2018
August
07
Tuesday
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

The sweeping ban Monday by Apple, Facebook, and YouTube on content produced by conspiracy broadcaster Alex Jones poses intriguing moral questions about hate speech and free speech rights.

Conservatives aren’t defending Mr. Jones’s wild theories. But some are concerned about censorship. “I don’t support Alex Jones and what InfoWars produces. He’s not a conservative. However, banning him and his outlet is wrong,” writes Brent Bozell of the conservative Media Research Center. “Social media sites are supposedly neutral platforms, but they are increasingly becoming opportunities for the left and major media to censor any content that they don’t like,” he says.

Conservative columnist David French writes that Jones “has no regard for truth or decency [and] is finally getting what he deserves,” adding that “there is no First Amendment violation when a private company chooses to boot anyone off a private platform.” In a New York Times opinion piece, Mr. French writes that “hate speech” is too vague a standard for censorship. He suggests social media companies challenge untruths with libel and slander law.

America is navigating an era of pervasive falsehoods and of testing the limits of the First Amendment (religious speech, printing of 3-D guns, kneeling at NFL games). There are no simple answers. But these cases challenge all Americans to check their own moral compass, as voting members of a democratic society.

Now to our five selected stories, including closing the gender pay gap in Georgia and a cultural gap for students in Boston.

1. Amid global heat wave, signs of shifting views

Record heat in the Northern Hemisphere is prompting people to wonder why this summer is so hot. As temperatures rise, perceptions of climate change are shifting.

David
Max Rossi/Reuters
A man cools off as he waits for Pope Francis to lead a prayer Aug. 5 in Vatican City. Temperatures across Europe – and around the world – have soared.

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Wildfires have smoldered across California, Europe, and even the Arctic Circle. Japan has seen the highest temperatures it has ever recorded. Hundreds have died in a host of heat waves around the globe. And the experiences, so hard to ignore, appear to be reshaping how many around the world view the issue of climate change – and whether their governments are doing enough to build resilience against it. In May of this year – the hottest on record in the contiguous United States – more Americans than ever, 73 percent, said they believe there is solid evidence of global warming. In Greece, a 2017 poll asked residents about the greatest threats for future generations. The most cited answer was climate change – higher even than economic inequality, despite Greece being mired in economic crisis for the past decade. “Heat waves are getting hotter, and people should prepare for hotter weather than they are used to,” says Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. “When I started in 1996, global warming was very abstract. Now it has gone so far you can just step outside and feel the difference.”

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2. Amid global heat wave, signs of shifting views

Andreas Kadas was fast asleep in his summer home in the Greek holiday resort of Mati when the phone awoke him to warn of the approaching fire.

While he survived Greece’s deadliest blaze on record – taking nine minutes from the first ring to when he reached the seaside on foot, smoke billowing around him – 91 people were killed in what he recalls a “huge tragedy” that burned around him.

The downpours that came three days later, and lasted for more than a week, should have come as a relief. Instead, they left him with a sense of dread that something larger about the weather pattern is shifting. “Mati is a region with many pine trees and strong winds blowing, so you could say that it is a high risk region for a firestorm. But these rains, which were fierce like rainstorms, remind me of a tropical climate,” he says. “No one was expecting something like this.… That is what really troubled me and has made me wonder what’s going on with the climate.”

Mr. Kadas is not alone in his experience. This has been a summer of extremes as wildfires rage, record temperatures are set, droughts keep farmers up at night, and downpours and heat waves turn deadly from western Japan to eastern Canada. Many citizens may have given little thought to the issue of climate change in their daily lives at present. But now they are starting to rethink whether it is a high enough priority – and whether their governments are doing enough to build resilience against it.

“I think the dramatic weather of this summer both globally and in the United States will likely move the needle,” says Christopher Borick, the director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown, Penn.

‘We have already begun feeling the changes’

It may already be happening. In May of this year – the hottest on record in the contiguous US – more Americans than ever, 73 percent, said they believe there is solid evidence of global warming, according to the poll the Muhlenberg College Institute has run twice a year since 2008.

In Greece, a 2017 poll conducted by the public opinion research unit at the University of Macedonia asked residents about the greatest threats for future generations. Of the eight possible answers, the most cited was climate change with 43.9 percent, higher than No. 2, which was economic inequality and difficulties at 37.2 percent – remarkable for a country mired in economic crisis for the past decade.

Greeks may be shifting their views simply from their own personal experiences with heat. Dimitris Lalas, a retired professor at the University of Athens who represented Greece in international negotiations on climate change for 25 years, warned two decades ago that Athens would have Cairo’s temperature and Berlin would have that of Athens within a generation. At the time, the warning seemed more like science fiction to most ears, but he says that is no longer true. “We have already begun feeling the changes, and I think people will start being more sensitive to these issues so we can move forward.”

A report by researchers of the World Weather Attribution network in Europe compared temperatures in real time over a three-day period in late July in northern Europe – including stations in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and two stations in Finland – with historical records dating back to the 1900s. The preliminary results from their attribution study not only found records smashed in some stations. They also concluded that heat waves were twice as likely or more in some of the locations because of climate change.

“Heat waves are getting hotter, and people should prepare for hotter weather than they are used to,” says Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) who worked on the study. This message has gotten easier for scientists to impart. “When I started in 1996, global warming was very abstract. Now it has gone so far you can just step outside and feel the difference.”

The need to prepare

Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Center on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, chaired a panel in June that concluded: “It’s essential that Canadians act now to adapt and build their resilience to climate change.” It was days before a heat wave in Quebec killed more than 90 people, according to local estimates. Such adaptation measures that he supports include cool roofs or more tree canopy in cities, and designing new housing units with air-conditioning as a necessity – the way heating now is. “The single biggest problem we have in terms of climate change and extreme weather is not technical capacity to address problems,” he says. “The problem is complacency.”

This summer Japan experienced its deadliest weather-related disaster in more than three decades – 225 died and 10 remain missing in floods and landslides that were triggered by torrential rains in western Japan. That was soon followed by an intense heatwave that gripped the country, leaving more than 130 dead from heatstroke.

On July 23, the country grabbed headlines worldwide when the mercury hit 106 degrees F. in the city of Kumagaya, 38 miles northwest of Tokyo. It was the highest temperature ever recorded in Japan.

The leaders of Tatebayashi, a city 40 miles north of Tokyo known for extreme heat, were prepared. They had already been given warning of the arrival of a heat wave this summer based on long-range weather forecasts, says city official Yuzo Inoguchi.

The city provides its citizens with information about how to cope in a heat wave but also with a list of how to reduce their own carbon footprint. It also holds a regular citizens’ conference, which consists of local farmers, business officials, and environmentalists. The summer’s experience has given them more inroads to emphasize the need for individuals to act. “We have more opportunities to go to a community to discuss measures against global warming,” Mr. Inoguchi says.

The persistence of denial

As wildfires burned in the Arctic Circle, California battled its largest blaze in history, and records temperatures were set from Algeria to South Korea, the Guardian asked in a commentary: Is “this the heatwave that finally ended climate denial?”

The author, Michael McCarthy, asks the question after seeing a headline in a British tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch. The Sun’s headline warned, “The World’s on Fire.” “It’s not always easy to recognize a historical tipping point when you see one,” Mr. McCarthy writes, “but I believe I spotted one when I walked into my local newsagent last Wednesday and saw the front page of the Sun.”

Some say that view could be too optimistic. Mr. Borick, for example, says those who deny climate change tend to also report fewer changes in the weather than those who believe in it. “We will see, even if it was indeed much hotter, climate skeptics will tell you, ‘no, it was no different,’ or ‘it was colder,’ ” he says. “Their world view is shaping how they are perceiving the environment, perceiving reality.”

“The human memory on weather conditions is very weak,” adds Mr. Lalas in Greece. “But every year we have strong evidence that things are getting worse.”

Lennart Nilsson, a farmer on the west coast of Sweden, says he has been waiting for the rain since April to relieve his parched cattle farm. He is not just worried about the economic loss.

“Hopefully it is ordinary variation in the weather,” he says. “But the stuff we have seen, we have never seen. We are a bit worried. This year has been very strange because the first month was a mild winter, then we got snow in March, everybody thought about a very late and cold spring, but we got summer directly in May, and now we have extreme drought. And of course we wonder why.”

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2. Trump Tower meeting draws attention to campaign lines of legality

During a US presidential campaign, what’s legal – or illegal – when it comes to getting help from foreigners? Our reporter takes a closer look at the 2016 meeting between Trump campaign workers and a Russian lawyer.

David

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The changing story regarding the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting may reveal legal jeopardy for a member of the president’s immediate family. It is broadly illegal for foreigners to contribute anything of value to American political campaigns – and it is illegal for Americans to solicit such contributions. For Donald Trump Jr., just taking the meeting with a Kremlin-backed lawyer might qualify as such a solicitation. Much depends on what they actually talked about. This is not an obscure, dusty statute. It was first passed in 1966, and strengthened in 1974 and 2002. But if the Trump Tower meeting might be a problem under this law, why wouldn’t the so-called Steele dossier be problematic as well? Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who put together the dossier of allegations against Trump, is definitely a foreigner. At first glance the situations seem legally similar. The difference, Paul S. Ryan of the nonprofit Common Cause says, is that Mr. Steele was hired to provide a service (by Fusion GPS, the US firm paid in turn by the Clinton campaign). Paying fair market value for a service is generally legal. It’s contributions by foreigners that aren’t.

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Trump Tower meeting draws attention to campaign lines of legality

Of all the incidents in the Trump Russia saga, perhaps none has been as intensely scrutinized and speculated about as the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

Numerous threads of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation may run through the meeting between a Kremlin-linked lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump aides. What was the nature of contacts between Russian nationals and lower-level Trump campaign officials prior to its occurrence? What was really discussed? Did it produce any sort of plan for further communication? What, if anything, did President Trump know about what happened?

The Trump team’s shifting characterization of the Trump Tower meeting may be important. Initially it was billed as dealing with the adoption of Russian children. Now the president has tweeted that it centered on possible Russia-provided opposition research about Hillary Clinton. He insists it was all “totally legal” – no big deal, the sort of thing common in politics.

In fact, the changing story may indicate legal jeopardy for a member of the president’s immediate family. It is broadly illegal for foreigners to contribute anything of value to American political campaigns – and it is illegal for Americans to solicit such contributions. For Trump Jr., just taking the meeting might qualify as such a solicitation. Much depends on what they actually talked about.

“I think they know they are in very treacherous waters,” says Chris Edelson, an assistant professor of government in the School of Public Affairs at American University.

News leaks in July 2017 revealed the existence of the meeting. On the Trump side was Donald Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. On the other was Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer with Kremlin ties, among others.

The Trump team had initially vehemently insisted that the campaign had no contacts with any Russians at all, Professor Edelson points out. That turned out to be untrue. In the wake of disclosures about the Trump Tower meeting, on July 8, 2017, Trump Jr. issued a statement saying the meeting “had primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” This statement did not mention that he was promised damaging information about Mrs. Clinton at the meeting, and had replied via email, “I love it.”

Trump lawyers and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also initially denied that the president had written the statement issued in his son’s name, despite press reports that he had personally dictated it from Air Force One. In January, in a letter to Mr. Mueller, Trump attorneys admitted that Mr. Trump had dictated it. They defended it as an “accurate response.”

Then Sunday, in a tweet, Trump made his clearest and most emphatic statement yet that the meeting was to “get information on an opponent.” He added that it was “totally legal and done all the time in politics.”

Thus the story about the meeting from the Trump side has evolved, with hair-splitting at the least, and some outright falsehoods. This calls into question the veracity of anything else they might say on the subject, according to Edelson.

There’s a Latin phrase for that that expresses a common law principle: “falso in uno, falso in omnibus.”

“The idea is, if you can show they are not telling the truth about one thing, it makes it more likely that they are not telling the truth about other things,” he says.

As President Trump pointed out in his tweet, the acquisition of dirt on opponents is a common political practice. Presidential campaigns often devote lots of time and money to the practice. On Sunday, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow pushed back against the notion that Trump Jr. and associates may have violated the law by meeting with a Kremlin-backed lawyer.

“Well, the question is, how would it be illegal?” Mr. Sekulow said in an ABC News appearance. “What law, statute or rule or regulation’s been violated? Nobody’s pointed to one.”

Critics say they can certainly point to one – the federal law that makes contributions and donations by foreign nationals to US political campaigns illegal.

It’s a law that is written very broadly, they point out. In a memo, the nonprofit Common Cause says that “contribution” here is defined as “any gift ... of money or anything of value ... for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office.”

The flip side of this is that it is illegal for US nationals to solicit such contributions. An invitation to attend a meeting where something that might qualify as a contribution, such as opposition research, is discussed could itself qualify as a solicitation. Further active discussion of collaboration of such material would certainly constitute solicitation, though there is no public evidence that any such talk took place at the meeting.

“In addition to those violations you could also be looking at conspiracy and attempted conspiracy to violate those bans on accepting and soliciting contributions from foreign nationals,” says Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause.

This is not an obscure, dusty statute. It was first passed in 1966, and strengthened in 1974 and 2002. And someone on the Trump campaign in 2016 would have been very conversant with this law. Don McGahn, counsel to the Trump effort in June 2016, is a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Now he’s White House counsel.

But if the Trump Tower meeting might be a problem under this law, why wouldn’t the so-called Steele dossier be problematic as well? Christopher Steele, the British ex-spy who put together the dossier of allegations against Trump, is definitely a foreigner. At first glance the situations seem legally similar.

The difference, Mr. Ryan of Common Cause says, is that Mr. Steele was hired to provide a service (by Fusion GPS, the US firm paid in turn by the Clinton campaign). Paying fair market value for a service is generally legal. It’s contributions by foreigners that aren’t.

Consider catering, Ryan says. Federal campaigns hire catering services in cities all across the US, and it is almost certain that they are paying waiters or even catering company owners who are not American citizens. That’s not against the law.

One final twist: Foreign nationals can’t work for US campaigns and can’t be involved in campaign decision-making processes. That’s the issue with Cambridge Analytica, the British political consulting firm that sold data mining services to the Trump campaign. The company allegedly used foreign nationals to analyze and help decide what to do with its information.

“In that sense it gets pretty risky to hire foreign nationals,” says Ryan of Common Cause, which has accused Cambridge Analytica of violating US law.

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Charlottesville: Lives changed

One year after

3. From targeting a statue to taking on the system

As part of our series this week on Charlottesville, Va., our reporter spoke to high school activist Zyahna Bryant, whose efforts to confront a symbol of racism sparked a series of events that exposed the entrenched injustices in her city.

David
Norm Shafer/ For The Washington Post/Getty Images
Teen activist Zyahna Bryant wrote a petition in 2016, when she was a high school freshman, asking the city of Charlottesville, Va., to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee.

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Life’s been busy for Zyahna Bryant since the events of Aug. 12, 2017. A year before, Ms. Bryant, then 15, started an online petition to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from downtown Charlottesville, Va. She had no idea her appeal – which started as a school assignment – would lead to a deadly clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters. Nor did she realize what effect that one decision would have on her own life and advocacy: Though not yet a senior, Bryant has since become the kind of activist who wins awards for her work and is featured in national news outlets. But to her, what happened last summer is about far more than taking down a memorial or even decrying the violence that engulfed her hometown and shocked the nation. It’s about reclaiming the story of the city and elevating the voices of the people in it who are least heard. “White supremacy [in Charlottesville] existed way before Aug. 12,” she says. “It’s not at all anything compared to the racial violence that black people have been dealing with since the beginning of this country.”

This series continues tomorrow. 

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From targeting a statue to taking on the system

Life’s been a lot busier for Zyahna Bryant since the events of Aug. 12, 2017.

A year before, Ms. Bryant – then 15 – had started an online petition to remove the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a park in downtown Charlottesville. It wasn’t her first foray into activism: she was just seven when her grandmother took her to campaign for Barack Obama. As an elementary school student, she quickly realized that she was one of only a handful of black students at the private academy she attended. By the time George Zimmerman was acquitted in 2013 in the killing of Trayvon Martin, Bryant was fully versed in what it meant to be black in America today.

Despite that, she had no idea her petition – which had started as a school assignment – would spur a series of events that would lead to the deadly clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters at the very park where the Lee statue stood. Nor did she realize what effect that one decision would have on her own life and advocacy.

“Before the 12th, I didn’t call myself an activist,” she says. “The work just felt so natural and so necessary, more than just me wanting to do it.”

Today Bryant’s a known figure both in her community and beyond. Vice News has published a profile on her. CNN invited her to participate in a debate on gun control. She’s received awards for her community and social justice work, which includes founding the Black Student Union at her own Charlottesville High School. When we spoke by phone on a Thursday afternoon – it was her third interview of the day – she was on her way to a meeting of the local school board, where they would announce her new position as student representative.

“My days are crazy, I’ma tell you,” she says.

Rather than distracting Bryant, the attention has helped her find her focus. To her – and to many progressive activists, especially local ones – what happened last summer is about far more than taking down a Confederate memorial or even decrying the violence that engulfed her hometown and shocked the nation. It’s about reclaiming the story of the city, and elevating the voices of the people in it who are least heard.

Charlottesville’s black communities have long suffered displacement and discrimination, Bryant says, pointing to how the majority-black neighborhood of Vinegar Hill was bulldozed in the 1960s to make way for “urban renewal projects.” African Americans still make up the bulk of stop-and-frisk cases in a city where they constitute only 18 percent of the population.

“White supremacy [in Charlottesville] existed way before August 12,” Bryant says. “It’s not at all anything compared to the racial violence that black people have been dealing with since the beginning of this country.”

The past year has prompted a kind of of soul-searching that’s caused the citizens of Charlottesville no small pain. On the Monday before the rally’s anniversary, residents packed the hall where the Charlottesville city council held its bimonthly meeting. Some carried signs that said, “Transparency,” “Arrest Kessler,” and “Unmask the Illusion” (current Mayor Nikuyah Walker’s campaign slogan). Police chief RaShall Brackney and fire chief Andrew Baxter fielded questions from council members about safety and security for the coming weekend as some in the audience clapped or hissed. Some asked questions out of turn. Public comments, which came at the end of the meeting, went on past midnight, says Allison Wrabel, a reporter who covered the meeting for The Daily Progress, Charlottesville’s local paper.

“Suddenly people who have never been to a city council meeting ... are showing up,” says Bryan McKenzie, who also works for the Progress. “People who have never felt they had a voice or never even thought about having a voice – who thought, ‘This is just my life’ – are going, ‘Maybe it doesn't have to be this way.’ ”

For Bryant, getting that message out to the broader public has become central to her work. Though she’s still interested in organizing, she’s more focused on bringing to light the long history of white supremacy and racism in the city. She’s calling for more resources for community organizers who are leading the charge toward social justice and equality, but whose jobs often don’t pay enough for them to make rent. She’s urging journalists and others to seek out the advice and stories of local activists of color, many of whom have been organizing for years.

“The Trump era has diminished the work of so many women of color,” Bryant says. “I’m passionate about centering them and making sure they are at the front.”

One thing that hasn’t changed for Bryant in the past year is how she feels about the statue that started it all. Though it was shrouded in a black tarp for a while after last summer’s rally, these days the monument looks much the same as it did when Bryant first published her petition. In July, a local judge signed an order indefinitely extending an injunction that protects the city’s Confederate monuments while the lawsuit plays out in court. 

“It needs to go,” she says. “There's no way you can contextualize years of racial terror. No platform for white supremacy.”

Corrections: George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing teenager Trayvon Martin in 2013. Mayor Walker's slogan is "Unmask the Illusion."

Part 1: A new life for mother whose daughter was killed in Charlottesville

Part 3: Charlottesville pastors see protest as an act of faith

Part 4: Jason Kessler and the 'alt-right' implosion after Charlottesville

Part 5: For people of Charlottesville, a long year of reckoning

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4. Women flipped the pay gap in this Georgia town. Why it’s not a model.

Chamblee, Ga., tops the handful of US cities where women make more money than men. But this situation is more of a window on persistent challenges than a recipe for closing the gender pay gap.

David

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Nationally, women workers earn 80 to 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. But in Chamblee, Ga., women on average earn $1.37 for every dollar earned by men. In an analysis of 2,700 US locations by The Pew Charitable Trusts, women outearned men in this small city and just six others. A combination of affordability, quality of life, and proximity to Atlanta has attracted residents and encouraged a healthy culture for women in business. Phyllis Stallman was drawn to Chamblee’s charm and reasonable cost of living when she moved her language translation business into a former preschool here. “Women are always encouraged to be brave and go out on their own when they are among other women who have done the same thing,” says Ms. Stallman. But if Chamblee is the kind of town where individual hardworking women can succeed, a seemingly progressive statistic doesn’t tell the whole story. More than one-third of Chamblee residents are foreign-born, and most of those are not citizens. Noncitizens are far more likely to be men than women – in a ratio of nearly 2 to 1 – and earn a median annual salary of $21,300, compared with $51,100 for their native-born women counterparts.

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Women flipped the pay gap in this Georgia town. Why it’s not a model.

Stroll the streets and peek into the shops here and you’ll see hints of why this Atlanta suburb is one of the few places in the United States where women outearn men. Women engineers run an architectural firm specializing in renovations. An art gallery that doubles as community space was the dream of its woman owner. Even the proprietor of the city’s beloved Great Depression-era barber shop is now a woman, as are half its barbers.

Nationally, women workers earn 80 to 82 cents to the dollar of male workers. But in Chamblee, women on average earn $1.37 for every dollar earned by men, the largest gender-reversed disparity in the country. In an analysis of 2,700 US locations by The Pew Charitable Trusts, women outearned men in this small city and just six others. But the answers as to why these communities’ gender pay gaps are reversed lie in more than just the achievements of women, and highlight the persistent challenges to better wages and opportunities everywhere.    

A combination of affordability, quality of life, and proximity to Atlanta anchored Amy Spanier to Chamblee as she opened her dream project: an art gallery that blurs the lines between amateur and professional, fine and folk. She worked as an interior designer in New York City and Los Angeles before eventually returning home to the South. “It becomes so much effort and it’s so expensive to live that you never have anything extra, even if you are earning well,” Ms. Spanier says of her time in Manhattan. Her showroom is a historic grocery facing old train tracks, next to a stylish tea shop, a space she says she could never afford in a bigger city.  

Phyllis Stallman was also attracted to Chamblee’s charm and reasonable cost of living when she moved her language translation business into a former preschool here. Its success underscores how both circumstance and choices made by women to support each other boost the town’s community of women in business. Ms. Stallman says providing flexibility, along with benefits comparable to large companies – such as personal days and six weeks of paid maternity leave – strike a chord with her group. Her dozen employees stagger their start times between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. By the time afternoon rolls around, they’re joking with one another and their pace becomes more relaxed. “I like the fact that they look forward to coming to work,” Stallman says.

Women helping women

A generation after Stallman ventured into self-employment, she took a bet on another young woman looking to transition her career. Stallman’s son ran across a former high school classmate who said she had tired of working as a lawyer and was interested in starting her own business; he suggested she speak with his mother. That evolved into Stallman asking Lindsey Cambardella if she would like to join hers rather than go it alone. Stallman – who had begun to plan for retirement and decided she did not want to sell her “baby”  – eventually looked to the younger employee to keep the translation company alive. She offered her the job of CEO.

“Women are always encouraged to be brave and go out on their own when they are among other women who have done the same thing,” Stallman says. Ms. Cambardella herself founded a local network for women business leaders, a group that meets monthly.

Mayor Eric Clarkson says the city has not done anything special to encourage its unexpected superlative regarding women’s salaries, though he’s long been pushing ways to increase his city’s appeal to earners across the income spectrum. Mr. Clarkson’s wife, a buyer for a children’s clothing store, is the top earner in their home. He jokes that’s why he can spend his time as a public servant; he’s been mayor for the past 17 years.

From Spanier’s art gallery, heading through the small streets of sweetly modest bungalow homes takes you to Chamblee’s southern side, where signs change into Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Here, the city hosts about three miles of metro Atlanta’s famous Buford Highway, a multi-city corridor whose strip malls have been repurposed by the waves of immigrants and dubbed a “Global Food Paradise” by the Travel Channel. But if Chamblee is the kind of town where individual hardworking women can succeed, here it becomes visible that a seemingly progressive statistic doesn’t tell the whole story.

More than one-third of Chamblee residents are foreign-born, and most of those are not citizens. Latinos are projected to outnumber whites as the largest ethnic group in the city by 2022. Non-citizens are far more likely to be men than women – in a ratio of nearly 2 to 1 – and earn a median annual salary of $21,300, compared with $51,100 for their native-born women counterparts.

It’s not surprising that an area with racial diversity and even significant poverty, like Chamblee, would perform against the norm on rankings of the gender pay gap, according to Kevin Miller, a senior researcher with the American Association of University Women. Salaries for workers in poor sectors approach a “floor effect" – which means employees making minimum wage can only have so much disparity amongst themselves, Dr. Miller says. At the same time, jobs with six-figure earnings are “much more segregated by gender.” That points to the role of white male earners, who make such disproportionately high salaries that just their absence decreases pay disparities. Even in Chamblee, according to the Pew report, women on average earn less than men when comparing employees in the same fields. Miller likens Chamblee to the New York City borough of Queens, a majority-minority urban area where women’s economic achievements occur alongside poverty. 

Low-wage workers, mostly male 

Plaza Fiesta, a hub for Latin Americans on Buford Highway, is a 300-plus store shopping mall in the city’s dense commercial zone. Two decades ago, preparations for the 1996 Summer Olympics and a coinciding housing boom had boosted demand for manual laborers and immigrants. Plaza Fiesta’s manager, Julio Peñaranda, says those early years were a time when up to a dozen immigrant men may have shared one home, taking turns to use beds in living rooms as they slept according to their work shifts: morning, afternoon, overnight.

The immigrant population is skewed toward men because of the type of jobs offered and the fact that many hope to return home to families they support abroad after a few years of earnings, Mr. Peñaranda says. Women come in smaller numbers, fearing for their safety when they cross the border from Mexico. “Immigrants come here and do the menial jobs,” says Peñaranda. “We do the jobs people don’t want to do. We’re picking vegetables, we’re picking [up] litter.” 

Chamblee’s days as a hub for migrants could be hitting a wall, though: Peñaranda points to four nearby large apartment complexes recently demolished to make way for luxury homes. Last fall, The New York Times wrote that “few places in the United States have simultaneously beckoned undocumented immigrants and penalized them for coming like metropolitan Atlanta,” describing northern Atlanta’s participation in a Trump-era crackdown on undocumented migrants.  

If Chamblee’s noteworthiness as the city where women most outearn men proves to be fleeting, the less apparent and more durable cultural effects of such daily contact with successful women figures may not be. Katy Young, an advertising producer, who moved to Chamblee in the ’90s, says both the valedictorian and salutatorian at her son’s recent high school graduation mentioned #MeToo in their speeches. The same son attended the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C. She thinks that political orientation may have been the result of her sons’ being raised by a woman breadwinner. “They saw a great example,” she says.

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5. ‘A broadening effect’: Summer culture reaches low-income kids

Here’s another “gap” story. It turns out that how kids spend their summer can influence their performance when they go back to school. Here's a look at efforts to close this cultural and academic divide.

David

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Summer is a time for swimming pools and sitting on stoops. But it is also a time when learning gaps can widen for students. During June, July, and August, kids from low-income backgrounds are disproportionately less likely to visit museums and other places that connect them with shared culture, according to a study released in May by the US Department of Education. While 54 percent of kids entering first grade from poor backgrounds visited a zoo during the summer, for example, 69 percent of their nonpoor counterparts did. But partnerships are forming between cultural organizations and local governments to try to reduce that disparity, prompted in part by the potential for student academic gains. “The experience of belonging to a natural or cultural or neighborhood institution is part of learning,” says Chris Smith, executive director of Boston After School & Beyond. “[O]ur goal is to make sure that the entire city is a classroom.”

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1. ‘A broadening effect’: Summer culture reaches low-income kids

It’s a hot, crowded afternoon at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Dawn Czaja’s class of rising fourth and fifth graders clings to the fence, peering into the zoo’s barn. A zookeeper corrals two stocky, black Guinea hogs into a mound of hay next to the fence. “Hello Cordelia,” a few students coo as they brush their hands against the rough coat of one of the pigs. Over the past weeks, the kids have come to know the animals here well. For them, this isn’t a field trip, it’s what Ms. Czaja, a Boston public school teacher, calls, “zoo school.”

Czaja’s students are enrolled in a summer program called 5th Quarter of Learning facilitated by the public-private partnership, Boston After School & Beyond. The initiative, which officially began last year, connects Boston Public School students with cultural anchor institutions, including museums, community centers, and zoos and aquariums to help enrich student learning when school isn’t in session.

During the summer, kids from low-income backgrounds are disproportionately less likely to visit to these kinds of institutions, according to a study released in May by the US Department of Education. While 54 percent of kids entering first grade from poor backgrounds visited a zoo during the summer, 69 percent of their nonpoor counterparts did.

With that imbalance in mind, some culture and education organizations have begun to form partnerships with local governments to better connect low-income students with enriching summer learning activities. In Boston, 5th Quarter of Learning and another new project, the EBT Card to Culture program, are offering steps toward that end.

“If we think about what are the benefits [to visiting cultural institutions], I think that some of the research that we've done has shown that, in general, there seems to be ... a broadening effect,” says Brian Kisida, an economics professor at the University of Missouri in Columbia. “The idea there is that, the world is a big, complicated, interesting place... It’s incredibly enriching to know about that more and experience that more through arts, and cultural activities, and enriching educational experiences.”

At the Discovery Museum in Acton, Mass., children learn critical math, science, and social skills through active play – including engineering archways out of giant blocks and exploring the massive onsite treehouse.

“A lot of what we hear from teachers is that helping kids get ready, to get excited about learning, to be curious and to be creative is really the key thing that they need to be able to support the formal learning world,” says Discovery Museum CEO Neil Gordon.

Enrichment, say others, provides important educational links. “Kids go to a zoo, they might for the first time understand and make connections to biology. They go to a science museum, they might for the first time understand what careers are available in science.... It gives them the ‘why’ for what they’re learning,” says Brenda McLaughlin, chief strategy officer for Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), a nonprofit providing educational enrichment year-round to underperforming students across the country. 

The Discovery Museum participates in the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s EBT Card to Culture program, which began in 2017. The initiative assists museums, theaters, and a number of other arts and education sites around the state in providing discounts to families that use Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, a tool for accessing welfare resources.

“One of the things … that we view as important for us to do is make what we do at the museum more accessible to all families, all kids,” says Mr. Gordon.

In 2014, the museum began offering one-dollar admission, but last year’s unveiling of the EBT Card to Culture program extended its reach to low-income families across eastern Massachusetts and replicated the museum’s approach at more than 150 institutions. Participation in the program grew from 1221 in 2014 to 4231 in 2017 – despite the fact that the museum closed halfway through last year for renovations.  

Alvin Buyinza/The Christian Science Monitor
Boston teacher Dawn Czaja (l.) speaks with students participating in the Franklin Park Zoo summer learning program, which includes visits to a barn with goats and Guinea hogs.

Battling 'summer slide'

The 5th Quarter of Learning Program takes a similar approach toward granting access for its roughly 13,000 low-income students. The initiative was developed in order to combat “summer slide” – a drop in academic performance during the summer that affects all students but disproportionately impacts those whose families can’t afford educational support outside of the school year.

“What happens is [students] come back to school in September and we spend sometimes up to a month trying to remediate those skills that they’ve lost and we lose learning time for kids to be able to progress forward,” says Jan Manfredi, director of expanded learning for Boston Public Schools. 

Principals around the city select their students for particular institutions and a collaborative team of the district’s teachers and site facilitators develop lesson plans. During the program, students also receive breakfast and lunch daily – for free.

While the 5th Quarter of Learning program doesn’t yet have comprehensive data on the effect of its programs, a 2016 RAND study that informed and initiated the program has demonstrated potential. High attendance at programs like summer learning at the zoo correlates with academic gains, according to the study. The academic boost for students who regularly attend enrichment programs two summers in a row translates to between 20 and 25 percent of typical annual gains in mathematics and language arts. 

But the biggest advantage of cultural enrichment – especially for low-income students – might be cultivating a sense of home within a larger community. Summer learning that features cultural institutions can help students develop stronger tolerance and empathy, Dr. Kisida says.

“The experience of belonging to a natural or cultural or neighborhood institution is part of learning. And through the 5th Quarter we have been deliberate about exposing kids to learning environments that they might not otherwise have seen,” says Chris Smith, president and executive director at Boston After School & Beyond. “[O]ur goal is to make sure that the entire city is a classroom.”

And that sense of belonging is powerful. At the Franklin Park Zoo, students devote time every week to one continuous research project on an exhibited animal.

For Steijhude Venant, the focus was on cranes. The 10-year-old chose the birds because they remind him of the cranes at his mother’s home in Haiti, where he was born. Like many of his classmates, Steijhude has developed great love for the zoo. Someday he would like to work here.

“I would want to take care of the animals – even the lions,” he says.

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The Monitor's View

A yearning for wholeness in local news

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The public outcry after New York’s Daily News laid off half its journalists last month was swift. It revealed just how much consumers of mass media still want to feel connected to their hometown and to each other. Local journalism has long provided the glue for a community’s cohesion. And yet it has been in steady decline as Americans rely more on social media for “free” news. If local news is to be revived, it may ride on the coattails of a broader move toward “localism” – more reliance on a local economy, local food, and small communities. This trend is reflected in the fact that, despite falling trust in many institutions over several decades, Americans remain trusting of their local institutions, according to Gallup polling. People with big money, as well as nonprofit foundations and even the state of New Jersey, are testing new models for viable local journalism. These experiments rely on Americans once again becoming big boosters of local news. The “dream of wholeness” that local news can help fulfill in a community will not disappear.

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A yearning for wholeness in local news

When the Daily News, a 99-year-old print tabloid that considers itself New York’s “hometown newspaper,” laid off half its journalists last month, the reaction was swift. The mayor called it a disaster for the city. New York’s governor called it devastating.

Loyal readers and others wondered how they could cope with the loss of local coverage, especially the paper’s role as a watchdog on officialdom.

The public outcry, while not matched by the necessary subscriptions to maintain the newspaper in its old glory, nonetheless revealed just how much consumers of mass media – a term first used for newspapers – still want to feel connected to their hometown and to each other. The reaction showed a continuing need for whole communities to feel … well, whole.

Robust local journalism has long provided the social glue for a community’s cohesion, even defining its character. It helps mediate the relationship of individuals to local institutions by chronicling the troubles and triumphs of the day. And yet the number of local newspapers has been in steady decline, a result of steep losses in advertising and circulation as Americans rely more on social media for “free” news.

In the past decade, the number of newsroom employees at newspapers has fallen by 45 percent, from about 71,000 workers in 2008 to 39,000 in 2017, according to the Pew Research Center report last month. An increase in similar jobs for digital news outlets – about 6,000 – has been far below what is needed to compensate for the loss of local journalists.

Just seven years ago, famed investor Warren Buffett bought dozens of local newspapers that he considered to be the bedrock of their communities despite competition from digital outlets. Last May, Mr. Buffett acknowledged his disappointment in the investment. “It is very difficult to see ... how the print product survives over time,” he said. Yet “the sage of Omaha” is still keeping the papers – which are a small drag on his giant portfolio – because of a strong belief that the significance of daily newspapers to society is “enormous.”

Some historical context might help explain this longing for what local news can do.

Susan Zieger, a professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, writes in a new book, “The Mediated Mind: Affect, Ephemera, and Consumerism in the Nineteenth Century,” that print was the first form of mass media and that the skyrocketing circulation of newspapers in the 1890s revealed a desire among people to be connected.

By then, Americans were more literate and had more leisure time to read. Ink, paper, and printing presses were cheaper, which led to the birth of mass media. News consumers could compare the cultural norms presented in print and adjust themselves to them. “Suddenly, people have all this information, which parallels our current situation with screens,” she states.

The explosion of print media brought forth powerful yearnings: “To share beliefs and opinions with a large community, to unite with others below the threshold of consciousness, reflected a dream of wholeness through public affect and thought...,” she writes.

While much of America’s mass media are national, it is local news where people can really “dream of wholeness.” And if local news is ever to be revived, it may ride on the coattails of a movement toward “localism,” or more reliance on a local economy, local food, and small communities.

This trend is reflected in the fact that, despite falling trust in many institutions over several decades, Americans remain trusting of their local institutions, according to Gallup polling. One poll last year found 70 percent of people have confidence in their local governments to do the right thing.

Yet according to a new book by scholars Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak, “The New Localism,” this go-local movement is not the same as local government. A range of civic groups are coming together with a shared identity to embrace their community. The phenomenon has lately been reported by pundits like Tom Friedman, James Fallows, and David Brooks. In his recent article for The Atlantic, Mr. Fallows writes:

“One to-do step for citizens: Subscribe to local publications while they still exist. A to-do step for plutocrats and philanthropists: View news-gathering as a crucial part of the public infrastructure of this era, just as Carnegies, Rockefellers, and Mellons viewed libraries, museums, and universities as part of the necessary infrastructure of their time.”

Many people with big money, such as Buffett, as well as nonprofit foundations and even the state of New Jersey, are testing new models for viable local journalism. Yet these experiments rely on Americans once again becoming big boosters of local news. The “dream of wholeness” will not disappear.

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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.

The values that have their source in God

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Today’s contributor reflects on what it means to cherish – and live – pure values.

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The values that have their source in God

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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It’s not uncommon for nations, states, corporations, organizations, educational institutions, various teams and communities, even families, to articulate their values or standards for behavior. Take, for example, the United States Navy. While on active duty in the Navy, I remember learning about and striving to live by its “Core Values”: honor, courage, and commitment. These or related values were inscribed on the face of stair steps within some of my commands’ buildings in order to make the point that all of us should be examples of them.

Clearly, these and other positive values, such as meekness and kindness, are not limited to simply a few people. Christ Jesus placed the latter qualities at the very center of his ministry and expected his followers to express the same values, and to be forgiving, pure, and honest. He summed up what it means to live according to the highest and most consistent values as loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. And it’s noteworthy that he acknowledged how important it is to avoid the hypocrisy of merely appearing to have values, while inwardly the heart is far from the divine goodness they represent.

That indicates where true values or upright, moral qualities come from. Beyond being defined by an organization, government, or any group of individuals, there is a more universal sense of what’s right and good based on the nature of God. The Bible describes God as holy, pure, good, righteous, just, merciful, trustworthy, faithful – a God of grace and love. As we learn more about God, we also learn more about ourselves, because as God’s sons and daughters we include, and are spiritually created to reflect, the qualities that have their source in Him. Knowing this inspires and enables us to actually live these qualities to the fullest.

While approaching the end of a tour in the Navy, I was offered a higher-ranking position. It was a great opportunity, and I took it. However, as I discovered, it involved managing a group who, as part of their duties, were required to complete an extensive rigorous educational and physical training program, at the end of which was a physical fitness test and a difficult board exam. It was optional for me to also go through the training program – I was not required to take it. This meant that, as the group’s leader, I could be encouraging them in their endeavors without having gone through the same training myself. The other option, of course, was to participate in the training, but my new position meant taking on many more responsibilities, and I couldn’t see how I could do it all.

But through my study of Christian Science, I’ve learned that all the goodness we express originates in God, not ourselves, since God is our true Parent. Christ Jesus knew this to be true. He said of himself, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19, New International Version). While Jesus was talking about his own unique identity as the Son of God, as “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) we can prayerfully claim that all individuals are truly God’s spiritual offspring and therefore we can expect to manifest God’s goodness through the expression of positive qualities and values in our daily lives.

As I prayed about this, it became clear to me that completing the training program was the fair and honorable thing to do – an important expression of leadership commitment – and with God as the source of good qualities and values, I had everything I needed to fulfill the demands required of me. As I went forward with the training, I found that I was able to fulfill the responsibilities of my new position, as well as meet the rigorous physical and intellectual requirements of the program.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, emphasized the need to value qualities such as innocence, unselfishness, and faithfulness. She wrote, “What grander ambition is there than to maintain in yourselves what Jesus loved, and to know that your example, more than words, makes morals for mankind!” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 110). We should be glad wherever we see pure values being cherished and lived. Holding ourselves to a moral code built on our identity as God’s pure expression not only blesses our own lives, but helps to promote goodness and prosperity in the world around us.

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Viewfinder

An active participant

John Minchillo/AP
Carson Dunn, age 18, votes for the first time in a polling station at Genoa Baptist Church Aug. 7 in Westerville, Ohio. The script for Ohio’s special election is perhaps familiar: An experienced Trump loyalist, two-term state Sen. Troy Balderson, is fighting off a challenge from Democrat Danny O’Connor, a 31-year-old county official, in a congressional district held by the Republican Party for more than three decades.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( August 8th, 2018 )

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow. We’re working on a story about the deadly weekend in Chicago and how mothers, cops, and big data are helping one community there reduce crime.

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