2020
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Monitor Daily Podcast

July 10, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

From Legos to bra clips, turtles get some creative assists

Noelle Swan
Deputy Daily Editor

Parents with young children likely know that Legos can be a lifesaver. But last week, the broader world got a glimpse of the magic of those tiny bricks when staff at the Maryland Zoo shared the heartwarming story of “Lego turtle.”

The male Eastern box turtle had spent two years in the care of veterinary staff at the zoo after an employee found him in the park with a badly broken shell. After surgery, staff realized he would need help moving around while waiting for his shell to heal. 

“They don’t make turtle wheelchairs,” Garrett Fraess told The Washington Post. A veterinary student at the time, Mr. Fraess reached out to a friend and Lego enthusiast in Denmark for help making one. That Lego wheelchair turned out to be a crucial component of this turtle’s healing, and he was released back into the wild last week.

Around the country and the world, veterinarians and wildlife workers are finding creative ways to assist injured turtles and are calling on the public for help. Motorists are encouraged to keep an eye out for injured turtles. Even if their shells are badly broken, they can likely be saved with assistance. And if you happen to have an old bra with hook and eye clasps, rehab facilities welcome donations for use in shell repairs.

This may seem like a lot of effort for one small creature, but with half of all turtle and tortoise species at risk of extinction, every life counts.

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‘Law School 101’: How Supreme Court ended its term

At a time of deep U.S. political polarization, the Supreme Court ended its term with two decisions that emphasized unifying basic principles: the importance of the rule of law, and the fact that it applies to everyone, including presidents.

Noelle

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The Supreme Court ended its term on Thursday with two principles-heavy opinions that were something of a clinic in introductory constitutional law.

The opinions, both decided by 7-2 majorities, held that President Donald Trump can’t block subpoenas seeking years of his personal financial records from third parties. Both emphasized the importance of the rule of law and the specific point that no U.S. president is above it.

One case involved the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena of Trump financial records as part of an investigation into hush money payments made by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, prior to the 2016 election.

The high court ruled that President Trump has no absolute right to block state prosecutors from seeing such records.

The second case involved congressional subpoenas for many of the same documents. Justices ruled that Congress can’t obtain those records for now, while lower courts consider whether lawmakers should narrow the scope of the information they want to see.

“The legal conclusions of the Court were really ‘Law School 101,’” writes Kimberly West-Faulcon, a constitutional law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, in an email.

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1. ‘Law School 101’: How Supreme Court ended its term

An eventful U.S. Supreme Court term ended yesterday less with a bang than perhaps the thud of a beginner’s constitutional law textbook closing.

In two principles-heavy opinions Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by almost all of his eight colleagues, wrote that President Donald Trump can’t block subpoenas seeking years of his personal financial records from third parties.

To some experts, the opinions showed the high court standing up for the rule of law in general and emphasizing the specific point that no president is above it.

“The legal conclusions of the Court were really ‘Law School 101,’” wrote Kimberly West-Faulcon, a constitutional law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, in an email. “They read to me a bit like the Supreme Court trying to bring President Trump up to speed on how Presidents have behaved over the last 200 years.”

The president can continue to plead his case in lower courts, and the financial records are expected to remain secret until after the election in November.

But the upshot is that the court has affirmed not only the long-established principle that the president is not a king, but also that Congress has the power – with some restrictions – to subpoena a president’s non-privileged records.

“We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts in the opinion for Trump v. Vance, the case concerning subpoenas sought by the Manhattan district attorney.

Outside of the fact that the court ruled against President Trump – which had been, until this term, a rarity for the majority-conservative court – neither the decision in Vance nor the decision in Trump v. Mazars, the case concerning the House subpoenas, surprised most court watchers. In a time of stark divisions and political polarization, the Supreme Court acting as the Supreme Court should, they say, is cause for encouragement and optimism.

“The fact the court spoke with such unanimity on these decisions is critical for the court’s credibility, its legacy, and to knit the country back together at a time when our politics has our country so deeply fractured,” says Claire Finkelstein, faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule Law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.

The Manhattan case

As fundamental as the legal principles were, both cases brought their own novelties.

In Vance, the court was reviewing for the first time whether a sitting president is immune from a state criminal proceeding. The Manhattan district attorney has been seeking from an accounting firm years of financial records from the Trump Organization and Trump-related businesses as part of an investigation into hush money payments from Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, prior to the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump sued in his personal capacity to block the subpoenas, and throughout litigation in lower courts he claimed that, as a sitting president, he should be immune from state criminal investigations.

Before the Supreme Court, the U.S. solicitor general, arguing in favor of the president, didn’t adopt that argument. What he argued instead was that state grand jury subpoenas must “satisfy a heightened standard of need” for a sitting president’s personal records.

A 7-2 majority of justices rejected both claims.

“If there be a paper in the possession of the executive, which is not of an official nature, he must stand, as respects that paper, in nearly the same situation with any other individual,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts, quoting Chief Justice John Marshall’s ruling in 1807 that then-President Thomas Jefferson had to comply with document requests for Aaron Burr’s trial for treason.

Furthermore, addressing another concern of Mr. Trump and the solicitor general, the court noted that existing laws already prevent state officials and grand juries from harassing the executive branch with arbitrary and frivolous investigations.

“Two centuries of experience confirm that a properly tailored criminal subpoena will not normally hamper the performance of the President’s constitutional duties,” wrote Chief Justice Roberts.

Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, both appointed by Mr. Trump, agreed with the majority’s judgment, but wrote in a concurrence that they would have required a state to show a “demonstrated, specific need” for a president’s personal records, as the Watergate special prosecutor was required to.

In a dissent, Justice Samuel Alito argued for even more.

“The Constitution demands greater protection for an institution that is vital to the Nation’s safety and well-being,” he wrote.

Justice Clarence Thomas made similar arguments in another dissent, but Chief Justice Roberts noted in his opinion that the court agreed unanimously that a president isn’t immune from a state criminal investigation. And while he described Justice Alito’s call for heightened protection as a “double standard [with] no basis in law,” he added in a footnote that the majority and Justice Thomas also agree that, while presidents must comply with subpoenas like any other citizen, they can challenge subpoenas for impeding their unique constitutional duties.

“The daylight between our opinion and Justice Thomas’s ‘dissent’ is not as great as that label might suggest,” the chief justice wrote.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
President Donald Trump speaks about today's Supreme Court rulings, calling them "part of a political witch hunt and a hoax,” during a roundtable discussion with members of the Hispanic community in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, July 9, 2020.
The House case

Like the Manhattan district attorney, three House committees issued subpoenas for years of financial records held by third parties for the Trump Organization and Trump-related businesses. Mr. Trump again sued in his personal capacity to block the subpoenas, claiming that the committees didn’t have the authority to issue the subpoenas in the first place.

The novelty here, Chief Justice Roberts explained, is that inter-branch disputes like these have normally been resolved outside court. Here, however – as with many disputes between Congress and the Trump administration – the White House has refused to comply with any requests or subpoenas from the legislature.

Mr. Trump and the solicitor general argued that the House committees failed to establish a “demonstrated, specific need” for the financial records, or outline a clear legislative purpose. The House argued the opposite, and claimed further that the subpoenas weren’t “momentous separation-of-powers disputes,” given they are non-privileged, personal records outside the executive branch.

In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed with both Mr. Trump and the House. The heightened standards Mr. Trump and his administration argued for make sense for privileged materials, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, but “if applied outside the context of privileged information, would risk seriously impeding Congress in carrying out its responsibilities.”

The House, meanwhile, failed to “take adequate account of the significant separation of powers issues” raised by its subpoenas, the chief justice wrote. Indeed, “the House’s approach [would leave] essentially no limits on the congressional power to subpoena the President’s personal records.”

Both parties made flawed arguments, the court ultimately ruled, failing to identify a suitable way to balance their valid and competing concerns. The court has sent the case back to the lower courts, but with the significant conclusion that, after hearing for the first time the question of whether Congress can subpoena a president’s records, the answer is yes – provided four tests are met.

“There’s no bright line rule, and this does give the president the opportunity to make arguments about interference for as long as he’s going to be president,” says Michael Gerhardt, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law. But “it should not be surprising if the courts conclude that whatever burden is placed on Trump isn’t as important or weighty as the government’s need for the information.”

Constitutional law clinic

The two decisions may not be total losses for the presidency, both in the short and long term.

The Manhattan district attorney can now access Mr. Trump’s financial records, though the president could appeal again on different grounds. The House committees may also try to reissue their subpoenas in line with the court’s four tests.

But while Mr. Trump may not have a clear victory in either case, the public is unlikely to see his financial records before the presidential election in November. And as Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, wrote in The Washington Post, the court’s new tests may limit – perhaps even eliminate – Congress’ ability to investigate potential wrongdoing absent a clear legislative purpose.

Still, the two rulings carry great long-term significance, experts say, and they will surely rank alongside other landmark decisions in the court’s history.

The Supreme Court decided two of its most politically charged cases of the term with a clinic on basic constitutional law and history, with the majority seemingly educating the president on the principles laid down 200 years ago by the founding generations whose monument he spoke in front of last weekend.

And at a time of deep political divisions, with public opinion of the court increasingly split along partisan lines, yesterday’s decisions may reinforce the perception that the high court is resisting the urge to join the political fray.

“The Court has stood up for the ‘rule of law’ in general and the specific principle that the U.S. President is not a king,” wrote Loyola Law School’s Ms. West-Faulcon.

Religious liberty’s big week at the Supreme Court

Religious liberty laws were passed in the 1990s to protect Native American religions. The Supreme Court has now ruled that they can be broadly applied to prioritize the rights of Christians.

Noelle
Patrick Semansky/AP
Tom Alexander holds a cross as he prays prior to rulings outside the Supreme Court in Washington, July 8, 2020. The court issued three rulings this term expanding religious liberty.

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In three end-of-term decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has elevated religious liberty – which was taken up in legislation in the 1990s to offer protections to Native American religions – and weighted the rights of Christians above those of women and LGBTQ Americans. The rulings come amid a rapidly changing U.S. society, where a majority of Americans believe in equal rights for LGBTQ Americans and fewer Americans identify as religious.

“Traditional religious believers certainly feel under attack,” says Vincent Phillip Muñoz. “I mean, there’s been a huge cultural shift over the last handful of years, an increasing acceptance of LGBT rights, and for many traditional religious believers, they worry that their beliefs are no longer welcome, or even will no longer be tolerated.”

“Whether they’re right in worrying about that or not, only time will tell,” continues Professor Muñoz. “But certainly that’s a fear social conservatives have.”

Some liberal-leaning scholars question whether the legacies of religious bigotry are necessarily similar to those surrounding racism and white supremacy. “It’s really not exactly the same thing in a lot of ways,” says Professor Jessie Hill. “One of which, and the most obvious is, Catholics have tremendous political and cultural power right now.”

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2. Religious liberty’s big week at the Supreme Court

Last week, in one of the Supreme Court’s major rulings about the meaning of religious freedom and the separation of church and state, Justice Samuel Alito wrote a passionate account of the ugly anti-Catholic animus that once animated the country’s education policies.

At issue in the first of three end-of-term rulings – each hailed by religious conservatives as an important victory for the cause of religious liberty, and decried by critics as allowing religious Americans to infringe on the rights of others – was the state of Montana’s no-aid provision, or so-called Blaine amendment. Such provisions, long enshrined in 37 state constitutions, restrict public funding from religious establishments and, proponents say, maintain a careful “wall of separation” between church and state.

In Espinoza v. Montana, Justice Alito described how the nation’s Blaine amendments were rooted in 19th- and 20th-century Protestant bigotry and a central part of efforts to stave off “sectarian” Catholic schools and their foreign ideas and ways of worship.

The court’s majority said the state’s no-aid provision violated the First Amendment’s free exercise clause when it excluded religious schools and families from a tax-credit scholarship program. “They are members of the community too,” the court said in the 5-4 decision in Espinoza. “Their exclusion from the scholarship program here is odious to our Constitution and cannot stand.”

Taken together, all three decisions continue the Supreme Court’s prioritization of religious liberty as it expands this protected and unique sphere in American social life. On the one hand, the decisions of the current court could be seen as chipping away at the wall of separation – an extra-textual First Amendment metaphor that often makes religious conservatives bristle. 

But at the same time, the decisions this term and over the past few years have been refortifying the wall of separation, bolstering its height and thickness even as it expands religious establishments’ many exemptions from the country’s social and legal norms otherwise. As a result, the court’s left-leaning critics say, many women and LGBTQ Americans have found their own freedoms especially curtailed.

All three decisions, too, come amid a rapidly changing U.S. society in which fewer Americans identify as religious and where a majority of Americans have welcomed married same-sex couples and others into the country’s traditional norms and affirmed their equal rights – a seismic shift few thought possible even a decade ago, experts say.

As a result, “traditional religious believers certainly feel under attack,” says Vincent Phillip Muñoz, professor of religion and public life at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. “I mean, there’s been a huge cultural shift over the last handful of years, an increasing acceptance of LGBT rights, and for many traditional religious believers, they worry that their beliefs are no longer welcome, or even will no longer be tolerated.”

“Whether they’re right in worrying about that or not, only time will tell,” continues Professor Muñoz, whose work was cited by both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas in their opinions in Espinoza. “But certainly that’s a fear social conservatives have.”

For some liberal-leaning scholars, such fear, rooted in a sense of cultural vulnerability expressed by other minority groups, risks becoming reactionary. Like Justice Alito’s passionate account of what might be called WASP supremacy or a Protestant bigotry toward foreign religious “others,” religious conservatives have in many ways begun to see themselves as a despised and ridiculed class.

“In their eagerness to assume the mantle of oppression for Catholics and other Christians in the U.S., Justice Alito and other conservatives seem to want to join the current cultural zeitgeist, or this particular cultural moment when we are trying to figure out how to respond to centuries of oppression,” says Jessie Hill, professor at the School of Law at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, noting similar recent descriptions of the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. 

“But it’s really not exactly the same thing in a lot of ways,” she continues. “One of which, and the most obvious is, Catholics have tremendous political and cultural power right now.”

Philadelphia Bible riots

It was not always the case. In his concurring opinion Justice Alito, who, like four others on the nation’s high court, is Roman Catholic, expressed an implicit sense of grievance and vulnerability.

At the outset, the conservative justice admitted that such historical appeals are not normally part of his interpretive toolbox. In a previous case this year that recounted the ugly history of racism in the jury rules of Oregon and Louisiana, he noted he had dissented, arguing that only the texts of these laws, and not their historical contexts, should constitute the court’s primary focus. 

“But I lost, and [the case] is now precedent,” he wrote. “If the original motivation for the laws mattered there, it certainly matters here.”

Including a picture of a famous cartoon from 1871 that “depicts Catholic priests as crocodiles slithering hungrily toward American children as a public school crumbles in the background,” Justice Alito described how religious bigotry not only infused the nation’s elites, but also erupted in episodes of violence and murder.

“In Massachusetts and elsewhere, Catholic students were beaten and expelled for refusing to read from the King James Bible,” Justice Alito wrote. “In New York, a mob destroyed the residence of Bishop John Hughes, who had argued that, if the State was going to fund religious public education, it should also support church schools.” 

Most notorious were the Philadelphia Bible riots in 1844: “Months of scaremongering broke out into riots that left two of the city’s Catholic churches burned and several people dead,” he continued. Among the proponents of Blaine amendments, he also noted, was the Ku Klux Klan.

Changing U.S. society

Even before the Supreme Court’s landmark Obergefell decision in 2015, which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the rapid pace of social change led many religious conservatives to emphasize their influence in the federal judiciary. They sought out legal pathways to opt out of the ritual aspects of same-sex weddings in the public sphere, even while seeking more room to freely exercise their deeply held religious convictions unencumbered by certain civil rights protections for sexual minorities and women.

“While these rulings will certainly disappoint those who want a stronger wall of separation between church and state, these conservative Supreme Court outcomes are exactly why evangelicals so strongly support President Trump,” says Mark Miller, director of the law and society program at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. “Their top priority is getting conservative judges on the courts who will read these constitutional clauses in ways that the religious right favors.” 

In the final week of the Supreme Court’s current term, such priorities have appeared to pay off. In the first of two opinions issued Wednesday, the court continued to reshape its religious freedom jurisprudence, expanding a doctrine known as the “ministerial exception” and bolstering religious institutions’ exemptions from general employment discrimination laws.

Courts should not be able to intervene in a religious institution’s employment disputes, the justices ruled in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru. Nor, more significantly, should courts question whom religious institutions deem “ministerial” and thus exempt from employment discrimination protections.

In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is also Catholic, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, contrasted this ruling with the Espinoza decision last week, and focused on the vulnerabilities of women, LGTBQ people, and others affected by expanding exemptions for the nation’s religious groups. 

“Recently, this court has lamented a perceived ‘discrimination against religion,’” she wrote. “Yet here it swings the pendulum in the extreme opposite direction, permitting religious entities to discriminate widely and with impunity for reasons wholly divorced from religious beliefs.”

“The inherent injustice in the court’s conclusion will be impossible to ignore for long, particularly in a pluralistic society like ours,” she added.

End of the “balanced approach”?

Wednesday’s second ruling, a 7-2 decision holding that businesses and other entities can claim religious and moral exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, follows a similar theme, according to some justices.

There were no constitutional issues at question in the case, Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, and the majority held that the Trump administration’s expanded exemptions were lawful. In a dissent, however, Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sotomayor, accused the court of departing from its long-held “balanced approach” to ensuring that “the religious beliefs of some [don’t] overwhelm the rights and interests of others who do not share those beliefs.”

“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” she added.

But Professor Muñoz points out that the Supreme Court also issued a groundbreaking and far-reaching victory for LGBTQ rights this June when it redefined “sex” and thus greatly expanded civil rights protections to include sexual minorities in the workplace. 

“It’s hard for people to remember that, originally, the idea of religious exemptions and, you know, carving out a robust sphere of protection for religious individuals and institutions, that was liberal jurisprudence 50 years ago,” he says, noting that state and federal “religious freedom restoration acts” began as efforts to shield the religious rituals of Native peoples from certain generally applicable drug laws. 

“In a way, this has been the year of nondiscrimination – nondiscrimination for progressive groups as well as religious groups,” continues Professor Muñoz. “And it’s not so obvious that this is against the wall of separation.”

War in Libya? Why two US allies are on a collision course.

A principle of President Trump’s foreign policy is to allow local players to resolve regional conflicts. But with U.S. allies Egypt and Turkey clashing in Libya, could a solution just be a phone call away?

Noelle
Karen Norris/Staff

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Turkey and Egypt, whose authoritarian leaders have relatively warm relations with President Donald Trump, seem headed toward a war that neither really wants in Libya. Observers say each side is hoping the other backs down, but that a diplomatic void left behind by a distracted United States and a divided Europe has allowed Turkey’s economic pursuits and Egypt’s security fears to place the regional rivals on colliding paths.

Rather than focusing on a peaceful resolution, the U.S. has been consumed with Russia and resuming oil and gas production in Libya. The Pentagon has been vocal in recent weeks over the interference of Moscow, which has placed mercenaries in Libya and, it fears, aims to establish a Mediterranean naval base.

“The main reason that the U.S. administration is even paying attention at all is because of the Russian angle, and even that has not convinced them to take real diplomatic efforts to bridge the gaps between Turkey and Egypt and the UAE,” says Ben Fishman at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “What that means in practice is unfortunately those parties and their local affiliates are doing what they want on the ground.”

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3. War in Libya? Why two US allies are on a collision course.

As U.S. attention has drifted from Libya, the threat of war between two of Washington’s longtime regional allies and military partners is rising in the divided North African country.

Turkey and Egypt, whose authoritarian leaders have relatively warm relations with President Donald Trump but have long been at opposing ends of a contest for regional influence, are beating war drums and drawing lines in the sand over their support for rival governments and militias in Libya.

Observers and former officials say each side is hoping the other backs down, but that a diplomatic void left behind by a distracted or disinterested United States and a divided Europe has allowed Turkey’s economic pursuits and Egypt’s security fears to place the rivals on colliding paths.

And a Western diplomatic effort is needed, analysts say, to reach an understanding between Ankara and Cairo that would defuse the crisis and lead to a cease-fire on the ground in Libya.

Tensions have risen since Turkish-backed forces and Libya’s U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord, or GNA, repelled the Egyptian-backed warlord, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and his self-styled Libyan National Army from the capital of Tripoli in June, ending a yearlong siege.

Analysts say the defeat was a game changer. In a matter of months Turkey had reversed advances that General Haftar and his backers Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and France had made in five years.

Red line

In the past two weeks, Ankara rejected an offer by Cairo for a cease-fire, and pushed further outside Tripoli to capture airbases and strategic points as part of a move into central Libya, sparking alarms in Cairo.

Karen Norris/Staff

In a televised speech at an airbase near the Egyptian-Libyan border late last month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that the central Libyan city of Sirte was a “red line” and that any threat to the 690-mile Egyptian-Libyan border would result in a “direct intervention” in Libya.

“Be prepared to carry out any mission here within our borders or, if necessary, outside our borders,” President Sisi told Egyptian pilots and commandos at the base.

In recent years the Egyptian military has famously refused commitments beyond its borders, rejecting calls by its allies to take part in the conflicts in Syria or Yemen or in airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq. Yet Egyptians say Libya is different.

Although Turkey rejected the warnings, observers say that the international community should take seriously a threat that is far from idle.

“Logically, Egypt does not want to intervene, but Egypt may soon be put in a place where it cannot afford not to intervene,” says Mohamed Eljarh, a Libya analyst.

As part of its ongoing saber-rattling, Egypt held surprise drills on the Libyan border Thursday, deploying its air force and ground battalions in what the military described as “training to face mercenaries of irregular armies and target their hotbeds.”

Economic gains

Turkey chose to intervene in Tripoli last November to save the besieged GNA in pursuit both of political opportunity and economic interest.

The GNA coalition includes the Muslim Brotherhood – which has ideological ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling AKP party – and other Islamists, the last remnants of the movements Turkey has spent the past decade trying to prop up across the Arab world.

Ismail Zitouny/Reuters
A man and his children pass a destroyed fighting vehicle belonging to the eastern forces led by Khalifa Haftar in Gharyan, south of Tripoli, Libya, June 27, 2019.

In Libya, Turkey also sees as an economic foothold in North Africa that could allow it to extend influence in the continent.

But Libyan observers say its main prize is a maritime border agreement signed with the GNA that gives Turkey exclusive rights to oil and gas exploration off the Libyan coast.

Analysts say Turkey is looking to extend its influence in Libya as far east as possible to have a stronger position in eventual negotiations. Despite their defeat at Tripoli, General Haftar’s forces still retain 90% of the oil and gas fields in southern Libya and a majority of the country’s territory.

With Ankara having invested treasure, troops, and military equipment to support the GNA, it wishes to impose its terms on the rival government in the East in order to secure its interests. It believes this path runs through Sirte.

“Despite their military victories, the GNA and Turkey realize that their negotiation standing is still weak. They want to escalate to test everyone’s resolve and see whether these red lines are real,” says Mr. Eljarh.

Security threats

For Egypt, the Turkish presence outside Tripoli represents a direct threat to the regime and the nation.

The animosity between Egypt and Turkey stems from then-General Sisi’s 2013 overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt and its allies Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan have worked for the past seven years to prevent a Turkish or Islamist foothold in the Arab world, banning the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in several states.

Turkey, meanwhile, has declared the Sisi government “illegitimate” and continues to harbor Brotherhood exiles and Egyptian opposition figures.

There are concerns in Cairo that a permanent Turkish presence in Libya will lead to a Muslim Brotherhood hub from which activists and groups will work to undermine Mr. Sisi’s government.

But there is a much deeper and more immediate fear in Egypt: jihadist militants.

Following the 2011 Libyan revolution, a flow of Islamist militants between eastern Libya and the porous western Egyptian desert led to a series of terrorist attacks on Egyptian soil.  

Cairo begrudgingly backed General Haftar and his fledgling forces in 2014 to secure the Libyan side of the border.

With covert Egyptian support, over the past four years General Haftar and his forces cleared the eastern region of militants ranging from Al Qaeda to ISIS, forcing survivors to regroup in the deserts of central and southern Libya and giving Egypt a 500-mile-wide buffer.

Cairo now fears that should Turkish-backed forces gain a foothold in central Libya or further east, militants and ISIS fighters will be encouraged to once again head toward Egypt.

Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters/File
Permanent representatives of the Arab League take part in an emergency meeting to discuss Turkey's plans to send troops to Libya, at the League's headquarters in Cairo, Dec. 31, 2019.

“Egypt’s security concerns with Libya are legitimate; it has an extremely long border with Libya, and in the past few years we have seen the consequences of that space being not fully under control,” says H.A. Hellyer, a Cairo-based political analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“With Ankara’s ambivalence towards the Egyptian government and support for opposing forces, it is unsurprising that [Cairo] would not rely on Turkey to hold militant groups back from crossing the border.”

To prevent such a scenario, Egypt is exploring options including airstrikes to support General Haftar’s forces, raising a Libyan tribal army, and limited ground incursions in order to repel any Turkish-GNA advance, Arab official sources say.

America missing

Rather than focusing on a peaceful resolution, the U.S. has been consumed with Russia and resuming oil and gas production in Libya.

The Pentagon has been vocal in recent weeks over the interference of Russia, which has placed mercenaries in Libya and, it fears, aims to establish a naval base near Sirte, giving Moscow another foothold in the Mediterranean.

Yet no diplomatic push has been made for America’s allies and their proxies to end the hostilities.

“The main reason that the U.S. administration is even paying attention at all is because of the Russian angle, and even that has not convinced them to take real diplomatic efforts to bridge the gaps between Turkey and Egypt and the UAE,” says Ben Fishman, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Libya director at the National Security Council in the Obama administration.

“What that means in practice is unfortunately those parties and their local affiliates are doing what they want on the ground.”

Despite boasting close ties and regular phone calls with both Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Sisi, President Trump has yet to use those relationships to call for a cease-fire. Arab and Western sources say those phone conversations leave both sides believing Washington supports their conflicting positions.

“The White House is never going to be interested in Libya in an election year, and it has the unique problem that the closest allies in the region to this presidency are fighting each other in Libya,” says Tarek Megerisi, Libya expert and policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“The fear that Trump may lose the election and we may go back to a state of normal American policy may even encourage the UAE and Egypt to get their punches in before the bell rings,” he says. “We might see a lot of escalations before November.”

‘I can’t keep this up much longer’: Parents struggle with pandemic strain

As the pandemic wears on, how can working parents keep juggling everything? Many are taking a problem-solving approach – carefully thinking through options, tapping into networks, and asking for flexibility at work.

Noelle
Dan Busey/The Decatur Daily/AP
Emily Williams, a third grade teacher, helps her daughter Lily, as her sons Braden (bottom left) and Landen complete a virtual assignment from school, at their home in Decatur, Alabama. on March 20, 2020. Parents have been wearing many hats during the pandemic.

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They’ve served as teachers, activity planners, housecleaners, and disciplinarians, all while trying to bring in income and without regular support systems. After months of trying to do it all on their own, a number of parents are waving a white flag and asking for help.

These mothers and fathers are looking for arrangements that ease burdens, keep everybody safe, and restore some sense of normalcy. They’re turning to informal networks that include grandparents, friends, and neighbors, and some are looking into professional in-home child care. Many are also asking their workplaces for continued flexible policies.

“[P]arents are tapping into their own ingenuity, resourcefulness, and risk tolerance to create a more sustainable setup for their family,” writes Julia Edelstein of Parents Magazine in an email.

Katie Ring, a commercial photographer from Marblehead, Massachusetts, and her husband recently found child care for their 5- and 6-year-olds. They hired a babysitter whom they share with a family friend, and the children’s grandmother is also helping, after bowing out for several months due to the pandemic.

Says Ms. Ring, “I am so dedicated to continuing on and making it work somehow.”

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4. ‘I can’t keep this up much longer’: Parents struggle with pandemic strain

Overwhelmed by the demands of working from home while caring for three young children, Melody Paine recently asked an online community of mothers running their own businesses for help. Did anyone have creative solutions to share?

Ms. Paine, from Brimfield, Massachusetts, says she struggles with getting interrupted “so many times it takes 1,000 times longer to do anything. ... I can’t keep this up much longer.” After reaching out to the online group, she received a burst of support and ideas. She quickly followed advice to contact a local teenager about mother’s helper work and hopes to start an arrangement soon.

“Work is spilling into everything in my life,” says Ms. Paine. “My kids can’t take it, my husband can’t take it, and I’m not taking care of myself.”

Like Ms. Paine, a number of parents are waving a white flag and asking for help after months of trying to do it all on their own. They’ve spent weeks serving as full-time teachers, activity planners, housecleaners, and disciplinarians, all while trying to bring in family income and without regular support systems like school, play dates, and playgrounds.

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

Now, as states gradually reopen, parents are grappling with how to keep their families and communities safe, while giving themselves and their children some sense of normalcy. The steps that are helping them through a still-uncertain time, they say, range from spending more time outdoors to forming backyard summer camps and parent co-ops. Increasingly, parents with the means to do so are expanding their care bubbles, turning to in-home child care, and asking their workplaces for continued flexible policies.

“The pandemic has physically and emotionally exhausted parents of young children, especially working parents,” writes Julia Edelstein, editor-in-chief of Parents Magazine, in an email. “As we enter month five – with no end in sight – parents are tapping into their own ingenuity, resourcefulness, and risk tolerance to create a more sustainable setup for their family.”

Both parents working

Part of the pinch that parents feel comes from the number of families with both parents in the workforce. Last year, 72.3% of U.S. mothers with children under age 18 participated in the labor force, as did 93.4% of fathers with children who were minors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For mothers with children under 6 years of age, labor participation stood at 66.4%.

Parents with minor children make up almost one-third of the country’s workforce, according to a recent report on working parents and COVID-19 recovery by the Brookings Institution.

Such statistics mean that in most households during the pandemic, there hasn’t been one parent available for full-time child care. Parents laid off or furloughed may be looking for work, or recently rehired. With many restrictions in place on day care centers, summer camps, and schools, parents are turning to informal networks that include grandparents, friends, and neighbors.

“People that already lived close to family and friends are sometimes able to cobble together child care arrangements,” such as having a friend or relative move in or come over regularly, says Jennifer Glass, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies work and families. “They are enlarging their circle, making it a little less of a quarantine, but it’s the only way they can function and still provide income for their household.”

Rafaela Gonzalez and her husband, Anyel Gonzalez, from Lawrence, Massachusetts, both work full time as essential workers, so they rely on family to care for their three children. Keeping the kids inside for so long this spring was stressful, the couple says, and they’ve found recent relief by taking weekend trips to relax outside. Just before the long weekend for the Fourth of July, the family drove to Weirs Beach in Laconia, New Hampshire, where they enjoyed barbecuing and swimming in Lake Winnipesaukee.

Care at home

Professional in-home child care is also increasingly popular. In a recent national survey of parents by Care.com, which matches families and caregivers, 63% of those who use day care are somewhat or very uncomfortable returning their children to day care as states reopen, and more than 35% are considering in-home care instead. Care.com is seeing a “triple-digit percentage uptick” in families seeking in-home child care this summer, according to Chief Marketing Officer Carrie Cronkey.

In addition, “a lot more grandparents are deciding to burst their bubble,” to see or care for their grandchildren, says Madonna Harrington Meyer, a sociology professor at Syracuse University in New York and expert on intensive grandparenting.

Katie Ring, a self-employed commercial photographer from Marblehead, Massachusetts, and her husband found child care recently for their 5- and 6-year-olds. They hired a babysitter whom they share with a trusted family friend, and the children’s grandmother recently started providing care again one day a week, after stopping for several months due to the pandemic.

“It’s like business was closed and now I’ve reopened,” says Ms. Ring, who notes that the families involved and the babysitter all try to keep their social circles small to support each other’s health.

With autumn not far off, President Donald Trump is pressing schools to reopen; Florida has already issued such an order. But many uncertainties remain about schools, only adding to uncertainties regarding child care. Given the state of flux, Ms. Ring has urged her friends to send letters to their legislators supporting two bills introduced in Congress recently: the Child Care Is Essential Act and Child Care Is Infrastructure Act, which have proposed providing $50 billion and $10 billion, respectively, to child care providers for reopening safely. Initial reports estimate almost 4.5 million child care spots may be lost from permanent child care closures due to the pandemic.

Jessica Hill/AP
Parent Titilaya Thompson and her son Nehemiah talk with a school principal and another official seeking to support students in Hartford, Connecticut, on June 5, 2020. Some experts say Black parents carry extra burdens, compared with white parents, during the pandemic.

Workplace flexibility

As parents search for options, there’s some evidence that workplaces will maintain or expand flexible solutions to help employees with caregiving responsibilities.

A May survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 86% of organizations were implementing or considering allowing flexible hours for child care needs, and 71% of organizations were implementing or considering allowing full-time remote work for parents with child care needs.

The survey found that employers in knowledge-based industries, such as finance and legal, are more likely to offer flexible work than are those in service- and physical-type industries. Black, Latino, and Indigenous parents are more likely to work in occupations without options for remote work and to lack access to licensed child care, according to the Center for American Progress.

Caroline Walsh, vice president of research in the human resources practice at the research firm Gartner, says the company projects that up to 48% of the U.S. workforce will work remotely at least some of the time post-pandemic, up from 30% pre-pandemic.

“The switch to flexibility may be more acute for parents, but it’s something that organizations are going to need to solve for the workforce as a whole,” since other workers need flexibility for different reasons, such as caring for an ill family member, says Ms. Walsh.

Support online

Another source of support for parents during the lockdowns has been trusted online groups. For example the Black Moms Connection, both a Facebook group and nonprofit, is focusing on how it can serve Black mothers during this time, says Tanya Hayles, BMC’s founder, who is based in Toronto. After receiving an influx of donations during last month’s social justice protests, the group gave small grants to mothers to buy formula or treat themselves to dinner. Ms. Hayles plans to launch a more robust grant program as well as a rental assistance program next month.

The BMC Facebook group has more than 15,000 members. “I’m grateful it exists as a space for Black moms to say, ‘I get it, I know how tired you are, I get it down to my bones how tired you are,’” says Ms. Hayles. “Everyone is going through things from COVID, but the Black community has all these extra burdens and weights to carry and manage.”

The intensity of managing work and family during the pandemic has caused some commentators to advocate for more stay-at-home parents, especially mothers. Writing in Intellectual Takeout, a conservative commentary website, Annie Holmquist asks: “Might all those working mothers discover great beauty in becoming – gasp – a stay-at-home mom?”

“Perhaps families will recognize that the extra income a second job brings is not worth the extra stress it causes mothers,” Ms. Holmquist adds.

Not all parents have the economic option to stay home, says Professor Glass. “We’ve been blithely thinking every mom has someone in the background who can pick up the economic slack, but they don’t,” she says. “We think moms are going to quit, but they can’t afford to.”

Ms. Ring, the photographer, says she’s devoted to maintaining her career while parenting, even during the pandemic, since both are fulfilling to her and are part of her identity.

“I’m an artist. I’m a creative. ... Working in my job as a creative, it’s almost self-care; it’s something you can’t turn off,” she says. “There has to be a compromise with caring for my kids and having my career. I am so dedicated to continuing on and making it work somehow.”

People flocking to Cape Cod – but for a different kind of vacation

Americans’ time-honored vacation traditions are being tested as people pine for beaches, boats, and bowling alleys during a pandemic. One result is the rise of the away-from-home staycation.

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Sophie Hills/The Christian Science Monitor
Christina and Catelin traveled to the beach from Connecticut, where they’ve been living for the past three months. They are from New York City. “The Cape has been conducive” to vacationing while social distancing, says Christina.

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At summer hot spots like Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the coronavirus pandemic is changing the vacation experience but not ending it.

Boston-area resident Luciano Leone scrambled this spring to find a rental property on the Cape so his family could get away for a bit. It may mean being more of a homebody than usual while away. But he’s not the only one planning what amounts to a “rental staycation” this year. One result: Even as rental properties fill up, beaches are less crowded than usual.

“I think there’s going to be some market that says, ‘yep, this is a new experience for me and I kind of like it, so I might continue to vacation in this way in the future,’” says Lori Pennington-Gray, a tourism expert at the University of Florida.

The upheaval for this summer is tough on tourist-oriented businesses. In Orleans, near the Cape’s elbow, bowling alley owner Dave Currier has no idea when he’ll be able to reopen. But he refuses to consider the threat of closing. “I’m not going to think like that,” he says. “We’re going to make it.”

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5. People flocking to Cape Cod – but for a different kind of vacation

On a normal summer day, a steady line of cars would lead to the small parking lot beneath the lighthouse in Chatham. But this summer, empty parking spots are as ubiquitous as masked beachgoers. Across from a menacing-looking sign warning swimmers about the great white sharks that frequent these waters is another stern reminder: Stay at least 6 feet apart.

This summer, beachgoers may harbor fears of sharks in the water and the coronavirus on the beach, but they’re still flocking to Cape Cod, eager to trade in their at-home isolation for the sun and the sand. Fretful about interacting in public places like hotel lobbies, many vacationers are looking for self-contained vacations and turning to rental homes.

Often they are staying within 300 miles of their own homes. And, with many summer camps closed or offering limited service, parents and children are packing their computers and heading to the beach for a longer, isolated “staycation” away from home. All this is changing the life and economy of vacation-oriented places like Cape Cod for this summer – and possibly for longer. 

“I think there’s going to be some market that says, ‘yep, this is a new experience for me and I kind of like it, so I might continue to vacation in this way in the future,’” says Lori Pennington-Gray, professor and director of the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative at the University of Florida. This may mean more people will engage in the rental market in the future, she adds.

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

Luciano Leone, from the town of Middleton north of Boston, could have given up on his family’s plans for a Cape Cod vacation. 

That’s what some other people were doing early this spring, when the coronavirus emerged. And the owner of one Cape Cod house canceled Mr. Leone's booking, while yet another told him the house wouldn’t be available for rent this summer.

The third time proved the charm, however. After scouring websites, he was able to book a rental. 

The Leone family has driven to the Cape and back in a day before, but “cars get a little cozy with two kids.” So, Mr. Leone and his family laid plans to stay for a week. The goal is to enjoy activities but in more of a homebody way than usual – dining takeout and visiting beaches that, thanks to this year’s “staycation” mindset, are less crowded.

Timothy Davis owns a rental house in Chatham, and he is more than happy that renters are trending toward longer stays. “Anybody in their right mind would like a renter for a month or two because you can get basically the same money.”

In other words, longer periods of stay mean fewer turnovers, which have become more costly and a logistical obstacle during the pandemic because of the need for deeper cleaning.

Despite concerns over the virus this summer, business for rental owners nationwide is up – not down – including in coastal areas like Cape Cod, says Dr. Pennington-Gray.

Sophie Hills/The Christian Science Monitor
Manny Santos traveled to Cape Cod from Providence, Rhode Island, with his wife and daughter. They feel relatively safe at the beaches because there aren’t many people out, he says, standing beside a sign declaring a "Mandatory Mask Zone."

“We saw a large uptick in rentals during the spring,” says Jim Reese, chief operating officer of Weneedavacation.com, which helps homeowners on Cape Cod market their homes to renters. June was “the busiest month that we’ve ever had on our site.”

For some property owners on the Cape, this year’s trend is sort of back to the future. Portia Knight Calouro recalls how, years ago, vacationers would come to the Cape for anywhere from a month to the whole summer. But in her own business in recent years, the majority of her renters have come for just one week. Now, for this summer at least, her renters are for two weeks or more.

Not everyone is renting a home, or staying a long time. Manny Santos drove to Cape Cod with his wife and daughter, from east Providence, Rhode Island, only a few hours away.  

The family is enjoying the beach and other activities as they normally would, although they are ordering food to-go more than eating in restaurants. “There’s not a lot of people here,” he says, gesturing to the beach behind him, “so you can get away with that.”

Although longer rentals are a trend in places like Cape Cod, the national average for vacation stays nationwide remains between four and seven days, according to data tracked by the Tourism Crisis Management Initiative in Florida.

And, even as vacation rentals thrive, small businesses face a different set of challenges. “The small businesses that kind of make their living from tourists are really hard hit, particularly if they operate from an indoor perspective,” says Dr. Pennington-Gray.

Prior to the pandemic, visitor spending on Cape Cod looked on track to be 7% better than in 2018, which was a strong year, says Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. Now, many businesses are navigating a more challenged summer. 

All Cape Boat Rentals in Hyannis had a slow start to the season, but the past few weeks have been busier than normal, says owner Jake Dewey. His business operates entirely outside, and offers an activity that allows people to remain socially distanced.

For the Ice Cream Smuggler in Dennis, reopening presented more of a challenge. The business started with curbside orders, staggering customers. Employees would run cartons of ice cream out to cars, often placing them in coolers in the trunk. It wasn’t unusual for customers to leave payment contained in a plastic bag.

“Our loyal customer base was just so excited to have us open,” says Carter Catalano president and owner of Hilltop Creamery, which owns the Ice Cream Smuggler, although some customers now have mixed reactions to the precautions.

“We did delay our opening. We didn’t know what to expect,” and safety was the top priority, she says. 

Sophie Hills/The Christian Science Monitor
Dave Currier stands behind the bowling lanes at The Alley Bowling and BBQ in Orleans, Massachusetts, on July 1, 2020. Mr. Currier, who owns The Alley, restored the pinsetters, which are original to the 1960s.

Reopening lanes and the kitchen at The Alley Bowling and BBQ in Orleans has been even more complicated. 

Owning a bowling alley during a shutdown is stressful, says Dave Currier – and so is having a 3-year-old with no child care. The silver lining? When the weather was bad in March and April, Mr. Currier and his girlfriend brought their daughter to The Alley to drive her Hot Wheels, play arcade games, and bowl. “She loves it,” says Mr. Currier, gesturing to the lanes and laughing.

The Alley has been in Mr. Currier’s family since the 1960s, and the lanes, pinsetters, and stadium seating are original. 

Mr. Currier has no idea when he’ll be able to reopen for bowling, but he refuses to consider the threat of closing. “I’m not going to think like that. We’re going to make it,” he says.

Sophie Hills/The Christian Science Monitor
Justin Casey, owner of Harbor Lights Mini Golf in Brewster, Massachusetts, stands on his course on July 6, 2020. Although he opened two months later than normal this summer, business since then has been good, he says.

In nearby Brewster, a greenery-filled, winding mini golf course offers a slow-paced, outdoor respite. 

Justin Casey, owner of Harbor Lights Mini Golf, wasn’t able to open until the second week of June. But since then, business has been “pretty good.”

Will and Cody, brothers from the Boston area who asked that their last name not be used, have been vacationing on Cape Cod for nearly 18 years with their family, and have been mini golfing at Harbor Lights for nearly that long.  

This year, after finishing a game, they are placing their clubs into a bucket marked “used clubs” to be sprayed with disinfectant.

For the most part, they’ve enjoyed a vacation similar to past years. “We’re still able to fish and go to the beach,” says Will. “The beaches are a little bit less crowded, and you’re able to space out.” 

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On to Mars

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When you’ve got troubles, nothing beats stepping back and getting a long-range perspective. In this case, from more than 30 million miles away.

This month three countries plan to send probes to explore Mars, the opening salvo in a space race to the red planet that looks as if it will continue for years.

The Hope Probe – a project of the United Arab Emirates and the first effort of an Arab nation to visit another planet – is scheduled for launch July 15. China’s Tianwen-1 goes next, sometime between July 20 and July 25. It will be that country’s first visit to the planet. The United States plans its launch for July 30, its fifth mission to Mars. 

Mars beckons in part because it could answer a big question: Are humans alone in the universe? Over its history the planet has shown intriguing potential for life, including the presence of water. 

This flurry of exploration sets the stage for the ultimate Mars endeavor: landing humans there. That remains a couple of decades away at least, U.S. researchers say. But a visit to the moon by humans once seemed unthinkable. Now Mars is coming ever closer in thought.

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On to Mars

When you’ve got troubles, nothing beats stepping back and getting a long-range perspective. In this case, from more than 30 million miles away.

This month three countries plan to send probes to explore Mars, the opening salvo in a space race to the red planet that looks as if it will continue for years to come. The Hope Probe – a project of the United Arab Emirates and the first effort of an Arab nation to visit another planet – is scheduled for launch July 15. China’s Tianwen-1 goes next, sometime between July 20 and July 25. It will be that country’s first visit to the planet. 

The United States, after several delays, plans its launch for July 30, its fifth mission to Mars. 

Russia and the European Union are expected to join this new Mars explorers’ club in a couple of years. India and Japan are planning trips after that. 

Mars beckons in part because it could answer a big question: Are humans alone in the universe? Over its history the planet has shown intriguing potential for life, including, at least at one time, the presence of water. If any life has ever existed there, how likely then is the possibility for life anywhere in a universe filled with uncounted planets?

Mars has long been a fascination – and an intriguing distraction – for humanity. As European relations grew tense and World War I approached a century ago, astronomer William Pickering peered through his telescope and described what he saw as changing weather systems on Mars, which he imaged as a vast wilderness. 

To Pickering, the planet was almost a refuge, “free of suffering and injustice and of difficulty,” points out Sarah Stewart Johnson in her new book “The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World.” It was a place “free from all of the horrible things that were happening in his world, on his planet.”

But even as telescopic views improved, astronomers’ frustration grew: If only they could get a closer, better look. That finally happened in the last half-century as space probes began plunking the Martian surface, sending back data, including photos. The car-sized American rover Curiosity – named by then 12-year-old Clara Ma after a national essay competition – has been wandering the planet since 2012, and continues to explore it.

For the United Arab Emirates and China, visiting Mars means gaining scientific stature back on Earth. For the U.S. it means maintaining its prominent role in space exploration. Each of the missions will advance human knowledge. 

The U.S. rover, named Perseverance, for example, will include a robotic helicopter that will test what it’s like to fly in the Martian atmosphere and, it is hoped, serve as a scout for the rover. Perseverance will also collect rock and soil samples that some future mission would be able to return to Earth.

This flurry of exploration sets the stage for the ultimate Mars endeavor: putting humans on the red planet. That goal remains a couple of decades away at least, U.S. researchers say.

But a visit to the moon by humans once seemed unthinkable. Now Mars is coming ever closer in thought.

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.

Breaking through limitations

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When a cyclist became discouraged and overwhelmed while training for a long-distance event, she turned to God for inspiration – which turned her attitude and experience around completely.

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1. Breaking through limitations

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Last fall, a Kenyan athlete achieved an incredible feat: He ran a marathon distance (26.2 miles) in under two hours. Eliud Kipchoge “[broke] through a temporal barrier that many would have deemed untouchable only a few years ago,” The New York Times reported. Another inspiring individual is Shahieda Thungo, a South African athlete who has made it her mission to help others finish the Comrades Marathon, which is over 55 miles long (see CSMonitor.com, “South Africa’s unlikely ultramarathoner helps others cross the finish line,” Ryan Lenora Brown, July 6, 2018).

This kind of news can get us thinking deeply about the possibility of overcoming limits. Centuries ago Christ Jesus demonstrated the eternal nature of divine Life, unhampered by limited mortal perspectives. And by following his teachings and example, we too can peel away limitations and begin to experience man’s limitless capabilities as children of God.

In Christian Science, Life and Spirit are not properties of physicality, but Bible-based names for God, describing His essential nature. As we come to understand more of God and of our relation to Him as His spiritual expression, this opens the door to endless possibilities to triumph over a limited, too-small view of ourselves and others.

The textbook of Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, opens on page 1 with these words of Christ Jesus: “whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:23, 24).

Science and Health explains how we can make this truth relevant today: “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, – a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love” (p. 1). In a chapter titled “Physiology,” Mrs. Eddy writes, “The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible” (p. 199).

While these promises point to a vast spectrum of possibilities for healing, as Jesus proved, we can begin to demonstrate over limits in whatever tasks we take on. I recently had an opportunity to put these ideas into practice when my husband and I signed up for a bicycle ride across our state, covering a total distance of more than 200 miles in one day.

Even though I’m an experienced cyclist, my training for this event was fraught with fear and self-doubt. My love for cycling seemed to vanish. I felt I had undertaken an impossible task.

Christian Science makes the bold statement that because God is infinite Mind, His creation is divinely mental, the expression of that Mind. One of the key things that’s been helpful for me in athletic activities is to remind myself that all of God’s children express the qualities of Mind, such as humility and the cooperative spirit needed for good teamwork. And to recognize that God, divine Spirit, is the source of endless spiritual resources. These ideas encouraged me as I continued with the training.

The day of the ride, as we rode along the quiet country roads, I watched as the sunlight gently spilled down on everything around me and the morning mist gradually faded away. I remember thinking, “Lord, no matter what happens the rest of this day, I am so incredibly grateful for this moment. Thank You for including me in Your glory!”

For the next 14 hours in the saddle, I held on to this feeling. It inspired in me a desire to show forth God’s love toward my fellow riders, and to let divine Mind own the present moment rather than just focus on the finish line. Each moment, I saw clearly, was an opportunity to express kindness, humility, encouragement, and support.

Everything about that day was glorious, filled with camaraderie, enthusiasm, liveliness, and love! One of the most humbling and satisfying moments came at the 200th mile, when the support crew at the last rest stop declared that my group was the most joyful and energetic they had seen all day. It turns out we were the final group who made the time cutoff that allowed us to continue on and finish the race.

Each of us, whether in athletics or other endeavors, can break through barriers of discouragement and limitation by turning to God as our source of joy, encouragement, and inspiration. Then we experience what Mrs. Eddy describes when she writes, “Pure humanity, friendship, home, the interchange of love, bring to earth a foretaste of heaven” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 100).

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Meet the ‘radio squirrels’

Ann Hermes/Staff
Among the cypress trees and sparsely populated coastline of Point Reyes National Seashore, the KPH Maritime Radio Receiving Station blends in well. Though the art deco building may seem quiet and long-forgotten, it emits a series of dits and dahs each Saturday – signals from the last remaining Morse code transmission station in North America. For the past 20 years, volunteers from the Maritime Radio Historical Society (MRHS), in partnership with the National Park Service, have been restoring the equipment at the former Radio Corporation of America facility. These "radio squirrels" meet every Saturday to send out transmissions. The massive commercial machines require an endless amount of tinkering – an ongoing labor of love.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Noelle Swan
Deputy Daily Editor

Thanks for spending time with us today. Come back on Monday, when Ned Temko will explore how a look into the post-pandemic future offers reason, if not for unbridled optimism, at least for cautious hope. It’s the final installment of our global series “Navigating uncertainty.” 

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