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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
August
15
Wednesday

One would hope that after a catastrophe like Tuesday’s bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, the authorities would be focused on helping those affected. But the Italian government has moved on quickly to apportioning out blame.

Matteo Salvini, the deputy prime minister and leader of the right-wing League, said today that those responsible would “pay, pay everything, and pay dearly.”

Among those he fingered was the European Union. “If external constraints prevent us from spending to have safe roads and schools, then it really calls into question whether it makes sense to follow these rules,” he said. “There can be no trade-off between fiscal rules and the safety of Italians.”

Mr. Salvini’s choice to point a finger at the EU is not a surprise. The League is deeply euroskeptic. But his accusation is unfounded. As BuzzFeed Europe editor Alberto Nardelli tweets, the EU has authorized €10 billion for Italian infrastructure. But many Italian governments and parties chose not to spend that way.

Salvini’s government wasn’t apt to be different. Mr. Nardelli notes that a redevelopment project has long been debated for the Genoa bridge, but League coalition partner the Five Star Movement opposed it.

At least one former prime minister argued that debating bridge construction should wait. “Maybe finally it is the time to discuss infrastructure, but without ideology,” tweeted Matteo Renzi. “But today, please, is a day only for silence.”

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Now to our five stories for your Wednesday. 

1. What price loyalty? How cast-aside aides retain Trump’s ear

A spate of memoirs by former Trump aides has raised questions over loyalty to the boss and what it means to retain a seat on the president’s kitchen cabinet. 

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Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former top Trump aide and purveyor of a scathing memoir, has given the president a cautionary tale. She and President Trump go way back to their days on “The Apprentice,” and yet she still stabbed him in the back after being fired. Mr. Trump had thought he could trust the people who were with him before he won the presidency, according to his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, the guest at Wednesday’s Monitor Breakfast. But no more. “Life is tough,” Mr. Lewandowski said. For Trump, loyalty is key. And despite the fact that Lewandowski, too, was fired by Trump, he remains loyal. He signed a non-disclosure agreement, but he thinks such agreements are unenforceable. The two talk often, and Lewandowski appears on stage at Trump rallies. Presidential scholar Matt Dickinson explains the value of keeping up with friendly “formers": They’re a source of support, and can give objective advice, he says. “They also can rally support for you without the encumbrances of holding an official position.”

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What price loyalty? How cast-aside aides retain Trump’s ear

What's the difference between Omarosa Manigault Newman and Corey Lewandowski? Loyalty to the boss – Donald Trump – who hired and fired you.

In the case of Ms. Newman, once President Trump’s top African-American aide, her firing last December gave way to a firestorm with the publication of her tell-all book, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.” Her most explosive, and so far unproven, charge is that a tape exists of Trump using the N-word to refer to black people. 

With Corey Lewandowski, the president’s first campaign manager, “you’re fired” was barely a speed bump along the path of a still-warm relationship.

Mr. Lewandowski’s own book, “Let Trump Be Trump” – co-written with former deputy campaign manager David Bossie – is full of over-the-top paeans to the boss who fired him in June 2016.  

Speaking Wednesday at a Monitor Breakfast for reporters, Lewandowski acknowledges that he signed a nondisclosure agreement in January 2015 when he agreed to run Trump’s presidential campaign. Still, he makes clear he thinks such agreements are probably unenforceable.

Not that it matters. One gets the strong sense that Lewandowski would be just as laudatory toward Trump, with or without a nondisclosure agreement. He launched his breakfast remarks by citing positive polling data from CNN.

“This president … is as popular as Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, or Bill Clinton at the same time of their first term in the presidency,” Lewandowski said.

These erstwhile aides represent the two universes of Trump “formers”: those who remain loyal and provide an emotional lifeline to a president who reportedly feels besieged at times; and those who, like Newman, have embarrassed him and raised questions about his hiring decisions.

Add to the latter category Paul Manafort, who served as Trump's campaign chairman. He's on trial for tax evasion and bank fraud; his sidekick, Rick Gates, has testified against him in a plea deal. Technically, Mr. Manafort has remained “loyal” to Trump, in that he has not taken a plea deal (but it’s not known if one was even offered).

Still in the orbit

Among the top-level “formers” still very much in the Trump orbit is Hope Hicks, the former communications director who resigned in February. She recently visited Trump and family at his Bedminster, N.J. club, then joined the Trump team on Air Force One for a “Make America Great Again” rally in Ohio. Add to the loyal “formers” Sean Spicer, who served as press secretary for Trump’s first six months in office. His book, “The Briefing,” safely avoided criticizing the (former) boss. And he’s also signed on to serve as a spokesman for a pro-Trump super-PAC called America First Action.

Lewandowski is a senior strategist for Vice President Pence’s political action committee, the Great America PAC. And unlike Spicer, who came to Trump from the world of establishment Republican politics, Lewandowski is more an outsider, like the boss.

Lewandowski and Mr. Bossie are also regulars on Air Force One, flying with Trump to “MAGA” rallies. The president often calls them up on stage, where Lewandowski shows his skill at energetically channeling Trumpian messages.

Presidential scholar Matt Dickinson of Middlebury College says there is value to a president of keeping up with friendly “former" aides. “They’re a source of support, and can give objective advice,” he says. “They also can rally support for you without the encumbrances of holding an official position.”

Trump is known for having a stable of outsiders he likes to talk to, from Fox News commentator Sean Hannity and Newsmax publisher Chris Ruddy to Lewandowski and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is a legal counsel to Trump on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

All presidents, of course, have a “kitchen cabinet,” the friends and aides who knew them before they reached the Oval office and could be trusted to have their best interests at heart. That’s why Omarosa’s turn against Trump has reportedly been so shocking to him, as reflected in comments and tweets where he calls her a “dog” and a “low-life.”

The betrayal of Omarosa put the lie to Lewandowski’s assertion in April that anyone who was with Trump before Election Day in 2016 is a “loyal, dedicated person,” whereas anyone who joined the team later was suspect. At the Monitor Breakfast, Lewandowski was asked why Trump has been beset by record-high turnover.

“Part of what people still tend to forget about this administration is, Donald Trump came to Washington with no political experience, never having run for office before, and never having had a group of individuals who had served him as an elected official,” Lewandowski said.

The outsider who wasn't ready to go

Trump’s lack of political and governing experience, of course, was one of his selling points as a candidate. Americans wanted something different, and they got it, Lewandowski stresses. But he also lightly raps the Trump team’s knuckles for the messy start to his presidency. 

“One of the biggest mistakes this administration has made was that they weren't ready to go on Day One,” he says.

Lewandowski was also asked, as the father of four young children, how he feels about the harsh language Trump has aimed at Omarosa.

“You know, I have to tell you, I grew up in Lowell, Mass., not exactly Cambridge,” he says. “A little different, a little tougher than Cambridge, Mass.… Life is tough.”

Lewandowski says he has tried to explain to his kids, who range in age from 7 to 11, that he wants to help put the country on a different path, and that means tough decisions and tough language.

“Is it great to go and insult people and chastise them in public? Maybe not,” he says.

“But I also think by and large the American people want results. And they had the opportunity to go and vote for political correctness time and time and time again in the primaries, and they chose to vote against the standard operating procedure of how Washington’s worked, and do something different. And I think Donald Trump is delivering on that promise.”

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Thin blue line

America confronts a police shortage

2. One city’s crime-fighting quandary: Where, exactly, to invest?

If Chicago builds a $95 million police and fire academy, how many problems can it solve? In the neighborhood with the city’s shortest life expectancy, some say that the facility will bring jobs, others that the money should be spent on education and social services.

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A year and a half after the Justice Department released a report criticizing the Chicago Police Department’s use of force and racially discriminatory conduct, tensions between the police and community remain high in some neighborhoods. Nowhere is that tension more clear than in the proposed $95 million police and fire academy: a 30-acre campus that would include state-of-the-art training facilities and much-needed jobs on the West Side, a community struggling with poverty and gun violence, say supporters. But others say that it will not solve the underlying problems of policing and crime in Chicago. They point out that a new facility is not the same as better training and that the police department has already changed its curriculum. “We are not asking for more well-trained, well-funded, well-equipped police,” says Ethan “Ethos” Viets-VanLear of the #NoCopAcademy campaign. “We are asking for money to be diverted from policing to education, health care, and parks.” Alderman Emma Mitts says that West Garfield Park has a lot to gain from the new police academy. “I can’t emphasize it enough: Jobs reduce violence and criminal activity.” Second in a three-part series.

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One city’s crime-fighting quandary: Where, exactly, to invest?

Lonnie McClain was playing video games inside his house on Chicago’s West Side one afternoon this May, when two white police officers came up on his porch. Outside, his 20-year-old nephew, Montae, had been dancing to rap music with his headphones on.

“They asked him, ‘What are you doing? Why are you right here dancing?’ ” recalls Mr. McClain.

“I came out, and I’m like, why are you all asking him questions? He didn’t do anything. There’s people getting robbed right now, people’s cars are getting stolen, people are getting shot, and you all are in front of his face right here when he’s dancing!”

A year and a half after the Department of Justice released a report criticizing the Chicago Police Department’s use of force and racially discriminatory conduct, tensions between the police and community remain high in neighborhoods like McClain’s. 

Nowhere is that tension more clear than in the proposed $95 million police and fire academy, which would be located just two miles from McClain’s house. The planned 30-acre campus would include state-of-the-art training facilities and provide much-needed jobs to residents in a community struggling with poverty and gun violence, say supporters. But the academy has become a flashpoint for politicians and community members here, who argue that the money would be better spent elsewhere.

The proposal for a new police academy came in the wake of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was shot 16 times by an officer as he walked away from police in October 2014. The shooting sparked months of protests calling for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy – who ultimately stepped down – as well as investigations of the police department by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and local Police Accountability Task Force (PATF).

Chicago has been in the national spotlight in recent years for its high-profile police shootings of black residents, including Laquan, as well as its struggles with gun violence. Poor police-community relations is at the heart of both issues. The Chicago Police Department solves one in 20 homicides, and that rate has been declining in recent years, according to a Chicago Tribune analysis. At the same time, the city has paid victims of police misconduct more than $50 million this year alone, a marked increase from last year. 

Now, the city is addressing these issues by creating a consent decree for the police department, which would require the implementation of reforms suggested by the DOJ last year after their investigation. Both the DOJ and the PATF found systemic racism within the police department, particularly when it came to stopping people without justification and the use of force. Additionally, they both called for the improved training of officers and a larger, safer space in which to conduct these trainings. The current police academy was built in 1976.

“The physical structure that houses the Academy is antiquated, cramped and cannot accommodate even current needs, let alone the increased training that will be necessary to make real cultural change,” according to the PATF report, which was released in April 2016. It notes that mandatory Taser training was being conducted in the academy’s hallways because there was no other space available. 

Last month, the poor state of police training facilities came to light again when the city was ordered to fix serious safety violations at a shuttered school that the police had been using for tactical training after a complaint that it was infested with cockroaches and rodents, had poor ventilation, and high levels of lead and asbestos. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, four police officers collapsed from the heat at the facility in the two weeks following the complaint.

“Our current police academy is physically outdated,” says police department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. The department has championed the creation of a new academy in order to “implement the much-needed reforms and professional development that have been sought by our police officers, the community and the US Department of Justice,” says Mr. Guglielmi.

Underlying problems 

But organizers here say that a new police academy on the West Side will not solve the underlying problems of policing and crime in Chicago. They point out that a new facility is not the same as better training and that the police department has already changed its curriculum, graduating three classes of officers who received what the mayor has called “best-in-class training.” 

One of those newly graduated officers killed a black barber, Harith Augustus, on the city’s South Side on July 14. 

“We are not asking for more well-trained, well-funded, well-equipped police,” says Ethan “Ethos” Viets-VanLear of the #NoCopAcademy campaign. He's part of the police abolition movement, which seeks community solutions to crime and conflict. The 23-year-old has been organizing against police brutality since 2014, when his friend Dominique Franklin Jr. died after police officers tased him. Mr. Franklin allegedly had stolen a bottle of vodka from Walgreens. The city of Chicago eventually settled a federal lawsuit with Franklin’s father for $200,000. “Young people on the South and West sides are saying that we need to divert resources to schools," says Mr. Viets-VanLear. “They are saying the police do not bring safety into our communities. We are asking for money to be diverted from policing to education, health care, and parks.”

Chicago spends 39 percent of its municipal budget on policing, while New York spends just 8 percent and Los Angeles spends 26 percent, according to a report released last year by the Center for Popular Democracy. This means the city has less funds for things like schools and social services. The proposed $95 million academy comes just five years after the city announced the biggest mass closing of schools in US history, shutting down 50 schools because of a $1 billion budget shortfall. 

Organizers here have long called for the diversion of funds away from policing and toward social services, but the proposed cop academy has given them a common cause to rally around. Launched shortly after the city proposed the new academy last summer, the campaign is now supported by nearly 80 organizations across the city. Over the last year, they have successfully disrupted city hall hearings, held flash mobs on trains and in the busy downtown area, and pressed politicians to take a stand on the issue. They’ve gained an unusual group of supporters. Among them: Grammy-winner Chance the Rapper, former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and Lori Lightfoot, the former chairwoman of the Police Accountability Task Force.

Ms. Lightfoot, who is running for mayor, argues that while a new police training facility is needed, it should not be located on the city’s struggling West Side. Residents of the neighborhood where the academy is supposed to be built, West Garfield Park, have the same life expectancy as Iraqis. They are nine times more likely to be killed by a gun and six times more likely to be unemployed than someone living in the downtown Loop neighborhood.  

“Putting this edifice to policing in this high-crime, impoverished neighborhood where relations between the police and the community are fraught, without a clear plan for community engagement, is a mistake,” Lightfoot told the audience at the City Club of Chicago earlier this year.

But Alderman Emma Mitts says that West Garfield Park has a lot to gain from the new police academy.  She has represented the community and its surrounding areas in the city council for close to 18 years.

“Consider the thousands of construction jobs, and when completed, hundreds of permanent positions” says Ms. Mitts, which will stimulate economic development on the West Side. “I can’t emphasize it enough: Jobs reduce violence and criminal activity.”

She says that additionally the hundreds of officers coming through West Garfield Park will add “a public safety presence that will bring increased peace and security to our residents” and assist in “promoting better neighborhood relations between police and the surrounding communities.” 

Residents here, however, remain unconvinced.

“It’s crazy because they will [build a new police academy], but they won’t do anything for our schools,” says McClain. “They would rather have police out here than better schools. I never understood that. Never.”

Part 1: Desperate for officers, a Georgia police chief hits the road

Coming Thursday: Teaching police to holster their emotions

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3. Why Brazil pushes back on Venezuelan refugees

A Brazilian border state’s difficulties welcoming Venezuelans underscore a frequent challenge: communities hosting vulnerable refugees are often among their country’s neediest, too.

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Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
A Venezuelan migrant carries a placard near a makeshift camp at Simón Bolívar Square in Boa Vista, Brazil. It reads: 'Looking for work: carpentry, painting, farming, and general services.' Officials say the state capital’s population has increased by more than 10 percent due to Venezuelan arrivals over the past two years. That’s straining the local economy and affecting local perceptions of security.

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Roraima is Brazil’s poorest and smallest state, a pocket of the Amazon along the Venezuelan border. Today, it’s home to about half a million – plus thousands of Venezuelans fleeing their country’s intensifying crises. Examples abound of locals providing help. But many locals argue the Venezuelans put too much of a strain on their already-neglected state. Earlier this month, Roraima abruptly closed its border, though the decision was overturned soon after, and officials have asked the federal government for $49 million, to reimburse what they’ve spent on refugee support. The state’s dilemma underscores the fear, misinformation, and lack of preparedness that so many cities and states have confronted across the world as migrant populations boom. But the desire to help is there, many locals insist, and a change in perspective could help uncover solutions to problems that predate the refugee influx – like violence against women, among whom refugees are especially vulnerable. The challenge is “to think about solutions together,” says Julia Camargo, a professor at the Federal University of Roraima.

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Why Brazil pushes back on Venezuelan refugees

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a recent morning and already the line outside Our Lady of Consolation Convent stretches past the lime-green fence and around the corner. Hundreds of people, mostly men, have come for the bread and juice the nuns offer for breakfast six days a week.

It’s an increasingly common sight in Roraima, Brazil’s poorest and smallest state, which is situated in the Amazon and shares a border with Venezuela. As humanitarian, economic, and political crises have intensified across their country, tens of thousands of Venezuelans have crossed into Brazil seeking medical attention, food, and opportunity.

“Things in Venezuela have changed,” says Jesús Quispe, a former member of Venezuela’s armed forces, as he lines up for the bare-bones breakfast. “In Venezuela, you would go out to ‘kill a little tiger,’ so to speak, in order to eat a plate of food, and it wasn’t enough,” he says, referring to doing small jobs or informal work, like cleaning a neighbor’s gutters. “Here, you ‘kill a little tiger’ and you have enough [money] to send to your family in Venezuela.”

Mr. Quispe arrived in Boa Vista three months ago and has been sleeping on the ground near the city’s bus station ever since. Many sidewalks, bus stops, and storefronts transform at night into stretches of bodies sleeping on collapsed cardboard boxes – a situation that many residents say has prompted their compassion, but also stretched the realistic limits of Roraima, an often-overlooked part of Brazil.

Nacho Doce/Reuters
People from Venezuela eat their meal inside Nossa Senhora Da Consolata church in Boa Vista, Roraima state, Brazil on Aug. 11, 2018. Six days a week, nuns offer a free meal for hundreds of refugees.

Public officials estimate the state capital’s population has increased by more than 10 percent due to Venezuelan arrivals over the past two years. That’s straining the local economy and affecting perceptions of security, many locals say. With the growing pressure on public services, and a feeling that the state has been left to care for refugees entirely on its own, Roraima abruptly closed its border with Venezuela this month. State officials asked the federal government to reimburse it for the $49 million they’ve already spent on refugee support, and pleaded for help creating a more organized humanitarian response.

The border closure was overturned by a Supreme Court justice the same week it went into effect, but the move underscores the feelings of fear, misinformation, and lack of preparedness that have swept cities and towns across the world as migrant populations grow. It could be easy to cast Roraima’s move as protectionist, or cold-hearted. But among residents and government officials in this remote corner of Brazil – where monthly income hovers around $250, nearly half the national average – the desire to help is there. Local nongovernmental organizations and individuals are stepping up to offer housing, food, and Portuguese classes. Some observers say shutting down the border was meant as a very public call for help.

International agreements demand that refugees be taken in and housed with dignity. “But there’s also the right of [locals] not to lose their standard of living,” says five-term mayor Teresa Surita. “It’s a really difficult situation to manage.”

A strain, or scapegoats?

Outside the city’s center, Venezuelans have become regular fixtures at intersections, where they sell candy, bottles of cold water, and homemade popsicles in an effort to scrape by. More than 16,000 Venezuelans arrived in the first half of 2018 alone. Boa Vista is building 50 new classrooms to accommodate Venezuelan students, and roughly 65 percent of emergency room visits last month were from Venezuelan refugees.

While examples abound of individual Brazilians taking Venezuelans into their homes or providing food, resentment has also grown. As refugees seek out medical care, employment, and schools in a state of roughly half-a-million people, some locals see their livelihoods threatened; others see an increase in crime and blame refugees.

On a recent afternoon, the urgent care clinic near the federal university has half a dozen people waiting. Paula Lopes Santos, a Brazilian artisan and physiotherapy student, is one of them.

“A lot of people have lost their jobs because their labor is much cheaper,” she says. “People exploit [the refugees]. You would have to pay a Brazilian 100 Reals, and they take 30. So, this harms [locals].”

But the situation in Venezuela, where child malnutrition is on the rise and even the most basic medical care is scarce, means those arriving here are “in a situation of extreme vulnerability,” says Daniela Campos, coordinator for the state’s epidemiology department. She says Venezuela’s humanitarian emergency is affecting this small state beyond the increasing number of individuals in need, and points to a recent outbreak of measles, which was previously eradicated in Brazil.

Some argue Brazil needs to put “Brazilians first,” instead of attending to Venezuelans. The Boa Vista city government boarded up a square in which some 600 refugees had set up camp earlier this year, in what critics called an effort to push the issue out of sight. The move was criticized by human rights activists, but won popularity among some locals. In an election year, tough responses like this can be appealing, and closing the border this month allowed the governor, who is up for reelection, to look firm on migration.

The government’s inability to respond quickly and adequately to the refugee populations’ basic needs has enabled politicians to scapegoat migrants, says João Carlos Jarochinski Silva, a professor of international relations at the Federal University of Roraima. It’s creating an “exclusionary idea of nationalism,” he says, where local culture is seen as something that needs to be preserved and protected.

Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
Venezuelan migrants stand between tents in a United Nations-run shelter in Boa Vista, Brazil on May 3, 2018.

Old problems, new perspective

The federal government has yet to offer additional help after the brief border closure. Late last February, however, the government stepped up its efforts after President Michel Temer visited Roraima. Shortly after, the army arrived to build and run refugee shelters in Boa Vista and along the border. Mr. Temer also issued an order earlier this year to “interiorize” Venezuelan arrivals, moving people from Roraima to other state capitals. So far, only 820 refugees have been relocated, leaving Roraima with most of the responsibility.

“We have a large number of organizations that are helping, that is true,” says Frederico Linhares, Roraima state’s cabinet secretary. “But we don’t have any [real] help from the federal government. That’s an issue that concerns everybody here, because this is a federal matter.”

Still, some see this moment as an opportunity for Roraima – and possibly the nation – to give needed attention to longstanding issues that affect locals and newcomers alike. Last year, for example, Human Rights Watch identified Roraima as the Brazilian state with the highest levels of violence against women. Female migrants are often especially susceptible, which is helping to raise awareness about the existing problem, says Julia Camargo, who teaches International Relations at the Federal University of Roraima.

Professor Camargo was one of the organizers of a 2017 campaign called “Elas somos nos” (Those women are us), which aimed to highlight shared experiences of violence between local and refugee women, and create solidarity.

If a woman is also "a migrant, there are overlapping layers of vulnerability,” Camargo says. “If we see this as an opportunity to look at these problems more, to think about solutions together, then, along with the cultural baggage that immigration brings, it can also bring us solutions to problems we already had."

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4. On full-day kindergarten, policies still lag behind the promise

Early learning advocates have given a lot of attention to preschool in recent years, but not as much to what comes after. Those who have studied the issue say full-day kindergarten is just as important.

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When children head off to kindergarten, they often do so for only part of the day. But more educators and advocates are arguing for rethinking that, given what they say are the benefits of having 5- and 6-year-olds in school all day. In the 36 states that don’t require schools to offer full-day kindergarten, many districts have gone ahead with it anyway, using a combination of federal funding, available state dollars, and parent-paid tuition to cover the cost of the approximately 540 extra hours of instruction time each school year. In Nashua, N.H., full-day kindergarten has long been provided in schools that serve a majority low-income population, but 2017-18 is the first school year the full-day option has been available at all 12 district elementary schools. “It feels good to be able to offer parents what they’ve been asking for for years,” says Kelley Paradis, principal of Main Dunstable Elementary School in Nashua. Ms. Paradis, whose school offered full-day kindergarten for the first time in the 2017-18 school year, says that by April 2018, every class for the 2018-19 school year was full and the school already had a waiting list. 

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On full-day kindergarten, policies still lag behind the promise

“Fact or opinion?” teacher Patricia Lemoine asks her kindergartners on a blustery April morning: “Ms. Lemoine has a rug in her classroom.”

“Fact!” shout her 5- and 6-year-old students, who sit on the rug in question. Whether or not it’s the best rug in the whole school, they cede, is a matter of opinion.

Ms. Lemoine, who teaches at Dr. Norman W. Crisp Elementary School in the small city of Nashua, N.H., nods. A fact, she tells her students, is “true, true, true, and we can prove it.”

It’s also a fact – true, true, true, and we can prove it – that full-day kindergarten classes like Lemoine’s help kids do better in early elementary school, researchers say. But state policy has been slow to catch up with this point. 

Only 14 states and the District of Columbia require districts to offer full-day kindergarten, according to kindergarten policy data collected by the Education Commission of the States, a national think tank. And even though most states require school districts to offer at least half-day kindergarten, only 17 states and the District of Columbia mandate that children attend it. Of those, two offer a waiver to children who are assessed as ready to start first grade.

Early learning advocates and politicians have spent a lot of time in the past five years talking about preschool. Former US President Barack Obama made preschool a key part of his education agenda during his eight years in office. Spending on state-funded preschool programs for 4-year-olds has risen in both red and blue states, especially since 2008.

But for the benefits of preschool to be sustained, experts argue, children must continue to receive a high-quality early elementary education. Full-day kindergarten, which has been shown to boost academic gains for students well into elementary school, could be critical. 

“The opportunity for full-day K should be available for all,” says Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. Professor Cooper is the lead author of a 2010 review of all the research examining the impact of full-day kindergarten, which found that children who attended for a full day had better academic outcomes the following year, more self-confidence, and were better at playing with others.

SOURCE: Education Commission of the States
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The Hechinger Report, Karen Norris/Staff

Full-day benefits spur district changes

In the 36 states that don’t require schools to offer full-day kindergarten, many districts have gone ahead with it anyway, using a combination of federal funding, available state dollars, and parent-paid tuition to cover the cost of the approximately 540 extra hours of instruction time each school year. 

New Hampshire is the latest state to approve legislation to fund full-day kindergarten in districts that want it. However, districts here are not required to offer kindergarten at all, nor are children mandated to attend it. The new funding doesn’t kick in until 2019, but many New Hampshire school leaders aren’t waiting until then to offer full-day programs.    

In Nashua, N.H., full-day kindergarten has long been provided in schools that serve a majority low-income population, but 2017-18 is the first school year the full-day option has been available at all 12 district elementary schools. 

“It feels good to be able to offer parents what they’ve been asking for for years,” says Kelley Paradis, principal of Main Dunstable Elementary School in Nashua. Ms. Paradis, whose school offered full-day kindergarten for the first time in the 2017-2018 school year, says that by April 2018, every class for the 2018-19 school year was full and the school already had a waiting list. 

Last summer, Paradis says, she and Main Dunstable’s three kindergarten teachers focused on the logistics of doubling their students’ time in school. How would the kids behave in the new classroom? How would they find the bathrooms? Where would the kindergartners sit at lunch? How would teachers handle dismissing kindergartners at the same time as all the older kids? But those things all fell into place with some extra planning and “what we learned about were the unanticipated social-emotional benefits,” she notes.

Simple things like socializing during lunch and participating in “specialty classes” like art and music have made the kindergartners more comfortable in their building and with each other, the school’s teachers say. Friendships have blossomed, kids have received more individual attention each day and the academic gains at this middle-class school have been significant, they say.

“The best thing has been being able to teach every subject every day,” explains Wendy Lundquist, who has taught kindergarten for 19 years. The previous school year, she says, she was only able to get to science or social studies on any given day, not both. 

“My kids who are struggling are doing better,” says Mary Plouffe, who began teaching 15 years ago. They have extra hours to practice and more teacher support, she says, adding that they are “more motivated” and are improving more quickly. “We should have done this years ago.”

Since children from low-income families are more likely to be unprepared to do well in school when they show up on the first day of kindergarten, time to catch up to their peers is important. The extra time is also important for children who speak a language other than English at home and for students with learning disabilities.

“What full-day kindergarten does is push up the starting point,” says Cooper, the Duke professor. That means children who enter kindergarten behind the curve can potentially make enough progress to start first grade on par with wealthier classmates, he explains. 

The New Hampshire example 

New Hampshire had considered paying for full-day kindergarten in the past. The most recent failed effort lost on a party-line vote in 2015, with Republicans voting against it. Then, in the months before he was elected in 2016, Republican Governor Chris Sununu came out in favor of full-day kindergarten and, within the year, had signed a law to cover the new cost with money from the state’s lottery system.

In 2019, New Hampshire will provide interested districts with about $2,900 per full-day kindergartner, more than is offered for half-day kindergartners, but just two thirds of what is offered for first- through 12th-grade students. By 2020, the state will raise kindergarten funding to match that provided to the higher grades. The full amount is still just about a third of the per-pupil cost for a year of education, according to reporting from Jason Moon of New Hampshire Public Radio. The rest comes from local taxes.

Before the new law was signed, a smaller percentage of kids attended full-day kindergarten in New Hampshire than in almost any other state, reported Mr. Moon, who has followed the issue carefully since the measure was first introduced in the state legislature. In March, Moon called several districts that weren’t offering full-day kindergarten and found that the new funding from the state would not sway them to start offering it. 

Despite his support for offering full-day kindergarten as a matter public policy, Cooper says attending six hours of school may not be appropriate for some 5-year-olds. “Parents and educators should consider characteristics of the child in addition to potential effects on achievement,” he says. “That they’re ready cognitively doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready emotionally.”

Back in Lemoine’s kindergarten classroom, school has been in session for nearly six hours. Justin Pichardo-Morban, 6, is painting “things about spring” with some well-used watercolors. Jaliyah Carrion, 5, is sitting next to him drawing trees. Jeraliz Rosario, 5, is “drawing spring” too.

All three children look happy and energetic as they add bright greens and yellows to their sopping wet paintings. In fact, no one in the room, neither the kids playing the math-based card game, nor the ones building cities out of Legos, looks tired.

If anything, says Leianny Menendez, 6, kindergarten might be just a bit too easy. “I like it,” she explains, “but I wish I could be in fourth grade so I could learn even harder things.”

This story about full-day kindergarten was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. 

SOURCE: Education Commission of the States
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The Hechinger Report, Karen Norris/Staff
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5. Can ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ redefine how Hollywood portrays Asians?

Historically, Hollywood has misrepresented Asians. Understanding how offers lessons on more authentically portraying minorities, eventually making movies like "Crazy Rich Asians" expected rather than exceptions. 

Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros. Entertainment/AP
Michelle Yeoh (l.), Henry Golding, and Constance Wu star in 'Crazy Rich Asians,' one of the first films from a major Hollywood studio starring a contemporary Asian cast since 'The Joy Luck Club' in 1993.

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When Patrick Nan heard about “Crazy Rich Asians,” he says he thought, “This is finally our turn to enter into mainstream Hollywood, for Asians to be finally portrayed authentically.” The film, which opens Aug. 15, is rare – one of the first movies from a major studio with a contemporary, all-Asian cast since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993. Based on the bestselling book by Kevin Kwan, the story follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) as she travels to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), for his best friend’s wedding. She finds out that he’s, well, crazy rich. Hollywood has a history of misrepresenting Asians, and rarely portrays them in romantic relationships. This film hopes to change that. With so few movies like it, the pressure for it to do well at the box office and to represent an entire community is high. If Hollywood produces more films about Asian-Americans, “not every single movie will have to hold up the expectations and hopes of an entire community,” says blogger Phil Wu. “A movie like this can be allowed to fail.”

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Can ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ redefine how Hollywood portrays Asians?

Phil Yu couldn’t remember a time he had seen two Asian romantic leads on a poster for a Hollywood film.

But there it was in late April – a poster for “Crazy Rich Asians” with its leads, Constance Wu and Henry Golding, embracing each other beneath the tagline: “The only thing crazier than love is family.”

He has since attended two screenings of the movie, which he describes as a powerful emotional experience.

“Asian-Americans, just like anyone else, deserve to see stories ... [with] characters who look like us from our community having fun and falling in love.... It means a lot to see yourself reflected in this everyday way,” says Mr. Yu, who runs the blog “Angry Asian Man.”

The film, which opens Aug. 15, is an extreme rarity – one of the first movies from a major Hollywood studio with a contemporary, all-Asian cast since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993. It may also breathe new life into the romantic comedy genre. “Crazy Rich Asians” is projected to rake in $26 million in its first five days, a debut not seen for a rom-com since 2015, and currently has a 98 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating. It’s also under outsized pressure to succeed; after decades of misrepresentation, for many of Asian descent it marks a chance to finally be seen.

“Crazy Rich Asians” is based on the international bestselling book by Singaporean-American author Kevin Kwan. The story follows Rachel Chu (Wu), an Asian-American professor from New York, as she travels to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young (Golding) for his best friend’s wedding. She finds out that he’s, well, crazy rich.

When Patrick Nan, a rising junior studying film at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., heard about “Crazy Rich Asians,” he says he thought, “This is finally our turn to enter into mainstream Hollywood, for Asians to be finally portrayed authentically.” Asian and Asian-American characters, he hoped, would no longer be only kung fu experts or computer geeks who can’t get a date.

A history of misrepresentation 

Hollywood rarely portrays Asians and Asian-Americans in romantic relationships, says Peter X Feng, an Asian-American English professor at the University of Delaware in Newark, and author of “Identities in Motion: Asian American Film and Video.” “Crazy Rich Asians” is asking the audience to identify with the Asian-American female lead, “a big shift” from the history of representing Asian-American women as “a trophy or a prize” who are hypersexual and extremely feminine, says Professor Feng. Asian men, in contrast, are depicted as either being sexually deviant or comically devoid of sexual desire, he adds. 

A part of the emasculated way Asian men are portrayed in Hollywood comes from an American anxiety about Asian wealth, one that is not directed at other Western nations, adds Feng.

“‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is set among these families who… just like the Kardashians or the Trumps, are ostentatiously spending their money in ridiculous ways,” says Feng. The film bolsters Western values about consumerism and displays of wealth rather than represent Asian wealth as a threat, he adds.

Jamie Kho, a 14-year-old Chinese teenager who lives in the Philippines, has bonded with her 50-something parents while reading the books because they identify with the characters. “Although I’m not crazy rich, there are a lot of aspects, especially when it comes to culture and tradition about respect, I can identify myself in,” she says. She was captivated by the story’s depiction of generational struggle, calling it “the perfect blend of old and new.”

As actors were chosen, many questioned the casting of Golding, who is British-Malaysian and biracial, to play the Chinese-Singaporean lead role. Others criticized the film for not reflecting the diversity of Singapore, comprised of ethnic Chinese (76 percent of population), Malays (15 percent), and Indians (7 percent).

The scrutiny is a result of a history of yellowface in Hollywood that continues with the practice of whitewashing, where a white actor plays an Asian character, says Jun Okada, associate professor of English at the State University of New York Geneseo. Prominent examples include Scarlett Johansson as a cybernetic Japanese woman in “Ghost in the Shell” (2017) and Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in “Doctor Strange” (2016). In fact, one producer who wanted to option “Crazy Rich Asians” suggested they make Rachel's character white, a change the book’s author refused.

The history of yellowface – using everything from skin-darkening pigments to tape and rubber bands to alter the appearance of white actors – stretches back to mid-18th century theater. Actors from Katherine Hepburn and Marlon Brando to Fred Astaire and John Wayne took part in the practice.

“I'm fine with a white actor being cast in an Asian role, as long as it's in a world where an Asian actor can be cast in a white role. But the system is unbalanced,” says Feng.

An increasingly global Hollywood 

Often, projects about minories catapult certain actors’ careers rather than leading to more films telling diverse stories, says Feng.

“If this movie does well it will hopefully open doors. But I can't tell you how many times I've said that before,” Feng says, listing the movie “The Joy Luck Club,” and the Asian-led TV shows “All American Girl” (1994) and current ABC show “Fresh Off the Boat," the first network sitcom starring Asian-Americans to reach syndication. “I think we are seeing incremental change, but I don't think we're seeing transformative change,” he adds.

That landscape includes a few other studio films with all-Asian casts like “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), independent films starring Asian Americans like “Better Luck Tomorrow” (2002), and films made by non-American production companies with US releases like Indian-American film “The Namesake” (2006). 

According to a 2017 study by the University of Southern California Annenberg's School for Communication and Journalism, 4.8 percent of speaking characters in Hollywood films in 2017 were Asian, despite making up 5.7 percent of the US population. Nearly two-thirds of the top 100 films that year didn’t have a single Asian or Asian-American female character.

The film's $30 million budget was financed through a combination of American and Asian production companies, which to Feng demonstrates the increasingly global nature of the film marketplace.

“The question of representation can’t be divorced from the economics,” says Feng, who says he expects more Hollywood films starring Asians because of the growing market in Asia. Chinese moviegoers are increasingly important to Hollywood with China accounting for $7.9 billion in ticket sales in 2017, fueling a 7 percent increase in overall box office earnings for US films.

With so few movies like it, the pressure for the film to do well at the box office and to represent an entire community is high. “It’s under a huge magnifying lens,” says Professor Okada.

Eventually, if more films about Asian-Americans get made, “not every single movie will have to hold up the expectations and hopes of an entire community,” says Yu, the blogger. “It can just be another movie. And a movie like this can be allowed to fail.”

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The Monitor's View

A cold-war anniversary that still warms the heart

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Fifty years after Moscow ended the Prague Spring by force – on Aug. 20, 1968 – the world still benefits from a key lesson of those events. In the months before the invasion, the head of then-Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubček, had reduced state controls and embraced the dignity of individuals in choosing their form of government. He had exposed the lie of communism – that fear and domination were necessary to pursue a cause guided by a self-selected elite. Dubček was deposed, and Communist rule reinstated. But Prague would propagate a movement that relied on truth-telling as the real power. The legacy of the Prague Spring has carried over into many countries battling the mass disinformation campaign of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. President Putin’s ideology of ethnic nationalism and heroic authoritarianism is not communism. Yet it, too, relies on suppressing dissent and controlling media while trying to undermine democracy in other countries. This has led to many Ukrainians, for example, organizing to learn how to fact-check news stories. There are signs that the practice is spreading, including into Russia. The events that started with the Prague Spring keep echoing.

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A cold-war anniversary that still warms the heart

In quiet ceremonies next week, the people in the Czech capital of Prague will commemorate the 50th anniversary of an event that still reverberates across much of Europe. On the night of Aug. 20, 1968, the tanks and troops of the Soviet empire rolled into the city to end what was called the Prague Spring.

In the months before the Moscow-led invasion, the head of then-Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubček, had reversed some basic elements of Soviet ideology by reducing state control of industry and embracing the dignity of individuals in choosing their own form of government.

He had exposed the big lie of communism – namely that fear and domination were necessary to further a cause guided solely by a self-selected elite.

Dubček was deposed by the Kremlin and communist rule was reinstated in Czechoslovakia. But the Soviet claim to historical supremacy was never the same. A bubble was popped. Moscow’s exercise of physical power in Prague, based on the Marxist notion of material values, ended up spawning a movement that relied on truth-telling, not guns or violent protests, as the real power.

The movement was led by a Czech playwright and dissident, Václav Havel. His greatest essay, “The Power of the Powerless,” asked people to “live in truth,” using daily small acts to expose the fabrications of authoritarian rulers that force people to “live a lie.”

Consciousness, not material conditions, controls one’s being and freedom, he said. And hope “is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

By 1977, the movement led to a human rights organization known as Charter 77. It helped dissidents behind the Iron Curtain speak out about universal ideals and reveal the kind of falsehoods and fears that prop up dictatorships. By 1991, the Soviet empire had collapsed from within, largely without violence in its final fall. Mr. Havel then became the elected president of his fully independent and democratic nation (which later split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic).

The Prague Spring is just one important event of the cold war. Yet its 50-year legacy in truth-telling has carried over into many countries today that are battling the mass disinformation campaign of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

President Putin’s ideology of ethnic nationalism and heroic authoritarianism is not communism. Yet it, too, relies on suppressing dissent and a controlled media while trying to undermine democracy in other countries, especially near Russia’s borders.

Since 2014, the biggest target of Russian propaganda has been Ukraine because it had liberated itself from Putin’s influence in the so-called Maidan Revolution and in its drive to eventually join the European Union. While Russia later took the Crimean Peninsula by force and still supports armed rebellion in Eastern Ukraine, it uses social media and other information outlets to bombard Ukrainians with fake news or half-truths that imply the country is run by fascists or that the West is the enemy.

This has led to many Ukrainians organizing themselves to learn how to fact-check news stories. The late Swedish researcher Hans Rosling calls this “factfulness,” or learning to discern what qualifies as real and achieve what he termed “understanding as a source of mental peace.”

Ukraine’s leading fact-checking group is a project known as StopFake, started by journalists and others to counter fake news. It has nearly 200,000 followers on social media and runs programs on Ukrainian television.

With its success, it has begun to provide similar fact-checking in other countries, including Russia, that are the brunt of Kremlin propaganda. StopFake relies heavily on donations from abroad as well as local volunteers. One donor in particular stands out: the Czech Republic. Fifty years on, the events that started with the Prague Spring keep echoing into the future.

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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.

Responding to a wrong with what’s right

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A hostile situation at work yielded to collegiality and productivity as today’s contributor considered the idea that we all have the God-given ability to express qualities such as wisdom and integrity.

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Responding to a wrong with what’s right

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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I had the honor of being the guest speaker at my granddaughter’s eighth-grade graduation. In preparation, I reflected on my experience as a teenager, and wished I had made better decisions, so inspired decisionmaking was the natural choice for my topic.

It was a very small graduating class, so I asked that each student send me ahead of time three character qualities that he or she had expressed consistently during the past few years. During the presentation, I displayed each triad of qualities on a screen and asked the students if they could identify each other based on the qualities. It was fun to see them do this.

So what do character qualities have to do with decisionmaking? Everything! I experienced this firsthand some years ago, when I was hired to work as a sales manager in an industry in which I had no previous experience. The position had traditionally been filled by industry-trained men, and some of my colleagues were openly unhappy that someone with my profile had been hired. Others quietly withheld vital information I needed to work effectively.

I needed to decide how to respond to this situation. Feeling overwhelmed, I called a Christian Science practitioner for help. (A practitioner is someone whose ministry is dedicated to healing through prayer.) As we prayed together, I considered the idea that God has given each of us unique talents and the ability to express noble character qualities that make for inspired living – such as wisdom, productivity, strength, kindness, integrity, and so on.

The Bible tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that everything that He made is very good (see Genesis 1:26, 27, 31). Through my study of Christian Science I’ve learned that our true identity is composed of God’s spiritual qualities, which are always good. One way they are manifest in our experience is as a moral force that strengthens us in doing what’s right. And because such qualities originate in God, who is almighty Spirit and limitless good, our ability to express them cannot be undermined. Resentment is not impelled by God and therefore has no authority to create havoc.

As I prayed to feel assured that God’s power alone was in control, these words from the Bible became especially meaningful to me: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way” (Psalms 37:23). I loved this promise of God’s love and care.

There’s a story in the Bible about Daniel, who refused to stop worshiping God even when others schemed to do him harm (see Daniel 6). When his life was threatened and he was put in a den of lions, he remained loyal and turned wholly to the one true God, divine Love. “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, gives us a profound insight into how Daniel could have been so fearless: “Understanding the control which Love held over all, Daniel felt safe in the lions’ den....” (p. 514).

This helped me see that as God’s love and power were the very source of Daniel’s courage, I – as God’s loved child – had the innate ability to respond to the situation at work with calm and strength. I was enabled to feel the divine power manifesting order and peace.

Realizing that this God-reflected goodness was intact for me and everyone helped me find a path forward: I endeavored to express spiritual love for my colleagues and to show care for their well-being. Gradually, the healing effect of God’s love for us all became evident in the way we worked together. There was greater collegiality and collaboration as well as increased productivity and sales.

Christ Jesus said, “The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). Each of us is empowered to know that the spiritual qualities that constitute our God-reflected identity are imbued with divine power that blesses and heals. This strengthens us to stand up for that which is good and upright, regardless of what the circumstances might be.

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Viewfinder

Next, the healing

Matt Rourke/AP
Victims of alleged clergy sexual abuse, or their family members, react as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks at a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg on Aug. 14. A state grand jury announced that its investigation of clergy sexual abuse had identified more than 1,000 affected children. The report says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte and Karen Norris. )
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In Our Next Issue

( August 16th, 2018 )

Thank you for accompanying our exploration of the world today. Please come back later this week for a pair of stories about how climate change is manifesting in ways one might not expect. Tomorrow, we'll look at its impact on the economy, and on Friday, we’ll examine the way it’s changing how people choose to vacation.

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August 15, 2018
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