2019
August
13
Tuesday
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

In today’s edition, our five handpicked stories explore democracy (Why Iowa?), leadership (Hindu nationalism), hope (in eastern Ukraine), generosity (in Maine), and endless creativity (Leonardo da Vinci).

But first, even legal immigrants are freeloaders.

That’s a perception underscoring Monday’s move by the Trump administration to make it tougher for legal immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they’ve relied on food stamps or Medicaid or housing vouchers. Officials framed the decision as a principled push toward self-reliance.

True compassion isn’t giving someone a fish; it’s teaching them how to fish. In other words, tighter green card rules help people become self-sufficient, administration officials suggest. Of course, tackling the problem of “freeloading” immigrants plays well with voters as we head into the 2020 election.

But that perception is not based on the facts. Let’s take food stamps: 93% of all food stamp payments go to native-born U.S. citizens. What about Medicaid? The Associated Press puts that number at 93%.

In fact, if you’re a capitalist, you want legal immigrants. They create new jobs. Immigrants are almost twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as native-born U.S. citizens, reports Harvard Business Review. Immigrants make up just 13% of the population but account for nearly 28% of America’s entrepreneurs. To become a U.S. citizen, immigrants need to be resourceful, persistent, and determined in overcoming obstacles – the same qualities that make good entrepreneurs.

Just ask South African immigrant Elon Musk (Tesla), Russian immigrant Sergey Brin (Google), or Taiwanese immigrant Jerry Yang (Yahoo).

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1. Why Iowa’s brand of politics may matter more than ever

Why Iowa? Our reporter looks at the big role this small, rural state plays in America’s democracy, and in choosing the nation’s next leader. 

David
Scott Morgan/Reuters
Fairgoers listen as 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 11, 2019.

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Over the course of 10 days this month, more than a million people will come to the Iowa State Fair to sample pork chops on a stick, ride the Ferris wheel, and gawk at the famous “butter cow.” Many will also encounter various Democratic presidential candidates, making their pitch from a soapbox.

“You have a big burden on your shoulders,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar tells the crowd.

For nearly 50 years, Iowa has played an outsize role in the presidential nomination process, with its first-in-the-nation caucuses. And while the state has a mixed track record when it comes to selecting presidents, it plays a pivotal role in winnowing the field. On the Democratic side, seven of the past nine winners in Iowa have gone on to secure their party’s nomination. 

Iowa’s voters are known for taking their role seriously. But it is one of the whitest states in the nation, which has led to questions about its influence. Those may only grow this cycle, when with less than a year to go until the national Democratic convention, there are still some two dozen candidates in the running.

“The bigger the field, the more important the caucus is,” says Dennis Goldford, a political scientist at Drake University in Des Moines.

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Why Iowa’s brand of politics may matter more than ever

There are few places in America where in a single muggy morning you can encounter Christian evangelists, eat a deep-fried Oreo, and meet not only the Cow Chip Throwing Grand Champion but also possibly the nation’s next commander in chief.

But this is Iowa, the farm state that for nearly 50 years has played an outsize role in the presidential nomination process, with its first-in-the-nation caucuses. It is home to just 3.2 million people, many of whom manage to meet the candidates face-to-face as they traipse through rites of passage such as the “Wing Ding” dinner and the Iowa State Fair. 

In truth, Iowa has a mixed track record when it comes to actually selecting presidents. Since Jimmy Carter rode a surprise victory in the caucuses here in 1976 all the way to the White House, only two others have followed suit (George W. Bush in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008). But the state plays an undeniably pivotal role in winnowing the field: Placing lower than third here has proved fatal to nearly every campaign in modern history. And on the Democratic side, seven of the past nine winners in Iowa have gone on to secure their party’s nomination. 

Iowa’s voters are known for being thoughtful and taking their vetting role seriously. But it is the sixth-whitest state in the nation, which in recent years has led to growing complaints about the fairness of its influence, as America – and the presidential field – has become more diverse.

And so it has become a quadrennial question: Why Iowa? How did a state that has six times more pigs than people become the gatekeeper of the road to the White House – and should that be changed? That question takes on perhaps new urgency this cycle, when with less than a year to go until the national Democratic convention, there are still some two dozen candidates in the running.

“The bigger the field, the more important the caucus is,” says Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University in Des Moines and co-author of “The Iowa Precinct Caucuses: The Making of a Media Event.”

An electoral training ground

Political scientists and operatives in the state say there are good reasons for maintaining Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status. In an era of ever-costlier campaigns, its small size enables candidates with more modest budgets to get a foot in the door. That wouldn’t be possible in, say, California, where the outcome would be determined more by the number of ads a candidate could buy than how many hands they could shake at backyard events.

Those personal encounters benefit the candidates, too – they tend to emerge from their time in Iowa with a better honed message, says David Redlawsk, a political psychologist at the University of Delaware who is taking a sabbatical to study the caucuses in Iowa. “Candidates, if they’re going to get anywhere, get better by meeting people, talking to people, and learning from people,” says Professor Redlawsk, who hosted backyard meetings with candidates when he lived here a decade ago.

As for concerns about lack of diversity, many point out that the Democratic National Committee made an effort to address the issue back in 2008 by moving both Nevada and South Carolina – which include substantial Hispanic and African American voter populations respectively – up in the primary calendar. That same year, it was the mainly white voters of Iowa who launched President Barack Obama.

A standard stop for candidates is the Iowa State Fair, billed as one of the best if not the biggest state fairs in the country.

Over the course of 10 days, more than a million people come through to sample pork chops on a stick, ride the Ferris wheel, and gawk at the famous “butter cow” – a cow made entirely out of butter (and joined this year by butter “Sesame Street” characters). Presidential candidates are offered a soapbox on a busy corner to make their pitch.

“One of the great strengths of who we are as a nation and people is by our very nature we are aspirational,” declares California Sen. Kamala Harris from behind the hay bales. “We are a nation that was founded on noble ideals.”

Senator Harris’ “joyful fight” won the endorsement last week of Sue Dvorsky, the influential former chair of the Iowa State Democratic Party. People are looking for that kind of a fighter, says Ms. Dvorsky. “When she throws her head back and laughs in what are such dark times … that’s contagious.”

Ms. Harris has been conspicuously ramping up her presence in the state, including a massive bus painted with her first name. But polls show she’s still well behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren – who has invested heavily in staff here and is drawing perhaps the largest and most enthusiastic crowds.

At the state fair, attendees are invited to cast a kernel of corn for their preferred candidate. So far, the results are tracking pretty closely with official polls.

Critiques balanced with optimism

Speaking in the wake of back-to-back mass shootings, many of the candidates try to strike a balance between recognizing the gravity of the challenges facing the country and the perennial American desire to look ahead with hope and optimism. They criticize the president, while also seeking to present an alternative vision. 

“We are the nation that beat the Nazis, [put a man] on the moon, and mapped the human genome. ... We are a country that did those things together,” proclaims Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, calling for a revival of civic grace. “This election is not about one guy and one office. It’s who we must be together.”

Jill Applegate from Des Moines asks Senator Booker about improving child care in the U.S. She says she prefers candidates who don’t just focus on the president.

“We know Trump is bad,” she says, holding a whirring purple and pink fan in front of her face to ease the muggy heat. “I’d rather hear more about what their plans are.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who can barely make his way through the fairgrounds thanks to a massive media mob, reminds supporters that all the things he said four years ago that were deemed “too radical” are now practically mainstream – and urgently needed.

“This is a monumental time in our country,” he thunders.

“Go Trump!” shouts a man sporting an “Iowans for President Trump” shirt.

“You’re a racist and a bigot, and you ...” says a lady nearby, trailing off.

The Trump supporter, Mike Duff, says he attended one of Donald Trump’s rallies ahead of the 2016 election and was inspired by his message, which he sums up as “Let’s be proud, let’s build our country up instead of giving it away. ... Let’s make the people around us successful.”

Today he’s part of a small group of pro-Trump folks standing around the soapbox – an effort to counter the intimidation he says they often feel from Democrats. These days, he says, many people are afraid to put out Trump yard signs, and when they do, they’re often ripped up.

Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor
Mike Duff is one of a small group of Trump supporters making a show of support for the president near the soapbox for Democratic candidates at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Aug. 11, 2019. He says he's gotten a few dirty looks, but "10 to 1" it's been thumbs-up.

“Get Trump out of there”

If there’s one thing Democratic voters agree on, it’s the need to oust the president.

“I would vote for a parakeet if they would beat Donald Trump,” says Mary Breiner, who’s visiting the fair from California, and says she has been horrified by what she sees as the president’s racism.

“As long as they get Trump out of there,” agrees Robert Piggee, an African American Vietnam veteran selling T-shirts on his lawn near the fairgrounds to raise awareness about veteran suicides. “We need the people of the U.S. to gel … and come together with a solution.”

But there’s a debate within the Democratic Party over the best way to beat Mr. Trump. Is it by courting moderates and working-class voters who feel alienated from a party increasingly dominated by coastal elites? Or by choosing a firebrand progressive like Senator Sanders or Senator Warren, who may inspire higher turnout among the party’s base, and motivate some who might not otherwise vote to head to the polls?

“People need to know us by how bold we’re going to be – otherwise they’re going to stay home,” says New York Mayor Bill de Blasio from the soapbox. “That’s what happened in 2016.” 

“Really?” guffaws a lady walking by, laughing.

“We need to be for big, bold change,” Mayor De Blasio continues. “That’s how we energize people.”

Energizing people is key to Iowa’s system, which until this cycle required people to come out in person on a weekday evening and spend several hours caucusing with other voters. It’s not as simple as casting a ballot and getting an “I voted” sticker, as in primary states.

On the Republican side, it essentially functions as an anonymous straw poll. On the Democratic side, it’s far more complicated. Attendees are asked to show their preference for a candidate by assembling with other supporters in a corner of the room. Any candidate that does not meet a 15% threshold of support is considered “nonviable,” and their supporters must choose again. What emerges at the end of the night, at least until this cycle, is not a tally of votes but something called state delegate equivalents. (Editor’s note: This paragraph was updated to correct the term used for quantifying caucus results.)

“It’s a very wispy kind of measure,” says Professor Goldford. “I can explain quantum physics to you more easily.”

This year, the Democratic National Committee has added key changes – many pushed by Senator Sanders’ camp – to increase transparency and accountability. For the first time, raw numbers will be released showing voters’ first preferences before the nonviable candidates are weeded out. And a limited number of call-in opportunities will allow voters who can’t attend in person to indicate their ranked preferences for candidates.

“You have a big burden on your shoulders,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar tells the crowd.

They know it – and they like it that way.

“We really savor the opportunity to do this,” says Tom Henderson, the former chairman of the Polk County Democrats. “Iowa voters aren’t arrogant about this. They take it as a great privilege.” 

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2. More like Modi: Hindu nationalists nurture the next generation

To understand the crisis in Kashmir, some point to India’s emboldened Hindu nationalists. Our reporter looks at an effort to foster leadership qualities to combat secular intellectualism and corruption.

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Ann Hermes/Staff
Vivek Chouhan studied for nine months at the Indian Institute of Democratic Leadership. Mr. Chouhan, seen here in New Delhi on June 14, 2019, deferred entering law school to take the leadership program in Mumbai.

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India’s Hindu nationalist movement is taking the next steps in building a new generation of leaders – especially among educated, urban youth.

In creating new higher education programs, it’s drawing upon the popularity of India’s first Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi. He surprised almost everyone with a convincing reelection victory in national elections in June. At the same time, his ruling party reinforced its hold on parliament. It’s that kind of political dominance that emboldened Mr. Modi this month to revoke the Indian Constitution’s article granting special autonomous status to majority-Muslim Kashmir.

Mr. Modi has not only boosted the image of the nationalist movement but has also been central to the movement’s growth among a key segment of the population. “You could map the growing interest of educated youngsters, doctors and entrepreneurs and professionals, in entering politics and improving governance to the rise of Narendra Modi,” says Ravindra Sathe, dean of the recently established Indian Institute of Democratic Leadership.

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More like Modi: Hindu nationalists nurture the next generation

To put his law studies on hold for a year wasn’t a difficult choice for Vivek Chouhan. His nation and political party, as he saw it, were calling on him to serve.

So, Mr. Chouhan took a nine-month leadership course for college graduates, part of an expanding effort to develop a new generation of leaders for the Hindu nationalist movement.

“I want to do what I can to help India take its place among the world’s great countries,” says the social worker and native of Bhopal.

Called the Indian Institute of Democratic Leadership, the Mumbai program Mr. Chouhan completed aims to “attract and develop the educated youngsters from across India who feel they can contribute in a new environment of politics and governance,” says Ravindra Sathe, dean of the IIDL.

The IIDL is, partly, a reflection of the growing self-confidence within the Hindu nationalist movement. But it’s also a recognition that to govern effectively and to stay in power, the Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, needs to develop a talented, young, urban bench.

India’s prime minister, the BJP’s Narendra Modi, surprised almost everyone with a convincing reelection victory in national elections in May that gave him a second five-year term. At the same time, his BJP reinforced its hold on parliament. It’s that kind of political dominance that emboldened Mr. Modi this month to revoke the Indian Constitution’s article granting special autonomous status to majority-Muslim Kashmir.

The IIDL is also intended to address what Hindu nationalists see as a governmental ethos of corruption and secular intellectual elitism.

Mr. Modi’s arrival on the national political scene has not only boosted the image of the nationalist movement but has also been central to the movement’s attractiveness to an increasingly educated and globalized youth population.

“Modi communicates this certain sense of India that speaks to many educated Indians, he makes them feel that India will matter to the world,” says Snigdha Poonam, a prominent Indian journalist who writes extensively about Indian youth. “That matters especially to the young people.”

Adds Mr. Sathe, the dean of IIDL, “You could map the growing interest of educated youngsters, doctors and entrepreneurs and professionals, in entering politics and improving governance to the rise of Narendra Modi.”

Modi as the model

That would certainly appear to be true in the case of Mr. Chouhan, who cites Mr. Modi as his inspiration for pursuing a career in public service.

“Prime Minister Modi puts the nation first, and I too want above everything else to serve the nation – with first, nation; second, society, or the people; and then only third, oneself – being the order of priorities I hold for myself,” he says.

What he learned from his IIDL course is that India’s corrupt and self-serving political class must be replaced with a new class of educated nation-servers if India is to fulfill its promise, he says.

Mr. Chouhan says he seeks to emulate Mr. Modi, who is widely perceived as a clean politician unsusceptible to the temptations of corruption and eschewing the comforts and pleasures of a palatial home, personal wealth, or even having a family.

“We know that the prime minister gets up at 3:30 or 4 every morning to get to work for India, and he has no family to distract him from his duties. I admire that,” he adds. “I’ve decided I also will not get married and have a family, but I will dedicate my life to the nation.” (Mr. Modi had an arranged marriage as a teenager, but never lived with his wife. He only acknowledged his marriage and estranged wife when he ran for national office in 2014.)

A shift to higher education

Education is not new to India’s Hindu nationalism, but elements of higher education and political professionalization are.

The movement has had educational components since well before independence and the partition of majority-Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan in 1947. Since the 1950s the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS – the ideological progenitor of India’s Hindu-nationalist ruling party, the BJP – has built a network of nearly 60,000 shakhas, or local, daily academies aimed at inculcating a virile and militant sense of spirituality and service to nation in Hindu boys. The RSS also maintains India’s largest private school system with 3.5 million students.

Ajit Solanki/AP
Volunteers in the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh perform self-defense exercises at a ceremony concluding their training camp in Ahmedabad, India, June 1, 2019. The RSS, parent organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, combines religious education with self-defense exercises.

Those efforts have produced squads of young men, especially in India’s rural expanses, who aggressively defend the Hindu faith: The “cow vigilantes” who protect the sacred bovine population against meat-eating Indians, for example, or the “anti-Romeo” squads who patrol parks to thwart mixed-religion romances. Last year saw 93 hate crimes motivated by religious bias, the most in a decade, according to the Indian project Hate Crime Watch. 

But the shakhas have come up short in building a leadership class.

Enter the IIDL.

“Urban and middle-class Indians especially are attracted to this notion of India taking its rightful place in the world,” says Walter Andersen, a globally recognized authority on India’s Hindu nationalism.

In just over a decade the RSS has developed a network of think tanks aimed at fostering an intellectual “Hindutva,” or Hindu nationalism, and professionalizing Indian governance. The country’s secular elites have long been hostile to Hindu nationalism, says Dr. Andersen, professor emeritus of South Asian studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. That’s why developing a new class of leaders, like Mr. Chouhan, is one way of countering a more traditional intellectualism.

Mr. Chouhan grew up participating in a shakha, has been an RSS volunteer, and is now interning with a BJP member of parliament from his home state of Madhya Pradesh. But he says he was one of the few BJP adherents in his IIDL class of 30.

And he echoes Mr. Sathe, who underscores what he says is the nonpartisan nature of the IIDL, both in its student body and in the variety of government officials and politicians it invites to take part in IIDL seminars.

One thing the IIDL or the other professional training initiatives do not include is much, if any, input from outside India – least of all, it would seem, from established Western democracies.

“The idea of reestablishing India’s greatness by reasserting its identity and reaching back 1,000 years into Hindu culture is a very common argument, and it tends to be vis-a-vis the West,” says Dr. Andersen. “You hear the same thing in China, but instead it’s ‘We have to assert India’s values and culture in this Westernized world.’”

That perspective can be heard in the words of another IIDL graduate.

“Until now India has not been contributing significantly to the world’s progress, but what Prime Minister Modi is saying and what I believe strongly is that with its 2,000 or 3,000 years of spiritual history and culture and with 1 of 7 humans living here, we have a significant role to play,” says Mayank Narayan, a chemical engineer who completed the IIDL course in May.

“We are part of a globalized world, so I wouldn’t want India to turn away from the world like some countries are doing now,” Mr. Narayan says. “But at the same time we have to educate ourselves so we can create our own model,” he adds. “If India is going to progress, India will progress as India, not as the next South Korea or America or anything else.”

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3. Isolated by Ukraine’s war, this city looks for a peaceful future

Mariupol sits on the edge of a simmering war zone in Ukraine. But our reporter found it is also a place of burgeoning hope, where at least some innovative people are treating the crisis as an opportunity.

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With the front lines now just about seven miles from the city limits, the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine is seldom far from the subject of any conversation in the port city of Mariupol. But recently, the battleground has become ideological too. More than half of voters in the Ukrainian-controlled Donetsk region cast their ballots for two pro-Russian parties who blame Kiev, not next-door Russia, for their troubles. These divisions are a huge challenge for new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose party came in second in July elections around here.

The challenges facing the city are on full display at Mariupol’s Azov Sea port, which a decade ago shipped more than 15 million tons annually of products to every corner of the world. But the establishment of two separatist republics took much of the port’s hinterland away. The loss of the nearby Russian market amid an ongoing sanctions war between Ukraine and Russia inflicted more damage.

“We all hope that with the new leadership at the top of the country, this war will end,” says Yuri Balan, deputy director of the port. “Peace is the main thing that everyone here in the Donbass wants.”

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Isolated by Ukraine’s war, this city looks for a peaceful future

For the past five years, Mariupol has been a battleground. First, it was in the most literal sense.

This industrial city of 450,000 on the Azov Sea has been the scene of pitched battles between Ukrainian forces and separatist rebels, who surround it on two sides with the front lines now just about seven miles from the city limits. Until a shaky July 21 cease-fire took hold, the sound of artillery fire was often audible in downtown Mariupol, and the ongoing war is seldom far from the subject of any conversation.

But more recently, the battleground has become ideological too. More than half of voters in the Ukrainian-controlled Donetsk region, of which Mariupol is now the biggest city, cast their ballots for two pro-Russian parties who favor the Moscow-authored road map to peace and blame Kiev, not next-door Russia, for their troubles.

The fact that these divisions are so open in war-clouded Mariupol is a stunning affirmation of Ukraine’s free and democratic political culture. But it’s also a caution against adopting any simplistic stereotypes about post-Maidan Ukraine. And it’s a huge challenge for Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose Servant of the People party came in second in July 21 parliamentary elections around here – after the main pro-Russian one – largely, people say, on the strength of his pledge to find a new path to peace.

“We all hope that with the new leadership at the top of the country, this war will end,” says Yuri Balan, deputy director of the Mariupol Port. “Peace is the main thing that everyone here in the Donbass wants. We have a team of optimists here at the port, and we are building for that day.”

Karen Norris/Staff

Feeling beleaguered

Mariupol is an impoverished city that gives an overwhelming impression of long-standing physical decay. Its central economic engine is two smoke-belching Soviet-era steel plants, owned by the Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, which have created one of the worst air- and water-pollution emergencies in Europe.

Indeed, a poll conducted by the local Reiting Group in May asked people to list their top five concerns. Surprisingly for a city on the edge of an active war zone, the “proximity of military actions” came fourth, with 39% mentioning it, after the rising cost of utilities (75%), air and water pollution (56%), and the cost of public transport (47%).

The war has isolated the city in ways that can only make people feel more beleaguered. Before a big chunk of the Donbass, including the biggest city of Donetsk, broke away to form the Russian-backed statelets of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic in 2014, Mariupol was an intimately connected part of that region. Before the war, a direct train ride to the capital city of Kiev, via Donetsk, took 12 hours. Today, the same trip takes 27 hours, with three changes along the way.

In the past, Mariupol International Airport saw flights to all points in Ukraine and beyond, to Russia, Turkey, and Europe. For five years, the airport has been closed due to its proximity to the front line. Anyone who wants to fly somewhere must drive at least four hours over bad roads to reach the nearest functioning airport, in Zaporizhia, about 170 miles away.

“We have a perfectly good airport, with working equipment, but we can’t use it,” says Sergei Orlov, Mariupol’s deputy mayor. “If we had peace, that could change almost immediately.”

A cutoff port

The challenges facing the city are on full display at Mariupol’s Azov Sea port, which a decade ago loaded more than 15 million tons annually of Donbass produce – steel, coal, grain, and sunflower oil – onto oceangoing ships headed to every corner of the world. The establishment of the two separatist republics took much of the port’s hinterland, with its huge industries, away. The loss of the nearby Russian market amid a still-escalating sanctions war between the two countries inflicted more losses.

But the most painful blow came last year, when Russia completed a bridge across the Kerch Strait, a narrow waterway that connects the Azov Sea – and Mariupol – to the Black Sea. The bridge connects the annexed Crimean peninsula with the Russian mainland, and is a major strategic priority for Moscow. But the ensuing height restrictions immediately stopped most large oceangoing vessels, about 40% of the fleet that used to pull into Mariupol, from transiting between the two seas.

Further, a nasty sea battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces over the use of the strait last November led to the seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels along with their crews by Russia, and an enforced slowdown of all shipping headed for the Ukrainian Azov Sea ports.

Fred Weir
Mariupol beach, which has seen better days, is still frequented in very hot weather by people willing to brave the water – which even local authorities say is badly polluted by nearby steel plant and sewage outlets.

Mr. Balan, the port deputy director, says the facility handled just about 5 million tons of cargo last year, about a third of its prewar level. None of the 3,000-strong workforce have been fired, but everyone is working short weeks.

“Our view is that we need to use this crisis as an opportunity, to prepare ourselves for better times,” he says. They are building new terminals for handling steel and grain cargoes, and modernizing the old Soviet-era infrastructure and loading methods. “Wars always end. When this one does, we will be ready.”

“There are things we can do to improve life”

Indeed, Mariupol is a place of burgeoning hope, where at least some optimistic and innovative people are treating their crisis as an opportunity to change their conditions for the better.

The approach at Mariupol’s largely youthful city administration is to leave the big questions of war and peace to national leaders, and to attempt to find innovative solutions to the city’s long-standing local problems, most of which predate the war and will remain even if peace breaks out tomorrow.

“Of course the war affects people here in Donetsk far more than in Kiev or other western cities,” says Mr. Orlov. “Peace would be a huge boon to this city, and we all pray for it. But meanwhile there are things we can do to improve life for people here, tackle local issues that have simmered for a long time, and try to position ourselves for a better life when peace does come. All wars end, eventually.”

Mariupol has been the recipient of quite a lot of foreign aid in the past few years. Modern trolleybuses plying the city’s streets all carry a notice saying they were purchased with funds donated by the European Union. The U.S. Agency for International Development runs two big projects here, one to promote democratic governance and another to stimulate small and medium businesses. There is a small but vibrant civil society, where mostly young people try to make a difference in ecology, culture, and art.

Mr. Orlov says the hope is to transform Mariupol into “the showcase for the revived Ukrainian Donbass” to inspire the population to see their future as part of a Western-oriented Ukraine. He even likens it to West Berlin, which stood as an example, in the heart of East Germany, during the long and bitter years of the Cold War.

“Conditions are really harsh in Mariupol,” says Peter Santenello, an American independent videographer who recently lived in the city, mostly mixing with youthful activists. But “the young people are like diamonds. Some of those who’ve stayed have been through it all and come out the other side, stronger and full of life.”

Editors note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Mr. Santenello's name.

Karen Norris/Staff
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4. Among those helping Maine’s new arrivals: other immigrants

It’s an age-old fear: There’s not enough good to go around. But scores of Mainers are rejecting a scarcity mindset as their city welcomes hundreds of asylum-seekers.

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On a recent afternoon, volunteers cooked 600 meals to be served at a local sports arena. Lined with cots instead of bleachers, the Portland Expo Center became an emergency shelter in June with the sudden arrival of Central African asylum-seekers. Several meal prep volunteers are asylum-seekers themselves. They slip in and out of French, Portuguese, and Lingala with the ease of changing aprons. Some have already found temporary housing. Yet day after day, they keep turning up to cook for fellow newcomers.

“My people,” a volunteer named Nathalie calls them. “As they eat and feel fed, I also feel better.”

Portland has gained at least 437 asylum-seekers in less than two months. Their arrival cued another surge: an outpouring of donations and volunteerism. Immigrant community leaders, who once sought fresh starts here themselves, have bridged resource gaps between the newcomers and the public’s generosity.

Maine resident Jeff Diggins has hosted three families in the past. A fiscal conservative from Texas, he acknowledges the complexity of the U.S. immigration system and values that asylum-seekers are in the country legally.

“I don’t think kindness is a limited resource,” says Mr. Diggins.

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Among those helping Maine’s new arrivals: other immigrants

A pot of turkey and tomatoes, stewed with turmeric, needs stirring. The plantains are prepped, along with fish spiced with garlic and ginger. At Preble Street, a social service agency in Portland, Maine, fans meant to cool the kitchen’s heat amplify the aroma.

On a recent afternoon, a handful of volunteers cooked 600 meals to be served at a local sports arena. Lined with cots instead of bleachers, the Portland Expo Center became an emergency shelter in June for the sudden arrival of Central African asylum-seekers. The ethnic food is meant to replace fear of the unknown with the comfort of familiar flavors. Fufu, a starchy staple, is a favorite.

Several meal prep volunteers are asylum-seekers themselves. They slip in and out of French, Portuguese, and Lingala with the ease of changing aprons. Some have already found temporary housing. Yet day after day, they keep turning up to cook for fellow newcomers.

“My people,” a volunteer named Nathalie calls them. “As they eat and feel fed, I also feel better.”

Nathalie, an asylum-seeker, likes to stay active. As a nurse, 12-hour shifts conditioned her to work hard. Before Maine, she lived in South Africa after fleeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo 16 years ago.

Another Congolese asylum-seeker, Nicole, joins her on a break from the stove. She’s overjoyed to be in Portland, she says in French.

“It’s important to help, because we were also helped.”

Portland has gained at least 437 asylum-seekers in less than two months. Their arrival cued another surge: an outpouring of donations and volunteerism. Immigrant community leaders, who once sought fresh starts here themselves, have bridged resource gaps between the newcomers and the public’s generosity. The city has a Thursday deadline for vacating the emergency shelter, and other towns have begun to roll out welcome mats.

Portland “only has so many resources, so this community partnership is key,” city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin told the Monitor. Maine’s largest and most diverse city of 66,000 is applying for newly available funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help accommodate the asylees.

Seeking asylum is protected under federal and international law. More than 5,000 refugees have resettled in Maine in the past three decades, according to State Department data. Many of the new asylees in Portland are reportedly fleeing violence and persecution from Angola and Congo. The Monitor is using only asylum-seekers’ first names for their security.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills issued an emergency rule change to the state’s General Assistance program last month. Now, those who intend to apply for asylum are eligible for food, housing, and medical care vouchers.

Towns statewide can now receive reimbursement for accommodating asylum-seekers, which could lift some pressure off Portland. Yet some worry that moving away from the city’s established immigrant networks and legal resources presents hurdles to integration.

That’s why immigrant leaders like Claude Rwaganje have intervened as cultural brokers between officials and the new arrivals, and offering much-needed translation.

In 1996, Mr. Rwaganje sought asylum in Maine from Congo. He now leads ProsperityME, a nonprofit he founded to promote financial literacy for immigrants.

“We should really look into this [influx] as an opportunity,” says Mr. Rwaganje, stressing the “return on investment” that former asylees have contributed to the city.

More than $900,000 in private donations have been given to the city. Mainers have offered their time, too. More than 2,000 individuals expressed interest in volunteering at the Expo with United Way Portland. A local movie theater and bank partnered to offer free screenings of “The Lion King” – popcorn included – on an especially hot weekend. The nonprofit Cultivating Community has funneled food donations from 17 Maine farms to Preble Street’s kitchen.

“We need to take care of our own first”

Some conservative lawmakers and citizens disagree with extending state resources to the new Mainers.

“Once again the individuals who have been waiting for services will fall to the back of the bus,” said Republican state Rep. Beth O’Connor, the Portland Press Herald reported. “Any existing resources that are available at any time should be used on those individuals who are currently here and have been waiting.”

Guy Troiano, a landscaper, says he has nothing against immigrants. But he sees homelessness in Portland as an unsolved problem.

“We need to take care of our own first, then help who we can help after that,” he says.

Housing the newcomers is the most urgent challenge. Affordable housing is scant statewide. The city has found roofs for dozens of migrant families so far, including some at the city’s overflow shelter spaces. Some have moved to cities like Lewiston, home to a Somali refugee population. In Brunswick, a developer offered families rent-free stays for three months. Portland is racing against the clock to secure more: On Aug. 15, the Expo turns over to a local basketball team. As of Monday morning, 136 people remained at the sports arena.

According to Maine State Housing Authority, the agency’s use of one-time emergency funding (about $172,000) to subsidize rent for the families doesn’t jeopardize other Mainers seeking housing help. The funding and waitlists are separate.

Host Homes, a volunteer homestay program in Portland, is lightening the load. With guidance from immigrant leaders, at least 23 families have been placed in temporary host homes.

“I find that we are making it up as we go along, and we’re blessed that we have such a generous community and a capacity to do it,” says Chris Hall, general counsel for Greater Portland Council of Governments. 

Sarah Matusek/The Christian Science Monitor
Jeff Diggins and his daughter Eva enjoy a summer day with their dog at home in Yarmouth, Maine, Aug. 5, 2019. Mr. Diggins has hosted three asylum-seeking families through a local homestay program, and hopes to host more.

“I don’t think kindness is a limited resource”

The homestay pilot takes inspiration from the Yarmouth Compassionate Housing Initiative run by a local interfaith community.

“We’re walking the walk of welcoming strangers,” says co-coordinator Carla Hunt. “We’re just trying to shepherd them through to the point where they can be independent, because that is what they crave more than anything.”

Yarmouth resident Jeff Diggins has hosted three families in the past. He hopes for more.

“I don’t think kindness is a limited resource,” says Mr. Diggins, a father who is mostly retired from a finance career.

A fiscal conservative from Texas, he acknowledges the complexity of the U.S. immigration system. Yet he values that asylum-seekers are in the country legally, and says he’d gotten to know hard-working Portuguese immigrants on a previous job – “not as a label, but I knew them as people.”

Technology has proved a great equalizer for his family in navigating cross-cultural moments.

“We’d use Google Translate,” he says. “We’d set aside the rule that says no technology at the dinner table.”

Joe Conroy, who runs Preble Street’s soup kitchen and food pantries, says 1,200 daily meals are prepared for the nonprofit’s clients. The extra 600 daily meals for the asylum-seekers cost roughly $30,000. Donations, including a few goats, have helped defray costs.

“Resources are not so scarce that we can’t feed everyone who’s hungry, or shelter everyone who needs shelter,” says Mr. Conroy.

Deaths outnumber births in the Pine Tree State, which also boasts the highest median age and greatest share of baby boomers who are retiring. In a tight labor market, some employers have struggled to recruit workers.

“We’re completely reliant on other people moving here, whether from other parts of the U.S. or other parts of the world,” says Maine’s state economist Amanda Rector.

Nearly half of the asylum-seekers that Portland has processed since June are children, including newborns. The young group could bode well for Maine’s future workforce, Ms. Rector adds, and infuse diversity into one of the country’s whitest states.

“If you bring new people with new ideas, they start new types of businesses. ... That adds to the economy beyond just the relief we get from having a new influx of workers,” she says.

Individuals have up to a year to apply for asylum. Phil Mantis, legal director for Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, has found that many of their cases have yet to be filed in the overloaded immigration court system – a glitch that could deny them due process.

They’re also barred from working. Under federal law, asylum-seekers like Nathalie, the nurse from Congo, don’t qualify for a work permit until six months after they apply for asylum. They’re also ineligible for federal aid.

Khadija Ahmed sought asylum in the U.S. after fleeing Congo in 1999 during the Second Congo War. When she moved to Portland four years ago, she appreciated Preble Street’s soup kitchen meals so much that she didn’t want to eat for free. Ms. Ahmed has volunteered ever since, and manages the meal prep for the families at the Expo. 

“It’s a way of saying ‘I got you,’” she says. “It’s only going to get better.”

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5. Da Vinci at 500: The master who never stopped experimenting

What drives people to continuously learn? Five hundred years after Leonardo da Vinci’s death, we examine the paths he took to endless creativity.

David
Bibliotheque de L'Institut de France, Paris
A sketchbook page depicts the skeleton and muscles of a horse. The notes (in reverse writing) include a reminder to compare the anatomy of a horse’s and a man’s leg.

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Two things consistently fascinated Leonardo da Vinci: the mechanics of flight and the movement of water. His mind was like both, swiftly flowing but occasionally pooling to encompass depths beneath the surface.

At the 500th anniversary of his death, scholars, art lovers, and the public are taking a far-reaching look at his career. Exhibitions in Italy and England, as well as the largest-ever survey of his work, which opens at the Louvre Museum in Paris this fall, are celebrating the master’s achievements not only in art but also in science. 

One of those exhibitions, of Leonardo’s drawings, is attracting multitudes to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace in London. “Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing” displays the full range of Leonardo’s elastic mind at work. It conveys a life in process, a man and mind on a continuous learning curve, endlessly observing, studying, thinking, reflecting. The drawings – more than the finished paintings – show him improvising and experimenting, much more than just recording reality.

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Da Vinci at 500: The master who never stopped experimenting

As someone who appreciates Leonardo da Vinci’s painting skills, I’ve long marveled at how crowds rush past his most sublime painting, “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne,” to line up in front of the “Mona Lisa” at the Louvre Museum in Paris. 

The art critic in me wants to say, “Wait! Look at this one. See the poses of entwining bodies and gazes, the melting regard of the mother for her child, the translucent folds of cloth, the baby’s chubby legs.” It’s a perfect combination of humanity and divinity.

Now, at the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, scholars, art lovers, and the public are taking a far-reaching look at his career. Exhibitions in Italy and England, as well as the largest-ever survey of his work that opens at the Louvre this fall, are celebrating the master’s achievements not only in art but also in science. 

One of those exhibitions, of Leonardo’s drawings, is attracting multitudes to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace in London. “Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing” displays the full range of Leonardo’s elastic mind at work. 

The main impression conveyed by “A Life in Drawing” is of a life in process, a man and mind on a continuous learning curve, endlessly observing, studying, thinking, reflecting. The drawings – more than the finished paintings – show him improvising and experimenting, much more than just recording reality. 

You see his beginnings as a talented apprentice to sculptor Andrea del Verrocchio in Florence, then his 16 years (1483-99) at the court of Ludovico Sforza in Milan, during which he sketched hundreds of horses rearing or cantering, viewed from all angles, to prepare for an unrealized equestrian monument. Sforza valued Leonardo’s skills as a set designer of elaborate court pageantry and masques, which meshed perfectly with Leonardo’s love of fantasy. 

While in Milan he also produced “The Last Supper” fresco (1495-98), which still astounds. In his studies for heads and limbs of the apostles in the exhibition, you see the psychological reactions of each to Jesus’ announcement that one of them will betray him. A drapery study of the twisted arm of St. Peter, who leans over Judas’ shoulder in the fresco, shows Leonardo’s brilliant use of subtle shading in charcoal; both cloth and flesh are arrested in mid-movement.

Upon his return to Florence, he was celebrated as a genius. It was there he and the younger sculptor Michelangelo faced off in a sort of “Florence’s Got Talent” contest. Both designed frescoes (abandoned unfinished) on opposite walls of a palazzo, with the ever-charming Leonardo trying to befriend the grumpy Michelangelo.

Leonardo’s last years (1516-19) were spent in France as the guest and resident sage of King Francis I. There, he kept refining and revising his paintings, including the “Mona Lisa” and the Saint Anne painting. 

His scientific investigations into anatomy, astronomy, geology, botany, light, and movement were all done to represent life truthfully in his art. Leonardo saw both the micro and macro versions of the world. In our age of extreme specialization, such a universal approach is an inspiration.

Two things consistently fascinated him: the mechanics of flight and the movement of water. His mind was like both, swiftly flowing but occasionally pooling to encompass depths beneath the surface.

So many works are non finito, not finished, the cause of much regret by connoisseurs. But Leonardo himself was never finished. Each endeavor was a precursor to further investigation. 

That quality may explain why, 500 years after his death, viewers are still not finished with him. There’s always more to see and understand.

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The Monitor's View

Why the sudden challenge to autocracies?

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Since 2006, the world has witnessed a decline in political rights and civil liberties. Yet 13 years on, this troubling trend could be in reverse. From Algeria to Slovakia, young people have taken to the streets to push for a range of democratic ideals. The most unexpected protests have been in Russia and in China’s semiautonomous territory of Hong Kong.

In particular, the protests in those two giants of autocracy indicate there is a limit to how much people will tolerate a loss of basic freedoms and the right to self-governance. They also show a strong memory of what happened 30 years ago when Beijing brutally ended pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and the popular uprisings in Eastern Europe led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet empire.

China may yet crush the Hong Kong protests, while in Russia, President Vladimir Putin wields a strong stick. But at least the signal has been sent that democracy’s decline is not inevitable. Once a foundation for freedom has been laid around the world, it is hard to break. Protesters will find a way to stand on it.

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Why the sudden challenge to autocracies?

Since 2006, or just after the United States stumbled in forcing a democracy in Iraq, the world has witnessed a decline in political rights and civil liberties. Democracies like Turkey and Hungary have faltered under nationalist populism. Russia and China have championed authoritarian rule. The U.S. largely withdrew as liberty’s global protector. It was as if democracy’s ascent in the 20th century were in tailspin.

Yet 13 years on, this troubling trend could be in reverse. From Algeria to Slovakia, young people have taken to the streets over the past year or so to push for a range of democratic ideals, from free elections to corruption-free governance to equality before the law. Ukraine and Ethiopia, both key players in their regions, have seen a rebirth of democracy under new leaders.

The most unexpected protests have been in Russia and in China’s semiautonomous territory of Hong Kong. In particular, the protests in those two giants of autocracy indicate there is a limit to how much people will tolerate a loss of basic freedoms and the right to self-governance. They also show a strong memory of what happened 30 years ago when Beijing brutally ended pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and the popular uprisings in Eastern Europe led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet empire.

Since 1989, the universal ideals of democracy have become even more universal despite setbacks in many countries. Certainly the internet and social media have helped, along with higher incomes, better education, and more freedoms for women.

Perhaps the best symbol of this aspect of globalization today are the thousands of paper notes being left on a remnant of Germany’s Berlin Wall in support of the Hong Kong protests. In Hong Kong itself, people have set up “Lennon Walls” to rally people against a deeply unpopular bill that would allow extradition of almost anyone to China.

Another aspect of the recent protests is the prominence of women on the front lines. In Sudan, where a rebirth of democracy may be underway, women led protesters in chants against a dictatorship. In Moscow and Hong Kong, women injured by police are now held up as martyrs. In Iran, women’s defiance of wearing headscarves in public is now a symbol of resistance. And after large protests in Slovakia, a woman who fought corruption, Zuzana Caputova, was elected as president.

China may yet crush the Hong Kong protests, while in Russia, President Vladimir Putin wields a strong stick against the mostly urban protesters. But at least the signal has been sent that democracy’s decline is not inevitable. Once a foundation for freedom has been laid around the world, it is hard to break. Protesters will find a way to stand on it.  

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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.

The path to meaningful employment

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After moving to another country and struggling to find work, one woman experienced how turning to God for guidance brings inspiration that lights the way forward.

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The path to meaningful employment

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Have you ever been between jobs and felt frantic about it? I have! I remember asking myself, “What if I can’t find meaningful employment?” I felt insignificant and unfulfilled. And furthermore, how would I pay my bills?

Sometimes it’s hard to see a way forward, but I’ve found help and hope in what I’ve learned in Christian Science of the nature of God, including the fact that God is all-knowing and all-wise. This higher power, perceiving infinitely more than we can from our human viewpoint, is a loving, caring presence we can depend on even in the most uncertain of situations.

The Bible, which has been my navigator and guide through life’s greatest challenges, teaches us: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6). Our greatest wisdom is in turning to God for guidance.

Eighteen years into my career as an early childhood educator, I found myself without a job. My husband and I had moved to Hong Kong, where we had been warned that despite my experience as the director of a school of 200 children, job opportunities for me would be slim. Indeed, that appeared to be the case, and at first I could only find occasional work at a minimal wage.

Instead of being frustrated or fearful, I turned for guidance to the one source of all wisdom – God, the divine Mind. I had learned from experience that putting God first always puts us on the right path.

I reasoned that my purpose in life was to glorify God by expressing the divine nature, which includes qualities such as intelligence and joy. In fact, God’s goodness is expressed in all of us as His spiritual sons and daughters, without measure. God provides each of us with ample opportunities to express all His qualities – not just a small portion of them. This in turn benefits others, thus fulfilling the two great commandments Christ Jesus pointed out: to love God and to love our neighbor.

This made perfect sense to me and was a great comfort. I knew I could trust in God’s power and presence, even though I was in a new country and had no idea where to turn for help.

As I prayed, the thought came to look for work in the local newspaper. This was counterintuitive to me. I hadn’t intended to do this, as most of the opportunities were not open to foreigners. Nonetheless, I followed through on this inspiration. Immediately, a little two-line ad caught my eye: “General manager needed for six preschools, Montessori and traditional.”

I have to admit, I was surprised! That was precisely my expertise. I called the number in the ad and was told to come in immediately for an interview. I met with the manager of these six schools, who said she’d been looking for six months for someone to take her place, and had all but given up on finding someone. And then it had come to her to put one more ad in the newspaper. And that was the ad I’d seen.

As soon as we started talking, we both knew we had found what we were looking for, and we were equally grateful. In a matter of days I began the job, which was challenging and fulfilling and opened many doors for me in that country.

Interestingly enough, though, being in that position didn’t match the satisfaction and joy I felt in experiencing that we truly can rely on God for guidance, even in life-changing situations.

God, divine Mind, always has so much more good in store for us than we could ever imagine or outline for ourselves. As a verse in the Bible says, “Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

Adapted from a testimony published in the September 2018 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

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Viewfinder

Starlight

Amir Cohen/Reuters
Stars streak across the sky in a long exposure image taken near the town of Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel, Aug.13, 2019.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( August 14th, 2019 )

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: The British are desperate for a Brexit deal, but we’re working on a story about whether they are willing to pay a price to make it happen.

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