2021
November
18
Thursday

Monitor Daily Podcast

November 18, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

What Rittenhouse trial, carbon taxes, and ‘King Richard’ have in common

When you think about the values that drive news coverage, the most obvious might be ones like fairness or security or compassion. So much of news is the story of society wrestling with different notions of how to best express those qualities – and the disagreements that result.

This issue of The Christian Science Monitor Daily offers insight on a value that is just as crucial but often less talked about: responsibility. 

What is vigilantism but a conviction that the state has failed or is not fully capable of carrying out its responsibilities, so citizens have to step in? What are carbon taxes but the conviction that government agencies need to compel more responsibility from citizens to address climate change? What is the new film “King Richard,” but an examination of the fraught lines of parental responsibility – the lines between the tough love needed to build character and success, and an unhealthy and maniacal obsession?   

All such qualities are double-edged. Responsibility can be an appropriate desire to have all contribute or a weapon to blame and persecute others. Different societies will come to different conclusions about how best to express responsibility – collectively and individually, voluntarily or through compulsion, and where it turns from tough love and trust to prejudice and projection of power.

But finding that balance starts with thoughtful, nuanced conversations that reject simplistic answers. Today’s issue is our contribution to that goal.

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Vigilance or vigilantism? Old laws’ legacy in modern US.

The Rittenhouse trial, the trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers, and Texas’ controversial abortion law all point to some Americans’ increasing desire to aggressively police others’ behavior. The trend has echoes of vigilantism’s long history in the U.S.

Mark
Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News/AP
Kyle Rittenhouse waits during a break in his trial for killing two people and wounding one at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Wisconsin on Nov. 15, 2021. A jury is considering whether Mr. Rittenhouse, then 17, acted in self-defense.

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Two high-profile murder trials coming to a close in the U.S. pose a challenging question: To what extent can a regular citizen legally take on the duties of an armed agent of the state?

On the shores of Lake Michigan, a jury is weighing evidence against a teenager who killed two people and wounded a third after bringing a military-grade rifle to a city gripped by social unrest.

A thousand miles away, in Brunswick, Georgia, prosecutors have charged three white men with murder for chasing down, cornering, and then killing a Black jogger named Ahmaud Arbery. The men said they were trying to execute a citizen’s arrest. The man who fired his shotgun said he did it in self-defense after Mr. Arbery, who carried neither gun nor stolen goods, turned on his pursuers. 

The trial dynamics have left Americans scrambling to unspool the implications of what Harvard historian Caroline Light calls a “tortured tangle of old and very new laws” that together are transforming the nature of protest and citizenship.

Citizen “enforcement of different or related social norms [is] the legacy ... that descends down to us today – and what you see in these trials,” says Robert Tsai, a law professor at Boston University.

Vigilance or vigilantism? Old laws’ legacy in modern US.

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Two high-profile murder trials coming to a close in the U.S. pose a challenging question: To what extent can a regular citizen legally take on the duties of an armed agent of the state?

On the shores of Lake Michigan, a jury is weighing evidence against a teenager who killed two people and wounded a third after bringing a military-grade rifle to a city gripped by social unrest.

A thousand miles away, in Brunswick, Georgia, prosecutors have charged three white men with murder for chasing down, cornering, and then killing a Black jogger named Ahmaud Arbery. The men said they were trying to execute a citizen’s arrest. The man who fired his shotgun said he did it in self-defense after Mr. Arbery, who carried neither gun nor stolen goods, turned on his pursuers. 

The trial dynamics have left Americans scrambling to unspool the implications of what Harvard historian Caroline Light calls a “tortured tangle of old and very new laws” that together are transforming the nature of protest and citizenship.

“These cases are mirror images of each other in terms of figuring out the landscape of firearms in society writ large,” says Seattle-area firearms instructor Brett Bass, a former military police officer. 

Though the details are different, the two trials address in their own way the interplay of guns and power in a country where the sight of citizens brandishing weapons to enforce order or protect property has become increasingly common.

In some ways, in the midst of police reforms, constitutional carry, and liberalized self-defense laws, it’s a picture of a country reverting to a past norm: The 19th-century doctrine of Manifest Destiny held that the United States was divinely authorized to spread capitalism and democracy throughout the American continents. The result was war with Mexico and mass violence against Indigenous people, justified by self-defense claims of white settlers.

During its history, the U.S. has hosted hundreds of vigilante movements, including the Ku Klux Klan, that have operated with varying degrees of state blessing. Some literally got away with murder. Between 1882 and 1968, 4,743 people were lynched in the United States, according to Tuskegee University.

Citizen “enforcement of different or related social norms [is] the legacy ... that descends down to us today – and what you see in these trials,” says Robert Tsai, a law professor at Boston University.

Sean Rayford/AP
Defendant Travis McMichael observes court proceedings during trial at the Glynn County Courthouse, Nov. 8, 2021, in Brunswick, Georgia. Mr. McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, are charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.

A convergence of laws leading to tragedy

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, a mostly white jury is navigating a complex case. The law doesn’t protect people who start a fight and then claim they killed in self-defense. But the jury will ultimately decide whether Kyle Rittenhouse, who traveled from his home state, acted reasonably in the moment when he raised his barrel to shoot.

In Brunswick, prosecutors say “driveway decisions” and “assumptions” sparked the men – Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan – to chase Mr. Arbery. The men weren’t arrested until a video showing the shooting appeared two months after the death, causing a national outcry.

All those involved in the Kenosha incident were white. But the racial component of the Brunswick case – in particular, its disturbing link to the state’s Jim Crow lynching legacy – gives experts added pause.

“What the Ahmaud Arbery murder reveals is the convergence of citizen’s arrest and stand your ground and open carry laws – it’s all those together,” says Joseph Margulies, a human rights expert at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Citizen’s arrest laws vary by state, but allow a person who witnesses a crime to detain the person committing it. Stand your ground laws, which came to national attention during George Zimmerman’s trial for killing Trayvon Martin, permit a person to use force, including deadly force, in a confrontation. Open carry laws, which are in a majority of states, allow gun owners to carry weapons openly in public.

“Citizen’s arrest gave [the defendants] the ostensible authority to act, open carry lets them hop into their truck with a gun, and ‘stand your ground’ lets them shoot when Ahmaud Arbery resists, because now they’re worried about the threat of bodily injury,” explains Mr. Margulies. “Add in a dash of implicit and explicit bias and, predictably, you’re going to have the murder of young Blacks who are doing nothing except jogging through the neighborhood.” 

The three men’s attorney contends that laws that blur the line between citizen and state bolster the men’s defense, given that their intent was to protect their neighborhood.

“The why it happened is what this case is about,” defense attorney Franklin Hogue said last week. “This case is about intent, beliefs, knowledge – reasons for beliefs, whether they were true or not.” 

In both incidents, defendants armed themselves in the name of protecting someone else’s property. But those actions had another purpose, experts say: They were attempts to establish a hierarchy, using armed force as a claim on state power.

“In both of these cases, we can see that the law ... has been carefully crafted to ensure that it looks neutral,” says Professor Light at Harvard. “But in its actual application it excuses violence under the guise of self-defense for powerful social actors.”

Stephen B. Morton/AP
The Rev. Jesse Jackson (center) holds hands with Marcus Arbery (left) father of Ahmaud Arbery, and Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones (right) right, during the trial of Greg McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse, Nov. 15, 2021, in Brunswick, Georgia. The three are charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.

Citizens policing other citizens

The laws have emboldened at least some Americans to establish a more offensive posture toward other citizens, sometimes at the urging of the state. Take Texas. In a bid this year to ban abortion, state law now offers a $10,000 bounty to citizens to sue abortion providers. The Supreme Court is set to rule any day on whether that law is constitutional.

But progressives, too, have posited similar ideas in the wake of social justice protests after George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. The defund the police movement – as well as autonomous zones set up in Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and a few other cities – stems from the hypothesis that a shift of resources away from coercive policing would empower citizens to take a bolder role in dealing with neighborhood issues, including, ostensibly, petty crime.

“The interplay is thorny – that interplay between shifting responsibility away from police ... but then asking: To whom are you shifting it? And is that result a salutary one?” asks Mr. Margulies at Cornell. “What this vigilantism shows is that communities may not get this right, either.” 

At least 560 demonstrations in the past few years have included citizens bringing firearms, purportedly to assist police in protecting property. Those gatherings were six times more likely to turn violent than unarmed gatherings, according to Everytown, a gun control advocacy group.

Last year, armed militiamen glared from the rotunda above Michigan lawmakers debating COVID-19 lockdowns. Some of those men later were arrested by the FBI on domestic terrorism charges for a plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. One man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison. Attorneys for the others are arguing that the plot to kidnap an elected official was in essence a high-level citizen’s arrest justified by the pandemic’s blow to civil liberties. 

Some Republican lawmakers have worked to portray the deadly violence of the Jan. 6 insurrection as the understandable outcome of allegations of a stolen election, despite the lack of evidence. Some 700 people have been arrested so far for their role in storming the Capitol. On Wednesday, the so-called Q Shaman, Jacob Chansley, was sentenced to three years and five months in prison – the longest sentence handed down to date.

“What we see percolating to the top of the cultural conversation is not the language of defense – it is the language of aggression,” writes Kimberly Kessler Ferzan, co-director of the Institute of Law & Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, in a recent paper. Using violence in the name of the state “is where the action is.”

Courts are clearly dealing with the ramifications of violence in the name of protecting others. But the issue is also coming to a head for elected officials.

After the killing of Mr. Arbery, Georgia quickly narrowed its citizen’s arrest law to allow only shopkeepers to detain suspected shoplifters. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said the old law could be “used to justify rogue vigilantism.”

Whether other states will follow suit is unclear. South Carolina’s citizen's arrest law suggests that citizens may use the cover of darkness to capture those they suspect of wrongdoing, even allowing them to kill their captives. It was written in the 1860s.

A bill to change that language died in committee this year.

Cynthia Lee, a professor at George Washington University School of Law, created a model use-of-force ordinance being adopted across the U.S. Professor Lee, author of “Murder and the Reasonable Man,” is working on legal language that would help lawmakers – and police – establish when brandishing a weapon poses a civil or constitutional threat.

For now, the trials in Brunswick and Kenosha, Mr. Bass believes, will at the very least serve as a cautionary reminder: The same weapons that are seen as symbols of liberty can put a person’s liberty at risk.

“It’s worth highlighting that, no matter the verdict, the system is still working,” says Mr. Bass, with defendants facing charges of murder in both instances. 

State prosecution of both cases, he says, shows that “if your objective is not to get killed or have somebody you care about not get killed, you have to accept that the cost of surviving that encounter – or even saving someone’s life – could be very dire.”

Q&A

GOP chair: Under Trump, ‘we’ve become a working-class party’

In our latest Monitor Breakfast with Washington newsmakers, Linda Feldmann hosts GOP leader Ronna McDaniel to talk about former President Donald Trump, the 2022 elections, and more.

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When it comes to former President Donald Trump, Ronna McDaniel is adamant about one thing: “If he left the party, Republicans would lose.”

“He has built our party,” the Republican National Committee chair told reporters at a breakfast Thursday hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “He has added a new base. We’ve become a working-class party. I saw it in my home state of Michigan.”

Chairwoman McDaniel’s good working relationship with Mr. Trump is well documented. It goes back to 2016, when she was instrumental in helping him unexpectedly win Michigan – a key electoral battleground – as state party chair. Soon, Mr. Trump recommended her as chair of the Republican National Committee, ensuring her election by party officials in early 2017, and every two years since. 

Ms. McDaniel acknowledges that Joe Biden is the president, despite Mr. Trump’s continued resistance to the idea. But she hedges on whether his election was legitimate, despite the certification of results in the states and by Congress on Jan. 6.

“Painfully, Joe Biden won the election,” she said. “I mean, he’s the president, of course. It’s very painful to watch. I think there were lots of problems with the election. And I think it needs to be looked at. But yeah, he’s the president.” 

GOP chair: Under Trump, ‘we’ve become a working-class party’

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Michael Bonfigli/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, speaks at the St. Regis Hotel on Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington.

When it comes to former President Donald Trump, Ronna McDaniel is adamant about one thing: “If he left the party, Republicans would lose.”

“He has built our party,” the Republican National Committee chair told reporters at a breakfast Thursday hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “He has added a new base. We’ve become a working-class party. I saw it in my home state of Michigan.”

That former President Trump’s status as a Republican is even an issue might seem odd, as he appears to be seriously considering another run for the Oval Office in 2024 as a Republican. But the release of a new book this week by Jonathan Karl of ABC News has revived discussion of Mr. Trump’s party loyalty and his reaction to losing reelection.  

Mr. Karl wrote that on his final day in office, Mr. Trump told Chairwoman McDaniel that he was leaving the GOP and creating his own party. In response, Ms. McDaniel threatened to stop paying the legal bills incurred during post-election challenges and take away access to an email list of 40 million Trump supporters, according to Mr. Karl’s sources. 

“This is false,” Ms. McDaniel said Thursday, declining to elaborate further. 

Despite the reported clash, Ms. McDaniel’s good working relationship with Mr. Trump is well-documented. It goes back to 2016, when she was instrumental in helping him unexpectedly win Michigan – a key electoral battleground – as state party chair.

Soon, President-elect Trump recommended her as chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), ensuring her election by party officials in early 2017, and every two years since. 

Ms. McDaniel acknowledges that Joe Biden is the president, despite Mr. Trump’s continued resistance to the idea. But she hedges on whether his election was legitimate, despite the certification of results in the states and by Congress on Jan. 6.

“Painfully, Joe Biden won the election,” she said. “I mean, he’s the president, of course. It’s very painful to watch. I think there were lots of problems with the election. And I think it needs to be looked at. But yeah, he’s the president.” 

Following are more excerpts from the Monitor Breakfast with Ms. McDaniel, lightly edited for clarity. 

Do you still consider Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney a Republican, following her state party’s vote last weekend to no longer recognize her as a party member? She has become a vocal critic of Mr. Trump, lost her GOP leadership position in Congress, and faces a vigorous primary challenge for her House seat next year. 

Obviously, she’s still a Republican. But I get from a state party standpoint, when you have a congressperson or a senator who’s not supporting your state party, who is not talking about electing Republicans up and down the ballot. 

The state party is the most grassroots body that a state has. These are people who are running in their district committee and they’re going to their county convention and they’re getting on their state committee and they really represent where the party is in their state. So that was their choice to do that. And then the voters will make a choice in the primary in Wyoming. 

Do you agree with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, that the GOP has to move beyond Mr. Trump? 

Every Republican right now should be talking about 2022, and that’s where I am as the Republican Party chair. I’m not talking about anything else other than what Biden is doing to destroy our country: high gas prices, an open border, an opioid crisis. We just saw a hundred thousand people died last year [from drug overdoses]. That correlates with a massive influx of opioids coming across our border. 

Fellow Michigander Fred Upton, a Republican congressman, received a death threat over his vote for President Biden’s infrastructure bill. This week, GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was censured and removed from his House committees over a violent video targeting a female member of Congress and Mr. Biden. What can be done to restore a sense of comity in American politics? 

And there was [California Democratic Rep.] Maxine Waters saying, if you see them form a crowd, get in their face. And there were many instances of Democrats saying things like that who, by the way, didn’t get censured. Then there’s a bomb in front of the RNC, and the [Democratic National Committee], too, so I’m very against it.

Social media is a big part of it. I think, you know, it’s hard for anybody. I don’t know the answer to that. I wish I did. It’s hard to be on social media for anybody. Anybody who looks at their comments is probably nicer to the Democrats on Twitter than Republicans. 

It’s nasty. I’ve had death threats. We’ve had to have security. I don’t always publicize that, but we’ve all had moments right now in this public sphere. 

When did you get death threats? 

I turned it over to the FBI, so I’m not going to share it. But it was a pretty graphic image sent to my home address, in the mail. I think the person was unwell, because he put his address on it. It was pretty early on when I started [as RNC chair.]

There are several Republican candidates for Senate – Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker in Georgia, Eric Greitens in Missouri – contending with serious accusations of violence against women. Are you concerned that that hurts the party’s brand?

Well, obviously, you take domestic violence very seriously, so if there were criminal charges or if that got pursued, we would look at that very seriously. But it’s going to be up to the voters to decide, and [the candidates] have to make their case and tell their story.

How do you see Mr. Trump’s role in next year’s midterm elections? 

I’ve said all along, Trump’s going to be critical in turning out voters in the midterms, and he’s a huge factor in our party. If you look at his popularity, if you look at the polls, they’re going to be looking to him. And there’s going to be other leaders in our party, too, that are going to help. But it’s going to come down to the candidate connecting with the voter on the issues that matter to them. That’s ultimately what it’s going to be. And we have great issues to run on right now.

Any chance you’ll jump into the Michigan governor’s race next year? After all, you come from a storied political family: Grandfather George Romney was governor of Michigan and Uncle Mitt Romney is a senator from Utah. Both your mother, Ronna Romney, and grandmother Lenore Romney also ran for office. 

There is zero chance I will be jumping into the Michigan governor’s race.

The C-SPAN video of the breakfast can be viewed here.

Oxford prepares for electric-car future. Britons may be cool to the cost.

Voters in wealthy nations largely agree that fighting climate change is a global good. But an experiment in Oxford is testing the willingness to make personal sacrifices toward those goals.

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The English city of Oxford is set to implement some of the strictest green rules for cars in the United Kingdom. Starting in February, drivers of nonelectric vehicles will have to pay £10 ($13.50) a day to enter a zero-emission zone in the city’s historic core.

The idea is to nudge drivers to consider buying an electric vehicle. These cars now make up a fifth of new auto sales in affluent cities like Oxford. By 2030, the British government plans to end the sale of new gas and diesel cars. Proponents say zoning cities now for low or zero emissions is a way to speed up that transition by ratcheting up the cost of owning polluting vehicles, while also encouraging more people to walk or cycle.

But many Britons remain wary of the cost of going green at a time of rising global prices, including for the fossil fuels on which the world still depends.

Kelvin Che, a restaurant worker driving in the zone, isn’t ready to trade in his 15-year-old gasoline car. Next time, he’ll probably take the bus. “I’d prefer not to pay,” he says, adding that he supports the city’s green policies. “It’s a good direction.”

Oxford prepares for electric-car future. Britons may be cool to the cost.

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Simon Montlake/The Christian Science Monitor
Goods are unloaded next to an electric delivery truck behind an indoor market in Oxford, England, Nov 5, 2021. The market lies inside a zero-emission zone that would be the first in the U.K. to charge conventional cars a daily fee to enter.

In a lane bounded by a medieval college and the entrance to an indoor market, Kelvin Che backs his white BMW sedan into a parking spot. As Mr. Che waits for a friend, small trucks disgorge goods for the market, a warren of independent stalls that first opened in 1776. 

This lane is among a cluster in Oxford’s historic core that are zoned for zero emissions. Starting in February, drivers of nonelectric vehicles will have to pay £10 ($13.50) a day to enter the zone, making this city of 150,000 the first in the United Kingdom to set such a strict standard. 

The idea is to nudge drivers like Mr. Che to consider buying an electric vehicle (EV). These cars now make up a fifth of new auto sales in affluent cities like Oxford. By 2030, the British government plans to end the sale of new gas and diesel cars. Proponents say zoning cities now for low or zero emissions is a way to speed up that transition by ratcheting up the cost of owning polluting vehicles, while also encouraging more people to walk or cycle, a lifestyle trend that surged during pandemic lockdowns.

Oxford is joining several other British cities planning or creating zones to curb tailpipe emissions. The zones are designed to improve air quality and public health, but have become part of the toolbox for policymakers trying to cut carbon emissions from transportation – the largest source of emissions in the U.K., which hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Last month London expanded its Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which launched in 2019 and levies a charge of £12.50 a day to older petrol and diesel vehicles. The new zone covers a 240-square-mile area, making it the largest in Europe. The initial, smaller zone is credited with the removal of tens of thousands of mostly diesel cars from central London’s streets. 

“The most progressive cities are doing a lot more in tackling climate change,” says Lorraine Whitmarsh, who directs the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST). “That’s where most of the innovation is happening.”

But many Britons remain wary of the cost of going green at a time of rising global prices, including for the fossil fuels on which the world still depends. 

Mr. Che, a restaurant worker driving in the zone, isn’t ready to trade in his 15-year-old gasoline car. Next time, he’ll probably take the bus. “I’d prefer not to pay,” he says, adding that he supports the city’s green policies. “It’s a good direction.”

Focusing on delivery vehicles

Given its modest scale, Oxford’s zero-emission zone seems unlikely to arm-twist many car owners into going electric. Store owners and residents, mostly students living in Oxford colleges, will get exemptions; some of the zoned streets are already pedestrianized. 

But its planned rollout is shaking up the delivery industry that services the area: One local company has introduced a fleet of electric trucks, and a cycle courier service is expanding. Market traders are trying out two city-provided e-cargo bikes for daily deliveries. 

Tom Hayes, a city councilor for green transportation, says business owners need to see the benefits of replacing their polluting vehicles. He hopes the zone can be expanded in the future. “If we prove we can do it in this zone at the start, then we’re confident we can persuade businesses with larger economies of scale they can invest,” he says. 

Simon Montlake/The Christian Science Monitor
Climate activists hold a street protest in Oxford, England, to urge action at the U.N. Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 5, 2021. Oxford plans to introduce the U.K.'s first zero-emission zone that would charge nonelectric cars a daily fee to drive inside it.

An emphasis on commercial vehicles makes sense, says Tim Schwanen, a geography professor at Oxford University who studies low-carbon transportation. As more British cities put limits on vehicle emissions, owners of national fleets will want to make sure their drivers aren’t shut out. Low-emission zones are “not hugely effective in getting people to switch from driving to cycling. But they do make a difference in terms of [commercial] vehicle purchase or leasing,” he says. 

Many cities across Europe have similar zones that ban or restrict polluting vehicles on some or all days. By contrast, only Santa Monica in California has experimented with a voluntary zero-emission zone for downtown deliveries. (New York City plans to introduce weekday congestion charges for private vehicles in midtown Manhattan but won’t apply emissions standards.) 

It “has to be fair and it has to be clean”

Still, bringing along the British public may be a challenge. Surveys show that most voters accept that their carbon-intensive lifestyles must change if the U.K. is to meet its net-zero emissions target of 2050. This translates into support for higher aviation taxes on frequent flyers, for example. But the cost of going green, and a sense that it isn’t fair for all, remains a counterweight. 

Take electric vehicles: A recent CAST survey found that 62% of respondents favored subsidies for EVs. But that fell to 34% if it would cost respondents more “personally” to drive a gas or diesel car. “If you just focus on the negatives, like saying this will cost you more, you get people saying they’re not in favor,” says Dr. Whitmarsh, who is also an environmental psychologist at the University of Bath. 

Mr. Hayes says he hears similar concerns from voters in Oxford on issues of equity and fairness. “Access to energy has to be fair and it has to be clean,” he says, adding that he also stresses the health benefits of cycling or walking over driving. 

Patrick Bligh, a retiree taking a stroll along a pedestrianized street, says he drives a hybrid (which isn’t exempt) and has no objections to a zero-emission zone, but he worries about the burden on low-income households that can’t afford an EV. “An awful lot of people who drive older cars will fall foul of the rule. That’s a big problem,” he says.

Across the street, bookstore owner Michael Keirs says he’s not convinced the zone will get people out of their cars as much as displace traffic onto other streets. He cycles to his store, but has book sellers who must heft heavy boxes there. “I think the policy is being rushed. I don’t think enough thought has gone into it,” he says. 

On a nearby zoned lane, David Turzik parked his diesel truck to make another delivery. He says he’d like to go green, but the current range of electric trucks would make it hard to cover his region. “I drive 120 miles a day,” he says. When he told his employer about Oxford’s new zone, he says the response was “to pay the fee.” 

More than just promoting EVs

The U.K.’s drive to replace internal combustion engine cars isn’t matched by any policy to reduce driving overall. That means it’s relying on rapid EV uptake to deliver the necessary emission cuts, says Greg Archer, U.K. director of Transport & Environment, a European research and advocacy nonprofit. 

He argues that a successful green-mobility adaptation needs to include limits on car use, such as emissions zones, given that millions of polluting cars will remain on the roads for decades. “We’ve left it too late to get enough EVs on the road by 2030 to meet our climate targets,” he says. “So, we’re going to need to start to reduce vehicle use.”

That isn’t how Prime Minister Boris Johnson sees the transition to electric cars. In a foreword to the U.K.’s net-zero strategy, he wrote: “For years, going green was inextricably bound up with a sense that we have to sacrifice the things we love. But this strategy shows how we can build back greener, without so much as a hair shirt in sight.”

In London, which has the country’s most extensive mass transit, Mayor Sadiq Khan has set a target of 80% of trips in the city to be taken by foot, cycle, or transit by 2041, up from 65% today. His administration has expanded cycle lanes that saw a spike in usage during pandemic lockdowns and upgraded 9,000 buses to meet ULEZ standards.  

Oxford has also added cleaner-burning buses, says Mr. Hayes. But he worries that as Oxford upgrades its fleet, older buses will end up on the streets of other cash-strapped cities, displacing – not ending – their emissions. “You can’t fix the climate crisis in the U.K. without [supporting] the councils,” he says.  

In London, owners of polluting vehicles can apply for compensation to scrap them; around 8,000 have done so thus far. But analysts say most cars went to other towns and cities. 

Still, the air quality on London’s streets has improved inside the ULEZ, which builds support for ambitious clean-transport policy, says Mr. Archer, who is hopeful that Oxford can do the same. “I think it sends a clear message to the local population that this is the transition that is necessary.”

A letter from

Colorado

Searching for bighorn sheep, finding patience

After moving from the East Coast to the Mountain West, one Monitor reporter adjusts to a slower pace. Patience has its rewards ­­– especially outdoors.

Mark
Sarah Matusek/The Christian Science Monitor
Visitors can learn about bighorn sheep and their habits at the Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Festival in Georgetown, Colorado. Here, festivalgoers try to spot sheep on the mountainside, Nov. 13, 2021.

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The annual Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Festival in Colorado is back after a pandemic hiatus. It’s an autumn homage to the state animal with curlicue horns. The event syncs with their “rut” – or mating season – when rams head-clash over ewes. Sounds like gunshots, locals say.

The festival offers education while also boosting tourism in a town that’s “kind of like a Rockwell painting,” says Paul Boat, executive director of the Georgetown Trust for Conservation and Preservation, which co-organized the day. 

To help visitors view the burly herbivores, volunteers like Jane Frobose spread out with binoculars. Until now, that’s one accessory I’d never thought to own.

This summer I moved to Colorado from New York City. In my experience, fauna in Queens was mostly puddle-hopping pigeons and subway rats that drag pizza slices through the filth.

I do miss New York-style pizza, but not my impatience. It accrued over years of city living the way a gait gathers speed down the sidewalk. Patience has its perks as my eyes take more in: spindly wildflowers, tapestries of stars, mountain peaks already glowing with snow. And as the festivities wind down, I even spot two bighorns. 

Searching for bighorn sheep, finding patience

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Binoculars burrow into brows as a cluster of Coloradans squint up the slope. The main attraction has yet to show. To be fair, the wind tugging at the brims of baseball caps may explain the absence of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.

“You look for moving rocks,” says volunteer Jane Frobose. Another tip is to spot their rumps ­­– “white like long johns.” One guy outside the visitor center this Saturday morning claims to see them. The rest of us keep waiting, squinting. 

The annual Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Festival is back after a pandemic hiatus. It’s an autumn homage to the state animal with curlicue horns. It centers around the local “Georgetown herd,” a hoofed posse of up to 350 sheep that rock-scramble above Interstate 70. The event syncs with their “rut” – or mating season – when rams head-clash over ewes. Sounds like gunshots, locals say.

To seek out suitable females, males protrude their upper lip into a curl and taste the air. “I think it’s kind of silly-looking, but don’t tell them I said that,” says district wildlife manager Joe Walter of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), at a midday talk.

Georgetown, population roughly 1,000, grew out of a 19th-century silver-mining town. Of its handful of stores, one is a Christmas shop open year-round. A lakeside wildlife viewing station has telescopes trained on the mountainside. The festival offers education while also boosting tourism in a town that’s “kind of like a Rockwell painting,” says Paul Boat, executive director of the Georgetown Trust for Conservation and Preservation, which co-organized the day. 

Wayne D. Lewis/Colorado Parks and Wildlife
A pair of bighorn rams enjoy the Colorado sun.

The event has several offerings, from train rides and library crafts to a fire pit with s’mores in a town park. To help visitors view the burly herbivores, CPW volunteers like Ms. Frobose spread out with binoculars. Until now, that’s one accessory I’d never thought to own.

This summer I moved to Denver from New York City. In my experience, fauna in Queens was mostly puddle-hopping pigeons and subway rats that drag pizza slices through the filth.

I do miss New York-style pizza, but not my impatience. It accrued over years of city living the way a gait gathers speed down the sidewalk. The Mountain West has forced me to slow down. It’s the spaciousness, I suspect, that takes patience to traverse.

Yes, Denver’s a city, but one where my grocery trips involve driving a car. Few places stay open 24/7. Hikes take time; so does making new friends. But over the past few months, I’ve slowly let my old pace go. Patience has its perks as my eyes take in more: spindly wildflowers, tapestries of stars, mountain peaks already glowing with snow. I may not catch the sheep today, but what a joy to wait.

Sarah Matusek/The Christian Science Monitor
Bighorn sheep watchers gather for a glimpse of the animals outside the Gateway Visitor Center in Georgetown, Colorado, Nov. 13, 2021.

Right before festivities wind down at 3 o’clock, I see a man standing solo in the park. He’s stock-still, eyes angled up through binoculars.

Volunteer Bill Mock is patient; it takes a few minutes for my gaze through the lens to align with his guidance. Past the beige blur of rocks, past a rooftop in the way ...

There they are. Two pairs of long johns.

Part of the fun, says the man in camouflage, is helping others see.

Film

Venus, Serena, and their father: ‘King Richard’ biopic is an ace

What does it take to get your children’s talent recognized? “King Richard” engagingly argues the Williams sisters would not have conquered tennis without their father’s determination and vision.

Mark
Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures
In “King Richard,” Will Smith (center) stars as Richard Williams. The patriarch is merciless in his mentorship of his daughters, declaring, “I’m in the champion-raising business.”

Venus, Serena, and their father: ‘King Richard’ biopic is an ace

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“King Richard,” starring Will Smith in his best performance yet, is an enormously entertaining movie about Richard Williams, the high-powered patriarch of tennis superstars Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton). Perhaps “high-powered” doesn’t quite capture him. Obsessively controlling? Imperially stubborn? However he comes across in the movie – and he’s all of these things and more – you can’t argue with the results: He meticulously groomed his daughters practically from birth to become two of the greatest players in history. “I’m in the champion-raising business,” he declares early on.

No argument there.

The film opens with Richard’s voice-over: “When I grew up, tennis was not a game people played. We were too busy running from the Klan.” He occasionally alludes to his harrowing Louisiana boyhood, but his overriding focus is the respect he demands for his family, including three other daughters and his exasperated, waywardly supportive wife, Brandi (Aunjanue Ellis, whose richly layered performance fully matches Smith’s). 

Because the Williams sisters, winningly played in the film, are such fixtures in the superstar firmament, it’s easy to forget how unlikely their origin story is. Growing up in the gang-ridden Los Angeles suburb of Compton, they played, rain or shine, not on well-tended country club courts but in ramshackle local parks. 

Richard, who works as an after-hours security guard, is merciless in his mentorship – his motto is “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” – and yet the girls clearly adore him. It’s because he cares. There’s a marvelous moment near the beginning when Richard cautiously confronts a gang member who has been coming on to the eldest sister Tunde (Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew) on the tennis court, and as a van load of his daughters looks on, is summarily beaten. What makes the scene so powerful is the sad, resigned look on their faces. They’ve seen this before. Their brief consolations on the drive home are the surest sign of their love.

As Richard makes the rounds looking for a top coach for the preteen Venus and Serena, he brushes off the vaguely condescending rejections. When he finally lands a biggie – Paul Cohen (a terrific Tony Goldwyn), who coaches Pete Sampras and John McEnroe – he insists on second-guessing him. Cohen agrees to coach just Venus, whose ascent from 1991 to 1994 is the film’s primary focus, because he won’t train both daughters for free. When Cohen is later dumped for Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal, also terrific), Richard bullies him, too. 

Although the film, directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and written by Zach Baylin, doesn’t make a big point of it, Richard’s mania for success is clearly racially motivated. He chastises the agents and managers who want to highlight Venus’ roots, and yet it’s obvious he enjoys the way she, in effect, is sticking it to the white establishment. 

As enjoyable as the film is, it does nevertheless skirt some of the more questionable aspects of Richard’s manipulations and airbrushes a few of this family man’s more unsavory aspects, such as his serial infidelities. Was he using his daughters as glorified props in his campaign to overthrow his past and seize respect? He’s an inveterate braggart who lectures his daughters to stay humble. Did they never bridle at his strictness? 

Perhaps because Venus and Serena are executive producers, these issues and contradictions are never really confronted in the film. We are also left with the largely unchallenged notion, per Richard, that hard work can make anything happen. I imagine that mantra is cold comfort to all those people of color in poor neighborhoods who lack the Williams sisters’ gifts. 

But perhaps it’s too much to ask of a Hollywood biopic that it be both crowd-pleasing and scrupulously probing. The fact remains that, however it came to pass, the Williams sisters’ saga is so improbably inspirational that watching their ascent, coupled with Smith’s crackerjack performance, had me grinning the entire time. It’s the most sheerly pleasurable movie I’ve seen so far this year.

Peter Rainer is the Monitor’s film critic. “King Richard” is rated PG-13 for some violence, strong language, a sexual reference, and brief drug references. The film is available in theaters and on HBO Max on Nov. 19. 

Editor's note: This review has been updated to correct which sister is being harassed on the tennis court early in the movie. It is Tunde.

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China meets its match in women’s tennis

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Something in the nature of sports – its universal appeal, its purity and joy – often wields power outside of sports. A table tennis match in 1971, for example, helped open ties between China and the United States. Now professional women’s tennis is having its moment in bringing change outside the game itself.

Unlike many other international sports groups that have buckled under pressure from China to keep access in its large market, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) is standing up to Beijing on behalf of Peng Shuai, a champion Chinese player. Since Nov. 2, when she posted accusations of sexual assault against a prominent Communist Party leader, Ms. Peng – once No. 1 in the world in doubles – has disappeared.

The WTA has called for “independent and verifiable proof” of her safety and whereabouts, even threatening to end a long-term deal to hold its finals in China. And it continues to stand up for the rights of women to have their complaints of gender-based harassment and violence adjudicated.

When many of the top players in tennis ask, “Where is Peng Shuai?” they are standing up for the universality of her rights, a universality that also lies at the heart of sports.

China meets its match in women’s tennis

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China's tennis star Peng Shuai plays during the Australian Open last January.

 Something in the nature of sports – its universal appeal, its purity and joy – often wields power outside of sports. A table tennis match in 1971 helped open ties between China and the United States. The two Koreas have shared teams in international matches. Black pro athletes paved the way for racial integration in the U.S. In many American neighborhoods, midnight basketball games help suppress gangs.

Now professional women’s tennis is having its moment in bringing change outside the game itself – and in the world’s most populous nation.

Unlike many other international sports groups that have buckled under pressure from China to keep access in its large market, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is standing up to Beijing on behalf of Peng Shuai, a champion Chinese player. Since Nov. 2, when she posted accusations of sexual assault against a prominent Communist Party leader, Ms. Peng – once No. 1 in the world in doubles – has disappeared.

The WTA has called for “independent and verifiable proof” of her safety and whereabouts, even threatening to end a long-term deal to hold its finals in China. It is not satisfied that an email in her name claiming “everything is fine” is valid. And it continues to stand up for the rights of women to have their complaints of gender-based harassment and violence adjudicated.

“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored,” the WTA said. “In all societies, the behavior she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored. We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward.” The WTA also seeks a “full and transparent” investigation of her claims against Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier.

The WTA’s clout relies to a large degree on tennis’s global appeal. More than one-fifth of all tennis players worldwide are Chinese. When many of the top players in tennis ask, “Where is Peng Shuai?” they are standing up for the universality of her rights, a universality that also lies at the heart of sports.

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.

​​How do we really know what’s true?

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With so much information available, it can seem difficult to know what’s really true. But understanding God as Truth helps us see through what’s false and follow only what is good.

​​How do we really know what’s true?

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Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

Recently I received an email from a familiar company that looked legitimate, yet something didn’t seem quite right about it. The email was directing me to confirm my account information. I wanted to do the right thing, but something just felt off.

I took a few minutes to pray about it. I reasoned that as the expression of God, I reflect the divine intelligence and ability to be guided by what’s real and true and nothing else. As a result, I was led to look at the email again, and this time I noticed a telltale sign that the email was a scam attempt to trick me into revealing information that could be used to gain access to my credit account. I didn’t reply to the email, and my account has remained safe.

The willingness to play loose with the truth behind this scam email is a small example of a trend that has larger repercussions. A news program I watched recently described Americans as living in a “post-truth” era. The point was that sometimes it’s really hard to tell what’s true anymore because so many of the suggestions being offered look so authentic. It would seem that “truth” has become whatever people want it to be, regardless of the evidence.

This kind of “truth” is capricious when human minds simply take things at face value and don’t bother to question whether what’s being presented is true or not. How is it possible, then, to know what’s really true?

From the perspective of Christian Science, Truth is a synonym for God. Whatever is true is real and has the authority and power of God behind it. God, Truth, is immutable and immortal.

This enduring nature of Truth is spoken of in the Bible in Deuteronomy: “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4); and again in Psalms: “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalms 100:5). If we want to know what truth is, we need to find out what God is.

Christian Science presents this view of unchangeable truth based on what God is and what God knows, and not based on mere human belief or assertion. For instance, in the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Mortals try to believe without understanding Truth; yet God is Truth” (p. 312).

Because the nature of truth is divine, it originates in God and nowhere else. It includes only that which is derived from good, and can never be hurtful or harmful. By understanding more of what truth is, and how it works, we are able to see more clearly what is not true, and to expose it as a lie.

Christ Jesus showed us how to do this. He proved that good always overcomes evil. He revealed that health and harmony are always the facts, and disease and discord yield to this truth that proves them untrue and therefore unreal. He demonstrated the fact that life is never overcome by death, but death is overcome by Life, which always presents the truth of man’s being. And what’s more, Jesus promised, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32).

In my own life, gaining in the spiritual knowledge of divine Truth has healed me when I have been sick, brought solutions to light when challenged by a lack of financial resources, and repaired broken relationships.

In this era, as in every era, we all can recognize and respond to what’s really true when we turn to God as Truth and follow only that which is good.

Viewfinder

Warm fuzzies

Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters
Animal-keepers pose with twin baby pandas before a naming ceremony at the Beauval Zoo, in Saint-Aignan-sur-Cher, France, Nov. 18, 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 Ann Scott Tyson looks at how China’s Xi Jinping has elevated himself to become a supreme figure in Chinese politics. But his centralization of power carries long-term risks for China.

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