2019
November
06
Wednesday

Today’s five hand-picked stories examine a universal message from unrest in Chile, the courage of protesters in Lebanon, a Monitor chat with an Election Day newsmaker, the extraordinary grace of Ebola survivors in Congo, and the fantastical world of author Erin Morgenstern.

But first, 100 years ago this week, Albert Einstein redefined the world’s sense of reality. Here are The New York Times’ headlines the day the general theory of relativity was confirmed on Nov. 10, 1919: 

“Lights All Askew In the Heavens. Men of Science More or Less Agog Over Results of Eclipse Observations. ... Stars Not Where They Seemed or Were Calculated to be, but Nobody Need Worry.”

Scientists had just proved that gravity warps space-time – that in the most extreme conditions, one point of perception is not absolute. As the century wore on, quantum mechanics threw science into further disarray, suggesting to some that, on the most micro levels, perception could actually influence the activity of the universe.

It is a reminder of science’s most wonderful attribute: its ability to completely change how we see everything. At the moment, physics is in a bit of a dry spell. General relativity and quantum mechanics pose many questions that have yet to be answered. But they will be, and they will shake us to our core.

At a time when so much of the world seems concreted into inflexible opinions on everything from immigration to economics, it’s a welcome reminder. New perspectives can lead to remarkable new vistas.

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1. Three decades into democracy, Chile reckons with inequality

The current protests in Chile can seem a long way away. But they point to a core challenge facing democracies worldwide: a growing demand for some appropriate equality of opportunity.

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Three decades after the end of dictatorship, Chile’s prosperity is up, and its poverty rates are down. But to many Chileans, that success story – often touted as an economic miracle – doesn’t paint a full picture of their country.

For weeks, protests have shaken Santiago and other cities. A small hike in subway fare may have sparked the movement, but it’s not really about 30 pesos, supporters say, but 30 years, as concerns about inequality finally burst into the open. 

“The Chileans who are protesting are the emerging middle class that stands at the gates of the promised land – and they’re finding that the elites are not letting them in,” says Chilean sociologist Patricio Navia. Protesters say an out-of-touch government and small circle of elites have left them feeling that they tasted the fruit of the boom years, only to fall behind.

“There is major dissatisfaction with democracy and the performance of institutions that is true across much of Latin America, but what is different in Chile is the unhappiness,” says Marta Lagos, director of a polling firm in Santiago. “There’s a sense of stagnation and retroceso [falling behind], a very strong sense that democracy and the country’s institutions work for the few and not for the many.”

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Three decades into democracy, Chile reckons with inequality

The social earthquake shaking what was long considered to be South America’s well-behaved economic miracle has not left the modest, middle-class neighborhood of Froilán Cubillos and Grisel Hernández unscathed.

The nearby metro station that served laborers, midlevel professionals, and small-business owners of south Santiago’s Maipú neighborhood sits closed, burnt out and festooned with bedsheets spray-painted with the slogans of Chile’s “revolution.” Of the area’s two giant supermarkets, one remains shuttered, having been ransacked and then torched by a furious mob.

And yet the Cubillos family – like much of Chile’s middle class, from all appearances – stands behind a movement that it says has been a long time coming.

Howard LaFranchi/The Christian Science Monitor
Froilán Cubillos and Grisel Hernández sit with their son Aliwein in their home in Santiago’s Maipú neighborhood. A nearby metro station and supermarket have been closed amid weeks of protests that many Chileans say reflect years of frustrations over inequality.

The events shaking Chile in recent weeks may have been touched off by young people unhappy over a subway fare hike. Youth-led movements elsewhere, in nearby Ecuador or distant Hong Kong, or the continent-spanning demand for climate action, probably served as examples. But rumbling below the surface for perhaps a decade, they say, was an ever-widening gulf between an out-of-touch government and dismissive elites and an exhausted and disgruntled middle class that had tasted the fruit of Chile’s boom years and now felt like it was falling behind. More than 1 million people, spanning the country’s middle and working classes, stunned the government by marching in Santiago and other cities Oct. 25.

Moreover, in a country that only threw off the chains of military dictatorship three decades ago, many were venting a growing sense that the promise of democracy had soured, delivering instead a system working mostly for a privileged few.

“It wasn’t just the 30-peso [about 4 cents] fare hike in the metro, that was just the spark that ignited all the frustrations and disappointments of the working people of Chile,” says Mr. Cubillos, a geography professor at Santiago’s Metropolitan University of Educational Sciences. “People feel exploited and disregarded by a system that concentrates the wealth of the country in the hands of a few,” he adds, “and it all finally boiled over.”

As she attempts to corral the couple’s rambunctious 2-year-old son Aliwein, Ms. Hernández emphasizes another aspect of Chilean society she says underlies the surge of protests.

“Instead of any effort to understand where this awakening was coming from, [the elites] simply made fun of the people,” she says, cradling her squirmy son in the family’s toy-strewn living room.

“Instead of listening,” Mr. Cubillos adds, “they mocked.”

Indeed, many Chileans seem unlikely to forget anytime soon the government minister (since sacked) who advised metro riders unhappy with the fare increase to get up earlier and get to work on an off-rush-hour train when lower fares prevail; or another (since sacked) who quipped that people unhappy over price hikes might consider buying flowers, since the price of a bouquet had recently dropped. 

And then there was the first lady, wife of President Sebastián Piñera, who was recorded privately telling a friend that the throngs in the streets seemed like aliens who had arrived from out of the blue.

“For years people kept quiet as they struggled to pay for their kids’ education and pay for housing and health care and other necessities, and watched as the few who are rich refused to share the country’s prosperity,” says Ms. Hernández, a professor of education studies currently on leave to care for her son. “But it was the humiliations that had the people saying, ‘No more!’”

But perhaps nothing cemented public perception of an out-of-touch leadership more than Mr. Piñera’s televised statement that “we are at war” and his declaration of a state of emergency that lasted nine days. The 20,000 soldiers he sent to the streets conjured up memories of the 1973 coup against a democratically elected government and the repressive military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet that tortured and disappeared thousands of Chileans.

“When I went to the march on the Alameda [opposite the presidential palace] and saw 10 tanks coming down the street towards us, it took me back to 1973 and it was chilling,” says Ana María López Cordero, an itinerant flower vendor who lives with her husband in a tidy home around the corner from the Cubillos family. 

“Chile is not at war, at least the people in the streets are not waging war,” she says. “But unfortunately what Chileans have learned is that the governing classes never pay the least attention unless the people make some noise.”

Howard LaFranchi/The Christian Science Monitor
Ana María López Cordero prepares flowers for market at her home in Santiago’s Maipú neighborhood. "It took me back to 1973 and it was chilling" she says of seeing tanks deployed on the streets, three decades after the end of the military dictatorship.

Disappointments with democracy?

Chile is a country of sharp economic inequality, though it is not Latin America’s worst case. (Economists generally award that crown to Brazil.) In recent years a number of corruption scandals have roiled the country, and high-profile cases of tax-dodging – including one involving President Piñera – have fed a growing resentment.

Then there is dissatisfaction with Chile’s free-market economic model – widely derided by young protesters, old pensioners, and average workers in between – that since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990 has delivered new levels of prosperity and reduced poverty rates, but has also resulted in an economy and social-welfare system where virtually everything, from most education and health services to the pension system, is largely privatized. (As one taxi driver proclaimed to this reporter, “Señor, Chile is the only country in the world where even the rivers are privatized!”) 

“We have been highlighting this unhappiness in Chile in our reports for almost a decade; it’s really nothing new, but no one and least of all the leadership has chosen to listen,” says Marta Lagos, director of Latinobarómetro, a polling and opinion research firm based in Santiago.

“There is major dissatisfaction with democracy and the performance of institutions that is true across much of Latin America, but what is different in Chile is the unhappiness, with Chile consistently coming in last [in Latin America surveys] in satisfaction with life,” Ms. Lagos says. “There’s a sense of stagnation and retroceso [falling behind], a very strong sense that democracy and the country’s institutions work for the few and not for the many.”

For some experts, the key to understanding Chile’s revolution is the country’s middle class, which both contributed to and reaped the benefits of rising prosperity since democracy was reestablished in 1990. Now that middle class wants more, or in some cases is falling behind in a less-robust economy, and is finding that the paths to further prosperity are reserved for a protectionist few.

“The Chileans who are protesting are the emerging middle class that stands at the gates of the promised land – and they’re finding that the elites are not letting them in,” says Patricio Navia, a Chilean sociologist and adjunct professor at New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

According to Professor Navia, who splits his time between Santiago and New York, Chile is “actually moving in the right direction” in terms of poverty reduction, prosperity, and even income equality. But he says that progress over three decades has created expectations that are not being met – in no small part due to the country’s power structure and small circle of ruling families.

The prime example of that unfair tilt that Chileans offer – from those demonstrating in the streets, to experts like Professor Navia – is the country’s education system. Public schools are in shambles and most of the middle class send their children to private schools, but top-tier private schools are essentially reserved for the elites.

“What we learned is that schools here are key to developing the social group you belong to and the contacts that will be determinant for your future,” says Nora Balzarotti, an economist with Euromonitor International in Santiago who moved with her family from Argentina to Chile a decade ago “for a better quality of life.”

Ms. Balzarotti says “Chile is a place where you have to work hard.” Still, she prefers Chile’s classic free-market economic model over Argentina’s recurring bouts of economic populism. But she also understands where some of the tumult in the streets may be coming from.

“Here it’s like living in a tiny town where everyone knows each other, everything is organized by very closed circles, and anyone from outside the town may have trouble moving in,” she says. “I can imagine it can be very difficult for many in the middle classes who may have the education but not everything else it takes, like the right last name, to get in there.” 

Turning protest to progress

President Piñera insists he will not resign, as many Chileans are demanding. He has taken a few measures, like canceling the metro fare increase and raising rock-bottom pensions, but no one believes that will be enough to calm the storm.

In the wake of the country’s “awakening,” some Chileans are beginning to form neighborhood and workplace discussion groups, called cabildos, to channel the ire of the streets into forums for finding solutions.

And many more are demanding a new constitution to replace the current one, which dates from the Pinochet dictatorship. It might be a necessary step, Professor Navia says, not so much because the current one isn’t working – he says reforms over the years mean that about 40% of the constitution has already been changed – but because “Chile needs the symbolism of once and for all laying Pinochet to rest.”

But the more difficult task Chile faces, he adds, will be changing society so that social mobility and sharing more equitably in the country’s prosperity become a reality.

“Right now Chile is like a party with a small circle of elites in attendance,” he says. “But now more people are at the entrance clamoring to get in, and the few on the inside are going to have to open the door a little if they don’t want those at the entrance to start throwing stones and ruin the party for everybody.”

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2. How Lebanese youth stand alone, speaking their truth to power

Protests are also afoot in Lebanon, and the portrait that emerges is one of courage. Those taking on corruption and rigid sectarianism appear vulnerable. Yet, together, they are standing up all the same. 

Mark
Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
Thousands of Lebanese protesters rally against sectarian government, calling for the removal of the entire political class, Nov. 3, 2019, in Beirut. Demonstrations that began Oct. 17 prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Oct. 29.

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They emphasize they are “citizens” first, and members of one of 18 different religious groups second.

In Lebanon, where holding some government jobs has more to do with religion and family than political party, it’s significant that the protesters disrupting the economically troubled country are setting this precedent. Entrenched sectarian interests define politics here, but three decades after the end of civil war, the system has fallen into corruption and the failure to provide even basic services.

"A majority of Lebanese now are poor, vulnerable, marginalized, and suffering from electricity cuts, lousy education, no jobs for their kids,” says Rami Khouri, a political journalist and professor.

The question is whether the force of people power alone in Lebanon can prompt meaningful change. The hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who launched a spontaneous street “revolution” across the country on Oct. 17 are hopeful that they can.

“There’s a generation out there that’s just going for it,” says Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. “They have nothing left to lose. ... They really want to have a country that they are proud to be in.”

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How Lebanese youth stand alone, speaking their truth to power

Nisrine Hammoud wears the Lebanese flag draped around her shoulders like a badge of optimism for the future. She is not alone, surrounded by thousands of energized protesters in Beirut’s central square, chanting, singing, and demanding top-to-bottom political change.

But Ms. Hammoud, and the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who launched a spontaneous street “revolution” across the country on Oct. 17, are very alone standing up to the Goliath of entrenched sectarian interests that have defined politics here for decades, but now fallen into disrepute, corruption, and the failure to provide even basic services.

Protesters “are just supporting each other,” says the 20-something college graduate, but have no outside backing besides local businesses providing food and water – and night club DJs providing pounding electronic dance music at rallies.

The protesters have set the precedent for change by identifying as “citizens” of Lebanon first, and only second as Muslim Shiites, Sunnis, or Christians from among Lebanon’s 18 myriad sects – if they note their sect at all.

Triggered by an announced tax on free internet calls, the protests have exposed a visceral anger with the ruling elite and a depth of discontent that last week led to the resignation of the prime minister, Saad Hariri.

“We feel like we are alive again, because we’re used to people just stealing our money, we’re used to all of this corruption,” says Ms. Hammoud, who traveled from the northern city of Tripoli, after a mass overnight rally there, to attend a “unity” rally in Beirut on Sunday.

“But now we’re glad people finally woke up and realized we should not be following these so-called leaders,” she says.

The question is whether the force of people power alone in Lebanon – which some consider part of an Arab Spring 2.0 that includes momentous street uprisings this year in Iraq, Algeria, and Sudan – can prompt lasting revolutionary change in the social contract between Lebanon’s citizens and their rulers.

“The street is very determined. People are absolutely adamant. They understand that now we’ve embarked on this road there is no turning back,” says Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

“There is something fundamental shifting beneath society, and we can see it,” she says. “It is palpable; we can touch it. But where it’s going to lead, we still don’t know.”

Ms. Yahya says she has been struck by the energy and spirit of the protests, but notes that changing the political system so dramatically is akin to committing “collective political suicide” for Lebanon’s traditional power centers, which could prompt a violent backlash.

“They understand what’s at stake, but they are quite fearless,” she says of the protesters she has spoken to at rallies. “There’s a generation out there that’s just going for it. They have nothing left to lose. ... They really want to have a country that they are proud to be in, that can actually be a home to them.”

Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
Smoke curls from a flare near a sign of a fist carrying the Arabic word for "revolution" (“thawra") in Martyrs’ Square, Nov. 3, 2019, in Beirut. Protests were initially triggered Oct. 17 by proposed taxes, including fees on social media call services.

Critical juncture

The protests have now reached a critical moment, as their novelty has worn off. Efforts by the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal movements to attack some rallies resulted in headlines but had little lasting impact. And a counter-rally mounted by Maronite Christian supporters of President Michel Aoun on Sunday showed how thousands of his followers still cling to their sect, even though they suffer from the same grievances as all other Lebanese.

There are few signs that Mr. Aoun is on the verge of naming a promised cabinet of technocrats. And protest tactics to block streets and close banks and schools can anger ordinary people as much as they pressure rulers.

“It’s very emotional to be here every single day. We are so fed up,” says Zeinab, a 30-something banker at the Beirut rally who asked that only her first name be used.

Her eyes tear up during chants led from the stage of “No more sects,” and vows not to be dispersed if the rally is attacked.

“I’m afraid. We still have some people who follow their sects,” says Zeinab. “We all came here from all over, but I don’t know what result we will have. ... It is not a revolution until we achieve what we are here for.”

Lebanon’s sectarian leaders “understand” the demands, she says, but they are “still in denial.” Yet the stakes are high, at such a historic moment.

“We have to get justice, we have to stay optimistic, because if we lose this optimism, things will crash and people will just go home,” says Ms. Hammoud.

“So we’re trying our best to stay here [on the streets],” she says. “The only chance we have is the election we are asking for. It’s up to us. It’s up to the people to decide if they are going to go back to their old ways, or we’re going to go forward.”

Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor
A woman takes a selfie near protest tents destroyed by counterprotesters on Nov. 3, 2019, in Beirut. Last month Lebanese from across the country and all 18 recognized religious sects began to fill the streets, chanting against corruption, poor services, and high unemployment.

Power versus power

Yet the fight is likely to be a long one, analysts say, to change Lebanon’s sectarian system of governance – prevalent for decades, and exacerbated by Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war – in which top posts are divided between sects ruled by men portrayed as heroes and often the sole saviors of their community. They become accordingly wealthy and often pass leadership from father to son in family dynasties.

For those Lebanese who have taken to the streets, that zero-sum system has outlived its purpose and only serves to enrich the political elite, while keeping ordinary Lebanese poor and scrambling for services.

“It’s hard to know how things are going to move, because the force of the demonstrators is really powerful, and the tenacity of the old guard is equally powerful,” says Rami Khouri, a professor at the American University of Beirut (AUB), contacted in Doha, Qatar.

Protesters are “facing them down on their own,” he says, while sectarian leaders “don’t understand that the citizenry will no longer put up with the old sharing-the-pie game.”

“The old system worked OK until about 10 years ago, and then it started to get so outrageously corrupt and inefficient, and uncaring, that the majority of people started suffering,” says Professor Khouri, who is also a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“So a majority of Lebanese now are poor, vulnerable, marginalized, and suffering from electricity cuts, lousy education, no jobs for their kids,” he says. “When it was 10% of the population that was suffering, [the old guard] could get away with it. But now probably 60% or 70% of the population is really feeling the pain.”

Yet the result is far from clear, says Mr. Khouri: “These are tough, old, and violent men. They will not easily move aside. They will keep trying to find ways to keep their finger in the pie.”

A long-term game

That is what worries protesters, as they take to the street day after day, in city after city, demanding a total overhaul of their nation’s method of governance. Cosmetic changes won’t do, when politicians have left the economy on the verge of collapse, and citizens hungry.

“This is going to be a long-term game. But already this movement has been significant, both in its geographical reach and its slogans,” says Carmen Geha, an activist and an assistant professor at AUB who studies protest movements.

“There has really been reconciliation between north and south Lebanon, between groups that have been pitted against each other for many, many years,” says Professor Geha. “So it has already succeeded in uprooting a certain political culture, and the gains that will come I think will be huge, but it will take time.”

The idea of reconciliation as united “citizens,” and resistance to elites trying to preserve their influence, echoes at Lebanon’s rallies, where Ms. Hammoud says protesters have “got out of their comfort zone” to erase the sectarian mindset.

“It’s been a very long time,” she says, looking at the vast crowd waving Lebanese flags. “People are highly affected by their parents, by the areas they are living in. So you can’t just in 15 days get these [sectarian] thoughts out of their minds. ... But we’re trying our best to keep people awake, to spread awareness, so people can get rid of this thing.”

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Monitor Breakfast

3. Democrats win in Kentucky, Virginia, but Tom Perez is looking to 2020

Here’s the latest from our Monitor Breakfasts – our civil, on-the-record conversations with Washington newsmakers. Linda Feldmann sat down with a top Democratic official the day after several big elections.

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On the heels of an apparent gubernatorial win in deep-red Kentucky and the capture of both legislative chambers in Virginia, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez was praising party unity.

“Our unity is our greatest strength as a party, and it’s Donald Trump’s worst nightmare,” Mr. Perez said at the Monitor Breakfast Wednesday. 

But the big unity test awaits. Forces pushing and pulling on party cohesion are testing the Democrats in ways that have been building for years but could reach full flower next year. 

For now, Democrats are united in one key way. Last week, all but two of 234 House Democrats voted to approve the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

But beating Mr. Trump next November could well be difficult, especially if the Democrats nominate a candidate deemed too left-wing. Already, intraparty debates over key policies – on health care, immigration, the Green New Deal, foreign policy – threaten to fracture the party and damage its chances. 

“Behind the scenes there’s this low-grade civil war going on,” says Democratic strategist Jim Manley.

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Democrats win in Kentucky, Virginia, but Tom Perez is looking to 2020

Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was all smiles Wednesday morning when he sat down for a Monitor Breakfast with reporters.

Democrat Andy Beshear of Kentucky looked set to beat the state’s unpopular Republican governor, Matt Bevin, by more than 5,000 votes – an upset victory, if it holds, in a state that voted for President Donald Trump by 30 percentage points. At press time, Governor Bevin had yet to concede, and a review of the Tuesday vote was underway. 

Democrats also turned Virginia blue, winning majorities in both legislative chambers and giving Gov. Ralph Northam unified party control of the state for the first time since 1993. 

Mr. Perez praised party unity and candidate quality for Tuesday’s results, as well as last year’s midterms, and played down the Republican sweep in Mississippi and all other statewide races in Kentucky.

“Our unity is our greatest strength as a party, and it’s Donald Trump’s worst nightmare,” Mr. Perez said. 

But the big unity test awaits: the 2020 election and the crowded, ideologically diverse Democratic field. Forces pushing and pulling on party cohesion are testing the Democrats in ways that have been building for years but could reach full flower next year. 

For now, Democrats are united in one key way. Last week, all but two of 234 House Democrats voted to approve the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Almost all Democratic senators, in the event of an impeachment trial, are expected to vote to convict – though as it appears now, Mr. Trump is highly unlikely to be removed from office prematurely. 

“Presumably, sometime within the next six months, the Democrats will have agreed on a nominee, and they have a lot of incentive to unite behind that nominee,” says Seth Masket, a political scientist at the University of Denver. “They are highly motivated to unseat Donald Trump.” 

Beating Mr. Trump next November could well be difficult, especially if the Democrats nominate a candidate who many members deem too left-wing. The intraparty debate over key policies – on health care, immigration, the Green New Deal, foreign policy – could fracture the party at a time when it needs unity most. 

Mr. Perez asserts that the big, diverse Democratic presidential field is a plus, that debate is healthy, and that the candidates have agreed to support the eventual nominee. 

“Every candidate running for president understands that this is not about them,” Mr. Perez said. “This is about our democracy at a critical inflection point. And that is why I asked every candidate not only to pledge to support the nominee, but to pledge to actively campaign for the nominee.”

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who had raised suspicions that she might run as an independent, took that pledge “enthusiastically,” Mr. Perez said. “She told us, ‘I am not running as a third-party candidate.’”

Mr. Perez also says all the candidates have agreed to deploy top aides to help the eventual nominee and, perhaps most important, share their voter data. That final point – sharing data – is something Bernie Sanders didn’t do when he lost the 2016 Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. 

Some Democrats are concerned that a nominee who is too left-wing – or a self-identified democratic socialist, as with Senator Sanders – could damage the party’s chances across the board. 

“Behind the scenes there’s this low-grade civil war going on,” says Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist who was a top aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, what do his folks do? If Elizabeth Warren gets the nomination, how much angst does that cause to Democrats?” 

Mr. Manley points specifically to the debate over health care policy, and Senator Warren’s proposal to institute Medicare For All, which would eliminate private insurance and cost $20.5 trillion over 10 years. 

“Obviously, Republicans will have a field day, but it could also be a disaster for down-ballot Democrats,” Mr. Manley says. 

Republicans who oppose Mr. Trump are also concerned about the Democrats’ ability to weather the coming 2020 storm. 

“They need a strategy to beat Trump,” says Rick Tyler, former aide to top Republicans and a Trump critic. “The strategy isn’t getting into the mud with Trump or complaining about who he is and how he acts.”

Mr. Perez doesn’t believe in unilateral disarmament when it comes to fighting Mr. Trump. “I’m not going to go to a knife fight with a spoon,” he said. But he also says he subscribes to Michelle Obama’s maxim, “When they go low, we go high.” 

“My variant on that is when they go low, we go vote,” he said. “When they go lower, we make sure that everyone around us can vote who’s eligible to vote.”

Mr. Perez pointed to Mr. Beshear of Kentucky, currently the state’s attorney general, as a model for how to go up against a Trump-like candidate and come out on top. “Read what he said last night,” Mr. Perez said. “He wants to take care of the least of Kentuckians, and he has a proven track record of doing that.” 

Another challenge for Mr. Perez is fundraising. The DNC has fallen far short of the Republican National Committee on that score, but Mr. Perez insisted the party is doing fine. On the question of whether the DNC would greenlight a corporate-funded super PAC to help the party, he suggested not. 

“We have been very clear that we don’t take money from organizations that are inconsistent with our values,” he said. 

Allies of former Vice President Joe Biden recently filed paperwork to set up a super PAC that would be funded by wealthy individuals and corporate donations, with the Biden campaign’s blessing. 

“Every candidate has to run the campaign that he or she believes is best for them,” Mr. Perez said. 

In New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary on Feb. 11, voters expressed concern about party unity. 

In the debates, “they’re eating their own young,” says Fred Ferris, a voter from Saco, Maine, who came to Rochester, New Hampshire, to hear Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar speak.

Mr. Ferris says he will vote for the Democratic nominee no matter who it is – a common sentiment in New Hampshire. 

There’s also a practice among seasoned political operatives in New Hampshire of reaching out to losing candidates as well as their staffers and supporters, in the name of party unity. 

“We will be the people who will soothe egos,” says one operative, who did not want to be named. “We all live in the same towns. Those are our neighbors that might be disappointed.”

Staff writer Christa Case Bryant contributed to this report from Rochester, New Hampshire.

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4. They survived Ebola. Now, they’re helping others do the same.

Ebola is synonymous with some of humanity’s greatest fears. But in visiting Congo, our Ryan Brown found that one of the most important weapons against it is the love and selflessness of survivors. 

Mark
Kudra Maliro
Regina Kavira Mbangamuke, who now works at the Ebola treatment center in Beni, Congo, where she was once a patient, often tells those she cares for, “I had this horrible thing too and look at me now. You can't give up.”

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Six weeks after Safi Kavugho Musayi was discharged from an Ebola treatment center, she received a call from a doctor. Did she want to come back, he asked, to work as a nursing assistant?

Not really, she thought. She had survived the disease, but her daughter, Charity, had not. But the salary was more money than she’d ever seen selling used clothes in a local market. And anyway, if she stayed home, she worried the darkness might swallow her whole.

Like most of the 1,000 people who have survived this outbreak in the eastern Congo, Ms. Musayi’s survival is interlaced with profound loss. But survivors, who are considered likely immune, also have an unusual ability. They don’t need to wear spacesuit-like protective gear. They can hold hands and rock babies. They can hug and clean and console. And in a place where rumors swirl about the disease, where trust in outsiders is often lacking, the hundreds of survivors now working in Ebola centers provide something else: familiarity. 

“This work helps the response, but it also helps the people doing it,” says Solange Kahambu Kamuha, a psychologist with UNICEF. “When they go home, they may be stigmatized for what they survived, but at work they are surrounded by people who understand.”

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They survived Ebola. Now, they’re helping others do the same.

When Regina Kavira Mbangamuke’s toddler son fell sick late last year, she did what any mother would.

She pressed his feverish body to hers. She wiped away his tears and his sweat. She whispered tiny comforts in his ear. Don’t be afraid, my baby.

And when he died, she fell into a sadness so deep and physical it took a week for her to realize there might be something else wrong.

Ebola can be like that, Ms. Mbangamuke knows now. First it tries to take the people you love most in the world. And then it tries to kill you too. 

But as she tells her story to her patients at the Ebola treatment center in this city in eastern Congo, where she now works as a nursing assistant, it has a more hopeful postscript.

“I say, my brother, my sister, I had this horrible thing too, and look at me now,” she says. “You cannot give up.”

Like nearly every one of the 1,000 people who have survived Ebola in eastern Congo in the past 15 months, Ms. Mbangamuke’s survival is interlaced with profound loss.

But Ebola also affords les guéris – the cured – with an unusual opportunity. They are considered likely immune to the disease, and so also to the cruel distance it demands. They don’t need to wear the spacesuit-like protective gear that other Ebola responders don to avoid touching the sick. They can hold hands and rock babies. They can hug and clean and console. And in a place where trust in outsiders is in short supply, the hundreds of survivors who now work in the Ebola response provide something else: familiarity.

“This work helps the response, but it also helps the people doing it,” says Solange Kahambu Kamuha, a psychologist with UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, in Beni. “When they go home, they may be stigmatized for what they survived, but at work they are surrounded by people who understand.”

It’s a club, most days, Safi Kavugho Musayi would rather not be a part of. Ebola cleaved her life neatly in half. Before, her daughter Charity was alive. “When you lose a child, you cannot care about anything else,” she says.

Kudra Maliro
Dr. Maurice Kakule Mutsunga is chairman of a group of Ebola survivors in eastern Congo. He encourages fellow survivors to join the Ebola response – as health care workers, drivers, or educators – as a way to both assist their communities and ease their own trauma.

There was very little that mattered to her, in fact, the day Dr. Maurice Kakule Mutsunga called to ask if she wanted a job. Dr. Mutsunga was the chair of the local Ebola survivors organization. It was about six weeks after Ms. Musayi had been discharged from the Ebola treatment center, and he wanted to see if she wanted to be a garde-malade, a nursing assistant at the same facility.

Not really, she thought. She had been in that place the day of her daughter’s funeral, fighting Ebola inside of a plastic isolation cube. Why, now, would she want to go back?

But the salary – around $300 a month – was more money than she’d ever seen selling used clothes in a local market. And anyway, if she stayed home, she worried the darkness might swallow her whole.

“It surprised me but I’m happy every day in that place, because I get to see people survive,” she says. “You forget what has happened to you. You just feel useful.”

For the global health organizations that hire them, survivors speaking about their own experience with the disease also have a credibility that is often lacking here.

Joshua Pikwa’s job, technically speaking, is to ferry the sick to Ebola transit centers, where they can be formally tested for the virus. But in practice, it often involves recounting his own story and hoping it will puncture the fear.

On a recent morning, he stands above the bed of a thin, dazed looking man in a private clinic here. A preacher, Mr. Pikwa explained that he’d been ministering to a sick woman whose family believed she’d been possessed by demons. A few days later, he began to feel sluggish too.

Often, simply sharing his own story works. But today, the young man in bed shakes his head weakly. No, he says, he won’t go. He heard that everyone who goes into an Ebola treatment center dies.

From the outside, rumors like this can sound fanciful. The disease was invented by the rich to make money. The disease was brought in to kill the political opposition. Hospitals inject their patients with Ebola to keep the outbreak going.

But each outlandish-seeming rumor contains a kernel of truth. Many people here, from the locals renting out SUVs to Ebola responders to the U.N. employees pulling down salaries hundreds of times the average local earnings, are making money off of this outbreak.

And the country’s government did delay voting in this region in the December national elections because of the threat of Ebola, effectively cutting the region out of the process.

Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/AP
Motorcycle taxi driver Germain Kalubenge pours chlorinated water on his bike after taking someone with a suspected case of Ebola to a center in Beni, Congo, Aug. 22, 2019. Mr. Kalubenge is also an Ebola survivor, making him a welcome collaborator for health workers who have faced deep community mistrust.

Even the idea that patients are being infected in hospitals is rooted in the truth that many have gotten sick after visiting one.

Given all this, for many people here, there is simply little reason to believe that outsiders ever have their best interests at heart, says Dr. Mutsunga, the head of the survivors group. “All around, people see tanks and U.N. soldiers, and still our war doesn’t end,” he points out, referring to the decades of civil war that have roiled this part of Congo. Why should Ebola, and its new army of outsiders, be any different?

Ms. Mbangamuke sees the skepticism and to her too, it makes sense. Ebola has broken all of society’s rules.

“Here in the Congo, to take care of people is the normal thing, but in times of Ebola people cannot do the normal thing” for their own families, she says.

For her, it is still nearly impossible to make sense of a world that would take her child and spare her. The camaraderie she feels with her colleagues, their unspoken understanding, the easy laughter that passes between them as they mix sugary cups of tea in the break area, none of it gives meaning to her son’s death.

But it is a way for her to try to restore some measure of balance.

“Every old woman I see [in the treatment center], she becomes like my own mother. Every baby, it’s like my own baby.”

Kudra Maliro contributed reporting.

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Books

5. After ‘Night Circus,’ Erin Morgenstern splashes into ‘Starless Sea’

Erin Morgenstern is an author, but she’s really a trafficker in wonder and imagination. She talked with our April Austin about how those ideas take shape.

Mark

Two ways to read the story

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Adoring fans of “The Night Circus,” Erin Morgenstern’s 2011 bestselling novel, came away captivated by the dreamlike world, eccentric characters, and fantasy romance that she created. Her latest, “The Starless Sea,” arrived in bookstores Nov. 5. It tells the story of Zachary Ezra Rawlins and his Alice-in-Wonderland-like fall into a labyrinth of stories, both ancient and modern. At the heart is a mystery that threatens to engulf him. We asked Ms. Morgenstern to share some of the ideas behind the book and its themes. 

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After ‘Night Circus,’ Erin Morgenstern splashes into ‘Starless Sea’

Adoring fans of “The Night Circus,” Erin Morgenstern’s 2011 bestselling novel, came away captivated by the dreamlike world, eccentric characters, and fantasy romance that she created. Her latest, “The Starless Sea,” arrived in bookstores Nov. 5. It tells the story of Zachary Ezra Rawlins and his Alice-in-Wonderland-like fall into a labyrinth of stories, both ancient and modern. At the heart is a mystery that threatens to engulf him. We asked Ms. Morgenstern to share some of the ideas behind the book and its themes. She replied via email.

“The Starless Sea” and “The Night Circus” are full of dreamlike imagery. You’re a master of atmosphere. Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere, in dreams of the day or nighttime variety. I’m a very visual person so I’ll keep notes of interesting images or objects or textures until I figure out where I want to use them, but I also try to hit as many senses as possible to enrich the atmosphere. [For example] one of the tents in “The Night Circus” was inspired by my favorite perfume company, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.

Awhile back, I went to a botanic garden that had an art installation where a few of the trees had been covered in real gold leaf. I ended up giving them a very brief cameo in “The Starless Sea.”

I’m always fascinated by trying to figure out what makes something compelling. Often it’s an element that’s a little unexpected or surreal so it pulls attention differently, something to keep looking at or thinking about.
 
Why did you choose books – and a library – as a central theme in “The Starless Sea”?

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write after “The Night Circus” and I kept asking myself why I wanted to write another book at all and that led me back to books about books. For a long time I kept my focus on books in particular but “The Starless Sea” only started to find itself once I started wandering into fairy tales and myths and video games and it became a book about stories. Though of course everything starts with a book. You find the right book on the right shelf in the right library and everything changes.
 
Your acknowledgments at the end of “The Starless Sea” mention the action role-playing video game “Dragon Age: Inquisition.” What about playing it made a difference to your writing?

I wasn’t sure what Zachary [the main character] was studying at first; I assumed he was probably an English major but it never felt quite right, and midway through playing “Dragon Age” and thinking about narrative choices and butterfly effects I realized he could probably major in game theory or something similar and it fit perfectly. Adding in the video-game element worked well with things I was already playing with about retellings and “real” versions of stories. I wanted it to feel as though there were always other paths to be taken and different choices to be made that could have changed the story at any point, the way a choice-based role-playing game can change depending on what the player decides to do.

What do you think draws humans to storytelling and stories?

I think people are driven to communicate and stories are such a universal communication tool that can be used for so many purposes, to educate or entertain or warn, and stories can work on multiple levels at once. Plus you can use stories to communicate ideas that are bigger or more complex than the realities in which they’re told. You can tell greater truths by using myths to tell them.

“The Night Circus” took place in a shadowy world whose time period was undefined. Your second novel is set in contemporary times. Why is that?

Most of “The Night Circus” is Victorian/Edwardian and I wasn’t sure I wanted to write another historical fantasy. I tried to keep “The Starless Sea” a little vague time-period wise. and it does drift from very, very long ago to quite recent. I always wanted to write a story that felt old and new at the same time, so I decided to have the contemporary part of the story take place as I was writing. Several of the early Zachary sections were written in January 2015 so I kept them there. It snowed a lot that winter.

“The Starless Sea” has some memorable owls, as well as bees. Why owls? Why bees?

Both owls and bees are in there because they’re fairly universal and ancient. There are owls on coins in ancient Greece, bees were kept in ancient Egypt and they’re both in my yard right now thousands of years later. (The bees I can see, the owls I mostly hear at dusk or very early in the morning.)

Owls have so much varying symbolism in different cultures, both positive and negative, and truthfully I can’t remember precisely when I scribbled “The Owl King” in my notes without knowing how big a role the owls would play.

The bees I settled on after a lot of waffling about animal symbols simply because they insisted. I kept encountering bees in unexpected places and the final straw was when a honeybee flew into my apartment while I was living in Manhattan. They were rather adamant about being included in the book.

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The Monitor's View

The art of listening in Yemen's war

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The tiny Gulf nation of Yemen may be suffering the world’s worst humanitarian disaster – a result of a four-year war – but it still has one resource to draw on: the ability of its factions to listen to each other. On Tuesday, the country’s internationally recognized government and a coalition seeking autonomy in the south signed an agreement to share power, blend their forces, and work jointly for talks with the other big armed group, the Houthi rebels.

The agreement, which still needs careful implementation, brought some hope to Martin Griffiths, the United Nations’ special envoy for Yemen. He has long labored to end a conflict that has resulted in more than 100,000 fatalities. “Listening to southern stakeholders is important to the political efforts to achieve peace in the country,” he said.

The task of defining the bonds of statehood for Yemen will rely on all sides to listen to the grievances of others. “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen,” said Winston Churchill. In Yemen, it was the latter – actually more humility than courage – that helped seal the latest peace deal.

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The art of listening in Yemen's war

The tiny Gulf nation of Yemen may be suffering the world’s worst humanitarian disaster – a result of a four-year war – and may feel trapped as the Arab world’s poorest country. Yet it still has one resource to draw on: the ability of its factions to listen to each other. On Tuesday, the country’s internationally recognized government and a coalition seeking autonomy in the south signed an agreement to share power, blend their forces, and work jointly for talks with the other big armed group, the Houthi rebels.

The agreement, which still needs careful implementation, brought some hope to Martin Griffiths, the United Nations’ special envoy for Yemen. He has long labored to end a conflict that has resulted in more than 100,000 fatalities. “Listening to southern stakeholders is important to the political efforts to achieve peace in the country,” he said.

The roots of Yemen’s war go back to the 2011 Arab Spring when a pro-democracy rebellion opened up old political fractures. An attempt at a national dialogue in 2014 resulted in a recommendation to transform Yemen into a six-region federal system. The proposal, which was a result of careful listening and also raised expectations, was scuttled by powerful leaders. This pushed the Houthis to take over the capital, drawing in regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

While the tragic war is often portrayed as a clash between two branches of Islam and regional rivals, “the roots of this conflict are much more local, and they have a lot more to do with the political economy, struggles, and frustrated regionalism,” says Jane Kinninmont, a Middle East specialist.

The main route out of the conflict lies in listening and then deliberation among all Yemenis. The Saudis now say they have an “open channel” for negotiating with the Iran-backed rebels. And the U.N. hopes to revive all-party talks soon. Mr. Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council in October that there was “cause for optimism” in ending the complex civil war.

The task of defining the bonds of statehood for Yemen will rely on all sides to listen to the grievances of others. “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen,” said Winston Churchill. In Yemen, it was the latter – actually more humility than courage – that helped seal the latest peace deal.

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this editorial referred to Jane Kinninmont as currently working at Chatham House in London. She is now with The Elders Foundation.)

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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.

Integrity, fairness, honesty ... sturdy as a milking stool

Even if life causes us to stumble or fall, we can anchor our thoughts and actions on the solid platform of an abiding love for God and His laws of purity, justice, and truth.

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Integrity, fairness, honesty ... sturdy as a milking stool

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Here in Wisconsin, three-legged milking stools aren’t as plentiful as they once were. But I remember watching, years ago, as my great-aunt and great-uncle sat on them, on their rough-plank barn floor, milking their dairy cows. A three-legged stool won’t wobble or tip, no matter where it’s placed.

It’s an image that, to me, suggests another kind of “three-legged stool” that can serve as a strong, sturdy support for us in today’s often rough, uneven world: the footing of integrity, ethics, and honesty.

In my first job as a city hall reporter for a local suburban newspaper, I had an experience that taught me the value and necessity of keeping this trio of qualities close at hand. City officials were about to propose a plan requiring local police officers to live inside the city limits. They offered me an exclusive on this story, before it went to the major metro paper. I interviewed several city officials at length, wrote the story, and was quite pleased when it was printed on the first page. I saw it as a sort of feather in my cap, a front-page scoop that ultimately would look very good on my résumé!

But after the paper hit the newsstands, my phone began ringing. A lot. Rank-and-file police officers were furious that I hadn’t presented the issue fully or fairly. There were many reasons this plan would potentially hit them negatively, none of which my article had addressed.

I knew what had happened. I’d let personal ambition override the honest and ethical requirement to present a complete story. I’d wanted the higher-ups to approve my story, so I’d only told their side.

I developed a follow-up article, sharing the police officers’ perspectives. When the next issue was printed, however, the city officials I’d interviewed earlier became upset – and the paper and I were now caught between two sides of a very contentious political argument.

I’d seen from experience that even if the roughness and unevenness of human experience causes us to stumble or fall, we can lean on the power of God. We can anchor our thoughts and actions on the solid platform of an abiding love for God and His law, and trust in God’s care. God, divine Truth itself, has created us in the very image of the Divine, made to express integrity, rightness, and truthfulness.

What makes this “three-legged stool” of qualities strong and enduring is its wholly spiritual foundation, its basis in the unshakable God. When we let this underlie what we think and do, it steadies our consideration for others, puts truth and love in our words and deeds, and brings more thoughtfulness to our decisions. It enables us to challenge the persistent notion that material circumstance defines our experience and instead see more clearly that His divine laws of integrity, justice, and truthfulness actually do prevail.

So on the night when that second report in our newspaper caused such a stir, I went home and prayed. I recalled what the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, once wrote about taking sides: “I am asked, ‘What are your politics?’ I have none, in reality, other than to help support a righteous government; to love God supremely, and my neighbor as myself” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 276). It occurred to me that what I needed to do next was to support fair and ethical city government by writing in an honest and balanced way about whatever came next.

Not long afterward, I was reporting on fresh meetings taking place between representatives of both sides. Ultimately, compromises and flexibility followed that satisfied everyone’s concerns.

This experience stands for me today as a clear example of what’s possible when we start and stay with God’s truth and love, striving to think and speak honestly, live our God-given integrity, and act ethically. Leaning on this steady platform benefits not just us, but the world around us, too.

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Viewfinder

Winter is coming

Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters
Hoarfrost-covered trees are seen on a mountain outside Almaty, Kazakhstan, Nov. 6, 2019.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( November 7th, 2019 )

Thank you for joining us today. We hope you’ll come back tomorrow when Story Hinckley looks at one of the big trends underlying American politics right now: As suburbs turn more Democratic, rural areas turn more Republican. She looks at why voters’ perceptions in these places are changing.

Monitor Daily Podcast

November 06, 2019
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