2019
December
02
Monday
Noelle Swan
Deputy Daily Editor

Today’s stories include the next phase of impeachment hearings, the first woman to lead the European Commission, efforts to foster discussion among political opponents, why Hong Kong protesters are feeling grateful for President Trump, and cookbooks as cultural windows.

But first, world leaders are settling into Madrid today for 12 days of climate negotiations. Each nation brings to the table its own perspectives, values, and needs. But for the 197 signatories of the landmark Paris climate agreement the global nature of climate change demands a unified response.

This 25th United Nations climate summit is undergirded by a mounting sense of urgency. Last week Europe’s Parliament declared a “climate emergency,” just days after a U.N. report cautioned that our current course could lead to a world where average temperatures surpass preindustrial levels by more than 3 degrees Celsius. The Paris accord aims to hold warming to 1.5 degrees.

While delegates negotiate over the next two weeks, we will be exploring the role of the individual in tackling this global challenge. 

When we asked readers this fall how they think about climate change, we received dozens of responses from people who see themselves as part of the solution. Cynthia Kuest of DeLand, Florida, writes that she vowed to drive less after reading about changes in Alaska’s permafrost in a Monitor cover story. She sold her car in August and outfitted her bike for messy weather. 

“One benefit I discovered by riding my bicycle,” she says, “is that I am connecting more with people in my community.” 

We will delve into some of your ideas and share how staffers are thinking about climate in their daily lives.

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The Chat

1. ‘What does this actually change?’ Our reporters catch you up on impeachment.

We asked readers to send in questions about impeachment. Elliot Kim from Fullerton, California, hit on something that’s top of mind for many: “What does this actually change?” Our Washington bureau chief, Congress reporter, and senior Washington writer explain.

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Jess: What’s the significance of this fact record? Why’s that important, if we already have a sense of how this may end? 

Peter: The fact record is not good for the president. How bad, depends on your interpretation of the seriousness of his actions. Remember, removal is not impeachment’s only consequence. He’ll have an asterisk next to his name in history. That’s not nothing.

Linda: He would be only the third U.S. president in history to be impeached (fourth, if you include Richard Nixon’s certain impeachment, before he resigned). For Democrats, impeaching Mr. Trump is important because, in their view, he has openly abused power, and is violating the Constitution. 

Democrats also believe they gain politically by moving to impeach – they are pulling their party together at a time of great intra-party division.

Jess: And Republicans? Do they have anything to gain from any of this, if things go as expected?

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‘What does this actually change?’ Our reporters catch you up on impeachment.

Jessica Mendoza (Congress reporter): Hi everyone, welcome back to the grind! Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving weekend, and have fresh minds – and full bellies – to take on a new wave of impeachment news.

Ahead of the break we asked readers to send in questions about impeachment. Elliot Kim from Fullerton, California, hit on something that’s top of mind for many right now: “What does this actually change? Both parties seem completely entrenched in their respective narratives, with almost no common ground between the two. What are potential strategic reasons for engaging in what’s being called by a great many analysts ‘political performance’?”

Linda Feldmann (Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent): It may be a “political performance,” but the Democrats have no choice now but to proceed. You don’t start an inquiry without knowing exactly where it’s going — and as of now, the House will impeach and the Senate will acquit. President Donald Trump will remain in office.

But that doesn’t mean things will stay exactly the same after acquittal.

Peter Grier (senior Washington writer): I would say the performance produced a fact record. There were two channels of foreign policy to Ukraine, one directed by Rudy Giuliani. A number of U.S. diplomats thought that Ukraine had to start investigations to get things it wanted from the United States. Nobody testified that they heard the president actually say that, though.

Linda: So there was something for each side in the hearings.

Jess: Peter, what’s the significance of this fact record? Why’s that important, if we already have a sense of how this may end? 

Peter: The fact record is not good for the president. How bad, depends on your interpretation of the seriousness of his actions. Remember, removal is not impeachment’s only consequence. He’ll have an asterisk next to his name in history. That’s not nothing.

Linda: He would be only the third U.S. president in history to be impeached (fourth, if you include Richard Nixon’s certain impeachment, before he resigned). For Democrats, impeaching Mr. Trump is important because, in their view, he has openly abused power, and is violating the Constitution. 

Democrats also believe they gain politically by moving to impeach – they are pulling their party together at a time of great intraparty division.

Jess: And Republicans? Do they have anything to gain from any of this, if things go as expected?

Peter: I think the short-term political consequences could go many different directions. It could fire up Trump voters. The public might see it as overreach. Or they might decide Mr. Trump is in essence guilty, even if not removed. The whole thing is an “onward through the fog” moment.

Linda: Impeachment is certainly firing up Republicans – but Trump voters are already fired up. Each still only gets one vote. 

Peter: Mr. Trump’s approval ratings have been remarkably stable throughout his presidency, and that’s continued during impeachment. In that sense, it is just more of the same – everybody is already dug into their opinion of our singular chief executive.

Jess: That’s one line of thinking that’s really taken hold, but I think there’s some polling that shows there’s some folks who might be willing to change their minds

Linda: There are some voters who are still persuadable on impeachment and removal. Women support impeachment way more than men and are more dug in than men. Some 20% of men compared to 9% of women say their opinion on impeachment could change, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. 

Jess: That lines up with broader trends around gender and the Trump presidency.

Linda: I think it would take a massive blockbuster revelation to move public opinion in a major way. See “smoking gun tape, Richard Nixon.” 

Jess: So perhaps in the end it comes back to the long-term historical implications, and the more imminent political ones (i.e., 2020). What do we know about how President Bill Clinton’s impeachment affected politics after the fact? 

Linda: Things pretty much went back to normal, because it served the interests of both parties for that to happen. Longer term, the Republicans won the 2000 presidential election. Impeachment could have been a factor there.

Peter: In that sense, things did go back to normal. But in another, the Clinton impeachment changed what “normal” was. Mr. Clinton himself tried really hard to focus on day-to-day business, and he continued to do that. Without impeachment, would he have been less disciplined? Al Gore felt he had to show that he wasn’t aligned too closely with his boss, and didn’t ask for Mr. Clinton’s political help in 2000 – which he needed.

So who knows? That’s the “onward through the fog” effect I was talking about.

Linda: Yes – I agree. Mr. Clinton was furious that Mr. Gore distanced himself. Mr. Clinton was great at “rallying the troops.” Mr. Gore, not so much. Some people argue that that cost Mr. Gore the election. 

Jess: The difference, of course, is that Mr. Trump is running for reelection – not something we’ve seen before. But regardless, the results of impeachment will continue to shape the idea of what is politically “normal,” which is already something the country has been wrestling with since Election Day 2016.

Linda: I agree. We’re seeing a “normalization” of impeachment.

Jess: How might timing considerations affect the way impeachment plays out from here?

Peter: That’s a big question. Do Democrats continue to move quickly toward an impeachment vote? They’re on track to wrap up around Christmas. Or do they extend it? 

Jess: They’re pretty much hitting the ground running. This week, the House Intelligence Committee is set to review, and then vote on, the report they’re compiling. That vote, scheduled for Tuesday, will determine whether or not to send the whole matter over to the House Judiciary Committee, which is in charge of drafting articles of impeachment.

Peter: Judiciary is already set to begin hearings this week. The first is a panel of academic impeachment experts.

Linda: Is that just throat-clearing, or will anything serious come of that?

Jess: I’ve heard it said that this hearing is sort of an appetizer to the main course.

Linda: Perhaps a show of partisanship on each side? Judiciary is a much livelier bunch than the House Intelligence Committee.

Peter: Yes, I think it will be as much brick-throwing as throat-clearing. 

Jess: But the timing is tough for Democrats, with only a few weeks left in the year. Is there any reason they need to get all this done before the year ends?

Linda: They don’t want a Senate impeachment trial to crowd out the run-up to the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, which are two months away. That would keep some key senators stuck in Washington, rather than out campaigning.

Jess: So we’re back to politics – and the promise of a very full legislative calendar in the coming weeks. (And that’s not even considering the fact that current government funding ends Dec. 20! Congress needs to come up with a deal for that, too.)

Peter: Democrats also don’t want the eventual nominee to be typed as the impeachment candidate. They want to make 2020 about other stuff, like health care. 

Jess: Makes sense – it’s how the party won the House in 2018. What will you be watching most closely in the coming weeks?

Peter: Right now, I am paying close attention to how partisans are already picking apart the testimony that has been given. Some people have contradicted each other, or said stuff that may not (or may) be credible. There’s a chance that becomes an issue in further hearings.

If the House votes to impeach, the Senate trial that follows will likely involve testimony about alleged misdeeds of Joe Biden and his son, and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. It is going to be very interesting to see who gets called to deliver that testimony and what they say.

Jess: And whether the White House will even participate!

Peter: Right! They’ve turned down the opportunity to participate in Wednesday’s Judiciary hearing. But they’ve left open the possibility of joining in down the line in the House. And in the Senate, the GOP will control the proceedings.

Jess: So, just to sum up what to keep an eye on: possible fireworks as Judiciary picks up the mantle; who else will be called to testify; and how the Senate may decide to manage the proceedings if (and when) the House votes to impeach. It’ll be a busy few weeks in Washington.

Peter: Yes, hardly time for Christmas shopping! By the way, I recommend tree ornaments from the White House Historical Association – they have one for each administration. They’re great for political junkies.

For all of our impeachment coverage, check out and bookmark csmonitor.com/impeachment.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

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Profile

2. Ursula von der Leyen: The making of Europe’s top leader

Ursula von der Leyen built a career on breaking boundaries. But as the European Commission’s first female president, her task will be to foster European unity at a time of deep division.

Noelle
Virginia Mayo/AP
Incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Oct. 18, 2019. She is taking over at a delicate moment, with the union’s 28 members divided over issues such as immigration and climate change.

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Dr. Ursula von der Leyen, the new president of the European Commission, arrives in Brussels with the reputation of a resilient and determined survivor. And she is taking over at a delicate moment, with the union’s 28 members divided over issues such as immigration and climate change, and Britain expected to pull out of the EU early next year.

As president of the commission she will shape the EU’s policy agenda and sit atop the institution that supervises member states’ budgets, handles international trade negotiations, and acts as a competition watchdog.

But Dr. von der Leyen, the first woman to take the European Union’s top job, has impeccable credentials for the post, observers say. She was born in Brussels where her father was one of the pioneer pan-European diplomats, she speaks fluent English and French, and in her ministerial career she has forged close ties with Germany’s neighbors.

“She doesn’t just believe in Europe, she embodies that and radiates it,” says Jan Techau, a political analyst at The German Marshall Fund of the United States. “That is a huge part of the deal.”

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Ursula von der Leyen: The making of Europe’s top leader

When Daniel Goffart and Ulrike Demmer published their biography of Dr. Ursula von der Leyen five years ago, the reason for their interest in Germany’s then-defense minister was clear from the book’s title: “The Chancellor in Waiting.”

Now their publisher is rushing out a new edition, titled simply “Ursula von der Leyen.” She is not going to be Angela Merkel’s successor, as her biographers had expected. Instead, to continent-wide surprise, Dr. von der Leyen has become president of the European Commission, her term having started on Dec. 1.

Dr. von der Leyen emerged unexpectedly as a compromise presidential nominee in July, breaking an EU summit deadlock over how to share out the bloc’s top jobs. She is taking over at a delicate moment, with the union’s 28 members divided over issues such as immigration and climate change, and Britain expected to pull out of the EU early next year. 

As president of the commission she will shape the EU’s policy agenda and sit atop the institution that supervises member states’ budgets, handles international trade negotiations, and acts as a competition watchdog.

But Dr. von der Leyen, the first woman to take the European Union’s top job, has impeccable credentials for the post, observers say. She was born in Brussels where her father was one of the pioneer pan-European diplomats, she speaks fluent English and French, and in her ministerial career she has forged close ties with Germany’s neighbors.

“She doesn’t just believe in Europe, she embodies that and radiates it,” says Jan Techau, a political analyst at The German Marshall Fund of the United States think tank in Berlin. “That is a huge part of the deal.”

Dragging her party into the 21st century

Dr. von der Leyen arrives in Brussels with the reputation of a resilient and determined survivor, the only minister to have served in all of Chancellor Merkel’s cabinets since 2005 (while raising seven children).

She has politics in her blood. Her father became state premier of Lower Saxony and Ursula was his favorite daughter, says Mr. Goffart. “She would sit next to him and follow his discussions with his political visitors. She was infected with politics from childhood.”

But she did not immediately choose a political career. She studied economics and then medicine, going on to practice as a gynecologist. Only when she was 42 did she follow in her father’s footsteps.

She may have started late, but she moved fast, propelled by her famous pedigree, her TV-friendly style, and her appetite for work. No sooner had she won her first election to the state parliament in Lower Saxony than she was made a state minister. Two years later Ms. Merkel tapped her to be family affairs minister in her first government.

In that job, and later as labor minister, she made a name for herself as a briskly modern reformer dragging her party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union, kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

The CDU was largely a party of old white men who thought a woman’s role should be limited to kinder, küche, kirche – children, kitchen, church – says Mr. Goffart. “Merkel and von der Leyen abolished that.”

Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attend the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party congress in Leipzig, Germany, Nov. 22, 2019. The general perception in Germany three months ago was that Ms. von der Leyen's political career appeared to be reaching its end.

Among Dr. von der Leyen’s hallmark policies with a strong feminist flavor: providing daycare for all infants over 12 months, two months’ paternity leave for new fathers, and women’s quotas in the boardroom (though parliament voted this down). She also supported same-sex marriage.

Such reforms “were a very important cornerstone of her career,” says Mr. Goffart.

Though she comes from a conservative background, “she is on the progressive wing of the CDU,” says Mr. Techau. “She is not a conservative hardliner.”

Dr. von der Leyen herself has spoken of an “inner freedom” that she acquired in London during a year studying at the London School of Economics in the late 1970s, although she also admitted, in an interview with the German weekly “Zeit,” that “I lived much more than I studied.

“London was the epitome of modernity: freedom, the joy of life, trying everything,” she recalled in the interview. “For me, coming from the rather monotonous, white Germany, that was fascinating.”

She also has fond memories of her years in California, where she lived when her husband was teaching at Stanford University, Mr. Goffart says. “She found Americans much more tolerant of noisy kids than Germans. She said it was a lot easier to live with children there.”

While her years abroad may have given Dr. von der Leyen an international outlook, she honed her political skills in Germany, where negotiation and compromise form the bedrock of political life. “That’s her strength,” says Mr. Goffart. “She is used to finding compromises and that’s what you need in the EU.”

“A little over the top”

Already Dr. von der Leyen has shown signs of her inclination to be a conciliator, coming up with a policy platform striving for balance, that offers something to as many competing interest groups as possible.

But she is by no means a pushover, argues Mr. Techau. When she took over the Defense Ministry soon after Berlin abolished conscription, he recalls, she brought in measures to make military life more family friendly so as to attract more volunteers. “Old soldiers and pundits gave her a lot of stick for that, but she showed no nerves and it paid off,” he recalls.

Her public image, he adds, is of a “strong-minded” woman. “There is a strictness to her, a directness, even a certain hardness.”

Dr. von der Leyen has also attracted criticism from CDU colleagues for grandstanding, reveling in photo ops that advance her own career and “sometimes going a little over the top,” explains Mr. Goffart, such as when she visited a German Air Force base looking like Tom Cruise, in “Top Gun”-style aviator sunglasses.

If such behavior has made her enemies in her own party, her performance at the Defense Ministry – where she had several run-ins with the top military brass – has disappointed many Germans; she left office as the second least popular minster in the cabinet. “She was a falling star,” says Dr. Gero Neugebauer, who teaches politics at the Free University of Berlin. “She started strong and ended weak. But she survived.”

The general perception that she had failed at the Defense Ministry, however, put an end to her ambition to succeed her boss, Ms. Merkel, and three months ago her political career appeared to be reaching its end.

“Perhaps she was surprised by her good luck,” says Mr. Goffart. “I think she must be really happy now to have a chance that she never expected.”

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3. When red and blue agree to meet – and not change each other's minds

Groups that facilitate civil discourse abound, post-2016 election. The challenge is learning to talk with your political opposite outside the structured settings of workshops and classrooms.

 

Noelle
Henry Gass/The Christian Science Monitor
Mindy Webber (right), a liberal "blue," talks with a conservative "red" at a workshop organized by Better Angels Central Texas, Nov. 21. The workshop is one of many initiatives around the country aiming to improve civil discourse.

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Being a Better Angel starts with some ground rules. Don’t interrupt, and don’t try to change anyone’s mind. In Wimberley, Texas, a town that’s as close to 50-50 politically as you can get, two dozen people with opposing views recently got together with facilitators to talk.

“We’re not trying to paper over disagreements or get people to necessarily moderate their opinions,” says Ciaran O’Connor of Better Angels, a national organization with local leadership that’s intentionally divided equally between liberals and conservatives. “We’re trying to get people to build a little bit of trust and understanding.” Their workshop exercises include “red” and “blue” groups discussing stereotypes held by the other: “Ignorant” and “intolerant,” the reds concluded in Wimberley; “socialist” and “unpatriotic,” the blues said.   

In an academic setting, teachers like Jill DeTemple use techniques such as “reflective structured dialogues” to build empathy and train students to listen and converse with more respect. Ideally, these interactions will become a lifelong habit. “They feel like they can speak and be heard better,” says Dr. DeTemple, “[though] it doesn’t turn out that they agree.”

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When red and blue agree to meet – and not change each other's minds

The summer heat here scorches Republicans and Democrats with equal ferocity. Jacob’s Well and Blue Hole, two of the best natural swimming holes in the state, are thus fitting landmarks for this small city.

When temperatures and emotions run high, Wimberley, Texas, is where people come to cool off.

Wimberley’s location also reflects its political balance. A short drive from both the rapidly urbanizing Interstate 35 corridor and the rural Hill Country, Wimberley, population 3,000, is as close to 50-50 politically as you can get in America these days, residents say.

But like much of the rest of the country, polarization has seeped into political debates here.

The week before Thanksgiving, two dozen locals gathered at a church for a workshop organized by Better Angels Central Texas, a local chapter of a national organization working to depolarize America and promote civil discourse.

“We’re not trying to paper over disagreements or get people to necessarily moderate their opinions,” says Ciaran O’Connor, a spokesperson for Better Angels. “We’re trying to get people to build a little bit of trust and understanding.”

Better Angels is one of a number of similar initiatives underway across the country. But a glance at the current state of polarization in the U.S. illustrates the scale of the task ahead:

  • A 2016 Pew poll found that 47% of Republicans viewed Democrats as more “immoral” than other Americans, while 35% of Democrats held the same view of Republicans.
  • Thanksgiving dinners have gotten shorter since the 2016 election, one 2018 study found, with 34 million hours of crosspartisan discourse lost that year.
  • 53% of Americans found it “stressful and frustrating” to have political conversations with people they disagree with, a 2018 Pew survey reported, up from 46% in 2016.

Jill DeTemple, a professor in the Religious Studies department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, has been trying to do similar work in her classroom, using “reflective structured dialogues” (RSDs) to build empathy and curiosity in how students discuss contentious issues.

But while such dialogues can work well in isolation, it is still unclear whether they can work in the unstructured chaos of the outside world, or the anonymous echo chambers of social media.

“Students know they have dysfunctional discourse all the time in those settings,” says Dr. DeTemple, but “if we could maybe back off that immediate reactivity, we could learn more about people who don’t share our views.”

The 2016 effect

The Better Angels workshop in Wimberley began with ground rules such as not interrupting others to explain one's own views and not trying to change others' minds. Moderators guided preselected “red” and “blue” groups to list stereotypes they thought the other group had of them and what kernels of truth the stereotypes held. (“Ignorant” and “intolerant,” the reds concluded; “socialist” and “unpatriotic,” the blues concluded.) The whole group then reconvened to discuss. 

Henry Gass/The Christian Science Monitor
Connie Shortes, a moderator with Better Angels Central Texas, listens as a group of liberal "blues" think of stereotypes others have of them, Nov. 21. The workshops balance the numbers of left- and right-leaning participants and organizers.

A “fishbowl” exercise followed, with one group talking in a circle while the others listened, answering questions like why they think their side’s values and policies are good for the country, and what reservations they have about their side. At the end of the three-hour session, they talked about what they learned.

“There’s just a lot of fear, a lot of mistrust, on both sides,” said Mike McNeil, a red Wimberley resident.

“I didn’t realize y’all are afraid too,” added blue local Mindy Webber.

Better Angels, like many programs aimed at promoting civil discourse, launched in the wake of the 2016 election.

OpenMind, a psychology-based program begun at the New York University Stern School of Business, spun out this year into an independent nonprofit that uses “evidence-based research to create more open, ethical, and inclusive cultures and societies.” The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley is in the midst of a two-year “bridging differences” initiative aimed at highlighting “the skills and social conditions that are critical to reducing polarization and promoting more constructive dialogue.”

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Essential Partners, meanwhile, developed RSDs in the early 1990s following the murders of two women outside local abortion clinics. RSD, according to the group’s website, relies on “preparation, structure, questions, facilitation, and reflection to enable people to harness their capacity to have the conversations they need to have.”

Dr. DeTemple uses RSD in her class sporadically in what she calls “dialogic classrooms” – a catch-all academic phrase for training students to listen and converse with more respect. Ideally, how students interact in dialogic classrooms will become a lifelong habit.

“They feel like they can speak and be heard better, [though] it doesn’t turn out that they agree,” she adds. “It’s an ecosystem.”

“We’re getting fed up”

Nancy Dyer, from Medina, Texas, said she felt “positive” after the Wimberley workshop. But could she have similar discussions in a less structured setting? Without moderators or clear ground rules?

“I am definitely not ready,” she answers. “I learned some skills. But I actually have to practice it quite a few times before it's [a reflex]. I feel like I'm a kindergartner right now.”

Active in all 50 states, and with close to 8,500 members, Better Angels wants to continue to grow, says Mr. O’Connor. But there are some issues to try to resolve before then, he acknowledges, including a self-selection bias.

“The ones who are coming to workshops are coming because they’re at least a little bit interested in talking with the other side,” he says.

In Central Texas, the local Better Angels chapter – active for just over a year – is not worried about attracting people from outside that self-selecting group. (Though the group is worried about diversifying beyond the uniformly white, older group that showed up in Wimberley.)

“For the first half of this year [we thought] we haven’t succeeded until we’ve reached those people” who are unwilling to participate, says Mike Seay, a liberal from Austin who also co-founded the Central Texas chapter. “But I think we’ve shifted that.”

“These are a self-selected group of individuals … but I think there are a lot more of those than you would think,” says Steve Saltwick, a chapter co-founder and conservative from Austin.

After the workshop in Wimberley, Ms. Dyer put a different spin on those scale concerns.

“8,500 people is pretty good, but it ain't that good,” she says. “But I do think that we're getting fed up. I mean, it's 8,500 more than we had two years ago.”

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A letter from

Hong Kong

4. In Hong Kong, an unexpected Thanksgiving

Reporting in Hong Kong, our correspondent didn’t expect a traditional Thanksgiving. But it turned into a day of thanks – and a reminder of how many people look to the U.S. as a leader for human rights. 

Noelle
Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
Thousands of Hong Kong residents, many waving or displaying American flags, gather in the Central district of Hong Kong Island on Nov. 28, 2019 for a rally to express gratitude to the United States for the enactment of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

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This year, a quintessentially American holiday has a whole new meaning – in Hong Kong.

When correspondent Ann Scott Tyson woke up on Thanksgiving Day, she expected another day of political reporting in the restive territory, where protesters have waged a 6-month campaign against Beijing curtailing their city’s freedoms.

But the day started with news that President Donald Trump had signed two bills aimed at bolstering Hong Kongers’ rights, after sending mixed signals. At dusk, tens of thousands of people celebrated along the shores of Victoria Harbor – many waving U.S. flags, or banners depicting Mr. Trump. 

For Ann, it was a testament to U.S. influence abroad, where many still rely on Washington as a beacon of freedom. Such feelings are acute today in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region that straddles the authoritarian and democratic worlds, and many fear the balance is tipping.

“It’s moving so fast, we are so worried now,” says Peter Wong, a retired pharmaceutical worker. “Look at this beautiful city!” he adds wistfully, standing under the city’s glittering skyline. 

As flags fluttered in the coastal, briny breeze, and cellphone lights waved like candles, Hong Kongers expressed how much they cherish freedoms that Americans already enjoy beyond measure.

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In Hong Kong, an unexpected Thanksgiving

Gratitude, gatherings, and, of course, good food – I felt fortunate to enjoy all these on Thanksgiving, despite being far from grandmother’s house.

I’d expected just another day of political reporting in restive Hong Kong, where I covered Nov. 24 local elections that produced a resounding win for pro-democracy candidates. The victory buoyed protesters waging a 6-month-old campaign against Beijing’s curtailment of Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Then Thanksgiving morning, news broke that U.S. President Donald Trump, after sending mixed signals, had signed into law the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (HKHRDA). The law, which won veto-proof, bipartisan support in Congress, is aimed at bolstering basic rights for Hong Kongers. Instantly, the quintessential American holiday took on new meaning in this semi-autonomous region of 7.4 million people.

At dusk, I joined tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents flooding into a large redbrick plaza in Central district on the shores of Victoria Harbor. Chanting “Fight for freedom! Stand with Hong Kong!” many waved U.S. flags as they spilled over into nearby streets in a huge Thanksgiving rally.

A gray-haired man in a baseball cap turned to me. “Where are you from?” he asked with the slight English accent common in this former British colony, which reverted to Chinese sovereignty 22 years ago, in 1997. I told him.

“Thanks for your country supporting the law!” said the man, Stannial Leung, a retired Hong Kong-born engineer and seaman. “Hong Kong will have no future if the government handles things like this,” he said, referring to Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s refusal to grant protester demands for greater autonomy and police accountability. “That’s why we need a revolution.”

Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
Residents celebrate the enactment of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which in part requires the U.S. government to assess Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China and sanction Chinese officials for human rights abuses, on Nov. 28, 2019, in Hong Kong.

All around, strangers approached me with smiles and heartfelt thanks, a testament to U.S. influence abroad, where many still rely on Washington as a beacon of freedom. Such feelings are acute today in Hong Kong, which straddles the authoritarian and democratic worlds. Many residents fear China’s Communist Party is undermining the “one country, two systems” formula that protects Hong Kong’s independent, British-style legal system, basic political rights, and constitution for 50 years after the handover, until 2047.

Often while navigating Hong Kong’s thronging streets, I’m reminded of Chinese novelist Han Suyin’s famous phrase, “borrowed time in a borrowed place,” when the territory was under a 99-year lease to Britain. Now, once again, Hong Kongers feel the clock ticking.

“They say ‘one country, two systems’ but we feel it’s getting to be ‘one country, 1.1 systems,’” says Peter Wong, a retired pharmaceutical worker. “It’s moving so fast, we are so worried now.”

“Look at this beautiful city!” he says wistfully, standing under the city’s glittering skyline. “Why must we wear masks?” he asks, highlighting concerns about surveillance from mainland China.

People at the rally told me they hope the U.S. act will help buffer Hong Kong from such incursions. The HKHRDA requires the U.S. government to assess Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China each year, and whether it is sufficient to justify its current special treatment under U.S. law, and to sanction Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Hong Kong. A second U.S. bill signed into law Wednesday prohibits the sale of American crowd-control equipment like tear gas and rubber bullets to Hong Kong police.

“Today, Hong Kong is the new Berlin,” said Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in one of several video-taped addresses by key supporters of the act broadcast at the rally on a giant screen. “The cause for freedom has never been greater,” Senator Cruz said, drawing applause from the crowd.

Ann Scott Tyson/The Christian Science Monitor
About 1,500 Hong Kong residents gather for a march to the U.S. Consulate on Dec. 1, 2019 to express appreciation for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Some marchers carry a banner depicting a pro-democracy protester hosting a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Many at the rally hailed Mr. Trump as a hero. They held banners depicting him riding on a tank, and images of his head atop film character Rocky’s shirtless torso. “Donald Trump is the greatest president in the world,” a young worker who gave his name only as Mr. J told me, holding a U.S. flag. “I really like Donald Trump. He helps us fight China.”

China, for its part, warned of “strong countermeasures” after Mr. Trump signed the act, saying the U.S. law constitutes “interference in China’s internal affairs.” On Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Beijing has suspended U.S. Navy stops in Hong Kong. Such visits have been suspended in the past, including during the recent pro-democracy protests. Ms. Hua said Beijing would also sanction several U.S. human rights and democracy groups. “These NGOs have supported anti-China plotters who messed up Hong Kong,” she said, referring to the protesters. She declined to specify the sanctions.

At the rallies on Thanksgiving and again on Sunday, when about 1,500 people marched in appreciation to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, residents told me they hoped the U.S. government would move swiftly to implement the act.

“We are putting faith in President Trump to take concrete actions and pressure the Communist Party to stop suppressing Hong Kong and allow universal suffrage,” said a middle-aged worker named Paul, holding a bold blue sign saying: “President TRUMP – Let’s Make Hong Kong Great Again.”

As the night deepened on Thanksgiving, the crowd broke out in song – first Hong Kong’s unofficial new anthem, “Glory to Hong Kong,” and then, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Waving thousands of cellphone lights in the air like so many candles, as flags fluttered in the coastal, briny breeze, Hong Kongers expressed how much they cherish freedoms that Americans already enjoy beyond measure.

Something worth keeping in mind, I thought.

Oh, and about the food? The next day, I pulled up a stool at a large circular table in a dim sum restaurant packed with families joking and talking in Cantonese. It was the perfect cap to a Hong Kong Thanksgiving.

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Books

5. Travel the world without leaving the kitchen

Food may be the gateway to the soul. But it can also be a passport to the world. We’ve gathered a sampling of cookbook offerings that promise to transport home chefs to kitchens near and far.

Noelle
Karen Norris/Staff
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Travel the world without leaving the kitchen

Internet recipes have their place, but the top cookbooks of 2019 prove that some collections work best on the printed page. That’s true not just of all-encompassing guidebooks like the newly revised “Joy of Cooking,” but also of titles that slice off a smaller section of culinary territory and explore it to the fullest. While the topics diverge widely, all the books featured here brim with distinct personality and expert advice. 

Earlier this year, an online squabble revolved around whether recipes should tell a story or stick to directions. In book form, it’s clearer that the best can do both; all these selections are reliable resources for the kitchen as well as a pleasure for late-night browsing. Like the best books of any genre, they immerse readers in new worlds and new ideas. Here are our picks.

Flour Bakery dominates pastry

Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
“Pastry Love” by Joanne Chang, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 464 pp.

Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery + Cafe in the Boston area, draws readers into “Pastry Love: A Baker’s Journal of Favorite Recipes” with recipes that offer something for every level of home baker. These run the gamut from customer-favorite cookies and brownies to homemade puff pastry and a two-day recipe for apple cider sticky buns. It would be easy to get intimidated by the more elaborate projects, but Chang has confidence that readers can eventually progress, should they choose, from the simpler sweets that start each section to the grander concepts at the end. Precise directions and troubleshooting comments help at all levels, and Chang’s warmth and enthusiasm are an added treat. 

Many recipes are gluten-free, vegan, or built on whole grains. While plenty of Flour classics are included, the book also offers some desserts that would be impractical for a bakery to serve.

Vietnamese dishes for home cooks

Courtesy of Ten Speed Press
“Vietnamese Food Any Day” by Andrea Nguyen, Ten Speed Press, 240 pp.

Andrea Nguyen has already written a virtual reference library on Vietnamese cooking, with five previous cookbooks on the subject, from a James Beard Award-winning pho guide to the comprehensive “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors.” Her new release, “Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors,” stands on its own as an inviting overview on preparing accessible Vietnamese dishes in any kitchen. 

Nguyen has distilled her expertise – and her own family’s experiences as refugees in the 1970s – to develop recipes where “there’s no Asian-market shopping required” and no specialty equipment involved. Her well-seasoned knowledge makes simple dishes shine, from chile garlic chicken wings to sizzling rice crepes. She takes readers through tasks as basic as cooking rice and selecting shrimp, but even aficionados can appreciate tweaks like making strong Vietnamese coffee without owning the traditional metal filter.

Just getting dinner on

Courtesy of W.W. Norton & Co.
“All About Dinner” by Molly Stevens, W.W. Norton & Co., 400 pp.

The clear, practical advice of Molly Stevens has been the secret ingredient behind many a delicious dinner party. In her earlier books, “All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking” and “All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art,” Stevens demystified those cooking techniques and shared sturdy, stellar recipes. 

With her new collection, “All About Dinner: Simple Meals, Expert Advice,” the longtime cooking instructor turns to the basic meals she makes in her own home. The humble-sounding topic turns out to be extraordinary; even her directions for a simple green salad or sautéed fish fillets elevate those everyday dishes to the point where you’d be proud to serve them to company. 

As Stevens explains, part of becoming a good cook is “about figuring out how cooking fits into your daily life and learning to approach it with joy and confidence.”

Middle Eastern food with a fresh twist

Courtesy of Avery
“Sababa” by Adeena Sussman, Avery, 368 pp.

Adeena Sussman could cut through the dreariest winter day with recipes from “Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors From My Israeli Kitchen,” her colorful love letter to her Tel Aviv home. There, even bags of the seasoning za’atar represent to her “the sun and spice of this magical place.” 

The book is personal but also instructive, walking a cook through the region’s diverse flavors and cultures. The pages are bursting with bright recipes and delectable photos, such as a triple-ginger persimmon loaf perfectly backed by a fruity orange plate. Tahini (the subject of one of Sussman’s earlier books) shines in everything from breakfast smoothies to dessert blondies, while a fabulous hummus achieves “the texture of buttercream frosting.” 

Sussman does her best to showcase foods she’s experienced and the people behind the dishes without becoming entangled in political conflicts, also making it clear that “this is by no means a comprehensive guide to the foods of Israel, but rather a window into how I like to cook right now.” 

Previously best known as co-author of celebrity Chrissy Teigen’s bestselling cookbooks, Sussman has created a book with a passion and appeal that are all her own. 

Beyond soul food

Courtesy of Clarkson Potter
“Jubilee” by Toni Tipton-Martin, Clarkson Potter, 320 pp.

Toni Tipton-Martin spotlighted “previously invisible” black cookbook authors in 2015 in her James Beard Award-winning book, “The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks.” She broadens that mission in her eye-opening new cookbook, “Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking.” 

Drawing on historic recipes, she expands our understanding of African American food beyond the clichés of “poverty, survival, and soul food.” Backing her own professional-recipe development skills with decades of historical research, she showcases the full range of the contributions of African American cooks across social structures, “the enslaved and the free, the working class, the middle class, and the elite.” 

Modern recipes are sometimes interspersed with historical versions of dishes, adding to our understanding of their evolution. Tempting recipes from jambalaya to devil’s-food cake provide a rich and welcome history lesson along with Tipton-Martin’s straightforward and assured cooking advice.

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The Monitor's View

The global lesson from London’s knife attack

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Almost every terrorist attack offers lessons on how to prevent future ones. This may be especially true for a knife attack in London on Nov. 29. The assailant was a convicted terrorist who had taken courses to “disengage” from radical ideologies. The two people he killed were advocates of such programs. In fact, all three were attending a conference on prisoner rehabilitation. With an election just days away, many in Britain are now debating if such programs actually can turn around extremist offenders.

This debate is not unique to Britain. Since the 9/11 attacks, dozens of countries have launched programs to reintegrate those convicted of terrorism into society. Not all programs succeed and the debate has turned urgent since the defeat of the Islamic State’s caliphate. Thousands of people from Europe who supported ISIS are still in custody in the Middle East. Their future is uncertain as European leaders debate whether to take them back on the hope they can be rehabilitated.

Programs that give purpose and hope to such individuals, or values based on peace and empathy, can bring a final end to terrorist attacks. That might be the lesson from the London knife attack.

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The global lesson from London’s knife attack

Almost every terrorist attack offers lessons on how to prevent future ones. This may be especially true for a knife attack in London on Nov. 29.

The assailant, Usman Khan, was a convicted terrorist who, before and after his release from prison in 2018, had taken courses to “desist” and “disengage” from radical ideologies. He was also trained in how to gain a “healthy identity.” The two people he killed were advocates of such programs. In fact, all three were attending a conference on prisoner rehabilitation.

With an election just days away, many in Britain are now taking a break from the Brexit debate to ponder if such programs actually can turn around extremist offenders.

In the wake of the attack, in which Mr. Khan was killed by police, the Justice Ministry launched an urgent review of conditions used to release people sentenced for terror offenses. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to introduce mandatory minimum 14-year sentences for such crimes. Mr. Khan served only six years of an 18-year sentence for an amateurish plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange. His lawyer admits he could have been deceived by his client, who claimed to have turned his back on radical Islam.

On the other side of the debate, the family of one victim, Jack Merritt, said he would not want to see harsher sentences for terrorists. Mr. Merritt was a coordinator for a prisoner program called Learning Together, which is associated with the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology. “Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge,” his family stated. The institute says he “worked tirelessly in dark places to pull towards the light.”

A similar tribute was given to the other victim, Saskia Jones, who was also part of Learning Together. The institute says she had “a strong belief that people who have committed criminal offenses should have opportunities for rehabilitation.”

This debate over the rehab of captured terrorists is not unique to Britain. Since the 9/11 attacks, dozens of countries have launched programs to reintegrate those convicted of terrorism into society. A group of countries, called the Global Counterterrorism Forum, was set up to build on the best practices of programs that have successfully “deradicalized” terrorists. Not all programs succeed, however, and the debate has turned urgent since the defeat of the Islamic State’s caliphate in the past two years. Thousands of people from Europe who supported ISIS are still in custody in the Middle East. Their future is uncertain as European leaders debate whether to take them back on the hope they can be rehabilitated.

Britain’s debate may thus lead to a useful drive to improve such programs and further erode support for ISIS. All the prisons and military drones in the world cannot defeat the radical ideas behind the kind of violence justified by wrong concepts about Islam. Rather, programs that give purpose and hope to such individuals, or values based on peace and empathy, can bring a final end to terrorist attacks. That might be the lesson from the London knife attack. 

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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.

Found: Freedom from an injustice

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  • Read or Listen ( 4 Min. )

When her son was arrested for a drug crime he hadn’t committed, a mother feared for his future. But prayer brought a deep conviction of God’s love, a tangible peace, comfort, and ultimately, justice.

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Found: Freedom from an injustice

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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One Friday afternoon, I received a message that my son and a classmate had been apprehended by members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). The classmate had been found in possession of a prohibited drug, and my son had been arrested with him even though he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

I was so shocked I could hardly breathe. The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act in our country is taken very seriously, and unfortunately enforcement is not always just. I wondered how my son would live after what happened.

Then I recalled one of my favorite Bible passages: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13). I felt this was a message from our divine Father-Mother, God, telling me to be mentally still and trust Him. At that moment, deep inside me, I felt assured and confident that God is in charge of His entire creation, and that all in God’s kingdom is well.

I prayed the whole night, affirming the innocence and purity of God’s spiritual offspring, which includes everyone, even all the members of the NBI and PDEA.

The next day I traveled by bus to the city where my son was incarcerated. I couldn’t concentrate because I was remembering other times I had felt shock and fear. I was tempted to think that my study of Christian Science, which reveals the laws of God, good, was not making any difference in my life.

Yet even while in that mental state, divine comfort never left me. It was so amazing: I started to pray, and my thoughts were flooded with wonderful messages, or inspiration, about God’s laws of goodness and justice.

“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explains, “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (p. 494). Those messages were just what I needed. They made clear to me that throughout the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, are examples of the triumph of God, the one divine Spirit and Mind. For instance, the Gospels tell of 10 lepers who did not remain lepers but were healed by Christ Jesus’ understanding of man’s true nature as spiritual and pure. And Jesus did not remain dead, but he arose to demonstrate that true life is in God, not matter.

I also thought of the experience of a family member who had a serious accident but did not remain an invalid; he was healed through Christian Science. All of this demonstrated to me the absolute power of Spirit, God. I felt assured that my son and I would experience salvation and justice. Despite frustration and discouragement, imbibing what I was learning in Christian Science about the nature of God as merciful, loving, and good made such a difference in my life. These ideas felt so real that they saved me from hopelessness.

When I arrived at the jail Saturday night, I was at peace. I wanted to feel angry toward the classmate and the apprehending officers, but I couldn’t. This is the beauty of God’s love. As we try to daily act and think in a manner consistent with our true nature as the image of God, we indeed increasingly manifest it. I felt compassion and forgiveness instead of anger.

Come Monday, I felt confident that all would be well. I was bearing in mind that God is the ultimate “prosecutor.” God, divine Truth itself, governs all creation spiritually and justly. With this sense of God’s good governing impelling my prayers, I was led to talk with just the right people and at the right time. I also went to a Christian Science Reading Room nearby. There I spent the rest of the day with the Bible and Science and Health. These two books together are considered the impersonal Pastor of Christian Science. Their ideas inspire comfort and healing.

That evening, my mobile phone rang. It was the head of the city jail, who told me that I could pick up my son. He had been absolved of the charge and released. All I could think was “Thank you, Father. You really love me and my son.” In fact, God loves and cares for all His children, without measure. Our God-given innocence is never at the mercy of human processes and procedures.

Even in the most trying of circumstances, we can hold to the spiritual fact that God, good, prevails over evil. This prepares us to see evidences of divine justice and care in our lives.

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Viewfinder

Deck the halls

Alex Brandon/AP
The White House’s East Colonnade is decorated with a timeline of American design, innovation, and architecture during the 2019 Christmas preview Dec. 2 in Washington. This year's theme is “The Spirit of America.”
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In Our Next Issue

( December 3rd, 2019 )

Noelle Swan
Deputy Daily Editor

That’s a wrap for today’s news. Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow when we’ll have a deep dive into the pitfalls – and triumphs – of America’s longest war.

Monitor Daily Podcast

December 02, 2019
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