2019
August
07
Wednesday

Welcome to the Daily. Today, our five handpicked stories start with an extraordinarily beautiful portrait of the grace of El Paso. We also pull back the curtain on the U.S.-China economic battle, look at how President Donald Trump’s approach to foreign policy is changing the Middle East, examine why independent bookstores endure, and tell the story of one family’s amazing dedication to save a rare horse breed.

But first a look at why the world should be watching Hong Kong.

These days, it would seem, authoritarianism is on the march. From Russia to the Philippines to Saudi Arabia, strongmen seem to be calling the shots. Elsewhere, strains of populism have some worried that democratic norms are under threat or already in tatters.

But in Hong Kong, protesters have put the strongest of strongmen – Chinese President Xi Jinping – in a bind. The demonstrators are increasingly worried that the Hong Kong they love is vanishing. The rights and liberties that have made the city a unique and flourishing hub of culture and global trade seem to be hanging in the balance. So The Wall Street Journal notes that protesters are becoming more desperate and radical in their determination to fight for their way of life.

It is a reminder that freedoms, once spread, are hard to take away. To be sure, mainland China holds the upper hand. But Hong Kong – and Taiwan – show that freedom and justice put down tenacious roots. For decades after World War II, the world took flawed but unprecedented steps to spread and protect freedoms across the globe. Hong Kong shows that such seeds can be transformative.

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1. Why El Paso is determined not to roll up the welcome mat

El Paso is an old city with a big heart, residents told our reporter. Its embrace of all isn’t going anywhere, they say, despite a terrorist attack aimed at its diversity.

Mark
Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters
Norma, Luke, and Mark Jimerson pay their respects at a memorial four days after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 7, 2019.

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As the sun set over El Paso, Texas, dozens of people gather outside the Immaculate Baptist Church for a vigil for the 22 people who died in an attack at a Walmart. Pastor J.C. Rico leads prayers in both English and Spanish.

“I refuse to let that change the way we live, change the way we are,” says Rosie Rico, the pastor’s wife.

The alleged gunman had no ties to this 400-year-old city on the banks of the Rio Grande. He drove more than 600 miles from a Dallas suburb to commit the attack, which law enforcement are treating as domestic terrorism. El Paso has been, for years now, statistically one of the safest cities in the country – but now some residents are questioning whether they are safe from the rest of America.

“It’s like we’re the antithesis of how a lot of people in the heartland, where I grew up, view us,” says Bill Clark, co-owner of the bookstore Literarity. “It’s probably the most welcoming city one could want to live in.”

Daniel Aguilar, who attended the vigil, says, “It sounds like [the gunman] was not getting love. He would have got love from us. We would have given him love.”

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Why El Paso is determined not to roll up the welcome mat

Telma De La Rosa’s family immigrated to the United States more than 100 years ago, after being driven off their land in Chihuahua during the Mexican Revolution. The family settled in El Paso and worked as accountants and business owners, but mostly as soldiers. Her father served in the Korean War and her uncle, who was awarded the Silver Star, fought and died in Italy during World War II.

In the Chihuahuita neighborhood where her family lived, a street is named after her uncle.

“We are proud Americans. We love our country; we really do,” says Ms. De La Rosa, a retired social services worker. “So to be questioned about it, it’s hard. To go back where you came from, where do you want us to go back?”

One source of comfort for her and others is that – even after last weekend’s deadly mass shooting – they can still tell themselves that El Paso is safe. The alleged gunman had no ties to this 400-year-old city on the banks of the Rio Grande. He drove more than 600 miles from a Dallas suburb to commit the attack. El Paso has been, for years now, statistically one of the safest cities in the country – but now some residents are questioning whether they are safe from the rest of America.

Courtesy of Telma De La Rosa
Pablo Zambrano, an accountant, was one of many Mexicans who fled to the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution. Pictured here in 1910. De La Rosa's family, like many Mexican-American families in El Paso, have lived there for generations, often with long records of military service.

“It’s like we’re the antithesis of how a lot of people in the heartland, where I grew up, view us,” says Bill Clark, who grew up in Jackson, Tennessee, and lived in several Southern cities before settling in El Paso in 1993. “It’s probably the most welcoming city one could want to live in.”

 “I’m not worried about myself,” he adds. But, “when I know that someone drove hundreds of miles to target my neighbors … people in my community, I worry about my community.”

Twenty-two people have died as a result of the Aug. 3 attack, about as many murders as the city usually gets in a year. The alleged gunman – Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old from Allen, Texas – is believed to have posted a “manifesto” on social media minutes before the massacre that said it “is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Fifteen of the victims were American citizens, while seven were Mexican citizens. (The Walmart is one of the closest big department stores to the border, and popular with day-shoppers crossing from Ciudad Juárez.)

Henry Gass/The Christian Science Monitor
Bill Clark stands outside the Literarity book store, which he co-owns with his wife. He moved to El Paso in 1993 after spending most of his life in the southern U.S. and says he's never lived in a city as welcoming as El Paso, which was targeted in a mass shooting on Aug. 3.

Texas history is rife with examples of violence toward Hispanics, dating as far back as when the state was a backwater province belonging to Mexico. But at a time when anti-immigrant rhetoric is reaching a boiling point, when a U.S. citizen is held in a border detention facility for weeks, and when the city itself has been the focal point of overcrowding and questions about the treatment of migrant families and children seeking asylum, that history is echoing in ways that El Pasoans, who love their tightknit, peaceful city and its more than 400 years of multicultural heritage, find unexpected.

In recent decades, El Paso has grown both in size and as a safe and modern city. Nicknamed “El Chuco” by locals, after zoot suit-wearing Mexican American “Pachucos” from the 1940s, it is a world leader in water conservation, it’s the home town of award-winning singer Khalid, and it has been one of the safest cities in the country since the early 1990s.

President Donald Trump arrived in El Paso Wednesday to offer comfort after Saturday’s mass shooting. “I am concerned about the rise of any group of hate, I don’t like it, any group of hate, whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy, whether it’s antifa, whether it’s any group of hate, I am very concerned about it and I’ll do something about it,” the president said, speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before his trip. When asked by a reporter whether his rhetoric has contributed to violence, he said, “No, I don’t think my rhetoric has at all. I think my rhetoric brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well. China is not doing well.”

But some residents interviewed said they can’t help but think of a rally two weeks ago when his supporters chanted “send her back” about Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. The chant was inspired by a tweet in which the president told four nonwhite congresswomen, three of whom were born in America and all of whom are U.S. citizens, that they should “go back” to the “crime-infested” countries they came from.

Henry Gass/The Christian Science Monitor
Mourners gather at Immaculate Baptist Church for a vigil remembering victims of a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso on Aug. 3. Twenty-two people were killed in the attack, which is believed to have deliberately targeted Hispanic Americans.

“We love America”

“I don’t want to be afraid,” Ms. De La Rosa says. But it’s difficult when your deep ties to the country of your birth are being challenged, if not dismissed out of hand.

“If your ethnicity was being hunted in a place, you wouldn’t feel comfortable about it,” she says.

“We’re fortunate to live here. We love America just as much as anyone else, if not more,” she adds. “Why do we have to defend ourselves though? Why do we have to say, ‘No, I’m an American. I love this country’? Why do we have to prove anything?”

For centuries, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez were one city known as El Paso del Norte. It wasn’t until 1850, more than a decade after Texas declared its independence from Mexico, that the new border split the city in half.

By then, Tejanos in Texas – those descended from the region’s Spanish settlers – had been facing harassment and violence from Anglo settlers for years. Juan Seguín, a Tejano defender of the Alamo, fled to Mexico in 1842 out of fear for his safety. The early 20th century saw the indiscriminate killing of Mexican Americans in the Texas borderlands, scholars have recently uncovered, including the killing of 15 unarmed men and boys in the village of Porvenir a century ago.

When Clarissa Hernandez’s grandmother came to America decades ago, her first job was in a peanut factory. She was on the assembly line, picking out the bad peanuts as they trundled past, earning enough money to move into a home in a quiet neighborhood in northeast El Paso.

Ms. Hernandez and her grandmother were idling away a peaceful Saturday morning a few hundred yards away from the Walmart when the gunman opened fire.

If it wasn’t for her slow start to the day, Ms. Hernandez would have been there buying cases of water. Two days later, she is there with her young son, handing out bottles of water to first responders and the steady stream of El Pasoans coming to pay their respects at a small memorial.

“I feel not safe,” she says. “I feel that everywhere I go now I’ll have to look at who’s there, what’s going on.”

“I still believe in people”

As the sun set over El Paso Monday evening, dozens of people gather outside the Immaculate Baptist Church two blocks from the Cielo Vista Mall for a vigil. Pastor J.C. Rico leads prayers in both English and Spanish.

After the vigil, Rosie Rico, the pastor’s wife, says they wanted it “to communicate that there’s hope.” A second-generation Mexican American, she still feels safe in El Paso.

“I refuse to let that change the way we live, change the way we are,” she says.

Ms. De La Rosa has a similar optimism about the city, and about the country as a whole.

“I still believe in people, and the goodness of people,” she says.

“We are proud Americans. We love our country. We love El Paso. We love Texas,” she adds. “We will overcome this.”

That spirit has been on display for a national audience this year, as hundreds of thousands of migrants – mostly families and children from Central America – have traveled to the city seeking asylum in the U.S. With immigration officers and facilities overwhelmed, local residents, nonprofits, and churches have been working around the clock to house, feed, and clothe the migrants.

For Mr. Clark, that context is what seems to be so unsettling about last weekend’s massacre.

El Paso “has opened its hearts and its arms to the migrants,” he says. “I’m sure there’s people out there in today’s world who don’t like that.”

“We are, and have always been, one of the safest cities in America, and it is because we don’t just tolerate or respect our differences but we fully embrace them,” Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke told reporters at an event Monday morning. While acknowledging that “there is a level of intolerance and hatred and racism that has not been seen in a very long time,” Mr. O’Rourke said it was precisely because of El Paso’s character that it could help lead the way. “Though we bore the brunt of this hatred and this violence, we also hold the answers for the way forward.”

Daniel Aguilar, a third-generation American who attended the vigil and says he has been feeling “lost” and “speechless” since the attack, put it a different way.

“I feel he was disgusted by us, I guess,” he says, referring to the gunman.

“It sounds like he was not getting love,” he adds, shaking his head. “He would have got love from us. We would have given him love.”

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2. Currency manipulator? What latest twist in trade war means.

The recent stock market jolt underlines the complex consequences of trade wars and currency manipulation. This story explains the thinking behind the deeper chess battle between the U.S. and China.

Mark
Chinatopix/AP
A bank employee counts U.S. dollar banknotes next to a stack of 100 Chinese yuan notes at a bank outlet in Hai'an, China, on Aug. 6, 2019. China's yuan fell further that day against the dollar, fueling fears about increasing global damage from a trade war.

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Fears of a currency war have piled atop anxiety about rising tariffs and their toll on the global economy.

Stock markets around the world swooned after Beijing allowed its currency to fall below a key level against the U.S. dollar. The United States declared China a currency manipulator. Meanwhile, the U.S. and other nations have shifted toward lowering interest rates – a move that can often result in weakening currencies.

But is this a currency war, a modern version of what happened during the Great Depression when nations devalued their currency in a vain attempt to boost their exports at the expense of others?

Many economists are skeptical. The big risk to global economic growth, they say, isn’t currency but tariffs – with the U.S. threats escalating against China last week. And the interest rate cuts can be explained as addressing that risk to overall growth, not as currency manipulation.

Pushing currency values lower can also blunt the impact of tariffs. Battles over currency “are not that bad,” says Olivier Jeanne, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. But as a tool in a rising trade war, it’s worrying.

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Currency manipulator? What latest twist in trade war means.

A new front opened this week in America’s ongoing standoff with China over trade. Instead of tariffs, this battle is over the value of currencies.

After Beijing allowed its currency to fall below a key level against the U.S. dollar, stock markets swooned around the globe. The United States declared China a currency manipulator, and nations began looking at cutting interest rates, following the Federal Reserve’s move last week.

Is this a currency war, a modern version of what happened during the Great Depression, when nations devalued their currency in a vain and desperate attempt to boost their exports at the expense of others?

Opinion is divided. Some economists say there’s little evidence of one. Others say we’ve been in a currency war for nearly a decade. What they do agree on is that fears of damage from a currency war are likely overblown.

“The trade war is much worse,” in terms of creating economic damage, says Jeffrey Frankel, an economist and Harvard professor.

“We are in a new phase of the currency war,” says Olivier Jeanne, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “But overall, [such wars] are not that bad.”  

Sometimes, they can lead to positive outcomes.

Lessons from the 1930s

This represents a significant shift in economic thought, which had long blamed the competitive devaluations of the 1930s as prolonging the Great Depression. In the past three decades, many economists have swung to the view that such policies helped depreciate currencies relative to gold and allowed nations to keep interest rates low and expand their money supply, which was badly needed to battle the deflation of the time. 

When trade tensions rise, tariffs and currency often play off each other in intriguing ways. Think of a seesaw.

If a country wants to boost its exports, it can push down the value of its currency, which will make its traded goods less expensive. It can do this in various ways directly, such as printing more money, or indirectly, by lowering interest rates. Lower interest rates can make the currency less attractive to investors, so they sell it and buy other currencies that offer a higher return. 

But nations also lower interest rates for other reasons, often if their economy slows. Lower rates can help boost growth by making it cheaper for businesses and consumers to borrow money. So when a nation lowers its interest rate, is it doing so to prop up its economy or sell more abroad?

“The line is very difficult to draw,” says Robert Staiger, a professor of economics at Dartmouth College. 

In 2010, as the Federal Reserve and other central banks used unconventional means to respond to the financial crisis, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega popularized the term “currency war” to describe the destructive impact their actions were having on his economy. 

On Monday, when China allowed its currency to weaken, moving to more than 7 yuan per dollar for the first time in a decade, the Trump administration promptly labeled Beijing a “currency manipulator.” 

But in the face of its slowing economy, caused in part by U.S. tariffs, many finance experts say it would make sense for China to lower the value of its currency. Last week, the Federal Reserve also lowered rates, saying it was acting in part to offset the risks of a trade war dragging down growth. 

Other central banks are following the Fed’s lead. The European Central Bank is talking about reducing interest rates. India, New Zealand, and Thailand cut rates Wednesday. Are they all manipulators in a big currency war – or simply trying to stabilize their economies as prospects for global growth fade?

Either way, a defining feature of this moment is President Donald Trump’s aggressive use of tariffs in an attempt to force China to change policies. 

Devaluation as a “subsidy” for U.S. consumers

The president’s tariffs have imposed, by one estimate, a $72 billion tax on American consumers, in the form of higher prices. But as Trump advisers have pointed out repeatedly in recent days, the prices of most goods haven’t risen much, if at all, and inflation remains tame. Why? 

Back to the seesaw. A big reason is the depreciation of China’s currency, which has largely offset the tariffs. This kind of depreciation naturally happens when tariffs are imposed, economists say.

That Chinese “subsidy” is good for U.S. consumers, but it poses a problem for China. Its exporters are not seeing much gain from depreciation, while its importers are seeing their spending power shrink. That’s an economic drag on the nation, which is the world’s largest importer of oil and holds an estimated $800 billion in dollar-denominated debt. It also likely serves to restrain how much Beijing is willing to devalue its currency, just as Mr. Trump reportedly has shot down ideas of depreciating the dollar.

The Trump administration’s hope is that new U.S. tariffs would be such a knockout blow to a slowing economy with a shaky debt picture that Beijing will blink. “The Chinese economy is crumbling,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNBC Tuesday. “It’s just not the powerhouse it was 20 years ago.”

For all their public bravado, both sides have an interest in bridging their differences sooner rather than later. A trade agreement, which seems remote right now, is not unthinkable.

Little hint of compromise

But economists are skeptical. With some $3 trillion in reserves and strong control over the economy, China may well weather a new tariff storm without dipping into recession. And even if it does, “it’s not going to lead the Chinese to give in to U.S. demands,” says Mr. Jeanne of the Peterson Institute, based on his reading of Chinese economists at a recent meeting.

The changes the U.S. is asking China to make are just too big, trade experts say.

Unfortunately, the interplay between tariffs and currency may cause problems this time around. A day after the Fed reduced interest rates, in part because of the uncertainty surrounding trade policy, Mr. Trump tweeted that he would impose tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports on Sept. 1 unless there was progress in talks. Is the Fed’s easing giving the president leeway to push his case more aggressively?

“The central bank is giving politicians the impression that if they screw up on trade policy, they [the bankers] can undo the damage,” says Mr. Frankel of Harvard. “That’s why I do worry about the ‘currency war.’ It’s not because of what will happen to exchange rates. ... [But] you’re aiding and abetting the bad trade policy.”

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3. Checkbook diplomacy? How Qatar’s renewed US ties reshape the Gulf.

Shared values? Or shared interests? The principle guiding President Trump’s “transactional” diplomacy has been more the latter. Among Gulf Arabs, that’s created competition for good U.S. relations.

Mark

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President Donald Trump’s about-face on Qatar – receiving the emir, Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, at the White House in July as an “old friend” two years after condemning the Gulf Arab state as a “funder of terrorism” – was telling.

It potentially shifted the balance of power in the Gulf, opening a door to a resurgence of multilateralism in the region. And, say observers and officials there, it exposed the limits of influence achieved by Qatar’s rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in a transactional White House.

Just as Mr. Trump touted Saudi Arabia’s billions in arms deals during a March 2018 visit by the crown prince, in the recent visit by the emir, Qatar inked tens of billions of dollars in deals with Raytheon, Boeing, and Chevron. It was a case of Qatar beating Saudi Arabia and the UAE at their own game.

Says Andreas Krieg, a lecturer in security studies at King’s College London: “The Qataris understood that Trump is very much a transactional president – as much as the Saudis and the UAE understand – you need to pour money into the country in order to win his favor.”

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Checkbook diplomacy? How Qatar’s renewed US ties reshape the Gulf.

President Donald Trump’s recent embrace of Qatar marked a significant turnaround for an administration that for most of its tenure had accused the Gulf state of financing terrorism.

But perhaps more importantly, it has exposed the limits of influence achieved by Qatar’s rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in the White House. And that is potentially shifting the power balance in the Arab world and opening the door to a resurgence of multilateralism in the Gulf.

In 2017, as Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched a blockade and isolation of Qatar, forcing 10 of its allies to cut off or downgrade ties with Doha – President Trump took the rare move of stepping in and supporting the blockade against Qatar – for years a U.S. ally as well.

In a June 2017 press conference in the Rose Garden, Mr. Trump said “the nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level,” repeating the talking point of Saudi Arabia. Experts say that was an extreme exaggeration of Doha’s support for political Islamist groups during the Arab Spring.

Yet two years later, President Trump received the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, in the White House, referring to him as an “old friend” and signing billions of dollars in arms deals – and delivering a reality check to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Observers and officials in the region say the Trump pivot on Qatar proved the limits of the support one can count on from a transactional White House: a higher bidder can always come along.

Just as Mr. Trump touted Saudi Arabia’s billions in arms deals during a visit by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March 2018, in the recent visit by the emir, Qatar inked tens of billions of dollars in deals with Raytheon, Boeing, and Chevron. It also pledged to increase its investments in American companies by $15 billion over the next two years.

Crucially, Sheikh al-Thani agreed not only to expand the American Al Udeid Air Base outside Doha ­– long a request from Washington and a priority for containing nearby Iran – but that Qatar would completely fund the expensive expansion itself.

It was a case of Qatar beating Saudi Arabia and the UAE at their own game.

“The Qataris understood that Trump is very much a transactional president – as much as the Saudis and the UAE understand – you need to pour money into the country in order to win his favor,” says Andreas Krieg, a lecturer in security studies at King’s College London.

Yuri Gripas/Reuters
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper greets Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim al-Thani, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, July 8, 2019.

Observers say Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have learned another hard lesson in investing so heavily in Mr. Trump to deliver on their regional goals: In the United States, institutions still matter.

By entrusting everything to President Trump, the observers say, the two Gulf states failed to calculate how much the Pentagon, State Department, Congress, and advisers can affect, shape, and even undo policy decisions.

In the case of Qatar, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis, the military, and the State Department prevented the president’s quick drop of Qatar and slowly convinced Mr. Trump to change his mind.

U.S. frustrations

According to U.S. diplomatic sources, a similar process led the president to shift his position against the Saudi and UAE interests in Sudan and even Libya.

The pivot on Qatar also marks rising frustration within the White House over Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s misadventures.

The blockade of Qatar, which Riyadh and Abu Dhabi pitched as central to cutting off terrorism and confronting Iran, only served to fracture and divide the Gulf and the wider Arab world, undermining Washington’s efforts to oppose Tehran.

“The administration has lost patience with the blockade, which has harmed U.S. interests in containing Iran,” says Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston. “They now seem to blame the Saudis and Emiratis instead.”

It also comes off a series of mishaps by the Saudi-UAE alliance: the ongoing war in Yemen, backing the military junta that massacred protesters in Sudan, their inability to deliver the Palestinians at the recent peace conference in Bahrain, and the PR fallout over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The question remains how Saudi Arabia and the UAE will handle the U.S. relationship going forward.

Re-orientation

Those close to Riyadh say Saudi Arabia is feeling increasingly “betrayed” and “exposed” after investing in the Trump administration, politicizing a Saudi-U.S. relationship that was previously rooted in strong ties with both parties in Congress.  

There is a growing sense in Riyadh that the next administration after Mr. Trump – whether in 2020 or 2024 – and next Congress will be more hostile to Saudi Arabia, meaning U.S. arms supplies could dry up.

As a result, Saudi Arabia has been actively diversifying its military ties, working closer with Russia and even studying the purchase of Moscow’s S-400 air defense systems – the very system whose adoption by Turkey led to a diplomatic spat between Washington and Ankara and the suspension of sales of F-35s to the NATO ally.

Riyadh too has been increasing its economic dependence on China, raising its oil output to America’s geopolitical rival by nearly 50% over the past year, making Beijing the number one importer of Saudi crude.

Should Mr. Trump fail to realize a controversial U.S.-Saudi nuclear cooperation agreement, Riyadh has issued several signals it is ready to turn to Russia to purchase nuclear technology. Russia’s state-owned Rosatom opened a subsidiary in the kingdom last month as talks over reactors progressed.

“The Saudis are signaling to the U.S. that ‘we have options and don’t take our relationship for granted,’” says Mr. Ulrichsen. “Now, will that sway a Congress that has been suspicious of Saudi in the past? That remains to be seen.”

While Saudi Arabia is looking beyond the U.S., the UAE is looking beyond Mr. Trump himself, going on an all-out PR campaign to rebuild its own bipartisan ties within Congress.

Key to this campaign is Abu Dhabi’s much-billed “drawdown” from the Yemen conflict last month – in reality a tactical redeployment that removes Emirati forces from the front lines and further distances the UAE from the disastrous conflict both functionally and in the media.

Intra-Gulf politics

In the wake of the U.S. pivot back to Qatar, multilateralism in the Gulf is once again a reality, Western and Arab diplomats say.

Feeling increasingly isolated, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, at Washington’s behest, are working once again with other Gulf Cooperation Council states outside its allies Bahrain and Kuwait on security and energy issues.

Perhaps the greatest hit has been to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s authority across the Arab world, where they have been the top powers since the Arab Spring, bolstered by their funds and military power.

Morocco and Jordan have publicly re-engaged and upgraded ties to Qatar without fear of Saudi retribution.

And Arab states, which have long chafed at the Saudi-UAE “with us or against us” posturing, now feel freer to pursue independent policies in their national interests.

“After years of being dictated to, we can pursue what we think is right and maintain our alliances as we see fit,” says an Arab official, who asked to remain unidentified.  

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Point of Progress

What's going right

4. Comeback story: A new chapter for indie bookstores

While their numbers aren’t what they once were, independent bookstores are reclaiming their place in society. Behind their surprise resurgence is renewed emphasis on fostering community. 

Mark

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In the past decade, the number of independent bookstores in the United States has grown by more than 50%, from 1,651 stores to more than 2,500, according to Dan Cullen, senior strategy officer of the American Booksellers Association. 

Observers say a special blend of local flavor, dedication to physical books, accessibility to authors, and a business model that includes other revenue streams has fueled the resurgence. The formula has proved so successful chains are working to bring a small-venue feel to their big-box stores. 

“One of the key ingredients to the independent bookseller is this notion of community,” says Ryan Raffaelli, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. Owners often sit on city boards and are active in public schools, he says. 

Patricia Fowler, owner of Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls, Vermont, serves as treasurer for two local community groups and participated in a program to support high schoolers as they plan for the future. 

“Some of our customers that started out reading picture books are now into the teen and young adult books,” says Ms. Fowler. “We grow with our customers.”

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Comeback story: A new chapter for indie bookstores

Shaw Taylor, owner of Rodney’s Bookstore in Cambridge, has been selling books for almost 20 years. But he’s been an observer of independent bookstores and the topsy-turvy industry for even longer.

“Cambridge in the ’70s had 35 bookstores,” Mr. Taylor says. “Now I think there’s probably 10 to 15.” 

While their numbers certainly aren’t what they once were, independent bookstores continue to defend their peculiar niche against slim profit margins, large chain bookstores, and the rising tide of e-book vendors. (Some online services, like Libro, encourage subscribers to support local stores.) In the past decade, the number of independent bookstores in the United States has grown by more than 50%, from 1,651 stores to more than 2,500, according to Dan Cullen, senior strategy officer of the American Booksellers Association. Last year, sales increased by 5%, says Mr. Cullen.

Observers say a special blend of local flavor, dedication to physical books, accessibility to author tours, and a business model that includes other revenue streams has helped to keep the lights on for many independent bookstores. The formula has proved so successful even chains are working to bring a small-venue feel to their big-box stores. Barnes & Noble, with its 600-plus storefronts scattered across the U.S., was in decline until it was bought by Elliott Management Corp., the parent corporation of Waterstones. The Britain-based chain credits its resurgence, in part, to individual managers keeping a close eye on the interests of local customers.

“One of the key ingredients to the independent bookseller is this notion of community,” says Ryan Raffaelli, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who studies the reemergence of industries and technologies. Independent bookstores have found success by fashioning spaces where like-minded readers can convene and mingle with authors on tour. Owners often sit on city boards and are active in public schools, he says. 

And as community members themselves, bookstore owners are often in the know about local happenings and work to build personal relationships. 

Patricia Fowler, owner of Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls, Vermont, serves as treasurer for two local community groups and participated in a program to support high schoolers as they plan for the future. 

“We grow with our customers,” said Ms. Fowler. “Some of our customers that started out reading picture books are now into the teen young adult books. So we’ve expanded that section.”

Unlike chain bookstores, independent bookstore owners are free to shape their offerings to their own interests. Mr. Taylor in Cambridge, for example, sells masks from Congo because his brother makes an annual trip there and brings back a fresh supply. And Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina – a popular local meeting place – offers drinks with clever names. Choices include Wolf in Cheap Clothing, a honey and vanilla soy latte.

“[Local bookstores] do a better job of ambience because there’s a little bit more quirk,” says Thomas Bertorelli, a customer of Trident Booksellers and Café in Boston. “You have a little bit more inconsistency, which makes it look a little bit more homely.” 

Besides its expansive menu and rows of books, Trident Booksellers and Café generally offers one or two events a day, says Dana Guth, an event coordinator for Trident. These events range from literary readings to homestyle cooking events and even speed dating. 

Many bookstores host 500 to 600 events each year. Often, it’s independent bookstores that unearth up-and-coming authors before they gain fame, says Mr. Raffaelli. In turn, the authors become loyal to the bookstores.

Locals also bring visiting friends to independent bookstores as a way to experience the flavor of the town, says Ms. Fowler. Part of the thrill for first-time visitors is walking into a place that’s completely different than any other bookstore. 

“You go into an independent bookstore and you never know what you’re going to get,” says Ms. Fowler. “People come in from Boston or Connecticut or New York and they go, ‘Oh boy, who’s the buyer here? This place is quirky. This is fun.’”

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Difference-maker

Drivers of change

5. To save rare ponies, one couple gives up almost everything

What does it look like to sacrifice almost everything for a cause? For one couple, it means they haven’t had the time or money to leave their locale for two years. But it also means a deep connection to animals in need.

Mark
Becky Holladay
Amanda Simpson of Skyros Island Horse Trust tends to a mare on the Greek island of Skíros. Ms. Simpson and her partner, Stathis Katsarelias, are trying to save the breed.

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With its wild ’80s-rock-star mane, muscular body, and charismatic nature, the Skyrian horse has become a sort of cultural icon for the Greek island of Skíros. But today, there are fewer than 300 of these horses left worldwide, maybe 200 if counting only purebreds.

Stathis Katsarelias was drawn to the breed and its cultural significance. “I felt this duty because I’m from Skíros,” he says. “As a Skyrian, we should care about them.”

“They will grab your soul and your heart,” says his partner, Amanda Simpson.

In 2005, Ms. Simpson and Mr. Katsarelias started Skyros Island Horse Trust. From the beginning, its mission was twofold: take care of the existing population on Skíros and selectively breed the horse to create a more robust breed. When they started the project, they took in horses from locals who could no longer care for them, as well as some starving horses wandering on the mountainside. They started with four horses. Today, there are 35.

“When I see them here, and I understand that they feel safe, and that they feel secure, and that they are relaxed, this gives me the strength to go on,” says Mr. Katsarelias.

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To save rare ponies, one couple gives up almost everything

Amanda Simpson can’t remember the last time she bought a new bar of soap. Her friends at a local resort give her the half-used bars and small bottles of shampoo left behind by tourists. Sometimes her mother sends her money from England, but with a caveat: Please don’t spend this on hay. Which of course she does, because everything goes to the ponies.

But these are not just any ponies. They’re a rare breed called the Skyrian horse, and they’re endemic to the wind-swept island of Skíros in the Aegean Sea. They’re rumored to be the same horses depicted on the Parthenon frieze, are genetically distinct from the modern domestic horse, and have perhaps been on the island for more than 2,000 years. Today, there are fewer than 300 left worldwide, maybe 200 if counting only purebreds, and they are facing not only a changing economy but also a genetic bottleneck that could put them on the same path as other rare breeds before them: extinction.

Ms. Simpson and her partner, Stathis Katsarelias, are trying to save the breed. In undertaking their work, they’ve given up almost everything.

For both of them, working with the Skyrian horses was the rediscovery of a childhood love. Mr. Katsarelias, a native of the island, remembers that as a child, he was always drawn to the horses and would find any opportunity to be around them. Ms. Simpson, who grew up in Gunthorpe, England, began riding horses at the age of 2. She rode through her teenage years, until she had a serious accident and her parents sold her horse.

“I always had the passion inside me, but it wasn’t the right time,” Mr. Katsarelias says. “The right time came when I met Amanda, and found that she had the same passion.”

It all started with a single foal, a gift from a friend on the island. Shortly afterward, they encountered a group of veterinarians trying to catch some ponies in a field and something clicked.

“You could see that they were Skyrian, that there was a breed there, but it was a mishmash,” Ms. Simpson says. “We could also see that their conditions were really bad. They were all really thin.”

Mr. Katsarelias was drawn to the breed’s cultural significance. “I felt this duty because I’m from Skíros,” he says. “As a Skyrian, we should care about them.”

Becky Holladay
Amanda Simpson and Stathis Katsarelias feed their herd of Skyrian ponies, a rare breed on the Greek island of Skíros.

With its wild ’80s-rock-star mane, muscular body, and charismatic nature, the Skyrian horse has become a sort of cultural icon for the island. Its image is featured on virtually every travel guide about Skíros, and the gift shops in town are full of pony keychains, stuffed toy ponies, and pony T-shirts.

For Ms. Simpson, the allure of the breed is not only about aesthetics. “They are special, but more in terms of their character,” she says. “They might be tiny, but you don’t feel like that when you’re connecting to them. They’re very powerful, and they have a very powerful character. They’re quick, they’re clever, they’re deep, they’re bright, and they will grab your soul and your heart.”

The rarest

Of the eight remaining horse breeds endemic to Greece with viable populations, the Skyrian horse is the most genetically dissimilar to the others, meaning it’s the rarest. That’s the finding of a 2011 study on the genetic variability of the Skyrian pony that was co-written by Gus Cothran, an equine geneticist at Texas A&M University.

In 2005, Ms. Simpson and Mr. Katsarelias started Skyros Island Horse Trust. From the beginning, its mission was twofold: take care of the existing population on the island and selectively breed the horse to create a more delineated and robust breed.

The shifting industry of the island, from agriculture to tourism, meant that locals had less need for the horses. For some people, it was pure economics, and they couldn’t afford to keep a horse as a pet. When they started the project, Ms. Simpson and Mr. Katsarelias took in horses from locals who could no longer care for them, as well as some starving horses wandering on the mountainside. They started with four horses. Today, there are 35.

Michael Gaganis is an equine veterinarian with the Greek Animal Welfare Fund who has been treating the horses at Skyros Island Horse Trust since 2013. He says that Ms. Simpson and Mr. Katsarelias’ reputation is well known, not only for improving the quality of life for the horses, but also for creating awareness within the community.

“Being a vet, I always try to find the bad things, but these horses are calm, relaxed, and happy, and I notice this in how they respond to me when I am treating them,” Dr. Gaganis says. Ms. Simpson and Mr. Katsarelias “are making a big difference, I am sure of that. They have devoted their lives to these horses.”

In their 2011 study, Dr. Cothran and the other researchers also found that the Skyrian pony was facing challenges – a small population size and low genetic variability – that would make it difficult to conserve. According to Dr. Cothran, low genetic variability means a breed is more susceptible to diseases and has an increasing risk of infertility.

A loss of one rare breed has implications for the horse species as a whole. “Rare breeds make up more than 50% of the total genetic diversity of the horse species,” Dr. Cothran says. “When you lose a rare breed, you’re losing more of the total diversity of the horse species than you might expect.”

Foals and a studbook

Ms. Simpson and Mr. Katsarelias started breeding early on in their project. If they knew of a horse on the island that had particularly pure Skyrian traits, they would approach the owner and either offer to take it in or purchase it. In the early years, they were producing seven to eight foals a year. Finances have prevented them from breeding the past few years, but they’ve been working with the Skyrian Horse Society and Greece’s agricultural ministry to collect DNA samples of their herd. These samples are being used to create a registered studbook of all the Skyrian ponies in Greece, which can then be used in a selective breeding program.

It’s been two years since Ms. Simpson and Mr. Katsarelias have had the time or the money to leave the island. Caring for the horses consumes them, as does feeling that nothing is ever enough.

When Mr. Katsarelias needs strength, he only needs to look at the horses.

“When I see them here, and I understand that they feel safe, and that they feel secure, and that they are relaxed, this gives me the strength to go on,” he says. “We have given them a life that they did not know before. I know for sure that [these horses] would not exist if we did not help them, so this gives me the strength to continue.”

For more information, visit skyrosislandhorsetrust.com.

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The Monitor's View

In Dayton and El Paso, the potential power of forgiveness

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Police are still trying to pin down the exact motives for last weekend’s killings in two American cities. But one motive fits both. Each dehumanized their victims out of rage. Yet not surprisingly, a few of the victims’ families as well as community leaders have refused to reciprocate the rage. They have offered forgiveness.

Acts of forgiveness after a massacre are rare. Yet they can be powerful. In a reminder of what is possible, a documentary came out this spring that details the forgiveness given to Dylann Roof by families of victims killed in 2015 at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina. In the new film “Emanuel,” Chris Singleton, the son of one victim in the church, says his forgiveness was not a choice to “move on.” It took strength to forgive. And it allowed him to be free of anger, to spread love and unity, and to work to prevent similar tragedies.

The impersonal hate of the shooters in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, deserves a response at many levels – justice in the courts, reforms in legislatures, and denunciation of their motives. Yet none may be as powerful to prevent more shootings than forgiveness.

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In Dayton and El Paso, the potential power of forgiveness

Like mass shootings in the past, police are still trying to pin down the exact motives for last weekend’s killings in two American cities. Such information might help spot – or “red flag” – potential shooters in the future. For the killer in El Paso, Texas, one pronounced motive appears to have been a fear of an immigrant “invasion,” although police are still doing a full profile. For the deceased killer in Dayton, Ohio, the motives remain unclear as police pick over his past, which includes threats of violence and his political leanings to the left.

But one motive fits both. Each dehumanized their victims out of rage, almost as if they wanted others to feel the same emotion. Empathy was not at all evident.

Yet not surprisingly, a few of the victims’ families as well as community leaders have refused to reciprocate the rage even as they grieve or demand reforms such as more gun regulation.

In El Paso, one injured survivor of the shooting, Octavio Ramiro Lizarde, said he hopes his faith will allow him to forgive. Even though he lost a young nephew, he said, “I really hope [the shooter] doesn’t get the death penalty, I hope he gets better mentally and realizes what he did and betters his life.”

As for Gilbert Anchondo, who lost a son and daughter-in-law at the Walmart in El Paso, he has chosen mercy over revenge. “The aggressor could be my son – 21 years old, confused, on the wrong path – I forgive him,” he said.

One mother of a victim, Misti Jamrowski, told CNN: “We forgive [the shooter]. We honestly forgive him. We pray for him. We hope that he finds God, because God teaches you to be loving.”

In Dayton, meanwhile, Renard D. Allen Jr., pastor of St. Luke Baptist Church, said at a public vigil that the community must start the process of finding peace through healing. “There is no weapon more powerful than the weapon of love. There is no weapon more strong than the weapon of forgiveness,” he said.

Acts of forgiveness after a massacre are rare. Yet they can be powerful. In a reminder of what is possible, both a book and documentary came out this spring that detail the forgiveness given to Dylann Roof by families of victims killed in 2015 at the black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The book “Grace Will Lead Us Home” by prize-winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes describes the face-to-face forgiveness offered to Mr. Roof at his bond hearing. It was a “deep spiritual resistance,” the type that frees the forgiver from hating the perpetrator. The forgivers placed a moral burden on him, perhaps in hopes he will respond in kind someday.

In the new film “Emanuel,” Chris Singleton, the son of one victim in the church, says his forgiveness was not a choice to “move on.” It took strength to forgive. And it allowed him to be free of anger, to spread love and unity, and to work to prevent similar tragedies.

The effects on South Carolina from the families’ forgiveness were profound. It led to the removal of many Confederate symbols, for example. It brought unity into the state in a way that it had not seen in its history, says Sen. Tim Scott. The power of faith in the community and the church was phenomenal, he says, and brought the very opposite of the shooter’s objective to start a race riot.

The impersonal hate of the shooters in El Paso and Dayton deserves a response at many levels – justice in the courts, reforms in legislatures, and denunciation of their motives. Yet none may be as powerful to prevent more shootings than forgiveness.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this editorial misspelled the name of the Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof. 

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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.

Listening for the voice of Love, not hate

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It’s not always easy to let love lead us forward instead of hate, especially in the wake of tragic events. But each of us has a God-given ability to do so.

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Listening for the voice of Love, not hate

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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“It makes you question your faith almost,” said Koteiba Azzam, who is Muslim, in response to the death of his friend Andre Anchondo in the mall shooting in El Paso, Texas, a few days ago. He added, “But God didn’t have a part in it.”

It can be hard to understand why awful things happen. But the idea that Mr. Azzam has shared is also a message that comes to me as I pray about the weekend’s tragic shootings in the United States. They had nothing to do with God, who is divine Love itself and therefore could never be the cause of evil in our experiences.

On the contrary, we each have a God-given capacity to seek a different, spiritual perspective of what’s going on and feel and experience the infinite love of the Divine, even when hate and tragedy loom large.

So much of human progress depends on where we turn for our understanding of unfolding events. Are we listening to and for the voice of hate, for example, or the voice of divine Love, which speaks to all?

In this respect, I’ve found Jesus’ teachings to be a profoundly helpful and hope-bringing guide. Christ Jesus’ life wasn’t insulated from violence, but he showed his followers how to practice love toward those who opposed them. He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

Even after he had been crucified, that message didn’t change. His resurrection proved the power of the spiritual love he taught. And it’s a message for all time and for people of all religious and cultural backgrounds.

In a discussion of Jesus’ resurrection in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explains, “Love must triumph over hate” (p. 43). The Love this is speaking of is God, and this supremely powerful divine Love is the true antidote to evil and hate.

That doesn’t mean passively waiting for God to do something, without playing our part. We need to actively understand and express God’s love. In practical terms, that means we need to reject hateful thoughts about those who are different from us politically, culturally, or religiously, and even about those who commit violent acts.

More than that, it means we are fully equipped to do so! Love for one another – for all others – is our heritage as God’s children, the spiritual expression of Deity’s endless love. We don’t have to resign to hateful thoughts as “just one of those things” we need to accept. God’s purpose for all of us is freedom, peace, joy.

Jesus communicated with a broad cross section of society from prostitutes and shady businessmen to religious leaders like the scribes and Pharisees. He recognized that all have worth, although not all of them lived up to the spiritual heritage of goodness and love that was actually theirs.

Through his ministry, many became aware – even if just dimly – that there was a higher sense of life than what they had known, and that no one is too far removed from that true Life, God, to find their way back to the awareness and expression of it.

This message of our never-ending unity with Love has been tested many times. One example is Saul, a religious zealot who harassed and killed early followers of Jesus. It may have seemed impossible that his character would change for the better. But then Saul glimpsed the Christ, God’s message of love for all, and for the rest of his life he was a powerful voice of the universal peace and love God gives.

It’s not always easy to yield to divine Love instead of hate, especially in the wake of tragic events. But it is natural for us to hold to the spiritual reality that divine Love’s purpose for us is to love one another. Love is not fulfilled by violence of any kind. Intelligent, loving actions, however, can defuse violent tendencies and bring more peace and safety to light.

Each of us can take a stand on the side of divine Love – to pray that humanity sees and feels the unifying power of God and to let God’s love, not hate, lead us forward.

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Viewfinder

Hasty departure

Channi Anand/AP
Indian migrant laborers carry luggage at a railway station in Jammu, India, on Aug. 7, 2019, as they prepare to leave Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, borders Pakistan and has long been disputed. On Tuesday, India’s parliament approved a proposal from the Hindu nationalist-led government to revoke Kashmir's special status, stripping its limited autonomy and raising fears of greater conflict.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( August 8th, 2019 )

Thank you of joining us today. Please come back tomorrow, when we look at how the national conversation on gun violence in America is playing out in Washington.

Monitor Daily Podcast

August 07, 2019
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