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Rethink the News

Perspective matters.

Reducing news to hard lines and side-taking leaves a lot of the story untold. Progress comes from challenging what we hear and considering different views.

2018
October
15
Monday

It’s a familiar point: that migration has been central to the human experience, helping to spread new ideas across millennia. But its role in sparking conflict is also well known, and today, a record level of global migration is rattling agendas, upending elections, and spurring pointed exchanges between those in poor countries struggling to host refugees and those in rich countries trying to bar the door.

How should nations address the issue? Our new series, “On the move: the faces, places, and politics of migration,” will share a variety of perspectives in pivotal places across the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Staff writer Ryan Brown will look at Tanzania’s bold resettlement experiment. Peter Ford has talked to people smugglers in Niger – “we have to eat,” says one – and to European Union officials trying to hit the problem at its source. “Africa is just 14 kilometers from our coast,” the EU ambassador in Niger notes. “Africa’s security and development is ours, too.”

And then there are the migrants themselves. Dominique Soguel spoke to Syrians in Berlin and Athens who are deeply uncertain about their future in Europe. “What struck me was their extreme yearning for the homeland,” she says. In conversations outside embassies and even in a cafe restroom as she helped a Syrian mother change her baby’s diaper, she listened to their struggles. One man said he was  willing to risk army conscription upon returning: “At a minimum I’ll be in my own country. If I serve and survive, I’ll be able to start a real life.”

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Today, we're kicking off another feature as well: "Perception Gaps," a podcast spearheaded by our digital media producer, Samantha Laine Perfas. Often, what we think is the case really ... isn't. Listen in and challenge your perceptions on everything from crime to political polarization.  

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1. Behind a surge in worker activism – from hotels to schools and steel mills

A strong US economy hasn't resulted in rapid wage growth. Now the labor movement is regaining momentum through bargaining and nontraditional tactics, like union members running for office.

Amelia

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You can’t tell from the number of strikes or a rebound in union members, but workers are becoming more militant. Teamsters members rejected a UPS contract negotiated by their own union. Tired of concessionary contracts, steelworkers are demanding pay increases in a suddenly profitable industry. Hotel workers are now on strike in major US cities. And nonunion teachers in six mostly Republican states staged walkouts this past spring over low pay and other grievances. Workers are becoming more active politically. At the American Federation of Teachers, nearly 300 members decided to run for office in 2018, three times the usual number, says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “We have a movement building, not just transactional unionism,” she says. “I’m not into the battle royal of labor versus management. I’m into values. And the values are: Workers should have a decent wage. And you shouldn’t have an economy that is growing for the last eight years and yet wages are stagnant.... There are allies who believe in all this. It’s part of being part of a broader community.”

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Behind a surge in worker activism – from hotels to schools and steel mills

You can hear the strikers at Boston’s Sheraton hotel before you see them.

Chanting “Marriott, shame on you!" and “If we don’t get it, shut it down!” housekeepers, cooks, and doormen bang on drums and smack red hand clappers to be heard above the traffic. One young man bangs a gray saucepan with a spatula. Among their demands: better pay and benefits, protection against violence in hotel rooms, and more stable hours.

Since the strike at seven of its hotels in Boston two weeks ago, Marriott has seen union workers walk off the job at hotels in five other major cities as well as two Hawaiian islands. It’s part of a growing militancy within the ranks of labor. Whether from desperation born of recent reversals in the courts or opportunism in a strong economy, union and nonunion workers alike are demanding more.

“Workers are a little more emboldened, feel a little stronger,” says Robert Bruno, director of the Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois. “There is a desire to fight back.”

Part of the activism stems from economic desperation as costs rise faster than pay.

In one of the most significant jobs actions this year, nonunion teachers in six states staged walkouts over low pay and other grievances. Starting in West Virginia and spreading to Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, and Colorado in April, and North Carolina in May, the massive strikes led to salary raises of 2 to 20 percent (over two years) in four states. Teachers in Kentucky and North Carolina are back on the job but have yet to see increases.

Last month, Time magazine featured a Versailles, Ky., teacher who works two other jobs and donates blood to stay afloat financially.

These unusual jobs actions in mostly red states in the spring – the movement generated its own Twitter hashtag, #RedForEd – have been followed this fall by more conventional school strikes in Washington State, where some 125,000 schoolchildren missed classroom days because of teacher strikes over pay.

Rural complaints about low pay echo in big cities where costs are high.

“We got a lot of workers right now who don’t have [health] insurance throughout the year, and they have to pay out of their pockets because of lack of hours,” says Manny Monteiro, shop steward in the banquet department for Local 26 of Unite Here, picketing at the Boston Sheraton.

“It’s been horrible working here, and that’s why we’re fighting to change,” says one striker who has worked 11 years at the Sheraton but won’t give her name because she fears retaliation from the company. “We need a full-time job, not two days this week, two days next week, three days the other.”

U-turn by workers at UPS

Another reason for labor activism is the strong economy, where worker shortages and high profits for corporations are causing industrial workers to boost their demands.

Earlier this month, a slim majority of voting members rejected the contract their Teamsters union had negotiated with UPS, despite pay increases across the board and guarantees for less-volatile scheduling of non-weekend work. But because union rules allow ratification as long as the “no” vote isn’t overwhelming, the contract has gone into force for the more than 200,000 workers. A separate deal for UPS freight workers was rejected by a big majority so will have to be renegotiated.

Helped by President Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel, domestic steelmakers have seen a dramatic turnaround in their fortunes and union workers are demanding a share. The United Steelworkers, which gave up pay increases in their contract with US Steel and ArcelorMittal USA three years ago, are now pressing for increases in pay and no cuts in benefits. US Steel has offered pay raises but wants workers to pay some of their health-care costs. Union members have voted to authorize a strike if talks collapse.

The union activism hasn’t yet shown up in some of the usual benchmarks.

Nationally, the number of strikes is on pace to reach nearly 100 this year – about the same as the totals in the previous four years, according to data from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. That’s less than a quarter of the number of strikes 20 years ago and a seventh of those from 30 years ago. One reason: Only 10.7 percent of the workforce was in a union last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the same percentage as in 2016 and nearly half the level reported in 1983.

Instead, union activism is showing up in the political realm. In all, some 1,500 educators are running for office this cycle, estimates the National Education Association, a teachers union, including three gubernatorial candidates and more than 20 candidates for the US Congress, including the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes.

‘We have a movement building’

For example, nearly 300 members of the American Federation of Teachers decided to run for political office in 2018, three times the usual number, says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). It’s one aspect of the union’s change in strategy.

“We have a movement building, not just transactional unionism,” she says. “I’m not into the battle royal of labor versus management. I’m into values. And the values are: Workers should have a decent wage. And you shouldn’t have an economy that is growing for the last eight years and yet wages are stagnant…. There are allies who believe in all this. It’s part of being part of a broader community.”

In August, unions and their liberal allies soundly beat back a Missouri right-to-work law that would have allowed workers in private industry to opt out of union dues-paying.

Still, the pressure is on. In June, the US Supreme Court hit unions in the public sector with a landmark ruling that now allows union-represented workers in government to withhold paying dues if they don’t want to.

So far, teachers unions say that the effect on their membership has been minimal, although they’re a month or two away from compiling the actual numbers. In July, AFT had a record number of members.

The challenge will be for the labor movement to articulate goals that will attract a large number of allies.

“The teacher strikes. #MeToo. Black Lives Matter. Students speaking out for safer schools … something is happening in America,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said in a speech in Milwaukee last month. “Collective action is on the rise. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in my 50 years in the labor movement.”

 John Colin Marston contributed to this story from Boston.

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2. In face of potent storms, new debate on the ethics of reengineering Earth

As the effects of climate change begin to take a tangible toll, should we be thinking more seriously about geoengineering? Maybe. But if we do, we need to think carefully about the ethics and the technology.

Amelia

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From the devastation wrought by recent extreme weather events to the dismal climate warnings issued last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, urgency around climate action is mounting. That urgency has increased some of the buzz around geoengineering, or the deliberate large-scale technical interference in Earth’s climate system. At this point, the discussion is largely theoretical. But as it gets more pointed and specific, it also raises a host of ethical questions. Many scientists and ethicists caution that the side effects of such intervention could be just as bad, if not worse, than the original problem. One study, for instance, suggests that efforts to mitigate hurricane intensity in the Northern Hemisphere could enhance tropical cyclone activity in the Southern Hemisphere. Another study suggests that similar efforts to reduce warming could exacerbate drought in some regions. For many ethicists, however, the question of whether or not we should intentionally geoengineer the planet hinges on how desperate the problem becomes. As one environmental sociologist puts it: “There might be a scenario in which solar geoengineering is better than not having it. I really hope we never have to face that choice.”

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1. In face of potent storms, new debate on the ethics of reengineering Earth

The idea of blotting out the sun, whether floated by Frédéric Bastiat or Montgomery Burns, has long stood as a metaphor for human arrogance.

But today, as the planet approaches critical temperature thresholds, some observers are now saying that reducing the amount of sunlight, and therefore heat, that reaches the Earth’s surface, is not just technologically feasible, but also necessary to avoid catastrophe.

The latest report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with its warnings of worsening water shortages, heat waves, and rising seas, along with the catastrophic damages from extreme weather events like hurricanes Michael and Florence, have increased some of the buzz around geoengineering: deliberate large-scale technical interference into the Earth’s climate system.

At this point, the discussion is largely theoretical. But as it gets more pointed and specific, it also raises a host of ethical questions. Nearly every weather event, from a tornado to a windless day, produces winners and losers. But what happens when those winners and losers arise from deliberate policies?

“Is this a problem that’s so new that we have to come up with completely new ethical tools to even understand it?” asks Forrest Clingerman, professor of religion and philosophy at Ohio Northern University and co-editor of the 2016 book, “Theological and Ethical Perspectives on Climate Engineering.” “Is this a technology that raises similar questions ethically as some other technologies that we’ve seen in the past,” he asks. “Or is this fundamentally new?”

The most common form of geoengineering that gets discussed is stratospheric aerosol injection, which would use artillery or aircraft to deposit reflective particles into the upper atmosphere, about 12 miles up. These particles – scientists have proposed everything from sulfur dioxide to calcium carbonate to even diamonds – would either directly or indirectly redirect a portion of the sunlight striking them back into space. In theory, this additional reflectivity would make the surface below a little cooler than it otherwise would be: enveloping the planet in a giant reflective veil.

But that sort of solar geoengineering intentionally creates a layer of pollution in the atmosphere, and is also likely to cause climate problems in certain places, such as drought in the tropics. And it doesn’t address the fundamental underlying problem of too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Scientists have also floated other ideas, from building a giant, space-based sunshade to fertilizing the oceans with iron to promote plankton growth. And at a far more accepted – and less theoretical – level, some forms of carbon removal technologies are also a form of geoengineering. Carbon removal has fewer ethical pitfalls, however, and as it has become a bigger part of the discussion, the geoengineering label has largely been dropped.

Scientists who think such tools at least warrant investigation note that humans are already playing a massive role in the Earth’s climate, albeit unintentionally.

“There’s a strain in environmentalism that doesn’t want humans to interfere in nature, which is something I understand and empathize with,” says Holly Jean Buck, a fellow at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. “The problem is, though, that we already have to such a degree that some degree of repair and restoration is needed.”

In search of the greatest good

Trying to affect weather patterns, at least at a local scale, isn’t terribly new. Cloud seeding to mitigate drought has been used for more than 75 years. And back in 1947, the US military attempted to break up a hurricane that was stalled off Florida’s coast, by dumping dry ice into the clouds. The day after a pilot did just that, the hurricane changed direction and hit the Georgia coast. It’s still unclear whether the dry ice precipitated the change in direction, but the public blamed the government, and Project Cirrus, as it was called, was canceled.

Today, discussion of large-scale, whole-planet climate manipulation brings up the same questions of winners and losers. A 2017 paper published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that stratospheric aerosol injection could potentially mitigate hurricane activity – but that if it was applied in the Northern Hemisphere, it might enhance tropical cyclone activity in the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa.

“We’ve been unintentionally geoengineering for centuries. But there does seem to be something fundamentally different between accidentally doing something and saying, ‘OK, now we’re going to intentionally do this,’ “ says Professor Clingerman. “Climate change generally speaking is something that is global. And it’s also intergenerational. That complicates any utilitarian calculus.”

But others say that we may get to a point where there’s little choice, and where the ethical consideration is what produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

“Utilitarianism is probably the only plausible approach to thinking about it,” says Martin Bunzl, a philosophy of science professor at Rutgers University and director of the Initiative on Climate and Social Policy.

Professor Bunzl says the bigger concerns he has are with the uncertainties. It’s impossible to experiment in a small way with large-scale geoengineering, so scientists would have to rely on computer modeling and hypotheses, without any controlled rigorous testing.

“Even if you do it at a global level and, say, ramp up the dosage to try and see the effects, it would take far far too long to distinguish between noise and signal,” says Bunzl. “So you’re really put the position of having to go to something like full insertion.”

But he says he thinks it may well get to the point where we’ve failed at other climate mitigation strategies and the risks of geoengineering seem worth it. And, if computer modeling significantly improves over the next few decades, it could allow us to have a more informed discussion about just what those risks are.

“I think that would strongly affect the way this debate has gone, because a lot of this debate has less been on the ethics of one particular population bearing the cost of this, but on the unknowns about the effects,” Bunzl says.

At this point, the discussion of solar geoengineering is still pretty theoretical, with scientists just beginning to have a handle on how it might work, as well as how it would affect complex weather and atmospheric patterns.

But as climate impacts are increasingly felt, its place in the international debate is growing.

“There’s no question that solar geoengineering is a terrifying prospect. It involves changing the amount and type of sunlight coming down to the whole Earth,” says Dr. Buck. “There’s not another Earth where you could do it differently and see what happens, or see what happens in the absence of it.... But the fact of the matter is that maybe there’s a scenario where climate change is causing mass suffering and perhaps playing a factor in conflicts. There might be a scenario in which solar geoengineering is better than not having it. I really hope we never have to face that choice.”

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On the move

The faces, places, and politics of migration

3. Why migration keeps roiling global politics, even as it ebbs

Never before have so many people – 70 million – been forcibly displaced from their homes. Millions more have chosen to leave in search of a better life. And immigration has thrown traditional politics into disarray. Part 1.

Amelia
Jon Nazca/Reuters
Migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea wait to disembark the Caliope rescue vessel after arriving at the port of Málaga in southern Spain Oct. 12.

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These are hard days for political refugees and economic migrants seeking safety or a job in the places that used to welcome them, such as Europe and the United States. Countries on both sides of the Atlantic, once seen as safe harbors, are barricading themselves behind tighter southern borders as immigration begins to dominate political life. It’s ironic that tough talkers like President Trump have come to the fore in Europe, too, when the numbers of immigrants are actually falling. But in a delayed reaction to earlier waves, European governments are trying to fend off nationalist and populist challengers with more strongly anti-immigrant attitudes. And Mr. Trump’s rhetoric appeals to a substantial minority of Americans. Still, polls in Europe and the US have found that large majorities still see immigration as a force for good in their countries; it’s just that they want to feel more in control of the numbers coming in. “Then they can be reasonable,” says Paul Nesse of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Basic solidarity and humanitarian support are still alive” at street level.

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1. Why migration keeps roiling global politics, even as it ebbs

Around the globe, from Myanmar to South Sudan to Venezuela, more people are fleeing for their lives or escaping from poverty than ever before. But their chances of finding safety or a living wage are dwindling as Western governments erect new barriers to keep them out.

In 2018, the United States is set to take in fewer political refugees than in any year since 1977. President Trump is revoking the protected status Washington has offered for decades to more than 400,000 immigrants who fled turmoil in their home countries.

In Hungary, border guards have withheld food from rejected Afghan and Syrian asylum seekers to convince them to drop their appeals. Sweden, traditionally among the most welcoming countries in the world, has a new asylum regime set to the bare minimum allowed by the European Union.

On both sides of the Atlantic, the issue of immigration has thrown traditional politics into disarray, blurring the distinction between political refugees and economic migrants, and fueling the rise of populist politicians who have thrived in recent years by advocating harsher treatment of immigrants, even as the number of new arrivals has fallen.

Such politicians are tilling fertile ground. Immigration is likely to be the defining issue in the European Parliament elections next year as increasing numbers of voters, seeking to protect their sense of identity, worry that large immigrant populations will overwhelm their cultural defenses.

Those politicians also play on widespread fears that an influx of immigrants will mean a new crime wave. Such fears are unfounded (crime is actually down in the two European countries that have taken the most immigrants, Germany and Italy), but they are real.

How can Western democracies assure their own people that they are protected, while living up to their humanitarian ideals at the same time?

Migration in decline

It’s not because of immigration itself that immigration has become such a divisive issue, says Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. Rather, it makes some people nervous about their neighborhoods and their jobs.  

“There’s a lot of symbolic politics,” he suggests. “I think immigration is a touchstone for other fears. Fear of demographic change is a major issue. Fear of economic change is another issue, and fear of not controlling our borders.”

“There’s a perception that immigration is out of control,” adds Paul Nesse, senior adviser to the Norwegian Refugee Council. “That has forced mainstream politicians to be stricter.”

Jacob Turcotte/Staff

The perception, though, is false. The unauthorized immigrant population in the US has been falling since 2007; the number of illegal migrants apprehended by the US Border Patrol on the southern frontier (the best proxy for irregular crossings) has dropped each year since 2014, from 555,185 to 341,054 in 2017.

In Europe, the million-plus flood of economic migrants and political refugees that seized the world’s attention in 2015 is a memory; so far this year only 70,000 have landed on Europe’s Mediterranean coastline – half last year’s figure and just 20 percent of 2015 arrivals.

But that memory of Syrians, Afghans, Eritreans, and others trudging north in a steady stream still reverberates around Europe, as the nations that welcomed them struggle to settle them. In a delayed reaction, their arrival has continued to stoke anti-immigrant populist parties that are now in government in Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Poland, and a rising force in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and elsewhere.

Sweden is the most recent case in point. The Sweden Democrats, a party with neo-Nazi roots, took 18 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections last month by campaigning on a harshly anti-foreigner platform. They now hold the political balance of power.

The center-left government, jettisoning Sweden’s long tradition of extreme generosity to refugees, had borrowed some of the Sweden Democrats’ policies and rhetoric after 165,000 asylum seekers arrived in 2015, the highest number per capita in Europe. That did not halt the Sweden Democrats’ advance, but it did help change the national mood.

“Integration and immigration are always portrayed negatively by politicians and the media as a problem,” complains Natassia Fry, who runs “Sweden Buddy,” a nonprofit helping new and established Swedes to mix. “That makes it easier for people to be openly xenophobic.”

When Afghan refugee Sam Lami was applying for asylum 10 years ago, he felt welcome everywhere, he recalls. Today, though he says most ordinary Swedes are still friendly, he is upset at the way “politicians invent problems, and paint a darker picture than reality. They blame all society’s problems on immigrants.”

“Everyone in Sweden used to defend multiculturalism,” says Andreas Heino, an analyst at the free market think tank Timbro. “Now you cannot open a newspaper without reading an article arguing that it’s a problem. Most people agree.”

The word has spread: Only 22,000 people sought asylum in Sweden last year, less than 15 percent of the 2015 numbers.

Harder rhetoric, harder policies

Arrivals are down also because the European Union has been barricading itself behind a tougher southern border to keep out people trying to cross the Mediterranean.

In 2016, the EU did a deal with Turkey, under which the Turkish government agreed to strengthen its control over the frontier with Greece (and thus the EU), and to host refugees itself, in return for more than 6 billion euros. Turkey now has nearly 4 million refugees on its soil, more than any other country in the world, almost all of them from Syria.

The EU has also stepped up its aid to the Libyan coast guard, providing it with vessels, training, and money so as to boost the force’s ability to detect, detain, and return refugee boats before they reach international waters. The policy has worked, but has been condemned by the United Nations as “inhuman” in light of the appalling conditions in the Libyan detention centers to which the migrants are returned.

Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters/File
An Afghan refugee holds his two sons after they disembarked from the Eleftherios Venizelos passenger ship at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, on Sept. 7, 2015.

At EU headquarters in Brussels, the mood is militant. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, used his “State of the Union” address last month to propose an eight-fold increase in European border guards and stronger moves to deport irregular migrants who are not granted asylum back to their home countries. Currently, only 36 percent of failed applicants are sent home.

Such policies may be less theatrical, but they are designed to save the same purpose as the wall along the southern US border that President Trump has proposed.

Mr. Trump’s inflammatory language on the 2016 campaign trail, accusing Mexicans of being “rapists,” has helped make immigration one of the most prominent wedge issues in US politics. Trump amplified the views of the large minority of Americans in favor of stricter immigration controls, and he brought them to the fore.

“Trump said it in a different way and I guess he convinced people,” says Alex Nowrasteh, senior immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington. “He’s a brilliant political entrepreneur. He made people care about an issue they didn’t really care about before.”

That rhetoric has since led to significant and controversial policy changes, including several that have drawn accusations of inhumanity.

Among the most high-profile are Trump’s travel ban executive orders, which restricted entry to the US for citizens of a half-dozen mostly majority-Muslim countries, and the zero-tolerance policy of criminally prosecuting anyone caught illegally crossing the southern border. That resulted in the forced separation of children as young as a few months old from their parents.

The administration has also slashed the number of refugees the US will resettle this year to a 40-year low, making it harder for skilled foreign workers to get visas, and drafting a rule to deny legal status to immigrants if they are deemed likely to use public benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid.

A desire for control, not closed borders

Such policies may enjoy substantial minority support, but overall popular opinion in the US appears more positive about newcomers. A recent survey by the Bipartisan Policy Center of Texans’ views on immigration – considered a bellwether given the state’s growing diversity and proximity to the border – found that 69 percent believe that “immigrants are an essential part of American society.”

“Most Americans believe immigration is an important part of the country, think it’s good,” says Mr. Selee, “but they worry we don’t have enough control over who comes in.”

Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
Colombian police officers check belongings in a house where undocumented Venezuelans migrants live during a raid in Villa del Rosario, Colombia, on Aug. 24.

Similar sentiments prevail in Europe. A Pew Research Center poll of 10 European countries last month found that 77 percent of respondents approved of taking in refugees from violence and war. “But people want immigration to be controlled,” says Mr. Nesse of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Then they can be reasonable.”

Reason is often less persuasive than emotion, though, in the current debate, and even nations with proud traditions of generosity are bowing before the tide. “Europe is going the wrong way, which makes it hard for Sweden to take an exceptional position,” laments Goran Rosenberg, a writer and social commentator whose father, an Auschwitz survivor, settled in Sweden.

Divisions among its members are so acute that the European Union is finding it impossible to agree on a common migration policy, or a common asylum policy. The governments setting the continental agenda are those in Hungary and Poland, who are refusing to accept any of the asylum seekers that the EU would like to distribute more evenly around the continent, and Italy, whose new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has declared he plans to expel 500,000 migrants.

“The sort of humane policies needed for Europe to maintain its moral stature need negotiating amongst European countries, and they are extremely divided on this issue,” says Mr. Rosenberg. “I see no chance of agreement.”

‘Basic solidarity and support are still alive’

In the meantime, Europe is seeking to address the longer-term issues. For example, the prospect that Africa’s population will double by 2050, inevitably spurring more migrants, is spurring the EU to look at bigger aid and development budgets for the African continent. In the shorter term, the EU is trying to deal with the immediate situation by tightening up border security and reaching more deportation agreements with migrants’ countries of origin.

With populists driving the law-and-order agenda, “centrists do not dare challenge their rhetoric for fear of losing votes to extremists,” argues Nesse. “They’ve failed to live up to their principles.”

He sees more hopeful signs, however, outside the world of politics, in the lives of ordinary citizens. “If you go to local communities in Europe or the United States or Canada, you see people standing up for their immigrant neighbors,” Nesse says. “Basic solidarity and humanitarian support are still alive” at street level.

Nasim Soleimanpour, a vivacious young Iranian refugee living in Stockholm, has noticed the same thing. “It’s true that there is more hatred expressed and immigrants are blamed for all sorts of things” by politicians, she says. “But just because of that, support for immigrants from individual Swedes is even greater.”

Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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Perception Gaps

Comparing what’s ‘known’ to what’s true

4. A quantified fall in crime, but a nagging sense of its prevalence

There’s a difference between what many of us perceive to be true and what the facts show us. We call that a "perception gap." In our first episode of this weekly podcast series, we look at why so many Americans don't believe we’ve made progress on reducing crime.

Amelia

Americans are the safest they’ve been in decades. National crime statistics show a 48 percent decline in the violent crime rate since it peaked in the early 1990s, according to the FBI. But Americans don’t believe it. Year after year, surveys show that 6 out of every 10 Americans say there was more crime in the United States compared with the year before, according to the Pew Research Center. “Most of the people that I knew who were afraid of crime seemed like very smart people, and so I wanted to understand why there was a disconnect between fear and actual crime,” says Nicole Rader, an associate dean at Mississippi State University who studies gender and crime. Much of that disconnect, she says, results from how people perceive their surroundings. For example, many crime and safety education campaigns focus on women, even though men are statistically more likely to be the target of crime. And if women do become victims, it’s usually not because they were walking outside at night. “What we know when we look at crime statistics,” Ms. Rader says, “is women are much more likely to be hurt by someone they know.” 

Listen to the "Perception Gaps" episode “High Crime and Misperceptions” and subscribe to the "Perception Gaps" newsletter.

SOURCE: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Gallup
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Jacob Turcotte/Staff
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5. From moccasins to Louboutins: an evolution of indigenous art

Many people think of American Indian art as anthropological works from the past. But contemporary Native art is changing that dynamic as it gains new recognition from museums and art lovers.

Amelia
Courtesy of IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
'Northwest Design,' 1966, casein on paper by Hank Gobin (Tulalip/Snohomish), is currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. 'Contemporary Native artists are doing exceptional work,' says the museum’s director. 'They have been doing it. And now they’re getting recognition.'

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Long considered anthropological artifacts from a past era, American Indian art may finally be getting its due. There’s been a shift in how indigenous art is presented and perceived: as art rather than artifact, with recognition for the individual artist. That suggests a greater appreciation for the culture and people behind the art, say observers in the art world. That appreciation is on display across the United States. “Hearts of Our People,” an exhibition of the work of Native women artists from early practitioners to contemporary creatives, opens next June at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The 115 objects in the exhibition range from an 18th  century caribou hide hunting coat to a new textile piece commissioned for the show from Navajo master weaver DY Begay. At the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) in Santa Fe, N.M., the haunting statuary of Oklahoma-based sculptor Holly Wilson is celebrated at a solo show that draws visitors from across the world. “Contemporary Native artists are doing exceptional work,” says Patsy Phillips, the director of MoCNA. “They have been doing it. And now they’re getting recognition.”

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From moccasins to Louboutins: an evolution of indigenous art

Patsy Phillips still occasionally gets visitors looking for “beads and feathers and baskets” at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

But, increasingly, she finds herself welcoming art lovers who don’t settle for cliche. They embrace work in paint, clay, textiles, and video that draws from personal, cultural, and historical roots. This new Native American art expresses individualism in the face of racism, poverty, and a sense that other voices have too long told the world what living American Indian art should be. 

“Contemporary Native artists are doing exceptional work. They have been doing it. And now they’re getting recognition,” says Ms. Phillips, the museum's director.

Courtesy of Rose B. Simpson
‘Maria,’ 2014, by Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo) depicts a 1985 Chevy El Camino. It's part of ‘Hearts of Our People,’ an exhibit of the work of Native women artists from early practitioners to contemporary creatives, opening June 2019 at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Long considered anthropological artifacts from a past era, American Indian art may finally be getting its due. The recognition comes in the form of major solo shows, ambitious surveys, and opportunities for Native artists to create and speak for themselves on the world stage. There’s been a shift in how Native art is presented and perceived – as art rather than artifact, with recognition for the individual artist – that suggests a greater appreciation for the culture and people behind the art, say observers in the art world. 

The growing prominence of Native contemporary art is due in part to opportunities Native curators have had to tell their own stories at places such as the National Museum of the American Indian, which opened on the National Mall in 2004, says Phillips, who is Cherokee. She also credits Nancy Mithlo, a Chiricahua Apache anthropologist, for organizing the first exhibition of contemporary Native American art curated by a Native American at the Venice Biennale, one of the world’s most prestigious international cultural festivals. That 1999 exhibition helped introduce Native American artists to international audiences who were free of preconceptions, says Phillips.  

Courtesy of Jamie Okuma
Adaptation II, 2012, by Jamie Okuma (Luiseno/Shoshone-Bannock) on shoes designed by Christian Louboutin. Okuma applies traditional Native materials – here, leather, glass beads, porcupine quills, sterling silver cones, brass sequins, chicken feathers, cloth, deer rawhide, and buckskin – to contemporary pieces, like these Louboutin heels. This piece will be part of the ‘Hearts of Our People,’ exhibit opening June 2019 at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Indigenous art across the nation

A new appreciation for American Indian art has brought into focus the contributions of women, a creative force in Native art. “Hearts of Our People,” an exhibit of the work of Native women artists from early practitioners to contemporary creatives opens next June at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and later travels to the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, Tenn.; the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.; and the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Okla. 

The 115 objects in the exhibit are assembled from the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s permanent collection and from more than 30 other institutions and private collections. They range from an 18th century caribou hide hunting coat to a new textile piece commissioned for the show from Navajo master weaver DY Begay.

“The voices of these women are coming through,” says Teri Greeves, an award-winning Kiowa Indian beadwork artist, who collaborated as a curator on the exhibit. 

Native American artists are also being celebrated at solo shows, exhibitions that spotlight the work of one artist. Oklahoma-based sculptor Holly Wilson has a solo show through January at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts which is part of Santa Fe's Institute of American Indian Arts. The exhibit is at once haunting and striking, featuring attenuated bronze sculpture against a stark white backdrop. Her pieces have Giacometti limbs and poignant faces that seem on the verge of speech, of telling a story. Ms. Wilson, who is Delaware and Cherokee, notes that Santa Fe draws art lovers from all over the world who appreciate her small, wraithlike figures that touch on big themes – innocence, tolerance, resilience. 

Courtesy of IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts
‘Bloodline,’ 2015, bronze, patina, and locust sculpture by Holly Wilson (Delaware Nation/Cherokee), who describes the piece as a long trail of her Native American history and bloodline overlaid with a reimagining of a childhood Native American story. The piece is currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, N.M.

Men and women, children and adults from different nations and ethnicities are all able to connect with the art, Wilson says.

“There was no line that you couldn’t cross to get to the work,” she says.

‘The living artist’ 

At the Denver Art Museum (DAM) the focus is also on the artist. Rather than treat Native art as historical artifacts of a dead civilization, the museum has, since the 1930s, “put an emphasis on the living artist,” says John Lukavic, DAM’s curator of Native arts.  

Mr. Lukavic and late chief curator Nancy Blomberg, an ardent champion of American Indian art, started a residency program for Native artists in 2012 to give them the space, time, and “resources to push their practice,” Lukavic says.  

One such artist is Jeffrey Gibson, a Mississippi Choctaw and Cherokee painter and sculptor who used his DAM residency to explore the museum’s collection of American Indian art and his own evolving interest in video. Mr. Gibson layers pigment, fabric, beads, the jingles that adorn powwow regalia, and even music into intricate art on punching bags, canvases, and sculpture.

Gibson’s first major exhibition debuted at the DAM in April. The show is currently at the Mississippi Museum of Art until Jan. 21, then travels to the Seattle Art Museum and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Madison, Wis.

“I feel like I’m definitely being acknowledged and heard by people who I don’t think were aware of me before,” Gibson says.  

He says he’s been told calling himself a Native American artist “just seems so limiting.”

“That’s exactly why I identify as a Native American artist. It’s important for people’s expectations to be expanded,” says Gibson. “In the future we might be leaving an art world in which young Native Americans might feel comfortable.”

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The Monitor's View

A lesson from the Sears bankruptcy

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For the past 25 years, the store that served generations of American shoppers has been unable to compete against big-box chains like Walmart and e-commerce giants like Amazon. Now Sears has filed for bankruptcy. That offers a cautionary tale – and not just on the need for innovation in business. While Sears was long a trusted brand name, it never was a vital center in the local communities that it served. Rather, this icon of mass commerce that started in the 1880s will be best known for shaping an identity for Americans: as frequent consumers. Later, the Sears stores that invaded suburbs became an early target among activists who said such chains were eroding the social cohesion of local communities. Today, many cities and towns are trying to support local businesses to ensure a rich civic life of connections. This “local economy” movement is up against the ever-evolving giants of commerce. Sears’s bankruptcy filing should now help define a different approach among retailers, one that sustains local communities rather than using them. 

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A lesson from the Sears bankruptcy

Once called the colossus of retailing, Sears filed for bankruptcy on Monday. For the past 25 years, the store that served generations of American shoppers has been unable to compete against big-box chains like Walmart and e-commerce giants like Amazon.

While the Sears name may yet reemerge in smaller form, its demise offers a cautionary tale – and not just on the need for constant innovation in business.

While Sears was long a trusted brand name, it never was a vital center in the local communities that it served. Rather, this icon of mass commerce that started in the 1880s will be best known for largely shaping a broad new identity for Americans, one as frequent consumers.

By 1894, the Sears catalog was 500 pages, reaching millions of Americans. It was a portal into a new universe of material goods, from new styles of clothes to pre-built houses. It was the prime expression of a new type of “consumption community,” according to the late historian Daniel Boorstin.

While the Bible was kept in the parlor, the Sears catalog was kept in the kitchen or living room. Boorstin tells the story of a boy who was asked at Sunday school where the Ten Commandments came from and replied that they came from Sears, Roebuck.

Later, the Sears stores that invaded American suburbs became an early target among activists who said such chains were eroding the social cohesion of local communities. Sears put many local retailers out of business, thus reducing the everyday interactions of trust and common values that define a community and create a degree of economic self-reliance.

A local community needs the kind of commerce that builds relationships as much as generates profits. This desire for mutuality between customers and business owners, says philosopher Andreas Weber, is a type of economic culture that is “a practice of love.”

Many cities and towns today are trying to support local businesses (and farmers) to ensure a rich civic life of connections based on kindness and social bonding. This “local economy” movement is up against the ever-evolving giants of commerce that have come after Sears. Many new outdoor malls, for example, are designed to look like walkable town centers. Yet most of the businesses are national chains.

At its height, the Sears name defined convenience and low prices. Its bankruptcy filing, however, should also now help define a different approach among national and global retailers, one that sustains local communities rather than using them.

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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.

Prayer as Brexit negotiations continue

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As discussions on the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union go down to the wire, today’s column explores how a deeper spiritual understanding can support the negotiations and help open the way to practical solutions.

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Prayer as Brexit negotiations continue

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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The referendum in the United Kingdom, which resulted in a June 2016 vote for the UK to leave the European Union, gave people much food for thought. In the lead-up to the referendum, the “remain” side pointed to the strength and advantages that come from a political and economic union with the UK's closest geographical neighbors. The “leave” side emphasized the freedoms they felt the UK would gain, as well as the other relationships it could potentially develop, were the UK to leave the Union.

Negotiations for Brexit (as the process for the UK to leave the EU has come to be called) have been taking place and are supposed to be drawing to a close, but there are issues, especially over the implications for Northern Ireland's border with the Republic of Ireland, still needing to be resolved between the EU and the UK, and a variety of conflicting views seem to divide the UK Parliament and its population. It’s easy to feel daunted by the turmoil of uncertainty, but instead of doing so we can take a step back and pray. There is a law of God that is supreme and ever present, which can be seen to be forever at work in human consciousness, bringing whatever adjustments and leavening of thought are needed to best support progress for everyone.

The book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy, makes an insightful statement about what it calls our “scientific relation” to divine Spirit, God. By this it means a oneness we all have with Spirit as God’s spiritual offspring. It says: “In the scientific relation of God to man, we find that whatever blesses one blesses all, as Jesus showed with the loaves and the fishes,—Spirit, not matter, being the source of supply” (p. 206). Considering this statement, I have been struck by the implication that outside “the scientific relation of God to man” – seeing ourselves as material, rather than understanding our true identity as spiritual – we cannot expect to find that “whatever blesses one blesses all.”

Christian Science teaches that no one truly can be outside the scientific relation of God to man, yet what we see and hear seems to aggressively argue to the contrary. This material sense presents an inverted view of spiritual reality. God’s goodness is infinite, but the material senses present man as separate from this true abundance and suggest that one person’s welfare can be at odds with another’s.

Explaining the practicality of God’s abundance, a passage in Mrs. Eddy’s “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896” says: “God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment” (p. 307).

It can be useful to pray with this idea. The more we lift thought prayerfully to behold the reality of man as totally spiritual, supplied by God with spiritual ideas that bring daily supplies, the more readily will solutions come to light that promote the unfolding in human experience of this spiritual reality.

A writer in the Bible’s book of Proverbs counsels, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (29:18). Spiritual vision is needed in order for people to truly prosper and progress. There are those on both sides of the Brexit debate who have spoken of the importance of looking beyond one’s own personal needs to help the wider world community, to benefit our neighbors near and far. We can prayerfully support this desire to contribute to the betterment of the world by growing in our faith in God and our expression of spiritually based values. With humility and gratitude we can honor the spiritual relation we all have to God, and open our thought to proving step by step that “whatever blesses one blesses all.”

Adapted from an article published in the Aug. 22, 2016, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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Viewfinder

Flooding in France

Fred Lancelot/AP
Rescue workers worked a search-and-recovery mission after extreme flooding in the town of Trèbes in southern France Oct. 15. Flash floods rushed through towns in the country’s southwest, killing at least 10 people.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Karen Norris and Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( October 16th, 2018 )

Thanks for starting your week with us. Tomorrow, come back as we learn why some 200 Arab-Israeli women are planning runs in municipal elections in October. It's an eye-catching number driven by an array of social forces.

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October 15, 2018
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