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Monitor Daily Podcast

May 29, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

What Cooper vs. Cooper was really all about

At a time of heightened racial tensions around the country, consider the story of Cooper vs. Cooper – an incident that ends, thankfully, with no physical harm. But it raises age-old questions on race, danger, and reconciliation.  

Amy Cooper, who is white, was walking her dog off-leash Monday in an area of New York’s Central Park that requires one. Christian Cooper (no relation), a black man, was bird-watching and asked her to leash her dog. 

When she didn’t, Mr. Cooper began filming. Ms. Cooper declared that she’s going to tell the police that “an African American man is threatening my life” and dialed 911. The video went viral. Ms. Cooper lost her job and her dog, and has faced death threats. 

She also issued an apology, acknowledging that “misassumptions and insensitive statements about race” can cause pain. But it’s Mr. Cooper who is winning praise for his reflections. Appearing Thursday on “The View,” he denounced the death threats and considered Ms. Cooper’s future. 

“Only she can tell us if that [racist act] defines her entire life by what she does going forward,” he said. 

Mr. Cooper accepted her apology, calling it “a first step,” and then pulled all of us into the narrative. What this incident was really about, he said, is “the underlying current of racism and racial perceptions that’s been going on for centuries and that permeates this city and this country.”

And so, even as Ms. Cooper tries to reclaim her life, we can all reflect on the meaning of this encounter. Mr. Cooper says he’s not interested in a face-to-face reconciliation. Forgiveness, if it is to be, may take time. 

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Despite furor, accountability lags for police. Here’s why it might change.

What does the data tell us about the repercussions officers face after on-duty killings? Has there been any change since cellphone videos and the Black Lives Matter movement launched widespread awareness of those deaths?

Linda
John Minchillo/AP
Protesters watch as police in riot gear walk down a residential street, May 28, 2020, in St. Paul, Minnesota. Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody Monday, broke out in Minneapolis for a third straight night.

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Even before Minneapolis neighborhoods descended into a chaos of protests punctuated by riots and looting, major city police chiefs decried the killing of George Floyd as “deeply disturbing” and “of concern to all Americans.”

That swift denunciation, rather than circling the wagons, might be one early glimmer of progress in a problem that data shows has not budged over the past five years – despite widespread outrage, the efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement, and large-scale protests across the country.

“The role that we have come to depend on officers to play in society makes it difficult to criticize or reform what they do,” says Seth Stoughton, a former police officer from Tallahassee, Florida. “They don’t deal with a particular problem; they deal with every problem. So it’s hard to say, ‘Oh, by the way, change what you’re doing here.’”

The U.S. Department of Justice is among several jurisdictions looking into whether crimes were committed. On Friday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced criminal charges against former Officer Derek Chauvin.

Research underscores the seemingly unbending struggle to hold lawbreaking officers to account.

“It does ‘feel’ like we are seeing more of these cases [of officers being adjudicated], but actually we aren’t,” says Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson.

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1. Despite furor, accountability lags for police. Here’s why it might change.

It’s not his phrase, but former Seattle police Chief Norm Stamper covets it when describing police officers: “tiny principalities of power.”

Armored with immunity for a wide swath of behavior, protected by unions and friends and demands for civic order, and beholden more to a beat cop code than to the chief’s orders, the 900,000-strong American police force cuts a unique profile: They aren’t mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

On even the best day, officers say, they have immensely difficult and dangerous jobs. Nearly every social problem is theirs to deal with, to the best – and sometimes worst – of their abilities.

“The power of that institution to shape behavior of so many police officers is almost to the point that supervision and management and leadership seem not to count,” says Mr. Stamper, author of “To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police.” “What really counts is the opinion of your fellow cops on the beat. It is in fact axiomatic that the structure produces this culture and that culture gives rise to behavior.”

Hardly alone, Mr. Stamper is wrestling with how that blue wall contributed to four Minneapolis police officers committing what he considers the murder of George Floyd, kneeling on his neck despite pleas of help from the man and bystanders. On Friday, former Officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

To be sure, their near-immediate firing was “unprecedented” and warranted, says Mr. Stamper.

Major city police chiefs have decried the killing of Mr. Floyd, calling it “deeply disturbing” and “of concern to all Americans.” That swift denunciation, rather than silence and circling the wagons, might be one early glimmer of progress in a problem that data shows has not budged over the past five years – despite widespread outrage, the efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement, and large-scale protests across the country.

“The role that we have come to depend on officers to play in society makes it difficult to criticize or reform what they do,” says Seth Stoughton, a former police officer from Tallahassee, Florida. “They don’t deal with a particular problem; they deal with every problem. So it’s hard to say, ‘Oh, by the way, change what you’re doing here.’”

The U.S. Department of Justice is among several jurisdictions looking into whether crimes were committed. Meanwhile, some Minneapolis neighborhoods have descended into chaos as the killing unleashed protests, riots, and looting. A police precinct was burned Thursday night.

On Thursday, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said that he didn’t want to participate in a rush to judgment. “We have to do this right. We have to prove it in a court of law,” he said. “I will not rush to justice.”

“In this case, it’s good that they have a video because otherwise there would be no trouble for the officers,” says David Harris, author of “A City Divided: Race, Fear and the Law in Police Confrontations” and a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. “And at least they got fired. But there’s no guarantee of anything else. The law is slanted in favor of police.”

Indeed, research into police culture and behavior underscores the seemingly unbending struggle to hold lawbreaking officers to account.

“It does ‘feel’ like we are seeing more of these cases [of officers being adjudicated], but actually we aren’t,” says Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson, who tracks officer convictions, in an email.

SOURCE: Source: Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Public Database, Police Integrity Research Group; Henry Gass
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Karen Norris, Henry Gass/Staff

The struggle to balance the law with the order is a fundamental one in the modern United States.

In order to limit frivolous lawsuits, the U.S. Supreme Court has expanded the ability of police to use excessive force by expanding qualified immunity, which forces juries to answer two chief questions: Were officers breaking “clearly established law” and were they aware that their conduct was illegal?

Police won 56% of cases in which they claimed qualified immunity from 2017 through 2019. That was up from the three prior years, when they won 43% of the time, a Reuters investigation found.

In one case near Dallas, five police officers fired 17 bullets and killed a bicyclist in a case of mistaken identity. A court threw out a lawsuit on grounds of qualified immunity. A cop who shot and killed a fleeing suspect through his windshield from a bridge was found justified for the same reason.

In South Carolina, a jury couldn’t come to a verdict in a case where an officer was filmed shooting a fleeing man named Walter Scott in the back and then planting a Taser to make the shooting look justified. The officer, Michael Slager, is only serving prison time due to a plea deal to avoid a federal trial.

In Chicago, Jason Van Dyke was found guilty in 2018 of second-degree murder for the killing of Laquan McDonald in 2014. Three other Chicago officers were acquitted on charges of covering up the murder.

Such legal twists underscore how “as a society we often give contradictory guidance to police officers about what their role should be: ‘We want you to be hard on crime, but also respect everyone’s rights,’” says Mr. Stoughton, co-author of “Evaluating Police Uses of Force.” “That’s difficult to mesh.”

Even when police departments do fire officers with a record of misdeeds or unprofessionalism, there are few guarantees they’ll stay off the beat – even rising to the top of the profession.

Last year, USA Today showed that 32 officers convicted of various levels of misconduct, with at least eight found guilty of a crime, were let go, before finding their way to the top as chiefs or sheriffs. What’s more, thanks largely to states with strong police unions that provide fired cops with arbitration, 30% of such cops are reinstated with back pay.

The officer who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland lost his job, but was hired by a small-town department in the region.

In the case of Eric Garner, a New Yorker who died after pleading with an officer to release a chokehold, the officer was eventually fired. He is now seeking reinstatement with full back pay.

Minnesota recently saw its first officer convicted and imprisoned – for killing a white Australian American woman, Justine Damond, in 2017. Mohamed Noor, the former officer, is of Somali descent. But the Midwestern state also saw a jury acquit another officer for shooting Philando Castile, who was black, during a traffic stop for a broken taillight. Jeronimo Yanez, the officer, is of Hispanic descent.

SOURCE: Source: “Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race-ethnicity, and sex” by Frank Edwards, Hedwig Lee, and Michael Esposito. Published in proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug. 2, 2019.
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Jacob Turcotte, Henry Gass/Staff

Painfully, America’s long history of racial violence colors those charts.

2019 saw the largest number of deaths by police, with over 1,000, according to a Washington Post database. Black men are twice as likely to be shot by police – a number that has not budged since uproar began over killings with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. In the U.S., being killed by an officer is one of the main mortality risk factors for younger black men.

“Many police officers have a tendency to prioritize human life and to somehow, probably on a subliminal level, make tactical decisions based on the color of someone’s skin, such that black people in America are at much greater risk for instances of excessive force,” says Mr. Stamper in Seattle. “There’s no way to pretty that up.”

Yet progress can be measured in small ways in a country with 18,000 police departments, each a fiefdom.

Reformers are pushing to strengthen decertification programs that make it difficult for troubled officers to reenter the profession. Some 30,000 cops in 44 states have been decertified since the 1960s.

SOURCE: Source: USA Today Network
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Karen Norris, Henry Gass/Staff

A program called EPIC (Ethical Policing Is Courageous) that protects junior officers when they speak up against the actions of more senior officers has led to spikes in community approval for police in cities like New Orleans. EPIC connects officer welfare not to outside demands, which cops often shrug off, but the need to protect a fellow officer from making a career-ending mistake.

What’s more, the U.S. Supreme Court could announce Monday whether it will consider a case that could define whether police and other deputized officials deserve qualified immunity as protection against lawsuits.

And even if cellphone videos don’t guarantee convictions, the moral clarity they capture can be crucial.

On Thursday, the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners announced that the city would start using the video of Mr. Floyd’s death to train officers how not to detain a suspect. (Police training manuals, including one by Mr. Stoughton, forbid the use of body weight on the neck as a restraining tool, as happened to Mr. Floyd, because the maneuver can kill.)

And for at least one Minneapolis area officer, the incident was cause to grieve and talk with fellow officers – and black and white members of the community.

“We live in two different worlds and no matter what I’ve done while I’ve worn this uniform, this has not changed,” Officer Justin Pletcher wrote in a Facebook post that he gave the Monitor permission to quote. “I may have changed moments but I have not changed the world like I thought I would.”

Such introspection on the part of both police and the communities they serve is vital, experts say.

“If we don’t absorb that [race can be weaponized], and all try to change and do things differently, we’re going to be stuck with this problem for a long time,” says Mr. Harris.

Karen Norris, Jake Tourcotte, Henry Gass/Staff

How long can Americans live in a state of emergency?

What constitutes an emergency and what becomes a new normal? That’s the question being weighed as the coronavirus crisis tests American civil liberties.

Linda
Ben Margot/AP
Registered nurse Emily Hindsman, center, joins protesters in favor of reopening California with precautions, and opposed to what they feel to be the restriction on civil liberties, as they march at City Hall on May 1, 2020, in San Francisco.

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The pandemic represents the latest test of civil liberties, and it’s testing these liberties in unprecedented ways, even as the U.S. death count passed 100,000 this week.

While there has been recent progress, it’s still unclear how long the pandemic is going to last, and thus how long restrictions on personal liberties may be asked of citizens. Tracking and eliminating the virus will likely raise new civil rights concerns as well.

“What is different about this crisis is both the invisibility of the adversary and the time frame in which it’s unfolding,” says Meryl Chertoff, executive director of the Project on State and Local Government Policy and Law at the Georgetown University Law Center.

“We need to be guided by science, but we need to be careful in what we are willing to accept in an emergency, because rights once given up can be very difficult to bring back again,” she says.

A useful analogy there, says Professor Chertoff, is 9/11 and the ongoing war on terror.

“That’s the question. What time frame are we willing to accept to live in a state of emergency?”

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2. How long can Americans live in a state of emergency?

Civil liberties are a cornerstone of American democracy, but nothing tests those liberties quite like a major crisis.

Every crisis poses distinct threats and requires distinct responses. But throughout America’s history, restricting civil liberties in some way has frequently been part of the response.

In the interests of security, people have often been willing to surrender liberties during a crisis and in its aftermath. The state has also used crises as a justification to forcibly restrict citizens’ liberties, such as the notorious internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The coronavirus pandemic represents the latest test of civil liberties, and it’s testing these liberties in unprecedented ways, even as the U.S. death count passed 100,000 this week.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

“What is different about this crisis is both the invisibility of the adversary and the time frame in which it’s unfolding,” says Meryl Chertoff, executive director of the Project on State and Local Government Policy and Law at the Georgetown University Law Center.

“We need to be guided by science, but we need to be careful in what we are willing to accept in an emergency, because rights once given up can be very difficult to bring back again,” she adds.

While there has been recent progress on developing treatments and a vaccine, it’s still unclear how long the pandemic is going to last, and thus how long restrictions on personal liberties may be asked of citizens. Tracking and eliminating the virus will likely raise new civil rights concerns as well.

A useful analogy, says Professor Chertoff, is 9/11 and the ongoing war on terror.

“Emergency measures were put in place, and the question – and it was a difficult question for policymakers – was when do you go from red to yellow?” she says.

“That’s the question. What time frame are we willing to accept to live in a state of emergency?” she adds. “Some of that is political and cultural, and some of that is hardwired into us as people, that there’s only so long that people can live in a state of hypervigilance, or in a state of isolation.”

Lockdown fatigue

Indeed, Memorial Day weekend saw a widespread chafing against social distancing restrictions imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19. With all 50 states now in the process of reopening, lockdown fatigue seems to be setting in, and while a majority of the public continues to support social distancing guidelines, that majority is shrinking.

In a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey, for example, 69% of Americans favored restricting gatherings to 10 people or fewer, down from 82% in April.

“When people perceive a threat to their safety, when they feel unsafe, they’re very willing to give up liberties they might not have in other contexts,” says Kevin Cope, an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

“In terms of the liberty restrictions we’re seeing now, one of the reasons people support them in such high numbers is because they expect them to be quite temporary.”

That expectation of impermanence is a critical justification for restricting civil liberties in a crisis. What is proving vexing about the COVID-19 pandemic is that it’s difficult to know what to expect. The pandemic is both an urgent crisis, with people falling ill and dying every day, and a slow-burning one, wrought by a relatively invisible and enigmatic virus that could be eradicated in months, years, or not at all.

Even some prominent libertarians have said that, in a situation with an infectious disease and asymptomatic carriers, restrictions on liberty of movement make sense. (Though restricting other rights, like freedom to attend socially distanced houses of worship, may not, they say.)

“The normal conditions that justify liberty of movement and travel ... are regrettably not present when each of us (with no conscious choice on our parts) is potentially highly lethal to people around us. However peaceable we might be in our intentions, our assembling is a physical threat. Our judgments about liberty, I think, need to reflect that,” wrote Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law expert at the UCLA School of Law, on April 4.

Shelly Yang/Kansas City Star/AP
Crowds of people gather at Coconuts Caribbean Beach Bar & Grill in Gravois Mills, Missouri, May 24, 2020. The Lake of the Ozarks was packed with party-goers during the Memorial Day weekend. Several political leaders have condemned revelers for failing to practice social distancing, amid fears they could spread the coronavirus.

Wisconsin ruling

With the broad powers state and local leaders can tap into in emergencies, it’s perhaps unsurprising that courts have so far been reluctant to strike down pandemic-related government actions.

The only successful legal challenge so far came in Wisconsin earlier this month, when the state Supreme Court sided with Republican state lawmakers and struck down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ shutdown orders.

The court’s 4-3 ruling – which immediately lifted all restrictions imposed by the governor, with the exception of schools staying closed until fall – hinged on that expectation of impermanence. Unlike in a sudden and short-lived crisis like a natural disaster, the majority wrote, the governor needs to follow the normal rule-making process and allow the state legislature to review his orders.

“If a forest fire breaks out, there is no time for debate. Action is needed,” wrote Chief Justice Patience Roggensack for the majority. “But in the case of a pandemic, which lasts month after month, the governor cannot rely on emergency powers indefinitely.”

Governor Evers said the ruling would throw the state “into chaos,” while Justice Brian Hagedorn, who broke with his conservative colleagues to dissent from the ruling, accused the majority of engaging in “freewheeling constitutional theory.”

Two weeks later, Wisconsin set a record for both new cases and deaths in the state. Testing, however, also has expanded.

Puerto Rico “false information” law

The case didn’t raise any constitutional questions, but those could soon emerge.

The American Civil Liberties Union last week filed a lawsuit on behalf of two journalists challenging two new laws in Puerto Rico: one criminalizing the raising of “false alarms” during a declared emergency, and one criminalizing the sharing of “false information” about the government’s emergency orders or curfew orders.

The government has yet to respond – it has until June 5 – but this is not the first time Puerto Rico has faced criticism for violating the First Amendment. In 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit struck down a criminal libel law as unconstitutional.

“These laws are just those old criminal libel laws coming back with a vengeance,” says Brian Hauss, an ACLU staff attorney, “and the government is trying to use the COVID-19 crisis to reclaim powers already declared unconstitutional.”

Lessons from 1918

The Puerto Rico laws contain echoes from an earlier major public health crisis in the U.S.

Yet when it comes to civil liberties and the 1918 flu, even that comparison isn’t fully on point, according to John M. Barry, a historian at Tulane University and author of “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.”

What happened during the 1918 pandemic fell into an infrastructure created by World War I, which the U.S. had joined a year earlier, he says.

Many Americans favored American neutrality, and months after entering the war Congress passed the Espionage Act, which prohibited the distribution of information and materials in opposition to the war effort. In 1918, Congress passed the Sedition Act, which criminalized the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” about the Constitution, the government, the military, or the flag.

Those two laws – along with the Committee on Public Information, a pro-war federal propaganda agency – created a climate where people knew they couldn’t believe what they were being told, but didn’t know what to believe, says Professor Barry.

“Instead of communities rallying together and supporting each other,” he adds, “it was more an approach of everybody for himself or herself, almost a breakdown of society.”

While there’s not been any overt censorship in the U.S. pandemic response, there has been a growing polarization in how Americans view the pandemic. While Democrats are mostly wary of lifting lockdown measures too early, Republicans are mostly wary of keeping them in place too long, several surveys have shown.

That politicization is what makes the American response to this crisis distinct from other countries, according to Aziz Huq, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. But he hasn’t seen any significant threat to civil liberties – yet.

“With almost all civil liberties, the question is whether the state has some kind of compelling justification for doing what it’s doing,” he says. So far, “I have a hard time seeing [challenges to lockdown measures] as serious civil liberties concerns.”

That could change if the threat of the virus wanes but lockdown measures stay in place.

Be it technology to assist contact tracing, like an app alerting you if you’ve been exposed to an infected person that Apple and Google are helping develop, or “immunity passports” that allow people who are immune to the virus to not be subject to restrictions, how governments try to monitor the virus in a post-lockdown world is already raising concerns. As November nears, concerns over the right to vote will likely become more pronounced.

Looking ahead, Professor Huq says, “predicting where and how the disease is going is an area where privacy considerations are going to come up.”

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

‘Friendliest boundary in the world’ divides families in pandemic

There are few borders in the world as open as that between the United States and Canada. Now, its closure amid the coronavirus pandemic is having a profound effect on binational families.

Linda

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When the U.S.-Canada border shuttered, at midnight on March 21, to all but essential and commercial traffic, it was just one of many international closures intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus. But along the world’s largest undefended boundary, it has felt even more baffling to binational families who have seen their American-Canadian lives suddenly divided.

The 5,525-mile border is often called the friendliest boundary in the world, where Canadians dip south for milk or gas, and Americans vacation at their cottages north. But the current situation has split relationships and families. A petition lobbying the Canadian government for family members to be reunited has filled up with personal stories of separation: from those with health issues unable to care for family, or fathers separated from babies, or pregnant spouses trapped on the other side of the border.

The Lathrops, who married in 2018, have been split by the closure since it began. “We had anticipated that I would be receiving my green card in May or June this year,” says Jenn Lathrop, a Canadian citizen. “And then we were hoping to be able to start a family. But obviously that won’t happen.”

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3. ‘Friendliest boundary in the world’ divides families in pandemic

Jenn and Will Lathrop knew they were in for some long distance when they got married in the fall of 2018, until she, a Canadian, could get her green card and start life anew with her American husband.

But long distance is relative.

She lives 30 minutes from the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia, he just 10 in Washington state. And on most days, getting through border patrol was no more than a five-minute affair. Their weekends were easily spent north or south.

That was, until the border shuttered, at midnight on March 21, to all but essential and commercial traffic. It happened as international travel ground to a halt worldwide in an attempt to stop the coronavirus pandemic. (This month the closure was extended until at least June 21.)

But along the world’s largest undefended boundary, where notions of two open countries have persisted even after the strictures put in place after 9/11, the closure has felt even more baffling and unimaginable. Binational families have seen their American-Canadian lives suddenly divided in ways that make sense in government ministries but not in their own minds.

The Lathrops have only seen each other twice since it shut – the first time across a ditch where they were watched by U.S. border patrol agents and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) telling families not to touch or share items. Mr. Lathrop likened it to what prison must feel like. “We were only inches apart, yet there is that barrier,” he says.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

The experience, says Len Saunders, the Lathrops’ immigration lawyer, whose office in Blaine, Washington, sits three blocks from the border, is something he would never have imagined “in my wildest dreams.”

The U.S.-Canada border, which spans 5,525 miles, is often called “the friendliest boundary in the world,” where Canadians dip south for milk or gas, and Americans vacation at their cottages north. A library in Quebec straddles the boundary with Vermont, a symbol of that friendship.

It’s been contentious at various points since it was first established in the 18th century. After 9/11, tensions flared after its porousness, usually defended as a point of trust between both countries, was criticized by American leaders who imposed new requirements. Today’s relatively seamless closure of nonessential traffic while trade continues, is owed in part to the work of shoring up bilateral institutions and relationships since then, says Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration policy with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

“In the current situation,” she says, “where frankly the government of Canada and the government of the United States are not on the same page on a lot of issues, they're working together on this issue on the border.”

Courtesy of the Lathrops
Jenn and Will Lathrop met one time at a ditch at Zero Avenue in mid-April, the only place they could meet, but border patrol and RCMP abounded in the area. They weren't supposed to touch, but border authorities let them give each other a hug goodbye.

There has been friction today too. In March, President Donald Trump suggested sending troops to its northern border to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – something widely dismissed in Canada. If anything, where per capita rates of COVID-19 deaths and infection are much lower in Canada, the threat is perceived to come from the south. Premiers in provinces that share borders with the U.S., from Doug Ford in Ontario to John Horgan in British Columbia, have lobbied Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to keep the border sealed off for now.

That’s been devastating to some families though. Emma Holmes in Ottawa started a petition lobbying the Canadian government for family members to be reunited. It received 4,000 signatures in its first week alone, with personal stories of separation spilling across its pages, from those with health issues unable to care for family or fathers separated from babies or pregnant spouses trapped on the other side of the border.

Mark Belanger, a lawyer in Vancouver with the Border Solutions Law Group, says border agents aren’t consistently determining what is “essential” and what isn’t. He normally helps clients on work visas but says he has been increasingly fielding calls from those who have been denied entry to Canada and should not have been. “We're dealing with inconsistencies in adjudication,” he says.

Nor do decisions always seem to make sense on a personal level. As Mr. Lathrop puts it: “If they are going to let people go to tattoo parlors and weed shops, let families visit each other.”

Instead, the couple has to wait – and no one knows for how long. “We had anticipated that I would be receiving my green card in May or June this year. And then we were hoping to be able to start a family. But obviously that won’t happen,” says Ms. Lathrop. “I'm grateful that we’re both healthy right now in separate countries. But you never know what's going to happen in the next month. And the border could still be shut.”

She was talking right before they are about to meet for a second time – this time at Peace Arch Park, neutral territory where she was hoping to be able to sit on a park bench and at least hold hands. “Going back to elementary school here,” she jokes.

Instead, when they saw each other in mid-May, he swept her up in his arms. It’s the most unrestrained touch they’ve experienced in two months – and it’s the most they can expect for now.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

A deeper look

‘It’s just chaos.’ One family’s struggle to make the new normal work

From home-schooling kids to trying to save a business, our reporter’s “quarantine family” is dealing with the same challenges as many. Facing an uncertain summer, they’re now relying on each other in new ways.

Linda
Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Stephanie Cordier teaches daughter Abilene how to make a blade of grass whistle. Like families across America, she, husband Kurt Crandall, and their two daughters have been struggling with the new normal. “With the added responsibilities to solely educate, exercise, discipline, entertain, and nurture our children – at times it all seems impossible,” says Stephanie.

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Kurt Crandall plays a school bell from a YouTube video on his phone. “OK, go to your work stations.”

His 9-year-old daughter, Sonoma, ambles toward the dining room table, which is piled with worksheets and a laptop. Six-year-old Abilene plays reading games on another device. 

At first, Kurt, a psychology professor, would try to sneak away periodically to work. But invariably, there would be a computer to fix or a worksheet that needed explaining. “It’s almost impossible,” he says. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned Americans’ lives upside down. Routines have been disrupted, and families have been confined at home in what’s shaping up to be the longest, most intense stretch of togetherness in anyone’s memory.

While not related to the Crandalls, we consider ourselves family, and we’ve been quarantining together. Between us, there are two elementary school students, a health care worker, a small-business owner, a college professor, a middle school art teacher, and a political reporter (me) suddenly living at home again. 

We are better off than most. We have jobs, internet access, and plenty of food. We are all healthy. 

But that doesn’t mean life is easy right now.

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4. ‘It’s just chaos.’ One family’s struggle to make the new normal work

Six-year-old Abilene Crandall is climbing up the walls. Literally.

Under normal circumstances, at this time on a Wednesday morning, she would be in her kindergarten classroom. Her older sister, Sonoma, who has left her dining-table-turned-desk to watch Abilene hop her way up the door frame, would be having a “morning meeting” with her third grade classmates. 

And I would be traveling the country, covering the 2020 presidential election for the Monitor. But now I’m in the Crandalls’ kitchen, wondering at what point I should intervene in the wall-scaling.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned Americans’ lives inside out and upside down. Routines of work and school have been disrupted, along with most social interaction. Families have been confined at home in what’s shaping up to be the longest, most intense stretch of togetherness in anyone’s memory.

Tasked with finding a family to profile in this “new normal,” I realized I might as well focus on my own.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

While I may not be related to the Crandalls, we consider ourselves family. Six years ago, when my sister went off to college, my mom began working for them as a nanny. Our families have been intertwined ever since, sharing holidays, wiggly teeth, promotions, and setbacks.

During this crisis, we decided to “double bubble,” or quarantine together. Between us, there are two elementary school students, a health care worker, a small-business owner, a college professor, a middle school art teacher, and a political reporter (me) suddenly living at home again. 

We are better off than most. We have jobs, internet access, and plenty of food. We are all healthy. 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Abilene Crandall takes a break from reading to play in the backyard on May 13, 2020.

But that doesn’t mean life is easy right now. Our finances are tighter. Tired, bored, and anxious, we’ve been fighting more than usual. The family vacation at Virginia Beach in June is canceled.

Like many states, Virginia is just beginning to reopen. Still, we’re staring at a summer of uncertainty. What will the coming weeks and months look like? What activities will be allowed? What will actually feel safe? 

One thing is already clear: Like many families around the world, we are learning how to rely on each other in entirely new ways. 

Wednesday

“OK, Abs, five-minute countdown,” says Kurt Crandall at 8:52 a.m. He’s exaggerating the time until the at-home school day begins, but Abilene – who is still in her pajamas pirouetting through the kitchen – needs the extended heads-up. 

Over the next eight minutes, the girls do little to prepare. Sonoma braids my hair. Abilene cries because she wanted the hairbrush first. Then Abilene remembers her new mermaid doll and proudly shows me her glittery tail. 

Kurt plays the sound of a school bell from a YouTube video on his phone. “OK, go to your work stations.” On his third ask, Sonoma ambles toward the dining room table, which is piled high with loose worksheets and a laptop. Since the dining table has become a third grade classroom, the family has been eating meals together outside or standing around the kitchen counter. 

Kindergarten is in the adjoining room, where Abilene plays reading games on another computer. The girls’ school received a grant to distribute laptops, which Kurt picked up in an eerily empty elementary hallway, winter snowflakes still decorating the ceiling. 

“Come. And. Run. With. Me. Away. We. Go,” says Abilene robotically, her index finger tracing the computer screen. 

A piece of white paper is tacked to the opposing wall with school subjects penciled in a grid of 45-minute time slots. Kurt, nodding to the paper, says that plan lasted for about a week. 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Kurt Crandall begins the day home-schooling his two daughters, Abilene (left), who is in kindergarten, and Sonoma, who is in third grade, on May 13, 2020.

“Emotionally, if they aren’t in a good space, it doesn’t matter what kind of schedule you’ve drawn up,” he says. 

Kurt, a psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been teaching his students virtually since VCU closed its campus in the second week of March, while also educating his two young daughters – a job he splits with my mom (who is taking a semester off as a middle school art teacher). Stephanie works as a nurse practitioner at VCU’s Massey Cancer Center. 

At first, when the penciled school schedule was still in play, Kurt would try to sneak away periodically to send an email or grade an assignment. But invariably, there would be a fight to break up, a computer to fix, or a worksheet that needed explaining. One day, when trying to record a lecture, the girls interrupted him six times before he gave up.

“It’s almost impossible,” he says, shaking his head. He just submitted his students’ final grades and is now teaching a summer course. Just as the girls miss learning in their classrooms, Kurt misses teaching in one. 

“Everyone keeps saying, ‘Oh, you’re an educator – it must be easy to teach the kids,’” says Kurt, rubbing the back of his head. “But this is totally different.”

“What’s a proper noun?” Sonoma yells through the house, while Abilene continues to read aloud just a few feet away. “You. Too. Can. Run.” 

Sonoma has Zoom meetings with her third grade class in which her teacher asks them to share their “peaches and pits” – the good and the bad. She has a lot of pits these days. It’s a pit that her class doesn’t get to perform the play they’d been practicing. It’s a pit that she doesn’t get to have a “real” math class (math is her favorite). It’s a pit that she doesn’t get to play at recess with her friends.

But one of the peaches, she adds, are the new friends she’s made in her neighborhood. Before the quarantine, kids on her street would ride bikes separately after school. But now, every night, all the kids ride bikes together – 6 feet apart.

Thursday

At 9:40 a.m. my mom opens her phone and begins to cry. Her uncle Bruce, my grandfather’s younger brother, passed away. My grandfather was unable to travel from Florida to Connecticut to say goodbye because of COVID-19, and my mom won’t be able to hug her cousins at a funeral.  

That’s the hardest part, says my mom, holding her eyes in her palms. Suddenly, we hear the sound of the Crandalls’ car crunching our gravel driveway. My mom teaches Abilene and Sonoma on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

“I’m used to turning my life off when I walk in a classroom,” says Mom, who still has tears in her eyes as the girls run toward the house. But this – running a one-room schoolhouse with a kindergartener, third grader, and 27-year-old all working at the same kitchen table – is totally new. 

Mom takes the tutoring seriously. But it’s changed her relationship with Sonoma and Abilene.

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
The writer (center) poses with her mother, Diana Hinckley, and Sonoma on May 10, 2020. Over the past two months in quarantine, our families have celebrated four birthdays and holidays such as Mother's Day, during which we spent outside enjoying spring flowers.

“I’m no longer the fun pseudo-grandmother,” she says. “I feel terrible when I hear they don’t want to come here because I make them do schoolwork.”

When the girls get inside they immediately split up to wash their hands: Abilene to the bathroom and Sonoma to the kitchen. Abilene sings “Happy Birthday” while rubbing the soap between her dimpled hands.

The girls settle into their seats at the kitchen table with their backpacks, which still jingle with the keychains they would trade with their friends on the bus. Like at home, school at Dido’s (as they call my mom, Diana) started out on a schedule. But now, as with Kurt’s penciled schedule hanging on the wall, it’s mostly aspirational. 

Sonoma works on long division worksheets as Abilene jumps from notecard to notecard on the ground, identifying “sight words.” Later, they investigate a slug on the porch and Abilene practices karate in the yard. (“Mom and Dad say I can start taking lessons as soon as the corona is over.”) They video chat with my sister Isabelle, in Portland, Maine, and the girls ask when she can come home to visit. None of us know the answer. 

When it’s time for the girls to leave, Abilene, holding her hot-pink guitar that my parents got her for Christmas, pouts. Stew-Stew (my father, Stewart) had said he’d try to come home early from work so the two of them could play together. But he hasn’t made it back yet.

My dad, who owns a meeting planning business for medical associations, had all of his 2020 meetings canceled – and with them, all of his hotel commissions. When the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) from the Small Business Administration was announced, he conferred with his bank and did practice applications.

We were on a walk when he learned the application was live, and he handed me our dog’s leash and jogged home. Days, then weeks, went by, with my dad refreshing his PPP “dashboard” every few minutes hoping each time to see “APPROVED.” He left the browser open on his computer. He left the dinner table to go refresh the page. 

His bank was late with their applications, and the first funding ran out. No loan came. He cut his salary. He cut his employees’ salaries. He fired a woman he considered a friend. I saw my dad cry for the first time since my grandfather died, 14 years ago. 

On the second round of PPP funding, five weeks after he had submitted his application, his loan was approved. Still, it’s not enough to cover the loss of business. And he’ll have to pay part of it back, because he can’t afford to restaff at the level required to make it a grant. 

“At a time when I thought I’d be thinking about retirement, I never thought that I’d have to completely retool my business and give it a whole new direction,” says Dad. “Now I’m reimagining everything in a virtual world.” 

He’s been working long hours to make his fall meetings virtual, through apps and livestreams. But while meetings may be virtual for now, he doesn’t think they will be forever. He compares it to 9/11: Post-COVID won’t look like pre-COVID, just like security for flying became totally different after the terrorist attacks. But we still fly. 

“People will always want to be together in person, and we’ll have that again,” says Dad. “It’s going to take some time, but it’s going to come back.” 

Friday

Stephanie is still in her scrubs when she walks in the Crandalls’ door, takeout dinner in hand. 

“What used to be organized chaos is now ...” she interrupts herself to grab their puppy, Luna, before she runs out the front door.

“What used to be organized chaos is now just ...” she interrupts herself again, seeing that Luna peed on the floor, and walks to the kitchen to grab a rag. 

“It’s now just chaos.” She takes the rag back to the kitchen, where she begins to divvy up food for the girls. Work has been so busy that Stephanie often forgets to eat lunch, but she doesn’t think about her own hunger until Kurt brings her a plate. 

“As a full-time working mother, life never really felt truly ‘manageable.’ But now, with the added responsibilities to solely educate, exercise, discipline, entertain, and nurture our children – at times it all seems impossible,” says Stephanie, holding Luna with one hand and trying to eat dinner with the other. “I either need to give up sleep or find another eight hours in my day.” 

Story Hinckley/The Christian Science Monitor
Stewart Hinckley and Abilene Crandall practice their guitars together on May 15, 2020.

She worries about her daughters’ education, their socialization skills, and their emotional health. But her job at the Cancer Center helps keep things in perspective: Her daughters are healthy and they are loved. Still, she feels guilty. As a health care worker, she’s been working long hours, and her daughters will likely have to stay socially distant longer than their friends.  

And she’s worried about the future logistics of everything. Stephanie and Kurt received an email today that summer camp is canceled – something the girls had been looking forward to and the parents had been relying on.

What will they do for child care? Kurt is teaching a virtual summer course. Maybe Dido can keep watching them a few days a week.

“What if this goes on for another year? Life the way we are living just isn’t sustainable,” says Stephanie. “I need to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Saturday

In my “old life,” (as Abilene calls our pre-COVID past) I was attending three or four political rallies a day, standing shoulder to shoulder with voters in hot school gyms. At night I’d check into a hotel – forgetting, almost daily, to text my mom when I was off the road and in my room. Now I hug my mother every evening before falling asleep surrounded by old high school photographs and participation medals. 

On Saturdays, when I was home in Washington, I’d walk through my neighborhood to a yoga class, FaceTiming the Crandalls on my way. Now I finish a run to find Abilene and Stew-Stew playing their guitars together on our front porch. 

Our family, like almost all families, has had plenty of pits the past few months. But we’ve also had peaches. My mom taught Abilene the months of the year, and I taught my dad how to properly make iced coffee. Abilene rode her bike without training wheels for the first time, and my mom and I planted a garden together, like we used to do when I was younger.

As I play Boggle with Sonoma in the afternoon sun (she beats me), Abilene lays her head in my lap, waxing on about the superiority of orange popsicles. 

“They really are the best,” says Abilene. “Sometimes you have to dig for the good ones. But they’re always in there.” 

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

Difference-maker

Drivers of change

A new stone soup: Idle restaurants fire up to feed the hungry

Sometimes a concept clicks, and with lots of help you can address multiple problems. This new nonprofit combines funders, food businesses, and volunteers to ease food insecurity and keep some workers on the job.

Linda

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It sounds simple: Hatch an idea, call some friends. But two months after Ellie Linen Low did just that, a handful of restaurants in Portland, Maine, is making hundreds of meals every day to help feed whoever is hungry. As the global health crisis squeezes the resources of food pantries and adds people to unemployment rolls, a new nonprofit, Cooking for Community, is chipping away at these urgent needs. 

It takes money, of course. Individuals, foundations, and corporations stepped up so that the restaurants get paid $5 per meal, plus payroll and food costs. The eateries buy from local fishers and farms when possible. Social service agencies identify the recipients.  

Ashish Shrestha is a volunteer who’s been delivering about 150 meals per week to people who are homeless, most of whom he already knows well from his job as an outreach worker. “Hunger is almost normalized now,” he says. “The other day I delivered a food box, and the person said, ‘Gosh, I’m so glad to have this. I thought I would go hungry tonight.’” But Mr. Shrestha adds, “It’s not about fixing things. It’s about sitting with people, listening to them, and helping them feel less isolated.”

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5. A new stone soup: Idle restaurants fire up to feed the hungry

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Ellie Linen Low woke up one morning feeling extremely fortunate. She and her family in Falmouth, Maine, were cozily hunkered down at home, in good health, refrigerator fully stocked.

At the same time, the mother of three felt keenly aware of the hardship around her. The state had just shut down. Friends, particularly those in the restaurant industry, had suddenly lost their jobs.

But Ms. Linen Low is used to thinking big. Her background is in launching nonprofits, and she says she has always been passionate about “connecting really smart people with great ideas, and then bringing everyone together to see what magic can happen.”

So she did just that. In late March, she hatched a plan with far-reaching benefits: Raise funds to pay restaurants to cook meals with ingredients from Maine farms to feed hungry people.

Editor’s note: As a public service, all our coronavirus coverage is free. No paywall.

By mid-April, small masked-and-gloved crews at two Portland restaurants had fired up their stoves to make meals – about 450 that first week – for vulnerable populations.

Since then, seven more restaurants in this vibrant coastal city – named 2018 “Restaurant City of the Year” by Bon Appétit magazine – have joined the effort. Partnerships with social agencies have been forged, volunteers have stepped up, and donations have poured in – enabling the initiative to nearly double its production of fresh, packaged comfort food each week.

Today, Cooking for Community (C4C) provides just over 2,000 meals a week. In its first two months, the grassroots initiative raised about $220,000 from individuals, foundations, and corporations. It is buying crops from farmers, seafood from fishers, and keeping many of Greater Portland’s kitchen crews employed while cooking for hungry people.

While the global health crisis is affecting food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters – which are often short-staffed, overcrowded, or closed – C4C has sought to meet an urgent need. The organization is distinguishing itself by attempting to reach anyone who’s hungry – people who are unemployed, homeless people, older adults, or immigrants experiencing food insecurity.   

Winky Lewis/Courtesy of Cooking for Community
Chef Damian Sansonetti, of Chaval restaurant in Portland, Maine, started making meals in mid-April to be delivered to food insecure people. Conceived in March, the nonprofit Cooking for Community raises money to pay restaurants for their work and buy local ingredients when possible.

 
Food and labor costs covered

Ian Malin, an owner of Little Giant restaurant and now volunteer operations coordinator for C4C, says it just made sense for him to join the effort. “I thought, if I’m this scared in my own home with no worries about my next meal, what must it be like for people on the streets who are isolated and unable to access normal food channels?” he says.

Mr. Malin realized he had everything he needed to get started – a commercial kitchen, a staff that wanted to work, and time on his hands since he wasn’t busy with regular customers.

The meals are thoughtfully prepared to be tasty at any temperature, easy to reheat if possible, and nutritious, says Mr. Malin. Restaurants are paid $5 per meal and reimbursed for food and labor. During the first week, cooks made fried chicken served with German potato salad and grapes. Recently, the crew at Gather restaurant in Yarmouth created large batches of beef stew for residents at the YMCA.

Cooks might also tweak meals to suit the people they are serving. For Muslims observing Ramadan, Mr. Malin commissioned halal meals from Istanbul Restaurant and Bakery, an immigrant-owned restaurant in Westbrook. They “knew just what to make,” Mr. Malin says. “The food smelled so good, and it was exciting to help make that happen.”

Sometimes the meal deliveries provide an entree to other meaningful interactions. Ashish Shrestha, a C4C volunteer and a peer outreach worker for social service agency Amistad, has seen the struggles of those living on the streets.

“Hunger is almost normalized now,” says Mr. Shrestha. “The other day I delivered a food box, and the person said, ‘Gosh, I’m so glad to have this. I thought I would go hungry tonight.’”

“I know most of these people really well,” he adds. “So I’m not just handing over a meal. I’m also checking in with them.” He’s been delivering about 150 C4C-made meals per week to people who are homeless. Mr. Shrestha might suggest resources for medical help, substance-abuse recovery, or maybe just fetch them a mask or gloves from his car.

But most of all, he says, “it’s not about fixing things. It’s about sitting with people, listening to them, and helping them feel less isolated.”

Mr. Shrestha and others involved with C4C envision their work continuing beyond the COVID-19 crisis, and their frequent Zoom meetings often focus not only on the day-to-day but also on the future.

Winky Lewis/Courtesy of Cooking for Community
Victoria Kelley picks up meals at Chaval restaurant, one of the first small businesses to make meals for Cooking for Community (C4C). Ms. Kelley works for the Pineland Branch YMCA in southern Maine, a social service agency partner of C4C.

“[C4C’s] work is about so much more than surviving a shock,” says 20-something volunteer Emily Sun. She and her mother were both looking for a way to make a difference. “We’re creating a model that could go far. It has infinite potential.”

Financial and logistical support

Also supporting the work are the social service agencies that identify the families and individuals needing assistance. One of Ms. Linen Low’s first calls in late March was to Leslie Oster, director of the Blaine House, the governor’s residence. With her experience in catering and working in hunger relief, Ms. Oster quickly signed up the first group of nonprofit partners.

 “Cooking for Community is a wonderful example of the ingenuity we need right now,” says Phil Walsh, executive director of Maine Initiatives and a member of the C4C advisory board. “It is also building the relationships and the structures needed to navigate whatever comes next.”

Another member of the board is Barton Seaver, a chef and one of the world’s leading authorities on seafood. He is also a proud Mainer, the father of a 3-year-old son, and someone who cares deeply about local food systems and access to them.

“One of the things that excited me right off the bat about this organization,” he says, “is that it is showcasing the best of Maine – the place, the products, the people, including our quick-on-their-feet and utterly capable chefs, and it’s uplifting every fork in the chain.”

Mr. Seaver was mentored years ago by José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, known for its international work feeding people in desperate need. “The greatest lesson I learned from José,” recalls Mr. Seaver, “is that the role of a chef could extend far beyond the kitchen and that chefs are, in fact, almost akin to anthropologists, in that food offers a window into so much of the human experience and condition.”

This lesson, Mr. Seaver adds, was learned when cooking alongside Mr. Andrés in the “halcyon days when José was finding his voice and path outside of the kitchen.” It’s one that has stuck with him, and he sees the efforts of Cooking for Community as exemplifying this expansive role of chefs while also building community and showing profound empathy for others.

“It’s a beautiful way for Maine to face the nation,” he says.

“What we’re doing is unique and timely and tangible and can serve as a model,” says Ms. Linen Low. “It has already been of interest to people in other places.”

To learn more about “Cooking for Community,” visit www.cookingforcommunity.org.

Books

10 books to enrich your May

From debut novels to political biographies, May brings showers of new releases to entertain and enlighten.

Linda

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Whether you are looking to escape to another place or dive deeper into current events, Monitor reviewers have a book recommendation for you. This month’s offerings range from a novel that celebrates bookstores and the power of the written word to a deep dive into the role unelected intelligence and military officials play in policy.

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6. 10 books to enrich your May

Travel to Algeria or to Jane Austen’s village, go deeper into current events, or become engrossed in the lives of the powerful, with the books that appealed to Monitor reviewers this month. 

1. A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth by Daniel Mason

This collection of nine stories captures characters in the midst of remarkable experiences: a hot air balloonist investigating the upper atmosphere, a French telegraph operator discovering companionship deep in the Amazon, a bug collector corresponding with Charles Darwin. Daniel Mason conveys more in a short story than many authors manage in an entire novel.

2. Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi

Kaouther Adimi writes about the famed Les Vraies Richesses bookstore in Algiers, Algeria. Plundered by French colonial forces in the 20th century, it is now the setting for another effort to suppress culture and free thought. The novel celebrates bookstores and the power of the written word.

3. The Index of Self-Destructive Acts by Christopher Beha

New York City after the 2008 financial collapse provides the setting for Christopher Beha’s modern-day morality tale in which algorithmic thinking clashes with impulsiveness. Cleverly written with poetic overtones, the narrative provides engaging twists and turns.

4. Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Courtesy of Penguin Random House
“Rodham” by Curtis Sittenfeld, Random House, 432 pp.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel poses the question, what would have become of Hillary had she not married Bill Clinton? “Rodham” moves from her graduation from Wellesley College through an alternate universe of personal and political highs and lows. It’s a peculiar fantasy, but one that will resonate with readers who think Hillary got a raw deal.

5. The Imperfects by Amy Meyerson

When eccentric matriarch Helen Miller dies, she leaves her estranged family with a secret treasure – the missing Florentine Diamond. Faults and foibles come to light as the Millers discover that love, family, and forgiveness may be more valuable than a vast fortune.

6. The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

Natalie Jenner’s lovingly crafted debut novel weaves together the post-World War II lives of lost souls in Chowton, England, who find renewed life and happiness in uniting to preserve author Jane Austen’s cottage as a museum. Dodging personal regrets, small-town gossip, and unfortunate schemes, they ultimately find that friendship wins the day.

7. In Deep by David Rohde

At the heart of President Donald Trump’s claims that a “deep state” is conspiring to undermine his presidency are long-standing debates over executive power and checks and balances. Pulitzer Prize winner David Rohde’s lucid investigation of the role unelected intelligence and military officials play in policy is a timely and compelling read.

8. The Hour of Fate by Susan Berfield

Historian Susan Berfield writes a fascinating account of the clash between two of the biggest personalities of the Progressive era –President Theodore Roosevelt and financier J.P. Morgan – in a fight over whether the United States would be controlled by government or business interests. 

9. Pelosi by Molly Ball

Courtesy of Macmillan Publishers
“Pelosi” by Molly Ball, Henry Holt and Co., 368 pp.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has long been vilified by the right and often underappreciated by her own party. But between her willingness to stand up to President Donald Trump and her ability to wrangle votes with LBJ-like mastery, her stock has risen. Journalist Molly Ball’s sharp, admiring biography shows how the tireless, dauntless Pelosi became the most powerful woman in politics.

10. Dark Mirror by Barton Gellman

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman writes an insider account of the breaking of Edward Snowden’s story and its wider implications for the modern world, all told in prose as gripping as a spy thriller.

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A grand cleansing in governance

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The pandemic lockdown has pushed many people to do what they should have done long ago. Now entire countries are in cleansing mode. On Thursday, for example, lawmakers in Lebanon agreed to end banking secrecy for public officials. It was a first step toward curbing corruption and the first of many reforms being forced on Lebanon by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

Since March, more than 100 countries like Lebanon have sought a financial rescue from the International Monetary Fund – the world’s banker of last resort. The aid, however, often comes with strings attached, such as demands for transparency in banking or accountability in how public money is spent. For nations in need, the coronavirus emergency could end up being a healer of old wounds.

Expect other countries to start enacting reforms like those in Lebanon. “We may never return to the world we left behind before COVID-19,” states a new Transparency International report. Indeed, a health crisis could bring an awakening to the need for honest and open governance.

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A grand cleansing in governance

The pandemic lockdown has pushed many people to do what they should have done long ago. Clean out closets. Rethink finances. Set new goals. Now entire countries are in cleansing mode. On Thursday, for example, lawmakers in Lebanon agreed to end banking secrecy for public officials. It was a first step toward curbing corruption and the first of many reforms being forced on Lebanon by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

Since March, more than 100 countries like Lebanon have sought a financial rescue from the International Monetary Fund – the world’s banker of last resort. The aid, however, often comes with strings attached, such as demands for transparency in banking or accountability in how public money is spent. For nations in need, the coronavirus emergency could end up being a healer of old wounds.

“History shows that crises and disasters have continually set the stage for change, often for the better,” states a new report on post-COVID-19 trends from the corruption watchdog Transparency International. In early May, a group of 97 civil society organizations sent a letter to the IMF asking it to ensure that its aid is tied to reforms. Accountability and transparency, the group said, are key “to protecting lives and livelihoods.”

That is especially true for Lebanon, a country that once had a vibrant middle class but now finds more than 50% of its people living below the poverty line. The IMF predicts Lebanon will experience one of the world’s worst recessions this year.

Hunger protests broke out in Beirut a few weeks ago, largely directed at banks and their role in secretly funneling corrupt money out of the country. In May, Lebanon finally opened talks with the IMF. Its leaders were quickly told to make reforms for “inclusive growth” and to widen the social safety net. To be given more funds for medical and educational needs, the government must first stop the flow of illicit money through banks.

Expect other countries to start enacting reforms like those in Lebanon. “We may never return to the world we left behind before COVID-19,” states the Transparency International report. Indeed, a health crisis could bring an awakening to the need for honest and open governance.

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.

Chronic health issues and incurable disease gone

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Faced with a rare blood disease and other ailments, a woman turned to Christian Science for help. What she learned about God and about everyone’s nature as God’s child changed her life.

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1. Chronic health issues and incurable disease gone

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Before I began learning about Christian Science, I was sick often and went to a doctor or an acupuncturist almost weekly. There seemed to always be something wrong with me physically or emotionally; plus, I felt mentally unstable. My self-worth was low, and I lacked confidence. I was often very depressed and filled with indecisiveness and self-pity; my life spiraled downward.

At one point I was diagnosed with a rare, incurable blood disease. The doctor gave me medicine, saying that it might help, but if it didn’t, I would just have to manage to live with the condition for the rest of my life. I thought to myself, “I will not accept this verdict, and I will find a way out!”

After going to an acupuncturist for a rash I had up and down my body and trying herbs, which didn’t help, I was desperate and exhausted from all of my challenges. My mom had begun studying Christian Science the year before, but I hadn’t been interested at that time. Every so often she’d tried to hand me copies of the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine that reports on how God’s healing power uplifts and transforms the lives of people all over the world. I wouldn’t accept them. But now I was willing to ask for her help.

I called Mom and asked her to pray for me. She said, “Yes, dear, and I want you to go see a Christian Science practitioner tomorrow.” I said OK.

The Christian Science practitioner (meaning she was in the full-time healing ministry, available to help people through prayer) gave me a copy of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science. She talked to me about God and my spiritual nature as God’s child, the expression of God’s love.

These ideas were so foreign to me, yet so compelling. I stopped taking the medicine and herbs and began receiving Christian Science treatment. I also immediately started reading Science and Health.

As I read, I realized that the symptoms I was experiencing were not part of my real identity; they were mental suggestions coming to me and suggesting that I could be separated from God, good. I could immediately dismiss them and replace them with the truth about my spiritual nature, and I did. This passage from Science and Health helped me: “Mortals obtain the harmony of health, only as they forsake discord, acknowledge the supremacy of divine Mind, and abandon their material beliefs. Eradicate the image of disease from the perturbed thought before it has taken tangible shape in conscious thought, alias the body, and you prevent the development of disease” (p. 400).

I was no longer afraid of the illness. I no longer attributed any power to the symptoms. I had dominion over these problems because I knew the truth!

Within four days of talking with the practitioner and starting to read Science and Health, I realized that the rash I’d had for months was completely gone. The symptoms related to the blood disease vanished within weeks.

After these healings, I started attending services at a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, in my area. That was in 1988, and I have had many healings over the years, including gaining freedom from the previously mentioned mental instability and depression. I’ve also been healed of asthma, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts, and have been able to follow through on wonderful opportunities by gaining decisiveness and joyful confidence.

Even in the face of troubles of whatever kind, the spiritual fact of our wholeness – and our God-given ability to experience it in our lives – remains. I am extremely grateful for Christian Science.

Adapted from an article published in the March 2, 2020, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

Viewfinder

Crowd control

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
For years, visitors to national parks have had to contend with enormous (and sometimes maddening) crowds. There’s nothing more frustrating than arriving at a place as stunning as Lake Louise in Canada’s Banff National Park, as Melanie Stetson Freeman and I did last summer, only to capture a mere slice of it above other people’s heads and flashing cellphones. But more recently, of course, we’d take the overcrowding just for a glimpse of any of it. Like national parks across most of North America, the gates of Alberta’s most famous parks were shut amid the coronavirus pandemic. Canadian authorities will begin to welcome visitors back to some national parks, including Banff on Monday, June 1. Whether crowds will ever be permitted to return to pre-pandemic levels remains to be seen. – Sara Miller Llana
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )

A look ahead

Thanks for joining us. Come back on Monday, when Fred Weir in Moscow will report on the impending demise of U.S.-Russia arms control and what that means. 

Here’s a window on some of the faster-moving headline news that we’re following.

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