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A turnaround begins in Iraq

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Editor's View

The self-styled Islamic State's (IS) violence and intolerance have intimidated populations in Syria and Iraq. The group has money from banks it has looted, extortion schemes it runs, black-market oil sales, and an “infidel tax” it has imposed. It has American-made military equipment captured from the Iraqi army. And it has enjoyed the support of disaffected Sunnis. 

Those advantages are not permanent. As IS’s equipment is degraded by US airstrikes, replacements will be hard to acquire. The population IS rules — even the Sunnis — will lose sympathy if the high-handed treatment of civilians continues. The very capable Kurdish militia, backed by US airpower, is now counterattacking in northern Iraq, seeking to recapture the strategically important Mosul Dam. And with a less divisive prime minister in Baghdad, some Sunnis have indicated they are ready to join the effort against IS. 

IS won’t be defeated easily. But its initial gains occurred in a political vacuum. A united effort by Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds — backed by the US and other nations — can erase those gains.

John Yemma
Editor at Large

As Mike Brown protests continue, how can Ferguson heal?

Protesters are demanding that the officer who killed Mike Brown be arrested. But it's uncertain where the facts will lead, or whether protesters' demands will be met.

Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer

On the streets of Ferguson, Mo., it’s felt as a fundamental injustice, a palpable sense that no one with the power to do anything cares about the black teenager, dead on a Midwestern street.

During the past week, that sense of despair has built into a fierce energy. The anger that began building after officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Mike Brown last Saturday morphed into scenes more Gaza than Great Plains.

The only resolution, say protesters, is the arrest of Mr. Wilson. But it's far from certain where the facts will lead.

Where does Ferguson go from here?

Wherever Ferguson goes, it seems, it must do so carefully. The shooting has tapped into something deeply rooted.

It has its origin in the white flight that has left largely black towns ruled by nearly all-white power structures in greater St. Louis, say civil rights activists. And a young generation that chafes at the message of nonviolence, black leaders say.

Addressing such issues is “a conversation we need to have, and it’s going to be going on for a long time,” says Steve Smith, a St. Louis community activist.

Moreover, the case is “very delicate,” adds Lance LoRusso, author of “When Cops Kill.” “People are saying Brown did not get the due process of the law, but in the same breath [protesters] want to deprive the accused, Officer Wilson, of his due process.”

More "angst and pressure" are likely, Gov. Jay Nixon told CBS Sunday. "There's a lot of steps between now and when justice is served – I think there are going to be some bumps along the road to justice."

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Could arming the 'moderate' Syrian rebels have changed history?

That's a popular claim. But there's not much evidence to support it.

Dan Murphy, Staff writer

Confident assertions about how the horror of the Syrian civil war could have been avoided "if only" different choices had been made in 2011 and 2012 are all the rage these days. In this telling, more palatable, "moderate" Syrian rebels would have won the war against Assad – and forestalled the rise of the so-called Islamic State – if the US had given them strong backing.

But how far back should one go with these "what ifs"?

To President George W. Bush's decision along with Congress to impose fresh sanctions on Assad's Syria at the end of 2003? The US decision to invade Iraq earlier that year, accompanied by saber rattling out of Washington that Damascus was next on the regime change hit list? The joint Israeli-US decision to spurn a clearly worried Assad's offer of unconditional peace talks with Israel after Syria's military withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005? Assad's decision to allow international jihadis, whatever the risk of blowback some day, to flow into Iraq through his territory to tie down the bellicose Americans?

The simple problem is that, absent functioning time machines or the ability to conduct political experiments in parallel universes, it's impossible to say what might have been if a series of different forks in the road had been taken.

What we do know is that all along the way from Sept. 11, 2001, until today, confident claims were made about what the effect of US military action would be. And most of those claims were proven wrong by time and events. We also know that historically, outside intervention in civil wars typically prolongs them and makes them even bloodier. Why would Syria have been any different?

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Humans now the major cause of alpine glacier melt, researchers say

The researchers estimate that between 1990 and 2010, some 69 percent of the mass lost by the world's alpine glaciers can be traced to human influence – basically global warming.

Pete Spotts, Staff writer

Retreating alpine glaciers in a warming world may seem to have an obvious connection. But glaciers respond to environmental changes, well, glacially. At any point, it's hard to tell how much of a glacier's retreat is due to human-triggered factors now and how much is due to natural factors that might have held sway years ago, researchers say.

Now comes an analysis estimating that between 1990 and 2010, some 69 percent of the mass lost by the world's alpine glaciers can be traced to human influence – basically global warming. That compares with only 25 percent traceable to human influence averaged over the entire study period of 1850 to 2010. The team picked 1850 since that is when a prolonged, modest cooling period known as the Little Ice Age, mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, ended.

The study shows that throughout the 160-year period, an increasing proportion of mass loss could be traced to human influence, which becomes significant from about 1950 on, notes Ben Marzeion, a researcher at the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics at the University of Innsbruck in Austria who led the team performing the analysis.

The behavior of glaciers as the climate warms is of keen interest, since they serve as icy reservoirs of vital fresh water for hundreds of millions of people during the peak melt season.

In addition, the glacial retreats can set up conditions for disastrous floods as meltwater builds up behind unstable natural dams formed from the sediment left behind by the glaciers.

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Two years after Marikana massacre, a challenge to South Africa's ruling ANC

The killing of 34 miners by South African police drew attention to the cozy relationship between business and the ruling ANC. Some South Africans feel betrayed by the party that led the fight against apartheid.

Ryan Lenora Brown, Correspondent

Two years ago, thousands of striking mine workers gathered on a rocky hill outside this impoverished town in the heart of South Africa’s platinum belt, demanding wage increases from their employer, Lonmin plc. Wrapped in blankets to break the winter chill, they chanted and sang, waving clubs and spears as they marched toward a waiting knot of police.

Suddenly a shot rang out, then another.

Minutes later, 34 miners had been killed by police, and 78 more injured — the most deadly confrontation between South African police and protestors since the high days of apartheid.

Yesterday, thousands returned to this scraggly outcrop to mark the second anniversary of the killings, whose aftershocks continue to rattle South Africa’s economy and its ruling African National Congress (ANC), who many here blame for the workers’ deaths that afternoon.

"There's no doubt that the sixteenth of August was a turning point in post-apartheid South African history,” says Luke Sinwell, a researcher at the University of Johannesburg who studies the platinum strikes. Marikana set a militant tone for labor negotiations in the country and created an opportunity for a new “left, socialist politics” to emerge to challenge the ANC, which has governed the country since the end of apartheid.

But two years later, what exactly South Africa’s young democracy is turning towards remains deeply uncertain.

“This place is very rich, but we are still very poor,” says Nontuthuzelo Sikhuni, a former mine worker who is now unemployed, standing on the outskirts of the crowd. “We are seriously angry — the police failed us, the ANC failed us.”

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FARC peace talks: Colombia struggles to pinpoint 'who is a victim'

No issue has sparked such heated debate as the compensation and recognition of victims.

Sibylla Brodzinsky, Correspondent

Ever since leftist rebel and government negotiators began peace talks to end Colombia's half-century of conflict, they have claimed that victims are at the center of the process. But as negotiators turn to compensation for those who suffered at the hands of guerrillas, Colombia is asking just who should be considered a victim.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government, which began talks in 2012,  have reached deals on land reform, political participation for the rebels, and drug trafficking. But the compensation and recognition of victims is contentious.  

Over the weekend, negotiators were to begin hearing testimony from victims. They will include not only victims of the FARC, but of right-wing paramilitaries that battled the guerrillas and state actors. Many who suffered from kidnappings, forced displacements, disappearances, and attacks by FARC feel their voices are being drowned out. Some – like soldiers held captive by the rebels – have been told they cannot participate. 

The FARC rejects the notion that members of the military and police should be considered victims, as they were combatants. If the soldiers and police held by the FARC are accepted as victims, then "guerrillas who are in prison and have health problems should also be treated as victims," the rebel leadership stated.

Ms. Moreno says individuals are victims if they have suffered war crimes. This includes soldiers held in inhumane conditions and rebels who may have been tortured at the hands of state agents.  "But politically, that's hard for many people to accept," she says.

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Editorial: The Monitor's View

Will a robot take your job?

The Monitor's Editorial Board

Would you be relieved and liberated if you could hand your work over to a robot or other form of artificial intelligence? Or would you be alarmed or even wonder what your life was all about?

With robots and other forms of artificial intelligence taking over more and more tasks, these questions become less theoretical and more immediate.

Pew Research Center’s Internet Project recently asked nearly 1,900 leaders in technological and other fields how artificial intelligence (AI) will affect employment in 2025, just 11 years from now. The group split almost evenly on the question of whether robots or other AI will create or destroy jobs for humans.

But they agreed more uniformly that today’s educational system doesn’t adequately prepare young people for the jobs of the future. Students today, said one respondent, are receiving a “Henry Ford education for a Mark Zuckerberg economy.”

Jobs that demand uniquely human attributes – creativity, critical-thinking skills, empathy – will be the hardest for a synthetic substitute to replace.

Some Pew respondents also worry that the middle class could be carved out of society altogether. A highly educated and technologically sophisticated elite would do very well while the masses struggled; an ever-sharper line would be drawn between haves and have-nots.

But others note that technological advances have always destroyed jobs (where have all the blacksmiths gone?) while creating new ones: Who could have predicted 15 years ago that “search engine optimization” or “Web marketing” would be major job categories?

Humans created technology, and humans still can determine how it will shape humanity’s future.

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A Christian Science Perspective

A life worth living

Last Monday’s suicide by comedian and Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams has left many struggling to understand why. He was a comedic genius who made us all laugh, and yet, in his alone moments, seemed to face deep depression that led him to take his own life. His tragic passing has prompted private and public conversations about the depression and hopelessness that sometimes lead to suicide.

Suicide signals a loss of hope – that options have run out or that circumstances or conditions will never change. Yet we have every reason to hope, when we start in the right place. God is infinite good – that’s His nature and His measure. And because God is also all-powerful, nothing can obstruct the power or recognition of His goodness in your life or mine. As His sons and daughters, we are each the expression of that infinite goodness and omnipotence, created spiritually as indestructible, the offspring of divine Spirit.

The Psalmist offers a way out of hopelessness when he asks, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?” and then counsels and assures, “[H]ope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Psalms 42:11). A whole lot of comfort and spiritual meaning is packed into those few words. First off, the Psalmist gives us a model for dealing with ourselves or others who confront addiction, depression, or suicidal thoughts. He gives us reason to show great compassion, not criticism, for the sadness and agitation he’s feeling and that others feel. Dark thoughts appear very real to those who are wrestling with them – even if others may easily perceive the blessings in someone else’s life.

The Psalmist turns thought quickly from asking why to affirming his trust in God, praising Him, and acknowledging that God is the very health of his being. Placing trust in God fosters an expectation of good – a bud of hope that blossoms in thought. Affirming, praising, and giving thanks are all effective forms of prayer. They lift consciousness to God, rather than trying to bring God down to a problem. These kinds of prayer start with an infinitely good God, and lead one to discover the road to greater peace and well-being, leaving the vicious cycles behind by holding dear to one’s heart what it means to be the child of the infinitely good God and embracing that true identity as one’s own and as belonging to everyone, perpetually.

The many works of Christ Jesus provide prime examples. He got to the core of an individual’s real struggle – whether it was fear, disbelief, sin, or heredity – then lifted them right out of it to see the true, spiritual, selfhood. So, too, can we expect those whose thoughts are buried in sadness and desperation to discover a new life, a life filled with wonder, joy ... and hope! God loves each of His children. He did not create any of us to live lives dominated by chemical imbalance. Our true individuality is spiritual and complete, expressing the dominion and freedom of Spirit, God. Jesus proved this through his healing works. Over and over again, those who were healed by him discovered their true Christly selfhood accompanied by incomparable freedom.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, observes, “Christ presents the indestructible man, whom Spirit creates, constitutes, and governs” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 316). This was true not only of Christ Jesus, but of every one of us as God’s children, God’s spiritual ideas. Because God, Spirit, is infinite good – and we express God – we all have an infinite measure of good to anticipate. By accepting and understanding that fact, we discover the limitless good that is always at hand, even if not yet seen by the material senses. This understanding and expectation of good sets a new tone and opens up for us a life worth living.

Colleen Douglass

“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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