2019
September
25
Wednesday
Kim Campbell
Culture & Education Editor

Today’s stories investigate the role of moderate Democrats in impeachment, President Donald Trump’s multilateral approach at the U.N., corruption’s shadow over auto workers, how climate change is altering the oceans, and how far second chances should go in football.

But first, do societies value married people more than those who are single?  

In 2001, when a movie about “singleton” Bridget Jones was capturing attention, I reported on the stereotypes that dog people who don’t marry. Americans have trouble envisioning women being single into middle age and beyond, sources told me. Cultural images of what it means to be “happily single” were difficult to come by.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports this month that the percentage of people who are married has continued to decline since then, while the percentage of people who have always been single has continued to rise. In honor of Unmarried and Single Americans Week last week, social scientist Bella DePaulo wrote a column pointing to signs of progress.

“Single people are a force, not just in the U.S., but in many nations all around the world,” wrote the “Singled Out” author.

More media and scholarly attention is being given to singlehood, she says, and “research is documenting the strengths of single people and the benefits of single life.” 

The news is tempered by other statistics, including that more than 1,000 federal laws exist that “benefit and protect only people who are legally married,” she tells me in an email conversation. But in her column she also notes that singlism – “the stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against singles” – is being called out more, especially as it relates to health.

That’s something Bridget Jones would approve of.

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1. Long divided on impeachment, Democrats unite in name of national security

What was the tipping point for moderate Democrats, who for so long resisted calls for impeachment? A group of freshmen with military or intelligence service says it came down to two words: national security.

Kim

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After months of hand-wringing and division within the party, Democrats are now presenting a united front on impeachment – and the words “national security” are key to the shift.

“National security” was the underlying factor cited by a group of moderate freshman Democrats, all with military or intelligence backgrounds, explaining why they favored impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

“What this comes down to, our North Star, are our oaths,” Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, a freshman and former Army Ranger, told reporters. “Every time I wake up in the morning or I go to bed at night I’m thinking, ‘Am I being faithful to that oath?’”

The tipping point for Democrats came after a flurry of revelations about a whistleblower report involving a phone call in which President Donald Trump asked the Ukrainian president to “look into” activities of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, just days after the administration withheld U.S. aid to that country.

On Wednesday, the White House released official notes from the phone call. Mr. Trump continues to deny doing anything wrong, telling reporters at a joint press conference with the Ukrainian leader: “There was no pressure.”

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1. Long divided on impeachment, Democrats unite in name of national security

After months of hand-wringing and division within the party, Democrats are now presenting a united front on impeachment – and the words “national security” are key to the shift. 

“National security” was the underlying factor cited by a group of moderate freshman Democrats, all with military or intelligence backgrounds, in a Washington Post op-ed Monday night explaining why they favored impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The same words were invoked repeatedly on Tuesday as more than two dozen other lawmakers followed suit, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” she said.

The tipping point for Democrats came after a flurry of revelations about a whistleblower report involving a phone call in which Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to “look into” activities of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, just days after the administration withheld U.S. aid to that country. Up to this point, nothing else – not Mr. Trump’s refusal to divest assets that may raise a conflict of interest, nor accusations against him of racism, nor former special counsel Robert Mueller’s detailed report on the president’s dealings with Russia during the 2016 campaign – had achieved that bar.

The difference? Democrats see the connection to national security – including the need to safeguard the 2020 campaign from interference – as a clear, convincing message they can unify voters around. For moderates, that means casting their decision to back impeachment as a matter of principle, not politics. 

“Trying to malign or find dirt on his opponent for the 2020 election using national security money” is an action the public will easily be able to grasp, Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., a former Air Force officer and one of the freshmen who penned the op-ed, told reporters. 

“The president, in a very unpatriotic act, put the national security of the country behind his own political interests,” Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan added. “That is a breach we just cannot allow.” 

Mr. Trump denies doing anything wrong. On Wednesday, the White House released official notes from the phone call. “There was no pressure,” he said at a joint press conference with the Ukrainian leader in New York.

The same day, the House passed a resolution demanding that the White House release the whistleblower complaint – something the administration has said it plans to do – and stop all efforts to discredit the whistleblower or block him or her from testifying. The Senate voted unanimously in favor of a similar resolution Tuesday. 

Is it clear-cut for voters?

Of course, some Americans may see this latest charge against Mr. Trump as less clear-cut than Democrats believe. The president’s defenders were quick to note the lack of an explicit quid pro quo in the released notes from the call. “To impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters.

But Democrats seem to have determined that, at this point, circumstances demand they take action. By calling Mr. Trump a threat to national security, they are trying to frame the move toward impeachment as patriotic, defending the nation’s interests and institutions.

“I see this as one of those events … that allows these members to have a clear thing to point at and say, ‘This is unacceptable,’” says Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. “It is easier for voters to understand.”

The authors of the Post op-ed said that after hearing the latest allegations against Mr. Trump, they decided, as a group, that they couldn’t stay silent any longer. “What this comes down to, our North Star, are our oaths,” Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, a freshman and former Army Ranger, told reporters. “Every time I wake up in the morning or I go to bed at night I’m thinking, ‘Am I being faithful to that oath?’” 

“This was not something that I thought about based off of my chances for re-election in 2020,” added Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia. “I thought it was very important to be on the right side of history with this.”

Many Democrats acknowledge that impeachment could backfire politically, as happened to Republicans in the wake of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment. “I don’t think anyone wants to run on it,” said Mr. Kildee, the chief deputy whip. Indeed, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found that the move remains unpopular with most voters, though Democrats largely support it.  

And if impeachment is eventually put to a vote and then fails to hit the two-thirds Senate majority required to convict – which seems likely, given that Republicans control the chamber – it might bolster Mr. Trump’s “witch hunt” charge. That scenario, and the divisions it would likely exacerbate, could make it even harder than it already is to get any bipartisan legislating done, some moderate Democrats say. 

“When you have an impeachment process, probably the president isn’t real happy. Probably the Republicans aren’t real happy. And probably the chance to have a real conversation to get a whole lot of stuff done is going to be minimal,” Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., told reporters Wednesday. “That’s the reason it really hurts us.”

On the other hand, if Democrats are able to gather more evidence showing that the president used foreign aid as leverage for personal political gain, some Republicans might be convinced to switch over. After reading the released notes from the phone call, GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told reporters on Wednesday: “It remains troubling in the extreme. It’s deeply troubling.” 

Much remains up in the air

The impeachment dam began to break last week, after news reports that a whistleblower had filed a complaint related to the call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, received a report about the complaint from the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson, who deemed the complaint “urgent” and credible. After consulting with the Department of Justice Mr. Maguire decided to withhold the complaint from Congress. 

Then, on Monday, the Post reported that just before the call took place on July 25, the administration had held up nearly $400 million in congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine. 

All day Tuesday, a cascade of lawmakers came forward in favor of impeachment, including Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a civil rights icon often seen as the conscience of the caucus. By 5 p.m., when Ms. Pelosi announced formal proceedings, more than 160 Democrats in total had come out in favor of impeachment. (The number was at 207 by Wednesday morning, according to Politico’s tracker; a simple majority of House members present and voting would be needed to impeach the president.)

Despite all the action, much remains up in the air. On Thursday, Mr. Maguire is set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. The whistleblower’s lawyers have also confirmed that their client is interested in speaking with members of both House and Senate Intelligence committees. It’s still unclear what these events will yield. 

Ms. Pelosi’s announcement also didn’t include the creation of a special committee like the one formed during the Watergate hearings. Instead, she said the investigations taking place in six House committees will continue. The Judiciary Committee will then compile the best evidence and decide whether or not to write articles of impeachment. 

For now, however, Democrats appear unified in a way they haven’t been for a long time. Even some who still haven’t come out officially for impeachment are expressing solidarity.

“I’m not one of those kinds who jump on just ’cause everyone is jumping on,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas on Tuesday. “But … we had a consensus today that we are going to let the impeachment inquiry proceed, and then we will take it from there and see.”

“This river’s been running in the same direction all along. We’ve just now hit a waterfall,” says Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, one of the earliest proponents of impeachment, in a phone interview. 

“Everybody is moving in the same direction,” he adds. “The pace is just quicker.”

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2. At UN, Trump tests his own brand of multilateralism

Can a leader who declares “the future does not belong to globalists” build coalitions to tackle issues of common concern? Our diplomatic correspondent reports from the U.N. General Assembly.

Kim

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President Donald Trump is seeking support this week at the United Nations General Assembly on several fronts: maximizing pressure on Iran, championing religious freedom, and opposing China’s trade practices. Yet Mr. Trump, who withdrew the United States from treaties or organizations devoted to these causes, may find himself confronting a skeptical global audience, say experts in international relations.

On Monday France, Germany, and the United Kingdom – all three signatories to the Iran nuclear deal – issued a joint statement saying it was “clear” that “Iran is responsible” for the recent attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil field. Yet the three also said that they still support the nuclear deal, and hope that all parties might return to the negotiating table to arrive at the “better deal” Mr. Trump says he wants.

Is the U.S. president helping his own cause? Heather Conley, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, notes that China trade is a natural for much of the world to side with the U.S. on. “Instead we have the president not just taking the bilateral approach he prefers,” she says, “but also placing tariffs on Japan and the EU and threatening” to impose even more.

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At UN, Trump tests his own brand of multilateralism

Nearly three years into his go-it-alone presidency, Donald Trump is at the United Nations this week trying to get in a bit of a multilateralist groove.

Having pulled out of the six-nation agreement with Iran on its nuclear program last year, the president is now trying to convince the international community to accompany the United States on a maximum pressure campaign against Iran over the recent attacks on Saudi oil installations.

Having pulled the U.S. out of the U.N. Human Rights Council and put human rights on the back burner, he is this week championing religious freedom, which he declared at a U.S.-hosted religious freedom summit at the U.N. to be the most threatened universal right. At the meeting Monday Mr. Trump issued a “global call to protect religious freedom” and summoned international partners to join the U.S. in forming a grand coalition to vanquish what he said are the world’s opponents of faith.

And having trashed multilateral trade agreements in favor of bilateral accords that permit the U.S. to negotiate as the stronger party, the president is now encouraging the world to join the U.S. in singling out China for what he says are its unfair and deceitful trade practices.

Yet as he pursues these uncharacteristically multilateral initiatives, Mr. Trump may find himself confronting a skeptical global audience and, say some experts in international relations, learning one of the truths of diplomacy, that multilateralism is a two-way street: Countries that have burned the bridges of international cooperation may not find partners rushing to their side when they put out the call.

“We need partners to join us in addressing these issues of national security we say are important to us, and traditionally many countries have wanted to join,” says Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “But what we’re hearing from President Trump is the same cognitive dissonance, where we say we want others to join us, but we aren’t doing what is necessary for others to want to join us.”

Adds Michael Doyle, a professor of international relations at Columbia University in New York and a former assistant secretary-general of the U.N.: “For Trump, cooperation is a one-way street. It’s others accepting a series of policies, a series of priorities that the president himself cites and a vision he himself holds, and insisting that others simply follow them. It’s all ‘my way or the highway,’ but that’s not an approach that others are likely to find enticing.”  

“Future belongs to patriots”

Many countries are likely to be all the more cautious after Mr. Trump’s highly nationalistic speech to the General Assembly Tuesday, in which he condemned globalism and vaunted sovereignty, national interests, and secure national borders.

“The future does not belong to globalists, the future belongs to patriots,” Mr. Trump said in a 35-minute speech delivered in a monotone with little expression of enthusiasm for the ideas he espoused.

A “globalist” worldview had “exerted a religious pull over past leaders, causing them to ignore their own national interests,” he told a silent General Assembly – a house that multilateralism built on the ashes of World War II.

For some, Mr. Trump’s rhetoric had little to do with cooperation on the critical challenges facing the world and was aimed more at a domestic audience drawn to a nationalist message that eschews internationalist approaches to issues like immigration.

“What the president said sounded very much like something [French far-right leader] Marine Le Pen said in a recent campaign, when she asked, ‘Are you a patriot or a globalist?’” Ms. Conley notes. “It’s a message that speaks to the ‘alt-right’ international, but it’s one I can only imagine left the [General Assembly] audience cold.”  

Mounting tensions with Iran, especially since Saudi oil fields were attacked Sept. 14, have offered a window into the challenges Mr. Trump faces as he seeks to go multilateral and enlist the support of allies for international action to deter Iran.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks, and Iran has rejected allegations that it was involved. Yet while no evidence has yet been publicly presented that shows Iran carried out the attacks, most experts and Western officials believe Iran was involved either directly or indirectly.

Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrives to address the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 25, 2019.

“This is effective multilateralism”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in the run-up to this week’s meetings at the U.N. that the U.S. would be pressing key allies to join in heightening pressure on Tehran, over both its regional provocations and its nuclear program.

And the Trump administration has had some success. On Monday France, Germany, and the United Kingdom – all three signatories to the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, from which the U.S. has withdrawn – issued a joint statement saying it was “clear” that “Iran is responsible” for the oil field attacks and declaring “full solidarity” with Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an interview with NBC News that he agrees with Mr. Trump that the JCPOA is a “bad deal” – and went a step further to call for a “Trump deal” to replace the 2015 accord.

Yet even with that, the three European allies of the U.S. said that they still support the JCPOA, and hope to encourage efforts to calm tensions so that all parties might return to the negotiating table to arrive at the “better deal” Mr. Trump says he wants.

But before that can happen, the main goal of the Europeans appears to be to head off a march to a hot conflict in the Middle East that could doom any hopes for nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

“France is trying to put together proposals to avoid an escalation,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at the U.N. Monday. Mr. Macron has for months assigned himself the role of an intermediary between Mr. Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, with the objective of setting up a meeting between the two antagonistic leaders here this week.

That meeting already seemed like a very remote possibility at best, but the door might have been shut tight by Mr. Trump referring to “Iran’s blood lust” in his speech.

Speaking in New York Wednesday at a conference of the United Against Nuclear Iran organization, Secretary Pompeo laid out the progress he sees in enlisting international support for pressuring Iran.

Citing everything from the shift by America’s three European allies to Argentina’s recent designation of Iran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, Mr. Pompeo said, “This is effective multilateralism; it’s what the Trump administration has tried to do – multilateralism based in fact and the truth.”

Trade with China

Mr. Trump has also used his days at the U.N. to encourage support from allies and partners for compelling China to adopt fairer and transparent trade practices, not just with the U.S., but with the world.

Addressing the trade issue in his speech, Mr. Trump said China had engaged in unfair and predatory practices since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 that had cost not just the U.S. but many other countries millions of jobs.

“Not only has China declined to adopt promised reforms, it has embraced an economic model dependent on massive market barriers, heavy state subsidies, currency manipulation, product dumping, forced technology transfers, and the theft of intellectual property and also trade secrets on a grand scale,” Mr. Trump said. “As far as America is concerned,” he added, “those days are over.”

The issue of China’s abuse of the international system is a natural for much of the world to want to side with the U.S. on, many analysts say. But they note that instead of cultivating that sense of common grievance, the Trump administration has antagonized its like-minded international trading partners, from Japan to the European Union.

“You’d have a greater chance of modifying China’s trade behavior if you joined forces with our key allies and put collective pressure on Beijing to really change its ways. And that in fact is the approach that Japan has encouraged from early on – that Japan, the U.S., and the EU join forces and confront the Chinese from one strong common position,” says Ms. Conley.

“But instead we have the president not just taking the bilateral approach he prefers,” she adds, “but also placing tariffs on Japan and the EU and threatening” to impose even more.

Many of Mr. Trump’s actions this week, from his religious freedom initiative to his fierce attack on the proponents of “open borders,” will no doubt be well received by his core domestic supporters. But Columbia’s Professor Doyle says the president’s global audience is unlikely to be swayed by what remains a very “America First” approach.

“Trump spoke at length about national sovereignty, and it sounds like sovereignty for all, but in reality it is sovereignty only on U.S. terms,” he says. “That is not an approach that encourages international cooperation.”

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3. Striking auto workers want fairer pay – and a cleaner union

Questions of fairness are central as auto workers picket against General Motors. But this time, those concerns are intertwined with a union’s effort to overcome the taint of scandal.

Kim
Bryan Woolston/Reuters
GM team leader Natalie Walker leads chants as General Motors assembly workers and their supporters gather to picket outside the GM plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on Sept. 20, 2019. One goal of strikers is higher pay for workers now classified as temporary.

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The United Auto Workers, or UAW, has long been one of America’s strongest labor unions. And until last year it had a reputation as one of the cleanest. Now major bargaining talks for the industry ​– and a 2-week-old strike ​– are occurring alongside a widening federal corruption probe of the union. 

Some workers even see the strike as more about the scandal than about the labor-management disagreements, although those exist. Tim Whalen, a General Motors worker on strike in Romulus, Michigan, says union leaders may have chosen to strike because they felt they needed to regain the rank and file’s confidence by showing they were being tough on General Motors.

And some labor experts say the scandal may have emboldened GM to take a harder line at the talks. The company’s offer on the eve of the strike didn’t address a key issue: temporary workers, who make up about 7% of GM’s workforce, whose ranks the automaker wants to boost to increase flexibility and drive down costs.

Even Mr. Whalen is firmly with his fellow strikers. “I am not backing down for anything,” he says.

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Striking auto workers want fairer pay – and a cleaner union

On this warm September afternoon the passing cars and trucks honk their horns in solidarity. The knot of union workers cheer and wave their blue-and-white picket signs. It’s the first strike by the United Auto Workers in 12 years and spirits are high.

“We’ve had a lot of support,” says John Paul, a machinist at General Motors’ powertrain plant here in Romulus, Michigan, outside Detroit.

But a cloud hangs over this strike that makes it difficult to discern its ultimate resolution. For the first time in its history, the UAW is negotiating a major contract while its leadership battles corruption charges. It’s possible the scandal will lengthen the strike, emboldening both sides to take a harder line than they otherwise would at a time when the industry is flush with profits. It’s certainly distracting attention away from the pivotal nature of the talks, as the industry begins to focus on far-reaching technological changes that will transform car production in ways not seen since the rise of the internal combustion engine.

“This is a mystery strike to me,” says Gary Chaison, professor emeritus of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. “It has elements of … the usual issues: health-care, wages, part-time workers, and so on. [But] the corruption charges introduce a new element to this strike – an unpredictable element, to some degree.”

The details emerging from the ever-widening federal probe, which so far has netted nine convictions and charges against two others for millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, have hurt the union’s reputation. First the investigation unearthed bribes from Fiat Chrysler America officials to UAW leaders. The focus this year has broadened to include leaders’ misuse of union funds.

Union corruption declining

“It is a black eye,” says James Martin, a labor-relations expert at Wayne State University in Detroit. “The UAW had a squeaky clean image.”

The charges come at a time when, by virtually all accounts, union corruption is on the wane after federal investigators have taken aim at mafia infiltration of the Teamsters and other unions. 

“The FBI and a lot of agencies have delivered a knockout punch to organized crime in labor,” says Carl Horowitz, a senior fellow who tracks union corruption for the National Legal and Policy Center in Falls Church, Virginia. But “it’s not dead. ... Believe me, I’m fully employed.”

One indication of the declining corruption comes from the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. Through August of this year, 21 union officials and employees were sentenced for stealing union funds and other crimes. In the same period in 2009, 53 were sentenced.    

Mixed views among workers

How much has the scandal affected the UAW’s contract talks with General Motors? On the picket line, views are mixed.

“What’s happening nationally [with investigations] has nothing to do with us” and the contract, says Keith Thompson, a team leader at the plant’s transmission division.

Tim Whalen, a 43-year union member and team leader at the machining department, says union leaders may have chosen to strike because they felt they needed to regain the rank and file’s confidence by showing they were being tough on General Motors.

A strike can help rally members, even disaffected ones, says Dr. Chaison of Clark University. “Essentially, they’re telling the reformers: ‘Be quiet while we are taking care of business.’”

The scandal may have emboldened GM to take a harder line at the talks, judging that it had weakened the union’s leadership, labor experts say. When the union rejected GM’s final offer just before the strike deadline, the automaker took the unprecedented step of publishing that offer. The offer looked good – 5,400 jobs added or retained and $7 billion in U.S. investment over four years, but “it is filled with loopholes,” says Harley Shaiken, a professor specializing in labor issues at the University of California, Berkeley. 

And it didn’t address a key issue: temporary workers, who make up about 7% of GM’s workforce, whose ranks the automaker wants to boost to increase flexibility and drive down costs.

On the picket line, the topic is popular, because union members feel uncomfortable when workers doing the same job get different pay.

“C’mon, man,” says one striker, motioning Tom Lademann over to talk to a reporter. “It’s all about you.”

Mr. Lademann, working security at a nearby mall for $10 an hour, welcomed the bump up in pay to $15.87 an hour when he joined GM in 2017. But that’s roughly half what full-timers pull in and he wants a path toward permanent status at GM.

While union workers are looking back at the record profits of 2016 and 2017 and near-record $8.1 billion in after-tax profits last year, the company is looking ahead to how a trade war and potential recession could dent demand for cars, which is already softening slightly. GM also worries about how to pay for the needed investment to prepare to make electric and autonomous cars in the future.  

“GM is seeking to squeeze the workers at a moment of high profitability,” says Mr. Shaiken. “They know they need billions for the transformation of the industry. They see a slowdown on the horizon and they think doing this now will both ensure the company’s future competitiveness and impress Wall Street.”

He believes that’s a strategic mistake. 

Or maybe it’s just reality.

“What they’re signaling to the workers is that the nature of the industry has changed,” says Dr. Chaison. “The cars will be autonomous and electric and the industry will involve more part-time workers. Get used to it.”

Retorts Mr. Whalen on strike in Romulus: “I am not backing down for anything.”

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4. Oceans face dire threats from climate change. They also hold answers.

Can something under threat also be a source of its own salvation? Climate change is wreaking havoc on the oceans. But the seas also hold tremendous potential for mitigation.

Kim
Felipe Dana/AP
Large icebergs float near Kulusuk, Greenland, on Aug. 16, 2019. The IPCC special report on oceans and ice released on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2019 projects three feet of rising seas by the end of the century, much fewer fish, weakening ocean currents, and less snow and ice.

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A sober report issued by the United Nations Wednesday shines a light on some of Earth’s most remote regions – its oceans, high mountains, and polar regions – and documents serious impacts from climate change and worrisome projections for the future. Hundred-year flood events, for instance, are likely to become annual events in most locations, even if emissions are reduced. Seas are warming and glaciers are receding.

But the oceans, while facing increased threats, also offer significant solutions. Another, less prominent U.N. report released this week examines and quantifies the potential in these “ocean-based solutions” to climate change. Taken together, these areas – renewable energy, ocean shipping and transport, protection and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems, shifting diets to seafood, and carbon storage in the seabed – could cover up to a quarter of the emissions reductions needed to keep warming below 2.0 Celsius. 

“The ocean has been a significant victim of climate change and ocean acidification,” says Jane Lubchenco, a former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But “the ocean is not just a victim, it’s also a source of some very powerful solutions. ... It’s dismal, but it’s not hopeless.”

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Oceans face dire threats from climate change. They also hold answers.

Rising seas. Retreating glaciers. Thawing tundra. Acidifying oceans. 

The impacts from climate change to the Earth’s oceans and frozen regions – water and ice – are severe, and are getting worse, with potentially devastating consequences, from more frequent flooding and more severe storms to dwindling fish stocks and diminishing snowpacks. A major United Nations report released Wednesday highlights the threat to those regions – the observed changes and what we can expect in the future. 

But the ocean – while increasingly under threat – is also a source of some of the most promising solutions for mitigating carbon emissions and combating climate change. That’s the message from a less prominent U.N. report released this week, this one focused on quantifying the ocean-based solutions to climate change.

“The ocean has been a significant victim of climate change and ocean acidification, and it’s time we woke up and realized the seriousness and the severity of the changes,” says Jane Lubchenco, a former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But, she adds, “the ocean is not just a victim, it’s also a source of some very powerful solutions, and we had not appreciated until this report how significant those solutions are. … It’s dismal, but it’s not hopeless.”

Taken together, ocean-based solutions can cover up to a quarter of the emissions reductions needed to keep warming below 2.0 – a massive amount. And the urgency of action was put into stark relief Wednesday by the special report approved by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the product of more than 100 international scientists and the most comprehensive look yet taken at the Earth’s oceans, poles, glaciers, tundra, and high mountain regions. It shines a light on some of the most remote corners of the globe, where, in some cases, the effects of climate change are most severe. 

Warning signs

The IPCC report “documents the ways in which for decades the ocean has been acting like a sponge, absorbing carbon dioxide and heat to regulate the global temperature, but it can’t keep up,” said Ko Barrett, vice chair of the IPCC, in a call with reporters on Tuesday.

Many of the effects of climate change are already being observed, and are accelerating. Since 1993, the rate of ocean warming has doubled, and since 1982, marine heat waves – which can be devastating to fish and other marine life – have doubled in frequency and become more intense.

Mountain glaciers, critical sources of fresh water for populations around the world, are receding, and widespread permafrost thaw – which could exacerbate warming as methane is released – is predicted for this century. Oceans are becoming more acidic and losing oxygen. Fish stocks are migrating north. 

The report also has significant data, and projections, about sea-level rise, which is accelerating and is now predominantly due to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. It projects a mean sea-level rise of 2.8 feet by 2100 under a high-emissions scenario – higher than previous reports have put it. Hundred-year floods are likely to become annual events by 2100, under both low- and high-emissions scenarios. 

Against this backdrop of possible consequences, the report from the High Level Panel (HLP) for a Sustainable Ocean Economy offers an array of solutions that also, fittingly, come from the ocean. 

Up till now, most mitigation strategies have been focused on land, whether shutting down coal plants, increasing renewables, or restoring forests, says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a marine scientist at the University of Queensland in Australia and the HLP report’s lead author. 

“The idea that there are options in the ocean is really important,” he says. And “they’re not just small options. They actually can take care of 20% or more of the emissions that are separating us from where we are today and where we should be when it comes to achieving the 1.5 degree C target. ... It’s a game changer.” 

Potential benefits

Dr. Hoegh-Guldberg cites five main areas where the ocean can offer climate solutions: renewable energy, shipping and transport, protection and restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems, shifting diets to seafood, and carbon storage in the seabed. 

Taken together, these five strategies could reduce global emissions by up to 11 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents by 2050.

Each area, of course, also comes with its own challenges. There are big costs associated with decarbonizing shipping and scaling up offshore wind and other forms of renewable energy. Getting large numbers of people to eat more sustainable seafood isn’t easy. Carbon seabed storage isn’t yet ready for deployment at a broad scale. And to be effective at the levels Dr. Hoegh-Guldberg outlines, these strategies will require significant political will, funding, and cooperation of industry and government.

But pursuing these strategies could also pay out big benefits that go beyond emissions reductions. Take mangroves, salt marshes, sea grasses, and marine ecosystems. Restoring and protecting such “blue carbon” ecosystems  – and simply recognizing their value – won’t just help in terms of the carbon they store, says Dr. Lubchenco, it will also help coastal communities be more resilient: restoring fisheries, protecting coastlines against storm surges, providing critical habitat for wildlife. 

“This is the low-hanging fruit. This is an opportunity to really make something happen,” says Dr. Lubchenco, who is co-chair of the HLP expert group, and co-authored a separate paper this week on ocean-based solutions in Science. “These are carbon-rich hotbeds, and they need to be protected and restored.”

“Too big to ignore”

With all the solutions outlined, work needs to be done to make sure they’re done sustainably and don’t cause unintended damage, says Dr. Hoegh-Guldberg. Seabed carbon storage, which is already being done at a small scale in Norway, and which essentially squirts liquified CO2 into the deep ocean floor, could theoretically reduce emissions by 0.5 to 2 billion metric tons by 2050. But he notes that it is a nascent technology that has risks. 

“If you have a leakage of this, and you acidify the deep ocean, what are the consequences?” asks Dr. Hoegh-Guldberg. Unlike the other four strategies, which are ready for implementation, that one still needs research, he says. 

Still, he and Dr. Lubchenco emphasize that this report is not simply an exercise in wishful thinking. Solid examples of all of these strategies are happening around the globe; what’s needed is scale, and firm commitments from nations and companies.

The 14 nations that make up the High Level Panel collectively represent 30% of the world’s coastlines, 20% of fishery catches, and 20% of shipping, says Dr. Lubchenco. All of them have stepped forward with various ocean commitments, including investments in offshore renewable energy and commitments to making shipping low- or zero-carbon.

The report this week offers a rare occasion to spotlight the effects of global warming on Earth’s most remote regions – and to consider what those effects will mean for humans. But it’s also a chance to broaden our notion of where we can find solutions, say ocean advocates.

“The narrative for most of human history has been, the ocean is too big to fail,” says Dr. Lubchenco. As awareness has grown about the massive problems facing the ocean – plastic pollution, warming seas, overfishing, acidification, dead zones – that narrative, she says, has shifted to: “It’s too big to fix.” 

“I think there is a narrative that is finally emerging,” she says, in this report and with other activities this week, “that is a new narrative, that says actually, the ocean is so central to our future, it is so important to food security, to climate mitigation and adaptation … that it is too big to ignore.”

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5. What it means to be ‘coach’ in Texas. Art Briles’ return to football.

What does it mean to be a good coach? Is it winning games, molding young characters, or both? A small town in Texas considers after it hires a controversial coach.

Kim
Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/AP
Mount Vernon High School football players take the field for their first game under coach Art Briles on Aug. 30, 2019, in Bonham, Texas. Mr. Briles was fired from Baylor University three years ago.

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Mount Vernon has never won a state championship in football. It’s the biggest town in one of the smallest counties in Texas, with a population under 3,000. The only stoplights are by the interstate linking Dallas, 100 miles to the west, to Arkansas, 80 miles to the east. Like any Texas town, the high school football team is a big deal. But like at any high school in any Texas town, the head football coach is much more than just a coach.

“I tell people a lot that coaching on Friday nights is 2% of the job of a head football coach in the state of Texas,” says Greg Tepper, managing editor of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, known as the “bible” of Texas football. “You are very much involved in the lives of these student-athletes, both on and off the field.”

Which is why Mount Vernon’s hiring of Art Briles is news. This is the first coaching job he has had in the United States since he was fired from Baylor University three years ago amid a sexual assault scandal involving football players at the school.

Texas high school football coaches need to be, and for the most part are, “men of character,” he believes. “For those parents out there in Mount Vernon, that’s the question they have to answer for themselves,” he adds. “Is Art Briles a man of character?”

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What it means to be ‘coach’ in Texas. Art Briles’ return to football.

Like most young boys, Holly Grigson’s two sons love sports. But with their father not in the picture, sports have taken on an extra significance for them. She highlights a baseball coach they’ve had for years.

“It’s like he’s taken them in. I mean, if they need it they can call him in the middle of the night if they need anything,” she says.

“That’s the way coaches are,” she adds, “and I think Coach Briles is like that, too. I can sense that in him.”

In small-town Texas, the “coach” honorific is up there with “mayor” in terms of stature, and for decades Art Briles has been one of the best there is. In recent years he has also been one of the most polarizing.

No one questions Mr. Briles’ talent as a football coach. But the immediate reaction to the appointment of the former Baylor University coach in May – a disbelieving silence, followed by loud applause – hinted at the pause it has given some in this east Texas town.

This is the first coaching job Mr. Briles has had in the United States since he was fired from Baylor three years ago amid a sexual assault scandal involving football players at the university. In a way the move is a return to his roots: He launched his career by winning four state championships as an innovative attacking coach at Stephenville High.

Mount Vernon has never won a state championship in football. (Its girls basketball team brought home the state title in 2018.) It’s the biggest town in one of the smallest counties in Texas, with a population under 3,000. The only stoplights are by the interstate linking Dallas, 100 miles to the west, to Arkansas, 80 miles to the east. The team plays in the 3A division, reserved for schools with 225 to 504 students, and like any Texas town, the high school football team is a big deal. But like at any high school in any Texas town, the head football coach is much more than just a coach.

“I tell people a lot that coaching on Friday nights is 2% of the job of a head football coach in the state of Texas,” says Greg Tepper, managing editor of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, known as the “bible” of Texas football. “You are very much involved in the lives of these student-athletes, both on and off the field.”

Thus Texas high school football coaches need to be, and for the most part are, “men of character,” he believes. “For those parents out there in Mount Vernon, that’s the question they have to answer for themselves,” he adds. “Is Art Briles a man of character?”

Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News/AP
Mount Vernon High School football coach Art Briles talks to his players on the sideline, Aug. 30, 2019, in Bonham, Texas. His hiring has given some residents pause in this small east Texas town.

Home of Don Meredith

Purple-and-white Mount Vernon Tigers flags ripple in the wind around the historic main square. Don Meredith, a former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and sports commentator, grew up a short walk away. A special exhibit about him is on display at the Franklin County Museum.

A sticker has been pressed onto the museum’s sign – identical to stickers placed surreptitiously around downtown, reading: “Art Briles Protects Rapists.”

When the controversy began, Mr. Briles had transformed Baylor from a team that had won just 11 games in 12 years to back-to-back conference champions. After the convictions of two football players for sexual assault in 2014 and 2015, the university hired an outside law firm to investigate how it responded to sexual assault allegations.

The investigation, of which only a summary has been made public, uncovered 17 sexual assaults or cases of domestic violence by 19 players from 2011 to 2016, and noted “significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of athlete misconduct.”

Mr. Briles was dismissed soon after, receiving $15.1 million from Baylor in a settlement. He has never admitted to doing anything illegal. A 2017 letter from Baylor’s general counsel to Mr. Briles said the university didn’t know of a situation where he “personally had contact with anyone” who reported being the victim of sexual assault, “or that you directly discouraged the victim” of an alleged sexual assault from reporting it.

He struggled to find coaching jobs. He was let go one day after being hired by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League after, according to the team’s CEO, a “tsunami of negativity.” Administrators at Southern Mississippi blocked the football team from hiring him as offensive coordinator this February. When he got the call from Mount Vernon, he was coaching a team in Florence, Italy.

Jason McCullough, the Mount Vernon Independent School District superintendent, did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but he told the Los Angeles Times that the district’s vetting process has been “vast,” though it did not speak to any of the women who have sued Baylor over alleged sexual violence.

In a furniture store on the main square, manager Leona Dillard doesn’t know what to think about the Baylor scandal and Briles’ role in it. She does know she isn’t comfortable with his hiring.

“Anybody in a position of leadership should be a good role model and have a clear background,” she says.

“Away from all the big-town drama”

Across the square in Steve-O’s Pizza and Pub, where Ms. Grigson works as a waitress, there’s a different view. It’s the view that seems to prevail in Mount Vernon.

One of her sons, a quarterback for the eighth grade football team, “loves Coach Briles,” she says. Every time he has stopped in at Steve-O’s he’s been “super, super nice.”

Sitting at the bar, Jason Ross adds that having a coach as talented and well connected as Mr. Briles can only benefit the players long term, particularly with college recruiters.

“He’s a [Division I] coach, he knows all the other D1 coaches. ... If any of those kids has decent talent and size, he’ll deliver for them,” he says.

Located far outside the state’s major media markets, Mount Vernon is somewhere you’ve needed the talent of Mr. Meredith to get noticed. But the town’s remoteness may be something that benefits both Mr. Briles and any parents who may be skeptical of him.

“Y’all don’t wanna believe it but I just like to coach football,” he told the Los Angeles Times after the team’s first game of the season.

And in a town with a population one-sixth the size of Baylor’s student body, there will surely be fewer unknowns within the community.

“You would think because he’s going to be such a part of the community, that there’s going to be an extra layer of oversight” from locals, says Mr. Tepper, the editor. And while success on the field may help win over critics, there will also be the accountability of working for a public school. Baylor is not subject to public records requests, for example. Mount Vernon is.

“He’s moving to a public institution from a private institution,” adds Mr. Tepper, “and that is not nothing.”

Mount Vernon gave Mr. Briles a two-year contract. The team won its opening three games by a combined score of 151-36. But winning over skeptics like Ms. Dillard “all depends [on] what he’s like here.”

“That’s going to [be seen] over the next few months here in Mount Vernon,” she says, “away from all the big-town drama.”

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The Monitor's View

Unimpeachable values for an impeachment

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In initiating a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not dwell on the accusations against the chief executive. And for good reason. Additional facts are still needed. Instead, she framed Mr. Trump’s alleged behavior as a “betrayal” of three ideals rooted in the Constitution.

Defining the good is an essential first step to any act of correction, especially in the removal of a president from office. If the House inquiry does lead to impeachment and a Senate trial, it will require broad consensus among Americans about what ideals are at stake, not just an agreement on the evidence against the president.

The quality of the coming debate over impeachment depends on the qualities of thought that Americans embrace for themselves and their government. Ms. Pelosi has initiated both the impeachment inquiry and a call to define the ideals at stake. Americans may not be able to influence the inquiry. But they can certainly unite around the values for judging the president’s actions.

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Unimpeachable values for an impeachment

In initiating a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not dwell on the accusations against the chief executive. And for good reason. Additional facts are still needed about the president’s official exercise of power in asking Ukraine to investigate his political opponent, Joe Biden, as well as the former vice president’s son, Hunter Biden.

Instead, she framed Mr. Trump’s alleged behavior as a “betrayal” of three ideals rooted in the Constitution: presidential responsibility to fairly execute the law, to defend national security, and to ensure the integrity of elections. She thus offered a baseline standard, however vague or general, for judging Mr. Trump’s behavior.

Defining the good is an essential first step to any act of correction, especially in the removal of a president from office. If the House inquiry does lead to impeachment and a Senate trial, it will require broad consensus among Americans about what ideals are at stake, not just an agreement on the evidence against the president.

In today’s political climate, defining the public good is an uphill task. Ms. Pelosi did not help her cause by dropping her previous insistence that the impeachment process be bipartisan. She also might have built wider consensus by first asking the House to vote on whether to start the inquiry. Congress needs all the unity it can muster to clarify the values being used to judge the president.

The job of defining corruption or abuse of power is made easier when citizens understand the immutable principles that hold their society together and guide the behavior of public servants. The integrity of law must reflect the natural expression of higher virtues, such as equal justice, social harmony, and the dignity of each individual.

The quality of the coming debate over impeachment depends on the qualities of thought that Americans embrace for themselves and their government. Ms. Pelosi has initiated both the impeachment inquiry and a call to define the ideals at stake. Americans may not be able to influence the inquiry. But they can certainly unite around the values for judging the president’s actions.

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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.

Remembering our notes – without the notebook!

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If we’ve forgotten something important or feel afraid that we don’t know what to do, we can turn to God as divine Mind for clarity that illumines the way forward.

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Remembering our notes – without the notebook!

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Several years ago, I had just returned from a European business trip that had involved a few meetings with partners from multiple countries. The meetings were in regard to a large project, and at the last meeting I had discussed with a number of these colleagues some detailed items and actions required. I’d taken extensive notes and had agreed to email and confirm all the details upon my return home. I’m usually meticulous in keeping all my papers together, so I was horrified when I returned to find that I couldn’t locate my notes anywhere.

Relying on human memory to call up information just wasn’t working. But I’ve come to deeply appreciate what I’ve learned in Christian Science about an entirely different concept of mind. In the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy explains that, in fact, God is Mind – the all-knowing, ever-present intelligence. This Mind doesn’t need to “remember,” as it is infinite and forever includes every good and right idea. It is always at the point of perfect knowing.

What does this have to do with us? Science and Health explains that man (a term that includes each of us) is the “full and perfect expression” of Mind (p. 591). So as we acknowledge this, we all can expect to express this clarity of intelligence and knowing and to see this evidenced in our daily experience.

I started to really pray – acknowledging that right at that moment, divine Mind knew everything there was to know about its divine creation, and affirming that I could expect this fact to provide a tangible answer for me.

As I prayed, I felt a strong impulse to sit down and email my colleagues with all the details as promised. I sat down and started to type an email to my colleagues outlining what I thought we had agreed upon. As I kept typing, new points came to mind. When I reviewed the finished email before sending, I realized that everything we had discussed was now correctly recorded. And colleagues later confirmed that this was their understanding, too.

It was awe-inspiring to recognize that although I never did find my notes, I had indeed “found” the ideas I needed to communicate. The papers proved to be unnecessary in this case; I’d seen that I can trust divine Mind to reveal just what is needed.

By acknowledging divine Mind’s harmony and allness and letting its divine light into our consciousness, we naturally let go of foggy thinking or the fear that we don’t know what to think or do. We realize that we’re governed by God, divine Mind, not by a brain. It’s as though a light has been turned on in our thoughts that illumines the way forward.

There have been examples of this for millennia. Throughout the Bible – from the Hebrew Scriptures to the New Testament – countless individuals, including Christ Jesus and his faithful followers, acknowledged and experienced the great wisdom and knowledge of God. For example, the book of Daniel puts it this way: “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power” (2:20, New Living Translation). And the Apostle Paul marveled, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33, King James Version).

Now, that’s not to say that God knows everyday human details, such as what a specific phone number is, or even that we have phone numbers! But He does know us each moment as His complete, flawless expression. And when we turn to God and accept this spiritual fact, we find we have the clarity and receptivity to know what we need to know in our day-to-day lives.

I have quite some way to go before I can fully demonstrate the promise of acknowledging and mentally yielding to God as the only Mind. But the realization, even in a modest way, that the oneness of Mind and its fully known idea – which we each spiritually are – can never be unraveled, has often enabled me to find a clear way forward in both my personal life and my work.

It’s so freeing to know that rather than having to mentally dredge up information, we can consistently and calmly turn to God to know clearly whatever we need to know.

Adapted from an article published in the April 22, 2019, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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Gravity? Who needs gravity?

Ahn Young-joon/AP
Members of the South Korean taekwondo demonstration team perform during a visit by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov at Kukkiwon, the headquarters and academy of World Taekwondo, in Seoul, South Korea, Sept. 25, 2019.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( September 26th, 2019 )

Kim Campbell
Culture & Education Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow when Scott Peterson reports from Kabul on what the Taliban have and have not been telling their foot soldiers about Afghanistan’s future and the path to peace.

Monitor Daily Podcast

September 25, 2019
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