2019
July
16
Tuesday
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

In today’s edition, we’ll explore inspiration (Apollo 11), motivations (Honduran migrants), stewardship (in Africa), relationships (British-German), and empathy (best books of July).  

But first, let’s consider this: Moral resistance to racism – the attempt to sow false divisions – is baked into most legal systems.

On Monday, a U.S. federal judge illustrated how justice combats racism. He ordered the founder and editor of a neo-Nazi website to pay $14 million to a Jewish real estate agent in Montana. Andrew Anglin had called for readers of the Daily Stormer to conduct a “troll storm” – a campaign of anti-Semitic intimidation and harassment – against Tanya Gersh.

The site targeted Ms. Gersh for allegedly harassing the mother of Richard Spencer, a white supremacist who coined the term “alt-right.” Mr. Spencer’s mother is a resident of Whitefish, Montana, where Ms. Gersh lives too.

In December 2016, the first of 30 articles were published urging Daily Stormer readers to harass Ms. Gersh, and included her phone number and home address, along with her 12-year-old son’s Twitter handle. “Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda,” Mr. Anglin wrote. Ms. Gersh received more than 700 hate-filled messages.

Mr. Anglin failed to appear in court and apparently has gone into hiding. It’s unlikely Ms. Gersh will get any of the $14 million. But she said in a statement: “This lawsuit has always been about stopping others from enduring the terror I continue to live through at the hands of a neo-Nazi and his followers.” 

Racism attempts to divide. But there is only one race, the human race.

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A deeper look

1. Apollo 11 at 50: How the moon landing changed the world

The moon landing did more than advance science or boost U.S. prowess. It taught the world to dream. Our reporter spoke with those who experienced this trip firsthand.

David
Neil A. Armstrong/NASA/AP/File
Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin stands beside the U.S. flag deployed on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969.

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Fifty years ago, the United States did the “impossible.” It landed a man on the moon. It took hundreds of thousands of people and billions of dollars, but NASA achieved one of the great milestones in human history. 

The dramatic moment temporarily united a nation cleaved by the Vietnam War, boosted the U.S. in its geopolitical clash with the Soviet Union, and opened up the imaginative possibilities of human spaceflight for an entire world. 

Since the dawn of humanity, the moon has occupied a central place in our consciousness. “What the Apollo program did was convert the moon from an object of fascination to a place – a place we could explore,” says NASA planetary scientist Samuel Lawrence. 

Humans have not gone back to the moon – or even left Earth orbit – since the end of the Apollo program. But those moon missions helped inspire a generation of dreamers who want to see the moon, and beyond, for themselves.

As astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt puts it, being on the lunar surface is “more than anybody can describe. ... It’s a spectacular place to be.”

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Apollo 11 at 50: How the moon landing changed the world

Neil Armstrong almost didn’t land on the moon because he was running out of gas. It was July 20, 1969. Mr. Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were descending toward the moon, about to change the course of human history, when things started to go wrong.

First came an alarm indicating something awry with the spacecraft. Then another. After a few tense seconds, engineers at Mission Control in Houston decided it wasn’t catastrophic: It was the landing computer on the spacecraft signaling an overload. Charles Duke Jr., the official communicator with the space capsule, or CAPCOM, relayed a message to the astronauts: Proceed.

Then came the fuel problem. As the lunar module drew closer to its landing site, the Sea of Tranquillity, Mr. Armstrong could see that he would have to make an adjustment. Where existing maps had shown a smooth region, car-sized boulders cluttered a field of craters. Mr. Armstrong had to search for a safe landing spot manually. The catch: It would take precious fuel. 

Tensions were high in Houston. Nobody spoke. “You could’ve heard a pin drop” in the room of about 100 people, recalls flight director Gerry Griffin in an interview. Mission controllers listened intently as Mr. Aldrin called out the speed and range of the spacecraft. 

“60 seconds,” came the warning from Houston, indicating how much time the astronauts had until a mandatory abort for low fuel. The spacecraft was still about 100 feet above the surface. “30 seconds,” came a second warning.

“Those seconds seemed to be going [by] awfully fast,” says Mr. Griffin.

Finally, Mr. Aldrin’s voice crackled across the radio: “Contact light.” A probe attached to one of the module’s footpads had touched the surface. A few people in Mission Control pumped their fists. Chief flight director Gene Kranz cautioned everyone to calm down. There was still work to do, and they didn’t have official confirmation from the astronauts. Then, it came:

“Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.”

“Roger, Twang ... Tranquillity,” Mr. Duke stuttered back in a Southern drawl. “We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again.”

That night in Houston, Mr. Griffin took a moment to look up at the illuminated half-moon in an ink-black sky. “We did it,” he recalls saying to a colleague. “There’s guys sitting up there on that thing that we put there.”

Fifty years ago, the United States did the “impossible.” It landed a man on the moon. It took hundreds of thousands of people and billions of dollars, but NASA achieved one of the great milestones in human history. 

NASA/Reuters
Astronauts Neil Armstrong (left), the first man to walk on the moon; Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (right), who also walked on the moon; and Michael Collins (center), the command module pilot, made up the Apollo 11 crew.

The dramatic moment temporarily united a nation cleaved by the Vietnam War, boosted the U.S. in its geopolitical clash with the Soviet Union, and opened up the imaginative possibilities of human spaceflight for an entire world. 

Indeed, some 600 million people around the globe watched the grainy footage of Mr. Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind.” It even gave the world a new cultural metaphor. Prior to the feat, the phrase “it’s like landing on the moon” referred to something that couldn’t be done. Afterward, it meant that, with enough effort, humanity could achieve anything. 

Today, as celebrations across the U.S. mark the anniversary of the momentous Apollo 11 mission, people worldwide are once again pondering their next journeys into the cosmos. Several space agencies are planning trips to the moon. Others are looking out farther, to Mars. What will be the world’s next moonshots?

Since the dawn of humanity, the moon has occupied a central place in our consciousness. Unlike other planetary bodies, the moon appears as more than just a pinprick of light in the sky, inviting us to imagine it as another world. It has been the source of infinite mythologies.

In one Buddhist tale, a hare that sacrifices itself to feed a hungry priest is honored by its likeness being etched in the moon’s surface for all to see. Khonsu, the ancient Egyptian moon god, was thought to watch over those who travel at night. In ancient China, the moon represented rejuvenation.

The moon was long seen as a perfect orb, its dark markings explained through legends and other stories. But Galileo’s closer examination of the moon revealed its imperfections, and humanity’s view took on a new dimension: an object worthy of scientific study.

“You’ve got this [second] narrative running – speculation about what conditions are like, what the temperature is like, whether anything lives there,” says Alice Gorman, an expert in space archaeology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. As ground-based study of the moon advanced, it opened up more questions and mysteries.

Despite humanity’s long-held fascination with the moon, and the scientific potential of sending a person there, NASA targeted the planetary body for another reason: power. The U.S. and the Soviet Union were engaged in a global struggle for dominance. Everything was a competition, and space emerged as one of the most visible and prestigious battlegrounds in this existential fight.

“This was war by another means,” says Roger Launius, former chief historian for NASA and author of “Apollo’s Legacy.”

The U.S. was already lagging in the space race since the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957. But the nation that landed on the moon would gain an important edge in its quest to lead the world into the future. That’s what lay behind President John F. Kennedy’s speech summoning a nation to the task. “We choose to go to the moon,” he famously said in an address at Rice University in Houston in 1962. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

And hard it was. Washington pumped more than 4% of the federal budget into NASA in the early years of the Apollo program. Today, by comparison, the space agency accounts for about 0.5% of the federal budget.

The project cost $25 billion and employed 400,000 people – many of whom rarely saw their families because they worked so many hours. Three astronauts died when a fire broke out in their spacecraft during a pre-launch test for what was supposed to be the first crewed mission of the Apollo program. Still, before the decade was over, Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Aldrin had planted an American flag on the moon.

“It was a persuasive event that established in people’s minds around the world ... that the Soviets were not the wave of the future,” says James Oberg, space analyst and former NASA space shuttle engineer. “It was a grand-slam home run.”

The U.S. didn’t lay claim to the moon – the flag was just symbolic – and much of the language around the lunar landing celebrated it as a collective human achievement. Publicly, the Soviets lauded the “giant leap for mankind,” too. But privately, says Mr. Oberg, an expert on the Russian space program, they were devastated. 

Although geopolitical posturing drove NASA’s Apollo program, its legacy extends beyond pride and political gain. The six missions that landed on the moon brought back 842 pounds of rocks, core samples, and dust, and set up science experiments that are still paying dividends. The potent symbolism and imagery that emerged from the Apollo missions also profoundly affected global perspectives of both the Earth and ourselves. 

From tens of thousands of miles away, the Earth looks like the globe on a teacher’s desk. But the political boundaries are wiped away, and the blackness around it provides a stark contrast to the bright, lively planet hanging in the void of space. The Earth appears as a whole system, interconnected and complete. Although we know intellectually that we live on a planet, astronauts have said viewing it from space gives them a unique understanding of how our world is a small, precious oasis in an expansive cosmos.

“Going to the moon gave us a whole new perspective on what our planet is and what our life means,” says space historian Amy Shira Teitel. Apollo astronauts snapped photos of the Earth from afar that are credited with helping propel the environmental movement in the 1970s.

Scientifically, the Apollo moon landings also taught us a lot about the makeup of the planet. If you want to understand what happened early in Earth’s history, and what may have triggered the rise of life here, “you have to go to the moon,” says David Kring, senior scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

NASA/Reuters
The Apollo 11 lunar lander heads toward a rendezvous with the command module after leaving the lunar surface in July 1969. Earth appears in the background.

The Earth and moon are intimately connected, dancing through space in tandem. So any rocks or radiation that pass through the neighborhood usually affect both. On the Earth’s surface, craters caused by space debris and other indications of what was going on early in our planet’s history have largely been erased by plate tectonics, volcanism, and erosion. On the moon, there’s been little deletion of the geologic record. 

As a result, the scientific data and hundreds of pounds of moon rocks gathered during the Apollo missions lifted the veil of mystery not just on the moon but also on the Earth. Before the Apollo program, the origin of the moon was an enigma. Some scientists thought it was a simple asteroid drawn into orbit by Earth’s gravitational pull. Others surmised it was a world of its own.

But Apollo discoveries brought geologists to a scientific consensus: that the body probably formed when a Mars-sized planet smashed into the Earth, sending rocks and dust from both worlds into orbit. There, the debris coalesced into the moon.

“What the Apollo program did was convert the moon from an object of fascination to a place – a place we could explore,” says NASA planetary scientist Samuel Lawrence. 

Many of the 12 astronauts who landed on the moon hopped along the surface, using the low-gravity environment to help them move around in their cumbersome spacesuits. Not Harrison “Jack” Schmitt. He preferred to pretend he was cross-country skiing. He skimmed along the dusty landscape – which may have helped him make a serendipitous discovery.

Dr. Schmitt was the first scientist-astronaut, and the 12th and last man to step onto the moon in December 1972. On one lunar walk, the geologist perused the rim of a crater called Shorty, looking for clues to validate a little-supported theory that it was formed by a volcanic eruption rather than from the impact of a space rock. While Dr. Schmitt was shuffling along his boots scuffed below the gray lunar surface to reveal a strangely colored material.

“Oh, hey!” the astronaut exclaimed. “There’s orange soil!”

To anyone else, the orange sediments might have seemed just a curiosity. But Dr. Schmitt knew instantly he had found something important. 

“My immediate thought was maybe this thing is volcanic,” he recalls during a recent interview. But he couldn’t be sure until he looked at the grains through a microscope. So he quickly dug a trench to collect a pristine sample of the colorful particles.

Back on Earth, the orange soil did turn out to be volcanic: tiny beads of glass formed from volcanic ash. But the grains formed well before Shorty, meaning it was an impact crater. Still, over the past five decades, geologists have continued to study the orange particles along with green glass collected by the Apollo 15 crew. Both could prove vital to future space travel. 

Using basic chemistry, explains Dr. Lawrence, it’s possible to extract resources like water, oxygen, and other chemical ingredients to make propellants. Ice spotted in craters at the moon’s poles could also be used. Together, these revelations have sparked interest in using the moon as a base where spacecraft can refuel en route to more distant places in space.

While the moon has yielded invaluable scientific secrets, it has also provided some colorful vignettes from the people who have walked on its surface. It’s one of the world’s most exclusive fraternities: Only four out of the dozen men who have walked on the moon are still alive.

One of them is Mr. Duke, the ground communicator with Apollo 11. After years of dreaming, years of training, and many tense hours talking Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Aldrin through that inaugural landing, the first thing Mr. Duke did when he got to the moon himself was ... take a nap.

Eva Botkin-Kowacki/TCSM
“If your heart can drop to the bottom of your boots in zero gravity, it did,” says Charles Duke Jr., referring to the possibility of not landing on the moon in 1972 because of technical difficulties when the crew was only 8 miles above the surface.

It was April 20, 1972. The lunar module Orion had just settled on the dusty surface. Apollo 16 mission commander John Young and Mr. Duke, the lunar module pilot, would soon descend the wobbly ladder to become the ninth and 10th humans to walk on the moon. But first, they removed their spacesuits, ate supper, and clambered into their sleeping hammocks. Mr. Young dozed off immediately. Mr. Duke found it difficult to quiet his mind. “I was just exploding with joy,” he says. 

Sleeping wasn’t by choice. Hours earlier, while the crew waited in lunar orbit, Mission Control had deliberated whether to even attempt the landing. There was a technical problem that Houston thought might jeopardize the ability of the crew to return to Earth.

“If your heart can drop to the bottom of your boots in zero gravity, it did,” Mr. Duke says. “We had trained two years. We’d come 250,000 miles, basically, and our landing spot was 8 miles beneath us. And they were about to tell us to come home.”

Fortunately, six hours later, Mission Control figured out a solution and gave Apollo 16 a go for the fifth landing on the moon. But the delay had shifted the astronauts’ schedule. Houston told them they needed to sleep. 

Walking on the moon may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the Apollo astronauts couldn’t just stop and take in the scenery. “You don’t want to waste any time,” Dr. Schmitt says. Time on the moon is precious – and losing any could prove fatal. 

Moonwalks and excursions in the lunar rover vehicle were carefully timed so the astronauts wouldn’t run out of air to breathe in their spacesuits. Buffer time was included in case something went wrong. But Dr. Schmitt and mission commander Eugene Cernan had numerous samples to collect and untouched lunar terrain to explore. They had some 22 hours over three moonwalks to do it. Other Apollo missions had even less time. 

But that doesn’t mean Dr. Schmitt didn’t notice the environment around him while he worked. He vividly recalls the details of the Apollo 17 landing site. “Imagine being in a valley” deeper than the Grand Canyon, he says, “with a brilliant sun, a blacker than black sky, and the Earth hanging over the southwest wall of the [valley], always in the same place. It doesn’t move. That’s because the moon always keeps the same face towards the Earth.”

With no air on the moon, it’s often described as silent. But Dr. Schmitt says with a chuckle, “It better not be, or you’re going to be in trouble.”

Pumps and fans whirred in the astronauts’ spacesuits to maintain safe body temperatures and circulate oxygen. Temperatures on the moon can range from 260 degrees Fahrenheit to -280 degrees. Apollo astronauts also constantly spoke to each other and checked in with Mission Control over the radio.

Bounding around in cumbersome spacesuits and the unfamiliar low gravity of the moon is tricky. Apollo astronauts took a lot of tumbles. “It’s like being a kid this high again,” Dr. Schmitt says, holding his hand two feet above the floor. “But it’s very easy to get up, because one-sixth gravity doesn’t hold you down.”

Despite being in a place so inhospitable to humans, Dr. Schmitt says he was relaxed. He could often, in fact, be heard singing throughout his mission. 

At one point, Dr. Schmitt altered the lyrics to “The Fountain in the Park” by Ed Haley to fit the scene. Instead of crooning “I was strolling through the park one day,” he improvised with “I was strolling on the moon one day.” Mr. Cernan joined in. The duo bounced along the moon, singing as they went about their work.

Whether anyone will ever sing or stroll on the moon again is an open question, especially given that it’s been 47 years since the last landing. Three more Apollo missions were originally planned, but the program ended with No. 17 in December 1972. Humans have not gone back to the moon – or even left Earth orbit – since.

That’s not to say interplanetary aspirations have evaporated. Space agencies and private companies have outlined several grandiose proposals over the past several decades to return to the moon or even go to Mars. None has taken off so far.

NASA’s latest plan is a program called Artemis, named for the Greek goddess of hunting and Apollo’s twin sister. Announced earlier this year, it envisions landing humans on the moon by 2024, with the ultimate goal of establishing a base to test space technologies and act as a way station to Mars. 

Funding remains a formidable obstacle. “Where’s the money going to come from and how much money is it going to take?” says space historian Mr. Launius. “That’s really the question you have to ask over and over.”

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has estimated that Artemis could cost $20 billion to $30 billion over the next five years on top of the normal NASA budget. The Apollo program represented a singular moment, Mr. Launius says. NASA received the federal funding it needed because of the geopolitical context of the era, which doesn’t exist today.

Eddie Adams/AP/File
Amid ticker tape and American flags, Apollo 11 astronauts wave during a parade on Broadway in New York on Aug. 13, 1969. The crew (from left) are Michael Collins, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr., and Neil Armstrong.

Still, the Apollo moon missions and the hype surrounding the space race helped spawn a generation of dreamers who want to make deep space travel a reality – with or without government help. Take Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and the private spaceflight company Blue Origin.

“We all got to witness [the moon landing] as a civilization and it really made people realize the kinds of things we could do,” he told an audience at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston in June. Mr. Bezos was 5 years old when Mr. Armstrong stepped on the moon, and now he’s leading a company with ambitions to return there. “I definitely got that bug,” he said. “And I kept after it.”

Private aerospace companies such as Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Boeing are vying to build the next generation of rockets and spacecrafts. Boeing and SpaceX are running final tests on systems that could send Americans to the International Space Station by the end of this year.

Entrepreneurs and NASA aren’t the only ones with lofty goals. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in 2018 that his country will begin manned missions to the moon and Mars in upcoming years. China is also establishing a human presence in space. 

The quest to some day walk on another planetary body is understandable to those who have already done it. Dr. Schmitt still remembers his last stroll on the lunar surface. As a true geologist, he was picking up rocks one final time. He took a look around the valley, letting his eyes linger on the horizon to commit the alien scene to memory.

What sticks in his mind still today is the stark contrast between the barren lunar landscape under a pitch-black sky and the colorful little module the astronauts had called home for three days.

“It’s more than anybody can describe,” he says of the lunar surface. “It’s a spectacular place to be.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that a probe attached to one of the lunar module’s footpads made first contact on the surface of the moon and to include the full statement made by Neil Armstrong upon landing on the moon. He said, "Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed."

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The Explainer

2. How seeds of border crisis were planted in Honduras 10 years ago

Why do migrants keep coming to the U.S., even as the border tightens? Our reporter looks at the motivations – violence, distrust, corruption, and hopelessness – driving their flight from home.

David
Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters
Migrants in a “caravan” traveling from Central America to the United States hold flags of Honduras and the U.S. in front of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico, Nov. 25, 2018.

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On Monday, the Trump administration announced a new rule for asylum requests at the southern border: People passing through another country en route to the U.S. would have to apply for protection there first. Currently, few Central Americans do, since the problems they’re fleeing are pervasive throughout the region.

But how they took hold looks different in each country. And in Honduras, which was shaken by a coup 10 years ago this summer, a look back at that crisis can help explain the story.

Since that night in June 2009, the consequences and roots of the coup regularly resurface. Violence immediately jumped, for example, and Honduras soon had the highest homicide rate in the world, though it’s since subsided.

It planted deep political divisions, too. As protesters call for the president to resign, and the government crackdown continues, 86% of Hondurans say their country is on the wrong path.  

“People like to say, ‘You should stay and fix your own country, not leave it behind,’” says Eduard Aguilar, who left after receiving threats for speaking out against the government. But when critics are targeted, “What exactly are we supposed to be able to do at this point?”

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How seeds of border crisis were planted in Honduras 10 years ago

On Monday, the Trump administration announced a new rule for asylum-seekers at the southern border: people who pass through another country en route to the U.S. and fail to seek asylum there will not be eligible for U.S. protection.

Few people who leave home for the U.S. apply in countries like Guatemala, though more have sought refuge in Mexico in recent years. And many regional experts consider these transit countries unsafe, since they struggle with some of the challenges people are fleeing in the first place, like gang violence.

So how did those problems get so entrenched? History helps provide some clues. Take Honduras, which this summer marked 10 years since the ousting of a democratically elected president. It’s still feeling aftershocks from the crisis, which exacerbated deep political divides, weakened institutions, and fed a widespread lack of faith in elected officials.

What happened in Honduras back in 2009?

In the early morning hours of June 28, military forces took then-President Manuel Zelaya from his home at gunpoint. Wearing his pajamas, he was placed under arrest and flown out of the country. Nations around the world condemned the move as a coup. 

Mr. Zelaya was elected in 2006 as part of a center-right party that promised to fight crime. But while in office, he moved increasingly to the left. His efforts to organize a non-binding vote that could have opened the door to revising the constitution, which many feared would overturn term limits, was the last straw for many critics.

Violence jumped following the coup. The army and police took to the streets actively beating and detaining anyone perceived as protesting the new government. An official truth commission found the armed forces were responsible for at least 20 deaths in the days following Mr. Zelaya’s ousting. 

In the following three years, murder rates shot up, earning Honduras the ignoble label of highest homicide rate in the world. By 2012, nearly 90 Hondurans out of every 100,000 were killed. Weak institutions, like the justice and security systems, and a general lack of political will in an environment of deep polarization are often blamed for the security crisis. 

There were less headline-grabbing crackdowns as well. Some 123 land activists were killed between 2009 and 2017, often in indigenous communities protesting government-backed megaprojects, according to the international watchdog group Global Witness.

Reynaldo Brito/AP
Honduras' former president Manuel Zelaya exits an airplane as he arrives to the San Isidro air base on the outskirts of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Jan. 27, 2010. Mr. Zelaya was deposed by the Honduran military on June 28, 2009.

Has the bumpy road after the coup started to smooth out?

The implications – and roots – of the coup regularly resurface in Honduras.

The most recent presidential election threw salt on the wounds of many Hondurans who felt democracy was shattered with Mr. Zelaya’s ousting, underscoring still deep political fissures. President Juan Orlando Hernández successfully ran for reelection in 2017 – the very offense Mr. Zelaya was ousted over – after a Supreme Court ruling paved the way for a consecutive second term. Election results were contested by international bodies like the Organization of American States. (With 58% of the votes counted, an opposition candidate was leading Mr. Hernandez by 5%. The electoral court stopped releasing data for more than a day, and in their next update, JOH, as the president is known, had pulled ahead to a disputed victory.)

Only 17% of Hondurans say they have “much” or “some” trust in their president, and 86% say the country is on the wrong path, according to a recent CID Gallup Poll. Over the past five years, several rounds of protests have repeatedly called for JOH to step down.

Violence is still high, but there have been some improvements, like the homicide rate falling by nearly 45% between 2013 and 2017. Meanwhile, impunity rates have fallen from more than 95% to 87%, according to the Alliance for Peace and Justice, a Honduran nongovernmental organization. 

Rodrigo Abd/AP
Soldiers stand a block away from the Brazilian embassy as supporters of ousted Honduras President Manuel Zelaya protest in front of the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Oct 2, 2009. Mr. Zelaya reappeared at the embassy after being deposed and expelled to Costa Rica in a June 28 coup.

What does this have to do with what we’re seeing in Honduras today? 

Protests are sweeping the country once again, and Honduras has been in the spotlight due to high levels of migration. Both themes are often linked to the political instability, lack of public services, and mistrust that’s remained prominent since 2009.

In April, protests against perceived steps by the government to privatize the public health and education systems swept the capital, and have since spread nationwide. As the protests have grown, so too have government crackdowns, with military police opening fire on university campus protests last month. Protesters are now demanding JOH step down.

And the number of Hondurans fleeing has risen. Many of the so-called “migrant caravans” that traveled toward the U.S. over the past year began in Honduras. Lack of opportunity, poverty, corruption, and violence are reasons many migrants from across Central America give for leaving home, including Honduras, which the World Bank labels the most economically unequal country in Latin America. But many Hondurans cite political repression as well.

“People like to say, ‘You should stay and fix your own country, not leave it behind,’” said Eduard Aguilar, standing outside an ad-hoc migrant shelter outside Tijuana earlier this year. The educator left the capital, Tegucigalpa, after receiving threats for speaking out against the government following the 2017 election. “When the president you vote for is ousted, when people are threatened and killed for speaking out against the government, when the president in power got there through stealing votes: What exactly are we supposed to be able to do at this point?”

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Points of Progress

What's going right

3. The war on plastic bags, by the numbers

Caring for our planet takes many forms. Africa leads the ban on plastic bags, but will it be effective?

David

At least 127 countries now regulate single-use plastic bags at some level, with African nations currently in the lead. Some 34 of them have imposed bans or limits on most forms of single-use plastics and bags. Some have even gone so far as to ban imports of single-use plastics and plastic waste from more developed countries. 

But the increase in regulations doesn’t necessarily translate to reductions in plastic winding up in landfills and the ocean. Bans are far from universal, and they can be difficult to enforce. A more effective solution would be to stop the production of plastic bags to begin with, says Carole Excell, acting director of Environmental Democracy Practice at the World Resources Institute. 

“If we don’t start caring about restricting production, we will continue to have the same problem,” she says. 

The United Nations estimates that the world consumes between 1 trillion and 5 trillion plastic bags per year. Little is known about the overall impact of bans on the waste stream. Some nations have reported a drop in plastic bag consumption, but others have seen little or no change. 

“There’s progress,” Ms. Excell says, “but there’s a lot of complexity in actually getting a handle on plastic and the waste that it causes.”

– Hannah Harn, staff writer

SOURCE: United Nations Environment Programme
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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4. When a breakup makes you rethink your relationship: Brexit and Germany

Our reporter looks at how Germany’s disappointment over Brexit may affect its relationship with a good friend – and how it thinks about the EU’s future.

David

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Two world wars notwithstanding, Germans have a special place in their hearts for Britain, especially its reputation for liberal pragmatism. And the British royals are wildly popular. But Britain’s planned withdrawal from the European Union, Brexit, has left most Germans bewildered, and somewhat bereft.

“The U.K. was one of the allied forces that welcomed Germany back as a European nation” after World War II, points out Norbert Röttgen, head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and now the U.K. is turning its back. Politicians are particularly wary of Britain’s likely next prime minister, Boris Johnson, a champion of Brexit who has made anti-German comments in the past.

But even after Britain leaves the EU, ties between Berlin and London are expected to remain strong: The two nations are close trading partners and allies on the international scene. Germans may be disappointed by Brexit, and not understand it, says Helmut Scholz, a left-leaning politician, “but that doesn’t affect the bilateral relationship.”

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When a breakup makes you rethink your relationship: Brexit and Germany

When Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall visited this historic city recently, thousands of Anglophiles waved Union Jacks and German flags on the central Marktplatz square to greet them.

The royal House of Windsor is hugely popular in Germany, a sentiment that reflects a broader affection for a country long admired as liberal and pragmatic.

That image has been tarnished by the 2016 Brexit referendum taking Britain out of the European Union. But Germany will still miss the U.K. more than other members of the bloc, even if Berlin is counting on continued strong bilateral ties with London after Brexit.

Its politicians are bewildered that Britain is turning its back on the post-war European order. “After the horrors of the Second World War, the U.K. was one of the allied forces that welcomed Germany back as a European nation,” points out Norbert Röttgen, who heads the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee. “These historic ties are deeply ingrained in the German collective memory.”

Even Jürgen Klopp, the manager of Europe’s soccer champions, Liverpool, and the most popular German in Britain, has weighed in. “I’m 51 years old so I have never experienced a war,” he told the BBC last May. “We are really blessed in our generation, but the past showed us that as long as strong partners are together, Europe is a much safer place.”

“The Germans are just shaking their heads and wondering how on earth did this happen,” says Fraser Cameron, senior adviser at the European Policy Center in Brussels. “There has been a mixture of exasperation, frustration, and sheer incredulity” over Brexit, he adds. “Now the German mood is one of resignation.”

A fondness for Britain, unrequited

Jon Worth, an Englishman, has lived in Berlin for six years and is in the process of becoming a German citizen. The author of a popular blog on Brexit, Mr. Worth recalls how, on the day after the British electorate voted to leave the EU in June 2016, he went to his sports club and one of his colleagues – a technician with the police force – approached him.

“He put his arm around me and said: ‘Jon, don’t worry, it’ll be okay, you can stay.’ The attitude towards me has not changed,” he says. But while there is great fondness for the U.K. among the German elite, he finds, that feeling is not reciprocated. “If British politicians have spent any time anywhere else it’s usually the USA,” Mr. Worth says. “There is not any sort of cultural affinity with Germany whatsoever.”

Ties are closer on the music front. Closing a recent show at the open-air Zitadelle venue, Kele Okereke, singer in British indie band Bloc Party, told the audience how sad he was that the next time he visited Berlin, Britain would most likely have left Europe. There was a collective shaking of heads in the crowd, a mixture of Berliner 30-somethings and British expats.

Those foreigners are especially concerned about how Brexit will play out. Over 17,000 Britons became naturalized Germans between 2016 and 2018, more than three times as many as in the previous 15 years.  A significant number of Brits whose ancestors fled the Nazis are now reclaiming German citizenship.

Thoughts on Boris Johnson

Helmut Scholz, a European Parliament member from the left-wing German party Die Linke, will be sorry to see Britain leave the EU; he is a fan of the U.K., where his daughter went to university and he has close political ties.

But he sees Brexit as a useful warning sign. “We have similar [nationalist] tendencies in all EU member states,” he points out. We were critical of the [British] decision to leave but we need to ask the question within the EU what we can do to stop other countries taking the same decision. It is time for European countries to recognize their common values and responsibilities in a common market and show we are willing to protect these values,” says Mr. Scholz.

Mr. Scholz, who is personally acquainted with the British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, has an especially sour view of Boris Johnson, the champion of Brexit who is expected to be Britain’s next prime minister. Mr. Johnson has made himself unpopular with Germans for a series of anti-German remarks, including comparing the EU to the Third Reich. “It will be interesting if Boris Johnson really becomes the new prime minister, as everyone expects. Poor Britain!” says Mr. Sholz.

That attitude is shared across the German political spectrum. In an interview with the British parliamentary magazine The House, Elmar Brok, a long-time associate of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, said he enjoyed Mr. Johnson’s company but did not think he was suitable to be leader of his country.

During the European elections campaign, the Social Democrats tweeted a picture of Mr. Johnson dangling from a zip-wire waving a Union Jack with the caption, “This is what happens when populists muscle in: Chaos.”

Ties that still bind

Many Germans still harbor the hope Britain will opt for a second referendum and end up staying.

“The discussions in the aftermath of the referendum have shown how difficult it is to reverse 40 years of EU integration. Since the negative repercussions of Brexit have only become clear after the vote, a second referendum to revoke or confirm one’s position in my view seems sensible,” says Dr. Röttgen.

Even if this doesn’t happen, ties will remain strong, not least because of the two countries’ trade relationship. The U.K. is Germany’s fourth most important export destination and Germany is Britain’s second biggest foreign market after the United States.

Beyond that, “the U.K. and Germany stand together on every major international issue which confronts us, from global trade to the nuclear deal with Iran, to climate change,” Britain’s ambassador to Germany, Sir Sebastian Wood, said in an interview with a local English-language newspaper last year. “That won’t change. Why should it?”

 “The relationship with Britain is still very close and that hasn’t changed,” agrees Mr. Scholz. “Young people are very disappointed with Brexit, and they don’t understand it, but that doesn’t affect the bilateral relationship.”

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Books

5. Sip some lemonade and read July’s 10 best books

Our selection of great reads includes a duel between cynicism and idealism, two young women on Broadway wrestling with McCarthyism, and the great American road trip pioneered by an unlikely trio: Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone.

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Sip some lemonade and read July’s 10 best books

Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers
“Hue and Cry” by James Alan McPherson, Ecco/HarperCollins, 304 pp.

1. Hue and Cry by James Alan McPherson

The late author and Pulitzer Prize winner’s stories remain as relevant today as when they were first published in 1969. Here, he writes unflinchingly about race, poverty, and society, and he brings a perspective on the human condition that is as graceful as it is gritty.

2. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Two boys sentenced to a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida reveal a study in contrasts: one is cynical, the other idealistic and inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr. As they navigate abuse and corruption, they influence each other in ways that will alter the course of their lives. (Full review here.)

3. Turbulence by David Szalay

This slim novel deals with the transience of contemporary life as it follows a disparate cast of characters traversing the globe. Birth, death, debt, and unrequited love are among the forms of turbulence they face, and these universal human experiences tie the stories together into a satisfying whole. 

4. The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

A lawyer is saddled with bailing out his younger brother, a professor who brings to life characters from books by famed authors such as Dickens, Wilde, Austen, and Bronte. When a stranger with a similar gift threatens everything, wild adventures ensue in this imaginative and heartfelt novel.

5. The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis

The theme of McCarthyism threads through this intricately woven novel, which highlights the politics of 1950s Broadway. It follows two friends, a playwright and an actress, through their professional and personal challenges, with the bohemian Chelsea Hotel playing the role of backdrop. It’s a fascinating and at times heartbreaking look at an era in which lives were upended and careers derailed.

6. Conviction by Denise Mina

A sunken yacht with bodies aboard sets the stage for this edgy but humorous crime novel. Anna, a rich, sardonic Scottish mum with a tragic hidden past, becomes a partner in crime-solving with Fin, a down-on-his-luck ex-rocker, as they catapult across Europe. Denise Mina’s thriller is a madcap yarn, with some rough edges but a generous heart. 

7. The Vagabonds by Jeff Guinn

In 1914, automaker Henry Ford and naturalist John Burroughs visited inventor Thomas Edison in Florida. The following year, Ford, Edison, and tiremaker Harvey Firestone began a series of summer road trips. Journalist Jeff Guinn’s account of their adventures is a lively reflection on the emerging lure of the great American road trip. (Full review here.)

Courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada
‘If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years’ by Christopher Benfey, Penguin Press, 256 pp.

8. If by Christopher Benfey

Rudyard Kipling is considered a British literary icon, but between 1889 and 1899, he lived in the United States. His time in America deeply shaped his writing. Kipling’s attitudes toward race and empire have complicated his legacy, but Christopher Benfey points to the continuing relevance of an Englishman who was also a fan of America. (Full review here.)

9. The Ice at the End of the World by Jon Gertner

On Greenland’s dwindling ice sheet, explorers and scientists have battled inhospitable conditions and technological challenges in a quest to understand one of the most mysterious geological regions on earth. Jon Gertner’s gripping stories of their work gives new insight into the dramatic climatic changes taking place on the planet today. (Full review here.)

10. Young Castro by Jonathan M. Hansen

Jonathan M. Hansen crafts a portrait of Fidel Castro before the beard, before the Cuban missile crisis, and long before the fall of the Soviet Union. The book succeeds wonderfully in making young Castro – idealistic and a devourer of books – come alive.

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The Monitor's View

The harmony that belies Japan and South Korea strife

Two ways to read the story

  • Quick Read
  • Deep Read ( 2 Min. )

When diplomats fail to end hard strife between two nations, they often turn to a soft-power solution: more exchanges of tourists, business people, artists, academics, and others. This “track II” approach may soon be required between Japan and South Korea.

At the diplomatic level, the two American allies are in a downward spiral of relations. Their only way up might lie in taking a wider view of common interests and values. People-to-people contacts would help.

In the past year, official ties have become so bad that South Korean President Moon Jae-in calls them an “unprecedented emergency.” Japan is so frustrated with Seoul that it threatened this month to restrict exports of essential raw materials to South Korea’s world-class computer chipmakers. At the heart of the dispute are unresolved differences over whether Japan has made enough amends for its domination of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Yet the two countries have become so intertwined in business and culture that their leaders will find it difficult to rupture ties any further. In fact, by emphasizing the healthy parts of their relationship, Japan and South Korea could work around or even solve their historical issues.

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The harmony that belies Japan and South Korea strife

When diplomats fail to end hard strife between two nations, they often turn to a soft-power solution: more exchanges of tourists, business people, artists, academics, and others. This “track II” approach may soon be required between Japan and South Korea.

At the diplomatic level, the two American allies are in a downward spiral of relations. Their only way up might lie in taking a wider view of common interests and values. People-to-people contacts would help.

In the past year, official ties have become so bad that South Korean President Moon Jae-in calls them an “unprecedented emergency.” Japan is so frustrated with Seoul that it threatened this month to restrict exports of essential raw materials to South Korea’s world-class computer chipmakers. The United States, meanwhile, is caught in the middle even as crises with North Korea and China escalate.

At the heart of the dispute are unresolved differences over whether Japan has made enough amends for its domination of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Despite a formal treaty in 1965 that settled compensation for that brutal past, a revival of South Korean democracy since 1987 helped reopen demands against Japan and forced it into making numerous official apologies. The last straw for Tokyo was a ruling last year by South Korea’s Supreme Court that found certain Japanese corporations must compensate Koreans who were made to work for Imperial Japan during World War II.

As the dispute has widened, so has popular distrust. A poll in July by Japanese and South Korean newspapers found 75% of South Koreans did not trust Japanese people while 74% of Japanese were distrustful of South Koreans. Many Korean consumers have started to boycott Japanese goods this year.

Yet the two countries have become so intertwined in business and culture that their leaders will find it difficult to rupture ties any further. In fact, by emphasizing the healthy parts of their relationship, Japan and South Korea could work around or even solve their historical issues.

Korean pop music, for example, is extremely popular in Japan while South Koreans have adopted cultural aspects of Japan, such as anime and manga. Last year, tourist exchanges between the two countries were at a near-record high. In both Japan and South Korea, top business leaders who conduct trade between the two nations are trying to keep close ties while quietly criticizing their governments’ hard-line stance.

“A startling paradox is that individual Japanese and Koreans usually get along perfectly amicably,” writers Korea watcher Andrew Salmon.

While U.S. diplomats tried to coax diplomats in Tokyo and Seoul to compromise, the long-term solution may lie at the rice-roots level of people exchanges. Younger generations of Japanese and South Koreans are ready to move on and find a future-oriented relationship.

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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.

Playing our part in reducing toxic politics

  • Quick Read
  • Read or Listen ( 4 Min. )

Across the globe, rage too often goes hand in hand with staying informed and engaged. But there’s a spiritual perspective that enables us to think and act in a way that counters the spread of division, hatred, and fear.

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Playing our part in reducing toxic politics

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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These certainly seem like toxic times when it comes to political discourse around the world – from endless arguments in the United Kingdom between “Brexiteers” (wishing to leave the European Union) and “Remainers” (wishing to stay), to fierce divisions over who is the legitimate president of Venezuela, to polarized views of the way forward for America between the major parties in the United States.

It often seems as if rage is the price we have to pay if we want to stay informed and engaged. How can we keep anger at bay while still caring about the issues that matter?

A starting point for me has been to ask myself how I’m perceiving those who hold firm to positions I disagree with. In this regard, a comment made by previous U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has been thought-provoking. Ms. Haley said, “In our toxic political life, I’ve heard some people in both parties describe their opponents as enemies or evil. ... We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil, they’re just our opponents.”

To take that line of reasoning even further: There’s an underlying spiritual perception of others that makes it impossible for us to view anyone, including any politician, as a genuine enemy. This perception is a spiritual sense of others that sees that any negative qualities we might associate with them are not unalterable. They are not actually a part of what they really are.

Christian Science explains that the true identity of every individual, whether we know them personally or via media coverage, is in reality the spiritual reflection of God, good, the source of all. We are all created to express the nature of God.

That being the case, whatever doesn’t exemplify this identity is not what someone really is as a child of God. Likewise, any view we may have of ourselves as prone to get provoked, riled up, or even filled with hatred toward another person is not an accurate perception of what we really are, either.

This doesn’t mean ignoring, condoning, or resigning ourselves to wrong behavior. It means we challenge the fear of being subject to actions and events beyond our control, which stems from the perception of life and mind as material and inevitably prone to bad as well as good.

The Scriptures promise us that “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Instead of accepting fear or anger as intractable – in the political realm or elsewhere – we can pray to see the continuing presence and power of the good that God always beholds. In doing so, we begin to discern that the bad doesn’t really have the power it may appear to have.

I saw this when dealing with someone whose actions so deeply distressed me that seeing him as God’s creation – made to glorify Deity’s goodness – seemed too hard. But I persisted in praying based on a central observation concerning Christ Jesus in the teachings of Christian Science. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals” (pp. 476-477).

Through his extraordinary record of healing both sickness and sinfulness in others, Jesus proved the good that can be accomplished by holding to the true view of others as God’s expressions. As I humbly strove to do this, my fear and resentment of the man who had aggrieved me finally lessened, and the situation was soon resolved.

Isn’t this an approach we can take in the political arena, too? Rather than getting drawn into the toxic mental atmosphere of hating a candidate, we can help to heal it. To gain a more spiritual outlook isn’t to shy away from difficult situations. Rather, it defuses fear by awakening our thoughts to bear witness to the good already at hand. It helps us sustain mental equilibrium and poise. And it undergirds the courage needed to take action we feel divinely inspired to take.

Whether we back the winning or losing candidate in any election (wherever we are in the world, and no matter how high the stakes), we can persist in our commitment to perceive the spiritual view of one and all. In this way our very words and deeds will be cast on the side of exemplifying God’s goodness and will stand as a vote against the spread of division, hatred, and fear.

Adapted from an editorial published in the July 15, 2019, Christian Science Sentinel.

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All together now

Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Team Spain competes in the Women’s Team Technical Final at the 18th FINA World Swimming Championships at Yeomju Gymnasium, Gwangju, South Korea, on July 16, 2019.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris and Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( July 17th, 2019 )

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’ve got a story about how America’s young people’s poet laureate offers a tortoise-paced perspective on a hyperkinetic world.

Monitor Daily Podcast

July 16, 2019
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