2019
August
08
Thursday
Noelle Swan
Deputy Daily Editor

Welcome to your Daily. Today’s edition explores shifting attitudes on gun control, the human toll of climate change, a rare moment of unity in Brazil around pension reform, the efficacy of busing in education, and the thorny nature of emotional support animals.

What does recovery look like? In Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, it looks like puppies – adorable puppies with mottled coats, giant teddy-bear-like ears, and a ravenous appetite for fresh meat.

Gorongosa was once a haven for painted wolves – or African wild dogs, as they are more commonly known. But nearly two decades of civil war wiped out 95% of the park’s wildlife.

The havoc and devastation that war brings to human communities is well documented. But the toll that armed conflict takes on wildlife is often overlooked. A multidecade study in Africa found the frequency of conflict to be the most important predictor of wildlife population decline.

Fortunately, that same study found that total collapse was infrequent, suggesting that with careful conservation, recovery is possible.

Gorongosa offers a glimmer of that possibility.

In recent years, the park has slowly been coming back to life, thanks to conservation efforts funded by American philanthropist Gregory Carr. First came the herbivores: elephants, impalas, buffaloes, and more. Carnivore populations have been harder to restore.

But one year after the introduction of 14 painted wolves, the park’s ranks are approaching 50. And leopards are starting to gain a foothold, too. “We’ve got cubs everywhere,” Gorongosa’s carnivore expert Paola Bouley told The New York Times.

These early successes are giving conservationists hope – one ferocious litter at a time.

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1. After most shootings, Congress does nothing. This time may be different.

After years of partisan gridlock, the conversation on gun control appears to be moving forward, as public support for certain measures grows and the president casts an eye toward suburban votes.

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The well-rehearsed cycle of mass shootings in America, followed by calls for gun control and ultimately stalemate in Congress, may be all that unfolds in the wake of last weekend’s massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

But conditions exist for an alternate scenario to play out.

A growing number of congressional Republicans are speaking out for reform, and bipartisan alliances in the Senate are working on proposals. President Donald Trump, an ally of gun rights advocates, has also voiced support for certain gun measures. And the National Rifle Association, while still powerful, is facing internal challenges. 

Polls show overwhelming public support – including among Republicans – for expanded background checks and so-called red flag provisions that would restrict access to firearms when people are deemed dangerous. For Mr. Trump, there’s also a political incentive: He could benefit by signing a measure that would play well in suburban battlegrounds.

“The White House is desperate for bipartisan victories,” says former GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida. “The president has the strong support of his base – and that’s it. If he gets a mainstream Democratic opponent, that won’t bode well for him. This is an opportunity.”

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1. After most shootings, Congress does nothing. This time may be different.

The cycle of mass shootings in America, followed by calls for gun reform and ultimately stalemate in Congress, is well-rehearsed. And chances are, that cycle will repeat in the wake of last weekend’s back-to-back massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

But the conditions exist for an alternate scenario to play out.

A growing number of congressional Republicans are speaking out for reform, and multiple bipartisan alliances in the Senate are working on proposals. President Donald Trump, an ally of gun rights advocates, has also voiced support for certain gun measures since the latest shootings. And the National Rifle Association (NRA), while still powerful, is facing internal turmoil and financial challenges

Furthermore, polls show overwhelming public support – including among Republicans – for certain gun measures, such as expanded background checks and so-called red flag provisions that would restrict access to firearms when people are deemed dangerous. For Mr. Trump, there’s also a political incentive: He likes to be seen tackling problems, and could benefit by signing a measure that would play well in suburban battlegrounds.

In short, it could be a “Nixon in China” moment – a reference to how the 37th president was politically able to visit China only by first establishing his bona fides as anti-communist. 

The potential for Mr. Trump to have such a moment on guns is “absolutely” there, says Ryan Clancy, chief strategist for the centrist group No Labels. “He has credibility among people who support gun rights that a Democratic president might not have. The big question is, will he follow through?”

Former Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, a moderate Republican, also sees the potential for action on guns. 

“Politically, the White House is desperate for bipartisan victories,” says Mr. Curbelo. “It’s obvious from polling throughout the country that the president has the strong support of his base – and that’s it. If he gets a mainstream Democratic opponent, that won’t bode well for him. This is an opportunity.”

In the past, Mr. Trump has often seemed amenable to gun reform, Mr. Curbelo adds. “He has expressed it in the past – only to allow the NRA to veto him,” he says. “This time can be different. It’s his choice to do the right thing or to cave to a segment of his political base.”

Yet some observers push back on the idea that Mr. Trump can rest easy with his supporters on the gun issue, even now. The president didn’t come into politics as a vocal supporter of gun rights, and he has a complicated relationship with guns.

“He was never pro-gun before he was president,” says Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist and president of the Independent Firearm Owners Association.

In one way, Mr. Trump is at odds with a key portion of his pro-gun base – hunters. 

“I’m not a hunter and don’t approve of killing animals,” Mr. Trump tweeted in 2012. “I strongly disagree with my sons who are hunters.”  

He has repeated that sentiment since becoming president. Yet Mr. Trump has owned handguns. In 2012, the future president acknowledged in an interview with The Washington Times that he had a concealed-carry permit and owned guns. 

It’s not clear if he still owns guns; the White House does not discuss this. Chris Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax Media and a longtime friend of Mr. Trump, says that he was never aware of him carrying a gun, pre-presidency, nor has Mr. Trump ever shown him a gun that he owned. 

“President Trump has a more nuanced view on the gun issue than most people believe,” Mr. Ruddy tells the Monitor. “Before he was running for office, he was typical of many people in New York that didn’t like the idea of a complete, unrestricted ownership of guns.”

But “over time,” Mr. Ruddy adds, “he’s gotten closer to that issue and been an advocate for Second Amendment issues.” 

As for the NRA, Mr. Feldman doesn’t believe the gun organization would ever “unendorse” him. 

“Can he push the NRA around? A little bit,” he says, noting that the Trump administration eventually enacted a ban on bump stocks despite pushback from the NRA.

Such devices, which make semi-automatic weapons fire continuously, were used by the shooter in the October 2017 massacre in Las Vegas. After a delay, the Trump administration announced the ban in December 2018, and it went into effect in March. 

Still, discussing the diminished clout of the NRA misses the point, says a Republican strategist with ties to the White House. “The NRA’s strength doesn’t necessarily derive from money,” he says. “The gun community is tightknit – and they’re single-issue voters.”

In Congress, a bipartisan proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to create a federal grant program that encourages states to adopt red flag laws was seen early in the week as having the most promise. In Mr. Trump’s address to the nation Monday morning, it was the one gun measure he mentioned. 

But by midweek, the proposal to support red flag laws – which use “extreme risk protection orders” to take firearms away from people ruled by a judge to be dangerous – was facing complications. Democrat Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, declared Wednesday that any red flag legislation must be accompanied by a Democratic House bill requiring universal background checks on gun purchases. 

Mr. Trump, for his part, had suggested “marrying” background check legislation with immigration reform in a tweet Monday morning, but dropped the idea in his televised address. On Wednesday morning, he declared to reporters “a great appetite” by both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill for background checks, though by day’s end, that did not appear to be the case. He also dismissed the possibility of an assault weapons ban.

John Minchillo/AP
A pedestrian passes a makeshift memorial for the victims of the mass shooting that occurred in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 3, 2019, one of two on the same weekend that resulted in 31 people killed. The two incidents have spurred national interest in gun control measures.

Some gun control supporters still see the failure to enact legislation after the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, massacre – whose toll included 20 first graders – as telling. If that didn’t move the needle, the thinking goes, nothing will. But one expert pushes back. 

“This whole idea that these children were killed at Sandy Hook [Elementary School] and nothing changed is just wrong,” says Kristin Goss, a professor of public policy and political science at Duke University and author of books on gun policy. “A lot changed, but it’s changing slowly and largely outside the media spotlight.” 

Since Newtown, gun control groups have grown in number, membership, and financial clout. “There’s just a lot more money, which matters,” Ms. Goss says. “We decry all this money in politics, but it’s also opened up spaces for the gun violence prevention movement to play a role in electoral politics.”

Even the partisan divide on firearms could be helpful to the movement, she says. “That, in a way, creates space for it to become a major campaign issue,” she says. “Democrats in particular ... are more likely to make it a marquee issue – to run on it instead of running from it.” 

But that analysis also suggests no major legislation before the 2020 elections, especially if there’s no push for compromise by the three top political players – Mr. Trump, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. 

“Particularly leading up to an election, sometimes you’d rather have the issue than the solution,” says a veteran Republican congressional aide.

Still, with each massacre, the outcry grows. GOP Rep. Mike Turner, who represents Dayton and whose daughter was close to the shooting, now supports new gun restrictions. Another Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, also raised his voice for the first time, calling for more limits on access to firearms.

Mr. Ruddy, Mr. Trump’s friend, sees potential movement by the president on this issue. 

“I have to think – and he hasn’t talked to me on this – that at some point in the future he will see some pathway for some limitation on semi-automatic weapons being easily available,” Mr. Ruddy says. “How that might take form, I don’t know. But I do think he might see some limitations and more appropriate background checks.”

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Patterns

Tracing global connections

2. Refugees and real-life implications of climate change

Climate change isn’t just about science. The migration spurred by extreme weather events is raising deep moral ​questions around access and equity for developed countries.

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They’re snapshots of the West’s climate debate: one, a little-noticed Mediterranean shipwreck that claimed the lives of economically desperate refugees fleeing African countries devastated by extreme weather events. Two, a much-noticed record heat wave across Europe and the United States that coincided with new reports charting the effects of global warming.

The underlying message: The science around global warming is becoming more widely accepted in developed countries. But the politics remain complex.

The challenge is the international political environment – with multinational alliances and organizations more fragile, nationalism and populism more assertive. The priority for key Western governments has become keeping large numbers of migrants from reaching their borders, even as there is no doubt that climate extremes figure prominently in driving them northward.

Polling shows climate change becoming an ever more important concern in the West. The data points are ever more arresting; studies in Nature and Nature Geoscience, for example, focused on the sustained temperature increases since the Industrial Revolution, concluding there had been no similar trend over the past two millennia.

Still, the main focus of the debate in Europe and the U.S. has remained on reducing their carbon emissions, not on the countries so many migrants are fleeing.

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Refugees and real-life implications of climate change

There’s nothing like a scalding surge of Saharan summer across Europe and the United States to focus minds on the real-life implications of climate change – especially since the record heat wave has coincided with the release of a number of new reports charting the extent and effects of global warming.

But another event – just days after the record European and U.S. heat waves – received scant media attention. It was a fatal shipwreck in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya. And it claimed the lives of dozens of economically desperate refugees fleeing African countries that, amid steadily rising annual temperatures, have been suffering devastating droughts and sudden torrents of rain – the kind of “extreme events” climate scientists predict will become ever more frequent.

The omission offered an important snapshot of the current state of the climate debate in the developed nations of the West. The message: While the science around global warming is becoming more widely accepted, the politics remain complex and contested.

At the core of the political conundrum lie two interlocking issues: the dire climatic conditions facing some of the poorest agricultural areas in the less-developed world, whether in sub-Saharan Africa or Central America; and the growing numbers of their people ready to risk everything in the hope of finding sanctuary in Europe or the U.S.

For international charities and advocacy groups working in Africa or Central America, the priority is clear. They argue the need for a well-funded, targeted drive to help the millions in rural communities threatened by destitution, ill health, or outright famine. Some want the United Nations to endorse the idea of adding a new category of internationally accepted refugee: “climate refugees.” Their view is that a concerted effort to deal with the problem represents a critical step in any long-term answer to the wider issue of migration.

Science does play some part for those making the counterargument. Their view is that it’s yet to be shown that climate change is the sole driver of the surge of refugees seeking safe haven in Europe or the U.S. And they’re right to cite other factors as well: growing populations, civil strife or gang violence, bad governance or a history of resource mismanagement.

But the picture on the ground – nowhere more powerful than in a series of Christian Science Monitor special reports on famine in Africa in 2017, and the “Out of Africa” reporting of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman a year earlier – leaves no doubt that climate extremes have played a major part in the economic hardships driving growing numbers northward. Indeed, a new U.N. report underscores that point, noting that climate change will likely cause food shortages and spur cross-border migration.

The key challenge facing those seeking coordinated world action is not the science. It’s the current international political environment – with multinational alliances and organizations more fragile, and a mix of nationalism and populism in the ascendancy. The priority for key Western governments has become the shorter-term aim of keeping large numbers of migrants from reaching their borders.

The European Union, through programs like its Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, has made an effort to use economic support and training schemes to stem the flow of refugees from their home countries. But by far the main EU focus, largely through the increasingly unstable government in Libya, has been to try to keep those fleeing Africa from reaching European shores in the first place.

The U.S. has devoted development and assistance funding to the “Dry Corridor” states of Central America – Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. But President Donald Trump has made stemming migration to the U.S. a centerpiece of his administration’s political message, and of his bid for a second term in office.

Last week, in an initiative resembling the EU’s arrangement with the Libyans, he announced an agreement with Guatemala that, assuming it wins congressional approval there, would require would-be migrants from Central America to register asylum claims in Guatemala rather than on the U.S. border.

Will priorities shift? Recent polling does show that, especially among younger people, climate change is becoming an ever more important concern in the West, with data points getting ever more arresting.

Just a couple of days after the recent heat wave, Britain’s national weather service reported that every one of the country’s 10 hottest years since the late 1880s has occurred since 2002. And a series of studies published in Nature and Nature Geoscience focused on the sustained, worldwide pattern of temperature increases since the Industrial Revolution, concluding there had been no similar trend over the past two millennia.

Still, at least so far, the main focus of the debate in Europe and the U.S. has remained on reducing their own carbon emissions, not on the countries beyond their borders that so many migrants are fleeing.

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3. Raise the retirement age? That sounds all right to Brazil.

It’s no mystery why pension reform is a political taboo: Workers feel their sacrifice more keenly than the broader benefits. So why are so many Brazilians suddenly backing it – at a time of bitter polarization, no less?

Noelle
Amanda Perobelli/Reuters
A demonstrator protests against proposed pension reforms in São Paulo July 10, 2019. This week, Brazil's lower house of Congress approved a bill that would raise minimum retirement ages and reduce benefits for some workers.

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This May, at a rally for new President Jair Bolsonaro, thousands of Brazilians erupted into a jubilant chant.

The reason? He mentioned pension reform.

For decades, Brazil’s leaders met resistance each time they tried to propose changing the retirement system, which sees many workers retire in their mid-50s – and eats up about half the federal budget today. But this week, amid surging popular support, a reform proposal passed a key vote in Congress. It could become law as soon as this fall.

To many Brazilians, reform has finally become an economic necessity, as the country struggles to emerge from recession. But what makes its newfound popularity all the more surprising is the country’s deeply etched divisions, especially deep polarization over the far-right president. Many Brazilians view the reforms in terms of fairness, leveling a playing field between the generously compensated public sector and the private.

“It’s an amazing number,” says Sérgio Praça, a political scientist in Rio de Janeiro, referring to the 51% of Brazilians who now support reform. “I don’t remember the last time half of Brazilian citizens agreed on anything.”

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Raise the retirement age? That sounds all right to Brazil.

Rogerio Bruno has been working for 33 years: in finance, at a telephone company, and then running his own kiosk, selling anything from magazines to gum to plastic toys. Now, if Brazil moves forward with a proposed overhaul of its pension system, he’ll likely have to work a decade longer than he planned.

But still, he embraces the reform. “I know it’s necessary – and most Brazilians know it too,” he says as he hands change back to a customer at his Rio de Janeiro shop. With Brazil’s rising life expectancy and sluggish economy, he doesn’t see another way forward, even if the changes hit people like him the hardest. “It won’t be easy, but it’s something that must be done.” 

With immediate sacrifices – and benefits that take years to materialize – social security reform can be a third rail almost anywhere. Ambitious plans for a social security overhaul have repeatedly spurred massive protests in France, and Argentina passed reforms in 2017 amid violent protests. Last fall, thousands of Russians demonstrated against plans to raise the retirement age. 

Until recently, Brazil was no exception. Just two years ago, proposed reforms drew thousands of protesters into the streets, fiercely rejecting attempts to change a system that sees many workers retire in their mid-50s – and eats up about half the federal budget. 

Now, popular support for the changes is surging. At a rally in May for new, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, thousands of demonstrators erupted into a jubilant chant at the mention of the reform, which some see as an attempt to make the system more fair. Many others, like Mr. Bruno, have quietly accepted it may be a necessity, if Brazil stands a chance at clawing its way out of an economic slump. And the country’s deep political polarization may actually be helping unify support for the once-taboo topic.

This week, a reform bill cleared a final vote in the lower house of Congress with an overwhelming majority and moved forward for debate in the Senate, where it could be approved as a constitutional amendment as early as September. Some 51% of Brazilians support pension reform, according to a July survey by Datafolha, a leading pollster – the first time a majority has approved. In 2017, 71% were against it

“It’s an amazing number – I don’t remember the last time half of Brazilian citizens agreed on anything,” says Sérgio Praça, a political scientist at Getúlio Vargas Foundation, a think tank in Rio de Janeiro. “We’re in a very polarized time in Brazil. But it seems that, around this point, we’re less divided.”

Tough sell

Brazil’s government has been trying to reform the social security system for years, but bitter opposition and a slew of scandals repeatedly halted previous efforts.

Former President Michel Temer placed pension reform at the center of his broader efforts at a fiscal cleanup, but corruption charges derailed his agenda. His predecessor, leftist President Dilma Rousseff, was impeached before she could bring a proposal forward. 

In the past, representatives on both the left and the right risked paying a hefty political price for backing reform. Many lawmakers who threw support behind this week’s bill “would have voted against it in a Rousseff administration,” says Pedro Fernando Nery, an economist, legislative adviser, and co-author of an influential book on the pension system. “This has been a very unpopular issue for a long time, like in the rest of the world.”

Adriano Machado/Reuters
Members of Brazil's Congress and supporters of the pension reform bill celebrate its passage during a first round of votes in the Chamber of Deputies in Brasilia on July 10, 2019. This week, the bill cleared a second vote, meaning it can proceed to the Senate.

The current proposal would increase contribution requirements, remove some perks for federal workers, and raise the minimum age for retirement to 62 for women and 65 for men. 

With rising public support for reform, many representatives were emboldened to vote for the bill without fear, Mr. Praça notes.

“They know that a lot of the public wants this reform to be passed,” he says. “There’s surprisingly a lot of political gain in approving this.” 

Political polarization

While many of President Bolsonaro’s most enthusiastic supporters credit him with the bill, the president – who opposed pension reform in the past – is not spearheading the legislation. Polls show about a third of Brazilians fervently support Mr. Bolsonaro but another third strongly disapprove, making it difficult to forge political alliances and build momentum around his agenda.

The traditional left, meanwhile, was weakened in the last election as Brazilians voiced their frustration with Ms. Rousseff’s Workers’ Party (PT), which many now associate with corruption and mismanagement.

This fragmentation created a political vacuum, allowing a coalition of center-right lawmakers to take the reins on the reform and move it forward, according to Geraldo Tadeu Monteiro, coordinator of the faculty of law at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Their role, in turn, has helped make the proposal palatable to moderate Brazilians who reject their controversial president.

Mr. Bruno, for one, isn’t a fan. “Bolsonaro is not responsible for any of [the reform],” he says. But he likes the market-friendly economy minister, Paulo Guedes, whom he sees as leading the charge.

Under the PT, pension reform was seen as less pressing, and plans avoided hurting the country’s most vulnerable workers. Now, as Brazil’s debt has ballooned and its fiscal health has deteriorated, a fresh sense of urgency has set it. The reform was initially expected to save the government more than 1.2 trillion reais ($300 billion) over 10 years, although this projection was lowered to about 900 billion reais ($226 billion) after parts of the bill were watered down.

Many hope it will encourage investment in the country, which is still struggling with unemployment above 12% and sluggish growth following a 2015-16 recession.

Fighting privilege

For many Brazilians, including Liliane Vidal, pension reform is fundamentally about fairness. The retired bank manager believes the reform will help even out the playing field by removing perks for well-paid public sector workers, many of whom can retire in their early 50s.

“The main goal of the pension reform is to fight privilege,” says the Rio de Janeiro native and Bolsonaro supporter. “There’s a huge gap right now between normal workers and public functionaries.”

Pension reform wasn’t always viewed here as a way to fight inequality. But with the help of a massive media campaign, former President Temer reframed the reform as a way to close loopholes, rather than as an attack on normal working people.

Yet the legislation may not necessarily deliver. After much debate, state and municipal workers were exempted from the reform, although the Senate could still reconsider. Sectors backed by powerful lobbies, including police and teachers, also negotiated better deals. The military is being considered in a separate bill, which some expect to fade into the background. 

As a result, the reforms are likely to hit middle-class workers the hardest, according to Mr. Nery, rather than truly eliminating privileges for the few.

The reform also doesn’t reflect the vast discrepancies across Brazil in how long people work and live. In the northern state of Roraima, the average worker is 64.8 years old when they retire, data from the Brazilian Social Security Institute shows. In the wealthier southern state of Santa Catarina, the average retirement age is just 57.2 years.

“Brazil is a very unequal country,” says Mr. Monteiro. “And those differences are not contemplated in the pension system reform.”

Leandro Sadapaz, a cleaner from the populous Duque de Caxias suburb, says the reform carries little hope of solving Brazil’s problems.

“If the reform was for everyone, it would be a great thing,” he says. “But it’s not. It’s only for the poor, for the working class. Those with privileges will stay privileged.”

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The Explainer

4. Busing in America: Race relations, revisited

As busing reenters the national conversation, we take a fresh look at a historical practice and explore how attitudes and strategies have changed – and how they haven’t. 

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This summer’s Democratic presidential debates brought back discussion about a contentious topic: busing. California Sen. Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden have prominently sparred about their records and positions on the approach to integrating schools.

The busing era began in the decade after the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which determined that separate schools for white and black children were not equal. When school districts stalled on implementing Brown, courts had to order some school districts to use busing to bring black students to primarily white schools and vice versa. 

From the standpoint of integration and academic achievement, busing was effective. It resulted in some of the highest levels of racial integration. Politically, busing policies failed. It was unpopular with the American public, and was resisted – sometimes violently – by white parents.

Using busing for desegregation is no longer common, even though support for school integration is high. More typical strategies include establishing magnet schools, adjusting attendance zone boundaries, offering a districtwide school choice policy, and taking race into account when considering student transfer requests.

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Busing in America: Race relations, revisited

School busing roared into the national conversation this summer after California Sen. Kamala Harris challenged former Vice President Joe Biden on his record at the Democratic presidential debates in June and July. Ms. Harris criticized Mr. Biden for working with segregationist senators in the 1970s to limit busing as a tool for desegregation. (Civil rights advocates have also criticized him.) She spoke positively of her experience integrating the public schools in Berkeley, California, through busing.

Mr. Biden says he wasn’t against busing at the local level, but was opposed to federal intervention, except when segregated schools were explicitly created by local government policy. Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden continue to clarify their positions on federally mandated busing.

What is the historical use of busing in the United States?  

School districts used buses to transport students to school throughout the 20th century, with little objection. The busing period that sparked considerable controversy ran from the late 1960s through the 1980s, when courts ordered school districts to bus students to and from schools based on race, in order to achieve desegregation. 

The busing era began in the decade after the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which determined that separate schools for white and black children were not equal. By the late 1960s, many school districts stalled on implementing Brown. As a result, lawsuits prompted courts to order some school districts to use busing to bring black students to primarily white schools and vice versa. Some districts, such as Ms. Harris’ district in Berkeley, voluntarily bused students to integrate schools. 

The use of busing for desegregation fell off in the 1990s after a series of court orders ruled against the practice and released many school districts from their busing obligations. 

Was busing effective?

From the standpoint of integration and academic achievement, the busing period of the 1960s-80s was effective. Schools achieved their highest levels of racial integration in the early 1980s. Recent studies found that integration benefited students of all races, academically and socially. 

“It was quite successful because we know that desegregated schools have a range of benefits both for students of color and white students as well,” says Erica Frankenberg, a professor of education at Penn State University. 

Politically, busing policies failed. The practice was unpopular with the American public, and was especially resisted – sometimes violently – by white parents. Protests broke out across the U.S., most famously in Boston in 1974. “The scope of white resistance to desegregation, including using busing, was tremendous. That resistance captured the conversation,” says Ansley Erickson, a professor of history and education at Columbia University in New York. 

Resegregation in American schools rose after busing ebbed in the 1990s. The share of schools whose enrollment is 90% to 100% nonwhite more than tripled from 5.7% in 1988 to 18.2% in 2016, according to the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Center for Education and Civil Rights at Penn State.

What role does busing play now?

Using busing for desegregation is no longer common in the American public school system. Nationally, about 200 districts remain under court desegregation orders. Some districts establish voluntary programs for school integration, but the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court case Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 limited the use of race as a factor in determining school enrollment. 

Currently, more common strategies for desegregation include establishing magnet schools, adjusting attendance zone boundaries, offering a districtwide school choice policy, and taking race into account when considering student transfer requests between schools. Busing is sometimes used as an element of those plans. 

Does the American public support using busing for school integration? 

Busing to desegregate schools is not popular among the American public, even as support for school integration is high. A 2017 poll by PDK International found that 70% of parents would prefer to send their child to a diverse school. However, only 25% of parents said they would prefer a more diverse school if it were located farther away from a closer, but less diverse, school.

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5. Is that Chihuahua a real service dog? The truth, unleashed.

Highly trained service animals can be invaluable to people with disabilities. But the problem of badly prepared or imposter “service” dogs is growing ​– possibly threatening the image and acceptance of the real thing.

Noelle
Steve Griffin/The Deseret News/AP
Tiffany Thayne plays with her emotional support dog Dusty in her apartment in Provo, Utah, on March 13, 2019. Ms. Thayne is training Dusty, a collie puppy.

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“Mylie” had a vest and a service dog certificate. But in a recent incident at a Georgia beach, witnesses say she alarmed children and parents with aggressive and out-of-control behavior that drew a police response.

The final story of this altercation hasn’t yet been established, but in general the issue of fake or poorly trained service dogs is a real American problem. There aren’t many legal standards that service dogs, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs must meet. Nor is there a national registry for trained animals. Vests and laminated cards don’t mean much – they can be easily bought on the internet. The result is owners passing off badly prepared animals or family pets as “service” dogs.

Altercations in stores, on beaches, and at airline seats have become so bad almost half the states have passed laws banning fake service animals in recent years. How can you tell if that Chihuahua at the cafe table is a real service animal? It should be calm, under control, and housebroken, experts say. And it should rest or focus on doing a specific job to help someone with a disability.

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Is that Chihuahua a real service dog? The truth, unleashed.

Despite the official-looking red vest and a laminated ID tag that proclaimed it a “service dog,” beachgoers noticed something off about “Mylie.”

Witnesses say that on a packed day at this sandy barrier island 18 miles east of Savannah, Georgia, the large dog bounded and barked, scaring children and worrying parents. Eventually someone called the cops. When an officer approached the dog’s young female owner in a parking lot, the dog lunged at him.

Crying, Mylie’s owner told a local TV station the officer “was rogue” when he pushed her face to the hot pavement and arrested her. He also cuffed her father, who rushed toward the scene. Mylie’s job is to ease her anxiety disorder, the owner said. She and her family have hired a lawyer to pursue charges against the police.

Onlookers weren’t sure what to make of it all, and more details of this story may yet emerge. But Ryan Heebner, who rents umbrellas on the beach, saw the incident – and what he saw was a dog creating the commotion, “service” tag notwithstanding.

“Ten years ago, a service dog was a docile Lab helping a blind person,” says Mr. Heebner. “Now you have people who have a problem being alone using them, and a lot of people use it as an excuse and a privilege.”

Known originally as guide dogs, highly trained service dogs have helped disabled humans for more than a century. Some cost $50,000 or more to train.

Legitimate service animals help blind people cross streets and deaf individuals to respond to audible cues. They alert people with seizure disorders to a looming event. They steer those diagnosed with PTSD away from triggering sounds, and offer unconditional emotional refuge for returned soldiers.

But the truth is that in America today there are service animals, and “service animals.” Not all the dogs that people use to assist them in public places are thoroughly trained, as there are no training requirements. There’s no national service animal registry, and official-looking vests and certificates are widely available on the internet – few or no questions asked.  

Pushing social boundaries

The bottom line: Some Americans are abusing legal loopholes the size of Great Danes by self-declaring pets as service animals. And a growing number of unprepared dogs posing as helpers are pushing the boundaries of civil society, and forcing nondog people, such as cops, airline employees, and restaurant managers, into confrontational situations fraught with legal land mines.

Patrik Jonsson/The Christian Science Monitor
​Umbrella rental stand workers Beau Buie and Ryan Heebner (r.) say a pet ban on Tybee Beach in Georgia is sometimes broken by dog owners who claim their pets are service animals. When people stretch the rules, there can be repercussions including resentment against legitimate service dog users, Mr. Heebner says.​

“More people are qualifying for service dogs, there is a lot of misunderstanding, and many people are outright fraudulent, pushing the boundaries for their own ego and their own ease, with no sense of consequences,” says David Favre, a Michigan State University professor of law and author of “Animal Law: Welfare, Interests, and Rights.”

Federal law defines three categories of disability animals: service animals, emotional support animals, and therapy animals.

Service animals are supposed to be dogs (or miniature horses) individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they are allowed in any public space, including stores and restaurants. But they must be kept under control, and be housebroken.

Emotional support animals provide a sense of calm and companionship, but aren’t necessarily trained in obedience or other disability tasks. Federal housing law allows people to keep emotional support animals without paying a pet fee. Airlines allow them on planes without charge ​– although some airlines have put parameters on access after incidents such as a passenger’s attempt to board a United Airlines flight with a peacock last year.

Therapy animals are trained to interact with groups of people, such as hospital patients or library patrons.

Little regulation

Certification is largely an honor system. Due to medical privacy laws and other statutes, staff members of public places may ask only two questions about service dogs: whether a dog is a service animal required for a disability, and what task the dog (or horse) has been trained to perform.

The internet offers a variety of certification agencies that send an ID with a picture of the dog after a short interview. Most charge about $100. They are largely a ruse, experts say, because by law, service dogs need no identification, papers, letters, or even a vest.

It’s hard to know the number of fraudulent service dogs, given the lack of a central database. But one licensing website reported its client list growing from around 2,000 to 11,000 members between 2012 and 2013.

Nearly everyone contacted for this story knew someone ​– including a 90-something mother ​– who had either bought a service dog vest for a pet, or saw nothing wrong with it.

“I can’t tell if it’s getting better or worse, but so many people are passing their pets off as service animals or comfort animals, and they are the ones who, when you encounter them, the first thing they say is, ‘I have this certification, this ID card; this is a legitimate service animal,’” says James Aberson, the ADA coordinator for Georgia’s Chatham County, which encompasses Tybee Island. “That’s a red flag right off the bat.”

What’s behind this trend? One reason for the increase in “service” animals may be that in our anxiety-fueled age, more and more people view their animals as indispensable companions. Upwards of 90% of Americans view pets as family members; 76% of dog owners say they have given their pet presents on Christmas, according to a 2006 Gallup poll.

“There’s a widespread belief that animals are good for people and that particularly dogs have almost magical healing powers,” says Harold Herzog, a Western Carolina University psychology professor who studies the interaction between humans and other species.

Not every dog has the “right stuff”

“But the truth is that about 50% of dogs that go into guide dog training flunk out. They don’t have the right stuff to walk into that bar and lie down and sort of be alert but on the other hand not be a problem,” adds Dr. Herzog, author of “Some We Love, Some We Hate, and Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals.”

The situation has gotten so far out of hand so fast that some experts say Congress needs to amend the ADA to address the situation.

“It’s the Wild West,” says Claudine Wilkins, a former prosecutor who wrote Georgia’s dangerous dog law.

In just the past few years, nearly half the states have passed laws declaring fake service dogs a misdemeanor crime. After incidents where dog fights broke out and passengers were bitten, airlines, too, have begun cracking down, with some requiring letters from actual doctors to accommodate emotional support animals.

Again, more facts may emerge regarding the incident here at Tybee Beach. But experts say it appears to be evidence of the danger of using untrained or poorly trained service animals.

Mylie’s owner insisted the dog was behaving properly because it had been trained to keep people away from her to ease her anxiety disorder. But true service dogs don’t threaten others. Federal law allows business owners and airline agents to ask any misbehaving dog to leave, even if it is clearly in the company of a disabled person.

“There are going to be problems, because if you have a lady who says, ‘My dog can go ahead and nip at people because it’s trained to keep people away from me,’ it’s not going to win in a courtroom,” says former prosecutor Claudine Wilkins. “At least I hope not.”

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The Monitor's View

Climate gloom and innovation bloom

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With many nations trying to create their own innovation economy, one of the more anticipated events each year is the latest global report on climate change. Each report from a United Nations panel of scientists brings a warning about specific sources of carbon pollution as well as a wake-up call on how to fix them. Climate necessities have become the mother lode of green innovation.

The latest report, released Thursday, looks at land use. About a quarter of the world’s ice-free land has been damaged by human activity, resulting either in the release of too much carbon or in a reduction in the absorption of carbon by plants. Yet for environmental researchers, the report’s recommended solutions may be the most eagerly anticipated.

In fact, after more than two decades of similar U.N. reports, the world may be in a technological revolution driven by a desire to tackle climate change. More than $300 billion in investment has flowed into clean energy in each of the past five years.

As governments provide more incentives to solve climate change, “we will be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as we anticipated,” says noted economist Paul Romer.

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Climate gloom and innovation bloom

With many nations trying to create their own innovation economy, one of the more anticipated events almost every year is the latest global report on climate change. Each report from a United Nations panel of scientists brings a warning about specific sources of carbon pollution as well as a wake-up call on how to fix them. The newly identified eco-issues propel a renewed rush toward eco-innovation.

The latest report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released Thursday, looks at land use. About a quarter of the world’s ice-free land has been damaged by human activity, resulting either in the release of too much carbon or in a reduction in the absorption of carbon by plants. In addition, soil used for farming is eroding 100 times faster than it forms.

Yet for environmental researchers, the report’s recommended solutions may be the most eagerly read. The ideas range from ways to reduce food waste to better breeding of resilient crops in arid lands. Climate necessities have become the mother lode of green innovation.

In fact, after more than two decades of similar U.N. reports, the world may now be in a technological revolution driven by a desire to tackle climate change. The fastest pace of innovation is most noticeably in creating sustainable sources of energy to replace fossil fuels.

“Technological developments in digitalization, big data analytics, advanced computing, smart systems, additive manufacturing and robotics have opened the door to a potential new wave of innovation in the energy economy,” says former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

A recent study of patents worldwide by scholars in Taiwan found the number of climate change technologies has risen sharply in response to higher levels of carbon pollution. “A country’s propensity to innovate and patent a climate change technology is influenced by the levels of carbon dioxide and other [greenhouse gas] emissions,” the study found. And according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, more than $300 billion in investment has flowed into clean energy in each of the past five years.

As governments provide more incentives to solve climate change, “we will be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as we anticipated,” says economist Paul Romer, who won a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He says each country’s success in building an innovation economy depends on how well it relies on the intangible goods in discovering new ideas.

“Every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new ... ideas,” he wrote. “We consistently fail to grasp how many ideas remain to be discovered.”

Innovation takes inspiration fueled by possibilities not yet seen.

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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.

Finding purpose and joy

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Defining one’s sense of purpose by particular careers, relationships, or social media posts can have its pitfalls. But considering true purpose and joy as God-given opens the door for deep and lasting satisfaction no matter what the circumstances.

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Finding purpose and joy

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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The relentless pursuit of happiness so prevalent today may not actually be making us happy. Instead, perhaps a sense of purpose is what would truly bring us satisfaction. That’s what an opinion article in The Boston Globe suggested. It is called “Looking for happiness? Try purpose instead” (Amy Cuddy, May 16, 2019).

This message resonated with me. How exactly would we even define happiness? And is there anything we can do that would really guarantee we would be permanently happy?

Finding deep, spiritual meaning in our lives leads to joy that endures, and it can never be taken from us. That doesn’t mean we can’t find a sense of purpose in a particular career or relationship, but pinning our hopes for happiness on any particular set of circumstances can have its pitfalls, as does defining happiness by things we might see in social media posts that make it seem unattainable for us no matter how fervently we pursue it.

In my work as a Christian Science practitioner, engaged in the full-time ministry of Christian Science healing, I have seen how it’s a totally different view of purpose and joy that brings the most lasting satisfaction. Sometimes people contact me for help with challenges such as depression, weight and body image issues, or unhealthy relationship patterns. Often the solution involves a clarity about one’s purpose that goes beyond any particular set of circumstances. And when one discovers this clarity, healing comes in those other areas too.

This healing clarity comes from a better understanding of our true nature as the children of God, whom the Bible describes as Love. How would a loving creator design something that could be devoid of joy? Christian Science explains that God is utterly pure goodness. Each of us as God’s creation reflects all that God is, every aspect of the goodness of God, which naturally encompasses the quality of true and enduring joy.

So in a spiritual sense, joy is an inherent quality within each of us, part of our divinely created identity, not defined or determined by material circumstances. Each of us has the ability to experience the freedom and empowerment this joy brings because its source is infinite, therefore inexhaustible. And this joy is inextricably linked to living our true purpose – reflecting God’s love and goodness.

I look to Jesus as the ideal example of a purposeful life to emulate. He once said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37, English Standard Version). And in another verse: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, New Living Translation). We can each accept our God-given purpose to bear witness to divine Truth, God, and express God, Love, in a way that helps others find a more genuine satisfaction. And this will surely give us joy.

It was through the eternal Christ, the expression of God’s nature that empowered him, that Jesus was able to give others “a rich and satisfying life.” That included experiencing healing of physical and mental illness, which brought many people great joy. Yet Jesus was ridiculed by many of the elites of his day, and many circumstances of his life would not have looked impressive on a social media feed, despite his great accomplishments. He encountered a stream of dire situations that would leave anyone anything but happy.

But he was clear that no one could take away his joy (see John 16:22), because his joy was in understanding his God-given purpose and fulfilling it. And ultimately he prevailed over all he faced. From this basis, leaning on his divine source and the truth he understood, he was able to benefit others in profound ways, restoring them to life and health in even the most hopeless of situations.

The Christ that enabled Jesus to do what he did enables us to follow his example today. A message shared by Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Monitor, speaks to this sense of true purpose. In a letter to members of a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, who had given a thoughtful financial gift to another branch church, she encouraged them to respond to the question “What am I?” in this way: “I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 165).

Regardless of conditions we’re currently dealing with or what society’s opinion of one’s status or profession may be, each of us can strive to “impart truth, health, and happiness” to those we encounter and to support them in living rich and satisfying lives. That is a lasting foundation on which to build the true happiness that is an enduring sense of purpose and joy.

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Viewfinder

‘Come Together’

Dominic Lipinski/PA/AP
Beatles look-alikes and thousands of fans gather to walk across Abbey Road on the 50th anniversary of the album cover "Abbey Road" in London, Aug. 8, 2019. To re-create the iconic shot, by Scottish photographer Iain Macmillan, they aimed to cross exactly 50 years to the minute after the Fab Four did.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( August 9th, 2019 )

Noelle Swan
Deputy Daily Editor

Thanks for joining us today. Come back tomorrow when we’ll take a look at why police are embracing body cameras.

Also, a quick note: Yesterday’s editorial misspelled the name of the Charleston shooter, Dylann Roof.

Monitor Daily Podcast

August 08, 2019
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