2020
March
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Monitor Daily Podcast

March 10, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

What hope looks like for one family at the border

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Today’s selected stories include a global perspective from a centenarian statesman, restoring safety in Delhi, challenging conventional wisdom in the Amazon, countering racism fanned by coronavirus, and our picks for the best audiobooks.

The U.S-Mexico border has seldom been less welcoming to migrant families. And for some, that’s the rule of law at work.

But it’s also what makes this update to a Monitor story about Hondurans José and Damaris – and their daughter Angelica – so compelling. 

First a bit of context. Almost a year ago, the border was overrun. About 144,000 people were caught trying to enter the U.S. in May –  the highest number in a decade. The U.S. responded with a range of measures, including the Migrant Protection Protocols. Those seeking asylum must wait in Mexico until their case is heard. Last week, MPP itself was found invalid by a U.S. courts of appeals.

José, a survivor of torture, fled Honduras in 2017, and he was granted political asylum last November. But his wife and daughter arrived later, and were snagged by MPP for five months – until Saturday.

On a cloudy morning, José held Damaris and Angelica (they’ve asked us not to use their real names) in his arms on the U.S. side of the bridge in Brownsville, Texas. They joyfully embraced in front of the “Welcome to the United States of America” sign, reports staff writer Henry Gass. Angelica clutched a bag of Skittles, and her mom held the precious official documents. The girl has, like her father, been granted asylum in the U.S. Her mom’s claim is still pending, but she has been paroled into the U.S. while her case proceeds.

A case of compassion, the rule of law, and what appears to be a rare, happy ending for one family’s journey to freedom.

A deeper look

He’s seen it all. Why this centenarian statesman is hopeful about the future.

As one of only two people in U.S. history who has served in four Cabinet posts, George Shultz has seen a lot of what works – and what doesn’t. He shares his views on where the world is heading and why trust is “the coin of the realm” for effective governing.

David
TONY AVELAR/SPECIAL TO THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
George Shultz, seen here seated at his office at the Hoover Institution on the Stanford University campus, served as secretary of state to President Reagan and in several cabinet posts under President Nixon.

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George Shultz is calling on renewed American leadership to tackle today’s existential challenges: climate change, nuclear weapons proliferation, human migration, cyber threats to governance, and new disruptions to the global trading system. 

Mr. Shultz, who served as secretary of state to President Ronald Reagan and served under President Richard Nixon, has, after all, lived through great historical moments, from the Great Depression, to the rise of fascism in Europe, World War II, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. He hasn’t just witnessed them, he’s had a hand in influencing some of the defining features of the 20th century, including the rebottling of the nuclear genie and the demise of the Cold War. 

So when this centenarian declares in a quiet yet firm voice that the world stands at a turning point that will require every bit of the leadership and determination that got mankind through the 20th century, it seems wise to listen.

“We are now on a major hinge of history,” says Mr. Shultz, who turns 100 this year. “There’s no withdrawing from the world; we’re part of it. So we might as well see what we can do to make it better.”

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1. He’s seen it all. Why this centenarian statesman is hopeful about the future.

George Shultz turns 100 this year – and like anyone reaching that age, he has lived through great historical moments. These range from the Great Depression, to the rise of fascism in Europe and World War II, to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union.

But much more than most, Mr. Shultz – one of only two people in U.S. history to have served in four Cabinet positions – has not just witnessed these moments. He had a hand in influencing some of the defining features of the 20th century, including the postwar reign of the dollar, the rebottling of the menacing nuclear genie, and the management and ultimate demise of the Cold War.

Perhaps above all, he has taken part in the establishment and consolidation of the postwar American-led international order.

So when this centenarian declares in a quiet yet firm voice that the world stands at a turning point that will require every bit of the leadership and determination that got mankind through the 20th century, it seems wise to listen.

“We are now on a major hinge of history, comparable to but different from the hinge we were on at the end of World War II,” says Mr. Shultz, who was secretary of state to President Ronald Reagan and treasury secretary, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and labor secretary to President Richard Nixon. 

He’s seated at a modest, book-piled desk in his corner office at the Hoover Institution on the Stanford University campus.

Now as then, he says, the world faces existential threats, and at both times the temptation to pull in and withdraw loomed large – a temptation the United States indeed succumbed to after World War I.

But not after the Second World War, given the devastation of the conflict, the millions of deaths, the Holocaust, and the advent of the nuclear bomb. “[Unlike] after World War I when we withdrew from the world, they said, ‘We are part of it, whether we like it or not,’” says Mr. Shultz. Thanks to “some gifted people,” he adds, ticking off names like Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and diplomats George Marshall and William Clayton, American leadership guided the world out of the ruin into an era of growing security and prosperity.

COPYRIGHT 2020, THE CHICAGO MAROON. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION.
In 1962 George Shultz becomes dean of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

“There were 44 countries at Bretton Woods,” the 1944 conference that established a new international monetary system, he says, and “out of that came basically the rules of the road on international economic arrangements.” In quick succession came the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and NATO, which successfully defended the West from the Soviet Union. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, born at Bretton Woods, eventually “got around to the World Trade Organization.”

Out of devastation, Mr. Shultz says, had come renewal and progress – in no small part because of inspired leadership.

As he talks, the art deco Hoover Tower, Stanford’s most imposing landmark, looms outside his window. Visible in the distance are Northern California’s signature oaks and redwoods, while somewhere a babbling fountain interrupts the campus hush. In the office, every space not taken by a book seems occupied by the memorabilia of decades of public service: signed photos of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, an autographed biography of Margaret Thatcher, Russian nesting dolls, a framed letter in which President Reagan thanks “George” for his service. A glass tray proclaims, “WHY NOT HAVE A BIG LIFE?”

Yet Mr. Shultz, who just published a book, “Thinking About the Future,” is these days not so much dwelling on the past as considering how the glory years of American leadership might provide signposts for the challenges now on the world’s doorstep. Seven decades after World War II, he says, the world faces complex issues as real as and perhaps even more life-threatening than it did then.  

Climate change, nuclear weapons development and proliferation, human migration, cyber and social media challenges to governance, new means of production that disrupt the global trading system – all are going to test leadership capacity and human ingenuity to new limits, he says. 

It’s perhaps not surprising that Mr. Shultz calls for renewed American leadership to take on today’s existential challenges with, as he puts it, determination and faith in progress, as well as respect for others’ formative experiences and points of view. He is, after all, surrounded by many artifacts of the postwar American era and reminders of the role he played in it. He also thinks the U.S. is the only country that can help the world surmount these issues “because I don’t see who else is going to lead. Not China or Russia. Europe can’t do it.”

ALESSANDRA TARANTINO/AP/FILE
In 2007 George Shultz joins Henry Kissinger and other statesmen to push for total nuclear disarmament.

To illustrate how others still look to the U.S., Mr. Shultz tells the story of when Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding prime minister, visited him at Stanford with hopes of learning about the ingenuity of adjacent Silicon Valley. 

“I reminded him that Silicon Valley is full of talent, the best and the brightest, from all over the world, not just from the U.S.,” Mr. Shultz recalls. “And he said, ‘Yes, but this could only happen in America.’”

Yet if Mr. Shultz is issuing a clarion call for renewed American leadership at a critical moment in history, it is in part because he doesn’t see such a response now. 

“Right now we’re not leading the world,” he says. “We’re withdrawing from it.” 

The four walls of the Shultz conference room at the Hoover Institution are chockablock with photos, magazine covers, yellowed political cartoons, tributes, and other remembrances of his career. Almost lost in the parade of frames is a photo of a smiling Secretary Shultz kicking up his heels with Ginger Rogers at a 1983 White House dinner.

“What a joy this was for me!” Ms. Rogers wrote in a handwritten note accompanying the photograph. “For the first two minutes I could swear I was dancing with Fred!”

No doubt it says something about Mr. Shultz’s smooth-stepping skills to be compared to Fred Astaire, Ms. Rogers’ longtime Hollywood dancing partner. (Or perhaps erstwhile skills: Mr. Shultz confirms with a slight grin that his dancing days are “no more.”)

But what the Rogers anecdote underscores is the personal side of the lifelong diplomat. Mr. Shultz is a storyteller, and many of his tales highlight the importance he always saw in the “softer” side of diplomacy – the “get to know you” prebusiness conversations, the glitzy dinners, the visits to cultural and historical sites – as a sign of the common humanity and respect for the “other side” that can pay big dividends.

To illustrate this point, Mr. Shultz goes back to one of the first visits he made to Russia while secretary of the treasury. His counterpart took him to Leningrad (today St. Petersburg) with a first stop at the vast cemetery where many from the battle of Leningrad are buried. Standing with his host on a platform overlooking “row after row after row of mass graves,” the American treasury secretary noticed that all the Russians around him were weeping.

“And I said to [my host], ‘I have a sense of community with these people because I also fought in World War II. I also had comrades shot down beside me. But furthermore these are the people who stopped Hitler.’ And I walked up to the front of the platform and gave a long salute.”

Years later, when Mr. Shultz returned to Leningrad as secretary of state, “I found that people knew about that little incident,” he says. “It teaches you that if you show respect to things that deserve it, then your criticisms of other things carry more weight instead of being just critical across the board.”

COURTESY OF RONALD REAGAN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY
George Shultz dances with Ginger Rogers at a 1983 White House dinner.

Even well after his official years in government, Mr. Shultz has been called on to use some of his considerable personal skills to rescue a big foreign policy moment. He tells the story of being called by the State Department in 2013 with an SOS: China’s new president, Xi Jinping, wants to come with his wife a day before a scheduled summit with President Barack Obama at the Sunnylands estate in Southern California to get to know the area. Can the former secretary of state help out?

“That’s a statement [from President Xi] that, ‘I want to get to know you,’ have private communications where you get to know each other, and have confidence in each other,” he says.

Mr. Shultz says he dispatched his wife, Charlotte Mailliard Shultz – who, he notes, as chief of protocol for both the city of San Francisco and the state of California “knows a lot” on the subject – to Orange County. And the experienced diplomat who had worked closely with both Chinese and Soviet authorities in his day says he was horrified to learn from his wife that “no high federal official” was set to greet the Xis upon their arrival.

Ms. Shultz called on then-California Gov. Jerry Brown, who agreed to welcome the Xis at the airport, and the two wives spent the day together while President Xi “cooled his heels” before Mr. Obama’s arrival, he says.

The Obama White House would later characterize the Sunnylands summit as a big success. But Mr. Shultz recalls that presummit arrival and says, “This is not just a missed opportunity; this is an insult. That’s not the way you get along with people.”

These days Mr. Shultz may no longer be a practicing diplomat in the strict sense of the word, but he continues to write books, discuss economics with a group of Stanford and Bay Area academics, and keep a formidable social calendar.

He recently attended the annual dinner of Washington’s exclusive Alfalfa Club. His wife, at 86, continues to carry out duties that make the couple a regular feature of the San Francisco Chronicle’s society page.

Mr. Shultz gives every indication of relishing the role of an éminence grise of U.S. foreign policy. He continues to pen Op-Ed pieces on issues such as arms control and climate change, often with another sage of his era, like former Secretary of State James Baker or Defense Secretary William Perry.

He says his large and close-knit family offers him a window on today’s young people. And he rejects the notion that young Americans today, while different from those of three or four generations past, are dismissive of institutions, less patriotic, or less oriented toward public service than his generation, which was called on to serve in World War II.

DOUG MILLS/AP/FILE
George Shultz receives the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Reagan in 1989.

The Shultz family glue and the patriarch’s understanding of the millennial generation’s values were tested a few years ago by the ignominious fall of the onetime Silicon Valley darling Theranos – the supposedly revolutionary blood-analysis startup. The company’s high-powered board of directors included Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, Mr. Perry – and Mr. Shultz.

The firm, now defunct, would be brought down in large part by an employee named Tyler Shultz – who saw from the inside that the company’s technology was not the revolution it claimed to be and took his findings public. He was a whistleblower who happened to be the grandson of Theranos board member and iconic statesman George Shultz.

Versions vary as to how long it took for the elder Mr. Shultz to accept his grandson’s findings and to side with him in the Theranos affair. But the elder Shultz says he admires how his grandson never wavered and stuck by what he knew to be right.

“He has great integrity,” he says of Tyler. “What this [Theranos experience] tells me about my grandson is, he’s honest and he wants things to be good. It’s not that he doesn’t trust things,” he says, bringing a question about millennials back to his grandson. “He doesn’t put up with something that’s wrong.”

For some, Mr. Shultz’s plea for American leadership to guide the world through the 21st century’s grave challenges may seem like an exercise in nostalgia, especially when it is coming from someone who had a role in a bygone golden era of American power.

But that tempting perspective would fail to consider that over much of his career on key issues of the day, Mr. Shultz has been ahead of his time – as a realist with a knack for seeing beyond conventional thinking to solutions that would end up becoming mainstream.

That has been true on climate change, nuclear disarmament, and, above all, the nation’s half-century-old drug war.

“I think it’s just looking at the realities, an ability to see the realities, and using common sense,” he says. “It’s no big deal.”

As far back as the Nixon administration, Mr. Shultz has advocated a drug policy that focuses on reducing demand instead of supply. He says the drug war has done nothing to address the market for narcotics while ravaging America’s southern neighbors.

“We complain about Mexico being a source of drugs, come on – we’re the culprits, not them,” he says. “They [Mexicans] are the victims; they’ve had huge numbers of people killed by the drug lords” supplying our market.

BOB DAUGHERTY/AP/FILE
George Shultz with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (right) in 1983.

His solution is not drug legalization, he says, but decriminalization of possession of small amounts for personal use, ramped-up access to treatment, and education to stop people from using in the first place. (He believes his friend Nancy Reagan was on the right track with her “Just Say No” campaign, but says then as now, in the devastating opioid epidemic, a “huge drug bureaucracy” has stood in the way of a demand-focused policy.)

Similarly on climate change, Mr. Shultz stands out as a lonely, though not lone, Republican voice who says the country is being “mugged by reality” and must act.

“There’s an ocean being created in the Arctic, why? Why is the ice cap over Greenland becoming a river? Australia, the whole continent is burning, why?” he says. Closer to home, he points to California’s intensifying fires and the repeated inundating storms in Houston over recent years and says, “The Gulf of Mexico is the warmest it’s ever been. That means you’ve got a lot of evaporation, and what goes up must come down. So it’s not a mystery.”

For years, Mr. Shultz has advocated what he calls a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which he says would cut fossil fuel consumption while encouraging renewable energy research and development, and job-creating innovation. 

And then there’s nuclear disarmament. President Reagan’s top diplomat notes that even in the 1980s his boss envisioned a world free of nuclear weapons, and he says that has been his goal ever since. It’s not dewy-eyed hopefulness that keeps him on the zero-nukes path but a realistic understanding of the unthinkable destruction, and indeed global annihilation, that nuclear weapons threaten. Calling it one of the “hinge of history” issues, Mr. Shultz notes that some nuclear powers, including the U.S., are once again talking about scenarios for nuclear arms use.

Instead of a focus on reduction, “you have ... proliferation of [nuclear] weapons and a lot of careless talk about using them. People seem to have forgotten by now Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Cuban missile crisis,” he says.

He’s critical of what he sees as the Trump administration’s willingness to allow decades of arms control success with the Russians be lost and reversed. He displays a rare public annoyance with the Republican administration over the current state of nuclear diplomacy.

“Right now the Russians have said they’re ready to renew [the new START treaty] and we’re hesitating. Come on! We should grab that and then say to China, ‘Join with us and let’s see what we can do. ... You’ve got to be positive about these things,” he says.

As he goes about his 100th year determined to continue being a “doer” on the world’s critical issues, Mr. Shultz is taking his own advice. He’s optimistic that the world will be up to the challenge of addressing this moment in history, and he holds out hope that America will again rise to the occasion and lead the way.

“This country has always produced the leadership we needed at critical times,” he says, ticking off Washington and Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Reagan. “We seem to have a knack for identifying somebody. I don’t know who or what or whether or not somebody out there can stand up and be counted.” Fortunately, he says, America continues to have values that motivate people to action and keep it, he believes, the envy of the world.

“We have community spirit. We have a culture that encourages people to look out for themselves,” he says. “We have outstanding institutions in many ways, and, by and large, there’s kind of an atmosphere of trust. I always felt trust is the coin of the realm.”

And here the hopeful realist in Mr. Shultz surfaces. “Right now we’re pulling back [from the world] but we’re entwined,” he says. “There’s no withdrawing from the world; we’re part of it. So we might as well see what we can do to make it better.”

When fear goes viral: Battling prejudice in Chinatown

Fear of COVID-19 can fan racism. But our reporter finds that communities around the world are countering prejudice with acts of kindness and gratitude. 

David
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Tables are mostly empty at the New Golden Gate restaurant at lunchtime March 2, 2020, in Boston. From Boston to San Francisco, London to Johannesburg, customers have been avoiding Chinatowns amid fears of the new coronavirus.

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From Boston to Johannesburg, customers have been avoiding Chinatowns. There have been news reports of bullying, discrimination, and xenophobia against Asians. But others warn that such isolationist impulses create a sense of alienation in those communities. And some are stepping forward to practice acts of kindness and model support for Chinese businesses.

In Canada, Markham – sister city to Wuhan, China – is striving to counter negative associations. In February, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti launched an Asialicious festival in which more than 100 Asian restaurants in the Toronto area invited customers to tasting events.

When the mayor attended a recent event, he shared a video with guests. In it, dozens of people in the quarantined city lean out of their balconies and shout, “Wuhan jiayou,” which is roughly translated, “Wuhan keep up the fight.” Markham’s mayor recorded a video in which the thousand attendees at the banquet shouted, “Wuhan jiayou!”

“The mayor of Wuhan sent us a letter expressing their gratitude,” says Mayor Scarpitti. “It’s a reminder that we live in a pretty big world, but it can get pretty small at times and we can be connected in some pretty powerful ways.”

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2. When fear goes viral: Battling prejudice in Chinatown

It’s lunchtime at New Golden Gate seafood restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown. Amid fears of the new coronavirus, just two of its tables are occupied. In a back corner, two waiters sit as listless as the lobsters inside a nearby tank.

Today they’ve had fewer than 20 customers over three hours, says manager May Deng. “At least a 90% drop. That’s huge.”

If business doesn’t pick up in the next two to three months, she’ll have to close. “How can you survive?” says Ms. May, tears rimming her eyes.

From Boston to San Francisco, London to Johannesburg, customers have been avoiding Chinatowns amid unsubstantiated fears that the virus jumped from China via these neighborhoods. There have been news reports, too, of bullying, discrimination, and xenophobia against Asians. But others warn that such isolationist impulses create a sense of alienation in those communities. And some individuals, public officials, and organizations are stepping forward to practice acts of kindness and model support for Chinese businesses.

“The virus has no nationality. The virus does not practice discrimination. Why should we, being a human being, discriminate against any ethnic group?” says Justin Yu, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, a business and community organization in New York City. “This is a time for everybody to learn we should have sympathy.”

Deeply ingrained cultural prejudices about Chinese people as supposed carriers of disease date back further than the outbreak of SARS, says Winston Tseng, a research sociologist and lecturer of community health and human development at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health in California. In 1899, Honolulu forcibly quarantined its Chinatown due to fears of the bubonic plague; the following year, San Francisco circled its Chinatown with rope for two days.

“There was an assumption ... of ‘the yellow peril,’” says Mr. Tseng. “So Chinese or Japanese back then were [viewed as] dirty and carrying a lot of diseases.”

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
May Deng, the manager of the New Golden Gate restaurant in Boston's Chinatown, says business is down 90% because of the coronavirus.

Today, individuals across the world are reaching out to help Chinese and Asian businesses. In Australia, the progressive activist group GetUp! encouraged its members to dine in Chinese restaurants and also post pictures of meals on social media with the hashtag #IWillEatWithYou. It was a response to news reports such as the closure of Shark Fin House, a three-decades-old restaurant in Melbourne’s Chinatown, says the group’s media adviser Chandi Bates. The hashtag is now popping up on Twitter and Instagram accounts in other parts of the world.

“I Will Eat With You is giving people a practical way to take a positive step, show support and solidarity to businesses that need it, all at the same time as eating a delicious meal,” says Renaire Druery, campaign director for the GetUp! Human Rights Campaign, via email.

In mid-February, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh started a social media campaign with the hashtag #LoveBostonChinatown. He and other city councilors organized a photo-op dim sum lunch at once-popular eatery China Pearl. In early March, there’s not a lot of foot traffic beneath the pagoda-style arch entryway into Chinatown. A nearby outdoor table of tourist trinkets remains untroubled. Atop the lamp posts along Beach Street, American flags flutter in tandem with Chinese flags in the wind.

“It’s important to continue supporting the people that would be perhaps impacted the most right now because they have bills to pay,” says Andrew, a Massachusetts technology professional who asked that his last name not be used, after coming to Chinatown specifically to support the restaurants.

Another tourist, Fred Brown from Atlanta, was surprised how much busier Boston’s Italian North End neighborhood was by comparison, given the news of the outbreak in northern Italy.

“I would take precautions, but I don’t think it’s necessarily here in Chinatown in Boston,” says his daughter, Emily Brown, just prior to entering a restaurant. The Boston resident says she’s not fearful about contagion. “Especially when this place has an acceptable health code.” 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have also been multiple reports of racist online comments and also some troubling incidents offline. 

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for Los Angeles County, says the county has dealt with hoaxes related to the virus, including a bogus press release on a fake official letterhead that attempted to target an Asian community.

The letter stated erroneously that five infected patients had supposedly visited five businesses in Asian areas of Carson, including a Chinese restaurant.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
People walk under the gate in Boston's Chinatown March 2, 2020, where fewer people are walking through the neighborhood because of coronavirus fears.

“None of that was true,” says Dr. Ferrer. The department responded quickly to stamp out the misinformation, and the case is being investigated by the county sheriff’s department and the FBI.

A lot of Asians and Asian Americans live in the county – more than anywhere else in the country – and “unfortunately and inappropriately” a “stigma” is attaching itself to that community, she says. “Chinese restaurants are safe,” she emphasized.

At least two U.S. officials, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – have begun labeling COVID-19 as the “Wuhan virus.” This month, the World Health Organization implored people not to attach locations or ethnicity to the disease, including “Wuhan Virus,” “Chinese Virus,” or “Asian Virus.” “The official name for the disease was deliberately chosen to avoid stigmatization,” said WHO.

In Canada, the Toronto suburb of Markham – sister city to Wuhan, China – is striving to counter negative associations. When Wuhan Noodle 1950, a Chinese restaurant across the street from city hall, started losing business due to fears of the virus, officials knew exactly what to do. During the height of the SARS crisis in 2003, the neighborhood successfully persuaded many people in Toronto to overcome their fear by inaugurating a Taste of Asia festival. In February, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti launched an Asialicious festival in which more than 100 Asian restaurants in the Toronto area invited customers to tasting events that included special offers.

When the mayor attended a recent Chinese New Year event, he shared a social media video with guests. In it, dozens of people in the quarantined city lean out of their balconies and, in unison, shout, “Wuhan jiayou,” which is roughly translated, “Wuhan keep up the fight.” In turn, Markham’s mayor recorded a video in which the thousand attendees at the banquet shouted, “Wuhan jiayou!”

“The mayor of Wuhan sent us a letter expressing their gratitude for the video and for the fundraising and just generally the support that has been shown to Wuhan,” says Mayor Scarpitti. “It’s a reminder that we live in a pretty big world, but it can get pretty small at times and we can be connected in some pretty powerful ways.”

Staff writer Francine Kiefer contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

As Delhi riot wounds heal, neighbors look for ‘the way ahead’

Here’s another look at trust, at the street level. In the wake of Delhi’s recent riots many wonder whether India’s capital is safe for Muslims and Hindus alike. Yet even with those doubts, neighbors are helping each other rebuild a sense of security.

David

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Al Hind is a small, private hospital, sandwiched between shops in narrow bylanes. It’s in Mustafabad, a Muslim neighborhood in New Delhi’s northeast – one of the areas worst-hit by sectarian violence last month.

Yet Al Hind’s three doctors, all brothers, tended to about 600 injured people that week. And the recovery is just beginning. Now, with many displaced residents still afraid to return home, Al Hind has become a refuge.  

“We decided we wouldn’t ask anyone for their name, caste, religion, or locality, nor would we charge them,” says Dr. M. Ahtesham Anwar. 

More than 2,000 people have been arrested or detained, and the government has set up a relief camp. But officials’ response has been sharply criticized, with one commission concluding the violence was “one-sided and well-planned” against Muslims. In large part, it is neighbors themselves, like those around Al Hind, who are helping each other get back on their feet.  

“I never imagined something of this scale happening, especially in the Indian capital,” says Dr. Anwar. But he emphasizes that, as a community, it is important to be hopeful. “I was made to feel like I may not survive,” he says. “But it is our responsibility now to find the way ahead.”

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3. As Delhi riot wounds heal, neighbors look for ‘the way ahead’

At sundown, Tabassum walked around the narrow corridors of a buzzing Al Hind hospital, exchanging a few words with other women. Dressed in a pink salwar kameez, with a black floral scarf wrapped around her head, her eyes frequently darted back to her acquaintance Rubina Bano. Three months pregnant, Ms. Bano sat on a bench with a bandaged head.

For Tabassum, these surroundings had already grown familiar. For the past week, she had taken shelter on the hospital’s once-vacant first floor with her two young daughters. Sandwiched between a tailor shop and a jewelry store in the narrow bylanes of Mustafabad, a Muslim-dominated neighborhood in northeast Delhi, the small private hospital has become a refuge for those affected by the capital’s worst sectarian riots in decades. 

“Things are okay here, but every time I recall what happened with us, it gets difficult and I feel like I am slipping into depression,” says Tabassum, who asked to go by one name for her safety, before quickly collecting herself.

Ten days after the violence and arson subsided, leaving 53 people dead, more than 2,000 people have been arrested or detained. The government has set up a relief camp, where more than 1,000 people are now taking shelter. State ministers are visiting affected areas and asking officials to speed up their efforts, according to local reports.  

But the city and federal governments’ response has been sharply criticized. Residents interviewed for this article, and in other reports, alleged that police were slow to respond, or complicit in attacks. The Delhi Minorities Commission concluded in a report that the violence was “one-sided and well-planned” against Muslims.

Meanwhile, it has been largely places like Al Hind, and residents of the most affected neighborhoods, who are trying to put lives together again.

“We were three doctors and two staff that day,” recalls M. Ahtesham Anwar, remembering the scene on Feb. 24 – the first of several days of clashes. He runs Al Hind with his brothers, the two other doctors he refers to. “All the shops, chemists, and clinics in the area were shut. The injured were queuing up here.”

“That’s when we decided we wouldn’t ask anyone for their name, caste, religion, or locality, nor would we charge them. Because these things make people anxious. We worked continuously and did what we could.” 

Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters
A relief camp, photographed March 3, has been set up in Mustafabad, in northeast New Delhi, after people fled their homes following Hindu-Muslim clashes triggered by a new citizenship law.

At the height of the violence, the entire first floor was lined up with mattresses, with ropes tied across the hall to hang IV drip-feeds. Supplies and expertise were running low, and locals stepped up to assist: providing blankets, mattresses, and food; cleaning bloodied floors; and helping the wounded.

Amid the chaos, the doctors’ main goal was simple, Dr. Anwar adds. “We tried to assure them that they would live.”

Gathering storm

Before February’s violence, communal tensions had been building for weeks. Since December, millions of Indians across the country have been protesting the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which grants citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who face religious persecution. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing party has also proposed a national register of citizens, intended to identify undocumented immigrants. Together with the law, many citizens fear, the register could be used as a tool to discriminate against Indian Muslims who lack proper paperwork – adding to years of mounting concern about rising Hindu nationalism. 

After the attacks began, mobs and police prevented ambulances from going to or from Al Hind, staff said, as workers tried to transport the injured to government hospitals where they could receive better care. At an emergency midnight hearing on Feb. 26 the Delhi High Court passed an order directing the police to ensure safe passage. By the 28th, the hospital had attended to about 600 people, a third of whom suffered firearm injuries. 

Tabassum and Ms. Bano had frequently taken part in anti-CAA protests in the area, though Tabassum was working at home when the attacks began. Like many victims, she says she is not ready to return home. As the violence began, she locked her house and hid inside with her daughters for three days before escaping to Al Hind.

“We heard gunshots, tear gases being fired, there was smoke everywhere and our room was so hot because the houses nearby were burning,” Tabassum recalls.

Santhosh Kumar, an orthopedic surgeon and vice president of Doctors Without Borders’ South Asia Regional Association, is in Delhi to volunteer. The situation feels eerily similar, he says, to the Gujarat riots in 2002, in which over 1,000 people, mostly Muslim, were killed. Mr. Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat state, has denied accusations that his government was complicit in the riots or failed to control them, and Indian courts have cleared the allegations.  

“Things changed for the country the moment this government came into power,” Dr. Kumar says. “Unless the civil society and the communities come together in a different, harder or more innovative way against this, it is going to continue.” 

Dr. Anwar believes that it is important, as a community, to be hopeful and focus on the healing process. “I never imagined something of this scale happening, especially in the Indian capital. ... I was made to feel like I may not survive,” he said. “But it is our responsibility now to find the way ahead.” 

Pitching in

Outside the hospital, too, locals are stepping in to help the displaced with medical care, legal aid, and to collect relief. University students, who were at the forefront of the anti-CAA protests, are assisting with recovery as well. 

About half a mile from Al Hind, residents have opened up their homes to volunteers. The living room of Haji Mohammad Dilshad has been converted into a medical camp where doctors tend to patients pouring in at every moment, including one who has taken sick leave from her hospital to volunteer. One of Mr. Dilshad’s neighbor’s rooms is strewn with files and forms, serving as a legal camp. Lawyers here have been helping those affected fill the government's compensation forms and file complaints.

Across the street, the five floors of a madrassa religious school have been converted into a relief camp. Social workers, however, pointed out that many people were initially fearful of taking shelter in a religious building, having seen mosques destroyed during the violence. 

During the attack, neighbors on the street say, they worked together to build a barricade for protection, and called the police helpline repeatedly but did not receive assistance – heightening their sense of responsibility for each other. Delhi had become unsafe not because of the people but because of the government, they reasoned. Mr. Dilshad and other men have been taking turns to stay up at night and keep watch.

“We [Hindus and Muslims] live together and work together but there is an atmosphere of fear and distrust now,” says Mr. Dilshad, whose warehouse was damaged during the riots. “But it can’t get worse because people here are sensible. If we keep helping out in whatever way we can, things will return to normalcy soon.” 

In the eyes of Mishika Singh, a lawyer volunteering to help anti-CAA protesters and people displaced by the violence, normalcy is still distant. 

“People are so emboldened. They’re coming and setting houses on fire knowing that nothing will be done to them. That kind of confidence, by people causing riots, I’ve never seen here,” she says. “The only hope right now is that if there are two people helping today, because of the situation (getting worse) tomorrow, there will be 2,000 people helping. These are mostly young people on the ground, so that is hopeful.” 

The secret to sustainably farming the Amazon? The ‘miracle’ Inga tree.

Across much of the world, conventional wisdom says you can have farming or you can have forest, but you can’t have both. We look at how a local NGO in the Amazon is challenging that wisdom.

David
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Vanda Melo de Souza poses on her land, on Jan. 31, 2020, in Carlinda municipality, Mato Grosso, Brazil. She is participating in the Instituto Ouro Verde program to make her severely degraded land productive and sees a role for herself in saving the Amazon.

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Across this region of western Brazil, trees have historically been viewed as obstacles to agricultural progress. From the early days when farmers were first lured here to clear the Amazon to more recently as soy plantations expand evermore, trees have been “in the way.” 

First cleared for timber and then cattle, land is increasingly being converted into soy production as demand booms. The land here is badly degraded from decades of expansive grazing or mismanagement.

Instituto Ouro Verde, or Green Gold Institute, a local nongovernmental organization, wants to change that. It works with small-scale farmers to implement silvopastoral systems that integrate tree crops, forage, and livestock. At the heart of the project, begun in 2018, is the Inga tree, a so-called miracle species for its ability to keep soil fertile – and improve livelihoods by mimicking the forest dynamic that was lost to big agribusiness.

“Our No. 1 challenge is changing views,” says Saulo de Souza, a researcher at the Green Gold Institute. “Trees are our friends. They are not our enemies. They do not harm.”

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4. The secret to sustainably farming the Amazon? The ‘miracle’ Inga tree.

Her neighbors call her crazy. They say she is wasting her time, and worse, squandering her land.

But Vanda Melo de Souza keeps digging to plant her Inga trees.

It’s the first time that the 62-year-old has owned property in her life. And she could be focusing the 8 hectares (20 acres) she has to farm exclusively on pasture for her dairy cows or crops to sell – for money she badly needs.

But she’s taking the longer view with a local nongovernmental organization called Instituto Ouro Verde, or Green Gold Institute, that works with smallholders in the “arc of destruction” in the southern Amazon to implement full-scale silvopastoral systems that integrate tree crops, forage, and livestock. At the heart of the project, begun in 2018, is the Inga tree, a so-called miracle species for its ability to keep soil fertile – and improve livelihoods by mimicking the forest dynamic that was lost to big agribusiness.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Vanda Melo de Souza (left) watches Vinícius Teixeira Arantes, from the nonprofit Instituto Ouro Verde, draw a plan for planting crops on her land, Carlinda municipality, Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Across this region of northern Mato Grosso, trees have historically been viewed as obstacles to agricultural progress. From the early days when farmers were first lured here to clear the Amazon to more recently as soy plantations expand evermore, trees have been “in the way.” But the Green Gold Institute argues that trees can help increase incentives for smallholders, and prevent renting or selling off to industrial agriculture.

“Our No. 1 challenge is changing views,” says Saulo de Souza, a researcher at the Green Gold Institute and at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. “Trees are our friends. They are not our enemies. They do not harm.”

Ms. Melo de Souza stands with a team from the Green Gold Institute on a recent day, a hat protecting her head from the relentless sun, her skirt and long-sleeve shirt spattered in mud. They map the rows of plantings for the 3 hectare project with a stick in the dirt. Her dog takes cover from the heat wherever he can, in the shade of ragged bushes, burying himself under the sandy earth. 

“People think we’re losing time, but it’s not losing time. Imagine how beautiful it will be with these trees here. How much cooler it will be for the cattle,” she says. “I want to be part of making things right here.”

The land here is badly degraded from decades of expansive grazing or mismanagement. First cleared for timber and then cattle, land is increasingly being converted into soy production as demand booms. Soy plantations extend to the horizon. But 80% of farmers here are smallholders. Officially that means they own less than 400 hectares of land but most have 50 hectares or less, says Dr. de Souza. The Inga tree offers an option for poor landowners who don’t have access to higher-tech solutions or equipment that is helping other farmers transform degraded pasture.

Toby Pennington, a professor of tropical plant diversity at the University of Exeter who works on the Inga project, says it’s called a “miracle tree” for its ability to restore the soil, making it more productive, while providing shade to crops and cattle. “It makes it viable for small farmers to stay on the land, and not rent it out to big landowners,” he says.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Vinícius Teixeira Arantes (left) and Saulo de Souza, from the nonprofit Instituto Ouro Verde, are helping small-scale farmers implement silvopastoral systems that integrate tree crops, forage, and livestock in Carlinda municipality, Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Alongside reforestation – they estimate they’ve planted a million trees in the last decade, or about 2,700 hectares of forest – the NGO helps small farmers get their milk and fruits and vegetables to local markets and offers microcredit to start small businesses. Ms. Melo de Souza is managing five pigs, five cows, and 20 chickens, as well as growing orange and acai trees, pineapples, and cassava, and managing a seed bank – in addition to growing Inga.

“We realized there was a lot of potential for family farmers to increase production without destroying the forest,” says Vinicius Teixeira Arantes, a board member and former president of the Green Gold Institute. “And that makes communities stronger, empowering women to be part of the solution, and have a voice in the community.”

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Sirlene Machado, holding her granddaughter, speaks about participating in the Instituto Ouro Verde program. She has spent nearly her entire adult life farming someone else’s land. Now she’s in charge of an 8-hectare property of her own.

The women in this settlement in the municipality of Carlinda used to be considered part of the problem – the landless poor with nowhere to go. Next door to Ms. Melo de Souza sits Sirlene Machado’s home. She had spent nearly half of her 41 years living outside – under a bridge with her parents and her 12 siblings, and later 10 years camping alongside the road, with the rest of the 100 families on this settlement – before the government granted them each a parcel of land.

Almost her entire adult life she has farmed someone else’s land. Now she’s in charge of an 8 hectare property, the major source of income of which is milk.

But reforesting the land is part of the vision she sees for her children and grandchildren. “To have trees, when I walk in the sun, I feel the shade. It feels so good. And it’s good for the animals, the air, everything. You can do both, grow forest and raise cattle.”

“Some people think it’s craziness,” she says. “I don’t see it as craziness. I only see an opportunity.”

This story is part of a three-part series. 

Part 1: Who owns the Amazon?
Part 2: Saving the Amazon: How cattle ranchers can halt deforestation
Part 3: The secret to sustainably farming the Amazon? The ‘miracle’ Inga tree.

Books

Listen up: Audiobooks to lose yourself in

There’s something uniquely intimate, multidimensional, and compelling when a book is read out loud. We collected reviews of four audiobooks, including an insightful memoir, some stream-of-consciousness essays, and a thrilling detective mystery set in Russia. 

David
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5. Listen up: Audiobooks to lose yourself in

Our picks for audiobooks include titles that invite contemplation, entertain with humor, excite with fast-paced action, and let you visit again with a favorite character.  

“In the Country of Women” by Susan Straight
Read by Donna Postel; HighBridge Audio; 10 hours and 49 minutes

Author Susan Straight begins her memoir by lamenting the fact that women are never given the hero’s journey – are never the subject of epic tales. She then details her ancestors’ life journeys, which have all eventually influenced her own discoveries and wanderings and creations. A standout among the growing mountain of audiobook memoirs, her story is entertaining, honest, humorous, insightful, and difficult to turn off. Narrator Donna Postel sounds both authoritative and friendly. She’s able to capture the warmth and appreciation Straight brings to a story that is part history lesson, part cultural observation, and part personal rumination on her multicultural and diverse family. Grade: A-

“Little Weirds” by Jenny Slate
Read by the author; Hachette Audio; 4 hours and 19 minutes

Courtesy of Hachette Audio

“Weird” is an apt description for Jenny Slate’s collection of essays, though it can also be described as imaginative, revelatory, insightful, and delightful. Slate’s stream-of-consciousness meditations cover a wide range of subjects, including her days as a “fast bad baby,” restaurant trips, dating, sexuality, family, Valentine’s Day, ghosts, and pets. Her topics are mundane, but her writing is poetic. As a successful comedian and screenwriter, she has a great sense of timing, and her high-pitched voice and fast delivery enhance this odd but enjoyable production. This collection is best heard one essay at a time, as her contemplative words should be savored. Grade: A-

“The Siberian Dilemma” by Martin Cruz Smith
Read by Jeremy Bobb; Simon & Schuster Audio; 6 hours and 7 minutes

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Audio

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been following Martin Cruz Smith’s “Arkady Renko” detective series, because this installment – set in Russia and packed with action – stands alone. Renko is on the case of a missing journalist, and this time, it’s personal, because she’s also his girlfriend. Though the plot is gripping, the story lacks the finesse of Smith’s earlier novels; the ending is only mediocre and the pacing is subpar. Narrator Jeremy Bobb has a deep voice and a controlled, even meter. He easily changes his timbre for different characters, and his Eastern European accents sound authentic. Grade: B+ 

“Olive, Again” by Elizabeth Strout
Read by Kimberly Farr; Random House Audio; 12 hours and 14 minutes

Courtesy of Random House Audio

Fans of “Olive Kitteridge” may be somewhat disappointed in these 13 loosely connected sequel tales about Elizabeth Strout’s famous character, Olive, and the people whose lives she touches. While the stories pick up where the original left off and the writing remains intimate and expressive, “Olive, Again” is full of sadness and carries an undercurrent of bitterness that destroys the goodwill and hope found in the original. The collection is also full of jarring political jabs. Narrator Kimberly Farr, however, is delightful, giving each character his or her own voice – especially Olive, whose prickly demeanor and forthrightness can be heard in every utterance. Grade: B-

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The Monitor's View

Balm of gratitude eases the virus crisis

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At the opening of his speech for International Women’s Day, Italian President Sergio Mattarella made a point of expressing gratitude to the women fighting the coronavirus in hospitals, laboratories, and quarantine areas. In his press briefings, Vice President Mike Pence, as the White House point person on the virus outbreak, often peppers his comments with “profound gratitude” to others. China has thanked Japan for medical supplies. The Straits Times newspaper of Singapore has opened a webpage for people to pay tribute to front-line virus fighters.

As all this public appreciation reveals, gratitude has become an essential tool during the global health crisis. And for many reasons. Gratitude helps put a focus on the good in a situation, dampening fear. It helps people form stronger bonds across borders and differences. It encourages generosity.

At times of panic, expressing appreciation can serve as a reset. It allows calm and reflective thinking, just what is needed to bring a healing perspective during an epidemic.

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Balm of gratitude eases the virus crisis

At the opening of his speech for International Women’s Day, Italian President Sergio Mattarella made a point of expressing gratitude to the women fighting the coronavirus in hospitals, laboratories, and quarantine areas. “They work in difficult conditions, with skill and a spirit of sacrifice, with dedication,” he said.

In his press briefings, Vice President Mike Pence, as the White House point person on the virus outbreak, often peppers his comments with “profound gratitude” – to state leaders, the airline industry, and others – who are helping the federal government’s response. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has thanked Italy and South Korea, two countries with major outbreaks, “for their transparency and tireless work to administer care to those affected.”

China has thanked Japan for medical supplies and Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, for a $100 million pledge to help fight the outbreak. Iran appreciates Kuwait’s offers of help to deal with its crisis. Sri Lanka has thanked India for flying back some of its citizens from China.

At least one newspaper, The Straits Times of Singapore, has opened a webpage for people to pay tribute to front-line virus fighters. More than 1,000 people have penned a note. “I am never scared of the virus because of your efforts. Thank you,” wrote foreign worker Shanmugam Ganesan.

As all this public appreciation reveals, gratitude has become an essential tool during the global health crisis. And for many reasons. Gratitude helps put a focus on the good in a situation, dampening fear. It helps people form stronger bonds across borders and differences. It encourages generosity.

Yet to work as a supportive trait during a crisis, gratitude must be from the heart, not demanded. In China last week, Wang Zhonglin, Communist Party secretary of Wuhan, made the mistake of saying it was “necessary to carry out gratitude education among the people of the whole city” in order for them to express thanks to Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party for the way they are handling the crisis. In the face of a public uproar, his comments were taken down from official sites.

To correct the mistake, Ying Yong, party chief of Hubei province, said the people who have been under a strict quarantine were the real heroes. “I hereby express my sincere gratitude to the people of Wuhan and Hubei,” he said. And indeed, the World Health Organization has said the world is “in debt” to the 55 million people of Hubei for their sacrifice in trying to contain the virus.

At times of panic, expressing appreciation can serve as a reset. It allows calm and reflective thinking, just what is needed to bring a healing perspective during an epidemic.

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.

100%

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Numerical predictions can sometimes feel overwhelming or frightening. But opening our hearts to the wholeness of God and His entire creation allows God’s healing, saving light to shine through.

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1. 100%

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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How often we hear
of a certain percent –
perhaps fifty-five, or eleven,
ninety-nine or seven –
presenting its picture of health, wealth, or self.

How often God speaks in a different way,
I AM one hundred
percent
today,
yesterday,
and forever.

As we hear,
we humbly, meekly, gratefully pray,
Thank Goodness.

I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
Deuteronomy 32:3, 4

Poem originally published in the Feb. 13, 2012, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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Silver linings

Toby Melville/Reuters
A gallery assistant interacts with helium balloons that form "Silver Clouds" by Andy Warhol, part of a retrospective of works by the late American artist, at the Tate Modern in London, March 10, 2020.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’re working on a story about Mexico’s “no women” strike for gender justice. 

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