Monday Sunrise Briefs: America responds to attacks on worship

AP Photo/Craig Ruttle
Neighbors gather to show their support of the community near a rabbi's residence in Monsey, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, following a stabbing Saturday night during a Hanukkah celebration.

Two attacks this weekend - one at a rabbi’s home in New York and another at a church in Texas - raised anew questions about how Americans respond to assaults at places of worship.

Saturday's knife attack (injuring five people) during a large Hanukkah celebration was the 13th anti-Semitic attack in New York since Dec. 8. “This is violence spurred by hate, it is mass violence and I consider this an act of domestic terrorism,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Jewish leaders Sunday spoke of resilience, defiance, and vigilance.

A gunman opened fire Sunday morning at a church near Fort Worth, Texas, killing two people before two churchgoers pulled out handguns and fatally shot him. “Today evil walked boldly among us,” said Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn. “But let me remind you, good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse.”

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, sunrise briefing.

Here are three news events from this past weekend (while you were watching "Little Women," taking down your Christmas tree, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.

In both attacks, police are searching for a motive.  

2. Footsteps to peace? In Afghanistan and Ukraine, two separate peace initiatives brought cautious hope to their respective regions. The Taliban agreed to a temporary cease-fire - a move President Trump presaged at Thanksgiving -  in order to provide an opening to sign a peace agreement with the U.S., said the Taliban ruling council Sunday. The U.S. wants to start bringing home its troops from Afghanistan (about 12,000) and end its 18-year military engagement there.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine exchanged some 200 prisoners on Sunday. The swap is seen as a trust-building step toward ending the five-year war that has left more than 14,000 dead. Hopes for peace have risen since the 2019 election of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has been more amenable to negotiations with Russia.

3. A stepping stone to Mars. A U.S. astronaut set a record Saturday for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, breaking the old mark of 288 days. Christina Koch, an electrical engineer from Livingston, Montana, is expected to spend a total of 318 days in space. Koch's mission will help NASA learn about the effects of long spaceflights, to support future missions to the Moon and Mars.

Discovery via AP
Epic crossing: Endurance athlete Colin O’Brady and his five crew are the first to ever row across the treacherous waters of The Drake Passage. It's located between the Southern tip of South America and the edge of Antarctica. They crossed the Passage in 13 days.

Look Ahead

Tuesday, Dec. 31

European goal-setting: French President Emmanuel Macron gives a New Year's Eve address amid the longest strike in decades, over his plans to raise the retirement age. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also delivers her annual New Year’s message.

Wednesday, Jan. 1

More digital privacy: California's sweeping new privacy law effectively becomes the U.S. national standard. Similar to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation of 2018, the new law allows state residents to request exactly what personal information Silicon Valley giants are collecting about them - and to have it deleted. 

Respect for parents: A new Illinois law requires restaurants, stores, and other buildings with public restrooms to have a diaper changing station. California has a similar law. 

More focus, more nimble: The U.S. takes its turn at the helm of the G7 this year. President Trump is no fan of multilateral organizations. But a White House official says the group of the seven large industrialized nations could be “incredibly useful” and told Reuters the group needs to focus on fewer topics.

Friday, Jan. 3

Awe in the heavens: One of the best annual meteor showers in the Northern Hemisphere, the Quadrantid, peaks late Friday night and into early Saturday. 

Justice and Mercy Watch

Brandt Jean hugs Amber Guyger on Oct. 2, 2019 during her sentencing hearing in Dallas, Texas.

This week, my daughter reminded me of one of the most poignant moments of grace in 2019. It was the hug of mercy seen around the world. 

Brandt Jean was in a Texas courtroom on Oct. 2, at the sentencing hearing for Amber Guyger, a white police officer who fatally shot Brant’s brother, Botham Jean, in his own apartment. The off-duty Dallas cop testified that she mistakenly thought she was entering her apartment (one floor below) and that Botham (a black man) was an intruder. Guyger was convicted of murder. At the hearing, Brandt looked at Guyger and said: "If you truly are sorry — I know I can speak for myself — I forgive you, and I know if you go to God and ask him, He will forgive you." 

Then, Brandt asked the presiding judge if he could give Guyger a hug. A long embrace followed as sobbing filled the courtroom (Watch the video). Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Brandt was praised for his courage, but also criticized for too easily forgiving police brutality. As The Monitor's editor wrote at the time, Brandt’s actions “point to lessons from the black church that are universal, as well as blessings that are limited only by how often they are bestowed."

Hidden gem

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor readers:

In search of an authentic Christmas, ax required

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our final installment of the 10 Commandments, a moral code for modern life. 

Finally, check out the Monitor’s Christmas week audio interviews from the subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. ‘Translating for myself’: Ann Scott Tyson on seeing China from the inside (audio)
  2. ‘The moment when life changes’: Harry Bruinius on finding the story (audio)
  3. Merry Christmas: A reading of holiday classics by Monitor staff
  4. ‘From Midwest to Middle East’: Taylor Luck on keeping an open heart (audio)
  5. ‘Big changes on a human scale’: Ryan Lenora Brown on reporting a continent (audio)

This is a beta test - an experiment with an early Monday morning news update. Please give us your feedback via the link below and let us know what you think. Thank you!

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