Monday Sunrise Briefing: Generosity for Lebanon but little trust

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, August 10, 2020, sunrise briefing. 

Here are three news events from this past weekend (while you may have been whale watching, knitting, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news this week.

AP Photo/Felipe Dana
Demonstrators march to honor the victims of the explosion at Beirut port which devastated large parts of the capital, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. Protestors also blame the government for negligence and corruption.

International donors pledged Sunday to give generously (nearly $300 million) to Lebanon in emergency aid after the massive explosion in Beirut this past week. But there were unusually blunt warnings: no money to rebuild unless government corruption ends. And Lebanon’s government was on the brink of collapse. This weekend saw violent protests and resignations by top ministers and lawmakers. 

Neither the Lebanese people nor foreign donors trust the integrity of this government. French President Emmanuel Macron, who organized the donor event, said he was approaching Lebanon like “a friend who rushes to help, when times are hard, but not to give a blank check to systems that no longer have the trust of their people.”

Food, shelter, and other aid - from the U.S., France, and others - is going to the people via NGOs, not the Lebanese government. How to combat the country’s endemic graft? A first step would be an online clearinghouse for every reconstruction contract, the head of the Lebanon Transparency Association told the Associated Press. 

2. A Trump workaround? Congress failed to agree on a coronavirus relief bill. So, President Trump issued four executive actions Saturday, including promising a $400 per week federal unemployment bonus. But few agreed that the White House end-run around Congress would work. The $400 a week jobless money would come from $44 billion in FEMA disaster relief funds, require states to cover $100 of the $400 as well as set up and manage a new program of benefits. Some governors said they didn’t have the extra funds and creating a new unemployment program could take months. On Sunday TV talk shows, Trump officials struggled to explain the plan. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) called it “unconstitutional slop.” The other executive actions called for deferring payroll tax payments (used to fund Social Security and Medicare), for federal agencies to consider a ban on evicting renters, and for extending relief on federal student loans.

 3. Democratic facade? Violent protests broke out in several Belarus cities after presidential elections Sunday. Exit polls showed a landslide for President Alexander Lukashenko, giving him a sixth term in office. No international observers were allowed and opposition politicians say the vote was rigged. Belarusians, weary of the country's deteriorating economy and Mr. Lukashenko's repression of the opposition, coalesced around Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a former teacher and the wife of a jailed opposition blogger. She drew large crowds - unusual for a country where crackdowns on dissent are routine.

 

Takuto Kaneko/Kyodo News via AP
A man and his daughter pray for the victims of U.S. atomic bombing at the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park in Nagasaki, southern Japan, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. Nagasaki marked the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing on Sunday.

Look Ahead

Monday, Aug. 10

Democracy? The Belarusian election commission is expected to announce the official results of the presidential election, with Alexander Lukashenko seeking a sixth term in office.

Law enforcement reform. Seattle’s City Council is scheduled to vote on proposals that could cut up to 100 positions from the city’s 1,400-member police force.

Tuesday, Aug. 11 

Voting matters. Primary elections are held in Connecticut (presidential and state), Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin.  In Minnesota, Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar seeks a second term against a well-funded political upstart. Voters in Georgia cast ballots in a House seat runoff and other contested spots.

Relationships matter. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Europe August 11-15 with stops in Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, and Poland.

Peering at the Perseids. The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Friday, Aug. 14

The best in B-ball. The abbreviated regular NBA season ends today. The playoffs begin on Monday. 

Resiliency Watch

Courtesy Hoda Meliki via Instagram
May Abboud Melki plays the piano amid the debris of her home in Beirut, Lebanon, after a massive explosion on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020.

May Abboud Melki offered the world a portrait of poise, a hymn of hope, amid the devastation in Beirut.

Just hours after a massive explosion on Tuesday killed at least 160 people and left as many as 300,000 homeless, she sat down at her piano, and calmly played “Auld Lang Syne” as her family was cleaning up. Her apartment was windowless and in shambles. 

Her granddaughter, May-Lee Melki, posted the video on Instagram, describing the moment as “beauty from ashes,” and said her grandmother was “pushing through her pain,” ABC News reported. The video went viral worldwide, underscoring the defiant, healing influence of music. 

In a similarly poignant moment, in April a tornado destroyed 150 homes, and killed three people in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Tracy Lynn Coats spotted a piano in the rubble of the decimated Faith Community Wesleyan Church. She plucked out the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul." Several church members were salvaging things in the debris, heard the music, and began to sing. 

Hidden gem

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

Where do women lead in the media? South Africa.

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our story about adding roads in the Tongass National Forest: Alaskans ask whether a forest's true value is it's trees or their lumber.

Finally, check out the Monitor’s selected stories from Friday's subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. How ‘success’ of US Iran policy has benefited China
  2. The other people facing housing woes: Mom and pop landlords
  3. Sexism isn’t a relic of the past. How men’s views are shifting.
  4. Where do women lead in the media? South Africa.
  5. 10 inspiring Olympic moments (video)

 

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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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