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Rebuilding trust in a divided community

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Editor's View

Whatever the circumstances prove to be in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the aftermath has taken on a life of its own. The militarized approach police have used in response to riots and looting raise questions about the department’s relationship with the community it is supposed to protect. Accounts of police mistreatment of reporters covering the protests are troubling as well.

While no one wants officers to be endangered, the armored vehicles, assault weapons, and aggressive tactics the predominantly white police force has used in the predominantly black community may have exacerbated the situation. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon yesterday said that while the police have a responsibility to protect the public “we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern.”

Communities require trust between the people and their public servants. When trust is broken, force and confrontation can’t rebuild it. Only goodwill can. And goodwill only flourishes when a community is committed to peace and justice.

John Yemma
Editor at Large

Mike Brown shooting: Images of militarized police bring out critics

The scenes following the Mike Brown shooting, some say, offer Americans a look at one consequence of federal programs that supply even tiny towns and small cities with heavy military equipment.

Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer

A militarized response to a fourth night of protests may have fueled more unrest rather than quelling it in Ferguson, Mo., where a police officer on Saturday shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.

Images from Ferguson taken Wednesday night show some protesters using the hands-up-don’t-shoot gesture as local police, clad in camouflage uniforms, pushed people off the street with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Critics say the scenes from Ferguson are offering Americans an unvarnished look at one consequence of federal programs that supply even tiny towns with heavy military equipment designed not for US streets, but for foreign battlefields.

Since the early 1990s, a Pentagon program known as “1033,” whose motto is “From Warfighter to Crimefighter,” has provided $4.3 billion worth of equipment to thousands of small towns and cities worried about terrorism.

While arguably well intended, the impulse to put the equipment into use in the absence of terror attacks, critics say, has helped to shift the nature of American policing, especially in minority communities, from a protect-and-serve mind-set to a soldier-at-war mentality.

A recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union argued that “American policing has become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized, in large part through federal programs that have armed state and local law enforcement agencies with the weapons and tactics of war, with almost no public discussion or oversight.”

In light of the unrest in Ferguson, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is taking control of security operations, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) announced Thursday.

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Trojan horse? Russia aid convoy rattles nerves as it rumbles toward Ukraine

Russia says its 200-truck convoy is filled with humanitarian aid. But the mystery surrounding it has shaken Kiev and sharpened tensions over President Putin's intentions.

Lydia Tomkiw, Staff writer

A Russian convoy of over 200 trucks allegedly carrying humanitarian aid to conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine is moving towards a rebel-controlled checkpoint creating an international guessing game and raising the prospect of an all-out war.

Earlier this week Russia announced that it had come to an agreement with Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to deliver much needed humanitarian aid to the war-torn region of eastern Ukraine. But as the Russian trucks set out, the Ukrainian government said it would not let any of them cross onto its territory and the ICRC said it did not know the route Russian trucks were planning to take.

The Associated Press reports that the convoy appears to be heading to a rebel-controlled border crossing in the Luhansk region.

Kiev fears the trucks could be Trojan horses to start an invasion. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to protect all Russian speakers, wherever they may live, has raised doubts over whether this really is a humanitarian mission.

“Putin practices the old KGB technique of maskirovka, masking and deception, in everything he does in this conflict,” Kimberly Marten, a professor at Barnard College and Columbia University, told the Monitor. “His goal is to keep people guessing.” 

But there is no doubt that humanitarian aid is needed, with the United Nations reporting that the death toll in eastern Ukraine has now reached 2,086. The Ukrainian government Thursday sent its own convoy of 75 trucks carrying 800 tons of aid for Luhansk, where many residents have faced shortages of food, water, and electricity as Ukrainian forces continue to battle rebels.

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Americans say what ails the economy: It’s politics

In an heartening sign, most Americans think the country's economic problems are solvable. The problem is they have little confidence Congress will solve them.

Mark Trumbull, Staff writer

More than five years after the recession’s official end, Americans are still deeply worried about their economy – and they say the way forward lies in improved government.

These views are evident in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll: Nearly two-thirds of adults say they’re dissatisfied with the state of the economy.

Some 7 in 10 say the problems in the economy mostly reflect “the inability of elected officials in Washington to get things done,” whereas only 23 percent agreed with the view that the economy has “deep and longstanding problems” that policymakers can’t do much about.

The silver lining is that Americans aren’t rolling over and saying a difficult economy is inevitable. They want the problems fixed and they think that policies can make a difference.

But the early August poll also reveals the double challenge facing the country. A first problem is reaching consensus about what policies will help the economy, and the follow-on conundrum is how to get a currently dysfunctional Congress to act.

Not surprisingly, for instance, Americans seem reluctant to either cut benefits for things like Social Security or to raise taxes to pay for the rising costs of such programs. Such views are one factor behind congressional inaction on entitlement reform.

Moreover, in recent years more Americans have moved solidly into either liberal or conservative camps, according to Pew Research Center surveys. Such polarization creates a big hurdle when the public consensus – and the consensus among economists – doesn’t align with an all-liberal or all-conservative agenda.

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As ethnic refugees flood Iraqi Kurdistan, a strain on hospitality

Members of Iraq's Yazidi minority and other groups have flooded into Iraqi Kurdistan for safety. But their needs are vast, and the region is coming under strain.

Dominique Soguel, Correspondent

Watched by the world's media, refugees have flooded Iraqi Kurdistan, a relatively safe zone in a country disintegrating along sectarian lines. But that disintegration, and the paucity of relief services here, present fresh challenges for the US and its allies in stabilizing Iraq. 

In recent weeks, more than 100,000 people have fled to the Kurdish-controlled city of Dohuk from villages in Sinjar, mostly ethnic Yazidis fleeing the Islamic State (IS), a Sunni extremist group. A previous wave of Arab Christians came from Mosul after it fell to IS in June.

Before the crisis erupted, Dohuk Province had an estimated one million residents. The head of the local council in Dohuk City says the population has now almost doubled with the influx of minorities like the Christians, Yazidis, and Shabak.

"The number of displaced is always climbing up...Dohuk has become a giant refugee camp," says Faheem Abdullah. "All our work now is focused on emergency relief, and providing basic services." 

The number of refugees arriving from IS-controlled Nineveh province has slowed in the past 24 hours. President Barack Obama said today it appears that almost all of the Yazidi refugees who had been trapped on Sinjar Mountain have made their way to safety.

But with so many new mouths to feed and a lack of shelter, alarm bells are ringing. The UN said Thursday it had designated northern Iraq as a "Level 3 Emergency," its highest rating for humanitarian emergencies. 

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In Afghan election dispute, enter the DC lobbyists

Afghanistan presidential hopeful Ashraf Ghani is spending nearly $150,000 a month on lobbying in DC amid a stuttering election audit.

Dan Murphy, Staff writer

As Afghanistan's election crisis drags on, presumed frontrunner Ashraf Ghani is pulling out all the stops. Preliminary results from a June presidential runoff put him ahead of Abdullah Abdullah, who cried foul. Now Mr. Ghani is anxious to get his point across – in Washington.

Mr. Abdullah's insistence that fraud robbed him of victory has sparked fears of open warfare between the rival camps. A UN-sponsored audit of the vote and recount continues, with both sides jockeying for leverage. 

Enter the DC lobbyists. 

In July, Ghani retained two US outfits that polish reputations and influence of foreign politicians. According to regulatory filings, he retained Sanitas International for $45,000 a month. Ghani's team also engaged D.C.-based Roberti White LLC in July for $100,000 a month. 

Ghani's move underscores how central a role the US has been playing in adjudicating Afghanistan's election dispute.

Last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry thought he had a deal. Both men had agreed to abide by the recount, as well as to create a power-sharing arrangement. That unravelled, so Mr. Kerry visited Kabul again Aug. 7. The wheels came off again.

Kerry's agreement included the creation of a "chief executive" position for the losing candidate. But Ghani poured cold water on that. 

A powerful pro-Abdullah warlord then warned yesterday of an "uprising" if the recount ends with a Ghani victory.

The warring campaigns may yet pull back from the brink. But it could take another trip to Kabul from Kerry to break the deadlock. And  the presence of US lobbyists in the rival Afghan camps has contributed to the lack of trust over the election audit. 

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Editorial: The Monitor's View

There’s gold in college sports ...

The Monitor's Editorial Board

It can be argued that amateurism vanished quite some time ago in big-time college football and basketball. Today the major conferences serve as feeder systems into the professional National Football League and National Basketball Association; the most talented athletes see playing for these top college teams as the best route to a professional career.

If fans want to see players taking the field or court strictly for the joy of athletic competition, they should attend Division 3 small college games, where athletics is part of a rounded college experience and where few athletes harbor reasonable hopes of turning professional.

For years college athletes in big-time programs have seen the piles of cash their universities earn from the players’ essentially unpaid labor. These athletes have a legitimate right to ask why they are not sharing in the financial bounty.

Last week a federal judge ruled in the so-called O’Bannon case that athletes in major college football and basketball programs have a right to be paid for the use of their names and images. While the ruling has a limited scope, it is likely only a harbinger of more to come.

How has the National Collegiate Athletic Association responded?

Not by trying to end the madness of a “moneyball” era in college sports but by trying to manage it. If its new rules are approved by member schools, universities in the so-called Big 5 conferences could boost the value of athletic scholarships and offer better health insurance.

Whether these concessions would satisfy top collegiate athletes remains to be see.

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A Christian Science Perspective

Back to school with hope

Advertisements for back-to-school supplies, ranging from crayons for grade-schoolers to dorm room accessories for college students, are appearing in newspapers and store windows. Where I live it’s a little early for that Colorado autumn chill in the air, but it won’t be long before students will be back at their desks, using their newly acquired school supplies.

The beginning of a new academic year turns my thought to Christ Jesus’ words in the Bible, “[T]hey shall be all taught of God” (John 6:45). We are all taught of God because God is the one divine Mind, the only true Mind of man. Therefore, all true wisdom and understanding have their source in God and are imparted to His children. Since we are all His likeness or expression, this assurance from Jesus isn’t exclusive. It includes all of us. And it is the basis of all the intelligence we need to express, whether in school, the workplace, or in family matters.

Referring to God as Mind, in her primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy states, “God is intelligence,” and asks, “Can we inform the infinite Mind of anything He does not already comprehend?” (p. 2). Is it possible to fathom a more qualified teacher than all-knowing Mind, the source of all intelligence – divine intelligence itself?

Certainly one of the lessons to learn from infinite and all-seeing Mind is to throw away a limited, material point of view and take up the spiritual understanding of our true, unlimited capacities. With so much emphasis lately on standardized testing, and competition among students of many nations for the best jobs in the world economy today, it’s important to understand God’s infinite and inclusive perspective on all of His creation. This view enables us to see past material stereotypes – limitations based on background, upbringing, or economic status – and see the unlimited capacities that God has put in place for each of His loved children. Can you picture a more successful individual than one who has been equipped by his or her divine Parent, the source of inexhaustible intelligence and ability?

That individual is every one of us. God, our Father-Mother, has already supplied each of His children with intelligence. In fact, intelligence is a spiritual quality that is inherent in our identity. On page 588, in the chapter titled “Glossary” in Science and Health, intelligence is defined, in part, as substance. Considering that intelligence is infinite substance itself, intelligence is the substance of man – the very fiber of each one’s real being, including every man, woman, and child. As spiritual ideas perpetually known by God, who is supreme Mind, intelligence is a quality we all express.

Mind has created no two ideas the same. We are all unique, and all capable of great accomplishment, no matter how the circumstances around us would try to define and limit us. I saw proof of this years ago while helping in my daughter’s school. A boy in her class was quite a handful. He had a difficult home life, physical problems, and behavioral issues, which were seen as obstacles to his ability to grasp basic kindergarten lessons. While he was working on an art project one day, something of this boy’s spiritual qualities, his true substance – evidenced humanly in focus, determination, and love for symmetry and color – stood out to me. You could say that I caught a glimpse of God’s view of him, instead of a limited, material view.

In that moment, through the inspiration I was getting, God was teaching me a new lesson about the reality of His, Spirit’s, creation. Instead of a difficult little boy, all I could see was a complete, balanced, delightful, and successful child of God. I glimpsed the unlimited nature of everyone as God’s spiritual creation, fully equipped to be as exquisite as He made each one of them to be. Helping in the classroom became easier after that insight, and, in fact, it has been a valuable truth that I’ve applied to other experiences in the years since.

How can we best support students going back to school? My prayer includes an ever-expanding view of them as divine Mind’s offspring, already complete with all right ideas, and the ability and intelligence to express Mind’s spiritual capacities. This prayer also denies the possibility of any limitations and perceives nothing less than the magnificence of what God has created all of us to be.

Annette Dutenhoffer

“The object of the Monitor is to injure no man, but to bless all mankind."
- Mary Baker Eddy

The Daily News Briefing is published Monday through Friday by The Christian Science Publishing Society in Boston, Massachusetts.

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