2019
August
14
Wednesday

In today’s edition, our five handpicked stories explore the downside to a “safety first” culture, a dispatch from inside Kashmir’s lockdown, a potential trade deal between Britain and the U.S., a debate over what it means to be wild, and 10 great reads.

Moscow has been seeing its largest protests in years as thousands have come out weekly against the decision to bar opposition candidates from running in city council elections. While the stakes may initially have been about some minor municipal seats, the Kremlin may now be viewing the ongoing standoff as an existential threat.

The protests began in mid-July, when officials blocked several high-profile opposition candidates from running in the Moscow elections, even after they fulfilled the races’ onerous logistical requirements. Though the marches started small, they grew tenfold as police cracked down on protesters, sometimes violently. This past Saturday, some 50,000 people turned out in Moscow, according to organizers’ estimates.

The increasing numbers may be painting the Kremlin into a corner, experts warn. Mark Galeotti, a longtime Russia watcher, notes in The Moscow Times that Vladimir Putin and his allies remember the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union, and see giving ground to the protesters as repeating what they view as the mistakes of Mikhail Gorbachev.

“It was foolish and shortsighted to have kicked the opposition candidates off the electoral lists,” Mr. Galeotti writes. “Having done so, though, the government has locked itself into a position from which it cannot afford to retreat, or at least to be seen to retreat. This has become a struggle for power.”

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1. How ‘safety first’ ethos is destabilizing US society

What does it mean to feel safe? As perceptions about safety change, so do discussions around how to reconcile random threats and everyday life without becoming overwhelmed. 

Arthur
Eric Risberg/AP
People sign an “Educate Do Not Eradicate” poster while standing near the controversial “Life of Washington” mural at George Washington High School in San Francisco on Aug. 1. After protests, the decision was made that the 83-year-old fresco will be hidden, rather than painted over.

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Even before the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, surveys showed that Americans are more fearful about more things in general. Safety may seem more elusive than ever because the very concept of what it means has expanded. It was once defined as a state of physical protection. Now it’s interpreted to mean emotional security, too.

While both of those are central to well-being, the way people think about them, some observers say, may be feeding the perception that their environment is unsafe. That leads to less contact with unfamiliar people, and makes even unthreatening acts seem harmful or ill-intended. Instead, they say, people can establish better control over how they choose to perceive their environment. Even without complete control, their fear can be countered through a wider perspective about the preponderance of good in humanity.

Diane Urban, who teaches at Manhattan College, suggests that we begin to change our internal narrative about strangers by becoming more conscious of everyday interactions. Watching the news makes people believe the world is a dangerous place, she says. “[W]e’re completely cutting ourselves off from the bigger picture, which is actually a picture of compassion and empathy and kindness.”

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How ‘safety first’ ethos is destabilizing US society

Last year, Greg Lukianoff co-wrote a bestselling book which posited that a culture of “safetyism” is burgeoning in America. By chronicling the rise of safe spaces, trigger warnings, and helicopter parenting, “The Coddling of the American Mind” cautions against “an obsession with eliminating threats (both real and imagined).”

But last week Mr. Lukianoff took to Twitter to express what so many people felt after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

“Yes, I know the statistics – you are unlikely to die in a mass shooting,” tweeted Mr. Lukianoff, who noted that the daughter of a family friend was among the victims in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. “But it’s not irrational for people to have out-sized fears of violence when it’s seen as random & where there’s little to nothing you can do to make sure it doesn’t touch you or your family.”

As a parent himself, Mr. Lukianoff understands the natural impulse to protect one’s children. “The jump from having zero thoughts that your kids would be targeted while they are at their schools to realizing it can happen is a big shift,” he says in an email.

Even before the recent shootings, surveys have found that Americans are more fearful about more things in general. That’s despite the fact that murder rates, kidnappings, rape, and violent crime have fallen dramatically since the 1990s.

Safety may seem more elusive than ever because the very concept of what it means has expanded. It was once defined as a state of physical protection. Now it’s interpreted to mean emotional security, too.

While both of those are central to well-being, the way people think about them, some observers say, may be feeding the perception that their environment is unsafe. That leads to less contact with unfamiliar people, and makes even unthreatening acts seem harmful or ill-intended. Instead, they say, people can establish better control over how they choose to perceive their environment. Even without complete control, their fear can be countered through a wider perspective about the preponderance of good in humanity.

“The mental safe space is a metaphor for our ability to cope with the harms that life throws at us,” says Nicholas Haslam, a professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne, via email. “But of course some people are more resilient than others and some face more harm than others, so many of us will need more external protections. My worry is that concept creep may lead some people to exaggerate the harms they face.”

Expanding concepts of harm

Mr. Haslam has catalogued how concepts of harm have expanded since 1980. Definitions of abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, addiction, and prejudice have become much more expansive. The idea of trauma, for example, was once reserved to describe experiences such as sexual assault, torture, or combat in a war zone. Now, he says, it’s used to describe experiences such as going through a divorce, bereavement, or losing one’s business. 

Society in general considers real threats, be they dangerous movements or criminal activity, as needing to be addressed. And there’s common agreement that the virtues of civility and respect should be upheld. But expanded concepts of harm create an impression of a prevalence of “bad stuff” in our lives, say the authors of “The Coddling of the American Mind.” That may tempt people to make safety a sacred value. The problem with such safetyism, say authors Jonathan Haidt and Mr. Lukianoff, is it engenders a state in which one never feels safe enough. That’s especially true in a balkanized era of “us versus them” tribalism. The idea of safety at all costs can lead to situations in which people are unwilling to consider social trade-offs to accommodate others.

Of late, there have been numerous examples of that. In June, a barista asked six white policemen to leave a Starbucks in Tempe, Arizona, because a white patron said they made him feel unsafe. In July, also in Arizona, a white man killed a black teen because his rap music made him feel “unsafe.” In Toronto, plans to invite uniformed policemen to march in a gay pride event were scrapped because some participants were uneasy about law enforcement’s historic role in cracking down on homosexuality.

Mr. Lukianoff, the president and CEO of free-speech advocacy group the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), says that this culture of safetyism is spreading outward into the world after taking root on college campuses. He says the quest for emotional safety – defined as a state in which one is emotionally unperturbed – is the reason why so many campuses have embraced trigger warnings, safe spaces, and calls to ban controversial guest speakers. It reflects the popular notion that uncomfortable words and ideas are inherently dangerous. 

That idea is increasingly influencing school policy, too. A school board in San Francisco recently decided to hide but not paint over a New Deal-era mural inside a high school because it depicted slavery and genocide of Native Americans. That stated rationale was to ensure “kids are mentally and emotionally feeling safe at their schools.”  

Jaime Kedrowski/Missourian/AP
Protesters and supporters of Concerned Student 1950 camp on the University of Missouri campus, in Columbia, in November 2015. During a period of protests about race relations at the school, the group utilizes the area as a "safe space" to gather away from the media.

“All of the defenses for whitewashing the mural come right out of this idiom – that kids, especially kids of color, are going to be harmed or can be traumatized,” says Jonathan Zimmerman, coauthor of the book “The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools.” “Even though we don’t have evidence for this yet, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. ... If you tell them that they’re going to over and over again, then maybe they’ll start to do so.”

Spaces for respect and empathy

Not everyone agrees with that outlook. Some caution that a certain degree of protection is valid, particularly for minorities and LGBTQ individuals. Lily Zheng, a queer transgender Chinese-American woman, says that the entire world is a safe space for heterosexual white men who identify as their birth gender. As such, they have little concept of the judgment and slights – even if unintended – that marginalized people face on a daily basis. Ms. Zheng, who is a diversity and inclusion consultant for workplaces, says there’s a valid place for safe spaces on campuses and elsewhere. They’re a “home away from home” where one can can seek temporary refuge from it all. And a safe space needn’t just be a physical zone of seclusion as much as a common space in which there are ground rules for respect and empathy. Yet there is one area in which Ms. Zheng shares some common agreement with Mr. Haidt and Mr. Lukianoff: If people in control of safe spaces value the identity of trauma over the process of healing, it can lead to a sense of victimhood.

“I have seen situations where, usually if communities are feeling really powerless, they are going to adopt an identity of powerlessness and then fixate on it,” says Ms. Zheng, who adds that this happens only rarely. “It doesn’t really let people heal because their identity itself is antithetical to the process of healing.”

In contrast to Ms. Zheng, Mr. Lukianoff says that deeply held concepts of trauma are a bigger societal problem. He originally wanted to title the duo’s book “Disempowered” because he says the concept that we can be harmed by words or ideas has undermined people’s sense of agency. He says that has contributed to skyrocketing rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide, especially among teenagers who are particularly sensitive about their perceived status on social media or what their peers say. A key concept in “The Coddling of the American Mind” is that kids are not fragile and need to be exposed to challenges in order to develop immunity to stress. But helicopter parenting has taken off because parents imagine that their children are inherently fragile and prone to danger.

“We’re constantly watching them,” agrees psychologist Diane Urban, who teaches at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York. “We become the only method they have to know if they’re safe. So it used to be if they fell down, you know if they’re really hurt they’ll cry. If they’re not sure if they’re hurt, they’ll look at you. And if you get upset, they’ll get upset.”

The downside of this well-intentioned approach to parenting, says Professor Urban, is that children don’t learn for themselves how to evaluate risk or how to weigh the consequences of their decisions. And, too often, children are taught to be wary of those they don’t know.

“I saw a little boy who was lost in a museum and he was so afraid to even approach one of the security guards, because he’s afraid of everyone,” she says. “We’ve just adopted this general idea, not only of stranger danger, but that people who are supposed to be our protectors will still be dangerous. And that in fact puts our children in greater danger because the likelihood of a police officer or a teacher or a clergy being a terrible person is actually very small.”

The psychologist says that when children are inculcated with fear of strangers, it makes it more difficult for them, in adulthood, to form trusting relationships. And they are less able to cope with social discomfort around others.  

“We’re going to be OK”

Naomi Adiv, an assistant professor of geography and planning at the University of Toronto, has developed exercises intended to place her students into foreign environments where “some discomfort has to be on the agenda.” As someone who studies power dynamics in public places, she makes her students go to public events in communities of which they are not a part. In a separate exercise, Professor Adiv also encourages her students to experience different parts of the city. For some students that has meant riding a public bus for the first time, and the awareness that comes with that.

“For a time I was really disheartened because I spent six years getting a Ph.D. and I’m teaching you to ride the bus,” laughs Professor Adiv. “We have to think about power and what the discomfort means. If I go someplace and I’m uncomfortable because somebody is acting weird on a bus, in the end, that person is having a much worse day than I am. And I may have to put up with it and I may — particularly when I’m with my kids — feel very protective, but in the end we’re going to be OK.” 

Professor Urban suggests that we begin to change our internal narrative about strangers by becoming more conscious of everyday interactions. When a stranger mentions that you’ve dropped something on the ground or simply offers a smile of acknowledgement as they pass by, become more cognizant of those small acts of kindness. They are the norm, she says, while harmful acts are deviance from the norm. 

Addressing top-of-mind fears

Yet monstrous acts, such as the recent mass shootings or even crime reports on the Metro pages of a local newspaper, can suggest that we live in an inherently dangerous world. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, author of the 2011 book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” argues that data reveals that violence across the world is actually at historic lows. Modern acts of violence receive media attention precisely because they’re less commonplace. Indeed, the annual Survey of American Fears conducted by Chapman University in Orange, California, reveals a correlation between what people are afraid of at any one time and what’s most top of mind. 

“Some items tend to climb up the list depending on media coverage,” says David Shafie, associate professor of political science at Chapman. “A perfect example of this is fear of street crime, violent crime. Those things overall have been trending downward. Yet the fear remains high and we attribute that to mass media.”

But many believe that such fears can be countered by a healthy outlook of wider perspective. 

“We’re watching the news, which just bombards us with the same images over and over,” says Professor Urban. “It becomes our belief that the world is a very dangerous place and there’s anger and hatred everywhere. And by doing that we’re becoming more insulated and insular and afraid to deal with the people next door as people outside of our very intimate circle, which then causes more fear and more hatred because we’re completely cutting ourselves off from the bigger picture, which is actually a picture of compassion and empathy and kindness.”

Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to clarify the nature of the assignments given by Professor Adiv to her students.

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2. Inside Kashmir’s lockdown: Barbed wire and a sense of loss

India’s revoking of Kashmir’s special status may reverberate in world capitals. But in Kashmir itself, people’s sense that the world has shifted beneath their feet goes much deeper than politics.

Arthur
Dar Yasin/AP
Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard during a security lockdown in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Aug. 14, 2019. India is trying to stave off a violent reaction to Kashmir's downgraded status.

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Rumors have been afloat in Kashmir this week, amid a communications blackout. Rumors, loss, and anger.

Since Aug. 5, Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir has been under strict restrictions. Thousands of troops have flooded the often-volatile area, which is part of the larger Kashmir region claimed by both India and Pakistan. Streets are dotted with barbed-wire barricades, and few people – an especially striking emptiness during Eid.

The reason for the lockdown? The Indian government’s decision last week to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, enshrined in the constitution, which granted some autonomy to the country’s only Muslim-majority state. One day later, parliament voted to revoke its statehood, turning Jammu and Kashmir into two federal territories. Critics have called the moves undemocratic, while supporters argue they will help quell the region’s violent insurgency, and boost economic development.

Many Kashmiris feel betrayed, and some argue that politicians are trying to change the culture and demographics of their home.

“They removed our guts,” says one policeman, on duty outside a locked-up mosque. “Now what is left of us?”

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Inside Kashmir’s lockdown: Barbed wire and a sense of loss

For the past week, since India’s government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the streets of this long-disputed region have been mostly deserted, dotted with troops and barbed-wire barricades. The people are inside – worried about family, amid a communications blackout; wondering about their children’s futures; waiting out a lockdown. 

But still, one thing is palpable: a sense of lost identity.

On Monday, Aug. 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced it was revoking Article 370 of India’s Constitution, which granted Kashmir – the nation’s only Muslim-majority state – special status and limited autonomy. By the end of Tuesday, it was no longer a state: parliament passed a bill to strip Kashmir’s statehood, splitting the region into two federal territories.

Thousands of troops have flooded often-volatile Kashmir, which is also claimed by Pakistan, and imposed a curfew. Over the weekend, some restrictions were lifted as residents prepared for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, honoring Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God. But during Eid itself, the curfew was back.

Critics of Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government have criticized last week’s moves as undemocratic and perhaps unconstitutional – and a further challenge to resolving Kashmir’s status with Islamabad. But many Kashmiris also fear that more fundamental changes to their community lie ahead. In revoking Article 370, the government did away with a prohibition on non-Kashmiris buying property, permanently settling, and applying for government jobs in the famously beautiful region.

“They slit our throat and it is the time to respond with unity,” Abdul Hamid says passionately, waiting for a temporary phone booth set up by the government amid the blockade.

“Our children are unaware right now but they will realize it in future,” he continues. “They will be forced to become Hindus. The repercussions of this decision will pan out in the future.”

Dar Yasin/AP
Kashmiri Muslims participate in Eid prayers outside a mosque during a security lockdown in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Aug. 12, 2019. Troops in Kashmir allowed some Muslims to walk to local mosques alone or in pairs to pray for the festival during an unprecedented security lockdown.

Kashmir has been in and out of conflict since the partition of British India in 1947, when India and Pakistan achieved independence. The two nuclear-armed countries have fought two formal wars over the wider Kashmir region, which both nations claim in full but which each only partially controls. A violent armed rebellion demanding independence or Pakistani control has roiled Indian-administered Kashmir for 30 years; the military has repeatedly been accused of human rights violations in its response. 

Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, known as the BJP, has argued that Indian-administered Kashmir’s special status has contributed to the unrest and blocked economic development. The party promised voters it would normalize Kashmir’s status ahead of general elections in 2014, when Mr. Modi first became prime minister, and again in 2019, when the BJP won again – a few months after a suicide attack in Kashmir killed at least 40 security forces.

Outside Kashmir, many Indian citizens have celebrated the decision to strip the state’s autonomy, hailing the BJP for delivering on its promise.

But in Kashmir, people see it as the loss of their identity – as Kashmiris, as Muslims, and as citizens of India, in the terms they understood it. 

The ultimate aim of the government’s decision is to change the demographics of Kashmir, argues historian and political analyst Siddiq Wahid. “It is not accidental that they have left [Hindu-majority] Jammu and [Muslim-majority] Kashmir together because they can demographically flood Jammu and then let that seep into Kashmir,” he says.

Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
Kashmiri men shout slogans during a protest after the scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the Indian government, in Srinagar, Aug. 11, 2019.

Others argue it will be a long time, if ever, until many Hindu Indians move to the region, given its depressed economy and violence. With the announcement of the decision last Monday, many nonnative workers left the Valley in the nearest vehicle they could find and afford. “We have no work here,” said Ram Prasad, who hails from a village in Uttar Pradesh, 600 miles away. “We come here to work but the government has taken a decision that impacted our livelihood. We should have been taken care of first.”

Last Friday, ahead of the festival, the grand mosque in Srinagar, the region’s capital city, was locked up. “They removed our guts,” says a policeman on duty. “Now what is left of us?” Elsewhere, with the curfew eased to permit Friday prayers, people took to protests, with some pellet gun injuries reported. Police said no bullet was fired. Dozens of incidents of protesters throwing stones at security forces have been reported.

On Eid, many families sacrifice an animal, recalling the ram that God substituted for Isaac. At Srinagar’s main market for the livestock, customers and sellers looked gloomy, but went ahead with trade. “The price is much less this year – it is only half,” says seller Mohammed Shafi. “The reason is people who would sacrifice four animals are deciding they will do one. There is no certainty how the situation will be on Eid.” Last year, he says, he sold 300, but suspects the number will be lower this year. Traditionally, Muslims give one-third of the sacrifice to the needy, and one-third to relatives. But during the curfew, many doubt they can make those visits.

With little information available, rumors have been afloat. Indian state radio has reported more than 500 arrests. Several people who once supported pro-Indian parties say they won’t come out into the streets for them again; with leaders detained, even staunch supporters are feeling betrayed. What will the next generation see, people ask – the same bloodshed?

A 20-year-old student, who recently began college in Srinagar, says that now he is determined not to leave Kashmir for something better. The government’s decision has “finished mainstream politics but don’t realize yet what does it mean,” he said. “With time, they will understand when there will be no jobs or development in reality. People think it’s a loss for the [regional parties] National Conference and People’s Democratic Party, but it is for people – everyone has lost.”

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3. Chlorinated chickens! Why swapping trade allies is tough for Britain.

A key motivation for Brexit has been independence – specifically to unshackle Britain from Europe's regulatory regime. But the endgame could involve hitching Britons to rules and standards set in the U.S.

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Forging a trade deal with the United States now looks like a top British priority – with trade officials from both sides meeting last week in Washington. Prime Minister Boris Johnson could frame it as a win that offsets the economic hit from a United Kingdom exit from the European Union. 

But the economic reality will be less forgiving. Nearly half of all U.K. exports go to the EU, compared with 13% to the U.S.

Any free-trade deal with the U.S., moreover, involves a strategic decision that cuts to the heart of Brexit as an economic and geopolitical project. Should the U.K. sign onto U.S.-based rules and standards that govern sectors like agriculture, digital data, and pharmaceuticals – and stop adhering to Europewide regulations after four decades of ever closer alignment? What happens to British companies that compete in Europe’s single market?     

Economist L. Alan Winter, at Britain’s University of Sussex, says, “Even if we signed an agreement with the USA that approached the single market in terms of regulations ... it’s likely not to replace the lost trade.”

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Chlorinated chickens! Why swapping trade allies is tough for Britain.

With two-and-a-half months to go before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, with or without an exit deal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week dispatched his top diplomat and trade minister on their first overseas visits – to Washington. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss met their counterparts in the Trump administration, which has renewed bilateral talks about a free-trade agreement between the world’s first and fifth largest economies. President Donald Trump has said he’s ready to sign a deal and claimed that two-way trade of $262 billion could triple in future. 

Such enthusiasm isn’t new: Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, also courted U.S. trade negotiators. What has changed is the political calculus in London after Ms. May failed to win Parliament’s backing for an EU withdrawal pact and was forced to delay Brexit until Oct. 31. Mr. Johnson, who took power last month, has all but given up on an exit deal and ramped up plans to crash out of the bloc and to fast-track trade deals with the U.S. and other non-EU partners.  

Any free-trade deal with the U.S., however, involves a strategic decision that cuts to the heart of Brexit as an economic and geopolitical project. Should the U.K. sign onto U.S.-based rules and standards that govern sectors like agriculture, digital data, and pharmaceuticals – and stop adhering to Europewide regulations after four decades of ever closer alignment? And if it does, what happens to British companies that compete in Europe’s single market? 

Rui Vieira/AP
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, shown during a July 2019 speech in Manchester, England, is seeking a U.K.-U.S. trade deal, amid warnings of economic disruption from leaving the European Union without an agreement on post-Brexit European trade.

“The EU regulatory system and the U.S. regulatory system are not compatible,” says William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “This [U.S.] administration tends to be pushy about these things, and what they’re going to do is to ask the U.K. to choose between the EU and the U.S.” 

And while the Trump administration may also covet a trade win to showcase amid a deepening standoff with China, analysts in both countries say British negotiators will be under far greater pressure to conclude a pact if a no-deal Brexit gums up commerce with Europe. 

“It’s far more economically important for the U.K. and it’s massively more important politically,” says L. Alan Winter, a professor of economics at the University of Sussex and director of the U.K. Trade Policy Observatory. 

Commerce and “chlorinated chickens”

One point of departure between the two sides is agriculture. Across much of Europe, U.S. factory farm products are viewed with disdain and alarm, a view that U.S. producers say is protectionism in the guise of sanitation. Strict EU rules on the use of antibiotics, hormones, and other inputs, as well as genetically modified organisms, keep out most U.S. meat and dairy exports.

This clash between U.S. rules on food safety and Europe’s cautious approach helped sink trade talks between Washington and Brussels under both Presidents Barack Obama and Trump. 

Now U.S. agriculture exporters want to see the U.K. recognize U.S. food safety standards as part of any free-trade pact. “Our expectation is that the U.K. is not going to ask for a special dispensation that other countries didn’t get” in their trade agreements, says Nick Giordano, vice president for global government affairs at the National Pork Producers Council. 

So far, the British public has been fixated not on U.S. pork but on its chicken, which is dunked in a chlorine bath to kill any microbes before public consumption, a practice banned in the EU, which requires inspections of all poultry carcasses after slaughter. U.K. newspapers have seized on fears of “chlorinated chicken,” infuriating the U.S. ambassador, Woody Johnson, who said “inflammatory and misleading terms” were part of a smear campaign against U.S. farmers. 

Peter Nicholls/Reuters
British Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss, shown in London in August 2019, visited Washington last week for talks with U.S. counterparts.

Mr. Giordano dismissed European concerns about U.S. farm hygiene as protectionism by a “nanny state” that denied choice to its citizens. Echoing the rhetoric of pro-Brexit politicians, he described Britain’s departure from the EU as a liberation from overregulation and an opportunity to rewrite the rules of the road – in line with U.S. rules. 

“This isn’t just a pork industry issue. It’s an American food issue. Anyone who thinks that the U.S. is going to roll over on this is being naive,” he says. 

Compromise ahead, or a series of small deals?

Such hardball talk is familiar in trade negotiations. Daniel Griswold, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia, argues that the U.S. may need to soften its demands of U.K. regulators if it wants to get a deal. “There’s going to have to be room for compromise on standards, particularly in agriculture,” he says. 

Mr. Griswold, a staunch advocate for globalization, is more optimistic than other trade experts on the prospects of an agreement in 2020. It would still need congressional approval, and lawmakers have yet to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the successor treaty to NAFTA signed in 2018. A specific hurdle for the U.K. is the question of intra-Ireland trade and implications for a peace treaty that has strong supporters in Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

One alternative path was floated Monday by John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, who met Prime Minister Johnson in London. He said the U.S. could agree to sector by sector minideals on industrial goods and tackle agriculture later, adding that the Trump administration supported Mr. Johnson if he chose a no-deal Brexit. 

Brexit’s economic toll

A draft free-trade agreement could be ready by March if the U.K. has no “big asks,” says David Henig, a former U.K. government trade official. For Mr. Johnson, what matters is the symbolism of a U.S. trade deal and framing it as a win that offsets the economic hit from a no-deal Brexit. 

But the economic reality will be less forgiving. Nearly half of all U.K. exports go to the EU, compared to 13% to the U.S., and studies show only modest gains from free-trade deals between rich open economies like the U.S. and U.K. The U.K. Treasury forecast last year that a free-trade deal with the U.S., alongside an orderly Brexit, would boost gross domestic product by 0.2% over 15 years

That bump compares with a projected 6.7% hit to GDP over the same period in reduced trade with the EU if the U.K. signs a similar free-trade deal with Europe, something that the EU says can only be negotiated after a withdrawal agreement is ratified. Should the U.K. revert to World Trade Organization rules, effectively losing all preferential treatment in EU markets, the loss could be as high as 9.3%, according to the Treasury. 

“The agreement we have with Europe is far deeper than one could envisage with any other power, and Europe of course is a lot closer. Even if we signed an agreement with the USA that approached the single market in terms of regulations ... It’s likely not to replace the lost trade,” says Mr. Winter. 

Then there’s the clash of regulatory regimes in the U.S and EU. A comprehensive U.K-U.S. trade pact would affect U.K. companies doing business in Europe’s single market, both on food safety grounds as well as legal protection of geographical products like Parma ham.  

“It’s likely to mean added difficulty getting any goods into the EU. As soon as we’re accepting U.S. food and products that meet U.S. standards but don’t meet EU standards, that’s where the need for greater checks on U.K. products come in,” says Mr. Henig, a director at the European Center for International Political Economy, a think tank in Brussels. 

Should Mr. Johnson backtrack on a no-deal Brexit and agree on a withdrawal agreement with Brussels, the dash to a U.S. trade deal would likely fizzle. The U.K. could then remain in the EU trading bloc for some years as it negotiated a comprehensive trade accord. 

That may be just fine with British companies, says Mr. Henig. “The U.S. and U.K. already have a fabulous economic relationship. The things that get in the way of our trade from the U.K. side are not things that would be fixed in a trade deal.”

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A letter from

North Liberty, Iowa

4. A tabby by any other name: In Hawaii, a debate over what’s wild

What does it mean to be wild? In Hawaii, blurred boundaries between pets and wildlife have been a source of tension, even as residents find common ground in preserving the islands’ unique ecosystem. 

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Hawaii is an animal lover’s paradise: Visitors can watch sea turtles and monk seals bask on sandy beaches, glimpse dozens of species of finches flit through gardens, and even see free-roaming cats claim empty parking lots. Part of the islands’ allure is the chance to see exotic marine life up close, in their natural habitat. Biodiversity has become a kind of currency and industries have sprung up around snorkeling with sea turtles and swimming with dolphins. And residents now live alongside a menagerie of farm animals gone wild.

This blurring of boundaries between pets and wildlife has fueled debate, even among animal lovers. The cats are a particular point of contention. Many residents adore them, and have adopted entire colonies. But the cats pose problems for other wildlife, including several endangered species of birds. Both sides bring an intense compassion for animals to this debate. 

“The tricky thing about Hawaii is that it is such a unique ecosystem,” says Joshua Atwood, with the Department of Land and Natural Resources. “Species that evolved here evolved without land predators. So a ground nesting bird has almost no defenses against a cat.”

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A tabby by any other name: In Hawaii, a debate over what’s wild

It’s just after 7 p.m. and the mists hovering over Kuliʻouʻou Ridge have taken on an eerie bluish gray in the twilight. The Hawaii Kai Park and Ride is empty, of cars anyway. Commuters have picked up their cars and the family selling lychees and pickled mangoes from the back of their hatchback has gone home. But the lot’s evening residents have begun to arrive.

Scattered throughout the parking lot, one ... two ... three dozen cats lope and lounge across parking spaces, curbs, and strips of grass. A pair of black and white tuxedo cats keep careful watch from atop a stone wall, while tabbies, bobtails, and grey Chartreux claim swaths of pavement.

These are the cats of Hawaii Kai, a residential area in Honolulu. No one knows exactly how many unclaimed cats roam the island of Oahu. Everyone seems to agree that the most commonly used figure of 300,000 is likely an underestimate. What’s harder to agree on is how to refer to these cats. Whether they are wild, free roaming, or feral is a matter of perspective.

Noelle Swan/The Christian Science Monitor
Wild cats gather at the Hawaii Kai Park & Ride in Honolulu, July 3, 2019. Dozens of cats visit this parking lot each night. Some have been abandoned, others were born in the wild.

“We don’t use feral,” says Stephanie Kendrick, public policy advocate for the Hawaiian Humane Society in Honolulu. “A subset of these animals were born outside of homes and they are generally not handleable. But a lot of them, the vast majority of them, are abandoned pets.”

The typical categories of pets and wildlife don’t seem to hold much sway here. Part of the islands’ allure is the chance to see exotic marine life up close, in their natural habitat. Biodiversity has become a kind of currency and industries have sprung up around snorkeling with sea turtles and swimming with dolphins. At the same time, residents have grown accustomed to living alongside a menagerie of farm animals gone wild.

“Two different conversations”

This blurring of boundaries among people, pets, and wildlife has been a source of tension, even among animal lovers. 

The cats are a particular point of contention. Many residents adore them, and have even adopted entire colonies. (The colony in Hawaii Kai has been managed by volunteers for many years.) But the cats pose problems for other wildlife, including several endangered species of birds.

“The tricky thing about Hawaii is that it is such a unique ecosystem,” says Joshua Atwood, invasive species coordinator for the Department of Land and Natural Resources. “Species that evolved here evolved without land predators. So a ground nesting bird has almost no defenses against a cat.” 

Marine scientists worry that the cats are carriers for toxoplasma, a parasite that is deadly to endangered Hawaiian monk seals. 

Some scientists and residents have advocated for an official culling of the stray cat population. The Hawaiian Humane Society maintains that neutering and spaying programs are the only appropriate means of population control. 

“These are domestic animals,” says Ms. Kendrick of the Humane Society. “They would not be in the community if we didn’t put them there.”

Both sides bring an intense compassion for animals to this debate. But they are talking on two different wavelengths.

”The problem is that everyone is right to a degree,” says Charles Littnan, director of the protected species division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “But we’re having two different conversations.”

Henry Lydecker/USFWS
Found only in the waters and shores of Hawaii, Hawaiian monk seals, shown here in a 2012 photo, spend two-thirds of their time at sea, coming to land only to mate and give birth. Citizen volunteers routinely patrol beaches to protect monk seals from tourists who get too close.

Wildlife within reach

When it comes to marine life, many residents and advocates worry that tourists are loving these creatures to death. 

Tourists flock to areas where they can get so close to wildlife that they can literally reach out and touch them. At Hanauma Bay, an iconic reef that draws some 3,000 snorkelers per day, staff implore visitors not to pet the sea turtles or step on the fragile corals. But for many tourists the urge to do so is strong.

Exploiting that desire, some tour companies bring gaggles of tourists to swim with dolphins while they sleep. On Oahu’s North Shore, motorists routinely stop traffic to glimpse sea turtles basking or nesting on Laniakea Beach.

Some citizens have taken it upon themselves to protect these creatures from onlookers. On Oahu, a team of 96 volunteers takes turns staking out the beach to keep tourists from getting too close.

A similar band of citizen scientists patrols the beaches for monk seals, which often haul themselves up onto the sand to bask in the sun. These volunteers perform a “vital function,” says Dr. Littnan, who previously led NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. 

“They become experts, first responders, and the primary outreach workers ensuring the safety of these animals,” he says.

The cats too have angels looking out for them. Some residents leave food out for a neighborhood stray or two. Others have organized into groups that manage colonies, supplying food and coordinating trap, neuter, and release events. 

“They’re living beings, too”

At the Hawaii Kai Park and Ride, it soon becomes clear what has drawn the animals to this particular spot as a pair of headlights sweeps across the lot and a couple and their 5-year-old son pile out of the car.

The little boy runs toward the cats shouting “Here, kitty!” as his father heaves a 30-pound bag of dry cat food out of the trunk of the family CR-V. He tips the bag and drags it across the parking lot, leaving a length of kibble a couple dozen feet long.

The family isn’t part of the group that manages this particular colony. But they make a point to pick up food for the cats every time they go to the Costco across the street.

As for why they do it, “I just feel so bad for the cats,” the man says. “They’re living beings, too.”

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Books

5. Celebrate summer with the 10 best books of August

Books may seem like luxuries when every day is a struggle for survival. But the story of a hidden library that sustained a town under siege will warm readers’ hearts and feed their minds. In addition to “The Secret Library,” Monitor critics chose two new mysteries, a novel by Richard Russo, and a look at the Cold War as waged in the pages of literature.

Arthur
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Celebrate summer with the 10 best books of August

The lazy days of August offer an excuse – if one was needed – to chill out with a good book. Here, you’ll find titles that provide a welcome diversion, as well as others that introduce you to fascinating people and places you would not have otherwise stumbled across. Aren’t books great? 

1. A Better Man by Louise Penny

Chief Inspector Gamache has been given an offer his superiors were sure he would refuse in “A Better Man,” Louise Penny’s latest entry in her stellar “Three Pines” series. Demoted after a high-stakes raid, he’s awkwardly sharing the title of head of homicide with his longtime right-hand man. Meanwhile, a young woman has gone missing, her dad is frantic, and the water and danger are both rising.

2. Chances Are ... by Richard Russo

During a weekend on Martha’s Vineyard, three men in their 60s meet to renew their college friendship and puzzle over the mysterious disappearance, 40 years earlier, of a young woman with whom they were all in love. Richard Russo’s storytelling, word pictures, and understanding of character and community are rich in psychological detail. 

3. A Double Life by Karolina Pavlova

A 19th-century Russian novelist and poet, Karolina Pavlova was deemed a revolutionary not because she explored political topics but for daring to pursue a writing career. Once banished from the literary canon, this new release of her only novel includes both her prose and poetry that offer astute observations of Russian society.

4. Careful What You Wish For by Hallie Ephron

When a professional organizer comes across what seems to be stolen property and then discovers a dead body, the mess is more than she bargained for. It definitely does not spark joy. In this thoroughly enjoyable twist on the classic murder mystery, her organizing skills help solve the puzzle.

5. Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

A stellar young firefighter is at her best in emergency situations, but at times she needs rescuing herself. With a bountiful cast of quirky characters and a charming rookie she’s falling for fast, help is on the way. The novel is not only delightfully romantic, but also courageous and inspiring.

6. The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

Courtesy of Grove Atlantic
“The Yellow House” by Sarah M. Broom, Grove Atlantic, 304 pp.

In this heartwarming yet clearsighted memoir, Sarah Broom writes about growing up in New Orleans. She explores what binds us to a house and to a neighborhood and how these help shape our identity. And while she criticizes the city that she loves for its injustices and for failing to live up to its promise, she treasures it as her home.

7. A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves by Jason DeParle

Reporter Jason DeParle first met Tita Comodas in the slums of Manila three decades ago. His book is not just an affecting rendering of her family’s experiences but an intelligent, compassionate analysis of the economic, political, and cultural ramifications of global migration.

8. Cold Warriors by Duncan White

In this totally involving book, Duncan White dramatizes the Cold War as waged in literature. He chronicles how writers from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Richard Wright to Joan Didion and Mikhail Sholokhov prosecuted a war of ideologies.

9. A State at Any Cost by Tom Segev

Tom Segev’s reassessment of the life of David Ben-Gurion, the controversial founder of the modern state of Israel, now appears in an English-language translation. No matter where the reader stands, the book, the culmination of years of research, makes for engrossing reading.

10. Syria’s Secret Library by Mike Thomson

Courtesy of Hachette Book Group
“Syria's Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Town Under Siege” by Mike Thomson, Public Affairs, 320 pp.

Books may seem like luxuries when every day is a struggle for survival. But the residents of the war-torn Syrian town of Daraya treasure literature and knowledge. The story of their hidden library will warm the heart and feed the mind – just like the library itself.

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The Monitor's View

For Democratic contenders, sharp elbows or big hugs?

Two ways to read the story

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At least two Democratic presidential candidates speak of bringing grace, civility, and other words of love to politics. Cory Booker calls for “courageous empathy.” Joe Biden praises consensus building. Yet those two find it hard to practice what they preach. Each have thrown ad hominem barbs at the other. They both undercut their most strategic message as a leader: cooperation. Neither candidate has totally abandoned his olive-branch rhetoric, but as they eye the polls, both use it selectively.

In his 2016 book “Toward Democracy,” historian James T. Kloppenberg traces the roots of modern self-government to qualities of love, such as deliberation, reciprocity, and plurality. Citizens in a democracy must resolve conflicts peacefully, accept differences in policy and identity, and expect the same in return. Crucial to these attributes of self-governance is a selfless love summed up in the golden rule.

Messrs. Booker and Biden need not look back in history to find a persuasive case for political love. They’ve both made the case in recent years. It remains to be seen what happens when love seems less convenient. As the going gets tough in the presidential contest, the toughest must keep loving.

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For Democratic contenders, sharp elbows or big hugs?

Listen to a stump speech by Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker and you’ll hear calls for “civic grace” and “courageous empathy.” Read a Joe Biden political sermon and you’ll hear him praise “civility” and consensus building. Yet during their televised debates, both Messrs. Booker and Biden found it hard to practice what they preach. Each threw ad hominem barbs at the other. Instead of professed ideals, they resorted to point-scoring insults.

Chalk it up to human weakness or the cutthroat nature of today’s politics. They both undercut their most strategic message as a leader: cooperation. Neither candidate has totally abandoned such olive-branch rhetoric, but as they eye the polls and the demands of donors, both use it selectively.

Mr. Biden suffered a dip in support after a dig by Kamala Harris in the June debate and tweaked his approach. Mr. Booker still supports the use of “unreasonable, irrational, impractical love” in governance but is polling near the bottom of the pack. He has taken tougher stances on opponents as well.

Despite what Mr. Booker says, love can and should be reasonable, rational, and practical. A quick look at history suggests this is so.

In his 2016 book “Toward Democracy,” historian James T. Kloppenberg traces the roots of modern self-government to a few essential qualities of love, such as deliberation, reciprocity, and plurality based on equality. Citizens in a democracy must resolve conflicts peacefully, accept differences in policy and identity, and expect the same in return. Crucial to these attributes of self-governance is a selfless love summed up in the golden rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated.

America’s founders wove these ideas into the Constitution even though they didn’t always practice them. They hoped with enough mutual respect and a system of checks and balances that elected officials would find common ground. When the threat of a civil war tested the nation, Abraham Lincoln said in his first inaugural address that political strains should not break the “bonds of affection.”

Messrs. Booker and Biden need not look back in history to find a persuasive case for political love. They’ve both made the case in recent years. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Mr. Booker electrified the crowd with a paean to patriotism beyond just “love of country,” but also a love for “your countrymen and your countrywomen.” Mr. Biden announced his campaign with a stirring video, in which he said “America is an idea,” and central to that idea is a guarantee that “everyone is treated with dignity.” Both candidates contend that more is at stake than winning or partisan debate. 

Mr. Booker capped that same speech with an oft-used phrase: “Love trumps hate.” He’s right, but it remains to be seen what happens when love seems less convenient. As the going gets tough in the presidential contest, the toughest must keep loving.

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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.

From hope to solutions in uncertain times

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We may sometimes wish for a way to peer into the future, something to reassure us that we’re on the right path. When one young family faced economic uncertainty, earnest prayer brought the realization that one can never be without God’s goodness and care – which shed light on a solution.

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From hope to solutions in uncertain times

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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We all want a crystal ball sometimes, a way to peer into our future just enough to stop fear or anxiety. Usually, at the heart of this searching is the desire for a future filled with good, the knowledge that we’re on the right path. I’ve certainly felt that way at times in my life.

Astrology, horoscopes, palm reading – there are many practices that purport to offer some glimpse of the future or explanation for one’s life. But the best advice I’ve found has come from wisdom in the Bible – from prophets and spiritual teachers who listened to God for direction and confidence. And what’s great is that we all have a relation to God, our creator. We, too, can turn to the Divine at all times for comfort and guidance.

Our family experienced this at a very uncertain time when my husband was laid off during an economic downturn. Our three children were all young, and I had left my teaching career to care for them full time.

As we thought about how to move forward, my husband and I both prayed earnestly for direction, and we experienced tangible evidences of God’s care for our family. Still, a long-term solution was elusive, as each month that passed brought with it promising opportunities that never came to fruition.

Over the years I have turned again and again to a Bible passage that conveys the writer’s conviction in God’s care. The Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it this way: “‘For I know the plans I have for you’ – this is the Lord’s declaration – ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you’” (Jeremiah 29:11, 12).

What a calming, comforting verse! It was written by a prophet named Jeremiah. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, described a “prophet” in part as a “spiritual seer” (p. 593). To me, this has come to mean that what we see and experience with our eyes doesn’t tell us the whole story. The underlying truth is that God is limitless goodness and that goodness is expressed in all of us, God’s spiritual offspring, at every moment.

Realizing this is not always an easy task, especially when things look bleak. But when we turn in prayer to God for guidance, we begin to see things through a spiritual lens that bolsters our confidence in the constant good that divine Spirit promises and bestows on us.

That’s what my family experienced. One weekend afternoon, I was praying to be open to solutions I hadn’t considered before. That’s when it occurred to me that I, too, could look for employment. I had been pretty adamant about staying home with my kids. But in my case, I could see that this was actually willfulness that had kept me from considering that a different path might be right for our family.

So I heeded this advice in the Bible: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21). I felt inspired to browse some job listings, and that very day I found a posting with an organization that lined up perfectly with both my personal needs and professional aspirations. I felt without a doubt that it was the right direction for our family, despite requiring a cross-country move – definitely not what I’d thought would be in store for us!

With the family’s support, I applied and was soon offered full-time employment. This eventually resulted in a whole new career path that was both meaningful and supportive of our growing family over the ensuing years. I was still able to be present and available while raising our children, and in time my husband also found employment that led to a career that has lasted until this day.

It’s enough to know that God is guiding us. When we humbly listen and follow, we can’t help but feel hope for the future and experience more tangibly God’s care for us.

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Viewfinder

Now, voyager

Henry Nicholls/Reuters
Climate activist Greta Thunberg embarks on a transatlantic voyage from Plymouth, England, to New York, Aug. 14, 2019. The Swedish teen eschews air travel and will complete the journey to the United Nations climate summit in New York aboard a solar-powered yacht.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( August 15th, 2019 )

Thank you for accompanying our exploration of the world today. Please come back tomorrow, when we look at what China's options really are when it comes to intervening in the protests in Hong Kong.

Monitor Daily Podcast

August 14, 2019
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