2021
June
10
Thursday

Monitor Daily Podcast

June 10, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

‘A humble prayer for peace’ in the Middle East

Two days after the Israelis and Palestinians announced their recent cease-fire, Monitor reader Capt. Roger Gordon did something he’ll never forget. He baptized four members of the American military in the place where the Bible says Jesus himself was baptized.

Captain Gordon is a military chaplain posted to Kuwait, and when he was ministering to some of his soldiers in Jordan, one had an idea. She’d been waiting to be baptized for more than a year, but COVID-19 restrictions had prevented it. What if she could do it in the Jordan River?

The unrest in Israel – situated just on the other side of the river – meant the trip was in doubt until the last minute. But it went ahead with the usual armed guards on both banks. Even for Captain Gordon as a chaplain, the experience was more moving than he had imagined. “Going there – the biblical events that happened in that place – it brought them more vividly alive to me.”

The same was true for the female soldier, “who felt she could go forward with her life in a new way and with a new sense of forgiveness,” Captain Gordon said.

But for him, the event, which took place on the Christian day of Pentecost, was also a prayer for the whole region. “Baptism for me is a prayer or call to peace – about being a peacemaker,” he said. “It was a humble prayer for peace.”

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In Europe, a stern test for Biden’s vow to bring ‘America back’

This week, when President Joe Biden tells Europe that the U.S. is recommitted to its traditional leadership role, should Europe believe him? Or has America – and the world – changed?

Mark

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President Joe Biden today launches his weeklong European tour to rally democratic allies with a rousing pledge that America is back and ready to lead. Yet as he attends an extraordinary sequence of summits and side meetings, he can expect some wariness mixed in with the overall enthusiasm.

“The Europeans are not just relieved but are enthusiastic about the message President Biden brings in the context of this trip,” says Rosa Balfour, director of Carnegie Europe in Brussels. “But there is also strong concern in Europe that we haven’t seen the end of [former President Donald] Trump and Trumpism,” she adds. “What Europeans want to see now [is] something concrete that confirms a renewed determination to work together.”

Others say that without an honest reckoning among friends of how their relationship has changed, Mr. Biden’s trip could end in disappointment.

“While there may be a strong desire for it, I would hope we don’t just get a good-news show with a ‘we are all united’ theme,” says Sven Biscop, a Europe expert in Brussels. “I’d rather see what you might expect from a strong friendship,” he adds, “like frank discussions that lay bare the differences but also remind everyone what was behind the friendship in the first place.”

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In Europe, a stern test for Biden’s vow to bring ‘America back’

Toby Melville/Reuters
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson; his wife, Carrie Johnson; and President Joe Biden with first lady Jill Biden walk outside the Carbis Bay Hotel in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, England, June 10, 2021.

From a starting point in Cornwall, England, President Joe Biden today launches his weeklong European tour to rally democratic allies with a rousing pledge that America is back, and ready to lead efforts to address pressing global issues – from pandemic recovery to climate change.

Yet as Mr. Biden moves over the coming days from England to Brussels and on to Geneva – meeting with most of America’s closest allies at an extraordinary sequence of summits and side meetings – he can expect some wariness mixed in with the overall enthusiasm.

Think of it, say transatlantic relations analysts and some European diplomats, as when the top dog in a group of best friends drops out to do his own thing, only to return one day to reclaim his old role at the head of the group.

Everybody’s happy the leader is back, but there are also new questions and doubts: How long till the leader goes his own way again? How has he changed – and will he accept that his friends have also changed in his absence?

“The Europeans are not just relieved but are enthusiastic about the message President Biden brings in the context of this trip, with his rhetoric of renewed ties and recommitment to American leadership. They were feeling very lonely ... defending the international system without their close American friend,” says Rosa Balfour, director of Carnegie Europe in Brussels.

Europeans will be reassured by a U.S. president speaking a familiar language of transatlantic unity and American leadership after four years of tensions and “America First” under Donald Trump, she says.

“But there is also strong concern in Europe that we haven’t seen the end of Trump and Trumpism, that the Republican Party seems to be captured by the Trumpist wing and could shift America’s global outlook again in a few years,” she adds. “So what Europeans want to see now are some decisions, something concrete that confirms a renewed determination to work together.”

“Arsenal of vaccines”

Suggesting the White House fully understands a need to put some meat on the bones of presidential rhetoric, Mr. Biden announced Thursday a “historic” donation of half a billion vaccines to the world’s poorest and less-developed countries over the next two years. The vaccines are part of a U.S.-led effort among the world’s wealthiest democracies to demonstrate an ability to meet urgent global needs.

“When [Americans] have the capacity, then we have the will, and we step up and we deliver,” Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters Thursday. “As [the president] said ... we were the arsenal of democracy in World War II, and we’re going to be the arsenal of vaccines ... to end this pandemic.”

Yet others say that without an honest reckoning among friends of how their relationship has changed and what each side now expects from it, Mr. Biden’s trip could end in disappointment.

“While there may be a strong desire for it, I would hope we don’t just get a good-news show with a ‘we are all united’ theme and a masking of the differences that exist on the big issues we face,” says Sven Biscop, director of the Europe in the World Program at the Egmont Royal Institute for International Studies in Brussels.

“I’d rather see what you might expect from a strong friendship,” he adds, “like frank discussions that lay bare the differences but also remind everyone what was behind the friendship in the first place. After four-plus years of moving apart,” he says, “the U.S. and Europe need that honesty to lay the groundwork for making tough decisions.”

The Biden trip’s “three C’s”

There will be no lack of opportunities for such conversations on a trip the White House says will be dominated by “three C’s”: COVID-19, China, and climate change.

In Cornwall, Mr. Biden attends a summit of the Group of Seven advanced economies – the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The group aims to regain some of its lost luster and relevance by addressing issues from the post-pandemic economic recovery and inequality to global economic governance – and by inviting the leaders of Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and India, to underscore the group’s foundation in democratic governance and the global economic shift to Asia.

Toby Melville/AP
President Joe Biden talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, England, June 10, 2021.

On Monday Mr. Biden moves on to NATO headquarters in Brussels. There he’ll join leaders from the 30-member transatlantic alliance as it shifts focus from its Afghanistan mission, which ends in September, to renewed in-area threats from Russia and 21st-century threats including cybersecurity and space-based technologies.

In the vein of “tough talk with problematic allies,” Mr. Biden will make time while at NATO to sit down with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Turkish leader’s democratic backsliding and mounting human rights violations present a challenge to a U.S. president who has pledged to make both democracy and human rights key elements of his foreign policy.

On Tuesday in Brussels, the U.S. president sits down with the two top executives of the European Union – the first U.S.-EU summit since 2014. For European analysts, the EU summit will be the best venue for Mr. Biden to address the China pillar of his trip. China poses a dilemma for Europe, because while it is now the Europeans’ largest trade partner, China’s human rights violations, anti-democratic moves against Hong Kong, and coercive trade practices against Australia and others have soured European parliamentarians and publics on the relationship.

Old think, new think

Attention then shifts to Geneva, for what some analysts are calling the trip’s “main event”: Mr. Biden’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

White House officials speaking in the run-up to the president’s first overseas foray said it was no accident – nor mere scheduling practicality – that Mr. Biden will be setting the stage for what is expected to be a tough meeting with Mr. Putin by first very publicly renewing ties with America’s constellation of democratic allies.

Still, some transatlantic analysts caution that as important as “renewing ties with allies” may sound, what matters most is the vision for renewed alliances and American leadership – and whether it is based on a U.S.-dominated world that doesn’t exist anymore, or fits a multipolar world with very different challenges.

“All this talk of ‘America is back’ is nonsense. It would be much more comforting if there was greater recognition that the world has changed and there will be no going back to a long-ago golden age” of American leadership, says Michael Desch, director of the Notre Dame International Security Center in Indiana.

“But the rhetoric of Joe’s excellent European adventure doesn’t show much evidence of really grasping that change,” he adds. “It’s a lot of old think, very little new think.”

Differences over China

Another problem for Mr. Biden, Mr. Desch and others say, is that while there may be wide agreement among Western allies on the need for action on climate change and looming post-pandemic global inequalities, on two other Biden priorities – a rising China and threats to democratic governance – there is little unity on the way forward.

“For the U.S., its approach to China is about defending its superpower status and pushing back on China’s rise. But for its part, the EU has no superpower status to defend, so with China it’s much more about navigating the reality of a rising China,” says Carnegie’s Ms. Balfour. “The Europeans prefer dialogue and ambiguity to U.S.-style confrontation.”

That said, there are mounting signs of Europe moving closer to the U.S. on China. The EU has put on hold an investment deal with China in the wake of tit-for-tat sanctions over human rights violations in China’s Xinjiang province. And recently, both Italy and Lithuania nixed infrastructure deals they had reached with China.

Still, simply drawing closer on what they oppose won’t be enough for the U.S. and its European allies to demonstrate the enduring relevance of their friendship to their own citizens as well as to the world, Ms. Balfour says.

“From a global perspective, what we need to see coming out of this trip is a real social contract, a very proactive and concrete commitment to addressing the heightening global inequality that has come out of the pandemic,” she says. “That’s the kind of thing that can be the core of a West that is willing to become inclusive and take greater responsibility in addressing global crises.”

Nigeria turned off Twitter. Nigerians ask, what now?

Debates about free speech online are increasingly pitting social media sites against politicians. Nigeria shows how Twitter’s efforts to rein in “abusive” speech can boil over.

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Nigeria is the latest country where Twitter has become a political lightning rod, with citizens caught up in a larger debate about free speech on social media. Incensed by Twitter’s removal of a presidential post, which the company deemed threatening, the government cut off access last weekend.

Around the world, Twitter critics have accused the platform of censoring politicians’ speech. Yet Nigeria’s move to silence Twitter, after its central role in recent protests, has raised fears about wider freedoms in Africa’s most populous country.

The spat did not come out of the blue. With a bulging, ultra-connected youth population, Nigeria has some of the most engaged Twitter users in Africa. Amid increasing insecurity and unemployment, the country’s youth have wielded the platform as an accountability weapon, calling out politicians in scathing tweets – and making government officials jittery about the sheer power of the social media site.

“This ban targets mass movements as young Nigerians have used Twitter to organize, crowdfund, and create global awareness in the past,” says activist Rinu Oduala, a leading voice in last year’s #EndSars protests against police brutality. “If the Nigerian government can suspend Twitter now, then it can even try to suspend the internet during elections. I won’t put it past them.”

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Nigeria turned off Twitter. Nigerians ask, what now?

Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters
A man crosses a street opposite the Nigerian Communications Commission headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, June 5, 2021. Last weekend, the national government suspended Twitter's operations in the country.

Days after Nigeria suddenly banned Twitter, the country’s netizens say they are bearing the brunt of a battle between big tech and government.

Nigeria is the latest country where Twitter has become a political lightning rod, with citizens caught up in a larger debate about free speech on social media. Incensed by Twitter’s removal of a presidential post, which the company deemed threatening, the government cut off access last weekend for the country’s users – estimated to be about 1 in 5 Nigerians.

“The effect is so bad,” says Chinonyelum Nnaji, who sells thrift clothing for men online, and did most of her business on Twitter. “There’s the frustration of having clothing and not a single person buys it from you. I was close to tears yesterday.”

Around the world, Twitter critics accuse the platform of censoring politicians’ speech with its much-debated decisions to remove or label posts containing false information or threatening language. Yet Nigeria’s move to silence Twitter, after its central role in recent protests, has raised fears about wider freedoms in Africa’s most populous country, particularly with general elections in two years’ time.

“This ban targets mass movements as young Nigerians have used Twitter to organize, crowdfund, and create global awareness in the past,” says activist Rinu Oduala, a leading voice in last year’s #EndSars protests against police brutality. “If the Nigerian government can suspend Twitter now, then it can even try to suspend the internet during elections. I won’t put it past them.”

Twitter tension

The West African country’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, announced Twitter’s indefinite suspension the evening of June 4, citing “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” By the following evening, users found that they could no longer access the platform.

The blackout came two days after Twitter deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying the post violated its policy against “abusive behavior.” In it, Mr. Buhari – a former army general who led troops during the country’s civil war in the late 1960s – had threatened to crack down on young people from the southeast agitating for greater recognition and secession.

Officials have blamed recent attacks on government buildings in the region on Biafran separatists, whose push for independence set off the civil war. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” the president tweeted.

Facebook took down a similar post made by Mr. Buhari, but its site remains accessible.

In a statement Saturday, a presidential spokesman called Twitter’s suspension “temporary,” and said it was a response to several problems in addition to the tweet’s removal, including misinformation. 

While this is the first time Nigeria has disrupted an internet service, there have been several past attempts to rein in social media. A proposed bill currently sits with parliament after it was met with huge outcry last year. If passed, the law would hand out a three year prison term or fine to anyone sharing information that the government deemed false.

Nigeria’s spat with Twitter did not come out of the blue. With a bulging, ultra-connected youth population, Nigeria has some of the most engaged Twitter users in Africa. Amid increasing insecurity and unemployment, the country’s youth have wielded the platform as an accountability weapon, incessantly calling out politicians in scathing tweets – and making government officials, many of them much older and less technology-savvy, jittery about the sheer power of the social media site.

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters/File
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari speaks at a news conference during a visit to Pretoria, South Africa, Oct. 3, 2019. Last week, Twitter deleted a post of Mr. Buhari's, saying that it violated its policy on abusive behavior.

Things came to a head when thousands of Nigerians took to the streets last October to protest SARS, a police unit notorious for targeting and profiling young people, and which has been accused of extrajudicial deaths. Christened the EndSARS protests, the movement became so popular globally that marches were held from Boston and Budapest to Cape Town, and the hashtag #ENDSARS trended on Twitter USA.

When security forces cracked down hard on protesters, the world watched on Twitter and Instagram. And when celebrities started to lend their voice to the movement, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey did too, riling government officials further.

A global trend

Debates about whether to delete politicians’ social media posts have swirled in several countries recently, including the United States and India. Meanwhile, internet censorship is becoming increasingly common in repressive regimes, particularly during uprisings, protests, and elections. Senegal, Uganda, and Chad are among African countries that have disrupted social media sites or internet services this year alone. Thirty of the continent’s countries have blocked social media in some way since 2015, according to a report by Surfshark, which provides virtual private networks (VPNs).

As Nigeria’s 2023 election approaches, there are fears of more repressive tactics reminiscent of the country’s 21-year-long military rule. Over the weekend, local investigative platform FIJ reported that officials from China are in talks with the Nigerian government to create an internet “firewall” to enable deeper digital surveillance and internet blocks. Officials have denied the report.

So far, Nigeria’s government has resisted calls to restore Twitter access from nongovernmental organizations and foreign governments, including the U.S. The “decision to ban and prosecute those who continue using the platform is a blatant and unjustified restriction on civic space and people’s rights to information through social media,” says Anietie Ewang, the Nigeria researcher for Human Rights Watch. “The ban follows what appears to be a pattern of attacks aimed at muzzling free expression. Authorities should immediately lift the ban and ensure people in the country can access [Twitter] without restrictions or fear of reprisal.”

For now, many Nigerians are circumventing the ban by resorting to VPNs. Downloads shot up this week by 1,409%, according to the United Kingdom tracking site Top 10 VPN – despite government threats to arrest those who breach the ban. A recent directive has also targeted the press, banning television and radio stations from sharing their stories on Twitter or using it to report.

But ordinary Nigerians are likely to continue bearing the brunt of the ban. In a country with high unemployment rates, many young people have taken to trading on sites like Twitter and Instagram. And already, business owners say, the ban is taking a toll.

“Twitter is the source of my livelihood,” says Ms. Nnaji. “I don’t have a physical store yet and even if I did, I would not be able to reach the people I’ve sold to in different parts of the country [as fast]. The government needs to lift the ban as soon as possible.”

Scallop wars: British and French fishers separated by a shared livelihood

Brexit disputes have put French and British fishers at odds with one another. But both sides say they’re striving for the same thing: to save their coastal communities and local identities.

Mark
Pascal Rossignol/Reuters/File
Fishers empty a fishing net aboard the Boulogne-sur-Mer-based trawler Nicolas Jeremy in the North Sea, off the coast of northern France, Dec. 7, 2020.

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This past year has been marked by violent confrontations at sea between British and French fishers, as legislators hashed out arrangements for 2021. But despite the flare-ups, the majority of fishers in both Britain and France say they want to find common ground.

Many British fishers were hoping the Brexit deal would grant them free access to U.K. waters, but it hasn’t so far. And in the waters around the Channel Islands near the French coast, French boats have been largely blocked out. So both nations’ fishers have been left frustrated.

For decades prior to Brexit, the two sides worked together independently of government involvement to ensure that quotas and fishing rights were fair to all parties. A system of quota swapping allowed fishers to work within the rules in a way that benefits both sides and ensures that European fishing remains sustainable for all countries.

Though quota swapping ended with Brexit, nongovernmental negotiation may still prove critical. “[Our system] worked successfully with no government involvement whatsoever for over 30 years,” says Jim Portus of the South Western Fish Producer Organization in England. “We’ve avoided conflict between [fishers] from the U.K. and the Channel Islands and the French, equally.”

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Scallop wars: British and French fishers separated by a shared livelihood

Derek Meredith stares out at the calm, sunny waters of the English Channel, shaking his head. “It’s total anarchy out there,” he says.

Mr. Meredith is a British fisher from Brixham, England, who scouts for scallops near the French coast, and he says his boat has regularly been attacked by French vessels in recent years. He says he’s been the target of flares, rocks, and homemade firebombs during confrontations off the French port of Le Havre, where his trawler is often surrounded by a chain of French fish boats “almost touching each other.”

On the Normandy coast on the other side of the channel, Sophie and David Leroy run five fishing trawlers through their business, Armement Cherbourgeois. And they also feel under siege. In the past two years, they’ve found photos of their trawlers on social media posted by Brixham-based fishers with superimposed black targets and the message “sink their boats.”

“I’ve been shocked by the aggressiveness towards fishermen and women,” says Ms. Leroy, the CEO of Armement Cherbourgeois, which contributes 60% of Cherbourg’s fish supply. She and her husband come from fishing families and have devoted their lives to the industry. “They don’t realize that there are human lives at stake.”

This past year has been marked by violent confrontations at sea between fishers, first at the French port town of Boulogne-sur-Mer in April and then at the Channel Islands in May, as legislators hashed out arrangements for 2021. The fishing industry was a major sticking point in the Brexit talks, with British fishers calling for free access to their own waters, and the French claiming historical rights to British fishing zones – where the majority of fish are found.

But despite the flare-ups, the majority of fishers in both Britain and France say they want to find common ground to benefit everyone. For decades, the two sides have worked together independently of government involvement to ensure that quotas and fishing rights were fair to all parties. Even as they work to preserve the livelihoods of their national coastal communities, they’re also striving to preserve the integrity and sustainability of their shared fishing industry for years to come.

Colette Davidson
At the docks of Cherbourg, France, fishers from the Armement Cherbourgeois company offload whiting and haddock from the Maranatha II trawler after a morning at sea.

“It tends to be bureaucracy that puts people in opposing camps; those sitting behind desks that know nothing about fishing practicalities,” says Jim Portus, chief executive of the South Western Fish Producer Organization (SWFPO) and a former fishery protection officer at the U.K. Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing, and Food. “But I’ve worked with the French for decades on the transfer of quotas from one country to another, so that if we had opportunities that the French wanted or they had opportunities we needed, we could do deals. We did that readily, year on year.”

“I had high hopes for Brexit”

Brixham, England, is the birthplace of the trawling industry and remains the backbone of the fishing industry throughout Northern Europe. From Brixham’s small inner harbor, where fishing vessels dried out between tides, the port grew steadily, and by the latter half of the 19th century, the British fleet there totaled more than 3,000 vessels.

While now it’s also a hot spot for hip ex-Londoners looking for a slower pace of life and crystal blue waters, Brixham’s rich fishing history is still alive and well in places like the Brixham Fish Market, Britain’s largest by value. It’s a grueling 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week operation that exports to Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, as well as within the United Kingdom. Fishers here – who largely voted in favor of Brexit – say that the Brexit deal has created more paperwork and hassle for the industry.

“Within the first four or five months [since Brexit became official] I would say there are still issues,” says Barry Young, managing director of Brixham Trawler Agents, which runs the market, a fisher-owned cooperative. In a white coat on a noisy market floor, he checks freshly caught fish packed inside ice-filled crates. “We’re really behind our U.K. fishermen 110%.”

Like Mr. Young, many British fishers were hoping the Brexit deal would grant them free access to U.K. waters. But instead, access is largely based on historical presence in the area – boats must prove they fished there between 2012 and 2016.

Further complicating matters are the Channel Islands, which are technically not part of the U.K. – and thus not part of the Brexit deal – but rather are autonomous, self-governing “crown dependencies” that negotiate their own terms on fishing. In their waters, the current terms favor newer boats: those that sailed between 2017 and 2019. Just 41 licenses for French boats have thus far been granted there, which spurred the May dispute and continues to anger the French.

“Up until now, we’ve always shared the channel waters with the English, but I’ve lost my access to Jersey for the first time in 20 years,” says Jérôme Delauney, who fishes for great scallops (or coquilles Saint Jacques) and whelk out of Cherbourg. “I had high hopes for Brexit.”

The fishing industry has long been a contentious part of Brexit, but the roots of the debate go back as far as the 1970s, when talks began on the U.K.’s entry into the European Union. Then, as in now, the fishing industry represented only a small fraction of the economy – less than 1% in the EU as a whole. But as the late Sir Con O’Neill, the U.K. chief negotiator, wrote about the 1972 EU talks, “the question of fisheries was economic peanuts, but political dynamite.”

Shafi Musaddique
Fishers moor their boat at Brixham Harbor, the birthplace of Northern Europe's modern trawling industry.

“A lot of what Brexit was about was making Britain great again, ruling the waves,” says Nick Witney, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “The great British maritime tradition, much like the French one, goes back hundreds of years. ... Fishing taps into the whole national myth-making, but at the end of the day, it’s a trivial economic issue.”

The feeling on both sides of the channel is that the Brexit deal remains a work in progress and that it still doesn’t reflect the desires of each side.

“We thought we’d be thrown out of English waters completely and left alone with Jersey [one of the Channel Islands, just a dozen miles off the French coast], and it turned out to be quite the opposite,” says Marc Delahaye, director of the Normandy Regional Committee for Maritime Fishing (CRPMN), whose office faces the sprawling Cherbourg harbor. The Normandy region counts 2,200 fishers, and Mr. Delahaye estimates that every one job at sea represents two to three on land. “Our feeling in France is that London is now trying to renegotiate fishing within the Brexit deal to their advantage. But little by little, the situation is evolving.”

Britons, too, fear the other side taking advantage. The majority of vessels registered in England are owned by foreign companies in the EU that often take home annual catches worth as much as £160 million ($225 million).

A private path to cooperation?

While there is an EU framework in place that sets out fishing exclusion zones and quotas on total catch amounts, fishers across the channel have operated independently from governments for decades. A system of quota swapping has allowed fishers to work within the rules in a way that benefits both sides and ensures that European fishing remains sustainable for all countries.

Nowhere is that cooperation more evident than in the Mid-Channel Conference, which Mr. Portus of the SWFPO launched 30 years ago. Once a year, fishers from across Europe meet up to find ways to “avoid treading on each other’s toes” and make sure EU regulations are mutually beneficial. But under Brexit regulations, international swaps for quotas ended in January of this year, potentially thwarting future on-the-ground cooperation between the British and French.

“[Our system] worked successfully with no government involvement whatsoever for over 30 years, and as a result there is an element of harmony between the trawlermen of Holland, Germany, France, and the U.K.,” says Mr. Portus. “We’ve avoided conflict between [fishers] from the U.K. and the Channel Islands and the French, equally.”

This year, because of the pandemic, the conference couldn’t go ahead. But it still represents an opportunity for French and British fishers to work together in the coming years, despite what the Brexit deal may bring.

The zone between France and the U.K. will necessarily maintain a certain strategic importance for the industry – over 100 species of fish straddle EU-U.K. waters. And there is a sense of solidarity among fishers on both sides of the channel that this small but thriving industry is one worth fighting for.

“People definitely shouldn’t believe that the relationship between French and English fishermen and women is bad, because it’s just not true,” says Ms. Leroy at the offices of the Armement Cherbourgeois, while her husband, David, offloads crates of whiting and haddock from their Maranatha II trawler down at the dock.

“Fishing is my livelihood. It’s my life,” she says. “Luckily, I still have hope for the future of this industry.”

Poverty in the US persists. Would the ‘Third Reconstruction’ help?

Can underlining the moral imperative to solve long-standing problems move the needle on progress? These reverends hope so.

Mark
Jose Luis Magana/AP/File
The Rev. William J. Barber II (center), accompanied by the Rev. Liz Theoharis (right) and the Rev. Jesse Jackson (far right in black), speaks to the crowd outside the U.S. Capitol during a Poor People's Campaign rally on the National Mall in Washington, June 23, 2018.

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Building on Martin Luther King’s legacy, the Rev. William J. Barber II and the Rev. Liz Theoharis are taking on poverty. Co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, they recently unveiled a congressional resolution sponsored by Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee of California and Pramila Jayapal of Washington. Its title – “Third Reconstruction: Fully addressing poverty and low wages from the bottom up” – points to the history of struggle behind their effort.

“We’ve had reconstruction efforts that never came to their completion,” Dr. Barber says. “That’s why we have to have a third reconstruction effort in this country.”

The links between this campaign and King’s are explicit. King announced his Poor People’s Campaign on Dec. 4, 1967; the reverends announced theirs on Dec. 4, 2017. Both also address issues besides poverty, such as racism.  

Yet Dr. Barber isn’t copying that earlier playbook. “Every movement draws on the past to some degree,” he says. “Then it has to draw new directions in the particular moment in which it lives.”

“We need to think deep and hard about what kind of democracy we claim to be and what we want to be,” he adds.

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Poverty in the US persists. Would the ‘Third Reconstruction’ help?

Two earlier periods of reconstruction profoundly shaped the United States. Now, a pair of reverends, coupled with their allies on the Hill, are calling for a third.

The Rev. William J. Barber II and the Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, unveiled a congressional resolution sponsored by Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee of California and Pramila Jayapal of Washington. The resolution’s title speaks for itself: “Third Reconstruction: Fully addressing poverty and low wages from the bottom up.”

But poverty isn’t its sole focus. The resolution addresses what the campaign calls “five interlocking injustices”: poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation, the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.

The 19-page document is not a bill; it is “the road map,” Dr. Barber says in an interview, “calling us to the resolve to make sure the resolution is turned into real policies.”

“We’ve had reconstruction efforts that never came to their completion,” he adds. “That’s why we have to have a third reconstruction effort in this country.”

The post-Civil War Reconstruction was followed by Jim Crow segregation, leaving the second period of reconstruction during the civil rights movement to try to redo what had been started, says Michael Honey, professor of humanities at the University of Washington Tacoma.

Now, with the Supreme Court’s 2013 nullification of major parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), and stringent voting laws now being proposed and passed by state legislatures, the analogy of a third reconstruction is “a pretty good one,” says Dr. Honey, author of “To the Promised Land: Martin Luther King and the Fight for Economic Justice.”

It also comes at a time when new voting rights legislation has been stymied in the Senate, with a Supreme Court ruling expected before the end of this month that experts believe will erode the VRA further, and after a pandemic in which Black Americans both died at greater rates and disproportionately experienced the economic pain of lockdowns.

“Glad to see them take up the mantle”

Martin Luther King Jr. once called racism, poverty, and war the “three major evils.” Dr. Barber and Dr. Theoharis pick up where King’s campaign left off, purposely making the link explicit. King announced his Poor People’s Campaign on Dec. 4, 1967; the reverends announced theirs on Dec. 4, 2017. Next, the reverends conducted an audit of America that looked at the 50 years since the original campaign assembled on the National Mall in May and June of 1968, just weeks after King’s assassination. The audit quantifies the condition of America’s poor people and identifies myths about poverty, such as that poverty is the fault of poor people.

The percentage of Americans living in poverty has fallen only a couple points since 1968, with 10.5% of Americans (34 million) still living in poverty in 2019, according to a Congressional Research Service report. That’s compared with 12.8% in 1968.

Susan Walsh/AP
The Rev. Liz Theoharis (center), co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, speaks against the filibuster outside National City Christian Church in Washington, April 5, 2021. Sen. Joe Manchin's support for the filibuster and opposition to the For the People Act are among the reasons the campaign has planned a Moral March in West Virginia on Monday.

“I was glad to see them take up the mantle,” says Dr. Bernard LaFayette Jr., the national coordinator for the original Poor People’s Campaign and a colleague of King’s.

Another veteran of that first campaign and its policy director, Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, advised today’s leaders to “build it for the long run.” Heeding that counsel, Dr. Barber says the new campaign is “from the states up” with coordinating committees in 45 states.  

Yet, while Dr. Barber expresses gratitude for that first campaign, he says the current one is not necessarily using the 1968 playbook. For example, the new campaign also focuses on environmental justice and the threat of religious nationalism in the U.S., in addition to King’s three evils.

“Every movement draws on the past to some degree,” he says. “Then it has to draw new directions in the particular moment in which it lives.”

In a forced adjustment to this moment in time, both last year’s march on Washington and this year’s, planned for June 21, were virtual. But an in-person Moral March will be held in the home state of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on Monday, for his opposition to the For the People Act, which would expand voting rights.

Putting “a face on poverty”

Those prior periods of reconstruction saw significant changes to the Constitution itself, including amendments for the abolition of slavery, birthright citizenship, and suffrage for Black men. During the second reconstruction period, amendments to provide electors to Washington, D.C.; abolish poll taxes; and delineate presidential succession were approved.

“You’ve got to have a prophetic imagination and transformation before you have prophetic implementation of policies,” Dr. Barber says.

Asked if changing the Constitution is a goal of the “Third Reconstruction” resolution, Dr. Barber replies affirmatively, mentioning education as “a right."

“We have state constitutions where education is a right, and we don’t have education as a right in our federal Constitution,” Dr. Barber says. “We need to think deep and hard about what kind of democracy we claim to be and what we want to be.”

To fully address poverty, he says, a “moral movement” is needed. “It is a restructuring, a third reconstruction of the way in which we do democracy, we do society, and the way in which we do justice.”

“The problems of poor people are not over,” Dr. LaFayette says. Recalling an early planning meeting for the original Poor People’s Campaign, he says, “Martin Luther King’s purpose, as he expressed it, was to put a face on poverty.”

The echo in Dr. Barber’s words decades later is unmistakable: “We’re going to put a face on these numbers.”

On display: A sea of art captures diversity of ocean experiences

For many, the beach conjures images of summer frivolity. But ocean stories, like those told via a new art exhibition, can reveal deeper truths about the American experience. 

Mark
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
"In American Waters," at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, attracts visitors on June 3, 2021. The exhibition features historical and modern works, including (at right) "Precious jewels by the sea," by Amy Sherald, who also painted former first lady Michelle Obama's portrait.

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A museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is taking a deep dive into maritime life, providing an oceanic framework for discussions around diversity and inclusion in America. 

“In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting,” at the Peabody Essex Museum, is an expansive feast for the eyes, featuring underrepresented artists alongside household names.

Visitors are challenged to think deeply about the cultural and historical significance of the American waters and how they have resonated for various peoples – far beyond the yachting set – during the past 250 years and more. Works by Native American, African American, and female artists are included, with galleries featuring images of immigration and slavery, as well as lighter fare. The variety of works is meant to generate conversation and perhaps shake things up a bit. 

“The interpretation of the sea in American art is much broader than people have ever recognized,” says Daniel Finamore, the Peabody Essex Museum’s associate director of exhibitions and curator of maritime art and history. “It’s my hope that ‘In American Waters’ will explode the confines of the genre so far.”

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On display: A sea of art captures diversity of ocean experiences

As locked-down Americans emerge from pandemic weariness and dream of summer beach excursions, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, is embracing the ocean as a metaphor for the American experience.  

A new exhibition, “In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting,” is more expansive and diverse than just a feast for the eyes – and the featured artists are not just the names one might associate with maritime art.

While some billowing sails and wooden hulls are present here, the curators set out to demonstrate that a nautical collection could feature more than just ship portraits. The variety of works included is meant to generate conversation and perhaps shake things up a bit. 

“The interpretation of the sea in American art is much broader than people have ever recognized,” says Daniel Finamore, associate director of exhibitions and curator of maritime art and history at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM). “It’s my hope that ‘In American Waters’ will explode the confines of the genre so far.”

Different visions of the sea

Assisting Mr. Finamore and the exhibition’s team of curators in that goal are artists who consider the theme from different angles. Currents of sensitivity, inclusivity, and originality run throughout the exhibition – fed by works such as Georgia O’Keeffe’s modern and mystical “Wave, Night” (1928) and a contemporary rendering of teenagers at the beach, “Precious jewels by the sea” (2019), by Amy Sherald, who painted former first lady Michelle Obama’s portrait. The exhibition also navigates directly into such atypical areas as the sea’s transformative significance for immigrants and enslaved people.

Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
"Pertaining to Yachts and Yachting" (1922) by Charles Sheeler, oil on canvas.

One of the show’s early visitors was pleasantly surprised by its depth and breadth. “I was blown away by the inclusion of female, Black, and Indigenous artists,” says Sharon Reidbord of Danvers, Massachusetts, on opening day in late May. “The slave-trade piece was also interesting, as was the structure of the show.” 

The diversity of artists and styles is intentional, meant to prompt contemporary conversation, says PEM associate curator Sarah Chasse. Among the 90 works on display are those by Norman Rockwell, Hale Woodruff, Paul Cadmus, Jacob Lawrence, Valerie Hegarty, and Stuart Davis.

Also included is “New Hampshire Coast,” by Kay WalkingStick, one of only a few Native American female artists focused on marine paintings. A member of the Cherokee Nation, Ms. WalkingStick says she feels “deeply moved to be part of such an important show that combines American artists from two-and-a-half centuries.” On opening day, she praised the curators for the care they took in presenting and labeling her work, which included listing the native name of the coastal location she painted, “Pizagategok,” which means “black river.” 

“Part and parcel of our history”

In some ways, an exhibition on this topic benefits from the way it already permeates national thinking.

“The sea plays a fundamental role in the American imagination,” Thomas Denenberg, director of the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, writes in an email. “It is part and parcel of our history, but, more importantly, the ocean provides one of the organizing myths of our nation. Maritime art, so often taken at face value, is as complicated as any genre with heroic imagery obscuring inconvenient truths.” 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
"New Hampshire Coast" (at right) is by Kay WalkingStick, one of only a few Native American female artists focused on marine paintings.

The sea and its motifs feature in much of American history, from the search for the New World onward. Settlers “moved westward, ‘sailing’ in prairie schooners across the Plains, from sea to shining sea, to gold in California,” writes John Wilmerding, Sarofim Professor of American Art, emeritus, at Princeton University, in an email. “In modern times, we maintained the nautical terminology when we sent astronauts to land on the seas of the moon. We have always identified the idea of ocean and horizon with America’s frontiers and destiny.”

Mr. Finamore says PEM and co-organizer of the exhibition, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, wanted to make the show about the sea on a visceral level. Viewers travel through six sections, starting with the lure of “Horizons,” then on to “Just Off Shore,” “A True Likeness,” and “Voyages,” before anchoring “In Port,” and ending with “Beachcombing.” 

As they experience this metaphorical voyage out to sea and back, visitors are challenged to think about the cultural and historical significance of the American waters and how they have resonated for various peoples – far beyond the yachting set – during the past 250 years and more.

Polish painter Theresa Bernstein’s 1923 work, “The Immigrants,” for example, captures the experience of generations of people who crowded ship decks as they crossed the ocean to begin life anew.

Courtesy of Woodmere Art Museum
"The Immigrants" (1923) by Theresa Bernstein, oil on canvas.

“The immigrant story is often overlooked in American art,” says Mr. Finamore, “yet it is part of the history of so many Americans and a critical subject today.”

The words of the 1883 sonnet by Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus” – famous for its association with the Statue of Liberty – float nearby on a gallery wall:

“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The “Voyages” section includes a handful of works relating to “The Transatlantic Slave Trade and its Repercussions,” which, it is pointed out, is another story rarely portrayed in paintings.

One of these works, “Slave-Yacht Wanderer,“ from the late 1880s, is the only known period oil painting of an American ship engaged in transporting enslaved people. Another speaks to the abolition movement, and three other works painted by Hale Woodruff in 1941 commemorate events surrounding an uprising on the Spanish slave ship Amistad, which, as explained in the adjacent label, “show how a momentary act of rebellion could instill a disenfranchised people with the agency to triumph over oppression.” 

A wall quote by abolitionist Frederick Douglass offers more connection between the maritime theme and history.

“Those beautiful vessels, robed in purest white, so delightful to the eye of the freemen, were to me so many shrouded ghosts, to terrify and torment me with thoughts of my wretched condition. … You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains, and am a slave!”

“In American Waters” returns to land – and a lighter note – in the exhibition’s final gallery. “Beachcombing” brings visitors back to the sandy shore, a place of endless appeal to American painters. 

“It’s not just a 19th-century American realism kind of show,” says Mr. Finamore. “We have some of the best American seascapes from that period, but we look at all the other material surrounding it to talk about the bigger conversation.”

In American Waters” is at the Peabody Essex Museum until Oct. 3. It then travels to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, where it is on view from Nov. 6 until Jan. 31, 2022. 

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The urgency for privacy of taxpayer data

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On Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s attorney general told Congress what he has put at the top of his to-do list: investigating a massive leak of individual tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service.

The leak contained the personal financial information of thousands of wealthy Americans and was partially published Tuesday by an investigative news site, ProPublica. The data itself – which showed how legal tax breaks have helped the super-rich pay a small percentage of their total wealth to the government – was not much of a revelation. What concerned many Democrats and Republicans was that Americans might now lose trust in the IRS and erode their high rate of voluntary tax compliance.

To fund his spending plans, President Biden is counting on the IRS to find more revenue – at least $480 billion – by improving the agency’s tax enforcement. That effort has now been jeopardized by the leak.

Attorney General Merrick Garland’s urgency to find the source of the IRS leak reflects a bipartisan concern to restore trust in government and the ability of individuals to govern their own data. Self-governance lies at the heart of democracy. It also helps explain why an estimated 83% of Americans pay taxes willingly.

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The urgency for privacy of taxpayer data

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One of the words engraved at the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Washington.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s attorney general told Congress what he has put at the top of his to-do list as head of the Justice Department: investigating a massive leak of individual tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service.

“This is an extremely serious matter,” said Merrick Garland. “People are entitled, obviously, to the greatest privacy with respect to their tax returns.”

The leak contained the personal financial information of thousands of wealthy Americans and was partially published Tuesday by an investigative news site, ProPublica. The data itself – which showed how legal tax breaks have helped the super-rich pay a small percentage of their total wealth to the government – was not much of a revelation. What concerned many Democrats and Republicans was that Americans might now lose trust in the IRS and erode their high rate of voluntary tax compliance.

“Anything short of the highest degree of privacy protection for taxpayers’ information could cause them to be far less willing to provide the information that is required by the IRS for full compliance,” said republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

To fund his spending plans, President Biden is counting on the IRS to find more revenue – at least $480 billion – by improving the agency’s tax enforcement. That effort has now been jeopardized by the leak – a crime that makes the leaker liable for a five-year prison term – and the potential loss of faith in fair tax collection.

“Trust and confidence in the Internal Revenue Service is sort of the bedrock of asking people and requiring people to provide financial information,” said IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

The leak comes as the Biden administration, Congress, and numerous states are trying to devise new rules and laws on data protection. “In the past four months of 2021, the amount of state legislative activity around consumer data privacy laws has been frantic,” says corporate attorney Rita Garry. In high-tech, Apple, Google, Facebook, and similar companies are racing to keep up with rising consumer demands for privacy by offering more protection in their software.

A poll in April for Morning Consult found 83% of Americans want Congress to pass privacy legislation. They cite a high concern for the security of their Social Security number, banking information, biometric data, and driver’s license number.

Respecting data privacy is essential not only for people’s financial welfare but also their identity. It honors core values of personal autonomy and the presumption of innocence. “Without privacy, concepts such as identity, dignity, autonomy, independence, imagination, and creativity are more difficult to realize and maintain,” writes David Anderson, Britain’s former reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation.

Attorney General Garland’s urgency to find the source of the IRS leak reflects a bipartisan concern to restore trust in government and the ability of individuals to govern their own data. Self-governance lies at the heart of democracy. It also helps explain why an estimated 83% of Americans pay taxes willingly.

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.

When creativity struck at midnight

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When a computer problem the night before a major project was due meant having to rewrite the whole thing, a man despaired at the situation. But the realization that we can never be cut off from God’s inspiration and wisdom brought peace of mind that enabled him to successfully fulfill the task.

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When creativity struck at midnight

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I had a significant writing project at work with a firm deadline. The night before it was due, I stayed late at the office working on it. At midnight I was almost finished, when my computer dumped my document, and the most recent saved version was from two days earlier.

When I finally started to calm down, I realized I needed to pray for a spiritual perspective on the situation – an approach I’ve found helpful many times in my life. But it was hard to begin when I felt so stupid. I condemned myself: “The smart thing would have been to save the document periodically while working on it. If you had obeyed that intuition just a little, you’d be in a better position now, and God could help you. But you didn’t, so you aren’t, so God can’t.”

Yet from somewhere deep in my heart came the realization: “Wait! I cannot be separated from God.”

The Bible says God is “a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). God doesn’t throw difficulties at His children to see how we do. Each of us is God’s idea – God’s spiritual self-expression. So we necessarily manifest the wisdom of the Divine. We are God’s accomplishment, made to express spiritual qualities such as patience, wisdom, and creativity.

That was the answer to my despair. I calmly returned to my computer, and by morning, the document was finished.

It’s possible that it was better than the first version, and I certainly learned a lesson about saving my work more often. But the real blessing from that experience was seeing that we can never be in a situation – whether due to outside circumstances or our own mistakes – where we are cut off from God, Love, or where divine inspiration is unavailable to guide us, one step at a time, in the right direction.

In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, wrote, “...divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object;...” (p. 304). Each of us is both: the manifestation, the accomplishment, of divine Love, and the object, the recipient, of God’s limitless love. Realizing this spiritual fact enables us to more fully feel and live the productive qualities God expresses in all His children.

We are all equipped to be what God makes us to be. And as I saw that night in the office, God always loves us for it.

Adapted from the May 31, 2021, Christian Science Daily Lift podcast.

Looking for more timely inspiration like this? Check out the “Related stories” below; explore other recent content from the Monitor’s daily Christian Science Perspective column; or sign up for the free weekly newsletters for this column or the Christian Science Sentinel, a sister publication of the Monitor.

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A crescent ... sun?

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press/AP
A partial solar eclipse appears over the skyline of Toronto on June 10, 2021.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris. )

A look ahead

Thank you for joining us today. Please come back tomorrow when two of our writers – Stephen Humphries and Tyler Bey – review Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new film “In the Heights” and examine how it fits with the tone of the times.

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