Monitor Daily Podcast

November 09, 2018
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Confronting anger with kindness

Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Some very testy people on both sides.

Had you beamed into this week’s post-midterms presidential press conference from an era of gentler discourse, that might have been your quick takeaway.

But it’s obviously part of a much deeper story.

The bristly 87-minute showdown between America’s chief executive and the nation’s Fourth Estate, as well as some international reporters, came between two more mass shootings – one motivated by hate, the other still too fresh to meaningfully distill.

Yesterday the president’s invocation of national security powers to deny asylum to unlawful migrants got new energy and launched angry new exchanges on immigration. Mueller probe revelations will likely ignite others.

All of that has Monitor editors talking about American anger, vitriol gone viral – about anger as an addiction, as an “industry.” We’ll be reporting on that in the coming weeks.

But we’re also inclined to discuss solutions. More than one colleague mentioned a recent story (worth reading) that plumbed the beautiful simplicity of kindness. Many studies have shown the power of acts that are generous or empathic. Such acts tend to cause others to conform to that behavior. Civility is a good start, for all sides. 

Now to our five stories for your Friday, including a look at resilience in Florida’s hard-hit Panhandle and at progress in building a more diverse future workforce for the tech sector. 

US midterms make Putin’s rocky road to Trump even rockier

Americans weren’t the only ones closely watching US midterm results. We asked our Moscow correspondent to dig into what a split US political leadership may mean, from the Kremlin’s perspective, for political and economic deal-making between the two countries. 

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By all accounts, Vladimir Putin won’t be having any substantive meetings this weekend with President Trump in Paris at a ceremony marking the end of World War I. But that’s not for lack of interest. Mr. Putin appears keen to do so, despite what many Russian foreign policy experts say has been a relationship largely toxic to the Kremlin. Their meeting in Helsinki in July set off a storm of recriminations in the US media that painted the US president as a Kremlin stooge, and Congress ramped up sanctions on Moscow. Later the White House announced that it will pull out of the landmark INF treaty, which ended the cold war. And the US midterm results, which brought the Democrats back into control of the House, will only make it more difficult for Putin to negotiate with Mr. Trump. “Putin and Trump have met twice, in Hamburg and Helsinki, and it’s hard to find any reason to believe that the Russian investment in those meetings brought any benefits at all,” says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs. “I am baffled why the Russian side continues to initiate any dialogue with Trump or see it as a desirable thing to do. The sad fact is that Russia has become a meme in US politics, and as a meme you can’t change much.”


1. US midterms make Putin’s rocky road to Trump even rockier

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will most likely meet in some fashion this Sunday at a World War I memorial event in Paris. It will probably be brief and light on substance – perhaps no more than a handshake and a greeting.

But all eyes will be on the chemistry between the two leaders whose oft-stated joint goal – to improve relations between their countries – has been so profoundly frustrated at every turn in the past two years.

A lot has changed since they last met in Helsinki in July – and not in Russia’s favor, according to much of Russia’s foreign policy community.

They have come to regard contact with Mr. Trump as toxic for Mr. Putin, after a storm of post-Helsinki recriminations in the US media painted the US president as a Kremlin stooge and Congress ramped up sanctions on Moscow.

Later, the White House announced that it will pull out of the landmark INF treaty, the deal that ended the old cold war. Then, the US midterm elections brought Trump’s Democratic opponents roaring back into control of the House, where they appear almost certain to raise the heat still further on Russia.

Russian analysts familiar with the US political process say that is not because Democrats are significantly more anti-Russian than their Republican counterparts – punishing Russia is one of the few areas of strong bipartisan consensus. Rather, they will be in a more effective position to challenge any Moscow-friendly initiatives made by the White House. Trump, the analysts point out, is almost unique among US politicians in advocating better relations with Russia, and he will now be under far more pressure to abandon that position.

“Most Russian observers think the split in the US leadership will only deepen. We cannot hope for any positive changes for at least two years,” says Andrei Kortunov, head of the Foreign Ministry-linked Russian International Affairs Council. “Some also think the divide in US society will also get worse, making it almost impossible to predict what might happen next.”

Putin’s persistence

Yet Putin seems very keen to meet Trump in Paris. Experts say the Kremlin is actively preparing for a more substantive discussion between the two later this month at the Group of Twenty summit in Argentina, perhaps followed by a Putin visit to Washington next year.

The sources of his enthusiasm are difficult to explain. A few analysts argue that Putin sees a rare opportunity for Russia in Trump’s unilateral nationalism, even if he has delivered some hard knocks to Russia. These analysts say that Putin believes Trump will emerge as the long-term victor in the political struggle over the place of the US in the global order.

But other Kremlin-watchers fear the damage being done to cold-war-era stability – always rooted in equal arms-control accords between the world’s two nuclear superpowers – is becoming irreversible. They argue there is no reason for Putin to assist Trump in accelerating that process.

“Putin and Trump have met twice, in Hamburg and Helsinki, and it’s hard to find any reason to believe that the Russian investment in those meetings brought any benefits at all,” says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow foreign policy journal. “I am baffled why the Russian side continues to initiate any dialogue with Trump, or see it as a desirable thing to do. The sad fact is that Russia has become a meme in US politics, and as a meme you can’t change much.”

But a few suggest that Putin’s sunny attitude derives from a belief that Trump is actively demolishing the long-standing liberal global order, aiming to replace it with a system closer to the one Putin has long advocated. That would be a multipolar world, in which strong nations pursue their own self-interests on the world stage, competing or combining according to what suits them best.

“The perception is that Trump is a like-thinker who projects himself as a strong national leader, much like Putin himself, and that they basically speak the same language,” says Sergei Strokan, foreign affairs columnist with the pro-business Moscow daily Kommersant. “So, the Kremlin’s thinking is that we just have to persevere and wait for a moment when Trump is not hamstrung by Washington politics and can act freely. Then the two leaders will work out the issues between Russia and the US in a rational, bilateral way.”

Love is blind?

Meanwhile, other Trump initiatives are opening up significant opportunities for Russian diplomacy. The unilateral US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord has made co-signers of the deal, Russia and the European Union, unexpected partners in seeking ways to confound Washington’s unilateral sanctions. It might even accelerate the long-term Russian goal of toppling the US dollar from its throne as the world’s reserve currency. Trump’s trade wars have also helped to push Russia into the strategic embrace of China, a process that was already happening but has been greatly sped up.

The US intention to leave the INF treaty hands a moral victory to Russia, while making Europeans feel vulnerable to the threat of hair-trigger nuclear conflict in ways they have not been since the treaty abolished the entire class of medium range nuclear missiles that menaced the continent in the 1980s.

“There is no doubt that this creates new opportunities to talk to Europe in the language of mutual security,” says Vladimir Batyuk, an expert with the official Institute of USA-Canada Studies in Moscow. “And you can bet that Russia will use it. It’s an opportunity to split NATO, an old and unfulfilled goal of Soviet diplomacy.”

Russia has actually been reducing its military spending, while Moscow digs in for what could be a long and painful political and economic confrontation with the US.

“This new cold war is a battle that Russia has been mostly losing so far. The damage to Russia is huge, unprecedented, and yet Putin wants to continue,” says Mr. Strokan. “Maybe love is blind, and we are still in love with the idea of doing a deal with Trump. But it is obviously not going to end anytime soon.”

A century later, legacies of ‘The Great War’ reverberate in modern world

This next piece is really a special issue within an issue. Eight writers whose bylines you’ll know explore their respective segments of an arc that runs from the Ottoman Empire to modern Turkey, from women’s suffrage to #MeToo, and from “false news” to “fake news.”


2. A century later, legacies of ‘The Great War’ reverberate in modern world

As the world marks the centenary of the end of ‘The Great War,’ on Nov. 11, 1918, it is a time to reflect on the parallels between the politics, policies, and propaganda that emerged then and now. In this piece, Monitor correspondents look at the use of “fake news” during the war and how the same issue divides and misinforms today in its modern iteration; we look at women’s rights and nationalism through the lens of then and now; we look at national identities that were shaped because of the war and how those same nations see themselves today; and we ask if Woodrow Wilson’s fight to make the “world safe for democracy” is still a guiding principle in today’s America.

-Sara Miller Llana

Jacob Turcotte/Staff

The long path from empire to Brexit

Today's Britain is a far cry from the globe-spanning empire that stood at the end of what Britons still call “The Great War.” But even as it struggles with Brexit now, it is both less globalized and more cosmopolitan than it was a century ago.

CAMBRIDGE, England – At midday Sunday, thousands of bells will peal across Britain to celebrate the centenary of the end of World War I. On Armistice Day in 1918, those bells rang out over a country that was near the territorial peak of its empire.

But the war sowed the seeds of the British Empire's end, historians say. And now, 100 years later, the bells are tolling over a Britain anxiously preparing to withdraw from the European Union – and arguably at its most diminished since The Great War's end.

Prime Minister Theresa May is attempting this month to finalize the terms of Britain’s exit from the union, which will take place in March, nearly three years after the country narrowly voted to leave. May has struggled to negotiate a deal that is both accepted by the EU and satisfactory to enough “Leavers” and “Remainers.” As the talks have dragged on for more than a year, many are growing more anxious about the repercussions of a “no-deal Brexit” – an exit from the EU with no formal agreement governing relations.

It may be tempting to see Brexit as the coda of the empire’s decline, the final turning inward of a force that once reached out to control a quarter of the earth’s land surface. The reality is a little more complicated, says Glen O’Hara, a professor of modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes University.

Britain today is simultaneously both more inward-looking and more outward-looking than it was a century ago, says Professor O’Hara. “It's less globalized in many ways – you're less likely to eat imported staple foods, and you're far less likely to emigrate. And in parts of the divided UK, in particular its Leave-voting ‘Deep England,’ there is a sense that some – but only some – of the British would like the world to go away. But in the country's cosmopolitan, multiracial, multilingual cities, there is a powerful sense of runaway globalization that young people, in particular, are intensely relaxed about.”

In this deeply divided country, then, to answer the question of how Britain now sees itself in relation to the rest of the world, “it depends what we mean by ‘Britain,’” he says.

-Kristen Chick


Russia's new remembrance

For the entirety of the Soviet era, and more than a dozen years after, Russians viewed World War I as merely a backdrop for the far more significant Russian Revolution. But Vladimir Putin is changing the narrative.

MOSCOW – Russia entered World War I in much the same fashion as other great European powers. There was mass mobilization, huge crowds in the streets cheering for war, and talk of it all being over by Christmas. That was followed by years of grinding trench warfare that killed millions, brought mass disillusionment, and ultimately shattered the once mighty Russian Empire.

But it is the manner of Russia's leaving that war that will make Vladimir Putin something of an outlier as he joins some 70 other world leaders in Paris this weekend to mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended WWI.

Though other empires collapsed under the impact of that titanic conflict, Russia was the only member of the victorious coalition of Western allies, including Britain, France, and the US, to do so. The Bolsheviks who came to power in Russia in 1917 not only swept away the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty, they blamed it for involving Russia in the disastrous “imperialist war” and demanded an immediate end to hostilities. About eight months before the war ended in the West, the Bolsheviks made a separate peace with Germany, which freed up huge numbers of German troops to launch a last offensive against the Allies in France.

That is the short reason why Nov. 11, the day widely marked for remembrance of those who died in wars and the occasion for the commemorative meeting in Paris, is just another ordinary day in Russia. All the more so since the USSR systematically buried the memory of that war's millions of Russian victims, depicting them as cannon fodder who died in a false cause.

“For Russia, World War I was a forgotten war, one that begat civil war, followed by Soviet reconstruction,” says Oleg Makushkin, an independent Moscow historian. “Other battles, other heroes, became important for us in Soviet times.”

That has been changing as Mr. Putin's Russia seeks to weave together an inclusive narrative of Russian history that discards Soviet ideology and views Russia's radically different eras as just chapters in one continuous national story. In the new view, the millions of Russians who died in WWI are seen as patriotic soldiers fighting for their country. Dozens of monuments to the war's dead have sprung up in Russian cities, the most important inaugurated by Putin himself in Moscow's main memorial park on the centenary of WWI’s start in 2014.

Among Putin's many practical reasons for attending this weekend's peace commemoration in Paris will be the symbolic one of reclaiming Russia's mantle as a brave ally of Western powers in WWI.

“The motivating principle of today is moderate nationalism,” says Lev Lurye, a St. Petersburg historian specializing in the Russian Revolution. “All wars that Russia participated in are considered more or less fair wars.”

-Fred Weir


A pseudo-Ottoman policy in Turkey?

In the former heart of the Ottoman Empire, memories of World War I have mostly been about glories amid a losing conflict. But modern Turkey is pursuing policies that are starting to rhyme with those of the past.

AMMAN, Jordan – For Turkey, World War I marked both a death and a birth: the end of the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire and the forging of the modern Turkish state.

Today the remnants of an empire that once stretched from Budapest to Baghdad are scattered across the Middle East: The great Hijaz railway rusts from Aleppo to Medina; stone train stations, barracks, and forts are being reclaimed by the desert; Turkish words are scattered in colloquial “street” Arabic in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

Yet rather than mourning a lost empire, most Turks use the centennial of WWI to celebrate the reclaiming of their national identity and independence.

“For Turks, World War I was the beginning of their modern mythology – the breakup of the caliphate, the formation of the modern republic, and a real sense of Turkish identity,” says Can Erimtan, Turkish historian and geopolitical analyst.

While Turks commemorate victories over the British in Al Kut, Iraq, or at the Battle of Gallipoli, what resonates more is the proceeding war of Turkish independence in 1919.

With the Turkish nationalists’ victory over Allied occupied forces and the establishment of a new nation for Turks in 1923, leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk shaped a new, secular state of Turkey in his image. The Turkish parliament abolished the Islamic caliphate in 1923. The caliph himself, Abdulmejid II, was exiled.

But after a century of solidifying its new, nationalist identity, Turkey has begun to once again look outward and eastward, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan looking to reclaim the mantle as leader of the Islamic world.

Mr. Erdoğan has backed political Islamists across the Arab world, strengthened ties with Qatar, aided an attempt to topple Turkey’s neighbor Syria, and marketed Turkey as a “model” for other Muslim states to follow.

“Erdoğan’s government has pursued a pseudo-Ottoman policy in an effort to become the first and foremost leader of Islam – meaning the entire Middle East – and becoming a geopolitical power center,” Mr. Erimtan says. “In some ways it has become successful – the Ottomans are again in vogue, and Turkey is on the path of becoming an Islamic country.”

-Taylor Luck


From women's suffrage to #MeToo

Rosie the Riveter may have told the world “We can do it” during World War II, but it was the prior world war when women first proved their mettle to the industrialized world – catalyzing a struggle for equality that still is being waged today.

TORONTO – “I know that women, once convinced that they are doing what is right, that their rebellion is just, will go on, no matter what the difficulties, no matter what the dangers, so long as there is a woman alive to hold up the flag of rebellion.”

These are the words of British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst in her 20th century fight for the female vote. A little over 100 years ago, she was successful in winning some British women the right to vote. Not coincidentally, that victory came just months before the end of a war in which women across nations took on revolutionary new roles in factories or on the front lines – laying bare for the world to see the hypocrisies they faced and catalyzing emancipation movements globally.

Courtesy of Library of Congress
British suffragist leader Emmeline Pankhurst addresses a women's suffrage meeting on Wall Street in New York City on Nov. 27, 1911.

A century later women are again holding up Ms. Pankhurst’s “flag of rebellion,” this time the #MeToo movement that has touched every continent and turned into a global fight for women’s equality in the 21st century.

“The First World War really exposed some of the power structures and some of the inequalities that women faced,” says Alison Fell, a history professor at the University of Leeds who researches women's experiences in France and Britain during World War I. “If you think about what the #MeToo movement is doing, in a way it's also about exposing some of the structural inequalities and double standards.”

Then, as now, the victories had their limits. The fight for equal work and wages gained international resonance, but voting rights were earned more variably. If some British and Canadian women won the right during the war, it came later in the US – and much later in France, for example.

After the war, many women emerged as paragons, such as nurses who were able to combine bravery with traditional roles as caregivers. Others, particularly women combatants, faced stigmas upon their return.

“If women had transgressed too much, it made people uncomfortable after the war, and so it didn't seem appropriate to continue to see them as heroines,” Fell says.

Even today, in the #MeToo movement, some women are seen as “good” rebels in the fight against sexual harassment but others are seen as pushing too hard. “I think that probably what counts as an acceptable heroine to a lot of different audiences is probably the same now.”

-Sara Miller Llana


‘Is the US safe for democracy?’

World War I set the stage for a new international order founded on democratic ideals, with the United States as its foremost champion. But that model, powerfully espoused by President Woodrow Wilson, seems to be in retreat today due to the efforts of a new set of political leaders – including President Trump.

WASHINGTON – America’s entry into World War I began with one of the most important foreign policy speeches in the nation’s history. In fact, some scholars consider it the single most important such address ever made in the US.

This was President Woodrow Wilson’s April 2, 1917, speech before a joint session of Congress, requesting that lawmakers approve a declaration of war against Germany. “The world must be made safe for democracy,” Wilson famously said, reversing the inward-looking foreign policy with which he had won reelection in favor of international intervention.

Congress voted for the war and Wilson’s broad vision. Though the US backtracked after combat ended in 1918 (when the Senate failed to ratify entry into the new League of Nations), US leaders after World War II decisively embraced the United Nations and the concept of liberal internationalism outlined by Wilson earlier in the century.

Today that legacy appears in question. Ironically, the question, “Is the US safe for democracy?” might appear in a modern version of Wilson’s iconic oration.

To his critics, President Trump is a big part of this problem. He speaks more fondly of authoritarian leaders than he does of venerable democratic allies. He muses about using federal law enforcement to pursue political enemies, curtailing reporters’ First Amendment protections, ending birthright citizenship, and other things outside the normal scope of presidential powers.

Perhaps more importantly, Mr. Trump’s avowed vision of America’s role in the world is radically different than that of his Wilsonian predecessors. He sees US alliances as transactional and questions the value of NATO. He talks of pulling back from overseas and focusing defense dollars and effort on the homeland. He has said that America should not “give lessons” to other countries.

But in these cases Trump is not singular. He is reflective of trends that predate his election in 2016. In the US, political partisanship has become endemic. Voters are increasingly divided along racial and religious lines.

Politically, opponents are described not as adversaries, but enemies. Officials exercise their powers to the utmost.

As Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt warn in their recent book, “How Democracies Die,” “The guardrails of American democracy are weakening.”

-Peter Grier


The war's forgotten African legacy

When envisioning “The Great War,” many picture the grueling trench warfare in Europe, or perhaps sweeping battles in the Arabian deserts. But it was truly a "world" war, reaching sub-Saharan Africa – where the war's legacy remains unaddressed.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Pop quiz: Where did Germany suffer its first defeat in World War I?

Serbia? No. Russia? Try again.

The answer is Togoland, a narrow tongue of land poking out into the Atlantic Ocean just east of Ghana. A tiny German colony with a big radio transmitter, it was an important early target for British troops. They conquered it the same month they entered the war, August 1914.

Although World War I, as its name suggests, sprawled across the globe, “the color of [its] memory remains essentially white,” write Jacques Enaudeau and Kathleen Bomani, creators of the World War I in Africa project. But the war's legacies are still playing out a century later in Africa as well.

Take Namibia, for example. When Germany lost World War I, it was stripped of its African colonies, including Namibia (then German South West Africa).

And when it left Africa, Germany took with it a dark history.

In the decade before the war, the Kaiser’s army had waged a self-described campaign of “absolute terrorism” on local Herero and Nama peoples, vowing to “destroy the rebellious tribes by shedding rivers of blood.” Tens of thousands were driven into Namibia’s unforgiving desert to die of thirst and starvation. Those who remained were sent to concentration camps, or shot on sight.

For nearly a century, that history remained submerged, rarely discussed outside of the Namibian communities that had lived the horror, and vastly overshadowed in Germany by the brutalities of World War II.

But in recent years, activists have forcefully demanded a reckoning. They have called for an official German recognition of genocide, reparations, and the return of the bones of Namibian genocide victims taken to Germany for “anthropological research.”

Christian Mang/Reuters
People protest outside a Berlin church during a ceremony to hand back human remains from Germany to Namibia on Aug. 29, 2018. The remains were from victims of the 1904-08 genocide against the Herero and Nama people, carried out by the German Empire in German South West Africa – modern Namibia.

Although the German government has agreed in principle to an apology, negotiations have stalled over the exact terms. A group of Herero and Nama, meanwhile, have filed a class action law suit in New York to force the German government to pay direct reparations to descendants of those killed in the genocide.

“We want help to heal the wounds from the atrocities committed by Germany at the time,” said Michelle Müntefering, a junior minister for international cultural policies in the German Foreign Ministry, in August, as the country’s government handed over the remains of 19 Namibians to be reburied at home.

But Germany, she admitted, still has “a lot of catching up to do in coming to terms with our colonial heritage.”

-Ryan Lenora Brown


‘Fake news’ of the Great War

Though "fake news" is as old as war itself, World War I was one of the first times that it featured on the global stage, as German forces were accused of atrocities as they marched across Belgium. And while the context is much different today, the problem of "fake news" is back with a vengeance.

BRUSSELS – As the German military began its 1914 invasion of Belgium, a general wrote a proclamation, published in newspapers. While he regretted that Germany was “forced,” as a result of French perfidy, to traverse through the neutral country, he encouraged locals to look upon these soldiers as “the best of friends.” He offered “formal pledges” that Belgium would not “suffer the horrors of war,” though he concluded with the slightly menacing hope that his troops wouldn’t also be “forced” to respond to any Belgian treachery.

Allied governments legendarily launched propaganda efforts of their own in the days after the invasion, pushing out terrifying, often untrue, tales, published in newspapers, fliers, and pamphlets – the social media of the age – of bayoneted babies, mass rape of girls, and old men dubbed guerrillas after obediently turning in useless rifles, shot on the spot by heartless “barbarians.”

In his diary, one German soldier proudly recounts a Belgian woman telling him, “You are not barbarians – you’ve spared our crops.” But he grows increasingly suspicious of civilians in the face of the (mostly) untrue stories – passed along from friend to friend in the pre-Facebook era – of plain-clothed insurgents wreaking havoc on vulnerable troops. His journal, like those of his fellow soldiers, shows him alternately struggling to deny, digest, and justify horrors his countrymen did, in fact, inflict on Belgians.

People grab newspapers, which announce the outbreak of war, during the mobilization in Germany in August 1914.

The insidious legacy of propaganda – called “false news” back then – is not only that it purposefully obscures the truth, but that it can make good people confused and ultimately cynical when it comes to true tribulation, says Samantha Taylor, professor of national security strategy at the US Army War College.

Today, surveys show that half of Belgians believe some news is “totally invented to serve political or commercial ends.” NATO, for its part, considers disinformation, particularly out of Russia, to be a national security threat. “The issue for them is figuring out how you deal with someone purposely spreading lies that undermine [allied] governments,” Dr. Taylor says.

The answer is “getting the public to the point where they can make those discernments” for themselves, she says. The European Union agrees, and this year Brussels became ground zero in the effort with the European Commission’s “High Level Group on ‘Fake News’ and Online Disinformation,” which stresses teaching media literacy “as the starting point for developing critical thinking skills” – key, they say, to safeguarding democracy in the digital age.

-Anna Mulrine Grobe‏


Canada comes into its own

The British Empire began to grant autonomy to some of its colonies well before World War I. But for many, the war was the crucible that truly forged them into nascent nations.

OTTAWA – Modern Canada was founded with the passage of the British North America Act on July 1, 1867. But it’s really World War I that shaped a sense of Canadian nationhood, both inside and outside the country.

Canada was automatically at war in 1914 because the British Empire was at war. “Canada very much had a colonial mindset going into the war,” says Tim Cook, an historian at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa who co-curated the “Last 100 Days” exhibit to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the war.

The war was deeply divisive, with convictions over issues like conscription or income taxes roiling the dominion. But Canada united under its sacrifice, with 620,000 men enlisting – one of every three adult men in the country. And when the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918, Canada emerged with a new sense of self, independent of its status within the British Empire. Under Prime Minister Robert Borden, Canada put its own signature on the Treaty of Versailles. It also joined the League of Nations with its own seat, a scenario that would have been unthinkable prior to the onset of the conflict.

It was the US that balked at Canada’s seat in the League, the precursor of the United Nations. But it was hard to argue that Canada didn’t deserve its own place at the table. Canada lost one tenth of the men who enlisted, a much higher percentage than the US, which only entered the war in the spring of 1917. That was two and a half years after the first Canadian Expeditionary Force sailed to Europe.

“There was a feeling in Canada that the United States had shirked its responsibility,” say Dr. Cook, author of many books on the war, his latest “The Secret History of Soldiers.”

These are some of the same sentiments Canadians express today, amid perceptions that America in 2018 is retreating from the values of multilateralism and international cooperation that emerged from the fighting of the 20th century.

And once again that means Canada finds itself punching above its weight on the global stage – and wondering how much it can continue to depend on the US for stability.

-Sara Miller Llana


The rise of nations – and nationalism

Canada's was far from the only national spirit ignited by World War I. From the ashes of the war's fallen empires sprouted a host of new nations. And the allegiances that those nations stirred persist today, posing a modern challenge to continental stability.

PARIS – Nov. 11 marks not just the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I; it is also the centenary of Poland’s national independence. For the whole of the 19th century, the country had been erased from the map, partitioned among three European empires. It was reborn in the same nationalist wave that had contributed to World War I in the first place.

That nationalist tone can still be heard. Sunday’s independence celebrations in Warsaw, like each recent anniversary, are expected to be heavily dominated by ultra-nationalist, right-wing groups.

“The lead up to the First World War saw a particular brand of nationalism that has a stark overlap with the populist nationalisms we see on the rise in Europe today,” says Lawrence Rosenthal, chair of the Center for Right Wing Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

Until 1914, empires were the organizing principle in much of continental Europe and its neighborhood: Between them, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian Empire, the German Empire, and the Ottoman Empire ruled territories stretching from Aden to the Arctic, from Luxembourg to Lvov. Nationalist stirrings among ethnic groups within those empires helped spark continental conflict, and all of them evaporated in the crucible of WWI.

In the empires’ place, inspired by identity politics and Woodrow Wilson’s ideal of self determination, new sovereign nations sprung into existence across eastern and central Europe. But German nationalism was denied. The continent exploded again in 1939.

As Europe recovered from World War II, its leaders sought to tame nationalist sentiment through unity, creating the European Union. That has brought economic prosperity and unprecedented peace, but it has failed to engender much sense of continental loyalty.

A recent EU poll found that only six percent of Europeans see themselves as Europeans first, and then as their own nationality. Ninety percent see themselves primarily, or only, as their own nationality.

The EU is now fraying at the edges, and under strong attack by populist nationalist politicians such as those who persuaded Britain to leave the grouping. Their pedigree goes back 100 years and further, says Dr. Rosenthal. “That kind of nationalism,” he says, “never dies.”

-Peter Ford

Jacob Turcotte/Staff

In Florida Panhandle, resilience battles uncertainty about rebuilding

Poor communities inland were caught off guard by hurricane Michael, and lapses in long-term recovery efforts can worsen inequality, experts say. We look at how that may be partly offset by a strong collective will to recover.

Carmen K. Sisson
Grand Ridge, Fla., resident Mary Walden receives cleaning supplies from volunteer Wilma Johnson at the town's emergency distribution point last month. Residents have relied heavily upon donations since hurricane Michael swept through the area Oct. 10. And some distribution centers have had to close.

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One month ago, hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle, laying waste to places like Grand Ridge, 70 miles inland. Brick homes were bifurcated by massive trees. Trailers were peeled open like sardine cans. Churches lost steeples. Businesses lost roofs. Emergency distribution points are set to close soon, a severe blow to suffering communities. “With Florence and Michael coming on the back of 2017’s massive storms and fires, we’re seeing how megastorms knock people off of the ladder of the American dream,” says Michelle Meyer, who studies long-term disaster recovery at Texas A&M University. “What disaster researchers are finding more and more is that there are people who never come back and never rebuild.” A few miles outside of town, Tausha White splits wood. A tree fell on her family’s house, and another uprooted their well. They’re cooking on a wood stove and washing clothes by hand in 55-gallon trash cans. The most important thing, Ms. White says, is that they are together. “This place looks like a mansion compared to some,” she says, returning to her log-splitting. “I’m alive, and my family is alive. That’s all that matters to me.”


3. In Florida Panhandle, resilience battles uncertainty about rebuilding

The line is endless. Cars arrive soon after daylight, snaking in a semicircle around Grand Ridge, Fla., Town Hall as volunteers dole out cases of water, baby diapers, hygiene kits, and cleaning supplies.

Inside the red brick building, town manager J.R. Moneyham stares at a card on his desk: “There is always hope!” it proclaims in looping cursive. But things don’t feel very hopeful. Mr. Moneyham vacillates between flinty anger and choked-back tears. Mostly though, he worries about the town’s residents. 

“They were poor to start with, and now they’re out there sleeping in tents,” Moneyham says. “I’m a pretty tough old guy, but I can’t deal with days like this every day.”

One month ago, hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle, laying waste to coastal cities such as Mexico Beach as well as places like Grand Ridge, 70 miles inland. It left thousands essentially homeless. They join a growing population of the storm-displaced, facing days of particular and peculiar challenges, from Bay County, Fla., to Pender County, N.C., 700 miles to the northeast. For many of these Americans, life has become a world of heartache as they wait for insurance settlements, hope for loans, and scratch together resources as the job market returns to normal.

“With Florence and Michael coming on the back of 2017’s massive storms and fires, we’re seeing how mega-storms knock people off of the ladder of the American dream,” says Michelle Meyer, who studies long-term disaster recovery at Texas A&M University in College Station. “What disaster researchers are finding more and more is that there are people who never come back and never rebuild.

“In many ways, the responses like closing the distribution centers shows a lack of understanding of how bad people have it and how great the inequality has grown in our country,” says Ms. Meyer, the associate executive director of Texas A&M’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center. “That handoff between emergency service to more long-term social services, more long-term rebuilding, and more long-term food security, we drop that baton in almost every disaster.”

In Mexico Beach, the roof of the Methodist church was in the middle of Highway 98, and ceiling fans stick up out of the sand like absurd seashells, detached from the homes where they once brought comfort and light. To the west in Panama City, traffic snarls and gas shortages test tempers, and nightly looting keeps residents and local law enforcement on edge.

Grand Ridge, a bucolic rural haven of rolling pastures and pine forests, only has one red light which is, mercifully, still operating. But in the town of 892 residents, few structures escaped damage. Brick homes were bifurcated by massive trees. Trailers were peeled open like sardine cans. Churches lost steeples. Businesses lost roofs. Historic homes and modern strip malls sport blue tarps like badges of survival.

Though help has arrived, some, like Moneyham, say state and federal aid has been slow, inadequate, and misdirected. And as need has dropped by 94 percent since Oct. 15, the state is this week closing a number of distribution centers and soup kitchens. That impending loss is a severe blow to suffering communities.

Local grassroots efforts like the donation drop-off site in Grand Ridge are critical, Moneyham says. He lost farm equipment, winter feed, fencing, and cattle. At the moment, he is more concerned with taking care of the needs of his town.

“I’ve got to keep these people fed,” Moneyham says, rubbing his eyes wearily. “There are a lot of people that will be left out, with nowhere to lay their heads. These people haven’t worked in two weeks, and they were living paycheck to paycheck. They don’t want a handout, but they’re going to need some help.”

Some will return to work once power is restored, but others will have to wait until their businesses are repaired or rebuilt. Some will not rebuild at all, forcing employees to find new jobs.

Carmen K. Sisson
Jayden Davis, 14, watches as his brother carries their belongings from their destroyed home, Oct. 21, 2018, in Grand Ridge, Fla. The family had to move after hurricane Michael swept through the area, leaving behind a swath of destruction across the Florida Panhandle and parts of Alabama and Georgia.

“Recovery will be long and hard,” says Sandra Knight, who worked on disaster resilience across three federal agencies and is now an environmental engineer at the University of Maryland, in College Park, in an email. “There are still projects wrapping up from [hurricane Katrina in 2005]. It took a year to get utilities up across Puerto Rico. People that were just starting to build back in North Carolina were hit again by Florence and Michael. For those that are not insured, there are only small grants from FEMA and loans from SBA [Small Business Administration]. Everything else is up to individuals, communities, and voluntary organizations.”

Judging by the actions of state officials, the need surely remains. North Carolina extended its loan deadline to Christmas given the continuous applications still coming in. Before Tuesday, Florida extended early voting to nearly 200,000 voters inside the eight-county area ravaged by Michael’s roof-tearing winds.

Experts say a struggle to define need against available resources has intensified given the vastness of the devastation. It also underscores that the recovery will likely be measured less by governmental support and loans, but the durability and hardiness of America’s sudden tent-dwellers.

People like Florida state trooper Susan Barge have been a godsend. When a load of supplies was mistakenly sent to another city, she made a Facebook post asking for donations. The next morning, Moneyham watched in amazement as people flocked in from around the country, bringing food, water, and loads of good cheer.

A few hundred miles to the northeast, on the North Carolina sand plains, a storm, Florence, that festered for nearly four days six weeks ago is still causing emergency managers to shake their heads. After all, several of the communities hit had not yet fully recovered from hurricane Matthew, which struck two years ago. FEMA trailers dot the landscape, and will for months. Crops were decimated, throwing farm communities into disarray. Damage estimates recently rose from $13 billion to $17 billion. The state’s rainy day fund is $1.8 billion.

Meanwhile, more than 400 people are still in shelters, and some cities remain under nightly curfews. Truck stops and shopping center parking lots are packed with utility crews, volunteers, and exhausted families eating meals from Styrofoam boxes and sleeping in their cars.

11 million meals, 3 million pounds of ice

At the behest of outgoing Florida Gov. Rick Scott, FEMA has dispatched a phalanx of housing options from RVs to multi-property leases. Emergency managers have offered 11 million meals and 3 million pounds of ice to storm victims. A National Guard Joint Task Force has carried out 407 missions to date. FEMA has approved $80 million for individual assistance grants.

But officials have begun to see the charity as an impediment. “As economic recovery must happen hand in hand with individual recovery, continuing [distribution] operations hampers the return to normal for local businesses and diverts economic activity away from the community,” Bay County emergency managers wrote on the county website.

That message from officials underscores a deeper frustration with – and perhaps questioning of – decisions that are being made by residents. Critics say they’re blaming the victims.

Indeed, Floridians have taken criticism from some, including Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long, who held a press conference lambasting citizens for failing to heed warnings to evacuate and letting home insurances lapse.

But it’s not that simple, says Florida state trooper Barge, helping out at Grand Ridge Town Hall.

As a former resident of Key West, she is no stranger to hurricanes. But inland, Grand Ridge wasn’t prepared for the force of the Category 4 hurricane, which was still packing winds in excess of 100 m.p.h. when it raked across the area.

In a town like Grand Ridge, where many people worked two jobs and averaged a median household income of $31,083, evacuating wasn’t a simple option.

“People don’t always have money to get in a car and drive to a hotel,” Ms. Barge says. “Some don’t even have a car. These people never expected anything like this. This is a farming community. They’ve lost crops. People are living on the streets, not working. They’re counting on [these donations].”

Local teacher Wilma Johnson’s home was heavily damaged, but she is at Grand Ridge Town Hall daily, making sure people get what they need. Some residents, like Mary Walden, have simple requests – just a few trash bags, please. But others, like Billy Hendrix Jr., leave empty-handed. Mr. Hendrix counts himself lucky because, unlike his neighbor, he is still able to live in his home, but he was hoping to get tarps for his roof.

When you’re operating solely on the generosity of others, Ms. Johnson notes, you take what you can get, which means you may end up with 200 red toothbrushes but not a single blue tarp.

That struggle to satisfy need with actual necessities, however, is countered by a strain of resilience that does not lie far beneath the surface of largely rural, often poor, places that took the brunt of this season’s hurricanes.

“The whole back of my house is gone,” Johnson says. “That was my home, and I watched it go down, and it hurt, but I can’t sit down and cry about it. We’ve got to be positive. You can’t see it now, but down the road you’ll see that God made us better.”

‘Like a mansion’

A few miles outside of town, past a plywood sign that encourages passersby to “Make Grand Ridge Great Again,” Tausha White splits wood while her cousin, Eddie Bamberg, tinkers with his rusted red tractor, trying to coax it to run.

They rode out the storm in Ms. White’s 80-year-old wooden house with other family members, friends, and their assortment of cats, dogs, and ducks. The chickens, along with the potbellied pig, Bacon, were left outside to fend for themselves.

Though a tree fell on the house and another uprooted their well, they say they’re managing fine without electricity or running water. They’re cooking on a wood stove and washing clothes by hand in 55-gallon trash cans. When hungry they can go hunting or run a trotline to catch fish.

The most important thing, White says, is that they are together. 

“This place looks like a mansion compared to some,” she says, returning to her log splitting. “I’m alive, and my family is alive. That’s all that matters to me.”

China’s loosening of a ban on some animal products may spur poaching

This is as much about cause and effect as it is about values. Some people believe that allowing a limited market for certain species can curb illegal trafficking. But in key cases, the reverse seems to be true.

Amanda Paulson/The Christian Science Monitor
Sarah Metzer, education specialist at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Property Repository near Denver, shows a tiger pelt at a warehouse that stores more than 1.3 million illegally trafficked items seized at US borders.

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Located just northeast of Denver, the National Wildlife Property Repository is a combination of an evidence locker, a creepy roadside attraction, and a testament to the diversity of uses that people find for dead animals. Inside, you will find some 1.3 million illicit animal parts, ranging from rhino feet to reptile skins, stuffed tigers to dried seahorses, that have been seized from traffickers. The site is an illustration of the scale of the black-market wildlife trade, one that many observers say is set to increase now that China has relaxed its 25-year ban on rhino and tiger parts used in traditional medicine. Even a limited trade could fuel demand and make it harder to curb illegal trafficking, says Heather Sohl, a wildlife adviser for WWF International who notes that there are just 3,900 tigers and 25,000 rhinos remaining in the wild. “There simply aren’t enough animals to have that risk,” she says.


4. China’s loosening of a ban on some animal products may spur poaching

Tucked away amid the prairies of a wildlife refuge, just a few miles northeast of downtown Denver, sits a nondescript warehouse with a unique – and macabre – collection: 1.3 million illegally trafficked animal parts, from rhino heads and stuffed leopards to bear-foot ashtrays.

Aisle upon aisle of shelves hold items that have been confiscated by officials at points of entry. There are stacks of sea turtle shells and tiger hides; thousands of purses and boots made of reptile skins; one pallet with 35,000 dried seahorses, and an aisle stocked with pills and tonics: dried tiger penises, “seal pills,” pangolin scales, bear gallbladders.

A few of the items are truly bizarre: an embalmed tiger fetus under glass. Toad purses. An ice bucket made from a rhino’s foot.

“You’re going to see value systems that don’t resonate with your own, but the use doesn’t matter. It’s the impact on the species that’s important,” says Sarah Metzer, education specialist at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Property Repository. The items at the repository get repurposed for a variety of educational uses, and a visit here underscores one lesson above all: the sheer scale of animal trafficking.

Last week, a surprise announcement from China that it plans to roll back its 25-year ban on rhino and tiger products raised anew a common debate in the world of animal trafficking: whether legal markets encourage or depress their black-market counterparts.

China justified its decision by saying that it will allow only the sale of rhino horns or tiger bones obtained from farmed animals, for use “in qualified hospitals by qualified doctors,” so that “regulation on the sales and use of these products will be strengthened, and any related actions will be authorized, and the trade volume will be strictly controlled.”

But the world largely greeted China’s announcement with dismay. Opening even a limited market for rhino and tiger parts, say observers, will likely fuel demand for those products, increase poaching, and make it harder to crack down on illegally traded items.

“It’s a devastating decision for rhinos and tigers,” says Iris Ho, a senior wildlife specialist at Humane Society International. “It’s akin to a death warrant to these animals in the wild that are already facing myriad threats to their survival.”  

Amanda Paulson/The Christian Science Monitor
The US Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Property Repository display room, in a warehouse outside Denver, contains some of the more than 1.3 million illegally trafficked wildlife items seized at US borders. The items are now used for educational purposes.

China’s announcement may have been spurred by pressure from owners of “tiger farms,” which have grown drastically in recent years and will benefit from the decision. Estimates indicate that the number of captive tigers in China have spiked from about 600 in 2002 to more than 6,000 today, many of them in crowded, poor conditions, says Heather Sohl, the interim Tigers Alive Initiative leader at WWF International.

“Opening up any legal market such as this could allow for the laundering of illegal products that are taken from animals that are poached in the wild,” says Ms. Sohl, noting that there are only about 3,900 tigers left in the wild and about 25,000 rhinos. “There simply aren’t enough animals to have that risk.”   

The argument that legal markets can help reduce poaching and black markets surfaces fairly regularly, but – at least with certain species – the evidence tends to show the opposite.

A 2016 study on the effects of legalization of ivory sales on the ivory black market found that the announcement of a one-time legal ivory sale in 2008 corresponded with an abrupt and long-lasting 66 percent increase in elephant poaching across Africa, as well as an increase in smuggling.

No other hypothesis the researchers explored explained the sudden increase, said Nitin Sekar, an ecologist who coauthored the study and now serves as the elephant conservation coordinator for WWF-India, writing in an email.

The study bolstered the claims of those opposed to legalization of ivory, says Dr. Sekar, citing two main effects: The presence of a legal supply makes it less likely that those smuggling illegal goods will be caught, and the availability of a legal supply can increase the demand, driving up both the price and the incentives for poachers.

Advocates of legalization “hope legal trade will undercut the black market,” writes Sekar. “Instead, the legitimization of the good by the government appears to popularize it.”

That’s partly why the world coalesced around an international ivory ban, and praised China when it shut down its ivory market a year ago.

Rhino horns and tiger parts have long been valued by traditional Chinese medicine, though the practice has disavowed use of endangered species in recent years. Powdered rhino horn was prescribed for fevers, and more recently for ailments ranging from hangovers to cancer. Tiger bones are often soaked in wine that’s drunk by those seeking virility, and their pelts can fetch high prices.

With both animals, says Sohl, “it’s very much a wealth symbol now.”

Amanda Paulson/The Christian Science Monitor
Sarah Metzer, at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Property Repository on Nov. 5, 2018, says, ‘You’re going to see value systems that don’t resonate with your own, but the use doesn’t matter. It’s the impact on the species that’s important.’

The value of the products has also risen. One rhino horn, which might have sold for $10,000 ten years ago, now might go for more than $500,000 by the time it gets to Asia – a serious incentive to poachers.

More than 7,000 African rhinos have been killed for the illegal wildlife trade in the past 10 years. Tigers are harder to track, because the whole carcass is used. But between 2000 and 2015, parts from 1,755 tigers were seized by law enforcement, according to data from TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network. That averages out to more than two tigers killed per week – and those are just the ones that were seized.

While most trafficking experts agree that a ban is necessary, it’s also clear that a ban in itself isn’t enough to stop poaching.

“There are lessons from the ivory experience, but there are also lessons to be gained from the ivory ban,” says Richard Thomas, global communications coordinator for TRAFFIC. The ban was introduced with great fanfare and to wide acclaim, he notes, but market surveys indicate that bans keep only some segments of the population from purchasing ivory. “The real hurdle to making any ban of a product effective is how big is that die-hard segment of society and what can you do to change their attitude toward it.”

On a much smaller scale, Mr. Thomas cites work TRAFFIC did with Amazonian Indians in Ecuador, who were hunting bushmeat at an unsustainable level and selling the meat to visitors in local markets. Working together, community members decided that they needed to stop any hunting that wasn’t for their own consumption and to stop hunting tapirs entirely. The bushmeat markets shut down.

Had a local municipal authority simply banned the hunting, Thomas suspects there would have been a backlash and resentment. “But because you’ve got buy-in across the whole community, it was effective.”

Thomas and others say they’ve been encouraged by the attention that animal trafficking has received in recent years, with a UN resolution to address it passed in 2015 and high-level political buy-in – though it hasn’t yet translated to real poaching reductions on the ground. And there have also been some serious international efforts, including some led by the US, to target the big organized-crime operations that are often behind such trafficking, many of which are often involved in arms, drugs, and human trafficking.

Depending on whether things like illegal fishing and illegal timber are included, species trafficking is anywhere from an $18 billion to $30 billion illegal industry.

Judging by the massive quantities of trafficked items at the repository in Colorado – which represents just a fraction of what is seized at US ports – there’s no quick or easy answer to shutting down such a lucrative trade that still enjoys high demand.

But Ms. Metzer, an educator by training, says that instead of getting depressed by it all, she finds some solace that the items are enjoying a second life, helping to educate children and adults about various species, conservation efforts, and animal trafficking.

“It can be disheartening when you see the quantity and volume that’s here,” she says, “but as odd as this place is, it’s a nexus for allowing people to engage in nature…. I view this warehouse as a conservation success, as strange as that sounds.”

Points of Progress

What's going right

More girls, African-Americans now enroll in AP computer science

Silicon Valley has long been disproportionately male. Our writer looks into some encouraging new activity around one important on-ramp for helping get more women and minorities into well-paying tech jobs.

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From college campuses to major technology companies, the typical profile of a computer scientist as a white or Asian man persists. But increases in the number of girls and minority students taking Advanced Placement (AP) computer science exams in the United States suggest that change may be afoot. The College Board reports that from 2017 to 2018, female, African-American, and Hispanic students were among the fastest growing demographics of AP computer science test-takers, with increases in exam participation of 39 percent, 44 percent, and 41 percent, respectively. These increases are higher than the overall 31 percent bump in exam participation. “If [more female and minority] students take computer science in high school, in college, then hopefully one day these students will join the tech force, and we’ll see a larger representation of America,” says Alice Steinglass, president of Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools.


5. More girls, African-Americans now enroll in AP computer science

‘You are role-playing a turtle. You can only move forward and only turn left. Remember, be the turtle.” 

The students listen to their teacher’s instructions and dutifully turn to their laptops, where the challenge awaits. On the screen is a small white box and a small black turtle, and next to it a larger box appears to type in their code. The room fills with clicking sounds and hushed whispers as the students get to work on their challenge: Program the turtle to move along the square path.

Mike Liang, the students’ computer science teacher, walks around the classroom dropping hints. Students cheer quietly as their turtles scuttle across the screen. They are good at this; some have been doing it since the first grade. 

Brooke High School is a charter school located in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston with a student body that is more than 80 percent African-American. And its computer science-heavy curriculum reflects the rumblings of change across American education. More high school students than ever are taking the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) computer science exams, and those taking them are increasingly female and people of color. 

In fact, the College Board reports that from 2017 to 2018 female, African-American, and Hispanic students were among the fastest growing demographics of AP computer science test-takers, with increases in exam participation of 39 percent, 44 percent, and 41 percent, respectively. These increases are higher than the overall 31 percent bump in exam participation – a sign that computer science is becoming more accessible to underrepresented groups. For context, in 2007, fewer than 3,000 high school girls took the AP Computer Science A exam; in 2018, more than 15,000 completed it. 

From college campuses to major technology companies, the typical profile of a computer scientist as a white, or Asian, man persists. Apple, Google, and Microsoft report that fewer than 35 percent of their employees are women and that more than 50 percent are white. These programs at the high school level are aiming to create more diversity by giving students the confidence to pursue tech later on.

“If [more female and minority] students take computer science in high school, in college, then hopefully one day these students will join the tech force, and we’ll see a larger representation of America,” says Alice Steinglass, president of Code.org, a nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools. 

One driver of that change is AP Computer Science Principles, a course launched by the College Board in 2016 as an alternative to the programming-heavy AP Computer Science A. The new course aims to give students a broader – and gentler – introduction to computer science by helping them understand its relevance to their lives. While still early, there are signs that it is broadening the profile of who signs up for the course. In 2016, 13,506 high school girls enrolled in a computer science-related AP course; in 2018, that number jumped to 38,000. 

“Students interested in medicine are creating apps in that field, while students passionate about reading are creating apps that allow them to share that love of reading,” says Maureen Reyes, executive director of the AP program at the College Board. “So it really does allow each student to pursue their passions, which broadens who can participate in computer science.” 

The number of students scoring a 3 (a passing score) or higher on the AP CSP exam has increased proportionally with the uptick in participation. Among Hispanic/Latino students, for example, around 54 percent of students passed the exam in both 2017 and 2018, even while the number of these students taking AP CSP grew by 63 percent.

In order to increase participation at underserved schools, the College Board partners with providers, such as Code.org, to train educators on the material. Code.org’s one-week workshop brings teachers together to learn course material and to network and offers additional support throughout the year. Teachers with many underrepresented minorities at their schools are eligible for scholarships to attend the workshop, Ms. Steinglass says, and there are grants in some states to subsidize the cost. 

At Brooke High School, for instance, graduation requires taking three years of computer science and passing the AP Computer Science Principles exam.

But at a school where the most popular extracurricular is the Robotics Club, students don’t seem to mind. 

“Technology is in the future, and this prepares us for it,” says Geraldine Louis, a junior, as she sits through a bustling Robotics Club meeting. Geraldine says she finds computer science difficult but that she likes building things and especially showing off the team’s robot at competitions.

“After all this time [together], it’s become a community for me,” she says.

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Why did so many young people vote?

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A high youth turnout in the midterm elections – the highest for any midterm in the past quarter century – could be attributed to a new focus on civic education in schools, and not just the study of Pilgrims, Paul Revere, and Rosa Parks. About 17 states require high school students to pass the citizenship exam. Many schools weave civics into other courses. Since 2010, Florida has had especially rigorous requirements for civic education – perhaps one reason students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were so prepared to campaign on gun limits. A Massachusetts bill signed into law this week requires at least one student-led civics project in public schools and encourages students as young as 16 to register to vote (when they turn 18). Learning civics and doing civics must go hand in hand. Political activism at an early age is a surefire way to counter youthful indifference about the future. A ballot cast is a bulwark against cynicism.


Why did so many young people vote?

One surprise in the midterm elections was how many young Americans made it a hands-on exercise in civics. An estimated 31 percent of those age 18 to 29 cast ballots. That was higher than what pollsters predicted. And it was well above the 21 percent turnout in 2014.

In fact, youth turnout in the 2018 election was the highest for any midterm in the past quarter century, according to a Tufts University study.

This is welcome at a time when more than half of adults in the United States do not know who Robert Mueller is. Or when more than two-thirds of Americans cannot name all three branches of the federal government.

Perhaps this year’s increase in youth voting was just another type of  “Trump bump.” Or perhaps a reaction to the shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school. Or it was the draw of youth-oriented referendums, such as questions on marijuana legalization.

Another explanation is that many states have put a stronger focus on civic education, and not just the study of Pilgrims, Paul Revere, and Rosa Parks.

About 17 states require high school students to pass the citizenship exam before graduation. Many schools nationwide now weave civics into other courses. Since 2010, Florida has had especially rigorous requirements for civic education, perhaps one reason students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were so prepared to campaign on gun limits.

A Massachusetts bill signed into law this week requires at least one student-led civics project in public schools and encourages students as young as 16 to register to vote (when they turn 18). And in a 21st-century update on civic education, the law also requires the teaching of digital media literacy and modern etiquette toward the American flag.

Learning civics and doing civics must go hand in hand. Those states with the highest rates of youth civic engagement (and volunteerism) are also the ones with the strongest courses in civic education, according to a study by the Center for American Progress.

Such an action-based approach to civic education may account in part for the rise in youth voting in the latest election. Political activism at an early age is a surefire way to counter youthful indifference about the future. A ballot cast is a bulwark against cynicism.

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.

What makes a veteran?

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Today’s contributor considers the spiritual power of qualities such as strength, honor, integrity, and brotherly love expressed by veterans from all walks of life.


1. What makes a veteran?

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On Nov. 11 – a holiday in the United States, Britain, Canada, and other countries set aside to honor those who have served in the armed forces – it seems appropriate to ask, What comes to mind when you think of a veteran? A soldier receiving a medal? A white-haired guy wearing a baseball cap with the name of a Navy ship on it? Or some young man or woman in uniform at the airport on the way home from deployment overseas? Or maybe someone in a wheelchair who is disabled, or even someone who is homeless or unemployed?

These do indeed describe some folks who have served in the military, but there’s an entirely different way of thinking about veterans that’s especially meaningful to me.

It has to do with the expression of qualities such as courage, discipline, honor, integrity, thoughtfulness, brotherly love, and teamwork. This list could go on and on, but these qualities really speak for themselves when it comes to why we respect those who have served or are serving in uniform. Taking a moment to pause and be grateful for those who have expressed these qualities says something important – not only about them but about us, as well as about the culture that lifts up and values these qualities.

Why? Because when these qualities, which Christian Science explains are derived from God, are expressed consistently, especially when it seems difficult, they are the death knell to oppression, domination, and disease. Consider this: It was his love and understanding of God’s goodness and love that enabled a young man named David to express the courage and resourcefulness necessary to overcome the fierce warrior named Goliath (see I Samuel 17 in the Bible for the whole story).

Many generations later, it was spiritual insight, discipline, brotherly love, and above all absolute faith in the power of God to heal that prompted a veteran Roman officer and soldier to come to Jesus for help. This man was well-versed in giving orders, but he came humbly to Jesus, seeking the healing power of the Christ, Truth, for his servant, who was so ill he couldn’t leave his bed. The result? The disease was destroyed, and the servant was healed immediately (see Matthew 8:5-13).

As we recognize and acknowledge these spiritual qualities in those who have expressed them often under the most trying circumstances, our own expression of them inevitably grows.

But as important as it is to take the time to honor our veterans who have served in the military, how about taking a moment to honor the veterans from other walks of life who have also had a substantial impact on our lives through their love of God and their fellow men and women? In my case, I’m thinking of a veteran Christian Science practitioner – someone who helps others find healing through prayer – who came to my rescue in one of my darkest hours.

In the early years of my public practice of Christian Science, there was a time when I felt I should quit because I just couldn’t do it. But the very next day, I bumped into this practitioner, who had mentored me on and off for several years. This veteran healer took one look at me and instantly knew I was in dire straits! For the next two hours she shared ideas and experiences that not only brought comfort but also enabled me to see the light again. I’ll never forget how the depth of her expression of spiritual love and insight cut through the sorrow and self-condemnation.

In the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy writes: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (p. 340).

How deeply grateful we can be for the God-given qualities that have characterized the lives of all those who have fought to forward our freedom.

Adapted from an article published in the Nov. 11, 2013, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.


A ‘poppy drop’ to honor the fallen

Toby Melville/Reuters
Employees at the Lloyd's building in London stand for a “poppy drop” during a Remembrance Service Nov. 9. The flower’s symbolism is based on a 1915 poem by Canadian physician and author John McCrae. “In Flanders fields the poppies blow,” he wrote, “Between the crosses, row on row.”
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )

A look ahead

Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Have a great weekend. We don’t publish on Monday, a federal holiday in the US. But watch for a special Veterans Day email from one of our bureaus. 

On Tuesday our On the Move series resumes with a look at why fewer Afghan refugees are making their way to Europe. We’ll also be checking in on lingering midterm vote issues in both Georgia and Florida. 

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