada and the U.K. for most box office smashes.

But now, Mr. McBrien, owner of Cinema Greens in East Point, Georgia, is bracing for the curtain to fall.

As the actual off-screen Georgia moves toward criminalizing abortion after roughly six weeks gestation, studio heads like Disney’s Bob Iger are questioning their “entire investment” in the state. And after going “in whole hog” to build a business here, Mr. McBrien’s business plan has already changed. He has built a pop-up truck that will travel festivals to advertise a new retail operation.

“People are terrified” that Hollywood will leave, says the native Michigander. “We want to make sure we have something to fill in the gaps ... if the film industry does get destroyed.”

To be sure, Republicans keen to challenge abortion rights are taking a huge economic gamble. Yet unplugging the Peach State presents a challenge for Hollywood, too.

“Hollywood has to weigh [the abortion law] against the politics of things in an era when the politics of things can sometimes take over,” says film historian Jonathan Kuntz, an expert on the studio system at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, in Los Angeles. “There are a lot of forces pulling on Hollywood, but it’s the dollar bill that pulls them to Georgia. But money is a brittle reason.”

The birth of what some call “Y’allywood” traces back to actor Burt Reynolds’ heyday in the 1970s, when “Smokey and the Bandit” glorified red dirt roads and the Atlanta skyline.

But the kleig lights only flickered dimly the following 30 years. It took the 2008 tax credit to jump-start the industry. Producers can claim up to a 30% tax credit if they tag their work with a Georgia peach label. Easy to use, uncapped, the credits can even be transferred and sold. 

Hollywood took the bait.

The state now sports 200 sound stages that have produced hits like “The Hunger Games,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Avengers: Endgame.” Both of those last two Marvel blockbusters are owned by Disney, one of the studios mulling a pullout. The actors who play Captain Marvel and the Hulk  – Brie Larson and Mark Ruffalo – are among more than 100 who have signed a pledge not to work in the state if the law takes effect.

Hollywood clashes with Southern sensibilities 

Actor and producer Tyler Perry bought a former Army base, Fort McPherson on Atlanta’s south side, and converted it to studio space. Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayetteville is one of the world’s largest. And a producer couple is turning historic Pullman Yard on the city’s east side into a “creative city” for the entertainment industry, complete with lofts, co-working spaces, restaurants, boutique hotels, retail, a concert venue, and more.

“In a sense, the whole state of Georgia could be considered a production facility at this point,” says Matthew Bernstein, a film historian at Emory University in Atlanta, and author of “Screening a Lynching.” “That’s what makes me think [Republican lawmakers] haven’t quite grasped what they are doing.”

On the other hand, he notes, Georgia has seen the clash between Hollywood and local mores before.  

Hollywood values and Southern sensibilities clashed in the Jim Crow era as Atlanta employed censors – stern white women – to police racial codes. The singer Lena Horne was routinely cut for being shown performing on equal footing with white actors.

That impulse to steel Southern hospitality with moral parochialism still shadows the Deep South’s cultural and economic capital.  

“Nobody likes the term sovereignty of states anymore, but really that is where all this lies,” says Zemmie Fleck of Lawrenceville, director of Georgia Right to Life, which has encouraged residents to boycott Netflix for its threat to boycott Georgia. “Yes, you are welcome in Georgia, but please do not ... dictate to us what kind of state we have to be in order for you to be here.”

A purple state with red representation 

Three years ago, former Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a religious liberty bill under a boycott threat. In hindsight, that was prologue. The election of Gov. Brian Kemp in November pitted a hard-right Republican vowing to impose strict abortion laws to stem some 30,000 annual abortions in the state against Stacey Abrams, a black progressive representing a rising, urban voting bloc.

Having helped to build Georgia into a giant movie set, liberal-leaning Hollywood now has to face difficult – but possibly not unforeseen – questions about heavy investment in a region where social conservatism lies deep in the bedrock. Perhaps the biggest challenge now is that “many if not most of those who would be hurt by a boycott are precisely those that the boycott is intended to support,” says Amy Steigerwalt, a professor of political science at Georgia State University.

Though Governor Kemp says he supports the industry, he noted recently that Georgians won’t let “the land of Harvey Weinstein” dictate terms, a jab at Hollywood’s lip service in support of women’s rights amid storied tales of systemic misogyny and assault.

Ms. Abrams recently met with studio heads in Los Angeles to urge them to stay in Georgia, reflecting a shift in power at the state level where one party now typically dominates. For the first time in more than 100 years, all but one state legislature is dominated by a single party.

“We talk about Georgia being ‘purple’ but it’s really more like a swirl ice cream where the two colors are constantly visible,” says Dr. Steigerwalt. “Each constituency wants to see the politicians they voted for follow through on their promises. The problem is that many of these promises are wildly at odds with what the other side wants.” In that way, she says, “Georgia highlights the tension when you have a ‘purple’ state but few truly purple voters or elected officials.”

Indeed, says Dr. Kuntz at UCLA, “this is why traditionally Hollywood has avoided most controversy, because if you please one group you might disappoint another group. Hollywood wants to please everybody.”

At the same time, he adds: “At this point, it’s not exactly easy for them to pull out.”

Roots run deep

A big reason for that is people like Mr. McBrien. A Los Angeles transplant, he grew Cinema Greens into a 15,000-square-foot facility and a farm. What was once an abandoned factory district is now bustling with box trucks. With a mortgage and a new family, his roots are literally deep.

Also feeding the boom is the “content war” among streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and, soon, Disney and Apple. Georgia has a massive stable of top-end production talent and the proven ability to produce end-to-end big budget films.

For those reasons, some believe the storm will blow over, especially if courts block the law before it takes effect in 2020.

But in the past few weeks, at least two productions have pulled the plug, and several heads of production companies, including David Simon, known for “The Wire” and “Treme,” have said they will no longer film in the state while the law stands. Director Spike Lee has called for an immediate pull-out. The actor Justin Bateman was in Savannah filming an episode of “Ozark,” but has warned he won’t return if the law takes effect. The actor Alyssa Milano, whose Netflix series “Insatiable” is filmed in Georgia, lambasted lawmakers at the statehouse.

Perhaps most critically for an industry that sometimes seems to come and go in the night, its constancy in Georgia has created new economic allegiances and personal friendships. Those individual relationships may represent a demonstrable counterbalance to, as Mr. McBrien put its, a growing tendency of Americans to show “disbelief in others.”

“One thing we’ve been hearing from friends in California is that so many of those people know people like me – set directors, prop makers and greensmen,” says Mr. McBrien. “So now you have these transplanted families, we’ve bought property, and people are starting to have a feeling that if they abandon Georgia they will be abandoning not just a ton of union brothers and coworkers, but they are also abandoning a state that needs their help.”

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Climate realities

An occasional series

5. Glacier National Park’s name will outlive its glaciers

As the glaciers in Montana's Glacier National Park melt, they leave behind questions about how the places most affected by climate change can retain their sense of identity. This story is part of an occasional Monitor series on ‘Climate Realities.’

David
Beth J. Harpaz/AP/File
Grinnell Glacier, at the turnaround point of an 11-mile round-trip hike in Glacier National Park in Montana, Sept. 5, 2017. According to the National Park Service, the park's glacial ice sheets are a fraction of the size they were 100 years ago. They are melting so fast they will be gone by 2030.

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Scientists predict that, by the year 2030, the glaciers that give their name to Glacier National Park will be gone.

What, then, is the future of the million-acre national park that draws 3 million visitors each year? For one thing, there are no plans to change the name. Glaciers created the park’s breathtaking lakes and valleys, which will remain even after the glaciers themselves have left the scene. 

Officially, of course, the park will carry on. “What Glacier has is a powerful landscape,”  says park superintendent Jeff Mow. “There will always be white and snow on the mountains in Glacier. It’s just how much of that is actually a glacier.”

As the colossal masses of ice make their exit, their absence will echo in a cascade of effects down through the park's ecosystems, from threatening two species of flies that depend on the glacier runoff to making it easier for wildfires to rage across the landscape.

“Glacier National Park is sort of the type specimen of climate change,” says University of Montana ecology professor Jim Elser, director of the Flathead Lake Biological Station in Montana. “It’s ground zero, almost.”

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Glacier National Park’s name will outlive its glaciers

Maria Clemens took time off from her post-college summer job on a Montana ranch to hike into this national park to see a glacier. “I don’t like it,” she pronounced on the trail as she returned. “It’s just kind of sad to see.”

Her displeasure is over the ever-shrinking glaciers that gave this park its name. There were about 150 of them in 1850, now there are about 25, and they are projected to be gone before Ms. Clemens reaches her 40s.

The looming ice rivers have been ravaged by the changing climate. Glaciologists have penciled in 2030 for the glaciers’ obituary, though some ice may linger a bit. As the last surviving glaciers shrivel into shaded folds of the mountains, snow whipping over the Continental Divide may give them “a little lease on life just at the very end,”  says Dan Fagre, a glacier expert at the United States Geological Survey. But, he says, “it won’t change the ultimate prognosis.”

What, then, is the future of a million-acre national park that draws 3 million visitors each year when its marquee lure is gone?

Officially, of course, the park will carry on.“Ninety percent of visitors won’t notice a difference,“ predicts the park superintendent, Jeff Mow. “There will always be white and snow on the mountains in Glacier. It’s just how much of that is actually a glacier.”

Doug Struck
Tourists take the obligatory photos after hiking to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. The lake is fed by cascading waterfalls fed by Sperry Glacier, which has shrunk from 331 acres in 1966 to less than 200 acres today.

“What Glacier has is a powerful landscape,” he says. “Visitors are still inspired, taken aback, just awed by the landscape here.”

The glaciers’ legacy, though, is up to those visitors. Will Glacier National Park become a nettlesome symbol of what we lost, pricking our conscience as did the once-dying bald eagle, and motivating action? Or will the formerly majestic glaciers and the wildlife they support wink out quietly as tourists continue to swarm the green-layered mountains for Instagram moments, largely oblivious to what is no longer in their pictures?

Leaving their mark

Al Gore once said the place will have to be renamed “The Park Formerly Known as Glacier.” That is unlikely to happen; glaciers are the origin story of the park’s creation, the brutal sculptor that gouged the Earth into breathtaking valleys and lakes. They deserve artists’ credit.

And to rename the park would be too blunt an admission of society’s failures to heed the warnings of climate change.

Already, that point is clear to many. A small surge of visitors is coming to pay last respects to the cold colossi that once ruled and shaped the Earth. And they are ready to lay blame for the glaciers’ fate.

“We should do a better job of protecting this Earth,” says Britney Herbert, who came from Los Angeles to see the glaciers because “we should see them before they go.”

“It’s surreal,” adds her hiking companion, Patrick Yarbrough, as a cloud tumbled over the mountains and spattered the trail with drops. “We take the land so much for granted.”

Above them, three glaciers – Grinnell, Salamander, and Gem – seemed weary with age, and slumped toward the valley. Their threadbare skirts of ice were tattered, revealing the hard black mountain underneath.

Fanning the flames

Dr. Fagre has been studying the glaciers here since 1991, now from the U.S. Geological Survey climate change office in a small red cabin inside the park. Using annual measurements and historical photos, he helped document a 39% loss of ice on the glaciers in 50 years.

“They don’t look so good,” Dr. Fagre acknowledges of the glaciers. But he sees them as only one link in a chain.

Doug Struck
Dan Fagre, a glacier expert at the US Geological Survey at West Glacier, has been studying the ice rivers since 1991. When he first compared the glaciers to their size in historical photos, he found the shrinkage “profoundly unexpected.”

“If you have such a profound change that the glaciers disappear,” he says, “then you are also affecting the snow pack, you are affecting the tree growth, you are affecting forest fires, you are affecting animal migration, you are affecting a whole host of things that underpin a mountain ecosystem.”

Mr. Mow, who has run the park for six years, worries chiefly about how fires in the drying climate will impact the park and its visitors. He has battled three large fires in the past four years, and experts predict fires will be hotter and more frequent.

“Wildfire could become the dominant landscape change force” of a future Glacier National Park, he says.

Fires in the park scar the landscape for years. Even fires hundreds of miles away bring disruptive smoke – huge Canadian fires in May cloaked Glacier in smoke.

“I had to lay off all my employees” last year when a fire across Lake McDonald choked the air, says Michelle Handlin Hampton, who co-owns Glacier Outfitters at Apgar Village inside the park, and rents bikes, boats, and camping supplies. “I couldn’t have them working in toxic air, and no customers were coming.

“Climate change is a big factor if I can continue this business,” says Ms. Hampton. “I don’t know how it will affect the resources I have to give to people – the view, clean air, clean water, and the animals they come to see.”

Doug Struck
Michelle Handlin Hampton runs Glacier Outfitters with her husband at Apgar Village inside the park.

Cascade effects

The first biological changes may be hard to see. Two species of flies that depend on the cold clear glacier runoff may disappear. The native bull trout also thrives in glacial streams, and is finding its habitat shrinking.

Any disruptions in the ecological chain create “a cascade” of other changes, says University of Montana ecology professor Jim Elser, director of the Flathead Lake Biological Station.

“All the other things that climate is doing besides making glaciers disappear are playing out in the vegetation, in the forest structure, in the forest fires, drought stress, effects on white bark pine. ... As the snow pack starts to recede, the rivers are going to be warming up.

“Certainly fishermen are going to notice when they can’t catch Westslope trout or bull trout anymore,” he predicts. “When people start seeing white bark pine forests disappear ... grizzly bears are dependent on white bark pine. When grizzly bears disappear from the landscape people will certainly notice that.

“Glacier National Park is sort of the type specimen of climate change ... it’s ground zero, almost,” Professor Elser says. “It’s that juxtaposition of fire and ice. Glacier National Park should be cold, mountainous, should be safe from those kinds of things. But no, the place is burning.”

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

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The Monitor's View

Facebook banks on a globe-uniting currency

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On Tuesday, Facebook announced a project to launch a digital currency next year that founder Mark Zuckerberg hopes will help build a “common global community.” More than 2 billion users on Facebook’s many platforms will be able to make payments, send money, and conduct other financial transactions through a new cryptocurrency called Libra.

The project could be the boldest attempt yet in the digital age to reimagine the purpose of money. Is money simply a way to create and track wealth? Or, as Mr. Zuckerberg has reimagined Facebook itself, can money in the digital universe give people the power “to build community and bring the world closer together.”

National currencies have long provided the glue of both commerce and giving. They help bind a community. Trust in money is trust in people who accept it. Money is only one way to help people define the idea of home or ensure a spirit of cooperation and obligation in a society.

The Libra will have a long way to go to replace other currencies. Yet its debut in 2020 could bring new ways of building trust, either globally or locally.

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Facebook banks on a globe-uniting currency

On Tuesday, Facebook announced a project to launch a digital currency next year that founder Mark Zuckerberg hopes will help build a “common global community.” More than 2 billion users on Facebook’s many platforms will be able to make payments, send money, and conduct other financial transactions through a new cryptocurrency called Libra.

Unlike Bitcoin and other virtual currencies which rely a closed digital system called blockchain, the new “stablecoin” will be a “public good” and reliable, according to Facebook. Its value will be pegged to a basket of national currencies or other investments. It will be managed by a Switzerland-based nonprofit funded by a wide consortium of groups from Mastercard to Uber to the charity Mercy Corps.

The project could be the boldest attempt yet in the digital age to reimagine the purpose of money. Is money simply a way to create and track wealth? Or, as Mr. Zuckerberg has reimagined Facebook itself, can money in the digital universe give people the power “to build community and bring the world closer together.”

Even as Zuckerberg has been forced to reform his social media giant – especially by improving privacy and preventing abuse by hate groups – he has also decided Facebook must create “meaningful communities.” People should not merely connect online but participate in groups that uplift people along shared values.

“This is the struggle of our time,” he stated two years ago. “The forces of freedom, openness, and global community against the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism, and nationalism.”

National currencies have long provided the glue of both commerce and giving. They help bind a community. Trust in money is trust in people who accept it.

In western Massachusetts, people went even further in 2006 and created their own currency called Berkshares, named after the Berkshire hills. About $130,000 worth of the specially minted bills are in circulation. The project has helped producers and consumers find a strong sense of community. Organizers say keeping the money within the Berkshires is a “celebration of place.”

Money is only one way to help people define the idea of home or ensure a spirit of cooperation and obligation in a society. “No society can survive,” writes British philosopher Roger Scruton, “if it cannot generate the ‘we’ of affirmation: the assertion of itself as entitled to its land and institutions.”

The Libra will have a long way to go to replace other currencies. Yet its debut in 2020 could bring new ways of building trust, either globally or locally. Private interactions in the exchange of a public currency help widen the many circles of friendship and community.  Like previous experiments in money, the Libra might be a social lubricant, only one for the whole world.

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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.

How can we deal with anxiety?

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Getting to know God as our tender, caring Shepherd goes a long way in replacing fear with confidence and calm.

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How can we deal with anxiety?

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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During a conversation I had with some 20-somethings, they admitted that anxiety was at the top of their list of concerns, whether it was over a specific issue, uncertainty about the next step in their lives, or general fear or lack of confidence. What to do?

Of course, this issue isn’t limited to just one particular demographic, and the conversation made me think about what I do when I’m struggling with anxiety. For example, I periodically haul horses in a trailer, sometimes for long distances. But often, when I would even think about an upcoming trip, I’d feel anxious about things that could go wrong: the complexities of caring for the horses while en route, safety on the road, and so on. Sometimes I even considered canceling a trip because the level of my anxiety was so high.

However, because it has become natural for me to turn to God for help, I have prayed a lot about this fear. My prayers were based on a couple of verses from the Bible. The first is, “Perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18).

This is reassuring, but also raises questions: What is “perfect love”? And how can we see it operate?

The question of “what” is answered a few verses earlier: “God is love” (I John 4:8). When I think about God as divine Love, I can’t imagine anything more perfect. “Perfect love” speaks of God’s love for all creation, including each one of us, His children. And I’ve learned that understanding what it means to be loved by God can go a long way in assuaging anxieties.

An image springs to mind of a shepherd I once saw, standing tall and still at dawn, with sheep scattered all around. He was watchful, caring, alert. The sheep were trusting. Most of them were resting peacefully, relying on their shepherd to keep them from harm.

In her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, refers to divine Love as our Shepherd in an interpretation of the Bible’s twenty-third Psalm. It assures us, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [Love] is with me” (p. 578). The promise that the embracing, supporting, guiding presence of divine Love is there for us, even in the direst situations, helps take fear away. We can think of God, our divine Shepherd, as standing watch over us with exquisite love.

This Shepherd keeps all of His spiritual offspring safe, carefully leads us, and supplies our needs. We can take this spiritual truth with us wherever we go.

Over the years, when fear or anxiety has surfaced, I’ve prayed in this way, knowing that my divine Shepherd, God, would meet all our needs and protect us. And each time, the anxiety has vanished, opening the way for fear-free and safe trips.

When even greater fears have beset me, I’ve returned to this simple example. While some fears certainly seem tougher to deal with than others, recognizing that we do have a divine Shepherd – who happens to be infinite Love itself – can replace anxieties with the sweet assurance of truly being cared for. Always!

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Viewfinder

Waiting for 2020 kickoff

John Raoux/AP
Supporters of President Donald Trump wait in line hours before the arena doors open for a campaign rally June 18 in Orlando, Florida. On Tuesday night, he was set to formally kick off his 2020 campaign.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( June 19th, 2019 )

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’re working on a story about bunny chow. It’s a famous Durban, South Africa, dish that offers much more than epicurean delight.  

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June 18, 2019
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